Azofra: “A tranquil village with a population of barely 500 that owes its continuing existence to the camino.”
Azofra Centro: “Purpose built hostel…cubicles with just 2 beds.”
(Quotes from Brierley’s guide-book)
The purpose-built hostel was modern, spacious, and wonderfully clean. It seemed to be constructed of recycled and prefabricated wood.
The hippy in me was thrilled.
As I said, I delighted at the prospect of sharing a room with just one other person. There were no bunk beds either, which was a welcome bonus.
I unpacked my bag and felt ridiculously excited about having a shelf of my own, onto which I could place my belongings. I also had a sort of mini-wardrobe, which included clothes hangers! Having a shelf and wardrobe felt insanely civilised and reminded me of homely comforts. I didn’t have very many things to put on such a shelf – I didn’t carry any reading material or ornamental china, for instance – but I delighted in laying out my toiletries and spare socks on it, nonetheless.
A shelf felt like a piece of the normal, real world, where people aren’t so transient that they sleep in a different bed every night.
A shelf represented stability and roots.
A shelf represented home, and I must have told a dozen people about how great the shelf was. They seemed amused by my excitement, as we sat in the sunshine eating potato chips and drinking beer.
What can I say? I was easily pleased.
My new roommate was an elderly lady, soft-spoken, and cultured. I’d seen her in Orisson on my first day of walking, though we’d never spoken before. She was walking the Camino for the second time and confirmed that the rush for beds was very real. I’d felt it since Day 1, but wondered if I had imagined it or had been too sensitive.
She passed through the region only 5 years before and confirmed that back then:
- There was no race for beds
- People didn’t compete over speed or distance
- People didn’t reserve private accommodation in advance
- People didn’t have mobile phones with them
- No one was ever without a bed
- There was less pressure on all the associated services (cafés, bars, water supply, waste disposal, etc.)
I trusted her opinion. It would seem I hadn’t imagined the racing and competition, and felt relieved to hear her confirm my experience. At the same time, my heart sank a little. If the Camino continued to go in this direction, what would it be like 5 years hence? What was it turning into?
I would spend weeks and months reflecting on this very thing.
That evening though, I enjoyed chatting to my new “roomie” and liked her a lot. I happily anticipated a quiet night ahead.
How wrong I was!
Quite frankly: She was a snorer.
I know, lots of people snore.
After sharing so many dorms with so many strangers, I had already become desensitised to the noise at night. I was usually so tired that I could sleep through a chorus of people snoring around me. I might share a dorm with 20 people and find that at least half of them were snorers – and all of them snoring together made for quite a noisy night. They didn’t snore in harmony 🙂
Most nights, I fell asleep to the sounds of:
And other delightful bodily sounds.
I got used to it.
So, she wasn’t the first snorer I had encountered.
But I mean, she was a really, really loud snorer. And it wasn’t just about the volume – there was content and texture to her snoring, too.
Her snore made it sound like she had a chest infection and a walrus stuck up her nostrils, and that she was trying to dislodge them with every breath. Every in-breath was a meaty, phlegmy gulp, and I thought she was seconds away from choking. Every out-breath was a wheezy whistle.
In and out; in and out; in and out.
She kept breathing. She kept snoring. I thought she was going to die in her sleep.
I shoved my earplugs deeper into my ears and tried to think sleepy thoughts, but it made no difference.
I thought it was great to share my cubicle with just one other person instead of sharing an open dorm. Initially, I relished having some physical separation from the other 58 people in the hostel. Until that night, I never realised that the small cubicle would magnify the sound of her snoring – so much so that I felt that the snoring was in my head. I felt I was the one going to die – from inhaling my own phlegm.
* Sorry if this is a bit too graphic, but I want to be really clear: This woman was soft-spoken by day but was thunder-loud by night.
From my bed, I glanced across to check if she was definitely sleeping.
Yep – she definitely was.
I lay there for 20 minutes, wondering what to do.
I thought: If I go over there and somehow roll her onto her side, she’ll probably stop snoring. That would work.
But I’ve only met her for the first time, earlier today. What’s the etiquette here?
Is it okay to go over there, invade her personal space, put my hands on her shoulders, and roll her on her side?
I lay there for another 30 minutes, wondering.
I thought: The sound-proofing between the cubicles is not great – surely she’s keeping half the building awake. And I’m sure she would want someone to stop her from making so much noise – right?
I lay there for another few minutes, wondering.
I left the room, walked to the bathroom, and tested out how far the noise travelled. I could hear her down the hallway. But no-one else seemed to be awake or bothered by the din, so it seemed to be a problem for only me.
I sat on an indoor bench and thought about sleeping there for the night. The wood was hard and uncomfortable but at least I had some space from the noise, and thought I had a better chance of sleeping there. After 20 minutes, I went back to bed, tossed, turned, and debated the etiquette even more.
Frustrated, exhausted, and increasingly agitated, I eventually decided this:
Do not go over there to roll her on her side.
Do not invade her personal space.
Do not touch her in any way.
The more you focus on it, the more upset you become. So find a way to distract yourself and your focus. Keep your earplugs in place and count sheep, say prayers, or meditate, but do something to distract yourself from the noise.
But whatever you do, stay in your own bed.
The next morning, she awoke early, energetically, and rearing to go.
I woke groggily, slowly, and feeling as though my eyes had sunk deep into my head. I never told her just how much noise she made. There was no point – what could she do about it anyway?
Instead, I packed up my belongings and made my way into the golden morning light.
Weeks later, I heard a story that someone else told – of a pilgrim who did intervene and turn a snorer onto their side in the middle of the night. It didn’t go so well, and everyone agreed that getting involved was a big “No-No”.
I think I may have dodged a bullet with that one!