Camino Day 16 – Itero de la Vega to Villalcazar de Sirga

We wake up early, and Dorcinda is happy to have a good night’s sleep. Happy, that is, until I point out two bedbugs in our room. One is crawling the wall and the other is in her crazy-town book, which she grabbed form the hostel bookshelf for some light reading. We check out bags and clothing, and dread the itchiness we fear will appear soon. We warn two of the other inhabitants of our hostel, and hit the road. One guy, from China via Berlin, seems a little too unconcerned for our liking, and the other, a German woman, immediately deflates, and tells us about a friend of hers who had to cut her Camino short because she got bedbugs and the itching was so bad. While we warn the Chinese guy, Siming, the last inhabitant of the hostel shushes us, annoyed at the noise. We leave her to her fate. We’re depressed and nervous.

Sheep block our way out of town momentarily, but we climb up off the path a little and wait for them to pass.

Our spirits are brightened somewhat by the appearance of two pilgrims walking the opposite direction. One has a huge white pack of some kind. Dorcinda speculates that it must be heavy, and I joke that it may be cotton candy. It’s not far off – its a huge white Teddy Bear. The pilgrims give us some coffee, denotivo, and I give 25  cents, the only coins I have left. They have made the trip to Finisterre and are walking all the way back to Barcelona. They met a week ago, and the primary partner, the guy with the bear, invites us to like his Facebook page, El Oso Perigroso, a mashup of pilgrim (peregrino) and dangerous (peligroso).

We eat breakfast at a hostel in the next town, where we get egg sandwiches, pretty big. (Is this where the douchey hospitalero corrected me for asking for “el contrasena” while making nice with all the people who didn’t even try to speak spanish?) I am amused by two very posh sounding old british women. How the one woman said with disappointment “They have no bananas here. I checked.”

In Fromista, we try to find a pharmacy and an ATM. We get some cash, but are the pharmacy is closed for Sunday, and no magical urchin appears to point out an open one as in Viana. The tourist office suggests we try the Centro de Salud – otherwise, the nearest pharmacy is out 19km away. The Centro de Salud offers  consulting for pilgrims, but only between 9 am and 10 am and between 6pm and 8pm. It’s 11. We ring the bell at the energency room and the guy doesn’t have much help to offer us.

We sit and drink coffee and read snippets from an English translation of the Codex Calixtinus. There’s a lot of writing  describing the churches, and the lives of the saints, but precious little about the route. What IS there, though, is hilarious and judgmental. Most of the water and food available in Spain is, apparently, instantly lethal, though the writer doesn’t say how he tested this opinion. He hates most of the Spanish – the Basques especially, whose language is “incomprehensible” and whose toll collectors are “truly vicious.”

From the Codex: “They come at pilgrims with weapons, and demand an exorbitant fee. If you refuse to pay, they’ll beat you up and take the money, even intrusively frisking you to get it. These people are forest savages. Their hard faces and strange language strike terror into the heart.”

The Codex complains that the tax collectors go after pilgrims and anyone else, even though they’re supposed to only charge merchants, and often grab double what’s allowed, and urges kings and bishops to excommunicate, rather than pardon, the offenders, writing  if any bishop decides to pardon them, either because he feels it’s his Christian duty or because he’s been paid off, he should be kicked out of the church.” The pass over the Pyreness is beautiful, and you feel like you can reach up and touch the sky, but in the old days, “the pagan Navarrese and Basques would not only rob pilgrims to Santiago, but mount them like donkeys and then murder them,” according to the book.

The Navarrese come in for similar condemnation, and the write says “Navarrese eating and drinking habits are disgusting” and “their language sounds so raw, it’s like hearing a dog bark.”

“These are an undeveloped people, with different customs and characteristics than other races,” the book continues. “They’re malicious, dark, hostile-looking types, crooked, perverse, treacherous, corrupt and untrustworthy, obsessed with sex and booze, steeped in violence, wild, savage, condemned and rejected, sour, horrible, and squabbling. They are badness and nastiness personified, utterly lacking in any good qualities. They’re as bad as the Getes and the Saracens, and they despise us French. If they could, a Basque or Navarrese would kill a Frenchman for a cent.

In some places, like Vizcaya and Alava, when they get warmed up, the men and women show off their private parts to each other. The Navarrese also have sex with their farm animals. And it’s said that they put a lock on the backsides of their mules and horses so that nobody except themselves can have at them. Moreover, they kiss lasciviously the vaginas of women and of mules. Everybody with sense slams the Navarrese.”

Burgos is “full of royal treasure, of gold and silver, fabrics and the strongest horses, and flush with bread, wine, fish, milk and honey. It is however lacking in firewood and the people are evil and vicious.” Galicians are “more like us French people than other Spanish savages, but nevertheless they can be hot-tempered and litigious.” What an open minded book!

