We emerged from the trees at 4.00 p.m. in the grounds of the monastery where we were to spend the night. We had walked 27k and we were shattered. The monastery is a municipal accommodation building split into many hundred beds arranged in dormitories. We were welcomed inside and ushered into a registration room where we were asked to pick up a registration card and complete it using the fixed pens on the table. At the same time we were asked to keep moving round the table following the queue. So, unless the question involved a tick or a cross you were obliged to drop the pen having stretched the tether as far as possible and pick up the next one on the circuit. Registration completed we were asked if we would like dinner. The 7 pm sitting was full but 8.30 pm had space. We grudgingly purchased two tickets wondering what to do for the next four hours when all we wanted to do was sleep. We enquired about the rest of the town only to be told there was no town – only the monastery and the hotel attached. Hotel? If we had known about that we wouldn’t have booked the dorm in the monastery. Hey ho. We found a bar in the hotel that served food so we ate there for 33 euros including wine and water (and got a refund on the meal tickets!). Suitably wined and dined we felt strong enough to face the dorm.
We were escorted to our cubicle, I say ‘our’ our two bunk beds were on one side and our sleeping partners for the night, yet to arrive, were on the other. We decided to shower and took our meagre toiletries to the communal ‘his and hers’ showers. All very clean but to conserve water one was forced to keep pushing in the button every 10 seconds to release more. Clean but damp we returned to our cubicle and decided to turn in for the night and hopefully fall asleep instantly to minimise the experience. Not wishing to sleep apart deb squeezed into my bunk. No sooner had we shut our eyes when a middle aged Spanish couple arrived to take up our partner bunk beds.
We tried to drop off to sleep but everyone else was starting to return to their bunks of which there were about 100 in our dorm alone. The Spanish couple settled down and all seemed calm. Lights out arrived at 10.00pm and we all settled down to sleep. Unfortunately Spain’s answer to Brian Blessed arrived in the next cubicle and proceeded to boom to his friends -oblivious of all around him. Various attempts to shush him by woken pilgrims failed to temper his dulcet tones. Eventually his voice dropped below 100 decibels and we settled once more. This was about the time the Spanish lady on the adjacent bottom bunk started to snore! Not gently or endearingly but agressivly. How does her poor husband put up with it? I contemplated creeping over to her bunk and gently placing a pillow over her head. Surely no one would mind, least of all her husband. It was about this time that somebody’s mobile announced an incoming message and continued to do so every 15 minutes for the rest of the night.
Now, when you are in a dorm with 100 other people it’s inevitable there will be visits to the loo. Unfortunately the cisterns were designed by Frank Whittle and sounded like a 747 taking off every time someone emptied their bladder. While we’re on the subject of loo visits, the favoured footwear for the dorm was flip flops which sounds innocent enough until 11 pm when the urgent flip flop, flip flop of a bursting bladder echoes from one end of the dorm to the other heralding another 747 about to take off.
Just when the brain had learnt to banish all these sounds to the rear of the mind, Mr Spanish man decided to enter into competition with his wife! Had Brian Blessed next door complained no one would have heard. Besides, he was now fast asleep and muscles relaxed, had entered into a bout of night time flatulence, each eruption reverberating against the partition wall. If that had given way we’d both have found ourselves on top of Mrs Spanish lady which would have somehow lessened the overall musical effect of their cacophony.
Deb and I decided to launch a couple of 747’s then try to get at least 10 minutes sleep before lights on at 6 am.
We woke at 5.45 when Brian Blessed launched himself from the top bunk and the dorm shook.