Camino journal: two tales from the road


IMG_7864Story #1:

El carretera no es el Camino.

No shit, Dude.

I’d just staggered into the albergue in Tábara after almost 18 hellish miles (28 km) on a busy, shoulderless road. I had decided to cut one stage off the Camino by taking a direct, diagonal route to Tábara rather than taking the square north then west.

It was, admittedly, a bad idea. I’d not only missed out on what I heard was a beautiful part of the Camino, but I’d spent an entirely unpleasant and somewhat dangerous day in so doing.

I was meet by a serious, bearded hospitalero with some definite ideas about how the Camino ought to be attempted and road walking in order to save a day was not in the canon.

Can’t say I disagree, but let me get a shower first.

The role of the hospitalero/a (they can be both men and women) on the Camino is hospitality toward the peregrinos who shelter in the albergues each night. It’s an ancient role. The Knights Hospitaller were a military and religious organization during the Crusades whose job, in part, was to minister to pilgrims to the Holy Land.

On the Camino, you really appreciate the hospitaleros​ who take the job seriously. Often, they just pop in to take your money and stamp your credencial. This is often the case if the albergue is private. It’s a money-making enterprise with little sense of the tradition of hospitality.

But those albergues, which may be run by the municipality or a religious order and staffed with volunteers, are more likely to understand their role. Everyone who walls through the door has walked for hours. Everyone is tired, at least. A few are injured; some may be ill.

“Yesterday the albergue was filled with old people,” one of the volunteers ( from California) told me. They’d walked from Merida- about 25 miles. She put them in special double rooms so they wouldn’t have to walk up an extra flight of stairs and deal with bunk beds. She kept an eye on the hypoglycemic one.

When I was there, she gave her own private room to a girl who wasn’t feeling well.

Kerin, the volunteer hospitalera from California

Kerin, the volunteer hospitalera from California

Even though the albergue may not be as fancy–and indeed some are pretty basic–the attitude of the hospitalero makes all the difference.

The albergue in Tábara was unique in that Pedro and Juan are the permanent hospitaleros. It runs on donations, and after scolding me for breaking the spirit of the Camino, Pedro took my dirty clothes, along with the others, and washed them and hung them to dry. He cooked and served our dinner. There was a little film about some historic features of Tabara. He passed out inspirational quotes that he’d laminated for us to keep. We peregrinos jointly decided when we wanted to eat breakfast, which he and Juan also served. (Breakfast in Spain is very simple)

Juan, the warm and fuzzy hospitalero at Tábara

Juan, the warm and fuzzy hospitalero at Tábara. Pedro didn’t want to be photoed

If you tried to help, you were told, no, your job was to rest. Apparently, the role of the pilgrim is also respected. When I thanked him for his service, he said that he is served by the peregrinos.


Despite his initial disapproval, I can tell you that I left feeling humbled​ and cared for in a way I never feel in pay-for-service places.

At Tábara I turn west toward Santiago, after walking north for all these weeks. The sun now rises at my back. I am hearing the end. Incredibly.

All that and a five-stork church

All that and a five-stork church

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5 Responses to Camino journal: two tales from the road

  1. Joanne Kuszaj 9 May, 2017 at 8:46 pm #

    Beautiful! I agree with your Dad! You are amazing & inspiring.

    • Kate Convissor 16 May, 2017 at 9:54 am #

      Aw, shucks. However, I just feel footsore and ready to celebrate the end of this pilgrim trek. ?

  2. Ted Selby 9 May, 2017 at 5:42 pm #

    Oh my, oh my, my amazing daughter. Excuse me for a moment while I — (Whee-ooh) — let out some breath of relief. Once again you’ve proven that there are no short-cuts in life no matter what our needs of the moment.
    Mom and I continue to be with you in heart and spirit. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, thoughts and pictures, Kate.
    We are so looking forward to your return.

    • Kate Convissor 14 May, 2017 at 1:59 pm #

      Almost back. Dad. I’ll be in Santiago in 5 days. Lots more to come


  1. Camino journal: Story #2; part #1 - WanderingNotLost - 27 May, 2017

    […] at Santa Croya like bats that fly by day–in twos and threes, or, in my case, ones. If the previous night’s albergue had been like peregrino church, this one was like a comfy […]