Madelyn Given stayed at the yellow albergue building pictured here, on her Camino de Santiago pilgrimage (photo by Madelyn Given).

El Camino: A Dream

After almost two weeks of hiking every day, and a nice evening meal, I was ready for a good night’s sleep. It was September 2014, and I was enjoying my pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago trail.

The albergue where I was staying was a small, two-story yellow building, which you can see in my photo at the top of this blog post. The ground floor had a reception area and a small communal kitchen, and the second floor had two rooms, with five bunks in each room. There were only two showers and two tiny bathrooms, and all the beds were full.

Everyone was scurrying around: brushing their teeth, recharging cell phones and iPods, laying out their things, and preparing their packs for the next day. I lay on my bed, recounting the highs and lows of the day, writing in my journal, and studying my trail book for tomorrow and the days ahead. Someone asked if it was okay to switch off the overhead light, and we said our good nights. I was thinking about this great adventure—I could not imagine what tomorrow would bring—and I soon fell asleep.

Sometime in the middle of the night I had a dream: There was a roaring sound from World War II planes putting on an air show. An old prep school classmate who was known for bullying people asked me to learn to fly one of the old planes; she would hire me to participate in air shows around the country…

I woke up abruptly from the dream and a whirling sound was really under my bed! Next to the head of my bunk was a Japanese man sleeping. I checked and the other eight people were sleeping as well. The room was dark except for the racket under my bed and the sound of people sleeping.

My first thought was to turn on the light and take care of the racket, but I thought the sound was the man’s breathing defibrilator for a sleep disorder. I also knew that if I turned the light on, I would have some very upset people on my hands. I lay there for the longest time, unable to sleep, and yet so tired!

Early in the morning, people began to stir, and I jumped up and turned on the light. A young German girl jumped down from the top bunk over me, crawled under my bed, and pulled out an electric toothbrush. Oh, oh, I was thinking. To tell you the truth I was upset. No one said anything, but I gave her a strange look. She didn’t say anything about disturbing anyone, just, “It doesn’t work so I don’t use it.”

I walked downstairs and put on my hiking boots, slid my pack over my shoulder, and took my trekking poles from the rack by the door. Several hikers were standing by the locked door, waiting to depart. The attendant was very adamant the night before to say that no one leaves before 6 am. A man behind me went to the door, unlocked it, and went out. The line of hikers followed out the door, onto the one-lane street, and soon out into the darkness of the country.

I walked quite a while that morning thinking about what caused my dream. Six of the hikers hiked at a very good clip, as they were bent on coffee; I hiked at the same pace. As we entered the first town, Castildelgado, nothing was open, and the loosely-formed group hiked on in the dark to the second town, Viloria de Rioja. There was nothing open there either, so we went on to the next village, Villamayor. The group had split up by then, and only two were ahead of me; they stopped and I went on—by now it was daylight.

I stayed focused and kept a steady pace, knowing I had walked 12 kilometers so far when I reached Belorado. Then I went on, along the highway and across the fields, to Tosantos and Villambristia. Now on to Espinosa del Camino and Villafranca Montes de Oca—that was 24 kilometers I had walked. I found a café, bought an ice cream bar, then found a bank.

I headed out of town and tackled another 12 kilometers that climbed steeply, all uphill. For quite a ways I hiked alone, then I met up with the couple from Brazil, then later, a young couple from Paris, France, and for the last 4-5 kilometers we walked together, until they went to find a place to camp. I finished the last 2 kilometers with two young sisters who were very sweet.

I stopped at a rural hotel. It was closed, so I went right to the albergue. I had hiked 36 kilometers that day, and I was headed to the next mountain range. The people I met were upbeat and friendly, and although the weather was hot and sunny, the scenery in the country and the activity in the villages were lovely. I was now beginning to chuckle to myself about the toothbrush dream. It was another beautiful day.

(posted February 17, 2015)