The first stretch into Murias de Rechivaldo was a bit of a challenge. I felt tired after the long day into Astorga. The bar in Murias de Rechivaldo made up for it though. The food was amazing and all organic with freshly squeezed orange juice and lots of fresh vegetables. And, as always, perfect company.
It was lovely to get out of the towns and back into the still snow capped mountains. After the breakfast stop, it was a great walking day. I think that this quote by John Muir summed up the day for me.
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”
The walk into Rabanal was a “free” day for me. The last stretch into Astorga the day before had knocked the stuffing out of me. During those last few km, I would not have believed that I would be walking again the following day, with a smile on my face and strength back in my legs. I was just so grateful to be feeling strong and surrounded by magnificent scenery and wonderful people.
The next coffee stop was at the Cowboy Bar in El Ganso. It was a highlight because while I was walking in to the town, I could feel my phone vibrate as an sms came though. I didn’t usually walk with my phone on but had obviously forgotten to turn it off. I read the message as I sat down in the Cowboy Bar. It was from my Dad. He and my Mom had walked the Camino before and were my inspiration for doing it. The message read “Seem to remember that there was a Cowboy Bar on the stretch you are walking today. Worth a stop.” It felt like my folks were there having coffee with me.
Rabanal was another wonderful stop. A lovely albergue with a sunny courtyard and good company. It was also the place where Kevin folded his “delicates” in public...definitely one of the funniest moments on the Camino!
Mass was held in the beautiful stone church by Benedictine Monks, in Gregorian Chant. It was beautiful and very moving.
Rabanal is the town before the climb to the highest point of the Camino Frances, marked by a cross, the Cruz de Ferro. The walk up to the cross will remain one of my favourites of my whole Camino. I left well before sunrise and in time to watch the full moon setting. No words can possibly describe the beauty of that morning.
Tradition is that pilgrims carry a rock with them from the start of their pilgrimage and leave it at the foot of the cross as a symbol of letting go of their burdens. I had made a conscious effort from the beginning of my walk not to read the guidebook I had to far ahead so I literally read “the instructions” a few days in advance. As a result, until shortly before I reached Rabanal, I knew nothing about it and was therefore not carrying a rock. I remained a little indifferent about the cross itself until we got there. Rocks left since early Roman times have literally made a small mountain. Each rock representing someones burden or sadness or gratitude. Spending time there was a truly humbling experience.
The walk from Rabanal to Molinaseca was one of the most beautiful of the whole journey. To be back in the mountains was just magic. The downhill into Molinaseca did take its toll though. It is roughly 15km of steep downhill on a rocky path. Some very tired pilgrims presented themselves in the albergue that night.
That night in the albergue did produce another classically funny Camino moment. As I mentioned, there were some very exhausted pilgrims and all of us craved a good night sleep. We had a lovely room with about 10 of us in it, no double bunks and a big open window. We seemed to be set for a good night. As the lights went out and all went quiet, someone started snoring. By then I thought I had heard it all but this snoring was something special. Everyone in the room just started laughing. One of the people in the room was Martin, aka the “Horseman”. For some reason he was able to neigh like a horse. In desperation and seeing the much needed peaceful night disappearing, I said to him “Martin, do something!” at which point he jumped onto all fours and gave the perfect neigh. The snoring culprit promptly turned over and we heard nothing from him until the morning. When he woke up he muttered something about strange dreams involving horses.....noone said a word.
I was privileged to spend a lot of time exploring wilderness areas in southern Africa from a very young age. I got my first camera when I was 6 years old and I have been passionate about wildlife and landscape photography ever since.