My early arrival in Los Arcos gave me the opportunity to explore, take in the sights more so than I had been able to at any other place so far on my camino. Before any of this however I had to find an albergue. I consulted my guide, selected one that I thought both looked nice and had an OK description.
It was, however since I had arrived early it was not yet open, so I placed my backpack in the queue… I don’t think I have explained this before so I might do so now.. with a small digression;
If you arrive before the albergue opens, instead of standing in the queue yourself you, and other pilgrims, place your backpack in a queue. Since the opening times are posted at the entrance or door of the albergue you are then free to roam around a bit … or just find a nice place to sit / lay down while you wait for the albergue to open. Return a bit before it opens and everyone just hangs around and then when the backpack in front of yours gets picked up… you walk over to it, pick it up and wait for the people that do the check in to wave you to them….
So when you arrive at say 11 or so and the albergue does not open until 13:00 you can use that time to walk around, look at things, grab something from the shops to drink or eat etc. etc.
I did just this, walked around town a bit.. and then the heat rose and I headed back to the albergue and sat down on the picnic table outside and just hung out with the crowd. This was the first time I ran into the Danish Boys (two brothers) and another swedish girl.. It would be the only time I would meet her, because while she was not exactly running the camino, it was not far from it. Before she had started her camino she had gotten a friend of hers to look after her dog and told her that it would be “probably just three weeks or so”… So she wanted to get to Santiago as fast as she could.
It was also a conversation with her I discovered some news, We talked about where and when we started the camino, why we wanted to walk it.. These conversations happen all the time especially when you meet new pilgrims. Strangely enough thought the conversations never seem repetitive, nor did I seem to get exasperated by recounting the story… But when I told her about M&F and G&T .. She had either met them or heard news of them through others and when I told her about leaving them behind and that they had a pace that was slower than mine and had had some issues, she then told me ” No, no they had quit last she heard… they were going to Barcelona” at first I thought that she meant G&T… But later on when I finally got in touch with M&F it turned out it was them who had called it quits.
After some check-in confusion regarding the bed numbers, I settled in and was opposite the Danish Boys and in the bed under me was a woman from south america (which country I forget) Jørgen, Anniken and Viggo where in the next room over. After making hte bed and unpacking it was time to do the laundry. The clothes-lines was in direct sunlight and it was close to 40C outside so I washed everything including my sleeping bag and hung it up to dry after running it through one of those oldtime machines that has two rollers that squeezes the water out of your clothes as you crank it.
I then visited the church while waiting for the restaurants to open…
It was absolutely stunning, while waiting I also attended holy communion, not as a participant however just as an observer. I am not a religious person, but the sense of coming-togetherness and belonging was something that moved me. It was a stark contrast to the almost clinical services held in Norwegian churches (the ones I have attended, not applicable to all I am sure) but this is probably in part also due to Norwegian social norms and not just the church. Norwegians are typically not prone to talk to or interact with strangers unless it happens to be a bus-driver, a cashier or other known situations… unless there is alcohol involved. It is almost a miracle that we as an ethnic group have not died out yet…. (a joke, but with a grain of truth in it) … in this regard I am a rather an atypical Norwegian…
After this I went on the hunt for a suitable place to eat dinner along with the Danish Boys, we queried the local restaurants… which was made that much easier since they spoke Spanish We found a place and sat down with the menus… I did not find anything that tempted me, and then I spotted Jørgen sitting along with two others at the section for the next restaurants over. I make my apologies to the Danish Boys and joined Jørgen at their table and ordered something that seemed a bit more agreeable, a three course menu, salad, pork chop w/ chips (fries) and a dessert. We ate, talked and ordered a beer or two… it was getting close to eight o’clock and I was heading back to the albergue and Jørgen had promised Viggo (Annikens 8 yo. son) that they’d take a swim in the river before bedtime….
As I headed back, I was quite content with the day. I got back and picked up my, by now dry, laundry .. packed my backpack getting ready.. I asked the people in the room when they planned to get up, the Danish Boys planned on getting up at 4:30 … I was glad that it was just 21:40 when I went to bed, because I wanted to get some sleep just in case I should happen to wake up due to their rustling noises.. even with earplugs… but they asked if it was OK and nobody objected …. I drifted off to sleep and had an excellent night of sleep…