Den amerikanske film The Way har fået en hel del amerikanere og andre engelsktalende til at tage rygsækken på og gå fra Saint Jean Pied de Port til Santiago. Her en beretning om en storm "Tormentas", der får en - ikke amerikansk, men australsk - pilgrim til at tage på "dyrt hotel" i Leon og bo som Martin Sheen og hans "pilgrimsfamilie" gjorde en nat undervejs i filmen.
Historien er både morsom og lærerig, og da australske Gerard Careay ikke har noget imod at dele denne lidt pinlige oplevelse fra sin pilgrimsfærd her i oktober med andre, får I den her.
Well I couldn't say I hadn't been warned.
I'd read about them in Jack Hitt's book "Off The Road. A Modern-Day Walk Down the Pilgrim's Route into Spain."
Jack got caught by one as he crossed the meseta.
Suddenly the clouds boiled above. Rain pelted down. Lightning bolts crashed to the ground around him.
I'd also seen a weather presenter on Spanish TV addressing a weather map of northern Spain.
He pointed at a small black cloud with yellow zig-zag lightning bolts on it.
"Tormentas!" he said meaningfully, nodding his head.
It sure hit me unexpectedly.
The wind and water was accompanied by a high pitched howl. It lashed at me powerfully. I was quickly drenched by the freezing water. I stumbled. My feet went out from under me and down I crashed. I sat dizzy and disorientated, freezing in the mist and the lashing water.
"We are going to stay at the Hotel Paris in Leon," she'd said. "Looking forward to that. A little luxury for a change. It's a bit exy but you get the use of the spa facilities."
Women, they like that spa deal don't they?
Relaxing in a fizzy hot tub with perhaps a glass of wine.
Boring, I reckon. Whatever, to each, his or her own.
Ok if you're there with your lovely I suppose, but it is a long time since I've been that lucky.
Seems to be quite well known amongst female pilgrims does the Hotel Paris in Leon. I'd walked past it in on my way up that main street that leads to the Cathedral.
Anyway, while I'm up for a treat after the trek across the Meseta, the Hotel Paris is not really my thing.
Looking back what I probably should have done is utilise that kind of money for perhaps a treat at the Leon Parador. I'd been told that you were able to book the room that Tom had taken. The one in the movie 'The Way', where Tom, Joost, Jack and Sarah had, after all their inter-personal differences, happily celebrated their new found pilgrim family friendship.
That would be fun eh?
But now, here I am in Leon, in my room at the Hotel Boccalino, thoroughly confused.
Initially I was thoroughly impressed.
30 Euros for a 3rd floor modernish twin bedded room on my own, with an ensuite bathroom. Room to spread out and relax, a window over the city, a warm breeze billowing the curtains in, a good hand basin for the laundry, and just outside, a place I could hang my washing in the warm sunshine.
Perfecto! This'll do me. What more could you need for a treat after an albergue every night since Burgos? And I’m only five minutes from the Cathedral and my pilgrim mates are gathering here for dinner tonight at the Boccalino’s restaurant. And the Boccalino is just across a plaza from the 'must see' Basilica of San Isidoro.
First things first. Empty the pack across the spare bed, strip off my clothes, grab my toiletry bag, and off for a shower. Big fluffy hotel towels. That's what I call luxury.
It was then I became confused.
Now I know I’m technologically challenged type of guy, but I thought I could at least handle a shower. But then I’m a lever type of guy. The more you pull it out the more flow you get. Twist it one way and it gets hotter, to the other cooler. All very simple, right?
There I am, standing in the nuddy in the shower, confronted by a one piece spa type shower. A plastic wall covered with chrome pointy jets aiming at me from all directions. I have an uneasy feeling. I especially don’t like the look of those jets than pointy up from down below.
Apart from that it had a bewildering operating system, with no instructions.
I guess the best thing is just to fiddle with the buttons until you figure it out.
It was then the Tormentas struck!
So cold it took my breath away. So strong up my derriere it made me jump and thereby loose my footing. Sat me on my butt on the tiled floor.
I could feel that I'd wrenched a hip muscle. This necessitated that I must first struggle to my hands and knees, then crawl outside the shower where I could utilise the handbasin to haul myself upright.
The water had by now migrated out into the bathroom proper. The floor was awash and water was about to flow into the bedroom. I forced myself back into the blizzard and beat furiously on the control panel. But it was some time before I got the flow stopped.
I didn’t want to look, but I had to.
There was a waterfall flowing out into the bedroom proper. The tide was advancing steadily across the carpeted floor. It was already under the first bed.
I grabbed the towels and jammed them across the bathroom doorway.
Bugger. Should've saved a couple of the towels to use on the bedroom floor.
The tide continued it's progress.
Being a hotel keeper in a previous life I knew the water would be seeking a drainage route under the carpet.
When the water stopped advancing I knew it had found one.
It wouldn't be long before the guest in the room directly below started raising hell.
I'd better get down and advise the front desk quick smart.
I quickly pulled on a t-shirt and shorts and hobbled to the lift.
"Disaster! Flood! Muchos Agua! Muchos Agua!" I'm waving my arms and yelling at the receptionist.
The emergency services soon arrived with buckets and mops and a wet and dry vacuum cleaner.
The hotel manager then appeared to oversee the clean up.
I sat forlornly on the only available bed.
He stood and regarded my cold, wet, bedraggled appearance.
"What was the cause of this?" he asked sternly.
I was going to give him a tune up about the lack of operating instructions but I bit my tongue.
"The Tormentas," I replied instead, "Beware the Tormentas!"
Being a bit wobbly I had to use my pacer poles to get to the Boccalino restaurant that evening.
Then I had to shamefacedly relate to my pilgrim mates how my injury had come about.
"You poor dear," said Julie, "here, have a glass of vino tinto and I'll tell you a story that might brighten you up a bit."
She took a sip of her wine then commenced.
"Yesterday," she said, "I was approaching a hotel with a patio out the front.
Lounging there was a pilgrim couple I'd seen a few days ago.
They were enjoying a late afternoon drink.
As I approached I heard the lady speak."
“I love you so much,” she said, “that I don't know how I could ever live without you.”
“Is that right?” replied the husband. “Is that you or the wine talking?”
“It's me,” she replied, “talking to the wine.”
Brighten me up? How would that brighten me up?
Anyway, I don't know whether I believe that story.
The women at the table sure enjoyed it tho.
Giggling and cackling and laughing their heads off they were.