Thursday, September 8, 2011
We shared the taxi to O'Cebreiro and as luck would have it the Mochilla Taxi O'Rubio was there for morning pickup going west. I had met the driver last year so I asked him if he would take our backpacks to La Portela de Valcarce. At first he said no, but then I told him anytime was good for us, afternoon, evening, whenever he could get there. He said he would do it for €20 and I agreed. This was great, we would get to walk down without packs. The walk up and down O'Cebreiro (whichever way you go) is steep but without the pack weight it is delightful. I gave him a hug and double kiss that Veronica saw from the church entrance and she knew all was good.
Cacabelos to Molinaseca - Saturday, September 10, 2011
216.2 kms SdC (134.3 miles)
It was strange to me this morning walking uphill out of Cacabelos. I did not remember the way until I came to the rest stop below. Looking down the hill was my memory, looking uphill was not, now I realize that I am confused. I am finding it difficult to get the camino villages in order in my mind. Previously I knew the village names in order from SJPP to SdC. Now that I am on the retorno journey the village names are in reverse. When I talk with Veronica I get confused over something that I once knew so well.
Walking through Camponaraya I noticed a pilgrim coming toward me with an Aussie flag patch on his hat. I stopped him and we chatted for quite some time. I was carrying a Casa David card for the right pilgrim, he was the one, and very happy to receive it, we both left smiling. He reminded me so much of my 2007 buddy, Steve (UK). I continued on and realized there were no pilgrims and I had not seen any for quite some time. I stopped at Bar Seiscentos (600) for lunch (zumo naranja, Jamón y queso and Café con leche con hielo) and still no pilgrims passing by. I was not on the camino. Lost!
Before going to dinner I washed my clothes hanging the walking pants and shirt on hangers but placing my socks out on the window ledge. It rained, it was a nice soft rain and I did not think about the socks. Yep, they were very wet when I returned to the room. Pilgrim problem - wet laundry makes the backpack very heavy.
Molinaseca to Rabanal - Saturday, Sept. 10 2011
247.7 kms SdC (150.8 miles)
We called a taxi to Cruz de Fero to avoid those downhill pilgrims on a narrow track once again. Cruz de Fero is a very special place holding many special memories. The area from Astorga to Molinaseca seems to have special energy, I have always walked well here. Kees slept here on the night of a full moon in 2007. I wish that we had sent each other text messages. I would love to have been with him.
Not long after I started down to Rabanal I pass the Danish, there were many small pack people. Then along came a bus, Jacobs Cars, a catchy name, it was honking its horn to see if any of them wanted to give up and get back on the bus. Hundreds ... hundreds are doing the camino this way now. It was unheard of in 2002 - if you took a local bus then you were scorned and most of us did not know from where to take a bus. Bus times were not frequent or daily in 2002. I remember a bus passing Sheila and I on our way from Cacabelos and we remarked how good it would be on it. But that was just a comment that was not put into action.
I saw a large group coming up the hill, 30-40 people (later, Veronica counted 40). The leader was the locomotive with his two sticks, clonk, clonk, clonk, .... the group had fallen in behind him and all sticks moved together. There is usually a smooth path between the rocks and I was on it. The Swiss seemed disturbed that I would not get off their "train tracks".
A little later I looked down to see a couple coming uphill. As they approached I wanted to stop the man, his face was red to purple, he was sweating and looked exhausted. He was trying to walk the pace and keep up with the woman he was with. I thought to myself, that man is a heart attack waiting to happen and it could be sooner rather than later.
Rabanal del Camino to Astorga - Monday, September 12, 2011
264 kms SdC (164 miles)
The breakfast toast at La Posada D Gaspar was so bad, it was the hardest toast in Spain. Thank goodness for Vegemite it made the toast palatable.
About 2 kms from Rabanal there was Veronica, she was chatting with a group from Poland. The group were starting their pilgrimage today. They had arrived in Astorga around midnight and started walking to Rabanl at 02:00. They were tired and hungry so Veronica was telling them about the albergues and Bars coming up in Rabanal or Foncebadón. Albergues usually do not open until noon at the earliest.
