Day 23 Astorga – Rabanal del Camino – 20.2km
Take food and fill your water bottle before leaving Astorga. It is only 20.2km to Rabanal; however it is 20.2km uphill all day. Make sure you have money to last two days until Ponferrada. There are a few villages where you will certainly get water, but food cannot be guaranteed until Rabanal, except during the summer months.
Underfoot the route is easy walking mostly along an old rarely used asphalt road. There is lots of tree cover during the day as you walk up into the Leon Mountains.
There are many grass fields where it is pleasant to stop for lunch and rest if you are walking through the mid day sun.
The route rises by 250 meters during this day, however by the end it feels like much more, this and the following two day can feel fairly strenuous. The only problem with dogs was encountered along this part of the route in the village of El Ganso. To avoid them walk along the road rather than the path that goes through the centre of the village.
In Rabanal you will have the choice to two great Albergues. One is private at the bottom of the village and the other is run the UK Confraternity of St James. I have stayed in the latter twice and highly recommend it.
Click to read a post of one of the wardens at Rabanal del Camino
Valdeviejas 1km, no services
Albergue Municipal Ecce Homo, on the right after Hermitage, municipal, €5, 10 beds, K, V, Tel: 620 960 060, open Mar to Oct inc.
Only one kilometre from Astorga it is a small village with only 145 inhabitants and a relativity new albergue.
The parish church is dedicated to San Veresimo who the village was once named after. In the 15th century there was a pilgrim’s hospital here named after its founder Sancha Perez, however the village hold little for the pilgrim of today.
Murias de Rechivaldo 3.2km, water, bar,
Albergue Municipal, Carretera Santa Colomba, €4, 20 beds, W, K, Bike, Tel: 987 651 150, Web: http://www.muriasderechivaldo.com/ Open Apr to Oct.
Albergue Las Aguedas, c/ Camino de Santiago, 52, private, €10, 40 beds, K, W, D, M, B, Tel: 636 067 840, Web: www.lasaguedas.com, open Mar to Nov inc.
Alb. Hosteria Casa Flor, Carretera Santa Colomba, 54, private, €10, 15 beds, B, M, @, Bike, Tel: 609 478 323, Web: www.hosteriacasaflor.com, open: check website.
Murias is a typical Maragato village. The Maragato have been denied recognition as an ethnic population in Spain, they were once know as entrepreneurs and travelling people who made and sold handicrafts. They were distinguished by their unusual dress.
The 18th century village church is dedicated to San Esteban, its two interesting features are a statue of San Roque as a pilgrim and a relief of the Virgin del Pilar over the main entrance. Virgin del Pilar is another name for the Virgin Mary which is strongly connected to St James. It is said that while St James was preaching and trying to convert the local population in Zaragoza. Due to having so few converts James became disheartened and was praying beside the river when Mary appeared to him atop a pillar accompanied by angels. Mary assured James that the local people would eventually convert and their faith would be as strong as the pillar she stood on. She left the pillar and told James to build a church on that spot.
Santa Catalina de Somoza 4.5km, water, bar
Hospederia San Blas, c/ Real, 11, private, 5, 20 beds, M, W, D, V, @, Bike, Tel: 987 691 411, Web: http://www.hospederiasanblas.com/, open all year.
Albergue El Caminante, c/ Real, 2, private, €6, 16 beds, W, D, M, @, Bike, Tel: 987 691 098, Web: www.elcaminante.es, open all year.
Santa Catalina is a tiny village of only 59 inhabitants. The village was well known in the middle ages for its hospitality to pilgrims, today it is one of the many villages that will often leave no impression on the passing pilgrims.
The parish church is dedicated to Santa Maria and inside it has a statue of Saint Blase one of the saints associated with the welfare of pilgrims.
El Gamso 4.4km, water, bar
Albergue Gabino, Calle Real, private, €8, 30 beds, W, D, K, @, Bike, Tel: 660 912 823, open Easter to Nov inc.
El Ganso with a tiny population of 36 survives due to the Camino. One of the two bars in the village is well photographed due to it American Cowboy theme – it is called the Cowboy Bar.
You could easily imagine the village as being uninhabited as you walk into it with its gravel roads, ruined walls, and straw roofs. Tomorrow we will see more villages that are coming back to life after having been abandoned in the past. The local church is dedicated to St James, who is also the patron saint of the village, inside there is a 16th century statue of him in pilgrim dress. There was once a small 12th century church and pilgrim’s hospital here run by the Benedictine’s and a small monastery was built in the 13th century, however nothing remains of either, but it illustrates the ancient link to the Camino.
At you approach Rabanal on the left is the Hermitage del Santo Cristo de la Vera Cruz and at the entrance to the village, on Calle Mayor, is the 18th century Hermitage of San Jose which has images of St James along with St Joseph and St Barbara.
Rabanal del Camino 7.1km, water, bar, cafe, shop
Albergue Gaucelmo (CSJ), Calvario, 4, association, donation, 46 beds, B, K, Bike, Tel: 987 691 901, http://www.csj.org.uk, open Apr to Oct inc.
Albergue La Senda, Calle Real, private, €5, 34 beds, W, D, K, @, Bike, Tel: 650 952 721, http://hostel-caminodesantiago.com/, open: unknown.
Albergue Nuestra Señora del Pilar, Plaza de Jerónimo Morán Alonso, private, €5, 72 beds, W, B, K, @, Cred, Bike, Tel: 987 631 621, http://albergueelpilar.com/, open all year.
Albergue Municipal, Plaza de Jerónimo Morán Alonso, W, K, @, Bike, Tel: 987 631 687, open 15th May to 15th Sep
Rabanal, (pop 60), is a good resting place before making your way over the mountain, Monte Irago, in the morning. When I first passed here in 2004 it had two albergues, it now has four competing for your pilgrim Euros along with a few small tourist shops.
In the 12th century the Knights Templar protected the village and are thought to have provided protection for pilgrims over Mount Irago. It is also thought that the Templars built the 12th century Romanesque Church Santa Maria de la Asuncion, however it was extensively renovated during the 18th century. Inside the church there is a 12th century image of St Blas and 18th century retablos. You can attend Vespers in the church each night at 7pm, it is an excellent opportunity to hear the service all in Gregorian chant. The church is now run by Benedictine monks affiliated to an order in Germany, Sankt Ottilien’s Erzabtel. The monastery is beside the church and next door to Refugio Gaucelmo a hostel run by the Confraternity of St James in the UK – see below. The monks offer a retreat for pilgrims wishing to stay and explore their spirituality, the minimum time is two day with no apparent maximum. More on their website – http://en.monteirago.org/
The current albergue run by the Confraternity of St James is built on the site of the 12th century Hospital de San Gregorio, who was also known as Gaucelmo, hence the current name. The famous Aymery Picaud stayed here, he was the first to write a guide to the Camino Frances. The Confraternity took over the building in 1991 and refurbished it to its current great standard, previously there was no hostel in Rabanal.