Wednesday, September 10, 2008

ASTORGA-RABANAL DEL CAMINO

After a good rest and a light breakfast at our hotel, we set off on our first day walk soon before the sunrise. From our very first turn, we noticed how well marked the CAMINO is. There are yellow arrows and scallop shells--the scallop being the symbol of St. James everywhere to indicate the way to Compostela. A few hundred meters from our hotel we were already walking in the countryside headed for our first stop, The Ermita of Ecce Homo, a XIIIC, newly refurbished little church, where we stopped to sign the Pilgrims' Book. The landscape we experienced that morning was very much like that of The Central Coast of California with oak knolls and golden wheat fields all around. Around 10:00 am, the sun was already hot, so we kept ourselves hydrated. Along the way, we encountered our first pilgrim, Pascualino from Parma, Italy. He was a very nice young man who had been walking for six weeks all alone. His pace was rather quick, so we never saw him again. Soon after, we met Oihana--Sylvia in Euskera, or Basque language--who was a Special Ed teacher in San Sebastian, and who had started her walk in Burgos. She was on her own as well, since her partner, another young girl had just returned home due to severe tendinitis. This, we found out, was a common ailment among the pilgrims. Needless to say, blisters being another problem. Luckily, neither one of us ever had any problems throughout our walk. Oihana told us to take it slowly our first three days, especially on the descents, where most people go too fast and hurt their knees and shins severely. After about 14 Kms. we stopped at El Ganso, a small village where we found a very cool small cafe and had a fabulous salad. We had it with some cheese and ham we had bought the night before. On the way out of town, we sat on some stone benches we found outside the church to take a rest, and before I knew it, Libia had fallen asleep. As I leaned back to take a rest, I saw a large stork in her nest on top of the bell tower. The only other place I had seen storks in my life was in Portugal, during a trip we took in 1979. While Libia slept, I walked around and took some pictures. The rest of the walk to Rabanal was luckily through a shaded wooded area, a narrow path with chicken wire fences on both sides. It was great to see how the pilgrims, through the years have left crosses made with sticks intertwined in the wire. Around 3:30 pm we could make out in the distance the bell tower of the church in Rabanal del Camino and knew we had completed our first etapa or leg of our walk. Our Hosteria de Gaspar was on the Calle Real at the end of the town. The owner, a very nice man, showed us to our fabulous room. Libia, as she did everyday we completed an etapa, took a nap and I took a shower and washed my clothes. This we did everyday, since we only carried two changes of clothes in our backpacks. Luckily, our clothes were made of light and fast drying materials, so before retiring for the night, things were usually dry and put away for an early start the next morning. After a must needed rest, we went out to explore the little town and visited a very nice Refugio, a type of Youth Hostel, to see if we would like to experience them during our walk. We saw people standing in line for the shower, others complaining about how some leave the showers and bathrooms dirty, etc., so we knew that we would not enjoy this kind of experience. We then decided to make a reservation ahead of time in a small hotel or B&B the nigh before, and that way we would have peace of mind. In the Albergues and Refugios they take you on a first-come first-serve basis. No wonder so many people get hurt trying to get a bed for the night. The town of Rabanal del Camino is lovely, built in stone with two very pretty churches and a few small hotels. We had dinner at La Hosteria del Refugio, a very succulent meal with wine and dessert, took a walk and retired for the night feeling great for havin arrived safe and sound to our first destination.



Libia fully outfitted


Sylvia arriving at Rabanal del Camino


Vegetable garden around Rabanal


Libia napping at El Ganso


Stork's nest at bell tower. El Ganso


Crosses left by pilgrims





Our hotel in Rabanal del Camino

1 comment:

Amawalker said...

Many pilgrims don't like to use the refuges - and that is OK. The only thing they miss out on is the camaraderie at the small pilgrim shelters (usually no more than 10 people), the communal meals shared by lamplight, the pilgrims' blessings and medieval pilgrim songs. They don't experience this if they stay in hotels on their own.
Its a bit like going tea-house trekking in Tibet but shunning the tea-houses to stay in luxury lodges!
Prof. Rudolph Conrad described these shelters as 'the soul of the camino' as they are unique - you won't find anything quite like them anywhere else in the world.
Have a wonderful camino!