Camino del Norte Day 19: Comillas to San Vicente

This was a short day so we decided to sleep in a bit and do some email and work in a café before beginning our 12 kilometer journey. The albergue in San Vicente has 44 beds so we didn’t feel in any rush to get there. The weather was cloudy and cool. I woke up feeling somewhat sick to my stomach and felt tired and draggy in spite of the short distance to walk.

The albergue in San Vicente supposedly opened at noon, but when we arrived around 1:30, it was still closed. Some of people who were waiting said they called and were informed that the albergue would open late at 1:30pm because of a local celebration, but the hospitalero didn’t show up until well after 2pm. We were a bit leery of this place because the entrance was very cluttered and the rooms, essentially in a basement, seemed rather damp and mildewed. The kicker was when Dave went to take a shower and encountered a stinky dog in the bathroom!

We should have trusted our intuition and found a different place to sleep. The online albergue information says this albergue costs €6 so we were surprised when they requested €13 each. Apparently the communal dinner and breakfast used to be on a donation basis, but now they were charging a flat fee for bed and meals.  As I was still feeling sick, I took a nap and then joined Dave in the common room. I was shocked to hear the daughter of the hospitaleros, who was in the corner loudly saying rude things about the pilgrims (who did not speak Spanish so did not understand her). She was saying “Why aren’t you helping? What kind of pilgrims are you? Didn’t you read your pilgrim passport? Read it, it’s right there, a pilgrim doesn’t demand, a pilgrim accepts. Help him, go help!” A few people did volunteer to help with meal preparation, but it would have been nice if up front they would have asked for volunteers. Usually when we pay for a dinner somewhere, we aren’t conscripted to help prepare it… The attitude of the daughter was very awkward and just set a bad tone.

Apparently the hospitaleros have been involved with the Camino for a long time and very active in the marking of the trail in this area. However, it seemed apparent to us that they may be suffering from “burn out” as they no longer seem to take joy in working with pilgrims and seemed to resent our presence. It probably doesn’t help that they seem to live in the same building in the room just next to the dormitory. I’m sure I would get tired of an endless stream of pilgrims with all their needs, smells, and idiosyncrasies! This seems to be why volunteer hospitaleros, who serve for a few weeks at a time, are so important to keep the positive energy flowing.

The dinner was tasty but not very filling, with pasta salad, sandwich meat, fish soup and an unflavored yogurt for dessert. After the meal, the hospitalero basically said, “I’m going to bed, you all clean up!” I continued to feel sick through the night and slept very poorly. I had a top bunk that was very rickety and difficult to get in and out.  If I’m ever in San Vicente again, I think I’ll get a hotel!