The path down through the Holm Oaks is a lovely sandy path, at times rocky. Two women talked with me about my walking east. An English girl (Pam) in her 20's had only started that day and was fascinated that people came back again let alone walked the return journey. Pam was wearing dark navy blue shirt and pants so I suggested that in this heat she might want to wear a lighter color shirt in the hot sun. The next girl (also 20's) was German living in London, UK. With superb English and a beautiful speaking voice she told me she could certainly understand pilgrims coming back to the camino again and again. As she left me she said, "I wish you a beautiful journey". Thank you young lady.
I stopped at the Meson Cowboy (Cowboy Bar, another favorite) and the same couple have been there since 2002 (probably longer). I told them that each time I pass by (especially since living in Texas) I have wanted to bring them a Texas flag and that if they gave me their name and address I would send one. He did, I will.
Then in Santa Catalina I was having a café con leche when along came another eastbound pilgrim. I invited her to join me and she did. Her name is J (USA) and she has been on the camino for five months. J was laid off from her Civil Engineering job and decided that this was the time for her to walk the camino. She told me she was out of money so I bought her a coffee and something to eat. J will pop-up again .....
I was sitting at the café outside Hotel Gaudí when along comes J who told me she is going further looking for the free albergue. Looking at Palacio Episcopal she asked, "how did I miss this on my way to Santiago?". I don't know J, it is big and next to the cathedral AND on the camino. J said she is so happy to be on the camino to have her eyes opened but is bothered by how insular Americans are - those who do not travel, it was bugging her as she walked today. I told her she should really think of it as people who do not travel, not only Americans, but folks from anywhere, any country. I am beginning to be bugged by J.
Astorga to Hospital de Orbigo - Tuesday, September 13, 2011
280 kms SdC (173 miles)
One advantage of knowing the way is that you know what is coming up. One disadvantage of .... you get it.
This morning I took a taxi 3.5 kms to Cruceiro de Santo Toribio. Here I sat in 2002 for a long time looking at the hill down to the valley, across the valley, and then uphill to Astorga. The taxi driver told me "es imposible", it is impossible to drive to the cross. I told him it was possible (sí posible). When we were near I told him to take the dirt road, he did, and we were right beside the cross as the sun came up.
Veronica gave me a pilgrim band for my wrist saying that she loved the angel on it. She found them in the pilgrim shop in Astorga. I was in that store yesterday and the man looked everywhere for an angel for me. Veronica had five more so sold me one for Charlotte, my camino angel.
At the western end of the bridge the Caballeros hospitalarios de San Juan (Knights of St. John) maintained a pigrim hospital. After dinner I went for a walk across the bridge, the sun was setting and the moon coming up .... it was beautiful.
Hospital de Órbigo to León - Wednesday, September 14, 2011
317.5 kms SdC (197.3 miles)
We thought it was going to be an easy day as we waited for the bus to León, wrong! While waiting, a man stopped and told us that the Parada de Autobús (bus stop) to León was at the Gasolina (gas station). We discussed this for awhile because the hospitalero had told Veronica the bus stopped here. Another man came from across the street with a timetable and from that we could see we had missed our 09:50 bus. Uncertain, we headed to the Gasolina and moments after we arrived a bus came along. Our bus was late ... all is well. We took the bus today because we both know that the path is on the Senda (footpath) alongside the busy road with no shade. The last 7 kms is through an industrial area and there are dangerous highways to cross. We have walked it before so no need to this year and we will not need to stay two nights to see this beautiful city.
After dinner I was speaking with two Danish guys staying at an albergue. I told them to check for bed bugs. Veronica was going to the same albergue today until she met a pilgrim who stayed there and had many bites. Bed bugs are the nightmare of the camino and it would seem they are prevalent at this time of the year. They are carried from albergue to albergue and is one of the reasons I prefer to stay in a small hostel or Casa Rural.