Monday, 1 December 2008

The Wrong Sort of Pilgrim - An Explanation.

OK. Once again turned away from the pilgrims albergue. Tried to shove me out of the door before I had even got in. Explained that I accepted that I couldn't stay there, but just wanted an explanation. A bit of careful questioning and and explaining to them exactly who I was and what I was doing they remained adamant that I couldn't stay.

'This albergue is for peregrinos de Santiago de Compòstela'.

Yep - that's me. I'm walking to Santiago from Granada.

'No. You can't stay here'.

OK, but why not?

A quick glance at my credentials (book of albergue stamps) and they asked where I had been since Benevente on the 12th of November. I then explained that I'm walking for Two years and taking a break every two months, or working cities to make a bit of cash and generate a bit of local publicity. I went from Benevente to Ponferrada by bus. I then went into the mountains for a few days to explore forgotten pilgrimage routes and visit friends. I then came back to Astorga by car, took a bus back to Benevente, walked to Astorga once more before taking another excursion to Leon to meet a couple of journalists and sketch in the streets. Now I am back in Astorga on the Via de la Plata pilgrimage route.

'OK, that's why you can't stay here'.

Oh! No-one told me there were rules that I couldn't take a break.

Anyway, what I think he meant to say was: 'the albergue gets abused by alcoholic drifters who usually speak English'. This is where 'English' people often get a bad name in Spain. It's full of vagrants from all over the world. The common language is often English before Spanish. Naturally, local people assume they are all English whether they're German, Ducth, Scandinavian, Swiss, Israeli, or whatever.

That's pretty much the same impression I got in Leon. People tell me I don't look like a pilgrim. I don't I guess. I don't have carbon fibre rods and I'm not a bit fat german guy dressed in skin tight Lycra. My boots may well be scruffy, but they are actually custom made from specialist components. Some of the more serious hiking people recognise the labels. Other than that, I just look like a bit of an ordinary guy with a camera back pack. I'm always a artist scruff shyster and I enjoy a fair amount of red wine. So, I guess peoples perceptions are understandable. Actually, looking at myself again, I think I look a bit more like a sad hip-hop, midlife crisis comedy character. Baggy parachuter trousers and bodywarmer with designer hat. Don't really give a shit what I look like so long as I'm warm and comfortable.

Feeling a bit sparked out and drained. Stomach is still reluctant to accept anything other than straight water. Hoping to make enough here today to pay for a decent meal and bed before heading on. Very much operating on recovery mode, but definitely feel as though I am actually recovering. Nice sunny morning here today :)

I plan to get an Astorga stamp in my credentials from somewhere to try and avert any more albergue problems. Perhaps a few newspaper cuttings with pics of me in various towns en-route may help?

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