I escaped the hoards of pilgrims that started at Rionegro del Puente by stopping a relatively short distance, in Cernadilla. Most pilgrims go a minimum of 20 km, or 12 miles, a day. The Cernadilla alberguehad only 4 beds– pretty much just mattresses laid out on the floor of a very small, brick building that had a tiny kitchen, tiny bathroom, and not much else.
When I arrived, the albergue was closed, and the mayor, who had the key, wasn’t around yet. I was dying of thirst, and saw a man washing his car with a garden hose.
“Is the water safe to drink?” I asked in broken Spanish.
“Si, si,” he replied, imploring me to come over. He filled my water bottle with cool water from the hose. I thanked him, and pulled up to a bench alongside the small center of town to eat a little of my jamon serano and slake my thirst.
I glugged, glugged, glugged down a few huge gulps of water until I quickly realized, “Uh oh… something is not right” and spit out the rest of the water left in my mouth. DIESEL!!!
The hose had clearly been used to siphon gas at some point, and I’d just drunk a whole stomachful of it down. I felt a little gross, but there wasn’t much left to do but finish my snack and hope for the best.
Eventually, the mayor showed up and led me to the albergue, where I soon met Runner #1 and Runner #2: pilgrims who’d run several of the Caminos already, averaging 52 km /day — that’s 31 miles!!! A DAY. Over and over and over.
Runner #1 explained that he was in retirement, and running 3 or 4 Caminos a year kept him out of trouble. Runner #2 said he was just along for the ride (and perhaps to keep Runner #1 out of trouble…!)
They shared their copious amounts of pasta with me for dinner, we made pleasant chit-chat, and then settled into bed.
Or at least, Runner #2 settled into bed, and promptly began to snore.
I’ve never heard anything quite like it. The tiny window was shaking with the effort of his labored, sawing breaths. Runner #1 would periodically slam his hand down on the floor rythmically, which would wake Runner #2 up briefly enough for him to turn over, and begin snoring again in exactly 5 minutes. It was torture.
To add insult to injury, at some point during the sleepless evening, I realized the tainted water had finally made it through my system. All of a sudden I leaped out of the bed, and, thankfully, made it to the bathroom before violently retching up my once-delicious dinner (and the now-spoiled-forever jamon serano, the delicious Iberian ham that everybody loves but I can no longer eat without remembering that evening.)
When it was clear I was out of danger, I realized I couldn’t take the torture-by-snoring any longer. I dragged the mattress outside underneath the stars. It was cold, but much more pleasant than spending the night with the log-sawer inside. Finally, after what seemed like hours, I mercifully fell asleep.
I woke up damp with dew in the sunshine. The runners had quietly left in the wee hours of the morning, stepping over my slumbering body, snug in its sleeping bag right in front of the albergue’s front door. I was thankful for their consideration in letting me sleep.
And so, to prepare, for another day of walking….