Rabanal Del Camino to Acebo - 17.0 km

June 4
Lat: 42.497778 Lon: -6.455833

The albergue came alive at 6 a.m. as everyone was getting up and packing. It was as if everyone knew this was going to be an uphill day so they wanted to get a jump on it. I was packed from the night before. When I stay in an albergue, I always make sure that my clothes are packed along with everything that is going into the bottom of my pack. It not only makes getting packed quicker and a little quieter, if people are still sleeping, but it also cuts down on leaving something behind. Always remember to double check on your bed as well as underneath it to make sure you have everything. If there is one thing that I'm "OCD" about, it is double checking to make sure that I have everything with me. That's both when I leave in the morning as well as every time I stop and take my pack off.

I was on the trail as usual by 6:30 a.m. It was another beautiful morning along the Camino as the skies were a deep shade of blue and the temps were going up fast beginning in the upper 40s and in the upper 60s by 4 p.m. The mountain out of town is a steady climb for the first 7.8 km all the way to La Cruz de Ferro (The Iron Cross) at 1,505 meters. At Foncebadon, which is about 5.8 km from town, I stopped at the restaurant and had a cup of coffee and a chocolate croissant. I then pushed on to the top at the Iron Cross, which has an iron cross on top of a wooden pole at the top. For centuries, Pilgrims have stopped to reflect on why they are walking "The Way," leave a stone at its base, and then move on. I left my rock at the base of the cross, one I brought with me from the summit of Mt. Kathadin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail which I completed in 2000. The views were the best that I've seen since starting. You can still see snow on all the mountains off in the distance.

The trail starts to drop down now all the way to Acebo. Several sections along the way are covered with a lot of various-sized rolling rocks, so be careful going down from the top. You will come to one section on the trail which will require some care. This section is in or around the extremely small village of Manjarin. You have to go onto the road and walk it. The road is very narrow and curvy and the cars go extremely fast.

After you get off the road and back on the trail, it’s a great path and easy to follow except for the loose rocks on the trail going down into the village of Acebo. There is an error in my book, which says that the name of the Casa Rural Hostelles is "La Posada del Peregrino," but in fact it's now called "The Casa de la Peregrino." This is a great place; it's modern and clean. I got checked in and cleaned up and went to the restaurant and got something to eat.

As I was eating my lunch I saw Michele and Sharon (the Canadians) come into town and then Andy and Paul (the Australians) followed after that. It was nice to catch up with them. Both groups ate and then pushed on to Molinaseca for the night. After I finished eating lunch and they all left, I decided that I'd look over the town. I walked to the bottom of the hill and saw three more albergues and two more restaurants; that was the tour of the town. But I still love these small towns so much more than the big ones. When I got back to the “hostelles,” Hawk and Christine came in. They got settled in and took a nap and then it was almost time to go to dinner.

Today was one of my best days out here. It had everything: mountains, views, and beautiful weather. I'm only hoping that tomorrow will be a repeat of today. Until then we'll just have wait and see what tomorrow brings. So check back and see where i am then... Buen Camino!

Astorga to Rabanal dal Camino - 21.9 km

June 3
Lat: 42.481111 Lon: -6.280556

I got up at 6 a.m. and was on the street by 6:30 a.m. The morning was beautiful with deep blue skies, like the High Sierras in California and the temps were tolerable even without a jacket. It was but about 30 minutes before I was out of the jacket. There was nothing open except for the albergue up the street which served a bad cup of coffee so I decided that I'd get a cup up the trail. I stopped about an hour later in the town of Santa Catalina de Somoza where there was a nice restaurant and albergue. The place had a lot of people sitting outside as well as inside. The man behind the bar was doing everything by himself including running back to the kitchen and cooking. It was a little slow, but I wasn't in a hurry and the coffee was great.

After about 30 minutes I got out of there and back on the trail. Just before I got to El Ganso, I caught up with a couple, Chris and Wendy. They are from Canada and new to long distance hiking. We talked for a while until we got to a restaurant by the name of “Cowboys” in the village of El Ganso. They were going to stop there so I pushed on.

Up to this point the trail has been completely level and walking along side of a road, but now it was going to take a change. I really loved this part of the trail as it started to climb and went into the woods. It reminded me of the Appalachian Trail back home. This went on for about 4.5 km before it started going into the little town of Rabanal del Camino. As you enter the town, there is a bar/restaurant on the left and the albergue (private) next door. I stopped there and checked it out. It was clean and neat, and I was the second one to come in so I got to pick the bed that I wanted. As soon as I was in I went to clean up and wash clothes. The total cost is only 5 euros for the night. I've been staying at a lot of “hostelles,” but I think that I'm going to start staying at more albergues in the near future. It's nice to have a private room and bathroom, but it's nice to connect with the hikers that are out here.

I had bathed, washed clothes, and eaten lunch when Hawk and Christine came into town. I didn’t know where they were staying so I was very surprised when I found out they were next door. This was great because we didn't have to go looking for one another. They cleaned up and ate lunch while I went and looked the town over. I have found that while the larger cities are nice and have many things to do and see, it's the small villages that are the most fun.

