After a good night’s sleep and a quick cup of coffee in the Só por Hoje I went on my way. Leaving Astorga is never easy at the best of times but since 2015 and the disapperance and death of Denise Thiem it has been even less so. The florists would open a little late for my walking day so I decided to see what flowers I could find on the way. The lovely Patricia told me to take a right as I left the house and keep going straight ahead and I would be on the camino. I normally follow the yellow arrows past the Gaudi palace and church, but this time I took my hospitalera’s advice and walked straight ahead. Before I had walked 50 meters a bright red perfect rose burst out of a gate at eye height, begging to be plucked. So I did. I had my flower for Denise.
The memorial tree is growing bigger. One day I hope to hang a shell in it.
Hospitalera Patricia had also suggested I go into the Ermita de Ecce Homo, a small chapel by the road out of Astorga, the reason why the memorial garden to lost pilgrim friends is where it is. Even though she told me, I had to see it with my own eyes – an altarpiece Jesus who is actually not crucified. It was a very emotional and moving moment to stand in front of this new and very different image of the man, and I had a good cry before I got my stamp, made my donation and started my walk.
I walked the long straight track across the heath alone, and by the time I got to Santa Catalina I was feeling a bit better. From now on I wasn’t walking in her footsteps anymore, I was walking for her. I had an Aquarius with some other solo peregrinas and the day started looking up.
Arriving at El Ganso I discovered to my horror that the Cowboy Bar was closed! All the pilgrims were instead gathered in the one next door, including the Belgians, who were now riding part electric bikes, and the peregrinas from the last stop.
While we sat there in the sun talking, suddenly it seemed to start spitting from a mainly blue sky. Time to get going, and sure enough, only a few hundred metres down the road it was poncho time. I have to say my quick deployment technique was awfully rusty, at one point I thought I had got myself stuck inside the big blue bag!
I was staying in the Candela again, at the bottom of the hill up to Rabanal proper, so I just dropped my pack, had an ankerbier, chatted to some pilgrims, then quickly had a shower and managed to catch a simple lunch before the kitchen closed.
Later I bimbled up to town to have a look around. It was odd to see albergue Gaucelmo lying closed and empty, I hope to stay there again some day. I also went into the Refugio for a drink, as I wasn’t really hungry, but the menu there is generally good, so I decided to have a delicious cecina, avocado and berry salad… Absolutely worth stopping for!
As I got up to leave I recognised the couple from the square in Astorga, who I donated my spare chairs to. They were also thoroughly enjoying their food, and it was nice to see some semi familiar faces and have a little chat. On the way out, in what used to be the bar area before the refurb and/or covid regulations, one of the pilgrims from the pre-downpour drinks in El Ganso was sitting on his own enjoying a glass of wine. Well, I had initially come for a drink, and the wine I had with my salad was very nice, so when he invited me to sit down, I did. I had a glass of the same wine, then another, as we were busy in conversation. When my albergue buzzer went at 21.45, it had started raining outside and everywhere was pitch dark – unfortunately no stars though as there was thunder and lightning in the clouds above. I had to use my mobile as a torch to find my way back to the Candela and into my room.
Some time in the night I woke up from the sound of rain hammering mercilessly on my window. Hopefully that would be tomorrow’s forecast rain dropping early …