Saturday, May 14, 2016
Distance: 20.76 km
7:45 – For a town the size of Astorga, there aren’t many options for breakfast. It will be a while before the local McDonald’s offers all-day breakfast, mainly because there isn’t a McDonald’s (which I consider a good thing even though I’ve owned MCD stock from time to time). I have a two small packs of almonds and one apple in my backpack so that’ll be breakfast today.
12:03 – I had read about the Cowboy Bar in El Ganso and it sounded interesting. In reality it was little more than a single car garage with a bar, one long table, and a few cowboy knickknacks. I had a traditional Spanish tuna sandwich (tuna baked between two layers of pastry) but only after ordering it did I notice that it was pre-packaged and likely came from some place like Costco.
I didn’t stick around the Cowboy Bar once The Groaner showed up. I don’t know his name or where he’s from but I’ve run into him a few times. It’s hard to tell if he’s in pain or pure ecstasy when he’s eating but he can be heard from 100 meters – which is a bit of an issue when he decides to sit about 6 inches from your right elbow even though the otherwise empty antique refectory table is about 12′ long.
14:19 – There were no single rooms and no bathtubs to be had in Rabanal but I easily secured a dorm bed at Refugio Gaucelmo. The first order of business was a shower. Second order of business was a beer on the sunny back patio. I could have skipped the shower and had the place to myself but I chose to be considerate.
Sid was from London and walking the Camino for the second time. When I told him I was from Canada and wrapping up a round-the-world trip, he launched into a seemingly never-ending story about the time he met Fred Langen in London.
Apparently they hit it off rather well. Sid ended up giving Fred a guided tour of Fortnum & Mason and the food hall at Harrod’s. Sid was clearly starstruck. He went into great detail about having a beer with Fred Langen and shopping for socks with Fred Langen and hailing a taxi for Fred Langen. He had a story about loaning Fred Langen an umbrella and it went on for a good five minutes.
When Sid was transitioning to yet another story about Fred Langen, I had to interrupt. “Sorry,” I said, “but I have one question: Who the hell is Fred Langen?”
“You don’t know Fred Langen?” he asked incredulously.
“Well, the name’s familiar,” I said, “but I can’t place him.”
I could tell that Sid was seriously questioning my citizenship at this revelation. He excused himself for a minute, saying that he had to go to the “loo.” But rather than turn to the right, where the washrooms were located, Sid headed straight to the hostel’s front desk. I couldn’t hear the conversation but I saw him talk to the hospitalero for at least a minute. I’m sure he asked if the bald guy on the patio had used a Canadian or American passport at check-in.
While Sid was lingering at the desk, I Googled “Fred Langen+Canadian.” The search revealed that Fred Langen was a longtime business reporter and host on CBC Newsworld. He’s now retired from CBC but an online bio noted that he is also a “ghostwriter of several books and author of more than 2000 obituaries.”
I can see why Sid was smitten. How many of your friends can claim to have authored several books (but cannot divulge the actual titles) as well as over 2000 obituaries?