The distance wasn’t huge today but I had a slight recollection of a high level of difficulty. We had stopped at El Acebo last time so I could use the biggest pool on the Camino (always too cold for my beloved unless its Queensland in the middle of summer!).
This time we would descend to Molinaseca, the beautiful little village at the foot of the mountains of Leon with a stream running through it and a manicured swimming area.
Today we would pass the highest point on the Camino and also visit the Cruz de Ferro where pilgrims place their stones and shed or share their burdens. The plan was to watch the sun rise over the Cruz de Ferro so we left Rabanal (and the Fräulein’s package) in the wee small hours.
By the time we reached Foncebadón there were already signs of the sun peeking over the horizon. That didn’t deter me from having a coffee and a chocolate croissant!
A couple of k’s on and there she was! The iron cross perched high above the stones of thousands of pilgrims. The pile signifies those who had visited it over the centuries although I understand the council does a little clean up every now and then lest the stones bury the Cross!
I skirted around taking photos of pilgrims as the sun rose then I walked up with my pack and the English girl we had met with the Choirmaster took my photo. My beloved sat back under the tree where he had been sadly disappointed by his olives last time. He had not realised they were stuffed with anchovies. One of his least favourite foods! This time we had sandwiches.
I wanted to leave a poem with a rock I had carried from St Jean. I’m not sure why and nor am I sure of the rules – if there are any. I will share the poem at the bottom of the page if you want to read it.
We actually had a few tears while others chatted away and even drank wine – we are all in this together.
On one hand I wish we had wine but on the other hand the day ahead was about to get nasty!
We headed off over hill and valley encountering some of the worst rock paths on the camino. Actually the steep descent over jagged rocks was, in my opinion, the absolute pinnacle of pain!
People tell tales of the day from St Jean to Roncesvalles but the jagged rocks and uneven path over a steep decline took me to a new extreme. We bumped into the Young Ones up at the last Templars place. It had one of the least impressive dunnies I have ever had the misfortune of encountering.
My knees do not like to go downhill and the added bonus of the rock face made it 100 times worse! I was slow and it was hot. By the time we hit El Acebo my beloved suggested we stop but the thought of continuing with this downhill problem tomorrow inspired me to finish the last few kilometres down to Molinaseca. I think he was secretly hoping I would stop. I was slow and he was patiently waiting at every turn but he wanted to get out of the sun. He’s the man!
One American friend (who previously had lived the legend when a toe morphed into a blister followed by the nail exploding into the atmosphere), fell sideways into a native rose bush. Not only was his body gripped like velcro by the thorns but his hiking pole handles were also impaled. “Much better than going over the cliff face” I said ever willing to show compassion and assistance to others.
We met the English girl again going down from El Acebo and I followed her and my beloved slowly but surely into the late afternoon. By the time I crawled over the bridge into Molinaseca my legs were like jelly, I was hot, I was exhausted and I was relieved.
The young ones stood over the bridge talking to my beloved. One had taken ill and caught a taxi above El Acebo. “I want to be like you when I am older, you are amazing.” A few tears fell “Amazing or insane? Thankyou, you make me happy after such an ordeal!” Then when we wandered to the river for dinner the English girl told us she had a new level of respect for us for coming back to do that again. We didn’t tell her we were slightly senile and had actually forgotten just how bad that section was! I will try to remember next time 😉
The Albergue Compostela in Molinaseca was great. Clean and new, and the hospitalario gave us our own cubicle with two bunk beds and no-one above us. (Maybe I looked a little like I did when I crawled into Mansilla?)
The only downside of the place was when I forgot my mini shampoo bottle in the shower and went back five minutes later to find the french woman using it to wash her socks and underwear! Love the camino – emotional, physically challenging and, as the Dalai Lama would say, an opportunity to practice patience and tolerance!
My Poem Wrapped around the Stone at Cruz de Ferro
Have you seen death?
Have you seen death? As she wraps her wings around one you love
Did you fight her off? Or succumb to her reprieve
Have you felt the emptiness of true sorrow as she peacefully takes her prize?
Or have you watched in disbelief as she suddenly appears, engulfs her prey, then flies?
Have you had another whisper words of solace? To find the pain won’t end
Have you been forever changed by your ordeal? Then learned to laugh again
We have seen her to dear friends. We have held her in our arms
As she wrapped her wings around our son. We were helpless against her charms xxxx