Ribadiso: Greeting the World

1 October 2019; Ribadiso Albuergue, Spain

“On the Camino there are no strangers, only friends who haven’t met yet”

This quote came from an unknown source in Rabinal. Working at the albuergue we have come to realize how true it is.


It’s our first day of work at the Albuergue. Our predecessors, Chuck and Linda have left town. The Galician paid Albuerguesa has not arrived yet. At 8:00 am, the pilgrims are to be out of the albuergue. At 8:30 am, Terry and I set out to do the pre-cleaning. Basically, we politely ask anyone lingering to leave. We pick up debris, sweep and tidy things up. After we are done, the Albuerguesa comes through for the heavy cleaning, disenfecting and mopping.

The kitchen was very needy. The group of 40 from Portugal filled the garbage can. Another smaller group of 5-6 had made a tuna noodle dish in the only pan available in the kitchen. They left the remnants in the fridge. Everything gets tossed.

This is one of the Albuergue’s two dormitory buildings.

The sleeping space is broken into three levels which is very nice. It doesn’t have a dormitory look that many municipal Albuergue’s have.

We sweep and remove any of the disposable bedding that pilgrims have forgotten to toss. On our first day, after a full house, it took us about an hour. Then we are free to do what we want until 1:00 pm.

Today, we had a quick breakfast of toast and coffee at Meson Rural and then headed into Arzua which is about 1.5 miles away. It’s all uphill. We needed to pick up groceries.

Most of the same things we have at home are available here. However, we did not find celery.

Fresh assortment of fish.

Crackers are hard to find. They have a lot of toast-like things.

A bottle of vodka includes a half-dozen red solo cups.

It was hard to figure out meals that we could cook in the cottage. The weeks menu included bacon, eggs and toast for breakfast, spaghetti, pork chops, chicken, rice, homemade soup and salad mixta for dinners. We had a few tapa items, cheese made in Arzua, pate, hard sausage, crackers and wine.


Our start time is 1:00 pm. We met Maricarmen, the paid Galician employee who is the Albuerguesa, the person in charge of everything. In addition to doing the heavy cleaning, she ensures that the property is maintained by calling appropriate help like electricians, plumbers, pest control etc. She also registers the pilgrims when they arrive.

Maricarmen is Galician and speaks mostly Spanish. She does know a few English words. Sometimes we have to rely on Google translate.

Our afternoon job is to greet the world. I welcome and escort pilgrims to the registration window. The Albuerguesa asks for their passport, their credential and 6 euro. After she has registered them, I give them the grand tour of the pilgrims kitchen, the shower house and laundry, the outdoor boot rack and then show them where their assigned bed is.

Terry, who is still recovering from a sprained ankle, stays at the entrance to the Albuergue on a bench. She greets and directs people passing by. We are often asked how far it is to Azura? Is there a church? Is there a grocery store? Can I take a picture of the bridge? Can I put my feet in the water? Can I go swimming? Is there a bathroom? Do you have a Stamp? (for their credential); Have you seen my friends from Italy? Do you have a little shampoo I could have? … just to name a few of the questions we get daily.

Oftentimes, someone will sit down on the bench with Terry and talk for a long time. Terry is a good listener. People who walk alone may have the need to connect with someone. We have both experienced this. We’ve started calling Terry’s bench the Therapy bench.

Terry on the “therapy bench” with a pilgrim.

This is what our bridge area looks like in the morning …

… and this is what it looked like this afternoon.

It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny. The Camino Frances is more crowded than ever. It is a highway of people coming through. We were just on Camino Ingles and saw a few people during the day but nothing like this. This is one of the school groups that came through.

Also, on our first day, we had a TV film crew from Japan on the property.

The view from my window.

Most pilgrims arrive at our albuergue after walking from Palais de Rey which is about 25K (15 miles) away. Some want to keep walking to the next town which is Azura. We hate being the bearers of bad news but its 3.2K (1-1/2 miles) all uphill. That is not what they want to hear after walking all day.

First dinner we cooked in the cottage was pork chops with rice and salad mixta.

A Slice of Life in Ribadiso

Our albuergue has 62 beds so we usually meet and greet at least 30-45 pilgrims per day. But in addition, we talk to dozens of people staying at the other pensions in Ribadiso and those walking on to Azura. I feel the need to feature in my blog some of the people and things we encounter. Therefore, I will be starting each daily blog with Pilgrim of the Day, Word of the Day and a few more categories as I think of them. I think you may enjoy a slice of life in Ribadiso.


Pilgrims of the Day

Those chosen for this honor have met Terry and Jane’s criteria as interesting people. And our criteria is totally random. There really isn’t a rhyme or reason why … it’s just someone who stood out in the crowd and caught our attention.

PILGRIM OF THE DAY: Tuesday, October 1st

Mary from Vancouver! She not only works at a hardware store, she owns it with her husband. Their hardware store, Skyway Hardware, is pretty big and includes a lumber yard. In addition, Mary has walked from St. Jean Pied de Port which is the full distance of the Frances camino.

Kyle from Northern Ireland! This quiet lad is a cook at a restaurant in Holywood, Northern Ireland. He is 20 years-old and walking the camino to discern his future. He said he is Protestant but now it doesn’t matter because no one cares about religion. Very thoughtful youth and seemingly good sense of global perspective.

WORD OF THE DAY: Mochilla A mochilla is a backpack and the reason we learned this is because many pilgrims send there mochillas by courier to their next stop. Just about every day I help a pilgrim chase down their mochilla. They are never delivered to our Albuergue. So we start looking at the bar next door and if it’s not there, we go to the Pension, then the next Albuergue and if someone is really unlucky, we walk to the end of Ribadiso to the last building.

Yesterday, a pilgrim asked Maricarmen (the Albuerguesa) if her rucksack had arrived. Maricarmen looked confused and said, mochilla?? The pilgrim said, “no, a rucksack”. I intervened and told the pilgrim I would help her find her rucksack and told Maricarmen, yes it is a mochilla. We found it eventually.

LOVEABLE LOCAL: Alfonso the Farmer. Alfonso lives next to Meson Rural, the restaurant. Everyday around 10:00 am he walks his four cows to their pasture on the other side of the bridge. And around 8:00 pm, he walks them back to the barn. I have walked with him to the pasture and he speaks only Spanish. I am able to dribble out a few words. We often see him riding his scooter, mowing the lawn, puttering around the barn.


Published by janeinspain.blog

Jane is a resident of Browndale neighborhood in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.

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