Thursday, May 19, 2022

Day 26 - 18 May - Astorga to Rabanal del Camino

As Take That famously sang:

All I do each night is pray                                       

Hoping that I’ll get an answer to my prayers some day

I just want some pizza please                                

With a bit of ham and mushroom and four types of cheese, oh yeah

What with four-star accommodation and a mere thirteen miles ahead of us today, we didn’t set the alarm for six o’clock. In fact we didn’t set it at all but we were still both awake for seven. We left the hotel at eight thirty but we bumped into our American friends Mo and Story before we had even crossed the road and then into another American friend, Amy, before we made it into the bar opposite the hotel for breakfast. Not forgetting Carlos from Canada of course who we also chatted with before a cafe con leche had passed our lips. So it was half past nine by the time we exited Astorga’s town limits. We hadn’t gone three miles before we saw Amy again sat outside a bar, having breakfast, in the village of Murias de Rechivaldo. Obviously we had already had our breakfast so, not wanting to be rude, we sat down with her and had a beer instead.

The roadside path between Astorga and Murias hadn’t been anything special but beyond Murias we were gradually climbing and the scenery was becoming pre-mountainous with long distance views over fields of crops and woodland and a great view back down to Astorga. Another two and a half miles and, this time, Amy found us at a bar in the village of Santa Catalina de Somoza so she joined us for a beer. 

One thing that we have noticed on this Camino, in relation to all the various bars and cafes we have stopped at, particularly those in the more rural areas, is the excellent standard and cleanliness of the “facilities”. In fact we had commented on this only earlier this morning at the last bar. Jinx! Another near three miles along the road we stopped at one of the marked rest stops in the Camino guide being the Cowboy Bar in El Ganso.

I have seen much, much worse in the “facilities” stakes in my time but the Cowboy bar was noticeable simply for not being of the very high standards encountered thus far. The beer was okay though.

All this time though, as we were generally gaining altitude, the scenery was getting more interesting, even beginning to fringe on the spectacular. From El Ganso we had a final four and a half miles to our destination of Rabanal del Camino. Whilst never too far from the quiet country road, the final two miles into Rabanal was through a woodland path, alongside which the fence is strewn with makeshift crosses made, by peregrinos, from the ubiquitous dead and broken twigs and branches found along this stretch of path.

Rabanal is a very nice village but didn’t feel like a real village in that it appeared to exist solely to service peregrinos which made it feel, to me, a bit mercenary. Certainly, the price of our accommodation was a rip-off although I felt a bit better when they under-charged me for beer at the bar. Couldn’t keep up with me eh?

Being the religious sort that I am, I accompanied Mrs C to Vespers at the Monasterio de San Salvador del Monte Irago where we stood up and sat down five times, all part of the strangeness of proceedings during the half hour service. I may not speak Latin but I know when something doesn’t rhyme so this half-singing malarkey didn’t really impress. However, unlike the opulence of the other church buildings encountered on this Camino, this place looked like it could collapse at any moment so I was relieved to see only three religious sorts chanting away, lest the resonance brought the place down around our ears. I guess you have to admire the belief of these guys chanting the Visperas del Domingo every night at seven o’clock but I can’t help thinking there must be easier ways to order a pizza.

Anyway, we moved on in search of Amy who we had promised to try find as we knew she was on her own tonight. As it transpired, she was staying in the private albergue right next to our hovel/ hotel (please delete as appropriate). As we entered the albergue bar, there were four or five people surrounding one peregrino stricken with foot problems. The peregrino in question was Gerhard, the non-English-speaking German guy for whom I had stuck a Compeed plaster on his foot just three days ago. It obviously didn’t work!

The nice lady from the albergue applied a bucket full of antiseptic ointment to Gerhard’s poorly foot and bandaged accordingly. I did what any decent bloke would do in such circumstances - I bought him a beer. After his treatment concluded we invited him to join us and communicated (I use that word lightly) via a combination of hand signal, google translate and pigeon German. Unfortunately my own knowledge of the German language, gleaned only a week or so back (Look, there’s a doppelganger of a poltergeist with a rucksack in the kindergarten. Scheiße) proved less than useful.

Courtesy of Fran, a very soon-to-be junior doctor in the UK, we got him fed and by the time we retired at nine o’clock, I think we left him with a sporting chance of making it through the night. Gerhard is a big bloke with a big blister but an even bigger smile. I like him. Both junior doctor Fran and (as it transpires) nurse Amy are a bit worried about the state of his foot but he is determined to carry on and is planning to set off at six in the morning. We have a hard day ahead tomorrow - we won’t be too far behind.

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