Michelle keeps telling me that my backpack is too big. So I am sending you a photo. What do you think? (Photo 1)
Today was an absolutely gorgeous day. I hit the trail about 8 while Michelle walked on ahead. My first stop was Murias de Rechivaldo with its interesting rustic parish Church of St. Stephen. (Photo 2)
My plans included taking the detour to
Castrillo de Polvazares, a classic Maragato village, now declared a national monument, with an exquisitely cobbled Main Street from the late 19th century and lined with beautifully maintained traditional stone buildings. It lacks some of the authentic ambience of the crumbling villages spread along the Camino but it is a treat to see what can be done with restoration work. Although the town was pretty much closed up at 9 am, the construction workers were on the job. There is a cross at both ends of Main Street to protect the city. (Photo 3 - note the street).
From there I took a gentle path through farmland until I reconnected with the main trail into Santa Catalina de Somoza, basically a cafe break. (Photo 4)From here we could see the snow-capped peaks of Monte El Teleno.
Then on to El Ganso. Two bars seem to make a decent living, but the rest of the town is an example of several semi-abandoned villages that we pass through in the somewhat solitary mountains. There are often new homes built juxtaposed to the ruins of several-hundred-year-old structures, with caved in roofs and weeds growing inside.
However, amidst the collapsing thatched cottages, there are signs of new life, as we experienced in our final destination of the day, Rabanal del Camino. Our last few kilometers into town went through mixed native woodland with Holm oak, Oak Robles and pine. We were welcomed with a well-manicured town, where even the eroding structures were neat and tidy.
We checked into our Hostal del Refugio - a nice 2 bed with bath for 50€, across from the church.
The real treat here was experiencing the sound of Gregorian chants at evening vespers with about 70 other pilgrims in the tiny Church of Santa Maria, (photo 5 and 6) provided by the Benedictine missionary monks of the monastery of San Salvador del Monte Irago.
After vespers, 6 of us, including Paul,from Australia, whom we met back in Viana, Sabina, whom we see frequently, and 2 others from Canada, had a lovely pilgrim's meal for 11€ at a local restaurant - and called it a night.