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  • Writer's pictureWill

lucky man

Photo: not mine, stolen from ... sorry

Following on from

The nun smiled and did the international gesture for sleep, hands palms together under one ear of a slightly tilted head. And then said “Chambre” pointing at a door marked “Chambre”. I was a little confused, I thought it meant “bringing wine to room temperature” but she thought it meant bedroom.

On the other side of the door was a small plainly decorated room with tatty old furniture jammed in-between shabby single beds. The washrooms were grim, stained toilets, torn shower curtains and broken tiles. The water didn’t spray, it came out as a dribble so I had to move my head and body around to get that “overall wet effect”.

What a dump … I loved it.

Photo: my bed bug free sleeping bag on my deluxe bed.

Moments after I was changed, in walks a real live fellow pilgrim, Ulrich from Stuttgart.

The great thing about the internet is the huge amount of information about everything. The downside is having to filter this info into useful and useless. Google filters by “popularity”. Just because something is popular does not make it accurate or useful. The problem is not knowing what answers to look for because I didn’t know what questions to ask. Frustrating.

Frustrating that is, until my own personal Ulrich Google from Stuttgart turned up. I am a lucky man.

We sat in the abbey garden, the last of the days sunshine warming our faces while we supped our way through 1.5 L of red wine from our plastic cups. He had followed the same route as me. he got lost, just like me. I had abrasions, he had lacerations. Like football, a game played for 90 minutes and then the Germans win, Ulrich won the “my injury is worse than yours” game. If he puts his towel out to reserve the shower in the morning there will be a fight.

It turns out, Ulrich is a walking talking German guidebook on the Camino. He listened to my questions, guessed at the bits he thought I was missing and then, oh joy, he rattled out concise real accurate useful facts. There was so much I didn’t know.

He also told me about bed bugs and what a scourge they are. How they bite, how they move from one albergue to another in the sleeping bags of unsuspecting pilgrims. He also had “anti-bed-bug-spray”. Photo: actual photograph of a fully grown bedbug, truly terrifying.

In an act of real-life European cooperation. The drunk German and the sober Scotsman pulled all their gear from their backpacks, threw it all onto the grass and sprayed everything in a white poisonous mist. It must have worked because over the next seven weeks, I never met a bed bug.

Wherever you are Ulrich “danke und tschüss”.


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