So in my previous post, I mentioned that I had 126 days to wait until I boarded my flight to Madrid. To fill in that gap, I have started a countdown of sorts over on my instagram account. Every day up to my day of departure, I will post a photo from a previous Camino…a memory. I’ve even created a hashtag to celebrate this event: #125daycountdown.
Anything to pass the time eh? 🙂
Day three. Rabanal del Camino.
Another early morning. I grabbed my things and headed out in the direction of the Leon hills. The sun was yet to rise but the forecast said that the day had great potential. I happened to leave at the same time as Sabine, a German girl, who was alone. We tagged along for a bit as we were walking at the same pace. Our first challenge was the ascent to Foncebadon. We managed that in just over an hour. My love for ascents hasn’t changed through the years. On arriving at Foncebadon, I was surprised at how derelict the town was. It was crumbling, apart from a few hostels. There couldn’t be people living here. We stopped off at the nearest refugio for breakfast.After a half hour, we moved on. Next stop was the Cruz de Ferro. I wasn’t sure what to expect on reaching this landmark. There was so much written about it that maybe I was letting the occasion get to me. I had my stone and I was going to spend a little time here. The sky was blue. It was a perfect day. We arrived at the Cruz but I was surprised at how many people were there. Many were taking pictures and reading messages left by the Cruz. I dropped my stone and moved on. Sabine stuck around for a little bit longer. Her basic English was enough for us to communicate, as I had zero German. She could had walked ahead if she wanted to, so it meant something to me for her to stay.
That phrase “What goes up, must come down!” couldn’t be more true for this day. Walking from the Cruz, the highest point on the Camino Frances, down to our stay for the night, Molinaseca, was tough. The views were stunning but it took me great patience to determine where to put each foot as I was walking. The ground was made of loose rock and shale and I was lucky that it wasn’t raining. But..no…I wasn’t complaining! There was a lot of stopping, a few cerverzas were had and on reaching Molinaseca at the base of the mountain, I took off my shoes and rested. The albergue had an amazing communal meal. We talked about the next day and where we would walk to, but I was quite happy being where I was.
More from the throwback series can be found here.
Day two. Astorga.
I remember being woken suddenly by super-eager peregrinos in the albergue in Astorga. It was as if a fire had started and they needed to leave. Gah! The sun hadn’t even risen yet. I suppose it’s par of the course in albergue life however..sigh! After gathering my things together, I made my way out of the albergue and walked westwards. It was just after 7am. After a number of hours, I met Louisa from Spain. We got talking until we hit Santa Catalina de la Somoza. I stopped here for a second breakfast. The sun was out now and it was getting warm. After 2o minutes or so, I walked on. I reached El Ganso and it’s one-bar-town. The Cowboy Bar really intrigued me.
The walking wasn’t difficult and the scenery wasn’t anything to write home about. However, it wasn’t flat like it was the previous day. I enjoyed walking solo, just me and my music. Another few hours passed and I reached the climb to Rabanal del Camino. It was tough going, I suppose I could have done with a pole. The decorations on the fence walking up made it all more worthwhile. Rabanal del Camino was in the distance. I had walked 21 kms in 5 hours. Just a little too fast I suppose. Time for a rest. The heat had got to me and I was out of water. I checked in at Albergue NS Pilar and had a choice of bunks. I showered and rested in the sun with a cerveza. Rabanal was a fantastic little town.
The following day was the Cruz de Ferro and the Leon Hills. I was a little apprehensive and unsure if I was going to manage it. Maybe it was just my mind. I went to vespers in the Benadictine church which was an amazing experience. I’m not particularly religious but this music and harmony blew me away. Afterwards, I met a guy from Denmark and we had dinner in El Refugio. Nice place. I had an early night and got ready for a steep climb the next morning.
More from the throwback series can be found here.
June 2011. I had arrived back in Dublin and had a sneaking suspicion that I would see Spanish soil again. I had no idea when. I made sure to write down our guide’s email address before I left and I was glad as he gave me the kick to return. He also gave me some sweet recommendations of albergues in where to stay. First thing I needed to do was buy a guidebook and a backpack; Amazon for Brierley and Aldi for the backpack. Oh wow..looking back, it was a dingy thing that practically fell apart when I returned home. I sourced a list of what to bring and what not to bring from an online forum.
Boom! I had a plan. The goal was to walk from Leon to Sarria. This was all new ground. Carrying all I owned for 7 or so days, I left Dublin on the 24th of May 2012. The next day I jumped on a bus to Hospital de Orbigo and walked to Astorga. I was so nervous. I instantly wanted to meet some one and say the obligatory “Buen Camino” but it was quiet. I got used to my own company, my shoes and my backpack. The blue sky and the orange fields were my company today. I walked 17km until Astorga and got acquainted with my first albergue. Albergue San Javier – a sparse affair. Nothing to write home about, but I wasn’t on holiday. I was happy to take everything as it came. I got some food in Hotel Gaudi next door and took in the main plaza. Stunning. Day 2 tomorrow.
“Santiago here I come, right back where I started from!”, we sang.
Yes, we were aware that the above was lifted from the Brian Friel classic play, “Philedephia, here I come!”, but there was a great sense of euphoria and happiness from us as we marched on to Compostela. Today was our last day and whatever niggling pain or blisters we had, it was replaced by relief. The more kilometres that passed by, the more built up the area became, and it wasn’t long before we saw Santiago Cathedral standing tall in front of us.
“Now what?” – we asked.
We giddily waited in line to collect our much-sought-after Compostelas, before catching the swinging of the botufumeiro at midday mass. Our comfortable Camino was over and we were to go home the following day. Some of our merry band were unsure if they would meet the Camino again, however I was secretly plotting my return for the following year. A seed was planted.
All six of us were coming close to the end of our comfortable Caminos. The below pictures were taken while we walked from Arzua to O Pedrouzo, twisting and turning between rural townland and villages. There were more animals spotted than people. There was also a great anticipation to reach Santiago, however, at the same time, we didn’t want this little holiday to end. More photos tomorrow, including some from Santiago.
Today finds our merry band of pampered peregrinos (including myself) stroll from Melide to Arzua. A short 15 km to our end point, however a stop off at Ribadiso for a picnic made the day that bit longer. There we pilgrim-watched as the queue for the xunta grew longer and longer. It was then that I realised that I wanted to walk the Camino carrying my pack and stay in albergues. Maybe, hotels just didn’t suit this 30-something Irishman. Closer we were to Santiago. More photos tomorrow.
Happy New Year folks! My first post of 2017 finds me wandering from Palas de Rei to Melide; a short hop and skip nowadays but a tough challenge back then! The scenery was enough to make me wish that I had a few more days left to stay on. More photos tomorrow!
Below are a number of photos from our stroll from Portomarin to Palas de Rei. I remember it being a very cloudy day and there were a number of showers, however, we were getting closer to Santiago! As you can see, the Xunta were working on the Camino in a number of areas at the time. And the distance markers were yet to be updated! However, I had the pleasure of visiting the Vilar de Donas church just off the Camino, which I would recommend. More photos tomorrow.
Ah 2011. I was younger, Spain was just another country…and the Camino?
The what now?
Yes, you heard me correctly. June 2011 was to be my first time on the Camino Frances and I walked with a merry bunch of folks from Dublin in aid of a great charity. Below are just a few photos from my first day as I wander from Sarria to Portomarin. More photos tomorrow.