After yesterday’s 54K walk, a much needed rest day was taken in Hospital de Orbigo. So I expected to have fresh legs today but no just the opposite. The moment I left Albergue Verde I felt sluggish and struggled the first hour to Santibáñez de Valdeiglesias.
Passing the second and last bar in Santibáñez de Valdeiglesias, the Camino turned right but noticed a sign saying something about lighting a candle for Jesus in 4 languages. So I thought well I can say hello to Jesus and walked over to the small church where I was greeted by a thin, bald, bearded priest with a warm gentle smile. He put his hand on my shoulder and led me to the altar where I lit a candle. We then walked back to the entrance, and I asked where to put my donation and he said it was not necessary and put his hands on my head and blessed me. What a beautiful man. His kindness gave me a bit of energy but the walk continued to be a struggle even though the flat grasslands of the Meseta were giving way to hills and green forests.
Plodding into Astorga at noon it was early so I continued on all the way to The Cowboy Bar in El Ganso seeing no one I knew except Guido from Italy who spoke no English so we simply exchanged smiles and “Buen Caminos”.
Resting enjoying a coke, it was getting late around 3:30. I uncharacteristically decided to call an Albergue to reserve a bed in Rabanal del Camino. Almost always, I prefer to just go with the flow of The Camino. This would be my fourth time to Rabanal and each previous visit had me staying at Albergue Señora Pilar which was pleasant enough. But I recalled somebody saying there was an English Albergue called Gaucelmo with Irish Hospitaleros. Of course my Camino started in Ireland and Irish Hospitaleros would be a nice change of pace. The phone was answered by an obviously friendly woman.
I responded, “Hello, I’m an old man walking from Ireland hoping I can find a bed for the night”.
She replied in a sweet musical Irish brogue, “Well of course we will take special care of you.” She then asked, “Where did you start in Ireland?”
“Tipperary and Clare.”
She said, “I know you. You have an Irish Camino Society Passport Credentials.”
Well on May 14 of this year the day before I Left Dublin for Tipperary I was hoping to get the green Camino passport pictured but found the office at St. James Church near the Guinness factory was closed.
The next morning at 9:00, just a few hours before my bus to Clare, I thought it would be a shame not to get The Irish Credential so taking a long shot, called the office and left a message about my walk and my willingness to go anywhere in Dublin to pick it up. 2 hours later at 11 I get a call from a woman who was on holiday hiking the Kerry Way and that if I could go to the alley in back of the church and knock on the door before noon someone would be there to sell me the book. So I hustled on down by foot and arrived 10 minutes before noon and sure enough got the book. The woman on that call was the Hospitalera at Albergue Gaucelmo on the phone now, Betty Tuite.
This seemingly coincidental occurrence seems to happen regularly on The Camino which suggests to many pilgrims that they are not coincidences. Anyway, I excitedly donned my backpack and surged up the hill feeling juiced. Arriving at Albergue Gaucelmo I was greeted by a smiling Betty and her fellow Irish Hospitaleros, Ursula and Leo. A very Irish welcome starting with teatime in the garden. Good piping hot strong Irish tea with milk and sugar. Then Betty took me to a quiet small room which I ended up having to myself, a luxury on the Camino albergue circuit. She went to stamp my credentials and saw that there was little space left after 94 days so went inside and returned with a new replacement Camino Society Passport. Then I happened to mention I had lost my ear plugs, a very essential need on The Camino and Ursula produced a pair for me. We had a good friendly chat for an hour or so.
How wonderful to experience a second encounter with an Irish angel and a bit of Irish Hospitality 55 days after leaving The Emerald Island shores.