We left the albergue at a quarter to seven, climbing a steep hill right after Hornillos. Our hopes for coffee at the next albergue were, however, quashed by its peculiar nature. San Bol is a standalone albergue, connected to a small power generator and away from such modern things as working plumbing, warm showers, or cell phone reception. A paradise for a certain kind of pilgrim, hell for two modern walkers looking for a caffeine fix.
Luckily the Way descended soon after, leading us into Hontanas, a town owing its existence to the Camino alone after having been slated for destruction twenty years ago. We sat down for coffee, met a girl from Switzerland who decided to join us for a day or two, and heard a very curious story about an American and a Swedish woman who performed medical miracles on the Camino.
Swiss lady, Eva, in tow, we arrived at our next pit stop, the former Hospital and Monastery of San Anton. Now mostly in ruins, it hosts a small albergue consisting of mats on the floor and cold water to wash with, as well as a bar, ran by a man and his dog. Between puffs from a joint he regaled us with stories of pilgrims past and curses about an unlicensed seller of food and drinks in a car down the road.
Fortified with stern warnings against buying anything from said seller and slices of watermelon, we left way too late and arrived in Castrojeriz just in time to get a three bed “special” at an albergue. The room, sold to us at the price of three cots, had an A/C and three creaky beds. “Is it OK if I sleep in your room?” Eva seemed concerned about intruding more than about spending the night in a room with two strangers. “Sure,” Inga winked, “as long as I get a good night kiss.”
We left the albergue, ate well at one of the restaurants, and then contemplated and quickly dismissed the idea of climbing a nearby hill to explore the ruin on top. Instead, we ordered wine and, pretty buzzed, made it into our albergue just as the doors were about to be locked.
I waited outside the room as Inga and Eva undressed and slipped into their night clothes, then Eva left for a second while I did the same. I absconded to brush my teeth and retrieve our clothes from the dryer, returning to both sitting on my bed and flipping through pictures on Eva’s phone. Unsure about the etiquette, I planted myself, to protests from both, on the floor and was yanked up and into bed. Inga produced a hip flask, poured a good helping of a clear liquid into its cap, and handed it to me. “To us, Buen Camino.” I swigged, the harsh taste of Spanish wheat running like fire down my neck. Once the round was completed, Inga removed the bottle and curled into my lap, Eva leaning on my shoulder. And this is how we fell asleep.