The Importance of Ear Plugs

23 05 2011

Life in an albergue is like nothing I’ve ever experienced.  I’ve never stayed in a hostal, not even in my youth, so I’m not sure how similar the experience is.

Regardless of which albergue you go to, the routine is similar.  Arrive early in the afternoon, unless you’ve had a very long walk or took long breaks, then you’ll arrive later in the afternoon.  Find your bed.  Yes, your bed. Not your room, you don’t get one of those.  Shower, hope for some chance of privacy.  Wash your clothes, usually in cold water, in a sink with no plug.  Collapse on bed for a while, then get up and explore the area around the albergue.

After supper, get ready for bed.  Climb in and hope you can sleep surrounded by others, some strangers, some not.  The noise level at night can be incredible.  The first several nights, K and I were using foam ear plugs.  Foam ear plugs are great on the farm for protecting your hearing while still allowing you to hear if something goes wrong with the equipment.  They are not great for sleeping in an albergue; they do not block out the noise of the “reigna de ronca” or the “queen of  snorers”.  She’s part of our group.  Being someone who can take advice when I need to, I am now the proud owner of a set of silicone ear plugs.  As long as they do not fall out, they’re good at blocking noise.  Last night I did not hear the fireworks set off to celebrate the Spanish election.  Fire-works, what fire-works?

In the morning, wake-up–no time for a shower–pack your stuff as quietly as possible and head out the door around seven.  We’re actually quite lazy, many people are walking by 6 am.

Although the routine for the albergues are similar, there are definite differences between them.  The showers may or may not have a door, they may or may not have a place to hang your dry clothes, they may or may not be co-ed, water may or may not be hot.  In all fairness, if the shower is co-ed, there’s always been a door to allow for some privacy.

Every albergue has bunk beds as their standard bed, but there are differences in how many are in a room.  The most we’ve had is 48.  The beds in this room were so close together, K and I could zip our sleeping bags together and still be in two separate bunks.  Yes, it was a coed room.  I’ve now seen men in every type of underwear imaginable, but I’m grateful that they’ve all worn some.

Each albergue has its own flavour.  Some of the municipal ones are quite impersonal, staff is minimal and it’s just a job.  They are stricter about the rules too.  One of our group took a taxi one day and was not allowed to stay in the albergue.  She was very sad about having to stay in a hotel. Note the sarcasm!

Other albergues are different.  I won’t forget the kind woman who took our laundry off the outside line and hung it up inside for us when it began to rain.  She insisted she could do it, I should just sit down.  Who says there’s a language barrier?

Living like this, you change what you think is luxurious.  We are in Sarria for two nights, taking a rest day.  Our group is in one room with only 8 beds, we have a bathroom, with shower.  For a price, we can get our clothes washed in a machine.  There’s a lovely sun room to read and hang out in. We think we are in the lap of luxury.




One response

23 05 2011

I was amazed at how easily Europeans could change in a roomful of people. At first I tried changing into pyjamas under the covers, but by the end of the trip I was changing quickly standing by my bunk. p.s. your journal is wonderful.

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