DAY TWENTY NINE: 6 November 2012 Staying in Rabinal Del Camino
The walk to Rabinal was a gentle escalator ride into the foothills of the Monte de Leon. A November day masquerading as a blowsy, bright, Spring washed ocassion. A deceptively easy walk considering that beyond Rabinal I will be heading on to the highest point of the Camino. I am not going to question today’s gift of effortless pilgrimage. The route is dotted with stone built villages; tidy, quiet monuments to time. At Murias de Rechivaldo I was in two minds about taking the detour to Castrillo de Polvares, a traditional cobbled Margato village painstakingly rebuilt by local artisans as a tribute to history. I find contrived tourism repelling and compelling in equal measure. In the end I miss the turn and find myself treading a pleasurable path well away from the rush of traffic. Out of nowhere it seems appears Ronald. The landscape turns into a fascinating farrago of conversation; Ronald is a psychologist, walking the Camino to reconnect with his own truth. He started his pilgrimage from the Netherlands by bicycle; at some point his heart called him to send his wheels back home and take to his feet. We walk and talk continuing our earnest conversation in the Cowboy Bar in El Ganso – a quirky outpost of the wild west in this semi abandoned village. As Rabanal Del Camino artfully emerges from its rocky surroundings we are captured from afar by a German film crew taking filler shots for a TV Travel programme about food along the Camino. They are disappointed that we are not German but as we look the part; blonde and well fed, we are confident that the footage will end up in the final edit.
My arrival in Rabinal coincides with some pre scheduled coaching sessions so I make my way to the Hosteria el Refugio where, unusually, I had taken the precaution of booking a room. A rugged, comfortable bar with a roaring wood stove greets me but as my host unlocks the door into the chill echoing chamber of the hotel I am not so sure. I am the only one staying. I am shown to a dark, sparse single room at the back of the building. When I ask are there any other rooms available to me I am told no. This is the only single one. Momentarily I am caught by the finality of my reservation and then realise that this is not what I would love. I will be spending 6 hours online serving the hearts of my clients and it doesnt ring that I should compromise myself in the process. The village is a throw back in time and at this time of the year eerily empty. I am not sure that there are alternatives but just down the street there is an open half door at the Cruz De Ferro Casa Rural. The equivalent to a bed & breakfast in England, it didnt have the public openness of the Hosteria but it had a personal welcome and a choice of rooms at a cheaper price. The twin room I pick at the front of the house has a wide, deep window, a view over crumbling walls and quietly loitering homes set against a muted moutainscape. The owner leaves to go to her own home and I am left alone in the quiet of my own 3 bedroom hideaway.
As I venture out to take stock of my neighbourhood I muse on the speed and ease of my roots being sucked back into sedentary living. It doesnt take long to check out the village; it is quiet, shut up for the winter. I discover later that the Parish Church of Santa Maria prominently situated in the village has been restored by a German order of monks who host a ten bed retreat house and have revived the mindful tradition of Vespers and pilgrim bendiction against the backdrop of Gregorian chant. Typically it is not what is obvious that I spie but rather the hidden gem in the twist of an alley. The tiny Taverna del Puebla aspires to be many things; a shop, a tavern and ambitiously it advertises eat-in Italian cuisine – foil packaged pre-prepared pasta dishes. It has everything I need and everything it has I buy; chorizo, some excellent mature cheese, a banana & a bottle of wine. I join the one customer at the bar, Genaro, and the bar man Damian for a bit of chin wagging. I am assured the Taverna will morph into the local equivalent of Starbucks for my takeaway coffee in the morning. That unfortunately turns out to be an ambition too far and I have to resort back to the Hosteria and mein grumpy host for the coffee fix to take me through my working day.