Day 3 was from Astorga to Foncebadon. Some people stop in Rabanal del Camino about four miles before, but I just had to stay in a village with almost zero permanent inhabitants (OK, 13). So where did this leave us? With our second hike in three days of 16 or more miles. these are considered normal stages of the French Way, but also, most people walking here have been on The Way for three weeks. Paula and I have been out here for three days. The mileage is a bit much.
We had second breakfast in Murias de Rechivaldo, and I went for third breakfast in Santa Catalina de Somoza. We ran into three women from Texas, Arizona and Kansas and they all called out “Hello, California!” When they saw us again. And we ran into a legit member of our Camino Family, Maria from Germany! Also, there appeared to be some sort of Korean actress walking; the most notable thing I’ll say about her is she was extremely scared of cats. Like, every time a cat got within 10 feet, she’d get up and walk away. Every time! “I like puppies!” she said. Don’t we all, Korean actress.
Meanwhile, dark clouds were building on the horizon. We were going to get some rain. The ponchos kept things relatively dry, and by the time we’d hit El Ganzo, Paula had enough. (Sidebar: We saw Maria from Germany! here again. And quite a few other familiar faces.) I didn’t blame Paula; she’d developed a blister and we were staring at another eight miles with just over 2,000 feet of elevation climb. Hindsight being 20:20, I should have gone with her. The taxi honked at me as I was leaving El Ganzo; she had about 15 more minutes of travel while I had a good three-plus hours to go.
Clouds were all around, and I got pretty wet, but that was about it until Rabanal del Camino. Nothing but straight climb left, so I had to grab a bite. I was clearly delirious with hunger, because the place I chose was a long walk through a tiny alley where I was greeted by an unhappy dog and an equally unhappy man smoking a cigarette. The food was good, though, so I stayed.
The older man kept smoking, and he was joined by two other guys who looked … like gangsters. I don’t normally hang out with gangsters, so I’m probably blowing this way out of proportion, but these guys were clearly not thrilled about something and were hammering out some sort of business deal. And then – of course – it started raining. The only umbrella was currently occupied by three smoking men, and the older guy told me “Sit!” So I pulled up a chair next to these guys, who proceeded to continue their conversation as if I wasn’t there. Food was done, so it was time to start walking again.
While walking to Foncebadon, the thunderstorm rolled in. And not just any thunderstorm. Flashes of lightning were close to non-stop and the thunder was all around. Yeah, fun times. Plus, the road to Foncebadon is rocky and steep, and just a real struggle to keep going. Seriously, the lightning was frightening. I’m sure my fatigue helped here, but I could hear myself talking, like it was an out-of-body experience: “Is this how it ends? Is this it?” Yeah, I was being melodramatic, but I was tired and it was scary. Sue me. Plus, that was exactly how Emilio Estevez was killed in The Way.
After getting to our albergue, I was given one more disappointment. The convent we were staying in isn’t a working convent. No nuns! Turns out this place is a historic former convent with private rooms and – the most important thing of all – private bathrooms. Yeah, it was a pricy $45, but I think I’d pay that much for the bathroom itself. The dinner was excellent, but it’s like all dinners on the Camino: a heavy carb load. Shoot, every meal is heavy fuel for a long day of walking. Best part of this meal was our companions. There were no empty tables, so I went up to one of the larger tables and asked the woman sitting there if we could sit with her. Sure! Turns out she and her traveling partner were recent Cal Poly grads and we had a delightful talk. So thanks, Kate from Petaluma and Anika from Bellingham, WA. You made our meal even better.
Tomorrow is the Cruz de Ferro. We’ve each carried stones from Modesto and we’ll be leaving them behind as countless pilgrims have done before us. Buen Camino.
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