Camino de Santiago Day Twenty-Four: Villares de Orbigo to Rabanal del Camino Relief

23 04 2018

We had such a great and peaceful sleep at Albergue el Encanto. I enjoyed a morning shower and Marta had set out a full breakfast feast of ham, cheese, fruit, coffee and juices. Despite our best intentions we still headed out on the late side, 9 am on the dot! Onward we went happy to see a good number of pilgrims enjoying breakfast or snacks already at Arnal restaurant.

Already upon loving Villares de Orbigo the scenery has changed. We hit some nice slopes and wove up around some cute towns. We even saw a gorgeous farm with teenage and baby cows A man was feeding one newborn from a bottle. The day was hot already as there was not a cloud in the sky.

After the farm the trail became inundated with gnats. We could not figure out their agenda. They swarmed us trying to get into our eats and eyes, noses and mouths. I’ve watched Naked and Afraid episodes where biting bugs drive the cast ton madness, their skin covered in welts… these didn’t even bite but over the course of an hour or so were infuriating. And there was no shade. It seemed our sweat attracted then more.

At least the scenery was nice though and soon the tops of some snowy mountains appeared and we begged them to send us a breeze.

Along a straightaway path we came across an enclave where a man had set up a rest stop. He lived there off the grid and offered food to pilgrims for free. He had a box for “gifts” but it was self serve and he was there making his own breakfast. There was all kinds of fruit, bread, jams and even cut melon slices. Just another unique Camino character.

Soon after our short rest we saw the town of Astorga laying below us. Suzy initially thought she’d get cash in Astorga but wouldn’t you know it it was a regional holiday in Leon so even though it was Monday everything was closed. Upon approaching the main square we found the town bustling with energy and a flag balancing competition was going on. After a quick bite and a beer we were off again.

The day was very hot and the route once again became an endless shadess senda along a thankfully less busy highway. It went on and on. Luckily we had a few towns where we could stop to rest for a moment, once at Bar Cris and once at Cowboy Bar.

Our feet were swollen, the sun was burning my knuckles and despite soaking bandanas in cold water we were dripping with perspiration. We convinced ourselves we could do it, but it was long and very hard. We eventually got off the road only to find a steep climb up a lot of fractured rock and then about a mile or two of tree stumps that seemed to want to throw us to the ground. Our leaden feet were so hard to lift off the ground.

Finally we saw the town and luckily our Albergue Senda was the first in the town proper. It is simple but clean but unfortunately our room was dark already when we rolled in at 7:15pm. People were already in bed trying to sleep. We did our best to be quiet as we fumbled around our packs and showered and had a pleasant and tasty pilgrim dinner at the bar next door, gazpacho with a hefty drizzle of olive oil and fried calamari for me. At 9:30 pm the sun was just going down but I crept into bed anyway, so tired and nothing else to do here in this corner of town anyway. 21.7 miles.

Tomorrow is a big day, up a steep slop to the Cruz de Ferro (Iron Cross) the highest elevation on the Camino, but then we are told that the descent is more difficult, very steep and down that fractured slippery rock.

Today was all mental. My feet are ok except one toe, what do you call the toe next to the big toe? Pointer toe? Lol, well it is bruised and angry and hard to bend but only whole in the shoe. No intense pain in the boots at the moment but the heat and the hours and hours of walking can be mentally draining. You just wait for relief. Relief is checking into the Albergue, taking off the boots, getting your body and hair wet and clean, finally getting food, maybe even huddling like we did around a little tree and thanking it for its shade. There are times when relief is elusive our here, quick and fleeting and incomplete. Just as in “the real world” sometimes relief is not offered completely. But a little bit can go a long way if you have faith that relief will be doled out as you need it.

They say the Camino provides you with what you need and so far that has been true.