Monday, 28 November 2011

Astorga to Tri Castela

Walking, walking, walking. From Astorga down along sidewalks back into the countryside. We made good time after our rest, past many more stone walls and buildings. A break for beer and a tortilla at the "Cowboy bar" in El Ganso (recommended by a fellow from New Orleans).
It was hot and as the camino left the meseta we chose to stop early at the Benedictine Monastery at Rabanal del Camino, another recommendation.The albergue there is run/hosted by English volunteers who do a "fortnight" shift each after training back in England. Tea was served at 4.
We elected instead to sit in the bar up the road and do our writing, then returned to have a quiet intimate dinner in the garden. Later a tour around the village, climbing up to walk along the highest roads for the view. Lots of ripe fruit, nuts and derelict stone and brick buildings. Also some well kept attractive houses. At sunset we met a couple of fellows from Seattle on a tour, their bags transported daily. The following day they were expected to do 35km.
We are into the mountains. Cold in the mornings, the air filled with wonderful smells, heather blooming and a propolis/Cottonwood scent. A rest break and fresh squeezed orange juice at an alpine like village. We work our way up, following a winding road up to a large cross. It was suggested to bring a stone from home to leave on the pile.
We waited till all the buses had left then clambered up for the "pose".
The Camino here is 'under construction' workmen hauling gravel to make a path beside the road. We weren't allowed to walk on it yet so continued on beside the road. Switchbacks and a steep rocky slope down through another village into a beautiful little valley filled with ancient Chestnuts and Oaks. Wonderful to just walk with Elke, talk about whatever and admire the scenery.
Into another town, narrow Roman roads and arched bridges, figs and almonds, sheep with bells. Another albergue, another peregrino menu. Waking up to rustling and Velcro, zippers and whispers. Emerging at dawn to walk on… this time to the bus through to Cacabelos past orchards of apple and quince, through really old vineyards, up, down and around beside the road, along the back roads/farm access. Peregrinos passing and passed.
Into a not so compelling place. We continue following a roman wall, farms below, fig tree canopies at the road edge delivering sweet morsels. Then along and under a major highway, trudging. The Camino detours off the road into tiny villages past piles of sawn chestnut lumber eventually dropping us into a small albergue where we reconnect with Yvonne from Ireland.
In the morning along the highway then up a narrow winding road through more chestnut, walnuts and oaks. It turns to track getting rough, steep and rocky as we begin the climb to O Ceibreiro. Visually breath-taking views rounding each corner. Beside me the pasture stretches uphill my eyes at ground level. Hot and sweaty, off come the shoes when we stop for cerveca con limon. A kilometre to the end of Castille and the beginning of Galicia.
We spend that night in a room and bed for dwarves after watching a falcon fly through the church before a wedding… much folk music performed outside the church in traditional costume.
Down the other side through alpine pine forest along old roads, little villages, interesting stone churches, hazelnuts and holly along a walled road, Elke changes her shoes after doctoring her feet. The pasture dropping away below has me wondering how the cows can stay upright. We pick a few blackberries, taste different from home, small and not so sweet. Up another rocky trail, along another highway and down again passing returning peregrino's who don't look so happy…
Another descent past wild almond trees, then big farms, renovations on the stone buildings, along a road lined with old trees, their roots grasping the rocks. An old man stops me to say (I think) "walk slowly, Santiago isn't going anywhere…"
In Tria Castela I recommend the little restaurant bar, Estelle's, (was she the one woman show running the place?) just below and behind the second Albergue on the main road.

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