Saturday, November 7, 2009

Astorga to Rabanal

Set off very early and the kind night porter in the Hotel Gaudi averts disaster by running up the street waving the passport Frances had forgotten! Its unspoken but we are both feeling the same slightly shaky feeling en route to Rananal as we had in SJPP before heading up the hills.
Stop off for breakfast in a lovely laid back little hostal to the right of the track- it has a sunny courtyard, a friendly lady serving breakfast and great toast and juice-and magically we feel more confident. Then its a slightly surreal walk along a strange boggy landscape until we cross over the road and start the climb up. The sky is glowering but we see, pass and are passed by more pilgrims today than we have seen for ages. The feeling of being part of a larger group, and that no matter what happens someone will be behind you settles the butterflies in my stomach-a little.

Hoping 'conditions improve' on the way to Rananal

Stop at the 'Cowboy bar' and I immediately feel at home this local enterprise seems deeply 'kerry' to me, I expect to see a Fianna Fail election poster in the loo.
Now the lassies running it are very busy so they don't really have the time to:- take money, slice ham (and do a bit of quality checking by tasting a bit), cut cake, pat the dog, engage in conversation with a)the little girl that comes in for a chat b) the postman c) a delivery man who is also possibly a relative d)Pilgrims asking questions in bad Spanish....... at the same time as putting on and off those thin rubber catering gloves. So instead they just leave the gloves on and multitask. A Teutonic 'Pilgrim Sportif' nearly choked on his bocadillo when he came into the 'kitchen' to settle his bill. His jaw literally dropped and he started to cough. I whispered to Frances "Hows your Heimlich manoeuvre then?" and the two of us had to hold back the giggles. He spotted us and gave a wry smile, shrugged his shoulders and started to laugh as well- so he proved to be good sport(if) at the end of the day!
One of the overriding memories of our journey will be of laughing-all kinds of laughter- belly laughs, irrepressible giggles, explosive piggy snorts (my speciality) and wheezy exhausted chuckles.

We meet up with Jozefien, a Dutch pilgrim walking on her own. She has been ill and had to stay on longer in Carrion de los Condes (as a ill solo pilgrim in need she found the Madres Clarisas of Santa Clara to be less than warm and that fits in with what we've heard of others experience of that Albergue this spring). Despite the fact that we are all bundled up I recognise Jozefien as the lady from the hotel restaurant last night and we wonder where else along the route we could have 'leapfrogged' each other.

It turns out that we all share an interest in plants so when we spotted some beautiful little bronzey yellow Narcissi on the side of the path we all dropped to our knees for a closer look and, in Frances and Jozefiens case, to get close up shots. God knows what it looked like to passing pilgrims-3 middle aged woman, rears up in the air, prostrate before a miniature Narcissi making "oohhing" noises-maybe they thought we were Pantheists

Minature narcissi on the way up to Rananal

The snow/ice needles sting our faces and we envy Jozefien in her balaclava-I'm seriously thinking of trying to rig up something similar with a pair of knickers but Frances says "Nell if you're going to die- die with some dignity"- she has a point so I carry on with 'dignity' and a face as red as a slapped bum.
Jozefien and Nell on the way up to Rabanal

The old oak tree just before Rananal


Albergue Guacelmo is lovely just as everyone said it would be and I bet the garden is wonderful place to unwind in later spring and summer.

We have made good time so wander around the village for quite a bit, its beautiful place but the afternoon is cold and gray. I wanted to attend vespers but it seems the monks were on a day off. Have an odd image of a coach load of monks setting off from the middle of this tiny village on a day trip .
Walking 'up the town' Frances spots a wallet on the ground and we spent a good bit of time sourcing where the pilgrim was last seen (note to self photo id is so useful) of course it was the last bar we went into that recognised the photo id. They had heard this pilgrim talking about walking on to Manjardin so the girl in the bar jumped into her jeep, raced up the road, cut them off and then returned their wallet. The thought of loosing all your important stuff is horrid so we are really glad of the happy ending. Maybe the Camino gods will reward our good deed with sunshine?
Later that evening I break the Guinness world record for the number of times a backpack can be packed/repacked by one person-this frenzied displacement activity is a sure sign I'm worried. I'm apprehensive about the walk up to Foncebadon and the Cruz de Ferro- but try to keep positive and imagine its going to like my fears about the Meseta- unfounded. Heavy rain and lighting-maybe we should have kept the wallet (only joking Frances).
I maligned Frances with my notions of her late night macaroon scoffing last night in fact she has 'saved' two of them. Incredibly, they have become even more delicious and have got 'stickier,chewier and more flavoursome' in the last 24 hours. Like naughty little kids we nibble them after tooth brushing and lights out.

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