Ramon said goodbye to us this morning. He also asked for the Australian Flag for his flag garden. We were happy to donate and were the last to leave – what's new?
It's nice not to feel rushed – actually the truth is I can barely walk to the bathroom in the morning at the moment – probably plantar fasciitis as well now – I'm not a doctor but seems a common Camino problem. I have said it before, my beloved has been protected from most injuries because I walk so darn slow. You may still be wondering why I continue – well why not? Husband can still walk – he can give me a piggy back if necessary (here's hoping – well he did take my pack that day). Anyway I can still walk at the end of the day (well almost) and we see enough reminders of the fragility of life each day to know how lucky we are. So we just keep walking.
Today we were going to reach the Cruz de Ferro. The cross of iron. This is traditionally where pilgrims leave a rock from home and they also leave their burdens. I'm not even sure exactly how this started but I followed suit. You say a prayer at the base of the cross and ask for this visit to be remembered on judgment day and leave your burdens there. I had carried a rock from the cemetery at home where our youngest son is buried. I wasnt sure why I was doing this but it made me feel like we had left a part of us there. Thomas carried a rock from earlier in the trip but had lost it on the way (as is common among others I hear) – we shared Andrew's rock. Maybe we left parental guilt behind. Maybe we just left a rock.
I actually thought I had seen the end of foot and leg pain today – I hoped to leave foot pain at the cross along with other burdens. After wearing the sandals all day yesterday and letting the last of the blisters heal, I thought I was cured – alas this was not to be! That heel was a real pain. It was a long afternoon going up and then down – something we hadnt really done for a while.
Just before the descent to El Acebo there was a “bar” (read caravan) and a few seats under the umbrellas. The bar reminded me of the last day we saw Pepe the Mexican Yoda – he didn't reappear this time. There was an American girl consulting her Brierley guidebook and we started chatting about where to and how far each day etc etc. She asked how do we decide where to go each day. I looked at her straight faced and without a thought I said “Swimming Pools!” Yep that's my first priority – especially since its getting so hot. She laughed and said “I've heard a lot of theories and practices but this is the first I've heard of swimming pools as the decider.”
Yep – first question – is there a town at a reasonable distance that has an albergue with a swimming pool? If so then it gets a big tick and off we go – I have also learned to ask if it is abierto (open) as a pool with water is preferable. You know i have been let down once or twice and pleasantly surprised on other occasions. Let me tell you – today was not a let down. This was to be the day we saw the albergue swimming pool to end all albergue swimming pools – it doesnt get better than this. And the view was spectacular to boot! Let it never again be asked “Why would you bring your swimmers on the Camino!”
We had a relaxing afternoon. There was shade and a bar by the pool and there was a cool breeze across the valley. You could see in the distance that tomorrow was going to be a hard day. Ponferrada was in the distance and it was a long way down! We had climbed to the highest point of the Mountains of Leon just after the Cruz de Ferro and had come some way down through a stoney steep track to reach this point. I had forgotten knee pain for some days over the Meseta but this was a stark reminder of the existence of my knees. This swimming pool could not have arrived at a better time but the thought of downhill tomorrow filled me with fear. Husband stood at the edge and scanned the valley “We have a challenging journey on the morrow – we must rest and prepare!” He promptly went to the bar and bought a big cold beer.