Monday, May 9, 2016
Distance: 18.1 km
7:29 – I’m not the first but I’m nowhere near the last guest to check out of Gaia Albergue. About a dozen people are lingering in the common area where the couple who run the place are adding people on Facebook, serving up hugs, and slipping small candies into pockets. The dorm and common area were crowded and a bit too warm for my liking but the owners made up for any architectural deficiencies with their gracious hospitality.
8:34 – I didn’t bother to stop in the town of Vilamoros but had I been riding a horse or leading a donkey, I could have tied him up in a sheltered spot on the main drag while I slugged whiskey and caught a hand or two of poker. I almost expected to see Clint Eastwood or John Wayne swagger out of the tavern’s swinging doors.
8:36 – In just the last hour I’ve noticed three taxis that were picking up exhausted pilgrims. I haven’t seen the couple from Western Australia since lunchtime yesterday and I’d bet money they’re on their way home. I hope I don’t sound too smug in saying this, but I’m doing well and I have every intention of walking all the way to Santiago. It might be different if I had bronchitis like Robert, but sore shins or the odd blister won’t keep me from finishing the Camino on foot.
11:39 – I stopped at a lunch counter that doesn’t appear to have changed since it opened in the 60s. The wifi password was a bit of a challenge but I cracked it after about 147 attempts. (The eighth character is ‘6’, the tenth character is ‘c’ not ‘e’, and the third to last character is a upper-case ‘C’.)
Note to business owners: Free wifi is something that many progressive businesses are pleased to offer their customers and customers appreciate it! If that’s not reason enough, customers might also stay a bit longer and spend more money. A little business called Starbucks figured this out about 15 years ago and they now do $23 billion in sales from 25,000 locations. When you make it all but impossible to access your wifi you are defeating the purpose of this goodwill gesture. If you don’t understand this, chances are that you’re like the cafe I’m currently sitting in and have one location and daily sales in the tens of dollars.
13:00 – The old section of León is infinitely more interesting than the sprawling suburbs. I have enough time on my hands that I can stay for two nights which gives me a full day to look around. I suspect that I’ll be back in July.
13:47 – I had dinner about three nights ago with two girls who had checked every booking site known to man and they simply couldn’t find a room for Saturday or Sunday. I’m sure it will be a bit easier on a Monday night so I head to a bar for lunch and a beer before even looking for a hotel. What’s the worst that could happen?
Lunch at Camarote wasn’t cheap (16€ for garlic shrimp served in a sizzling skillet) but the paella was free and the beer and wine ranged from 1€ to 2€. I’m sure the same wine would be four or five times that price at a similar bar in Toronto or Vancouver.
16:20 – I had no trouble finding a charming little hotel with private rooms for under 40€. This is considerably more than I’ve paid in most countries but the way I justify it is this: A good night’s sleep can be the difference between finishing the Camino with your health and sanity intact or feeling run-down and deciding the only possible cure is to get on the next plane home. (I don’t actually have a home but that’s not the point.)
Once I got to the room I rang the front desk and asked to speak with either Basil or Sybil. The English speaking clerk laughed loudly and said with her best British accent: “I’m sorry sir but it seems they have just stepped out. Shall I send Manuel up to your room?”