Yesterday's albergue coulda-woulda-shoulda been a magic experience. If it wasn't for the Champions League 'snoring.' We had 5 contenders for the medals. Bronze went to the crippled lady from Mexico. "You can break my legs, not my snoring." Well done. Silver went to Denmark, on my left. Consistency paid off. Bravo. But not even close to the 'Manowar of snoring' on my right: llse from Holland. Few hours ago she was still complaining to us about people snoring. Make that triple Gold for hypocrisy! There's good news too. I've passed the 100 km sign. Today I'm walking the first of three 33 km marches to Santiago. It won't be easy. Zero sleep. The road goes up-down-up-down. And it's raining like hell.
It's busy at the bus stop in Portomarin. I spot 2 French pilgrims. 2 days ago, in Villafranca del Bierzo, they were still talking about “l'esprit du chemin" (true pilgrim's spirit). Today they’re take the bus. Uuuuhhh! (buzzer). Fail. God bless the French. Always good at philosophy. Mud, rain, cold. You think I'm grumpy? You should see the faces of faux pilgrims who started in Sarria. No Buen Camino. No greeting. No smile. In bars old folks push me in the back. One geezer almost snaps the stamp out of my hand. Why the long faces? They all carry small packs. And so far they've walked 20 km, not 750 like me. Or did you come by bus?
I drink my way (coffee) to Palas de Rei. Oh wow, the Saint Jean veterans are here! I get a warm hug from one of the Italians. A strong hiker. I saw him mourning at the Cruz de Ferro. And surprise! Le Chef, the retired commando who served in Africa, is at the Albergue. In Leon he insisted on showing me his blue-blanc-rouge with Banksy symbol, on which he had added a tiny Belgian flag. A beautiful gesture. An older American couple asks to switch beds. “No problem.” I answer with a cheeky smile. “As long you don't snore” So you see, the Camino is what you make of it. Or as the French say: “Chaqu'un son Camino. Le seul qui compte, c'est le tien.”
Palas de Rei offers tons of accommodation. But beware, the roads are busy. We're in the final 100 km (the minimum distance required to get a Compostela) to Santiago. Do make a reservation upfront.
I had a nice stay at the Albergue Buen Camino (yes, those guys really broke their heads coming up with a name) - Rua do Peregrino, 3 - +34 982 380 233 - Open March 15 - Oct 30 - from noon till 10 pm - 41 beds, 10 euro - Offers all a pilgrim needs. Hot showers, washing machines, cafeteria on the ground floor. Try to score a bed in one of the small rooms on the side. There’s a fancier restaurant with better Wifi right across the street.