Day 20: Hospital de Orbigo – Rabanal del Camino

36.4 km

After the miraculous feeding of the 15 in Hospital de Orbigo, I accompanied my hospitalerio into town for some late night tapas and vino with the locals.  Such late night excursions are a rarity on the Camino, as the doors of albergues are usually locked early to encourage early departures.

It’s always a good thing to make friends with keyholders.

On the way out of town in the morning — as always a little later than I had hoped — I ran into Frank from the night when there was no room in the inn.  He was making exceptional time.

The hope today was to make it to Rabanal del Camino, the last village before a rather steep and desolate ascent.  The confraternity of UK pilgrims has an albergue there, notorious for serving a proper tea on the lawn.

A rather strenuos trek, despite several cerveza stops including the charmingly windswept and eccentric “cowboy bar” found me more at odds with the landscape than I was used.

Why must there be a hill?
Why must there be a descent?
Am I there yet? (Where is there?)
How am I going to be able to put one foot in front of the other, again?

Through the final ascent into Rabanal, my anticipation of English hospitality is what kept me going.

Upon my arrival in Rabanal latish in the day (4?), my hopes began to sink.  The first albergue was crowded with many rucksacks lined up across the front.  Had everyone stopped here and not made into town to the British?

Lots of people milling the streets.

Behind the church, down an alley, once the parish priest’s maragata was where the British were supposed to be.  Alas, upon the narrow wooden gate hung the devestating “completo” sign.  Once again no room in the inn, and more importantly no tea.

I wandered about Rabanal morosely from some 15 minutes.  Would I go on? It was far to the next village and it was rustic.  Would I stay in one of Rabanl’s fancy hotels? I was poor.  I didn’t know what I wanted, once I knew I couldn’t have what I wanted.

But then, it occurred to me I wanted to rest.  There was a private albergue with a nice courtyard.  It wasn’t everything I had hoped, but it was a bed and meal.

I stumbled into the Refugio del Pilar, presented my credencial to the hospitalero and attempted to speak Spanish.  These conversations all go the same: “uno cama, por favor,” “cuanto cuesta?” and then gesticulate from there for dinner time etc.

Here, though I was completely tongue-tied.  It took me awhile to register what “cinqo euros” meant and he couldn’t figure out what “USA” meant.  I tried “etats-unis,” “America,” “Obama” to no avail until from behind I heard “estados unidos.”  Ah yes.  That’s it.  Thank god, for well-prepared Frenchmen.

Raphael had just resumed walking after taking a break as a hospitalero for a few days. He had started the Camino in his home of Dijon, 900km from St. Jean where I started; after several 50k days, his legs would go no further.  This day, his first in several, he would go no further.  And together we would walk the rest of the way to Santiago.

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