We were supposed to be 10 pilgrims, but health and business developments led to several last-minute cancellations, and so we are now only three heading to Santiago. Thankfully, the fundraising has been strong; those that cancelled still contributed and we have already raised more than $130,000 toward our team goal of $150,000 for Prostate Cancer Canada, and the pilgrimage itself has only just started.
On Thursday morning, John Kanellitsas, CEO of Lithium Americas and COO of Geologic Resource Partners, and I took a five-hour bus ride from Santiago to Astorga. Once there, we walked 23 kilometres over five hours to Rabanal del Camino with our backpacks. It's a beautiful trail that begins to climb up into the mountains of Leon filled with shrub oak, chestnuts and pasture land.
One of the "must-stops" is the Cowboy Bar in Gansu. Amazingly, when we went in to rest our shoulders and feet and enjoy a coffee, the owner was sitting alone watching – what else – a Western featuring John Wayne dubbed in Spanish.
We did feel a bit like we had entered the Twilight Zone, however, because the distance markers we encountered indicated that we were getting further away from Santiago with every step we were taking! Our first marker, after several kilometres of walking, said we were 245 km from Santiago, but when we arrived in Rabanal, after 23 km of walking, the marker said we were now 246 km away!
In Rabanal, we checked in at the Albergue de Pilar and, for €5 each per night, we were shown to a dormitory-style room with 25 bunk beds. After a quick shower and rinse of our hiking clothes, we went to the local church to hear a mass done entirely in Gregorian chant. Mass was followed by a wonderful meal at La Posada de Gaspar that featured fresh salad and chicken stew for John, and steamed vegetables and baked cod with tomato for me. With red wine and desserts for two, the total bill came to €22.
Just days before, John had been in Monaco with its €500 per night hotel rooms, €30 cocktails and topless beaches. Thankfully, he's an incredibly generous guy who wants to help the cause, and he is a native of Sun Valley, Idaho, who is used to and fond of hiking.
I have always gone to the Camino alone and haven't had to be responsible for, or dependent on, the schedules of others. Tomorrow, in Molinaseca, we will be joined by Constantine Karayannopoulos, current chair of Molycorp, who is late because he was closing a deal to raise almost $250-million for his company. I have known Constantine for many years and know he will be a great companion. I'm deriving great pleasure from sharing this amazing journey while raising funds and awareness for a critical cause.
If you want to follow daily and see even more pictures and updates, follow me @roccorossiTO on Twitter.
Rocco Rossi is the CEO of Prostate Cancer Canada. He will be blogging as the Pilgrimage for Progress on Prostate Cancer proceeds and you can follow that blog at tgam.ca/giving.