We visited two churches in Fromista, and one nice church in Villalcazar de Sirga. In Fromista, we pray for relief from bed bugs, Dorcinda, praying rather more thoroughly than me. I emote “San Martin, help us with the bed bugs. Santiago help us with the bed bugs. Jesus, help us with the bed bugs.” Before I get embarrassed about kneeling at a tourist  spot and stand up to take photos like everyone else. It’s a pretty fine church, after all. Our guidebook calls it “one of the finest examples of pure Romanesque in Spain.” The other church, San Pedro, offers a “more prayerful atmosphere,” and is slightly less impressive. It also has free guitar music on Wednesdays.

The tourist office, besides offering useless advice and some maps and postcards, also has a LOT of free copies of the same garbage book that Dorcinda read the night before. We’ve seen it as well in San Bol, so every stop since Burgos. It’s Hercolubus or Red Planet, written in 1998, and it warns hysterically of a giant red planet on a collision course with Earth, as punishment for humanity’s sinful ways.

The book begins: “Humanity is spellbound by the predictions of the falsely called ‘scientists,’ who do nothing but fill Humanity with lies. Scientists distort the truth.”

And  it gets worse from there.  This is trash of the highest order, this is poison in written form. And they’ve got 100 copies to give away at a local government office!

On the way to Villalcazar, we meet up with the Danish man from San Bol, and he walks with us a while. We find out that his hobby is racing vintage cars, throughout Denmark, Sweden and Norway. I’m hot and tired, so Dorcinda carries most of the conversation.

We stop at the municipal albergue in Villalcazar, which is donativo. We check halfheartedly for bed bugs, and decide merely to switch beds than move hostels after discovering potentially disturbing signs of bugs. Downstairs, Siming, a pilgrim we met on the road earlier (from China via Germany where he’s a student) comes in and asks for cold water. I translate. The hospitalero gives him a huge bottle of water. He donates. Dorcinda chats with him a while and I try to figure out the hot water for a shower. A grumpy old Canadian woman comes in, and she’s pathetic and desperate, looking for her friends who are obviously not here. She complains about how far she’s walked and how she couldn’t possibly walk to another hostel to find them. We shrug. We’re pilgrims, lady. Then she wonders what albergue they could be at, and she thinks of asking the hospitalero who’s sitting patiently, ignoring our conversation in English. But how can I ask him that?? She cries in desperation. I roll my eyes, thinking, maybe learn Spanish, and ask the hospitalero. There’s another albergue and it’s literally right around the corner. “But how will I find it? I’ve walked so far.” I reiterate that it’s LITERALLY around the corner. I leave the room and wash my laundry to avoid any more interaction with her.

Later the hospitalero gives Siming a new pole that a man at the end of his Camino had left behind, and a lift to Carrion de los Condes. He leaves more money in the box, and the hopstialero says its unnecessary. Siming says he doesn’t know how else to say thank you. The hospitalero doesn’t understand. I translate. The hospitalero instructs Siming: “Gracias.” I’m disappointed in Siming for hitching a ride. I still believe that walking is the way to go. He was on his third day, starting in Burgos, and seemed to be going strong over the last two days in which we saw him.

We seek out the bar to write, and avoid sitting outside, where we spy the Danish man. We don’t want to be drawn into conversation. We made that mistake with Steve once, and neither of us got anything done.

Inside, however, we’re disappointed to learn that the kitchen is closed until 7 (it’s 6, and we haven’t eaten since breakfast), and to find a rowdy crowd of old men playing some game with stones on the table. I think its poker, and the stones are just chips for betting. One man has a staccato bleat of a laugh and its incredibly loud and annoying. I wonder if one of the sheep from this morning has followed us to the bar. Another man, his throat ruined by cigarettes, interjects occasionally, frightening us with a menacing rasp that would put any Hollywood villain to shame.  We snack and wait for the fancy place to open at 9 – its a restored medieval inn.

The restaurant never opens, so we snack some more at the bar. I’m on a roll in journaling, but Dorcinda pulls me outside so we can eat and view the sunset. Almost immediately, however, she starts chatting with an old German guy and we join his table. Then she goes inside to pay and seems to take a while, so I hear the same conversation, repeated this time in German between the old guy (Reiner?) and a younger, cigarette smoking Austrian woman. I stopped writing for this? We unenthusiastically make plans to meet the Italian and Dane for breakfast at our hostel.

At night, one of the two women who were dozing when we arrived is walking around in her underwear. Soon enough, the Italian is also. When its time for lights out, the underwear woman, sounding Russian, insists that the lights be turned off (turns out she’s hungarian, I think?). The Italian says yes, but at 10. It’s already 10:10.

Just before lights out, the Canadian banshee returns. She’s wandering the square outside, pathetically yelling  “Hello? Hello? Is somebody there?” I roll my eyes again, but go downstairs to see what she wants. She’s gone by the time I get there. I have little sympathy or concern however – out hostel’s door is wide open, so she could have just come in the front door if she was in as dire straits as her cries indicated. What a pill.


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