Camino de Santiago de Compostela - Astorga to Rabanal del Camino

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September 29th 2015
Published: October 24th 2015
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29 September 2015, Tuesday, Stage 25, Astorga to Rabanal del Camino

GPS: 13.14 miles, 4 hours 35 minutes moving, 5 hours 45 minutes from hotel to albergue Nuestra Senora del Pilar.

Fitbit: 14.13 miles, 32,337 steps, 101 stairs.

Left in the dark at 0701 from Pousada Real Casa de Tepa and the night clerk had to let us out for breakfast downtown and back in. We arrived 1245 at Albergue in Rabanal del Camino.

I have awakened about 4:00 and finally get up an hour later. We go down near San Francisco Square for coffee con leche, orange juice and a croissant. We again miss the two little characters, dressed in Maragato costume, that parade around in a little circle on the clock at the top of city hall!

We swing by, on the camino, the cathedral and Bishop's Palace. The latter was designed by Gaudi, in his early years. But, alas, neither building is lit and it is very dark!

We proceed out of town, having the dark shapes of some other pilgrims keeping us company. We pass by Ecce Homo, a remnant of a former pilgrim hospital-a medieval remnant.

We stop in Murias de Rechivaldo, a typical Maragato village. The establishment that we plan on having a 'real breakfast' says we must leave our backpacks outside and we decide to move on.

We proceed to the next little traditional Maragato village, Santa Catalina, and have our tonic water.

This day, although, bright and sunny, has somewhat of a pall over it. On April 1st, Easter Sunday of this year, a young Asian woman was abducted from this section of the camino. I am writing this segment on September 1 and we now know she was killed. I look at the landscape and wonder what parts of it she saw. The landscape is certainly changing and there are many more trees and hills. The trail is very strange today as there is a rough road running along beside it on one side and, sometimes there is even a rough road running along the other side.

Arrive at the raggedy village of Ganso and have a cold empanada at the Cowboy Bar.While there we chat with Mary Ellen and her 'aunt-in-law,' Barbara. Barbara is 73 and staying in albergues with Mary Ellen. Barbara calls and makes reservations at Albergue Pilar in Rabanal. This is where we are staying. We use her phone to make massage appointments for Mary Ellen and myself. Sounds good to me!

We meander along an earthen path, being careful of treacherous roots, while we view a fence that has many different kinds of crosses attached to it.

We enter the village and locate the albergue. We find that our room, second story, is actually in the owner's home and we have a communal bathroom downstairs. I immediately start having problems with claustrophobia as the room is very dark, outer walls of stone and cold. I eventually find a small window hidden behind a curtain that makes me feel better. There is a huge, huge armoire in the room and a large chest standing next to it. At home the smaller piece of furniture would be considered to be a 'large piece' in most rooms! However, all shelves and hanging spaces are full so we are now quite sure they just use this family home room for overflow.

The stairs themselves are quite interesting as no two are alike. The last one, before one hits the landing going down, slants back at a steep angle---wakes you up as you trod downstairs in the middle of the night! And above is a log beam that Harlan cracked his head on twice while focusing on the irregular steps.

We ask the owner where to have a traditional Maragato lunch and he directs us to a hostel on 'Main Street.' We are served the meal on a large platter that features the following meats: chorizo sausage, salt pork, blood sausage or pudding, relleno?, chicken, oreja (ear), pata (duck), pork, jerked beef. There are also garbanzos, potatoes and vegetables (cabbage). All of the above is washed down with a hot broth that has some vermicelli (skinny pasta), thus reversing most meals where one might start off with a light broth. There is bread.

We also manage to get over for vespers in the nick of time. The parish Church of Santa Maria is thought to have been built by the Templars. It has been restored and an order of monks from Bavaria have taken up residence on the square and offer a retreat and provide the services for the church. We squeeze in right before seven and the little church is packed and in a few minutes it is standing room only. The priest for the service is visiting from Germany and, with a show of hands, determine there are more English speaking pilgrims that night than pilgrims speaking German, Spanish or Italian. So he gives the homily in English! He speaks of aligning your inner journey, your spiritual journey, with the physical or earthly journey.

You perch on the hard bench and look around at the centuries old church built with stone. Yes, we have now shifted our building material from brick to stone. The ceiling is a barrel vault and the main arch is very irregular. One sits and thinks of the hundreds of pilgrims who have found refuge in this little church. The homily is very good but I am distracted and trying to retain my little piece of turf on the bench! When we slid onto the bench I asked the lady at the far end if anyone else would be there. The answer was in the negative. So, accordingly, many slid in after us. Then, a friend joins her at her end of the bench and she wants to make room for him by having me slide toward Harlan and there is absolutely no room. She keeps shoving to the side and I hold my ground. Then I think how "unpilgrimly" the whole scene is and about that time we have to stand and extend the hand of peace to our neighbor--rather awkward to say the least! Old reactions do not change rapidly!

We have a great, big green salad at the albergue. This albergue is run by a family. Our room is right above the kitchen/sitting area and mama, who appears to run the show, reigns. We listen to people come and go but usually only hear her voice. The husband is the receptionist and grandma stands in the middle of the large patio area and surveys the operation. The place just has good vibes. There is a big sink/fountain area to wash the Camino dirt from your clothes and many drying racks. Friends who stayed on the albergue side of the complex said the bunk rooms were spotless. All are happy to have found a bed there for the night, including us. After determining I could wiggle through the little window, if need be, I forget about claustrophobia and have a great slumber. That is good because a
Traditional Maragato mealTraditional Maragato mealTraditional Maragato meal

Great for the arteries! One must remember the very hard physical labor these people did on a daily bais!
rough day lies ahead! Our highest point of the Camino but not the steepest climb.

Additional photos below
Photos: 11, Displayed: 11


Modern building across from old church with statue of St. James as pilgrim above the doorModern building across from old church with statue of St. James as pilgrim above the door
Modern building across from old church with statue of St. James as pilgrim above the door

Parish Church Santa Maria with order of Benedictine monks from Bavaria in residence and conducting Vesper Services each evening.
Karen on the upper balcony outside our roomKaren on the upper balcony outside our room
Karen on the upper balcony outside our room

Albergue Nuestra Senora (N.S.) del Pilar in Rabanal del Camino
The courtyard below the balconyThe courtyard below the balcony
The courtyard below the balcony

Albergue N.S. del Pilar
From entry looking to bar and dining area and dormitory roomsFrom entry looking to bar and dining area and dormitory rooms
From entry looking to bar and dining area and dormitory rooms

Albergue N.S. del Pilar Note all the drying racks on the left

24th October 2015

The trip through your wonderful narrative and pix. Continued safe journey! Hugs, Celeste

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