The rain had pushed everyone apart from each other. Everyone was walking their own Camino. One foot in front of the other.
I walked past an old hospital for pelegrinos.
The word “hospital” takes on a different meaning here. It relates to the word “hospitality,” rather than to the place we think of as the place for sick people. The medieval hospital was the place where the pilgrims would be welcomed, given a place to rest and have injuries attended to. it was a place of healing, for sure, but in a larger sense.
Today’s local volunteers who staff the municipal albergues, the places where we pilgrims rest, wash, eat, sleep, are called “hospitaleros” as a fine tribute to their ancient origins.
As I walk past that old hospital, now just a ruin, I think of that medieval pilgrim, as wet and tired as I, and understand the relief and gladness he felt as he walked over the final crest of that hill and saw the old stone hospital. I flew back in time a thousand years and understood his experience.
When I arrived at Navarette, Marcel, French volunteer hospitalero at the municipal albergue, greeted me as if he had been waiting for me. Would I like an upper bunk or would I like the attic?
The attic sounded good, so I and the gentleman who had also just checked in made our way up the final flight of steps to the attic.
Clean, bright, and no bunk beds, it was a nice quiet place to rest, especially when compared to the relative crowd and noise of the lower floors.
Marcel prepared crepes for all the pilgrims. This was his gift to all. Free and delicious, it was the first time I’d been treated by the volunteers. The aroma floated through the albergue and soon the dining room was full of hungry and grateful pilgrims anxious to enjoy a treat.
That night, I made my way up to the attic. I found that there were now seven men in the room with me.
I felt like Snow White.
We were all tired and preparing for the next day and soon most were asleep.
Then, the fun began.
The gentleman who had come upstairs with me at first was a slight, quiet, unassuming man who spent most of his time reading on his cot while most were downstairs talking.
At bedtime, he told me that he snored and he was going to move to a bed on the other side of the attic, which I thought was very thoughtful of him.
I settled in for a good night’s sleep.
If you have ever heard of the UK version of “American Idol,” then you may have heard of Susan Boyle. She was the mousey looking, unassuming woman whose voice suddenly took the musical world by storm. What an amazing sound from such a timid looking person!
It turns out that the mousey looking man who kept to himself and moved to the other side of the attic because he snored was the Susan Boyle of the snoring world.
When he fell asleep, this amazing sound came from his mouth. Loud, deep, a full-throated basso profundo, he was the Maestro of snorers. The other six men unconsciously followed his lead in snoring but were certainly his supporting orchestra members. It was his sonata.
It was the first time I tried earplugs, which did not work. From the other side of the attic, the closets and windows seemed to suck in and out and rattle, like in a cartoon, as he began his night music.
Literally hours later, he stopped snoring. Was he dead? I didn’t care. I would get a bit of sleep before the ambulance came, I thought to myself, and finally fell asleep.