From Astorga to Rabanal Del Camino
Day 18, Tuesday 10 September 2013
Distance to Santiago: 265,3 km
It was always such a treat to sleep in a place that was clean, quiet, with excellent beds, fluffy towels, hot bath, TV in English and as bonus the contents in the fridge was free for pilgrims. The breakfast was excellent. Nice things had a price and we paid €72 for this luxury stay in Hotel Astur Plaza.
The unique and intricate work of the Palacio de Gaudi by modernist architect Antoni Gaudi is a must see in Astorga. It served as Museo de los Caminos. Since the museum was closed on Mondays, and we arrived on Monday, we decided that we could not miss exploring the museum. We decided that we would start our walk to Rabanal Del Camino after our visit to the museum. As we knew by now, we would be lucky if it opened before 10:00. The decision was worthwhile and it truly was an architectural treat with wonderful turrets and stained glass and arches. The Camino de Santiago artefacts housed in the basement, were also interesting.
We left Astorga at 11:00. The road from Astorga was uphill towards the mountains and I was relieved that we were on foot. After four days on a bike, the backpack was back on the back and it was heavy, it was hot and there was no shade. We only had to walk 23 km. The first stage of the walk was flat and gradually got quite steep to Santa Catalina de Somoza. I had that familiar feeling of torture again. The heat. The heavy backpack. Die opdraande. As so many times, its only Marinda and I visible on the road and I cannot help to think where the other pilgrims were? Were we the only ones walking at this time of the day? To encounter a signpost like this, showing the end destination 15 km, did not encourage but I felt that it could just as well be 150 km. The signpost was also used as a billboard for taxi advertising.
Santa Catalina de Somoza in the background. There we found pilgrims drinking beer and looking fresh and relaxed. What is wrong with me, exhausted, red in the face, sweaty, hot? The best way to cool-off was eating a water-based ice-cream. The way to eat it was to press the still wrapped ice-cream against your forehead and cheeks and then took a small bite before sucking the liquid, savouring the coolness in your mouth and throat feeling the fruit explode in your mouth. Heaven. It was just after 13:00 and we still had to walk 14 km.
The next part of the road was shadeless, hot. We reached El Ganso and decided to stop for lunch. We came across the Cowboy Bar. The place was dirty, flies all over, no toilet or place to wash your hands and decided to have lunch at the place next door. After El Ganso we encountered a rocky path uphill and, the positive, filtered shade. I cursed and cursed and cursed. Luckily, there was no one else on the road that could observe the swearing women on the Camino. And Marinda was too far in front. I asked God why it should be most of the time uphill and as hot as hell.
We reach Rabanal Del Camino after 16:00 and walked uphill through the town to Refugio Gaulcemo which is administered by the London based Confraternity of St James. They operated on donations and were the first Albergue we encountered that was concerned about the spread of bedbugs and gave extended information regarding the preventative measurements. There was a lovely herb garden and an orchard. We arrived too late for the high tea. The albergue preferred to give shelter only to pilgrims who walked, cycled or on horseback and carrying own baggage.
Next to the albergue was the San Salvador del Monte Irago monastery. The monks have five daily services, including the 7 pm mass and Pilgrim Blessing. I was just too tired to attend any of this.
The walk for the next day would be a climb to the highest point of the entire route according to the guide. I considered sending my backpack forward to our next stop but since this Albergue did not support this concept, it was therefore not an option and I was just too tired to go out to explore if the facility was available at the other albergues in town.
We walked 23,4 km for the day.