Day 21. Leon to Rabanal del Camino. 49 miles.
The last day of flat terrain. I think. Leaving the campsite about 9am, I headed straight through the city of Leon, with a short detour to the cathedral where I got my Pilgrim a Record stamped ( at the cathedral museum ticket office, actually). Crossed the river on an ancient stone bridge now pedestrianised. Coming out of the city, I rejoined the N-120 road which led me through some rather dull straggly suburbs, all of which had plenty of cafes,'restaurants, hostels and hotels, all with an eye to the pilgrim tourist trade. Plenty of pilgrims on foot. Weather fairly cool this morning, as it has been the last couple of days, so ideal for cycling. I could see the parallel motorway as I moved along the N-120. The motorway had far less traffic than the N-120. The tolls must have something to do with this.
Our 6lb Camping Gaz cylinder is about to run out, and we hadn't managed to identify a stockist, so B called in at a hypermarket and bought a small camping stove plus some gas cylinders. Hope it's a kind that can be bought in the UK.
We met up at Hospital de Orbiga for my early sandwich. This is many charming small town on th Camino taking its name from an early religious foundation for pilgrims. There was a pharmacy nearby, so I bought some cream to help my cracked lip. The pharmacist blamed the sun, which was true, but the crusty bread didn't help. It's a Neutragena product and also has factor 30 sun block in it.
Second stop was at Astorga, a hilltop cathedral city of modest size. On entering the city, I saw the first moving train I'd seen since coming to Spain. There have been very few railway in the area we've been crossing, so railways are few and far between, and probably lowish traffic density. Next the cathedral is a Bishop's Palace, designed by the famous architect, Gaudi. Only €3 to get in. A splendid building if somewhat bizarre, and wholly impractical as a residence for a bishop, and not a patch on his Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona.
The last 20km today took me out into wilder countryside. The road climbed fairly steadily, passing a few very old, stone villages. The landscape changed. No cultivation any more, just miles of scrubby woodland of stunted oaks, some willow, and an undergrowth of some kind of heather. The pine, trees hereabouts seemed to have been planted rather than wild.
Rabanal, when I got there proved to be a substantial village with many places for pilgrims to eat, drink and sleep. There are a couple of food shops too. As the last place before the fierce ascent to the Cruz de Ferro, this looks a prosperous we place. It would be a ghost town without the pilgrims. We're booked into the Hosteria el Refugio, which is basically a village inn. Going to have a shower, then a walk round the village, then a beer.