Day 31 – Astorga to Rabanal del Camino

It was very hard to start moving this morning. Inner life affects outer life. The atmosphere in that dorm was poison. None of us slept. The Brazilian zealot was banging around from about 5am. We got kicked out onto the wet streets of Astorga at 8 prompt as usual. The day was miserable – colder and wetter than ever. I had no intention of going anywhere for a while so I sat heavily in a chocolateria drinking coffee, mechanically eating some of the best truffles I’ve ever had,  struggling to get motivated.

It’s beautiful, Astorga, not least for the ubiquitous artisan chocolate. There’s an early Gaudi palace there and a gorgeous cathedral. It reeks of history. I didn’t give a fuck. I was just waiting until ten for the shop to open so I could buy some bloody damn gloves and a stupid bastard rainproof that actually protects from the rain grumble grumble grumble.

I couldn’t do it. I had to move or I was going to book an Airbnb, sack the day off completely and just lie complaining in my misery. “Better than getting a cold,” I was telling myself. So I just started walking, almost by habit.

Our minds are so powerful. My shoulder was hurting, I told myself. My feet were worse than usual. “Maybe I should stop and rest a day, or I’ll injure my back,” I said. Nope. One foot in front of the other. Through the rain. And before long it wasn’t so bad. Maybe it was even strangely beautiful. Yeah, actually it was beautiful. Oh look, deer! I’m lucky to be alive.

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Astorga peeled away and little towns followed after. There was nothing wrong with my shoulder after all. My rainproof, on the other hand… my rainproof is atrocious. It’s a “jack in a pack” that I bought for Glastonbury Festival fifteen years ago. After a few hours of walking the inside is wetter than the outside because it doesn’t breathe at all. I reversed it halfway through the day. I hate it. But I think I’m going to put up with it because it’s only about ten days to Santiago now and I’ve got better things to spend my money on, like food. Or, it seems, random stones. A woman I didn’t know thanked me on the trail for converting negative energy from the fascist last night. Almost immediately thereafter, some grifter was trying to sell gemstones to pilgrims and he had a fire agate for a tenner. It seemed the right thing at the time. I barely broke my stride. He must’ve thought all his Christmases has come at once.

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A friend of mine tipped me off about a good albergue in Rabanal, run by the confraternity of Saint James and staffed by British volunteers. I figured it was worth missioning to, as it’s at the base of the mountain and a good sleep will help launch me up and over into Galicia tomorrow. I arrived there completely soaking, having given up entirely on the rainproof and tied it around my waist just before a full downpour. Now I’m cocooned in my sleeping bag, under a blanket, and I could happily stay here all night. There’s a German woman in the bunk below me who doesn’t appear to be slavishly following any hateful ideologies. In twenty minutes time the hospitaliers are going to serve us all tea and biscuits. Being English is their USP – it’s the only English albergue on the Camino. They’re clearly going for it. I hope it’ll come in fine bone china with custard creams.

Sometimes you just have to get over yourself. That was today. Tomorrow I’m going over a mountain and I bet it won’t be half as hard as walking down a path was this morning.


The day ended with everyone having a singsong with guitars. It was like being at university in the early seventies, if your feet hurt and you’d lost the acid.

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Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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