Sat. April 14th -(day 15 of walking)
Castrojeriz to Fromista – 25 km today (15.5 miles)
Beautiful weather today and the walk began with a very nice hill. It felt like a great way to start the day. The entire walk after that was flat and fairly easy. As usual, the last 4 km were tiring but I am beginning to think that is mostly in my head as I near the end of each walk and anticipate a break.
Today since the weather is nice we were able to sit outside, speak with people and enjoy the day. We are at the municipal albergue in Fromista tonight – €9 – not too bad but it is very basic and doesn’t have a kitchen space. There is a nice sitting area with a wood burning stove so several of us are gathered here- a father and son from Spain. David, a Korean born American from Atlanta- who was among the few of us on the first day’s lost adventure, an English guy and the woman who runs the place and her son and mother. The speaking is animated and in numerous languages. It is fun to hear some stories about the Camino and people’s lives. The English guy tells us about his sordid past as he drinks numerous beers but seems to have turned his life around a bit. He plans to eat yogurt and drink beer and feels this may help him walk faster and further. So far it seems to be working. He is going much more quickly than we are. Maybe it is because I don’t like beer.
But let’s get to the title of this blog… I know that many of you, particularly the women, may have questions of how one finds a bathroom on the Camino.
Generally I have been able to use the bathroom at the alberue in the morning and then start walking. Most of the albergues so far have had separate facilities for men and women but we have had three so far that didn’t and in two of them I have had women let me know they were very uncomfortable about it.
The albergue last night had only one bathroom for both men and women. With two stalls, two urinals and two showers. This morning one of the English women I know took me aside and let me know that she didn’t get a very good night’s sleep and hadn’t felt comfortable using the bathroom. I can’t blame her because when I went in there was a large hairy half-naked man shaving in the sink and another using the urinal. I felt badly for her, it is not easy to have a full bladder all night.
Another time, early in our trip, when we were in a hostel with the three young Korean women one of them was very nervous about the bathroom situation. We barely knew each other but when I walked into the bathroom and she was at the sink. A man wearing only a towel was standing at another sink and that let to this woman quickly running to me when she saw me enter. She hugged me and linked arms as she walked out of the bathroom with me, looking relieved. I don’t even think I was able to get in to use the bathroom before she whisked me out with her.
Thankfully I don’t have a big problem with using co-ed bathrooms. I have learned over the years that you just have to use which ever bathroom is available. If you saw the “toilet” at the Annapurna basecamp when we were there you would always realize it could be much worse.
As for on the actual walking trail, on most days there has been a town or village that we stop in for a coffee after 4 -6 miles or so. There are bathrooms in all of the bars and cafes. But at times the towns are very far apart and it has been necessary to find a remote spot along the trail. I can’t imagine how difficult this would be during the busy season because there will be a constant flow of people and no privacy. It has even been getting way busier the past few days and to make it more challenging the distance between towns that have any facilities has been growing. It is very disconcerting when you walk six miles and expect a village 1 mile away to have a coffee shop (just so you can use the bathroom) but you get there and walk through the small village and end up out of the village in 20 seconds with no place to eat or use a bathroom. There are no types of rest stations or port-a-potties out here.
The truth is that you probably need to be comfortable camping and roughing it a bit to walk the Camino, unless you are on a tour or something. You can stay at nice places but when you are walking there is no special treatment for those who stayed in the nice hotel vs the albergue.
Sunday 4/15 – we have been away from home for a month and walking for sixteen days. And more on el baño
Today we walked a short distance. 20 km (12 miles) and are in Carrion de los condes. This is a fairly large town of 2000 people and the town just before a lengthy walk for all of the pilgrims. Tomorrow is a long walk with 17 Km of no stops for food or bathrooms and then one town (which hopefully has both) before we walk another 10 km. Since everyone needs to stock up and sleep here somethings seem to be priced higher.
A lot of the places have rooms for €35 and up. The albergues here are pretty cheap and run by nuns. A lot of people love to stay in them but we decided to stay in our own room for the night, get
some much needed laundry cleaned and get a good nights sleep before the long day tomorrow. That choice has proven to be a prophetic one for me.
On the trail you often hear “The Camino gives you what you need.” Sometimes this comes in the form of a rest, meeting a certain person, seeing something particularly meaningful, a drink, food or shelter after a wet cold walk.
Last night having felt a little guilty about spending €40 for private room (vs €10-12 to stay with the nuns) I ended up really needing this space. And I am fortunate I was able to afford it. At 10:30 last night I became violently ill. I am assuming it was food poisoning. I am thankful today that I was able to have a private space, Colin’s support and that I was not instead sharing a bunk bed in a room with fifty people and three shared toilets. El baño perfecto was provided when needed. I am much better today and again thankful that we are in the position that we can occasionally take more time on his trip and occasionally splurge for a room. Today’s walk was going to be the long one I mentioned earlier but instead we opted to stay in this luxurious single room an additional night. I slept pretty much all day, ate bread, hydrated and only went out for a few minutes despite the beautiful sunshine. It is Colin’s birthday and one to remember.
The sun is expected to be shining for the next week and both of us have had a reboot of sorts after a quiet day. Ready to go for the next twenty days or so until Santiago. Eager to see what else comes to me when it is needed on this Camino (and in life)