Tag Archives: Rabanal del Camino

Camino Day 28 – Rabanal to Molinaseca: Lows and Highs. And Lows.

Friday 15 September 2023 – The day’s weather forecast worsened somewhat overnight and we woke to find that (a) the prospect of rain in the morning had increased and (b) the likely timing of thunderstorms in the afternoon had shifted earlier. With just a 20% chance of rain for the morning, we thought we might escape getting wet.

We were wrong.

You can see the usual Relive summary of the route and pictures here, if you want to avoid my moaning about the day as laid out below.

As we stepped out of the hotel and prepared to start off

it started to rain. And

continued to rain for quite some time, with very occasional breaks from heavyish rain to lightish rain

before closing in again.

The path

was stony and really not all that rewarding to walk on, particularly not in the wet. We passed a sobering memorial.

Memo to self: perhaps best to walk the Camino just once?

Thankfully the rain stopped after only an hour or so

as we approached a village, Foncebadón,

which actually had some places open and serving coffee, so we stopped to refresh ourselves. The weather improved as we carried on

and the sun actually came out as we approached what, for some people, is the crux of the Camino – the Iron Cross.

This is an iconic point on the Camino Francés, with all kinds of meanings depending upon what you read; but people regard it as an important landmark on the way and often (as we did) leave a stone around the base as a mark of some kind of reflection.

Every website I browsed asserted that, at 1504m above sea level, it’s the high point of the Camino.

They’re wrong. Read on to find out more.

The cross is admittedly at a good height, and the reasonable weather provided the possibility of reasonable views as we carried on.

The path drops down a little, past a couple of notable items: a coffee stop;

and the village of Manjarin. Manjarin is notable because it’s very small, So small, in fact, that its official population is 1.

His name is Tomás and he has a small and ramshackle property

which he shares with a couple of dogs and a couple of kittens.

He’s eccentric, but not, it seems, quite as much as Marcelino the eccentric “pilgrim in training” we met on the way out of Logroño. Jane secured us a stamp on our Credenciales and we went on our way, ascending as the path went uphill…

…to the real high point of the Camino – 1563m above sea level, according to Relive, or 1500 according to Garmin. (They’re both using my phone’s GPS to measure things, so I’m buggered if I can understand the discrepancy.)

The views were, quite simply, wonderful.

It was just as well that the views were great, because this is the point at which the day’s suffering really started, because we had to drop 1km in altitude in about 11km.  We started on the official Camino path, but it was somewhat stony and very unrewarding to walk on, so we copped out for a bit and walked down the road, which was more comfortable, albeit slightly more circuitous than the path.  It led to El Aceibo de San Miguel,

where we stopped for coffee. It’s an attractive village, with dwellings clearly built from, and roofed with, the local stone which, we were to discover, littered the onward path.

The onward path was stony and really quite uncomfortable to walk on, but we soldiered on, in the hope that we might get some relief in the form of another coffee break in the next village. We encountered a dog which appeared to be out on its own and seemed to want to lead us into the village.

Riego de Ambrós, even more than El Aceibo, seemed to be made entirely of stone dwellings with slate roofs.

It reminded us strongly of some of the villages you find in North Wales.  The fact that it started to rain at this point merely reinforced the impression.

The path from then on was an utter bastard.  It was raining, so the path was at best steep, downhill and wet,

and at worst

steep, downhill, wet, rocky and treacherous. And the thunderstorms originally forecast for later in the day got under way, too.  It really was most unpleasant. We had the company of Lara, who we’d bumped into periodically during the day, as a bit of a pleasant distraction, but it didn’t detract from the brute hard work of getting down the path without damaging ourselves.

It was slow going, and meant that our eventual arrival into Molinaseca

was around an hour later than we’d originally thought it would be. We passed allotments

whose owners were probably delighted to see the rain, and eventually came to the town bridge

just across which was our hotel – El Palacio. Its palatiality didn’t extend to a lift so we had to lug our bags up the stairs to our room, but the room itself is decent and the hotel restaurant was still open so we grabbed a quick lunch. After a meal, we normally go for a walk. Obviously. But the prospect was not an enticing one

so we spent the rest of the day relaxing and preparing for the morrow.

Our next destination, Cacabelos is, overall, a descent from Molinaseca, but not overall a steep one, although there may be one or two sharpish sections. Hopefully the 22km to get there will not be such a test for the knees and quads as today, and with luck not conducted in the pissing rain.

I’d describe today as being one of the toughest, perhaps even the toughest yet, of our Camino. As far as stats are concerned, Relive reckons we covered 25.5km, taking our total to 576.3km; just over 358 miles. We ascended 451m and descended 1,027 – the largest descent, I think, that we have ever achieved. That’s what my knees are telling me, anyway.

