What a great evening in Rabanal del Camino with seven countries: Lithuania, Ireland, Australia, Germany, America, Spain and Canada – one of each of us, plus two bottles of vino tinto, the dry heat of a wood burning stove, a burning candle in a wine bottle and a selection of 1970’s music from Lithuania’s laptop.
This is a rather unstylishly rustic albergue. We are all sitting around a small white resin table on white resin chairs in a small room with bright green walls. Clothes are hanging on a drying rack in front of the wood burning stove and the only comfy seating is the small disheveled sofa pushed up against the wall.
Joey is scrap-booking in his journal and Alex is playing DJ on his laptop. We are all plain and simply enjoying the moment. My experience at this albergue is shaping up to be one of my most enjoyable.
A couple of the guys, Jan from Ireland and Alex from Lithuania, picked up some food from the supermarket and crafted a pasta stir fry. Joey and I provided the vino tinto – two bottles for only four euro.
Four of us dined by candlelight and afterwards three others joined us.
We told stories and listened to some funky German music by Paul Kalkbrenner – Sand and Sky, as well as more familiar musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Janice Joplin, The Bee Gees and ABBA to name a few.
Before I walked this morning, I had an enjoyable conversation with the translator, the peace keeper between me and the hospitalero yesterday during the laundry ordeal.
Then I killed some time in Astorga waiting for stores to open, so I could pick up a warm fleece.
I hung out with Joey for a little while while he took photos of the architecture, including the Santa Maria Cathedral and Gaudi’s Episcopal Palace.
After I bought my new fleece, I headed out on the road. I walked slowly in contemplation and enjoyed the lovely Spanish landscape.
I was told that we will soon reach the highest point on the Camino, Cruz de Ferro, where the cross and big pile of rocks is located. It’s a very significant part of the Camino that has been lingering in the back of my mind for some time. I carry a special rock in my pack that I will lay to rest at this place.
Traditionally, pilgrims bring a rock from home to place here along with the things they are ready to emotionally let go of. So as I walked today, I thought about why I’m here, what this experience means to me and what I need to let go of.
Many times along the way I have thought about this sacred place and wondered how I would feel when I reached it. Now that we are drawing nearer I need to prepare myself even more. This point means much more than I can describe in words.
For most of the day I walked alone with my thoughts occasionally plugging in the earbuds for a music break.
Alex, the New York lawyer, caught up to me at one point. We visited briefly and then he took off up ahead. Joey also caught up and we walked a short distance together, but then he took off ahead too.
At one point three roads ran parallel to each other: a paved road, a grey crushed rock road and an old red dirt road. I walked on the grey crushed rock road in the middle.
I thought a lot about Granny along this stretch. Memories of the orange poppies she would wrap for me in wet paper towel popped into my mind. Also of her soft-bristled hairbrush resting on her oval-mirrored vanity table and of the rows of raspberries and black currents in her garden.
I remember being afraid of the huge crescent moon that peered in her living room window one night. It was on the hunt for me I was sure. I was a child plagued with nightmares about a strange monster that would tickle me to death, a wooden lady with no facial features and of things unexplainable to my patient mother who would stay up with me in the night trying to calm me down.
Granny was always so patient with me too. My younger brother and I used to subject her to our version of “The Price is Right”. We didn’t consider the fact Granny was blind and couldn’t see the items she was required to bid on. She always played along though.
As I thought about Granny, I imagined her walking along the red dirt road on my right. Maybe she was and maybe that’s why I thought about her.
The small village of El Gonso was old and weathered, but it is one of my favourite villages so far.
It has seen generations of lives grow and pass until it too began to fade away. Many stone houses are crumbling apart.
Some even have foliage growing out of grey weathered windows from what used to be indoors.
One crumbling house is missing half of its thatch roof plus half of its front door.
Life still thrives here though. Hollyhocks grow along weed infested stone retaining walls and the lands have been rototilled, some currently growing fall crops.
Through a weather beaten fence I was lucky to spot three tiny kittens cuddled together for warmth.
The quaint Meson Cowboy bar along the main street was alive and well attracting pilgrims as they clicked along the main street with their walking poles. I loosened my boots there for a while and enjoyed a hot cafe con leche while sitting on a stump outside until the sky opened up.
I put on my raingear and continued slowly.
On my right I observed a very uniquely, but fittingly, decorated wire fence. I had observed this before, but paid closer attention to it today, maybe because I’ve slowed down a great deal due to my shin splint.
The fence had crosses woven into it. Some were made out of sticks, some out of vegetation, tape, plastic bags, string and rope – whatever was available to the walking pilgrim. There were other symbols of love woven into it as well, including a peace sign, Tibetan prayer flags and a heart.
As I walked and observed the crosses, I felt a strong urge to stop and add my own. I pulled some dry grass, sticks and berries from the surrounding foliage and wove it into the fence, however the more I fiddled with it the more it began to fall apart. I tried to fix it, but got pricked and decided to leave it before I wrecked it any further. It was the thought and effort that counted in my mind.
My original intention today was to make it another five kilometers further than the 21.5 kilometers noted in the guide, but I had a late start and walked slowly. That’s ok though. I’m still on track to be in Santiago on October 24th and it has been a wonderful evening.
I received a message from Andrew tonight. He is in Sarria, only 115 kilometers from Santiago. A few days ago he had walked 43 kilometers and mentioned his feet were still hurting. He is so determined. I know he will make it to his goal – Finisterre, “The End of the Earth”. He says he will be back in Santiago on the 24th. I really hope to see him before he fly’s home to Germany, so I wrote back that I hope to get a goodbye hug from him. He said he would give me a big one!