CF Sola 19, Day 1: Rabanal-Acebo

Finally the day had come – I was going to start walking again. And from Rabanal, one of my favourite places, to Acebo, one of my favourite walks. I am a lucky, lucky girl!

The weather and temperature were both perfect. After finishing my packing – still not got the hang of it, I never do the first couple of days – I left the room and went back to El Refugio for a morning café con leche. Next door to my place was a small shop that had everything a pilgrim could want, even at that time in the morning, so I got an apple, a banana and some nuts for the 6 km walk up to Foncebadón in the morning sun.

At Foncebadón I met Yogi and Piia, two of the pilgrims I had chatted to the night before, and sat down for my first Aquarius with them. I had booked my bed in Acebo and confirmed, so I was in no particular hurry and wanted to enjoy the walking part of the day. We stayed there chatting for a good while, then one by one, separately, we carried on. I liked that; I had planned to walk alone to get some time to think (or not). Some people seem to think that if you enjoy talking together, you must also enjoy walking together, but these solo walkers clearly still preferred solo walking – and socialising at break time. Hopefully I would meet them again on the way and if not, it was still nice to have met them.

The next stage was up to the Cruz de Ferro, the Iron Cross, where pilgrims have a tradition for bringing a small stone or some other object from home to leave at the foot of the cross as a symbolic way of letting go of a burden. The Iron Cross has become an emotional as well as geographic highlight on the camino and there always seems to be beautiful photos taken there. I would advise some expectation management – the cross is right by the road and there are coaches parked on the other side. Photograph with care.

After the Cruz the trail starts going downhill, and soon becomes full of gravel, rocks and sand. It is tricky, so take care! It is also very beautiful, but please if you want to admire the view, stop – walking and viewing is a dangerous combination. Don’t let other walkers tempt you to go faster than you feel comfortable with, and use your poles if you have rickety knees.

On the day I walked, the heather on the hillsides was intensely purple in the spring sunshine. I have never seen it like that before – when we walked in March, twice, spring had not really started yet. Snowcapped mountains in the background made it a breathtakingly beautiful walk and I enjoyed every step.

In the early afternoon I could see Acebo below me, and as much as I was looking forward to the Meson and a clara and a meal, I was a little bit sad that this part of the walk was over. I missed it even as I walked the last bit into town, but when I checked in it turned out I was the second person to arrive and got a pick of the beds! I got a bottom one just because I could, but had to tell them I was impressed with the sturdy metal stairs they had put between the bunks to make it easier to get up and down. Clever!

Then there was shower, change, laundry, clara, in that order. I love the view from the garden at the back of the Meson, and it is a great place to sit and stare/refresh/chat/journal/think weird thoughts, so that’s what I did until it was time for a pilgrim meal in the evening. I had dinner with a gentleman from the US who told me his story, the conundrum he had come to the camino to reflect on, his desire and need for change – and change was to be a recurring theme on this camino. Maybe it always is, maybe I just noticed it because of all the changes that are taking place in the UK at the moment … food for thought.

Then it was time to get ready for my first night in an albergue since 2015.

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