When we started off in the morning, we thought we would be walking to Rabanal del Camino. We stopped to drink water and checked the hotel list we are carrying with us. The name of hostel where we have reservations is Convento de Foncebadon, which is a ruined town about 6 km past Rabanal del Camino. We remembered that when we called hotels in March, we could not find a hotel in Rabanal. The Convento seemed isolated, but we wanted a reservation somewhere. So, we would consider walking all the way to Foncebadon instead of staying in Rabanal. We’d decide when we arrived in Rabanal.
The camino was a gentle rise the entire morning. Young trees were planted on either side of the camino to help the pilgrims and we passed at least 5 or 6 rest areas for pilgrims. The wild flowers were still blooming and dotted the countryside with deep yellow, purple, pinks and blue. There was a stunning view of mountains no matter which way you turned. As we walked, Astorga became a memory and smaller and smaller. Although the towers of the cathedral could be seen for miles after we left.
Surprisingly, we arrived around noon in Rabanal, a cute town with many restored buildings. We had a sandwich, a refreshment and relaxed for a half hour. We felt good, strong even. We’d push on to Foncebadon. What is it that the guide book says about that portion? The adjective used was “tortuous”, I believe. It is a tough 5 km, but how long could it really take to hike up 5 or 6 km? An hour and a half? It was a steep climb in 5 km, whereas the 20 km hike that we just finished from Astorga to Rabanal was a gentle, sloping climb of 300 meters if I’m not mistaken.
Off we went… We arrived a bit after 3:00pm in the “ruined” town of Foncebadon after a very tough climb. The scenery was gorgeous and we stopped often on the steep, rocky path. As we walked through the dozen or so houses that still stand, we weren’t sure which building was the “Convento.” Fortunately, it was a beautifully restored stone building, which stood behind the albergue. The rooms were quaint and tastefully decorated – very comfortable, but not fancy. The bathroom held a surprise – a hydro massage shower. There were spouts everywhere – on the top of the shower, on the hand-held head and at least 12 jets down the shower wall. Installed in a corner, the shower doors were rounded and came together to form a sealed enclosure. The drain could be closed and the shower floor filled to soak tired feet.
The convent’s menu del dia was homemade for the most part. The lentil soup was very good. The bread was stale – at least 2 days old. Tony’s fish was a filet without skin or bones – a frozen lenguado fish, which was disappointing.
After lunch we walked up the only “street” in the town, which was just a muddy and rocky path between the ruins. Seeing a door to an albergue open and folk music coming out, we ducked in. It was dark and bohemian. There was a group of about 6 or 8 people in a circle with a woman playing guitar. They were singing songs in different languages. I called it the “kumara” group. Once Tony and Dave ordered something to drink, I hurried out before they could ask me to join the circle and sing. The “jamon brothers” as I’ve dubbed Tony and Dave, stayed to sing with the group. Tony ended up playing the bongos and having another “chupito.” I’ll let him finish that story sometime when he gets on the computer…
The story about Foncebadon got more interesting as we walked around and talked to people. We’ve decided that it is a hippie comune with people who would like to be living in the 1960’s… even though most of them are between 20 and 35 years of age. They don’t seem to mind the isolation, but maybe that’s because they are lost in a cloud of smoke from their “porros” (aka joints.)
By the way, dinner in most places was served until 7:30 or 8:00pm because most pilgrims go to bed very early.