I stayed in a very small Refugio last night just 1km past Astorga. There were only four of us staying there including Jolanta , who I hadn’t seen in a week or so , and a French Mother and daughter, Edith and Vida ( see photo ). I had a room to myself and had a good sleep though the place was freezing cold.
We woke to a cold morning with clouds and drizzly rain. The pain and swelling in my leg was certainly better after taking the Diclofenac and applying the gel last night so I’m hopeful that with some shorter days of walking I can manage it to Santiago. I am now 150 miles away.
We put a good shift in this morning stopping at El Ganso for lunch. I was really delighted to see Gus walk into the same place shortly afterwards and he joined us for lunch ( see photo holding stick ).He’d needed two days rest to recover from the stomach bug but he is now fit and putting good milages in each day.
The weather improved during the afternoon and we stopped for a break under the shade of a very old oak tree. We were joined by Joan from County Clare who is a mad keen fiddle player so we had a good chat about music. It was noticeable today how the landscape has now changed from the flat and treeless Meseta to the stone walls , trees and green fields of the foothills of the Montes de Leon. We arrived in the pretty little village of Rabanal del Camino around 4.00pm and booked into the Albergue Gaucelmo , which is owned and run by the Confraternity of St James based in London. This village is in the area known as the Maragateria. The Maragato people who live in this area are thought to be descended from the Berber tribes who came to Spain as part of the Moorish invasion in the 8th C , becoming ” misplaced ” in this remote mountainous region. Their number these days has dwindled to about 4000 spread around about 40 villages in this area.
At Refugio Guacelmo we were very well looked after here by the two Hospitaleros , Brendan and Dave , in what is one of the best refugios I’ve found on The Camino. It is run by The Confraternity of St James , a UK-based charity established to promote the pilgrimage to Santiago. Brendan tells me that he once walked from his home in Tynemouth to Santiago , getting the ferry from North Shields to Amsterdam , then walking to Le Puy and onwards. It took him four and a half months.
Later in the evening I attended the Pilgrims mass in the Parish Church of Santa Maria. A Father Javier said Mass in both English and Spanish in this ancient Church and I’d guess around 30 Pilgrims attended. It was the feast of St Ignatius of Antioch today and his life was the theme of the Homily. At the end he gave a blessing to all the Pilgrims as is the custom all along The Camino.
There just happened to be a great bunch of people here last night and we had a lot of fun at a communal dinner that was all prepared by a couple of English ladies , Lou and Gina. It is hard to leave this morning as it is cold and wet and we have to cross the mountains over the highest point in the whole Camino. Now where’s those tablets ?