The original plan called for Castrojeriz as my next overnight destination. Yesterdays destination had been changed to Hotanas from Hornillos so I was out of sync already. No bad thing on the Camino. Looking back, no plan is the best plan. I stopped for breakfast at San Anton and was joined by a fellow peregrino, Nathan. He was a young guy and widely travelled and, although a scientist by profession, he told me that when he ran out of money he went back to the UK to temporarily run bars. Soon as he had enough cash he was off on his travels again. His scientific skills had boded him well on several of his trips enabling him to volunteer for water projects in India and the like.
This section of the Camino is known as the meseta. It is lots of pilgrim’s least favourite part as there are long flat sections where the scenery is less than spectacular. It’s dusty and usually hot. There is not much shade either which creates its own problems during the hotter times of year. The villages here can be spread out too.
Castrojeriz soon came and after a beer Nate and I decided to crack on. There is a really steep bank about 2 km past CJ and, in the heat it took it out of us both. In Itero de la Vega. Nathan made for the municipal Albergue. I, after consulting my guide, decided on a private room at Hogar del Peregrino. It’s a very small private albergue and I snagged a single room for 12 Euros. Seemed like myself and a Canadian couple were the only residents.
After a shower I explored the town. Took about 5 minutes. Itero de la Vega (that’s Vega not Vegas) has a population of 160. It used to be a one horse town, but that was years ago, before the horse died. The horse died of boredom. The town was dead. Deader than Disco. I had an early dinner with the Canadian couple. They declined my offer of another drink as it was almost 7.30 and they didn’t want to be up late. Yes 7.30, you read it right.
There were three places to get a drink, two albergues and a stand-alone bar. I went to the first albergue, La Mochila. Three young pilgrims who I didn’t really like the look of and one local guy. I had a beer and went to Bar Tachu. I was the only customer. Had a beer. Left and went to the other Albergue. Apart from a dozen or so pilgrims finishing the communal dinner in a private room, there was one woman sat in the garden. I joined her. She was pleasant until she went to bed about five minutes after I got there. The other 12 went to their bunkrooms too.
In search of drinking buddies I repeat the circuit Albergue1 – Bar –Albegue2.
I find no one, not even Nate. Again I go round. And again. I have a bottle of beer at each call. So I have now had a dozen beers and I am as bored as a midget in a theme park. When I end up back at Albergue La Mochila. I see the three youngsters from before. They are a li’l bit drunk and a li’l bit noisy, but they were the only game in town. I joined them in the courtyard and was soon admonishing myself for pre-judging them. Nice people. Noah was a Spanish girl born in Seville from Italian parents who now lived in Switzerland. Jesus was a 40 year old Cuban from Havana who looked about 20 years younger, and most interestingly there was Reed, a young Nebraskan who was banging out tunes on a ukulele. They made me very welcome and shared their bottles of wine and plates of bread and olives with me. Havana and Seville are two of my favourite cities and it was good to learn more about them from natives.
Time marched on. The Hospitalero put the lights out and left us a couple of candles.
No one saw him lock the gate.
We drink some more. It’s now 11.30 and we have easily broken the stay-up-late record for Itero de la Vega. I am a li’l bit drunk myself now. More than a little bit if I’m honest. I can see two Spanish/Italian girls, two handsome Cubans and two young Nebraskans playing ukuleles in perfect synchronicity.
Before the trip I had been a little concerned, given the curfews, about getting locked out of an Albergue. I had not considered the possibility of getting locked in one. But as everyone knows, drunks have no problems. We have only solutions. Which we can formulate in a heartbeat. I did so now.
‘What floor are you staying on’ I asked
‘First’ said someone.
‘Does your window open?’
‘Think so’ said someone else.
‘OK,’ I said ‘you just need to lower me down.’
I fell about ten feet. Drunks don’t break and I was on my feet at the fourth attempt, waving goodbye to my buddies. I walked around the corner to my Albergue. Steel shutters were down over both doors. I spied a keyhole in the rightmost one. Excellent. I fished out my two keys. Hmm the keyhole seemed smaller than the key. Obviously an optical illusion. Apparently not. Neither key would go in. the owner had given me the wrong keys. The idiot.
I ran through my options. There were three, not including the one with the dynamite.
1) Find a bench and take a nap.
2) Go back to La Morchila, Raise my buddies and, providing they had a rope, regain entry, and then take a nap.
3) Ring the phone number prominently displayed above my head, get the idiot owner to open the shutters, then take a nap.
Hmm. I didn’t really want to wake the owner; on the other hand, his lack of key selection skills had got me into this predicament. Yes. It was definitely his fault. He has brought this on himself. Ah the logic of the drunk.
He answered the phone. ‘Digame’
‘I’m outside. You have given me the wrong keys. Lemme in please.’
He asked me to be quiet and within a few minutes he came out of a door around the corner.
‘It’s not me.’ I said, trying both keys again. I expected embarrassment and an apology. I received neither. Instead he held out his hand. The keys changed ownership. He walked three metres to my right. Another door! No shutters! Using the previously useless keys he opened the door. I followed him upstairs. He unlocked the bedroom. I stumbled past him. I held out my hand for the keys. He gave me a look of pity, tinged with disappointment, as if I was a favourite nephew who had just told him I was dropping out of university. He pocketed the keys.
I took a nap.
From experience I feel qualified to offer this piece of advice to business owners who own multiple properties on the same block. Paint all the doors to your business the same colour. Maybe add a logo to each one, y’know like McDonalds. To further avoid confusion add the logo to your key rings. Just a suggestion.
To be continued…