5.00 a.m. It's something you have to get used to on the Camino, being woken at insane hours, grumpy at the chorus of nasal trumpeters who've kept you awake half the night. Every night I have the earplugs at the ready, and every night they get inserted, fall out, get taken out because I feel like I'm suffocating via hearing-deprivation, get cursed, and despite my best efforts, get lost or swallowed during the night by the angel of mercy! Your typical pilgrim hostel is dormitory style, which you share with anywhere between 4 and 100 people. Neither privacy nor modesty belong on a pilgrimage. They're first world luxuries. Being woken to the sound of backpacks being dragged across the floor, zips opening and closing, plastic bags being rustled, walking poles collapsing in a racket on tiled floors - it's not the kind of gentle introduction to the day I've come to expect and depend on. Not a morning person! I've had to process my resentment at being woken so cruelly. It doesn't get easier.
This morning I suffer the disturbance for 30 minutes, drifting in and out of sleep, and eventually get up around 5.30, my inner huff clearly audible, I'm sure. I sit on the edge of my bed, and drag my pack to my feet. If you can't beat them, you join 'em. The man on the top bunk, who I could particularly strangle this morning - the entire bunk was vibrating under the force of his gasp last night - is standing directly to my right, his hip virtually in my face, arranging something on his bed. He seriously needs to do something about the shock of matted hair on his back. Should I be the person to tell him? In front of me, at arms length, is a large German woman bent double, attending to her blisters. Her arse is almost in my face. I retreat a little further back onto the bed. To my right, another man, from the top bunk on the opposite side. Some people shouldn't wear lycra. He's emptying the contents of his pack all over the floor - why don't you take up the entire floor space you selfish sod? - while clearing his throat and flossing at the same time. I duck to avoid a projectile. Oh for God's sake! Add to this the passing traffic of people moving backwards and forwards to the dunny, and you've got a pretty clear picture of the normal morning routine in your average pilgrim hostel. I lower my head a little deeper into my pack, ferretting unsuccessfully for the bag that contains the electrical stuff, ipad and phone charger, uke tuner, batteries, and head torch. Suddenly I hear tinkle, tinkle, the sound of something light and metallic meeting tiled floor. I squint down onto the floor. A pair of dentures smiles up at me! Oh please!!!!! I look up, from one arse to another, but no-one seems to have noticed. On impulse, and wanting as little physical contact as possible with the 'visitor, I do what any empathic pilgrim would do and with great dexterity, and a further tinkle, tinkle, flick the dislocated smile back in the direction I presume it's come from. In an instant, a hand darts down into the semi-darkness and retrieves it.
I'm sick to the back teeth with it all!!