I have been speaking Spanish only to the extent that I can when I'm dealing with the locals and I always tell them that I'm trying to learn Spanish. They all smile and most start speaking more slowly and help me out. The little lady that owns the albergue smiled and said “bueno, bueno.” I’ve since gone to her a couple of times and asked how to say a few words. I've been having a great time every day. First the walking is enjoyable with the views and then when I get in town and stop for the day I get out my books and study/ practice Spanish.

I met up with Hawk and Christine for dinner at 7 p.m. It was the best grilled chicken breast that I've had since I've here. After dinner we all went our separate ways to prepare for tomorrow and the little climb out of here. I don't think it's going to be too much. We'll see. I do know that in the next few days we start climbing back into the mountains. At this point, our total mileage walked: is 554.7 km.

Today has been one of my best days yet. Hopefully tomorrow will be even better. Stay tuned for more... Buen Camino!

Hospital de Orbigo to Astorga - 17.1 km

June 2
Lat: 42.457222 Lon: -6.055833

Today I was awakened by everybody getting up and packing to leave so I got up at 6 a.m., packed out, and was on the trail by 6:30 a.m. The trail today was one of those parts that gives you options on the which route to take. At the last house in town you have a choice to make on which way to go. You can take the “senda” route, which walks along the side of the road, or you can take the route that goes overland and through the various little towns and villages. I chose the latter route which was longer and less travelled and I left the “senda” to everyone else. It was a nice peaceful route and the weather was a mild 48 degrees that climbed to around 68 degrees.

After about an hour I came across someone else that wanted peace and quiet. It wasn't long before I met a woman named Joanie and we walked along together. We came into the small village of Villares de Orbigo, where we had breakfast together. Shortly after we started eating, Jamie came in and joined us. This was the only place that was open at that time of morning, but the food was good.

We all finally left and headed on toward Astorga. Somewhere alongside the way, Jamie dropped back but we picked up a fellow from California, Jeff. He is a fireman with the Santa Clara Fire Department. He had a good pace and all three of us got along very well. We made it all the way to Astorga where we had lunch together, but then they pushed on to a further distance. I, on the other hand stayed in Astorga where I went into the Caminos museum and the Cathedral.

I checked into my “hostelles” at the Gaudi Hotel, where I have a room which is really nice. Hawk and Christine came into town later in the day. I had a great time in town and the dinner was great. After dinner we walked around town until nearly dark, and by the way, it doesn't get dark until after 10 p.m. so you always get in bed when it is still light. As a point of interest, this is one of those towns that if you weren't in a hurry or on a time schedule you could easily take an extra day and check out the sights, maybe even walk back to the Chocolate Museum. It was closed today and tomorrow as it is the celebration of Corpus Christi, a Festival day.

Tomorrow is going to be a longer day so I'll be up early to continue the journey. There's more to follow... Buen Camino!

Hospital de Orbigo - Zero Day (0 km)

June 1
Lat: 42.463333 Lon: -5.884167

I slept in again this morning until 7 a.m. and then got up to leave for a few hours so they could clean the bedrooms and I could come back again. I asked the man in charge where to put my pack for safe-keeping and he put it in a closet and told me it would be fine. I left and went to the nearby restaurant and met up with Jamie to have breakfast. After breakfast we walked around town to look at all the venders that were set up for the festival.

About 10:30 a.m. we both came back to the albergue to wait for them to open and give us our new bunk assignments. But when we got in, I went to the closet to get my pack only to find it gone! The man was also gone. I asked the lady there where my pack was in Spanish and all she could tell me was that it wasn’t in in the closet. I told her that the man had put it there and she said “No!” It took me about 15 minutes to communicate with her until I was told that it was sitting outside. Finally with pack in hand I could get my bunk and get ready for the festivities of the day.

Today’s weather was beautiful blue skies and warm enough to sit outside in a short sleeve shirt...finally! At 7:00 it was 57 degrees and by 5 p.m. it was 64 degrees. The narrow streets were full of folks going both ways along with people on stilts, jesters, belly dancers and a variety of other Medieval knights and people dressed in costume of the period. There were musical groups playing lutes, drums, and even a bagpipe. It's been a lively day and there is more tonight and even tomorrow including a joust. I'll miss a lot of tomorrow as I'm heading out of town around noon to get in 18 km so I can stay on schedule.

A bunch of us met at 6:30 p.m. for dinner and afterward I planned to walk around the town before going to bed. I just love these small towns… there is so much to do. However, it was starting to get late after dinner, so at 8:45 p.m. I headed back do the albergue to start getting packed for an early start and a good night’s sleep.

More to follow... Buen Camino!

Villar de Mazarife - Hospital de Orbigo - 15.0 km

May 31
Lat: 42.463333 Lon: -5.884167

I had a good night’s sleep in the albergue last night and laid in for a little bit to allow others to get up first. I was going to only hike a very short day, but still wanted to see a sunrise so I hit the trail at 7 a.m. It was very cold at 37 degrees, but the skies were beautiful and the sunrise was great. I was hoping for a cup of coffee and a donut but that wasn't to happen as everything was closed so I was forced to push on for 10 km to the Albergue Sta. Louis in Villavante. That was a good choice though as I spent over an hour there since it was only 9 a.m. and had I pushed on I would have had to sit and wait for the albergue to open. They had WiFi there also allowing me to catch up my e-mails.

