Camino de Santiago – Astorga to Rabanal to Acebo

January 9, 2018

Astorga to Rabanal

I was worried about today being hard with some big hills and it being 21kms in the heat…again but needn’t have been. There were a couple of steep sections but nothing outrageous and if anything it felt easier than yesterday.

Started out early with Leonie and we stopped on the very outskirts of Astorga at Ecce Homo (hermitage), a lovely simple old church and shortly after we watched the sunrise over the city.

Stopped for second breakfast at Santa Catalina de Somoza and from there it was fairly flat and totally shade-less through to El Ganso, which is a very odd little place. Nothing ends the day quite like a steep climb into the township. Rabanal has dry stone walls everywhere and every building is stone. It’s the last night the Raw Travel crew of Llewllyn and Craig, and Leonie and I will be together, as they will have a few longer days and we all assumed we’d be staying at the same place. Suffice it say, we assumed wrong and were all a different places but we managed to catch up and have a lovely dinner together.

Rabanal to Acebo

Today is a big day on the Camino calendar as we come up to Cruz de Ferro. Cruz de Ferro (or the Cross in the Sky as George called it) is a simple cross on a very tall pole sitting on top of about 30 feet of rubble. The tradition is that you bring a stone from home and carry it in with you and it holds whatever burden you wish to leave behind, so when you get to Cruz de Ferro you add it to the pile. I’m not entirely sure that that is the original intention but that is what it has become

For me it was 16kms day but it was stinking hot and hard work although not as hard as I expected because we were going around the mountain no directly over it. Rabanal sits at 1150m and Cruz de Ferro is 1505m the highest point of the Camino. There were a lot more trees but unfortunately, that didn’t equate to any shade.

Second breakfast was at Foncebadon, which looks like it’s had an earthquake given the number of buildings that have fallen down. Apparently, the village has been in disrepair and neglect for many years but due to the popularity of the Camino, they are starting to rebuild. From here the walk to Cruz de Ferro was relatively easy, and being able to see it as I walked up the road was somewhat emotional.

Photos of the cross are usually taken from below, giving the impression there isn’t much else around, so it was quite a surprise to see it’s next to the road and there are trees everywhere.

I was going to walk up to the cross to put my stone on the pile when a busload of Asian tourists descended on it so waited until they had left. The energy of the place was very heavy and everyone was having their own emotional issues to deal with. I wasn’t sure what burden I was going to put in my stone until the day before and it was really just a throw-away thought that made me realise what I wanted to leave behind. A huge thank you to Sioux for her perfect timing after I came down from the Cruz.

We spent quite a while there and it was time to keep moving on. I didn’t want to get caught up in other peoples issues so chose to walk the 5kms to the next high point on my own. It was a very long and hot 5kms.

Finally starting to descend at last and it’s rocky and you have to pick your way very carefully with some very steep sections. Again, we are going around the mountain, not straight down it….after all, we’re pilgrims, not mountaineers.

Acebo was supposed to be only 6kms away but I wasn’t seeing it and then a sign said 800metres. It turned out to be the longest 800m of my life.

I stopped at the first cafe (in typical pilgrim style) and happened to catch up with Craig and Llwellyn, who were about to leave. I was pleased to have caught them as I hadn’t had a chance to say goodbye.

Had dinner with David, Sioux and the usual suspects at their albergue and it was another goodbye as they were all moving on ahead of me. I’m back to being on my own again….sigh! But dinner was lovely and the Lemon Mousse for dessert was fabulous.