I walk for two hours and sure enough the same red, crumbling building is still there. David, who owns this place in the middle of nowhere, an hour from Astorga, dreams of turning it into an albergue. For the time being, he tends to a trail-side stall brimming with healthy food and juices. He pokes wood into the stove to keep a constant supply of hot water for the coffee and tea.
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I eat more than my fair share of peanut butter, olives, nuts and melon, stuff five Euros in the donation box, return his hug and wish him well.
I drop to Astorga, a large, pleasant town but it’s market day. The streets are clogged with thousands of people roaming around aimlessly with hands clasped behind their backs looking for nothing in particular. I squeeze past them, wait patiently behind others, stop for oncoming shoppers, then engage first gear and accelerate out.
I figure I can reach Rabanal del Camino by mid-afternoon. It’s a modest 300m above me but the incline is gentle. The Montes de Leon are hovering over me and I look forward to the fresh, cooler, mountain air.
Galicia, the final province of the Camino, beckons with rolling hills and subdued tracks weaving a route through emerald green countryside. Its Celtic roots are reflected in the traditions, cuisine and music.
I arrive in Rabanal and head straight for the Albergue Gaucelmo where I stayed in 2002. It’s run by the English St James Brotherhood and I have fond memories of welcoming staff and afternoon tea with biscuits.
When I walk through the arch into the courtyard, ten pilgrims are gathered around a table with the staff and are, indeed, drinking tea.
“Afternoon tea! ? I exclaim, smiling. How very civilised! .