Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sleepless in Zubiri

Before beginning my Camino, I worried about my fitness and Marian’s diet. I am 60, a walker but no hiker. Could I carry a 20-pound pack up hill and down, day after day? Marian is a vegetarian traveling in a country that likes meat. Can she maintain a balanced diet?

The one thing I never thought to worry about was sleeping.

The night before we left St. Jean Pied de Port, Marian and I slept at Kaserna with eight other people in a room with five double bunks. Or rather, Marian slept.

I was awake until 2 am, slept a fitful hour, then got back to sleep for about 90 minutes before dawn. Once the first person starts skirmishing about to prepare for the day’s hike in a dormitory set-up like that one, it’s impossible to drop off again. So before the most grueling, physically demanding day of my adult life I slept two and a half hours. 

Monday night in Roncesvalles, we slept in a new state-of-the-art 214-bed pilgrim refuge. I was in a cubicle with three other people, including Dominik and Erika, plus Q, a Lufthansa pilot from Bavaria who flew the Pope in a private jet on Benedict’s return from his visit to Germany. Marian slept in another cube that included Simon and Sam.

My accommodations would have been ideal for sleeping except that my bunk faced the door to the men’s bathroom. So I was perfectly positioned to receive the glorious, heavenly rays of light that flooded my way every time a man padded down the corridor in flip-flops and opened the door to do the thing we men do—so often—in the middle of the night.

Since there were about 60 men on our floor, and many of them were at least of middle age, there were many middle-of-the-night flip-floppings and door-openings. I thought of closing the door, but when I did so, the door banged shut every time someone passed in or out. So I compromised, propped the door half-open, donned my eye mask (useful) and ear plugs (useless) and again worked at getting to sleep. Because I was all but brain dead following the day’s activity, I slept better Monday night than Sunday, but the net hour count was still less than five for the two nights combined.

Tuesday morning, a fog began to settle over me, which did not lift. When we arrived in Zubiri (picture above), a small (pop. 400) industrial town 20 kilometers short of Pamplona, I insisted to Marian that we stay in a pension, in a room with two beds and a door that closes, bedbugs optional.

We checked in at four o’clock, and within half an hour I lay down for a pre-dinner nap. That’s when I learned that the name of our pension, Benta-Berri, means Slamming Doors. Windows were open in several rooms of the pension, causing drafts, and several guests checked in while I was trying to nap. The net effect was the sound of many doors slamming, and that is not a zen koan.

[NOTE: The next post in this series about my Camino is here.]

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