• Will

safe

Following on from death trip, day 12, Friday, 19th April 2013

The Col du Somport to Villanúa, 16 km – 4 hours

Photo: the view from the Albergue window


I climbed to the Somport Pass in the Pyrenees, and walked across the border from France to Spain. A small achievement in life.


The Albergue Aysa is 100 meters across the border. I removed my pack and boots in the entrance and padded, in my wet socks, over to the bar. Customers were lined up at the bar, and they all turned, as one, to stare at me, the stranger, just like a western saloon.

Me “do you have a bed for the night?”

Barman “oui”

Me “can I have a …” starts crying

Barman ……….?


Splodge out to the entranceway, take a deep breath, compose myself, squelch back in

Me “can I have a bed?”

Barman “oui”

Me “and can I have a …” starts crying again

Barman ……….?


After an emotional conversation, I paid for a coffee and bed. I lugged my gear up the stairs to the all wood dorm-style rooms, it smelled like a pine forest.


On the Camino, the first thing you do when you get to your accommodation is “claim your space” by laying your sleeping bag out. Then you unpack your necessary gear and as quick as possible get a shower. This became a rule for me. Never ever drink alcohol before the bed is ready, never sit down until I have showered.


It was a bad night, looking back, I think it was a potential PTSD event.


It was a bad bad night and I wasn't feeling too happy when I woke up to Wake Up by Rage Against the Machine. After a long rejuvenating shower, I packed my pack and padded downstairs for breakfast. This was a new day, this was a new me, this was another start to my Camino, this was … a total white-out, what the? The storm had continued all night and even now, I could hardly see the other side of the road. If I had tried to make a shelter out there last night, I would be dead. Instead of a story to tell, I would be a headline, “body of Scots idiot hiker found in mountains”.


I decided to wait the blizzard out. I was absent-mindedly watching the snow blast around the car park when a bus pulled up and drop off a lone passenger. When he hefted his pack onto his shoulder, I caught a flash of a Camino shell.


His name was Paulo, from Brazil, and he was waiting for another bus to dump off three more pilgrims from Portugal. Turns out, two years earlier they met on the Camino in St Jean Pied de Port (Camino Frances) and agreed to meet up and do it again. He called me over, and after a brief story swap, invited me to join the little band. An hour later three short tubby baldheaded men stomped in from the snow. Their smiles lit up the room. I am not Sherlock but I surmised these were the Portuguese we were waiting for.


At midday, the snow was easing off, a fraction. There was no chance of following the Camino path, it was at least 50cm deep in snow. So, we agreed to walk the road down the mountain until we could safely join the footpath, somewhere.


We shook hands, wished each other a Buen Camino, and set off into the white.


#caminoarles

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