It was a late start from Murias de Rechivaldo which meant we met an extraordinary man. It was overcast outside and 0800AM inside. Breakfast was toast and coffee. I decided I would start giving Albergue breakfasts a miss. But this was different. The Belgian had walked various Camino routes since his first at 65 years old, when he walked from Antwerp. He was on his 13th annual Camino and had recently turned 78. He said these days he is slowing down a bit, and after all, isn’t it better to enjoy the moment? On some of his Caminos, he had walked for a while, then volunteered as a hospitaller (Albergue volunteer) before continuing on. This time, he told us, was probably his last – he was walking for his friend who had Alzheimer’s disease and was unable to.
The grapes hung heavy outside our room, and soon it was time to depart.
The terrain was more varied – more trees – and as we climbed the heather provided a mauve tinge to the landscape, a complement to the green.
The hills were misty and covered with low cloud. There were signs warning of deer.
We stopped for coffee at El Caminante – a town well kept and with many Albergues and hotels. It is a town that lives by and for the Camino. But in a conscious way, not like some of the others that lived for the Camino but grudgingly. Next time, we will probably try to stay here (yes it is under consideration!).
On the wall of the bar, there was a niche with this statue of St. James.
We passed a peace sign made of pebbles saying: “May you be free from fear and may you be at peace”. It was among the many messages we read along the Camino – but this one resonated.
At El Gonso, there was a lovely old water pump – but sadly, the water wasn’t potable.
Walking on, we entered…. Banjo country! It was the somewhat sleazy-looking ‘Cowboy Bar’ at El Ganso. And yes, it was complete with a banjo player! We bought coffee so we could use the toilet out the back. The place was covered with old American artefacts, from USA number plates to a vegas pinball machine. And the guy behind the counter looked like an actor from a Paella Western, lacking only a six-shooter. The floor and tables were sticky. It just needed an alien jazz band in the corner and I sensed you could find someone to get an illegal cargo off-planet without too many questions being asked… for the right price. We left the Cowboy Bar without too much delay.
The old church at El Ganso was picturesque with its stork nest (there be dragons) … and then we were out on the road.
But otherwise, much of the town seemed derelict and in disrepair. This was not well looked after in the way that El Caminante was. We found this a number of times, where a neat tidy town alternated with others on which little care had been lavished for many years.
And we passed a white Santiago cross – perhaps an old marker for the Camino, or something related to the Confraternity of St James, who had a monastery near Rabinal del Camino.
At length, Rabinal del Camino emerged from among the trees. showing the church bells first and then gradually the rest of the town came into view. We considered pressing on to Foncebadon, but decided we were tired enough to stop.
We checked into a Pension, had a late lunch and went in search of a Tiende (shop) for tomorrow’s bananas and a couple of energy bars.
The one local builder was casually busy in precisely the way that his dog was not. The dog lay on the bench, knowing it was siesta time, occasionally opening an eye to remind everyone that they too should be lying down, rather than walking around or performing a theatre of work.
The main street was lined with well-kept stone buildings in the Muragato style and sure enough, the one shop in town was open.
The pilgrim menu in the evening was fairly standard, but nicely cooked – and the host did our washing for 6 euros – a real bonus, enabling us to catch up on our journals and read ahead for tomorrow’s route up the mountain.
With Cruz de Ferro coming up we sat and thought privately about what we will let go of with our rock – a contemplative moment for an important Camino ritual for tomorrow.
Pilgrims for centures have brought a rock or stone or other significant object from their home to symbolise their sins or psychological burdens or blessings to place at the foot of the Iron Cross, or Cruz de Ferro. It is carried along the Camino as a reminder of those burdens, and left with reverence at the cross. It symbolises leaving your burden behind, and the start of a new life, free of past transgressions. In the movie ‘The Way‘ a pilgrim deposits their stone with a prayer: “Lord, may this stone, a symbol of my efforts on the pilgrimage, that I lay at the foot of the cross weigh the balance in favour of my good deeds some day when the deeds of my life are judged. Let it be so.” I suspect that prayer was written for the movie, as I’ve found no evidence for it before the movie, and it helps the audience to understand why people have brought their rock to that place. It is a private thing, and people don’t discuss what it is that they are leaving behind. Each person walks their own Camino.
The forecast is cool, cloudy and likely foggy for our ascent. A fitting metaphor for our future – an ascent into cloud, and a new beginning for our lives.
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