The rain falls gently in a slow drizzle. This isn’t so bad and the March temps in the mid 40 degree F are mild by Minnesota standards since it isn’t snowing, there is very little wind and our constant movement means we aren’t shivering. We don’t stop for long, though, for then the chill begins. We slowly climb in elevation from Astorga to Rabanal. With this stage we enter a transitional area between the plains and the area of El Bierzo, with its reddish earth covered with trees and heather.
We are still in the province of Leon during this leg of the hike and the tree lined streets of Murias de Rechivaldo are quiet except for the click, click, click, click from the walking sticks of the occasional Pilgrim passing through.
We had the opportunity to walk, for a while, with a group of Spanish doctors that were walking around 30 kilometers per day for 8 days. They walk different sections of the Camino de Santiago – French Way each year with the ultimate goal of eventually completing all of it.
Rabanal del Camino continues a centuries old tradition of caring for the pilgrims before they take the steep path up and over Monte Hago (Mount Rabanal).
Aymeric Picaud was a 12th century scholar, monk and pilgrim who wrote the first travel guidebook for the Way of St. James. This was the IXth stage of Aymeric Picaud’s classic itinerary and the Knights Templar are thought to have had a presence here as early as the 12th century ensuring the safe passage of pilgrims over this remote terrain – the Church of Santa Maria (steeple is visible in the above photo) was possibly built by them.
After 21 kilometers and a day of walking in the rain while carrying backpacks that weigh around 16-18 pounds, we are relieved to arrive at our destination. We are hoping to find an Albergue with a nice bed and shower. Many hostels and albergues are closed this time of year so you take what you can get. We see a promising view ahead…
Our house mother, Isabella, stamps our Pilgrim Passports and checks us in. We need two Pilgrim stamps per day and they can be obtained at a cafe, bar, restaurant, albergue, hotel or hostel. We each pay 5 Euro for the night and settle into our home away from home called the Albergue del Pilar.
Our sleeping quarters include one room with 32 beds (29 of them filled this night). The room was approximately 20 feet by 40 feet with two long rows of bunk beds leaving a narrow aisle in the middle. A mixture of ages and genders will all sleep together in this cozy room including a father/son from Korea, a group of bicyclists from southern Spain (Malaga), a young man in his 20’s originally from Iowa but lives in New York now, a young couple from Poland and India along with our group of lovelies. (AKA ~ Randy and the Hot Cross Buns). I told you we were friendly!!
We put our wet clothing on the heaters available, take showers, and look forward to finding beverages and food to medicate and fuel our sore and tired bodies. Little did we know that we would soon meet Spain’s most eligible bachelor. To be continued…