Winter walk to Rabanal

(From our winter camino, late February to early March 2020)

We woke up to splendid sunshine, though there was a definite chill in the air. Packing took longer than it should, as it always does the first couple of days, but we finally managed to get ourselves organised and dressed in layers. Then we bimbled through town, marvelling at the fact that we were there again and reminiscing about our honeymoon five years earlier, which was the Scouse Spouse’s first camino walk.

Rather than have breakfast at the hotel or in town, we left Astorga city centre and crossed the busy road to stop at Cafeteria Silva, the last watering hole before the long straight tarmac pavement stretch. They were really just selling Spanish breakfast stuff that early – toast, butter and jam, chocolate croissants or cakes, all sweet – but when I asked about the toasties on the menu, she said no problem and made us each a massive toasted sandwich with butter, ham, cheese, tomato and chorizo. Phew! We both took half with us, it was just too much that early in the day. Good to have something to eat along the way in case the few bars along the way were all closed.

Just before the memorial park and the chapel I scrambled to try to find some flowers to put on Denise’s memorial. The few I found were very small … it made for a pathetic posy, but at least I tried. It makes me cry still, every time, and I kept her in my thoughts as I carried on.

Arriving in Murias de Rechivaldo, I yet again lamented the loss of the lovely Pilar’s lovely café bar with the best empanada known to man or beast, and since the bar was closed anyway, we walked over to the road and crossed it, which was a new experience! There was indeed a restaurant there, and it was open, so we got some coffees and Aquarius and sat down outside to rest and peel off some layers. It was getting hotter, a lovely day for walking. I think I’ll stop at that restaurant just off the trail from now on, rather than go to Pilar’s place now that it’s not Pilar’s place anymore.

That cathedral was visible for so long after we had left!

As we carried on, it kept getting hotter. The Scouse Spouse was down to a T-shirt, and I had to hang my scarf off my head to protect my face and neck from the sun. It felt like full on summer! Black thick trousers were not a good idea, but we were close enough to Santa Catalina now to just trudge on. We stopped there for a short while – best take any and all opportunities to rest and rehydrate (and go to the loo) now that there was no guarantee the next place would be open.

As we got nearer to El Ganso, we started crossing our fingers and sending wishful thoughts to Our Jimmy that the Cowboy Bar would be open … and as we approached it, the door magically opened and a man came out! We started chatting excitedly at the prospect of a stamp and a drink, in that order, but the man heard us, stopped and shook his head. Apparently they were just sprucing it up and getting ready for the season. No service today, lo siento. We carried on, deeply disappointed.

That last kilometer or so after coming out of the woods and onto the road were looong. It was very hot, we were tired and thirsty and unused to the weather and the walking. Luckily I had booked a room in the Candela – our third visit – because there were no rooms to be had in Rabanal itself. This early in the year you really have to plan where to stay and eat and check that it is open!

We got the same room with the massive shower, and had a lovely little rest and refreshment there while we got our clothes washed. No more black trousers, they would have to do as evening wear from now on. The forecast was for more sunshine for at least the next couple of days. No complaints from us, we just had to adjust our walking outfits accordingly. There were three other pilgrims staying in the Candela, but we hadn’t seen them on the trail and we didn’t see them again.

In the evening we walked up to Rabanal to have a look around and see what was open. Our favourite restaurant, the Refugio, was not – the owner came out to walk the dog just as we passed – and there were posters saying they were doing refurb work and wouldn’t open until March.

So we ended up in the Posada de Gaspar for a meal, with a small handful of French and Italian pilgrims and a dog that went begging from table to table. The sky was ink black with lots of twinkling stars as we walked back down to the Candela again with sore feet and full bellies.


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