I’m in the Hospital

Oh, so sorry, didn’t mean to panic everyone. I mean I am in a village called Hospital de Orbigo (or as the autocorrect on my phone likes to call it, “Hospital of Vegas”).

The name comes from the fact that the village was founded in the 12th s by the Knights Hospitaller of St. John to serve Camino pilgrims. The 13th s bridge is still intact and gorgeous:

Any guesses what this town is famous for during the summer months? Any hunches, my medievalist friends?

First let me tell you that the walk here from Leon was the coldest I have felt in a very long time. What an incredible weather shift from last Monday to today! Last Monday the sun was so intense that my four layers of sunblock failed and my skin broiled and bubbled. Today I walked through light snow flurries and hail, with a sharp wind that felt like it was blowing right through me. I was wearing three tops to try to stay warm: shirt, hoodie, and Bunny over all of it. It still wasn’t enough. I may need to do yet more shopping in Astorga before I hit the mountains again. It’s always something… (with my luck, I will stock up on winter gear and then the Galician mountains will experience an unusual heat wave, like the Pyrenees did right before the rains started).

Camino Jen — fashion trendsetter since April 2018:

I didn’t take very many photos today because the scenery pretty much looked the same all day.

I saw very few pilgrims on the trail so it was a perfect day to listen to music again. It’s been a while since I’ve walked by myself.

*Special note to Jen Walking: Death Cab (though TransAtlanticism got a little depressing as the cold soaked through my bones), Everlast’s Life Acoustic, and a 70s funk playlist. It felt weird reaching this medieval village just as “Shaft” started. Oh yeaaah. He’s Shaft. Shaft!*

The place I am staying tonight is a wonderful house run by a woman who made me feel at home immediately. She was cooking up a storm in the kitchen and I just about melted into a puddle when I smelled her food on the stove; it smelled wonderful! I am so sick and tired of not having any food available except bread and refined wheat — no fruits or vegetables or yogurt ever — and today all I had had was two cups of coffee, a handful of almonds, and a bag of gummy bears. Weird, I know, but the bar I stopped into only had prepackaged muffins, and all of the convenience stores I walked by only had chips, croissants, bocadillos, all of that stuff. No fruit. I just couldn’t choke down another croissant today, no matter how hungry I felt.

After she checked me in, she asked if I was going to stay for dinner for an extra €12. I didn’t even ask her what she was serving; I just said yes. The poor woman was struggling to use Google translate to tell me all of my options, and I just had to write back to her “I will eat anything you put in front of me if you made it.”

I was very hungry once I drop my bag off, so I walked around the village to grab a quick bite of something — hopefully not just a loaf of bread. Of course as soon as I was back on the street, it was 2 o’clock and all of the stores around me started shuttering for siesta. Naturally. I found myself in front of the little grocery at 2:05. I could see the bananas through the window, but no bananas for me.

There was a bar right on the edge of the bridge so I popped in with the hope of maybe eating anything that’s not bread. Do you have any pinchos? Tapas? Carrot sticks? Olives? No but he could make me a bocadillo. Of course. I give up. So I choked down a third of a dry bocadillo with a couple glasses of wine while watching fellow pilgrims run across the bridge to get out of the rain/hail/snow that was coming down. My timing generally sucks when it comes to business-siesta hours, but at least my timing was good for the storm today. I was hoping to see a familiar face coming across the bridge, but I seem to be off pattern from friends I’ve made (those who are still walking).

Check out the turquoise leather couches! I loved them! We need to get a set for the basement.

Dinner: Al — I ate lentil soup tonight, and it may have been the best soup I’ve ever had! I was just so grateful to have some real food cooked in a home kitchen with love… and vegetables.

There were two other pilgrims at dinner with me tonight: a very lovely, recently retired couple from New Hampshire. They are doing the Camino because they love to hike and have done some very interesting hikes already through the UK. Their trip has been frustrating because she got food poisoning somewhere before Burgos and had to hole herself up in a hotel for four days. It’s a miracle I have not gotten food poisoning yet since I seem to be prone to it. Maybe subsisting off croissants and bocadillos isn’t such a bad thing. There by the grace of God go I.

Talking with this lovely couple reminded me of a conversation I had the other night with someone. This pilgrim was saying most Americans he has met on the Camino seem superficial; that is, they are only out here for the hike itself, the sport of it, and are not taking the “spiritual journey” seriously.

I’ve heard so many other Camino “purists” complain about pilgrims not doing this for the “right reasons” or doing things the “right way.”

I say to each their own.

Seriously! What are we all really doing out here? We’re following a trail established over a thousand years ago that ultimately connects city with city, village with village. Why someone does it in the age of the car, bus, and train is completely up to the individual. This New Hampshire couple was lovely and I wish them a happy retirement full of more fun hikes.

The Camino purists and their directives: don’t listen to modern music while you walk, don’t make room reservations in advance, don’t do any sightseeing because we’re not on holiday, don’t stay outside of albergues, you must walk until you drop every day, don’t use modern technology (I’m sorry, but my TrailSmart app has saved my hide more than a few times, AND has helped other pilgrims who asked me for help), why do you need a water bottle with a filter in it?, and blah blah.

These purists are getting to be too much. I’m starting to feel like I’d rather hang with the REI-clad “we hike for fun” crowd (though you would never hear me say that out loud in a million years).

The purists can stick a dry bocadillo in it. I say that with love and respect in the spirit of the Camino.

By the way, here are a few pics of my wonderful, non-purist room tonight:

That’s my second floor window in the last photo. It’s lovely! And note the hail; it’s so cold it took a few hours to melt.

6 thoughts on “I’m in the Hospital

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  1. What is with these people? Everyone does this for their own reasons and their own spiritual stuff. People just need to be kind. Proud of you kiddo you are doing great!

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  2. Seriously? If someone did this grueling experience for the sole reason of having 6 weeks of new Instagram pics, I say more power to them! The purists sound like snobs.

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  3. The gall of some people really tick me off. If you’re truly on a spiritual journey what I do should be of no consequence to you. Jen, I’m with you in spirit praying for safe travels and uncompromising enlightenment.

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