It says here that tomorrow will be an easier day, and that’s certainly to be hoped for. Come back soon and find out, eh?


Camino Day 27 – Astorga to Rabanal del Camino: start of the climbs

Thursday 14 September 2023 – Today’s task: get to Rabanal del Camino, some 21km away and halfway up the first of two hills we must climb in order to reach Galicia, the province wherein lies Santiago de Compostela. This first climb is not a particularly steep one; that comes in about five days’ time, but we will have a rest day to gather our energies beforehand. For today, with cool but sunny weather forecast, there didn’t seem to be a need to rush out early. Accordingly, we took advantage of a decent breakfast buffet and left at about 0815, with an extra layer to keep us warm in a temperature of around 11°C.

As usual, you can see a summary of the day – route and photos – in a Relive video.

A short distance from the hotel we came across another wonderful mural.

I suppose the technology to put this kind of display up must be digital in some way – I can’t imagine an artist painting it by hand – but however it’s done, it looks spectacular.  Just by it was another trompe l’oeuil mural, much smaller, but nice to look at and quite possibly hand-painted.

The Camino route took us past the Cathedral, where I managed to get a photo of the whole building, in a lovely morning light.

So when I said yesterday that it wasn’t possible to get far enough away from it to take a photo of it, I was wrong; what I should have said was that I wasn’t paying attention because I was distracted by the Gaudi Palace which is just to the right of the picture above.

As we walked out of Astorga, we passed a modern church building, Iglesia de San Pedro de Rectivía.

When we travelled around Iceland, we collected photos of many Interesting Churches there, and the architecture alone of this one qualifies as Interesting; what is more Interesting is that the front is decorated in mosaics – possibly a nod to the Roman roots of the city.

It’s fantastic piece of work and a delight to see.  I suspect that the interior is Interesting, too; the side windows looked as if they had modern stained glass in them.

We moved on into open country, with very clear visibility,

emphatically not a usual characteristic of Walker holidays, passing the Ermita del Ecce Homo

and stopping for coffee in Murias de Rechivaldo, whose church had a stork’s nest fit to bring down the church bell tower.

The main Camino route carries basically along the road, but we took a detour, as suggested by both the Brierley book and our WalkTheCamino online map, so took a side track

that led to Castrillo de los Polvazares, a village that has been rebuilt by artisans in the traditional Maragato style.  It’s very photogenic, so I, erm, took lots of photos. To save you from having to look through them all, I put them in a Flickr album, which you can view by clicking this image.

Castrillo de los Polvazares

Here’s a little taster for you.

It’s photogenic and it’s attractive; but it was also stone dead. There are loads of restaurants but nothing open for the thirsty pilgrim, and there’s a largish car park outside, so I guess it’s a destination for meals out and tourists. So it felt a bit weird; slightly fake in some way, even though the buildings are real buildings and people really live there.

As we carried on, we could see the next village, Santa Catalina de Somoza, in the distance.

Whilst not as pretty, it was not unattractive, and also exhibited the Maragato style,

but, more to the point, had a (open) coffee stop

in an albergue which had an attractive courtyard inside.

Refreshed, we carried on on a track which basically followed the road to our destination

and was littered with pilgrims and various retail opportunists.

The official Camino route led round the periphery of the next village, El Ganso; but we Jane had read that this was a crumbling village that was gradually being brought back to life on the back of Camino business, so we instead walked through on the road in search of refreshment and an opportunity to spend our tourist Euros.

Indeed there was a shop and bar there and we treated ourselves to a proper tourist ice lolly of a sort not dissimilar to, and just as messy to eat as, a Magnum. That’s four whole Euros in the pocket of the lucky proprietor and we felt better for our support for the local economy.

The track passed a section of wire netting which pilgrims had adorned with makeshift crosses, just as we had seen some three weeks ago as we headed into Navarrete.

There was a short, sharp and rocky ascent at one stage but for the rest of our walk we followed the roadside track to our destination, which is an attractive place, albeit quite a steep walk up the main drag.

Our accommodation, El Refugio,

offers a restaurant as well as decently-sized and organised bedrooms, so we availed ourselves of a lunch there

which was not only enjoyable, despite being quite simple, but also gave us Jane an idea or two of culinary things to try when we get home.

Which is in less than three weeks, by God! We have the first climb to finish, which we will do tomorrow as we head to Molinaseca, the longest of any of our Camino segments, at around 26km, with a further 400m to ascend and then, probably more demanding, 900m to descend. After a few days we do the Difficult Climb to O Cebreiro and into Galicia, at which point we will be less than150km from Santiago.

For today, though, our stats. We walked 22km and climbed nearly 340m.  Our total distance covered so far is therefore 550.8km, just over 340 miles. Our knees and quads will likely be suffering at the end of the next stage, so please feel free to come back and have a laugh at our expense once I report in these pages, won’t you?