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Sunday, May 6, 2007 

Day 11 & 12: The Opposite Sides of Hell

Started early from Villafranca even though I think I had WAY too much wine the prev. day. Happily arrived 21kms later at Cardeñuela at 12:30pm where I met Miklos from Hungary.

Miklos at the 518km mark!

Because it was very early, Miklos & I sat at the bar to wait for the albergue to open. Met Antonio who was finishing his first half in Burgos & then on his way home to Portugal. He was a sweet guy, and told us the lesson he learned on this part of his camino was to carry less weight next time. Hee.

After about 2 hours, Petra, sweet German lady [I had met back at Villamayor de Monjardin], arrived and sat with us at the bar... When finally the barkeeper (who smoked like a chimney and had a bandaid on his nose) gave us the keys, we paid 3 euros each, received the 'sello' (stamp) in our credencials, and then trudged our way to the albergue.

(If you see this cartoon, even if it IS in the German guide book, MOVE ON! The albergue in town is not worth it.)

I had already wanted to move on. I thought perhaps if I should go a bit further it would be good as it was so early during the day. If I had seen this poor looking albergue earlier, I would have most definitely walked the extra 8kms or so. But, as it was already to late to move on & it was cheap, I took it.

Tried to wait in the bar for dinner, writing, studying my guide book. Its hard to get away from other pilgrims anywhere on the camino. But here it was especially difficult as there were only 2 places to hang out, the albergue & the bar.

Petra had started to get me paranoid about finishing on time. She, too, has a flight out of Santiago on the 26th and thought maybe she would take a bus from Fromista to León so she would have enough time to experience Finisterre. So I began to obsess about figuring out how much, how long & what was possible.

By dinnertime came and the 5 other pilgrims in town strolled into the bar, I was feeling fairly ill. I could barely stomach the food that the semi-toothless señora was serving; I tried to eat as much as I could but felt nauseous. Because we had started the wine already (pilgrims' menus usually allow only agua or vino, not the both), when I asked for water as well, snagglepuss lady basically yelled at us and then filled a glass of tap water and plopped it in front of Miklos with exasperation.

I was ILL. I thought that I might even have a fever. So I took a tylenol 500 & went to bed almost right away.

Next morning, I took my time getting up and left Cardeñuela at 7:30am. Got to Burgos, and promptly got lost. Wandered past the catherdral (which was beautiful), was able to pray, got some coffee... Then, I got lost again. I thought "Lost In Burgos" would make a good title for something.

Finally found my way out and made good time to Rabé de las Calzadas, where I was hoping to stay at the lovely sounding Albergue Danza y Musica. After walking through a short hailstorm, I made it in one piece to the front door of said albergue to discover it was closed.

I asked around for the other albergue, and found this very hidden refugio. I rang the bell, and this woman appeared. After asking about the albergue, she asked where I was coming from. I told her Cardeñuela, and she said "No - there are bed bugs in Cardeñuela. I have just been on the phone, & they said there are bugs."

She was totally ready to turn me away. I asked her if there may be a place on her floor I could sleep, she said no. I must have looked a sorry site, because finally she said "Ok, entra," and brought me into a reception room where 5 other pilgrims were waiting to be "processed".

After a long lecture about bed bug infestation (en français), she took her time studying each of our credencials and taking 25 euros from each of us as she would charge "half pension & cook dinner & serve a light breakfast."

As a pilgrim, I was grateful. Grateful that I had a hot shower, that I had a clean bed to sleep in. But Michelle, our landlady, was the kind of person who liked to have complete CONTROL of everything under her roof. I was not to use my sleeping sheet as to not potentially contaminate her bed. She even made me wrap my backpack in a plastic bag. She did however give us thin blankets (me & Miklos) because we weren't allowed to use ours.

Michelle was alone in this very, very nice house, with her cat Isabella, who she loved very much. Michelle had the opinion that Miklos (who arrived maybe half hour after me) and I were foolish to have stopped so early in Cardeñuela. Michelle, in a word, was very particular.

I guess I would be, too, if I was running an albergue. But after a while it seemed that she got off on being so compassionate to the weary pilgrims that crossed her door. She cooked for us and cared for some of the other pilgrim's feet, but she also treated us with a strange disdain, like peregrinos were deviant children who needed to be quiet & good in order to partake in her generosity.

I am humbled, as both days were strangely torturous.

I should have just slept on the couch here...

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