Saturday, May 24, 2008

De Rabanel del Camino

These photos accompany the blog post below and follow the (chronological) sequence of its narrative. They relate to the journey from Villar de Mazarife to Rabanal del Camino via Astorga on 23-24 May 2008.
258. The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain. Oh, yes? Leaving Mazarife. 259. The remarkable bridge at Hospital de Orbigo
260. The bridge seen in side perspective
261. The constant spontaneous pilgrim and other constructions
262. Earlier pilgrim messages and remembrances
263. The road to Astorga, still distant
264. Sunshine makes the way easier
265. Cruceiro Santo Torbino overlooking Astorga
266. The descent into Astorga just before the downpour
267. Gaudi's Archbishop's Palace in Astorga
268. A further view of Gaudi's Archbishop's Palace
269. Detail from the entrance to the Astorga Cathedral
270. The extraordinary portal
271. The twin, joined towers of the Cathedral
272. An albergue in Astorga
273. Astorga Cathedral by night
274. Beautiful snatches of early morning sunlight on the landscape before the pilgrim around Santa Catalina de Somoza. The Montes de Leon are always in the distance.
275. More early sunlight projections ahead of the walker
276. Guidance is always there in formal or informal forms
277. Duncan from London heading into El Ganso
278. He was not alone
279. Abandoned stone houses dot these Maragoto villages
280. El Ganso's Cowboy bar brings an unexpected touch of Mexico/Texas to the Maragoto village
281. Home on the range inside the Cowboy bar
282. Makeshift spontaneous crosses
283. Refuge Gaucelmo, the CSJ refuge where I stayed
284. A view of the Rabanal streetscape. The C12 Iglesia de la Santa Maria is on the left

This post is sent from a noisy bar across the street from Refuge Gaucelmo, the albergue run by the Confraternity of Saint James (CSJ), the English association of friends of the Camino of which I am a member. Our hospitaleros are a couple from New York City, Tom and Jo-Anne. I'm sitting under the plasma screen that is showing a Formula One race somewhere to a languidly interested full bar. All the other pilgrims (apart from me) are sensibly sitting around the fire in the albergue. It's that kind of day.

My last post was sent from Villar de Mazarife on Thursday afternoon. Despite my assertions of a monastic life on the Camino, I immediately went to the a bar with Duncan, an interesting English psychotherapist, for a few beers. We got on very well and I´m with him in Rabanel again today. His mother and aunt are active in the CSJ. After that drink, we shared a lovely communal paella dinner, toasted Ana for our 37th wedding anniversary, and struggled to bed. My nearest sleeping neighbour, a large, delightful non-Anglophone Italian guy, might fruitfully have been harnessed to one of the ubiquitous wind turbines. C´est la vie Camino.

Friday 23 May, Villar de Mazariffe to Astorga

I set out early, pre-dawn for Hospital de Orbigo (15 kms) in the first instance. It has an extraordinary, multi-span C13 bridge that replaced an earlier Roman one. It has seen decisive battles, between Visigoths and Swabians (C5) and Christians and Moors. In 1434 a Leonese knight, rejected in love, assuaged his lost honour by taking on all comers from Europe in 300 jousts. (I don´t get it either.)

In the end, I walked onto Astorga (31 km) to have a better chance to find a physio for my Achilles tendon. This I did last night with an appointment with the delightful Danny at 9 pm. He taped me up, approved an itinerary for the next few days and told me to see another physio in Ponferrada which I´ll do on Monday afternoon.

I stayed last night in an albergue near the Cathedral and Gaudi´s Archbishop's´s Palace. The albergue was tastefully renovated but incredibly noisy and a fire hazard.

The walk out of Astorga was delightful, often beside quiet roads but especially beautiful in the section between Santibanez de Valdeinglesia to Cruceiro Santo Torbino, through orchards and woodland with holm oak and citrus trees. The last 4 kms into Astorga were in driving rain. The twin towers of the Cathedral guided us in.

Saturday 24 May, Astorga to Rabanel del Camino (21 kms)

Today marked the transition from the meseta, the tableland that began around Burgos almost 300 kms ago, and the montes de Leon. Rabanel is in their foothills, 1150 m above sea level. Tomorrow we climb to Cruz de Ferro (1505 m) before descending sharply. I´ll stop at Acebo after 17 kms [actually, I went on further to Riego de Ambros]. Discretion. I´ll go to Ponferrada the next day.

We have Vespers tonight at 7 pm with Gregorian Chant by Benedictine monks in the local church. I´ve volunteered to read in English. Then dinner and later, at 9.30, the Pilgrim´s Blessing. This monastic life!


It is unseasonably cold and wet here. All the locals remark on it. (Well, not all.) It rains 2 out of 3 days and was just freezing today. I wore my rain jacket for wind protection, red beanie, buff and gloves. The Icebreakers are in reserve. On most days, even on the meseta, I wore my fleece all day. Despite the present cold and rain, the cool weather has been good for walking mostly.


I´ve taken over 1000 photos and have capacity on the 8G card (thanks to Luke) for 400 more. Be prepared for the slide night to end slide nights.


10 of 35 stages of the Camino remain, and 15 days. There´s scope to take it easy and avoid unnecessary pressure on the tendons. I´m enjoying the Camino the more for its contingency--the reality that it might end at any moment if the tendon problem gets worse (it won´t)--and the unexpected difficulties, including the blister on my heel (healing well , if slowly). Being harder work than I had expected, the Camino has a greater sense of accomplishment, and of my relative good fortune among fellow peregrinos many of whom have had to finish their journey early.

Onward with joy--ultreya.


Andrew said...

It's great to hear that you're meeting the challenges with such aplomb and enjoying the experience so much.
Love the Brisbane crew.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the amazing frank insights to the life of a peregrino. we are enjoying your posts. You have done well for an old timer to have gone the distance, despite blisters and tendon. I'm sure it's the merino that has given you all the support. Chris