The next morning when we were leaving Santo Domingo, we saw some hot air balloons flying over a field. I told Nicole about our adventurous hot air balloon wedding. Having someone new to talk to and trade stories with made the miles more enjoyable.
Over the last 3 days, we had covered about 45 miles and our bodies (especially our feet) felt every bit of it.
We still weren’t in the habit of calling ahead or making reservations. For that night, we had our hearts set on an albergue that had a pool. We had been daydreaming about how great the water would feel on our tender feet and sore legs.
But when we got into Belorado, we learned that the albergue with the pool was fully booked. We were bummed. And tired. And hot.
A couple of pilgrims from Switzerland that we had met a couple of times before told Andy that there was a place with one private room still available. We jumped at the opportunity and claimed it before it was gone. There wasn’t a pool but we scored a private room for the three of us. There was also a place in the common area for us to hand wash and dry our clothes.
We joked about our luck, these “Camino riches” that we were being showered in:
- A private room for the three of us to sprawl out in
- Having the time and space to handwash ALL our dirty clothes
- A folding clothes-drying rack all to ourselves
We would use this term Camino Rich through the end of the Camino and beyond to describe ordinary things that we had previously taken for granted:
- Hand soap in bathrooms
- A functioning showerhead
- Hot water in the shower
- Sheets and a blanket in a bunk (instead of a paper pillowcase and your own sleeping sheet/sleeping bag)
- A bed that wasn’t a bunk
It became a sort of game for us, finding these otherwise ordinary things and calling attention to them. Sometimes it was with a touch of sarcasm (“Oh there’s toilet paper in that bathroom? How rich!”) but most of the time it was said with true gratitude.
Like the first time we experienced a bunk bed with foam padding covering the metal ladder steps.
Climbing up into a bunk bed after walking several miles with a heavy pack can be rough. And those narrow, metal bars are so aggressive on tender pilgrim feet.
This foam padding was like walking on clouds.
I hope I will always notice my Camino Riches.
Andy and I had trained for and run several half marathons together over the years. But it still felt weird to consider 7.5 miles of backpacking a “short day”. It’s not a long distance, but doing it every single day for a few weeks really adds up in the body, especially the feet.
The Camino had skewed our perception of “riches” as well as distance.
The walk that day was beautiful and we stayed at a cool old former pilgrim hospital in Villafranca Montes de Oca. We splurged an extra 2€ to get single beds (no bunks-Camino Rich!) and the pilgrim dinner was fantastic. We stuffed ourselves with each course, extra bread, and every last drop of wine.
But that night was one of the worst nights of sleep any of us had on the entire Camino.
As soon as we all crawled into our beds and settled in to sleep, the room became a choir of snores, snorts, and farts.
We had all experienced some of this on the Camino already. It’s a natural thing and to be sure, we all do this when we sleep. But this night was especially loud.
I couldn’t find my earplugs and I didn’t want to make a lot of commotion digging around in my bag to find them. I tossed and turned all night.
Around 5 am, some of the pilgrims started stirring, getting ready to start the day. They were stomping around, rummaging in their packs, and swinging their flashlights around the room. Bad pilgrim etiquette.
I burst from my sleeping bag and started throwing my stuff together. I couldn’t get any rest, so we may as well start the day. Andy and I gathered our bedding and packs, taking them into the common area where we could pack them up without disturbing the other pilgrims.
I grumbled and punched my sleeping bag into its stuff sack. This was a terrible start to the day.
We saw that Nicole was still sleeping, so we thought we would let her get a few more minutes of sleep while we packed up. We were usually slower getting ready than she was, so we were semi-thankful for the head start.
Suddenly, Nicole burst from the room, wide-eyed with panic.
We stared at each other, unsure what was going on.
“I’m so sorry! I overslept! I’ll be ready in ten minutes!”
We blinked a couple of seconds before we realized that her panic came about because she thought we left her.
We started laughing and told her not to worry, we didn’t leave her, we wouldn’t leave her, and we would wait.
As we were slinging on our packs and getting ready to start on the trail, our Camino spirit was waning. Our fellow pilgrims, some of the members of the Body Sounds Choir, walked by, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. We resented their well-rested energy.
We returned their “Buen Camino!” but as soon as they were out of earshot, I mumbled “…bolsas de pedos” which is a literal Spanish translation of “fart bags.”
It was such a childish statement, but after I told Andy and Nicole what it meant, the three of us erupted into sleep-deprived laughter. It extinguished the fiery rage I had woken up with.
“Adios, fartbags!” became a phrase we would use anytime one of us needed a laugh.
In an attempt to top up the spirit of the Camino that day, we started a new morning ritual of listening to “Good Day” by Greg Street and Nappy Roots. We would sing and dance along the trail.
“We’re gonna have a good day, and ain’t nobody gotta cry today, cause ain’t nobody gonna die today, you can save that drama for another day, heyyy.”
After our dance party, we got to walk through about 12 kilometers of oak and pine forest. The smell and sound of the wind through the trees made me feel like I was home, in Oklahoma or Texas.
When we got to Atapuerca, our stop for the day, we had a few hours to burn while we waited for the one restaurant in town to open. Nicole played a guitar that she found there at the albergue and sang while we lounged on the grass in the sun.
We had a lot of good meals on the Camino, but the dinner we had in Atapuerca made us feel like royalty, not road-weary pilgrims.
It’s funny how this day, with its chaos, frenzy, grouchiness (and fartbags), ended up being one of our best days for Camino Riches.