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Sunday, 28 November 2010

The wild dogs of Foncebadon?

Astorga – Foncebadon

The albergue in Astorga provided the best breakfast I have come across on the whole journey so I was pretty gutted when I overslept til 7.30 and realized I had missed it. Made fast progress this morning as I wanted my breakfast, passing all of Hot Spanish guys’ group who were walking separately this morning. Finally allowed myself to stop in Santa Catalina where a local suggested that the “second bar” would be a good place for breakfast. “Not the first. But the second” he reminded me. The countryside was really making lovely walking now, into green hills and despite the chilly morning the day became sunny and glorious. Passed Hot Spanish guy and his crew a couple more times before arriving in Rabanal where I had planned to stop at the British run Confraternity of St James albergue but it was not open for a couple of hours so I decided to get a picnic and continue on to Foncebadon. I left my backpack at the top of the hill hoping it would still be there when I got back and walked back down to a café where I noticed they were selling hot chicken rolls and was quite excited about this. When I entered, of course, Hot Spanish Guys group were there. I passed some time with them while waiting for my roll and when I left I thought I am going to have to try to shake them off as it is becoming a bit of a distraction. Had fantastic picnic perched on a hillside above Rabanal with stunning views and the sun on my face, I could quite happily have dozed off, but the time came to put my boots back on and climb the remainder of the hill up to Foncebadon.

Foncebadon held some considerable fascination to me after the tales I had read of the dangerous wild dogs that occupy the abandoned ghost town shrouded in the hill fog. It has however gained a new lease of life recently and a few people have moved back in. There was smart private lodging near the entrance to the village and a new private albergue. Plus the sun was shining so it did not look at all ominous. There were, however, a motley band of feral dogs hanging around, one of which seemed to be almost leading me through the tumbledown houses most of which were without roofs and in a state of ruin. There was also no road, just a grassy, stony track leading up to the tiny church. This was run as a donativo and was currently in the process of being opened up for the day by a comfortably disorganized German volunteer who was running very late. She was quite in a flap but very friendly and welcoming. A few bunk beds were squeezed into the main body of the church and a separate room served as a communal dining area with kitchen facilities in the narrow corridor. It was basic and would be a cold night at this altitude but it was just perfect. As I put out my washed socks in what remained of the sun, the air was already getting very cold. I thought I must have shaken off Hot Spanish Guy now as I was sure they would not choose to stay here (based on the observations that they had taken a bus and walked on the ‘senda’). Shortly they arrived…ah, how we laughed…
As we started to prepare dinner an Italian couple and two Spanish cyclists arrived and we set the table for 10. The hospitalera made a chickpea ‘chilli’ which sent all the Spanish at the table reaching for the water jug and caused Hot Spanish Guy to start removing layers….steady on! I loved the Italian couple, Marta and Pedro, next to me and as the cyclists kept liberally dispensing the wine the evening descended into fits of giggles at jokes we couldn’t even remember and it was one of the best evenings I have ever had. On a slightly more serious note the hospitalera had some interesting party games planned which included the tying of ‘lanas’ (small strings like friendship bracelets) around the wrists of our fellow pilgrims with a wish for their journey on the camino. In days to come I would look out for these on other walkers to see if they too had stayed in Foncebadon.

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