Return to the Mountains

Thursday: Astorga to Rabanal, 22k
Friday: Rabanal to Milaseca, 27k

In Astorga, it was once again proven to me that the Camino always provides. After a shower and nap, I had an intense craving for a pastry. I got about two blocks away from my albergue into the city center looking for a bakery when I was approached by a man who was likely Santiago himself. He was an older gentleman with a leather satchel, English cap, big beard, and bigger smile. Despite the fact that he knew I could not speak Spanish (and he did not speak English), once he identified me as a pelegrina he insisted I follow him back through the parts of the city I just walked through. It was very bizarre and opposite every stranger safety advice that was ever written, but my intuition told me it was ok. (Also the fact that he stopped and talked to some other local women who smiled and didn’t seem concerned for my safety helped). The gentleman whose name I do not know proceeded to show me a bell tower with a funny gong, the Roman history museum, some Roman ruins (which he was very excited to point out had a plaque written in English explaining them), and some lovely gardens around the original city wall, all the while trying to explain the sites through charades. He was clearly very proud of his city, and mostly I just smiled and nodded and said “bonito!” or “si si si!”. At the steps to my albergue, he left with a simple “Buen Camino!”. I loved the tour, but was a little disgruntled I missed out on my pastry. However, as soon as I walked back inside the albergue, I met up with Melissa and Mandie checking into the albergue along with some Italian friends they had made who immediately offered us all fresh cream-filled pastries they had just bought in town. Perfecto!

Those same Italians then invited us to a homemade dinner. They served wine, bread, risotto, fried fish, and cookies to over 35 people and refused to accept help or payment. (Though we might have promised to cook them an American dinner at some point, which Im slightly worried about.)
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It was delicious. Unfortunately, Im not sure my stomach was prepared for such a rich meal, and I got sick again in the middle of the night but felt fine to walk to Rabanal in the morning.

I considered pushing on to Foncebadon, but enjoyed a quiet and restful night on the bottom bunk in Rabanal. Shamus was there as well, but slept through dinner. I made a simple meal of soup and bread and yogurt that I shared with Matin, who has carried his guitar all the way from Holland, and another lovely French-Canadian named Dolores, who is walking the Camino for the third time and confirmed that the third leg of the Camino is what touches your soul. The walk today into the mountains was so beautiful I can easily believe it.
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I reached the summit of the first mountain just as the sun was rising (above) and continued along until I reached the highpoint of the entire Camino (below).
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Some of the views were simply breathtaking, but the clouds made it difficult to capture with my phone. But it made the climb well worth it!
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Some parts looked very similar to my beloved Blue Ridge Mountains, simultaneously lifting my spirits and leaving me with a small ache of homesickness. Only 9 more days to Santiago!

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