Day 35- Rabanal del Camino to Ponferrada

Walked Today: 5.6 mi / Camino2022: 234 mi

Camino2022 has gone well so far and we want to keep it that way. Our paced approach today is to not take on the remaining 1200 ft climb to Foncebadón and Cruz de Ferro or to brave either the treacherous downhill section going into Acebo or the very rough, rocky surfaces on the trail between Acebo and Molinaseca.

We walked both of these routes in 2015 and 2017, with full backpacks, but skipped the Acebo to Molinaseca section in 2019. So nothing to prove today.

our “ultimate” overnight stay in Rabanal (left), Cason Rabanal Oca.
the main street through Rabanal
walking down to El Tesín this morning to meet Luis

At 9:00 our taxi driver, Luis, met us at Albergue El Tesín in Rabanal. He was the same driver who picked us up in Acebo in 2019, rescuing us from the walk into Molinaseca.

Luis used the road that sorta parallels and crisscrosses the Camino from Rabanal to Molinaseca (a 30 minute ride). The sky was clear, so we were able to enjoy many of the beautiful and breathtaking views that we enjoyed when we walked this section on previous Caminos.

We recognized the place we stayed in Foncebadón in 2015, and stopped briefly to snap a photo of the Cruz de Ferro today, where we left a shell signed by each of our 14 grandchildren in 2017.

Cruz de Ferro, the second highest point on the Camino at 1505 meters (4918 ft). It is reputed to be an ancient monument, first erected by the ancient Celts, then dedicated by the Romans to their god Mercury (protector of travelers) and later crowned by the cross and renamed as a Christian site by the 9th-century hermit Guacelmo.

We continued along the summit of the Itago mountain range for several miles and recognized the expansive views in all directions. On the way down, we drove through Acebo, where we stayed in 2015 and 2017, then continued down the mountain to the bridge entering Molinaseca, where Luis wished us “Buen Camino”, and let us out to begin our 5 mile walk into Ponferrada, our destination for the night.

the medieval Puente del Peregrino into Molinaseca
crossing the beautiful medieval bridge
the XVII century Iglesia de San Nicolás seen from the bridge upon entering Molinaseca
main street in old Molinaseca
exiting Molinaseca
the Camino becomes a sidewalk from Molinaseca to Ponferrada
just outside Ponferrada, walking through an upscale residential area

Shortly after taking the above photo, Rolfe and Ann, pilgrims friends from Sarasota, Florida caught up to us and we walked together for a half-mile or so, then went our separate ways to different places for the night in Ponferrada. Even though we are walking different distances each day and using different strategies for our Caminos, we keep bumping into each other in stores, in bus stations, in albergues, etc. We said our good-byes/ buen Caminos for the umpteenth time today, but somehow, it may not be our last!

Surprise!!! For the past several weeks, we have continued to cross each other’s paths. Is the Camino trying to tell us something?

We ate sparingly today, never seeming to find a place with food when we were hungry. Tomorrow the problem will lessen as smaller towns along the Camino cater more to pilgrims and not vice versa.

Most of the afternoon was spent trying to find places to stay over the next few weeks… and blogging. A longer walk coming up tomorrow, so pleasant dreams to all!

Day 34- Santa Catalina de Somoza to Rabanal del Camino

Walked Today: 7.4 mi / Camino2022: 228 mi

no street lights this morning
nice trail with gradual upward slope
Our first and only village along the way, El Ganso , ( “goose” in Spanish)
charming shop and cafe in an otherwise near ghost town.
table cloths, comfortable chairs and setting… stylish clothing in one part of the shop.
4 mile stretch of lightly traveled road and path, up the mountain
getting tired of the path, so switched to the pavement to break the monotony
Irago Mountains in background…
rough walking through the forest during the last mile into Rabanal.
our room at El Tesin albergue

We arrived at El Tesin at 10:30 (we stayed here in 2019) and were told that our room would not be ready until noon. We were disappointed, but decided to just wait at a table on the terrace (road in front of the albergue). At noon we were invited in to check in and then escorted to our room.

We unpacked our stuff, Linda got a shower and Jim went down to the bar to get some drinks to have with our bocadillos that we carried from Santa Catalina.

This is where the day took a bizarre turn.

Language is always a potential issue on the Camino if your Spanish fluency is lacking. Jim ordered a orange drink for Linda and liter sized radler for himself (half beer and half carbonated lemon juice.

What Jim ordered

The owner started gathering glasses and dispensing drinks so fast that he was nearly finished before Jim could stop him. At that point, Jim didn’t have the heart to tell him that was not what he ordered (supposedly) and the owner insisted on carrying the drinks to our room on the second floor!

what Jim got

So Jim got to work on the liquid refreshment and our bocadillos.

