Day 21: Repetition and Change – Feast of St. James

Repetiton happens a lot on the Camino. As routine, B wakes up at five in the dark, sneaking around while the rest of the room sleeps. At 5:30, multiple alarms start ringing quietly. Kat and others begin to stir. Some keep snoring. In the dark, we pack everything up, again. Bandage our feet, again. Quickly eat whatever piece of fruit or pastry purchased the night before, again. Venture out in the pre-dawn, again.

Yellow solar lights lit the way out of the charming city of Astorga. We continued into a small town where we saw one of the few vegetarian menus.


We tried to stay together as much as possible, and are still trying to figure out the best way, and remain considerate and vigilent of each other. The way to the small town of San Catalina was lovely, and we stopped for some lovely fried eggs and Spanish chorizo. After breakfast, we walk, again.

We walk on flat ground.


We walk up steep hills.


And then we see Rabanal del Camino, our stop for the night. We were first tempted by th busy albergue with a bar, but they were full, so we wandered around with Bernie, the coolest Aussie ever, and found the Refugio Gaucelmo, run by the Co-Fraternity of St. James.


It would not open until 2, but we instantly liked it so we put our bags in queue. After a refreshment, we checked into a clean refuge.


As routine, we showered. The refuge is a safe and home-y place with a large backyard, open dorms, and proper sinks for laundry the old fashioned way (yes, we scrub by hand).


This evening would be no repetition, however. Tea and biscuits were served in the afternoons by four of the funniest hosteleros. Ever.

They were all volunteers for two weeks. Walter is from the Netherlands. Ishtvan is from Hungary and the only one of the four who spoke Spanish. He loves to cook and used to do media strategy and publishing for a food magazine and TV show. No kidding. Clem and Ethel from Cape Town have been married for 43 years and clearly still in love. Ethel has a wicked sense of humor and kept us laughing so hard…which you will have to ask what about. She also has written a cookbook, and told us of an amazing stew she made with veal bones and fresh herbs from the garden. We also got to try her incredible orange marmalade.


The day kept breaking tradition for us. Instead of rests and reading, we met the super nice South Korean priest from Toronto who was there on service for a month. Today is the Feast of St. James and there would be a town feast for all after service.


The service included small passages from the Bible read in English, Spanish, German, French, and Korean by pilgrims. B tried to decline several times, but finally accepted the honor of reading the English passage. Never having done anything like this before, she felt comforted knowing Kat and Z and Bernie were in the audience. She sat at the from seats next to the priest, and had to behave the entire time. It was quite an incredible experience to hear the chanting and prayers.


As soon as we walked out, things kept getting more interesting. An elderly man played a recirder in one hand and a drum in the other, while two elderly women played the castenets and danced. Soon, visitors, including B and Z were dancing, too.


Plates of cold cuts and tortilla de patata filled the tables. One of the more stranger sights was seeing a priest serve people a bowl of cheese curls.


This day may have started in repetition, but did not certainly end in that way. How fortunate we were to be at this wonderful albergue and town during the Feast of St. James.


Repetition offers stability, and change offers growth. What an honor to experience both. To repeat the prayer of one of the priests, for those making major life decisions, “may you be bold, gracious, and wise.”