Goodbye León and Walking through Astorga to Rabanal!

Bueno’s días, amigos. This is a recap. I’m hiking on the Camino and haven’t had wifi.

First for those pilgrims on the Way or planning, accommodations on weekends in towns and cities must be gold. I’m traveling once again out of my comfort zone and into mystery and surprise. I know about the bed race and last year walked most mornings in the dark to avoid that reality.

September 9, 2017

Today I walked in the dark, 6:00 a.m. and traveled on the Renfe Media Distancía, the 7:05 a.m. train to Astorga leaving the dimly lit, semi-deserted Renfe Estación de Tren de León and the Hotel Quindos on Gran Vía de San Marcos in León.

I was off to Astorga and a real adventure. This was a weekend and I might be staying in an albergue, because I couldn’t find a single room online.

The train arrived in Astorga at 8:00 a.m. And no one was out. I walked down the business district, the Camino, and just kept walking out of town, not sure where I would sleep that night. I stopped once to see the stunning Gaudi’s neo-gothic bishop’s palace and the pilgrims museum, as the city was waking. This town/city is my size, but the Camino called my name.

It was a day of walking through villages, and occasionally meeting other Pilgrims, including Anu and Tero from Finland. We walked together for a short time. They bought lunch fixings and invited me to join them on a little hill on the Camino. Both, in their mid-thirties, finished working and planned to travel the world. They shared their long range plans and were still working on exploring their choices. They started with the Camino and already in a time crunch to get to Santiago, they were hiking very long days, 30-40 km and nursing blisters.

Saying Buen Camino, I continued on, as a cold wind whipped up and this poorly signed camino route beckoned me. The path was rocky or dirt paths and some on roads with no shoulder. Many young Pilgrims walked four abreast, counting on the few cars passing to watch out for them. For their safety, I wanted to be their mother, but I said nothing.

Later, my new friends and I walked into Rabanal together and I found Refugio Guacelmo, the albergue run by hospitaleros associated with the Confraternity of Saint James in the U.K. highly recommended by my Camino friend, Darlene, who has been hospitalera there. It’s built on the site of the 12th century Hospital de San Gregorio who was also known as Guacelmo , according to Leslie Gilmore in his Camino guide. It’s next to a church run by Benedictine monks. Later, I missed the church service, reported to be in Gregorian chant. Dinner and lights out conflicted and I was too tired at that point. I chose flan and sleep and my own spiritual prayer of gratitude for bringing me here.

I walked in late afternoon, was assigned a bottom bunk in the barn, an annex. Immediately I was shown the library for tea. I expected a quiet English tea. Ha! No, tea was inside because of the cool wind and I could hear a symphony of laughter and chatter in many different languages before I entered. I met so many peregrinos and was sure this is where I needed to be.

The hospitaleras at the albergue in Rabanal

Waiting at the bar for the dining room to open for a Pilgrim Menu dinner.

Our room in the barn was a mix of five over- Sixty women and men and three younger men. Some had hiked starting in León and a few started in Saint Jean Pied de Port, where I began last year. I joined several for dinner and hiked off and on with them the next day or two.

Our group dinner included two sisters and one’s son. Also the Swedish couple who were long distance walkers (30+ km daily) part of our over 60 group joined in for a pilgrim menu dinner better than I’ve ever eaten. Ah, if only all pilgrim food could be this gourmet and healthy.

And quite a coincidence, Aaron, now a Princeton Ph.d student and researcher, has earned two master’s degrees for his study of religious identities of Jews and Christians and possibly Muslims. I’ll check the exact research and title. I asked questions and listened to his description of results. I want to read the book he will write. It’s amazing that yesterday I searched and couldn’t find the lonely plaque about Jews in Leòn and Spain and here is someone who knows what I am looking for and why. Add this to the list in the column, ” The Camino provides.” Not a cliché.

I was tired after walking 22 km, when I had originally planned to stay the night in Astorga but walked on. I had averaged about 4 hours sleep a night since the 2:30 a.m. shuttle pickup at home. Finally, sleep came quickly in this quiet room, shared with seven other peregrinos. Lights out at ten, early wake up with light breakfast and out by eight so the hospitaleras can clean and prepare for that day’s new group of pilgrims. Slept too well, right through lights, voices and people leaving. I woke up in a pitch dark room and my watch read 7:30 a.m. I’m sure I haven’t ever dressed and gathered my gear so fast. I rushed out and was challenged to find the Camino, starting out solo, and began today’s hike up the mountain to Cruz de Ferro, one of the reasons for this section of my Camino. After 2 km, as the Sun rose and the air warmed, I realized I left my hat on the upper bed post at the albergue.

I forged on up the hill.

2 thoughts on “Goodbye León and Walking through Astorga to Rabanal!

  1. Love your post and the wonderful pictures. You walked in my footsteps ( and Meghan’s and Cy’s) from last summer, and I appreciate that you stayed at Gaucelmo. So touching!

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    1. You’re right! Those are tough hills, too. Cy must have loved the challenge. I loved your albergue and was so happy to find it. Now I see how and why the dedication of hospitaleras makes a positive difference in the life of a pilgrim. Gracias.

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