Backpacking Teacher

Travel, teaching and things in between. Saigon is the focus for now.

Posts Tagged ‘astorga

Day 22: Astorga to Rabanal del Camino

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Clouds like swhirls of broad brushed impressionist paint filled the sky. Like some giant kaleidoscope the moving clouds and early morning sun created an ever changing colour tone to the morning vista. The walk out of Astorga was an easy stroll toward the mountains. Within an hour I was happily sitting in a streetside cafe having my cafe con leche and french toast at the foot of the mountains.


Today’s walk a relaxing stroll up pathways alongside the forest and country roads, through towns no longer made of mud but of the large rocks found in the area. Ahead the clouds continued to move and change shape. You can almost smell Galicia in the air. Galicia lies over the mountains and is renowned for it’s rainy days it’s ever changeable days.


The last stop before the final walk up to our destination of Rabanal de Camino sees us stopping for drinks in another rocky little ville. I then feel like a brisk walk and tell my friends I’ll meet them up the mountain. I pushed on enjoying stretching my legs. My golf ball blister decided to cause me some trouble and burst on the walk up the hill but it wasn’t enough to slow me down or stop my enjoyment of the walk.


After a brisk but pleasant and not overly steep walk I arrived in Rabanal. A stone town with winding sloping streets typical of mountain villages. Little clusters of townspeople standing around chatting, stone houses with flowering plants out front, a van calling out for people to bring their knives and scissors out for sharpening, this town is a great stop on the Camino. The afternoon rainshower did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for Rabanal. The Albergue, run by volunteers including a friendly Aussie couple (great to meet some Aussies again) is run by the British confraternity of St. James and is a friendly, cosy place to stay in this friendly, cosy little mountain town.


Rabanal is also an important stop on the Camino and the reason why I stopped here after just a 20km walk. An Italian friend had explained to me when we were in Astorga why this village was of importance. Peregrinos often carry a stone, either one they pick up on the way or one they bring from home. My particular stone is one that lodged in my old boots whilst walking across the mesetas and stayed there for 8km slowly wearing a hole through both layers of socks and wearing into my heel. My stone found me.


The concept of the stones is that they represent the burdens we carry in life. Tonight a ceremony is held in which monks in the village chant gregorian prayers in Latin, a few words are said, following prayers, by peregrinos from various nations (I’ve been drafted in to do the English version as one of the few native speakers in town tonight) and then the stones are blessed. Tomorrow peregrinos carry these stones to Cruz del Ferro (Iron Cross) at the highest point on the Camino and symbolically place their burdens there. This little ritual is part of the rich tapestry of the Camino and, especially for the religious people on the walk, an important part of the journey.



Turns out I didn’t read at Vespers as the reading was only done in Spanish. Vespers was held in a little stone church opposite the Albergue and Monastery. The church is quite small and about fifty peregrinos crowded in as four of the monks chanted away in Latin. The acoustics of the church made their voices fill the small space and the intimate little ceremony carried out in Latin transported me back in time and I could feel what it would have been like for peregrinos of the past. At once sombre and uplifting, ceremonial and reverent the chanting in the church left me feeling priviledged to have seen this ages old ceremony.


– Posted from my phone.

Written by backpackingteacher

July 22, 2009 at 11:14 pm

Day 21: San Martin de Camino to Astorga

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Canals, corn cobs and contrails greeted me as I began today’s walk. Today’s walk was a beauty. I drank deeply from the cup of life today thoroughly enjoying everything about the day. I have a blister the diameter of a golf ball on my heel, another two elsewhere, I have an armful of bed bug bites but I don’t care. They don’t affect my enjoyment an iota..


After many days of less than spectacular terrain the Camino delivered a walk of contrasts. The day started with a walk over a canal and past row and rows of upright green leafy fields of corn. The blue sky almost cloudless but filled with the contrails of soaring aircraft. The early morning playfulness and twittering of birds provided further contrast.


Then we walked into the elegant town of Hospital de Orbigo. Through a narrow winding road and the across a beautiful old stone, multi arched bridge, one of Spain’s oldest bridges, and into the old town. There I stopped after greeting friends who had got up earlier than me this morning (my lazy start was after 7am). I sat drinking my hot cafe con leche and piping hot croissant whilst overlooking the jousting fields in front of the old stone bridge. I pictured knights of old jousting before me and both the sun, rising in the background, and I applauded the scene.


Leaving the town the Camino divided. Left was a shorter route to Astorga, right, a little longer. I took the right route because it looked more interesting and so it proved. The right route took me past more fields of corn, old stone farm houses and rushing sounds of water as little canals fed the fields. I walked past a field of seven storks in which five stood, statue like, preening their bodies while a further two prowled around them pecking at the ground. I stood and watched awhile. In the background I saw the trail heading into a small hill and I rejoiced.


I walked up the hill along the dirt path and into the village on the other side.
“Buenos Dias”, I greeted the old woman in town who was sweeping outside her old stone house.
“Buenos Dias. Buen Vijage”, she repliedi with a little smile as she watched me walk on by.
A short walk through the village’s winding g roads, watching as the village women headed off to ten o’clock mass and I was back on a dirt track. The track took me through a dairy farm, with bellowing cows and little cages with calves that were being hand fed milk of some sort by the farmhands


Along the winding trail and entering into the village I stopped to look at the sky. Filled with contrails I noticed and then I saw that the contrails fanned out from a similar starting point creating the illusion of the shell sign that peregrinos follow. It was even pointing in the right direction, a slightly surreal moment.


I caught up with friends and we walked the last few km’s into town. A beautiful stone walled city with Cathedral spires rising high. We walked past crowded houses, the Gaudi building, the scaffolding encased Cathedral and into a delightful old Albergue with loft ceilings, wooden floors and a salt water fountain for the feet.


The afternoon/evening was spent drinking and dining with friends, wandering Gaudi’s Bishop’s Palace, admiring the chocolates in the windows in this home (self styled) of chocolate, sitting in another Plaza Major and watching as little figurines struck the city clock on the quarter hour while we downed our cañas.

– Posted from my phone

Written by backpackingteacher

July 21, 2009 at 7:18 am

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