Day 18 to Hospital de Orbigo - Semtex & Patchouli

Do you know what really pisses me off about people snoring? The fact that they know they have a problem. Yet every night they sleep in dorms, expecting 50 other people to cope with their bullshit. Last night, some dude wasn’t even snoring, but suffocating. I wish he had. At 5 AM me and Remi couldn’t take it any more and jumped out of our bunks. We had to wait for another hour for the gate to open. But anything better than lying next to The Exorcist. Next time, I'll bring 2 sets of Semtex. One to blow up snoring bastards, the other to open gates. Grrrr! Yes, I’m grumpy.

We struggle to find our way out of Leon. The signage is confusing and the road extremely dull. All day the Camino hugs the notorious N120. Thank goodness, Isabelle, Paul and Morten make great conversation. Isabelle’s stories always end with an amazing cliffhanger, making me long for the next episode. It’s the ultimate soap series.

Flashback to late 80’s Spain. Isabelle, a shy Spanish student bumps into Paul, a mysterious American. Love at first sight! He invites her to America. Nothing happens. But right before she leaves, he proposes. Violin music. Will her father accept? Drumroll … Si! Fade to black. Life in freezing New York proves to be hard for the sun-kissed Spanish beauty, unable to speak English. But then: surprise! She’s pregnant. Olé! Paul has news too. He needs to leave for the Gulf War. Oh no! The hospital calls. “Señorita, you have a deadly virus.” She cries for weeks. But then the hospital calls again. “Sorry, we mixed up 2 files.” Ufff, saved by the bell. Not really, her blood doesn’t clot during the delivery. A nurse notices just in time. Meanwhile, Paul comes back from the War. A happy ending after all? No, he’s shellshocked and needs to go into therapy … And so it goes on for miles and miles.

We finally reach our destination: San Martin del Camino. The albergue is a concrete building next a concrete water tower and a concrete road. The perfect place to commit suicide. Even my blisters scream: “Get out of here!” Morten calls it quits, but I prefer to continue till Hospital de Orbigo. 6 more km of asphalt jungle. "Ah well, at least it’s not raining." Maybe I shouldn’t have said that. 2 minutes later it starts pouring. Rain or shine, the Puente de Orbigo totally blows me away. The 13th century bridge is one of the longest and most spectacular along the Camino Frances. Walking its cobblestone deck transports me back to a long forgotten era. Medieval houses complete the breathtaking picture. Wow!

Where the hell is that Albergo Verde? Out of all places, I had to book a place on the other side of town. Today really sucks. But then … Nirvana. The door opens up and I’m greeted by the smell of incense, esoteric music and a long haired man saying "Welcome brother." Nepalese flags, Buddha statues and guitars are lying around … this is a hippie place in hipster version. Super dorm, massage showers and washing machines. Namaste! “Do you want dinner?” asks Bella “It's vegetarian.” Obviously. "What time?” “After Mincho gives a yoga session. You might need it.” Mmm, I only tried yoga once and it brought the very worst out of me. But Mincho’s enthusiasm is addictive and I soon find myself on a mat muttering “Uuuuuum.” The soft spoken guru lectures about vertical and horizontal time, breathing in the present and the cosmos. All what’s missing is something relaxing to smoke. But then he talks about pilgrims. “Every day at the Albergue Verde, we see 2 kinds of people. Those with heavy packs always arrive exhausted. While those with light packs look fit and happy. Same goes for the Camino of Life. There’s no need to carry all the weight of the past. Take it off. Throw it away. It will be easier to move forward.” Wow, that’s exactly what I’m gonna do. Shaanti! And so a day of hell ends in peace.

Travel Essentials

Pick the right Camino. There are 2 roads. We took the extremely boring one. Make sure you take the other, alternative road in La Virgen del Camino (7.6 km outside Leon) which turns slightly south, away from that dreadful N120. It goes through a couple of villages before joining the main road in Hospital de Orbigo.

Avoid sleeping in Villadangos del Paramo or San Martin del Camino. These villages are just a set of ugly concrete houses along a busy express way. Totally depressing. Go the extra mile to Hospital de Orbigo. Fairytale location compared to the asphalt jungle.

Book at the Albergue Verde - Avenida Fueros de Leon, 76 - +34 689 927 926 - 26 beds in a super dorm, 9 euro - closed in winter. A true oasis, exceptional friendly staff. My absolute number 1 hostel. Free yoga session. A few songs on the acoustic guitar before meals. Outstanding vegetarian dinner, vegan snacks & bio breakfast. All donativo. “Leave what you want in this basket” says Mincho “Or just leave your love. It’s not important. We’ll find a way.” Peace.

Buen Camino!

Next episode: ‘Day 19 to Murias de Rechivaldo - Goodness, Gothic and Gaudi.’

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© 2015 All content, text and photographs, by TAPIR TALES

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