Camino de Madrid

Camino de Madrid
Camino de Madrid

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Day 2. October 1, 2016. Guemes to Santander. 13 kms

Why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours


A fitful sleep! I am suffering from jet lag, someone was coughing, and the dorm was stuffy until I opened a window during the night. Sometimes you have to do this under cover of darkness, for many Europeans are passionate about keeping out the night air and breathing in contagion. Added to this, there were many bunks crammed foot to foot (better than the alternative, of course), and the fellow in the bunk at the foot of my bed was quite tall. His feet would protrude into my space, and I spent the night moving mine from one side of the bed to the other to avoid his.  Sometimes he would hunch up, but then he would stretch out with a pile-driving thrust, striking a fearful blow on the balls of my feet. He looked at me rather sheepishly in the morning.

And in this dorm I saw my first three-decker bunks. My vision of hell is arriving late at an albergue and being allocated the top bunk on this structure. No rarefied atmosphere up there, but a thick layer of odours and vapours rising from the sleepers below and trapped by the ceiling above.


According to my guidebook, the albergue at Guemes is the best on the Camino, one not to be missed. It was certainly a little mysterious when I arrived. My enquiry about the price was brushed off, and I was told to attend a meeting at seven before dinner at eight. I was then shown the facilities: showers, dorms, wifi, all adequate but certainly not deluxe.

I was offered lunch, which I declined, asking instead whether I could get a beer. Not possible, and the nearest bar was back in town two kilometres down the hill.

I spent much of the afternoon wrestling with the mechanics of this blog, for which I apologize if a rude mass of unedited, uncut detritus appears on your screen. Please ignore the next few paragraphs unless you are interested in the technicalities of blogging.

Bllogs can't be managed well from a mobile device without using an app. For this reason, Google, for this is a Google blog, provided an app called Blogger. It was simple and effective, but for the last two years it has no longer been available in the  iPad App Store. I was able to continue using the original version, but it was not updated. Now it no longer works at all.

I have tried various other private apps such as BlogTouch, BlogPad, Blogo and Blogger, all offered free until you try to post something. Most of them have a flaw, and because they are written by techies, they are not always user friendly. I have to work them out by trial and error, and sometimes publish prematurely. But I seem to have learned how to use BlogTouch Pro.

We see here an example of the arrogance and indifference of the big companies like Google and Apple. Hundred of students used the Google Blogger app, and their teachers begged them to continue to provide it in the Apple Store, but to no avail.

The meeting at seven was well attended, and there must have been fifty people at the meal that followed. At both, in speeches simultaneously translated into English and French, the leaders explained the philosophy of the albergue. It was founded by a priest and and staffed by volunteers, dedicated to doing good works around the world, and funded largely by pilgrims such as us. We were urged to support this venture.

The meal that followed was simple indeed: thick soup and thin fish in a mass of potatoes. But bottomless bottles of wine.

That the organization was genuine, if a little naive, was evident in their accepting payment by a donation, freely given, in a box. This was a 15-20€ albergue, but I know from experience that some would not give that amount. I have noticed pilgrims putting only a few coins in a donation box, and others ignoring it altogether. In the beginning, all of the albergues were donativo, but now very few continue that practice.

After my fitful sleep, I was among the last to leave this morning. It was an easy and uneventful day. I walked to the next village, and took the short cut along a bicycle path into Lomo. Undoubtedly, this magnificent path was built with European money, but I didn't meet a single cyclist. 

Eventually I arrived in Lomo where I caught the ferry into Santander. This boat goes back and forth all day, loading and unloading its passengers in a manner that would be frowned upon by BC Ferries. No strict safety protocol. Not even a gangplank. The ferry butts up agains a sloping stone ramp choosing a spot where, according to the tide, the bow is level with the surface. As the bow touches the ramp, and the stern swings back and forth, passengers leap on and off while a sole crew member makes a token (touching the passenger's elbow) effort to assist. I was conscious that if I fell, my backpack would take me straight to the bottom. 

But I made it safely ashore, found the albergue, caught up with my friend Preben the Dane over a beer, and enjoyed a delicious meal at a little cafe under the double steps leading up to the Albergue.

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