A half- hour or so later there was a knock on our door. The owner asked Jim to come downstairs. Jim followed him downstairs and was confronted by the owner’s daughter, who had reservations responsibility for the albergue, who suggested that he did not have a reservation. Apparently, a group of pilgrims had just arrived and as they checked in, the albergue was one room short.

Jim has called for a reservation 8 or 9 days earlier and told they were reserving a room for us, which the daughter ultimately admitted, but apparently she planned to put us in an overflow property they also owned. She had not bothered to tell her dad this, so when he checked us in, he assigned us to our current room. The daughter was all flustered, especially when he said it was not his problem… which she reluctantly admitted.

The dad asked if we would change rooms and Jim, now, totally in control of the situation. said he would need to see the other room first and if it was acceptable we would consider moving. The father quickly offered to drive Jim a short distance in his car to see the other room, which actually was a choice between two vacant rooms.

Having seen both alternate rooms, Jim called Linda, who was still in possession of our original room, described the offerings and a decision was made to accept the nicer of the two rooms but with a shared bathroom… with two other rooms.

When Jim returned to El Tesin, a host of pilgrims had now accumulated in the bar and reception area and one pilgrim looked at Jim expectantly and gave the thumbs up with a questioning smile and Jim’s thumbs up response received a relief from the hopeful crowd and especially the daughter.

Jim said we’d get our stuff together and be ready in ten minutes for a ride back to our new room. As we left El Tesin, the father gave us a partial refund on our room because we no longer has an ensuite bathroom and the daughter offered us a free breakfast tomorrow at El Tesin.

our room in Casona Rabanal Oca
shared bathroom in Casina Rabanal Oca pención

We settled into our new room, Jim finally got his shower and then we headed out mid-afternoon to find our main meal for the day.

We happened on the restaurant attached to the hotel we stayed at in 2017, just before it closed for the break until dinner time (7:00). It was a very nice restaurant, excellent service and a delicious salad.

a really delicious ensalada mixta: mesclun lettuce, tomatoes, tuna, white asparagus, toasted goat cheese, walnuts, and onions with a mustard based dressing. Filled the bill for lunch and dinner.

We stopped by the small church in the village, got a stamp for our credentials from the Benedictine priest who was manning the nearby church store, and walked back to our final room for the day (we hope!).

sanctuary of the Iglesia de la Santa Maria de la asunción… operated by the Benedictine Abbey of San Salvador del Monte Irago and offers a moving Vespers service with Gregorian chant and an evening pilgrim blessing.
a small statue of Santiago in the church

Day 33- Astorga to Santa Catalina de Somoza

Walked Today: 5.8 mi / Camino2022: 221 mi

It was dark at 7 a.m. as we walked through Astorga. It was a chilly 50F and a slight breeze made it chillier! Street lights made headlamps unnecessary as we walked by the Hotel Gaudi (where we stayed in 2019), the Episcopal Palace ( designed and built by Gaudi and across the street from the hotel) and the Cathedral of Astorga , adjacent to the Episcopal Palace…. all somewhat visible in the dark.

Street lights followed us for nearly a half-mile outside the city and were replaced by natural light from first light and sunrise.

We walked along the lightly traveled road, then angled left onto a smaller road that took us into the Maragato community of Murias de Rechivaldo, one of about 40 villages around Astorga. The Maragato prople are rumored to be descended from the Berbers of North Africa, who arrived with the Muslim conquest in the 8th century and later converted to Christianity. Maragato men traditionally worked as muleteers, mule drivers who transported goods (especially fish and gold) around the peninsula.
approaching Murias de Rechivaldo where we stopped for breakfast
back on the dirt trail headed for Santa Catalina de Somoza.
…still chilly and as we climbed upward, leaving the meseta behind and heading into the mountains.
just outside our destination for the day… and possible obstruction ahead
this guy gave Jim a hard “you want a piece of me?” kind of stare, which Jim pretended to ignore, sorta, while snapping this photo and moved quickly on his way…. the young bull never budged… maybe it was the bright red/orange daypack Jim had on his back!
We have a pose similar to this one for each of our four visits to this village.
our room at Albergue San Blas
look what we found behind the “extra” door from our room, it’s ours alone
never pass up an opportunity to exploit extra space… or a single, lonely chair

….. does that chair… look like a….barber chair?….

Good grooming is a must for seasoned, over 75 pilgrims. When planning your Camino be sure to include a barber in your entourage.

Has anyone noticed that as we have moved closer to Santiago, that Linda is developing a halo?

We spent the day hanging out in our quite unusual habitation, venturing downstairs to the albergue bar for lunch (pizza) and dinner (paella).

Today’s walk was very easy, especially when compared to yesterday’s. Tomorrow we continue up the mountain toward Cruz de Ferro, the highest point on the Camino Frances at 1505 meters (4918 ft).