They say the camino gives you many unique memories and experiences. To this I say, t’is true. 

Today, I awoke to the creaking noise of a bed that makes when someone is having sex – in the top bunk of the room that I and 6 others slept in. Sometime in the night, a 9th person had crept in and squeezed himself into to top bunk of a single bed. As I awoke to a regular squeaking noise, my first thought was “you’ve got to be kidding me!”. Yes, I’ve prepared myself for noise resulting from snoring, but not for this. And yes, I shushed them but really, I wanted to shine my bright torch on them. Why can’t you find these things when you want them?

Since we were awake, we decided to leave. The others decided to leave too. After all we were all awake. What possessed us to remain polite in the midst of this still boggles me. Why didn’t we just turn the main lights on? Instead, all of us packed up in semi darkness and left the room. Like we were the intruders. 

They say pilgrimages in ancient times were popular because it allowed peasants to travel, see the world, and have a bit of hanky panky on the side. I guess times have not changed.

The walk out was a bit tricky. It is hard to spot yellow arrows in the dark. After about a half hour’s walk, which included rechecking instructions, we made our way out of Astorga completely, as we walked out into the country, I had a thought for the missing American Chinese pilgrim who disappeared in early April. We were 3 peregrinas walking together. We were safe. Besides, what perpetrator is going to want to be up at the crack of dawn? No, we were pretty safe at 5.30 am.

The walk out of Astorga is fairly easy. It is mainly dirt track by the road walking, after a while, the hill begins to climb. At 7.30 am, we stop at a bar for breakfast. Sue buys everyone cafe con leche, tostada and a banana for breakfast. The bill comes to €15, so €5 per person. Sue says this is so cheap. I’m irritated. This is so expensive – for Spain. €1.50 for coffee, €2.50 for a bit of toast and a stick of butter and a spot of jam. €1 for a banana. Plus I hate bananas. And I hate that my breakfast was decided on someone’s preferences. 

We make our way up an incline. The day slowly gets hotter. The road is quite busy with pilgrims. You can see people to the front of us and to the back of us. We make good progress as we walk up a wooded area. The ground is uneven, with big round rocks ready to twist an unsuspecting ankle. 

We stop by to visit a horse grazing. I stopped to say hello. His head is big and I pat him on his nose. But he looks bitey. So instead I decide to take a selfie with him. He is a bitey horse. He tries to chew my scarf, leaving big brown stains on it. Icky! I channel zen into my being again. It’s just dirt, it can get washed out.

We see Rabanal in the distance but as is usual, it takes another hour to get in. My goal is to meet Sue’s stated objective of 18 km a day. It is short, but it is also Day 1 for them. Besides, Sheila had sent a message not to stay in Foncebadon as it looked like a bed bug town, I take her advice. To go beyond to El Acebo would make the day too long. Besides, I wanted to stay at Albergue Gaucelmo, an albergue run by the British Confraternity of St James.

I am glad. It is a lovely refugio next to the church. And the hospitaleros speak English. It is so nice to speak English, instead of pidgeon Spanish. The plantings are quintessentially English. It is a bit of home. Ironically, when I asked if there were many British nationals visiting, they said no. Most are from other nationalities.

The climb up to Gaucelmo is fairly steep and intense. If we weren’t sufficiently worn out by the day’s walk, we were after that climb. Cheap massage services were on offer – an enticing €10 for half an hour. But you had to walk back down the hill. Unspoken rule – you don’t go backwards! Someone was prepared to go backwards for massage. Alas, no services were available as the masseuse had the day off on account of tendonitis in her arm. I felt there was some irony in that.

Gaucelmo is a lovely place to stay. Clean beds and toilets. Lovely garden to snooze out back. Best of all, Gaucelmo has a clothes spinner that will help take the water out of your clothing, making it dry faster.

Early morning sunrise. A rare sight for me as I’m never up this early.

Patting Mr Ed
Crosses in fences. it’s actually much harder to do than it looks. plus all decent sized sticks have been used.
Exterior of Albergue Gaucelmo

Daisies in a nook
A rather English garden
Afternoon tea
The town of Rabanal
Windows into other people’s lives
Stone cottages. So different from the mud brick homes of the Meseta.
We were bar hopping camino style where we bought a Magnum sandwich ice cream.