The walk from Villar de Mazarife all the way to Hospital de Orbigo was completely level and was a nice easy walk. As a matter of fact there has been very little uphill trail since the beginning. However I'm still seeing people with foot, leg, and blister problems. I don’t think it's because the trail is too hard, but that they are trying to go too far and too fast each day and are injuring themselves. This isn't a trail to be rushed, but enjoyed more leisurely. There is a lot to see along the way and a lot of people to meet.

I noticed as I was crossing the bridge when coming into town that there were ribbons and banners lining the streets, and venders were starting to set up little booths. When I asked what was going on, I was told that it was the annual Medieval Festival, complete with jousting. I found out that it starts tomorrow and runs through Sunday night. I've now adjusted my schedule to stay until Sunday afternoon and then walk the 17 km to Astorga. I think that it will be worth the time.

Well it looks like I'll get to sleep in a little again tomorrow. As I have said before the food keeps getting better as I head west. For lunch today I had "pollo asado," baked chicken with potatoes, and a salad which I didn't think could get any better but then tonight I had a steak with potatoes and a salad. They are crazy about French fried potatoes here and I never turn down a salad. You will need to eat greens every chance that you get because it doesn't happen that often apart from the salad.

Well that's about it for the day. It's time to work on Spanish before turning in. As always...Buen Camino!

Leon to Villar de Mazarife - 20.1 km

May 30
Lat: 42.484444 Lon: -5.725278

I woke up this morning at 6 a.m. and since I had packed before bed last night, I was out the door and walking up the street by 6:30 a.m. Although it was a cool 37 degrees, it was great to start so early. I plan to do this every morning.

I made it out of town quickly, but was ever mindful of the option for the trail that lay ahead in the town of La Virgen Del Camino where it turns abruptly to the left and goes across country toward Villar Mazarife. If you miss the turn then you head farther south to the town of Villadangos Del Paramo and then you have to take taxi to get you back on track.

Just before I got to La Virgen del Camino, I met a young lady by the name of Jennifer who was from Austin, Texas. This was her first hike on the Camino. We walked together and used both sets of eyes to find the turnoff. It was great walking with her; she had a good pace and was interesting to talk with. She has an undergrad in anthropology and an MBA, both from University of Texas. She was business smart and is thinking of starting a business when she finishes the Camino.

We stopped in the little town of Fresno del Camino at a nice little cafe where we got something to eat and I got my standard “cafe con leche y chocolate crescent roll.” The thing about the rolls, bread or the pastries here is that they are delivered fresh every morning so it just about melts in your mouth. After breakfast we took off for the next coffee break which was about 7 km away in Chozas de Abajo. We went by there and never saw it. Before we knew it, we were in Villar de Mazarife where I had planned to meet Hawk and Christine.

We ate again and then she took off for Villavante, which was about 10 km farther up the trail. She had plenty of time as we made it to my destination by 10:30 a.m. so I had a long wait before Hawk and Christine came in. We were supposed to stay at the albergue "Casa de Jesus," but this Canadian came in and checked it out and said that it was okay, but that the WiFi didn't work well. I had already been looking at the Antonio de Padua and found out that the WiFi was great there so I just went there and got a bed. A few hours later Hawk and Christine came in and cancelled their reservation for the private room at the albergue and got a private room here as well.

This is a small village of about 400 people and the albergue fixes dinner and breakfast the next morning. This is a nice private place with 50 bunks. I'll be in an albergue tomorrow night and have been thinking of staying in more as it keeps you in more contact with the “Peregrinos” on the trail. The only down side is if you want to leave early, you will always disturb people in the morning with packing up.

They are calling everyone for dinner so more to follow tomorrow. As always...Buen Camino!

Leon - Zero Day (0 km)

May 29
Lat: 42.601389 Lon: -5.576667

Because this was a zero day I decided to sleep in a little late this morning, get up at 7 a.m., and enjoy a full day of sightseeing. I went down to the restaurant and had coffee and starting practicing my Spanish with the friendly waitress that was there the night before. After breakfast I walked back toward the Cathedral to go into the small shops. I did that until around noon and then toured the Cathedral until about 1:30 p.m. when I met up with Hawk and Christine for lunch. Leon is a nice town and has a lot to do as well as a lot of places to eat. It is a large city but not one where you always feel like you getting lost.

After lunch it was time to work on my Spanish. I went conversation hunting and it wasn't long before I had one. I've been explaining to people that I am trying to learn Spanish and in no time they are helping me with words and phrases that I don't understand. One of the most enjoyable things about this trip is working on learning the language.

Several museums in the area also offer tours but I just didn't have enough time to visit everything. To do everything you'd need to stay about two days and tomorrow is another hiking day so tonight it will be early to bed on the trail by sunrise... Buen Camino!

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