For the first time, I wanted to listen to music. I wanted to be alive in my head. I wanted to deeply anchor the landscape I was walking through with the music I was listening to. Walking out of Burgos is a mix of beautiful church structures, tatty medieval streets university town and highway construction near Tardajos that added a 2 km detour. 

And a park that left me with the worst Asthma attack on the camino. Not sure what it was in that area – whether it was the dusty, dried up poo of dogs, flies, bugs, pollen or what. Puff, puff, puff – went the ventolin. The back pack felt heavy and my chest was constrained. Sylvia kept asking me if I was okay. I was not but I also did not have the energy to explain to her. She kept asking the same question. I became highly irritated. “Go, walk on,” I told her. “I will catch up.” She kep telling me in Spanish that what I was having was bad. “Not good.” Somehow, it was stating the obvious and irritated me even more. It’s like telling the blind man, “oh, it’s bad you can’t see.” Or the man with one leg, “oh, it’s bad you only have one leg.”

It took me an hour to settle the nerves and to get my breathing back into a rhythm. In – 2, out – 2, 3, 4, in – 2, out – 2, 3, 4.

Once I resettled, I felt I had good walking strength. I felt, I could if I wanted to, walk to Hontanas. This was about 30 km away. But I could feel a pitch under the pad of my foot. Uh-oh. Is that a pebble? It was hot and dusty on the trail and there was no where to stop and check. Sylvia was miles behind despite my giant toe blister and new blister underfoot. More and more, I felt I needed to walk alone. Today, I’d had enough of looking out for bush banios for Sylvia, getting her water and taking her photos. The camino is strange. Yesterday it was okay, today was too much. 

It is me. And I need to be alone to recharge my thoughts and energy. The problem was I think Sylvia wanted to be together. 

I said I wanted to stay in a privado Albergue at Honillos. It said in my guide that it cost €20 per bed. “No-oooo” in Spanish. Municipal. Probably something like it’s very good and cheaper. As it turns out, the good privado albergue had been pre-booked out and by 2pm with no pilgrims in sight. I became even more irritated. Fine! If this is the game that is being played, I shall reserve the albergues I want to stay at. So I promptly rang Albergue Ultreia in Castrojeriz.

Of course, my shit day ended with staying at a shit municipal albergue in Honillos. I was made to buy a dust mite sheet and told it would be good for Galicia. Of course, this only raised my suspicion of this albergue. It looked dirty and the showers/toilets icky. I thought of my open blisters and the infection that might get introduced. I asked for a lower bunk bed. I was told I was young and could climb. The lower bunk bed was for older people. Sylvia came in later and the lower bunk bed was assigned to her.

I loathed the hospitalero at the albergue. I know as pilgrims we are supposed to be grateful for what we receive. But lack of hygiene in this day and age is not one of them. If you are running a business and profiting out of it (which is so easy to do because of the low cost base) then at least take a stand in hygiene and safety. Seriously, bunk beds without a ladder and grill? I did not sleep well that night for fear of falling out of bed and cracking my skull.

As I dressed in my hiking gear that night to sleep, Sylvia gave me her bag of food to carry as her pack was too full. I love her dearly and we have gotten in well, but seriously? Just because there is space in my pack? To date I’ve carried my own food, accessed my own water and taken my own photos. 

I don’t know whether as peregrinos on the camino, we are allowed to have off days. If so, the day was definitely an off day. But it revealed several things about myself.

1. I am not really a municipal albergue girl – particularly those that shove you into a place and fulfil the functional definition of an albergue.

2. I like a wifi connection. The stronger and stable the better.

3. I like a place to chill. A place to sit and R est, dry my clothes and not feel hemmed in.

4. I like it if all the floors are tiled and mopped. This you can’t always tell visually, but sometimes you can feel it’s a clean place. I do not want to feel like I have to walk on my heels to have a shower or around the place, to minimise how much of my skin touches to floor. 

5. If you are going to have a kitchen, have a proper kitchen with clean dry tea towels. None of this dishes drying in the cupboard stuff.

Patience. Maybe a good night’s rest will make all the difference. It’s just an off day.