Day 24: Rabanal to Acebo aka Mad Cow(s)

Once again, we were awoken by church bells at 7 AM (I’m glad they have not one, but three churches for a town of less than 50). Really though, how have people not made any complaints about this? Breakfast was five euros and I would’ve paid five euros to get back my untainted taste buds. I was initially stoked to hear that that they had gluten-free bread, but it turned out to be as old as the Roman remains in town. I swear it may, or may not have had mold on it. Luckily, I still had day-old toasted bread from Astorga yesterday that I saved in case of emergency. I suppose this was an emergency.

To make up for this breakfast faux pas, today’s hike was one of my favorites on the Camino. We were amongst a fall changed mountain range, so cold, that even the leaves were frosted. In Paolo Coelho’s ‘Pilgrimage,’ the protagonist fights a dog aka his darkest fear at the Iron Cross in Foncebadon. It was unfortunate to find this same town looking more like a ghost town than anything else, with a population of eight people. We grabbed some nuts to eat, but were too cold to sit and enjoy them.

Soon after, we were at Cruz de Farro, where the iron cross sits for pilgrims to unload their symbolic burdens and actual stones they carry throughout the Camino. My coworker, Diana had given me her father’s rosary that he had given her prior to passing away. I was happy to carry it up until now, as it gave me a sense of peace and protection. I saw some pilgrims laughing and some crying at the cross. While others just sat silent, staring at the item that had left to unburden themselves. I had carried a rock for myself that symbolized part of my past that I wanted to symbolically let go of. I was naturally emotional about it. 

In Manjarin, a town of two, a donativo albergue owned by Tomas sits pretty. In this shack of an albergue, tons of religious artifacts popped out from the walls. We looked around, grabbed a snack, left a donation and moved on. On our way out, we heard cows making the most awful of sounds. We thought maybe there were a few in labor? I’m not accustomed to being on a farm, so the noises frankly spooked me. Soon after, we spotted the cows, some running, some walking quickly from one side to another. Mooing like something was really wrong. Meanwhile, only a small wire fence separated us from them, making it seem like they could stampede us on a whim. Later, someone told us that there was speculation of their calves having been taken away from them that morning :(

At nearly an elevation of 5,000 feet, my ears were ferociously popping. At the top, and below a military base was a pop-up bar where we sat for a cup of coffee. And where the owner begged to stamp my passport... I mean really begged. The descent to Acebo wasn’t as steep as I had expected, and the town looked Icelandic from far away. Our albergue was yet again at the very end of town. On the way, we saw Tondto, who although was limping really looked like he had been walking this time, as he had definitely seemed slimmer.

Our albergue (Casa del Peregrino) was anything but an albergue. It felt like a higher-end hotel, that we were surprised it was only €50. Albeit closed for the season, it even has a pool. We were famished, and it was only 1 PM so we decided to share a salad. Half way through, we noticed a dead fly amongst the cut up tomatoes (#organic). When the waitress came by, I pointed it out to her. Her response, “That’s life.” The pilgrim dinner wasn’t great, but the company we had was. We again sat with the Delaware family, who entertained us for hours. They appear to have a brilliant and healthy dynamic, and can really tell they all genuinely like and respect one another. The father told us that he first took the kids to New Zealand when they were three. Both him and his wife said, “Just because we had kids, didn’t mean we were going to stop traveling.” I’m all about that.

The Rosary

"That means so much to me (and dad, up above) that you thought of him. I know he is watching over you. Me and my kids think of you everyday! God Bless XXXX OOO"

Awh I’m glad :) I feel honored you allowed me to carry it on for him until this point. His memory and presence are now forever part of the Camino. I hope you’re well xx