Homer's Travels: Camino De Santiago - Foncebadón To Ponferrada

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Foncebadón To Ponferrada

I left as the sun was just coming up.  The first stop today was the Cruz de Ferro (Iron Cross).  The small unassuming iron cross perched at the top of a tall pole is where pilgrim's leave stones representing their burdens.  I had not known the whole story and hadn't brought a stone from home but I picked up a small piece of quartz on the way to Foncebadón the day before.  I spent some of my time the night before and all the thirty minutes on the way up to the cross trying to figure out what the stone represented.  I came up with a few rather weak possibilities - my shyness, my pessimism, my lack of risk taking.  All of these were burdens but were they of enough significance or were they just selfish little nit picking?

When I got to the top of the hill the sun was just raising high enough to make the cross glow in the morning light.  Arriving at the cross this early had its benefits.  There were very few people there this early.  (The Canadian and his Japanese girlfriend were here).  This was also before the tourist buses arrived to spoil the moment.  The pilgrims respectfully let each other go up to the cross one by one.  I got my picture taken in front of the cross.

I climbed the pile of rocks at the base of the cross still wondering what my burden should be when I started seeing what other people had left.  Stuffed animals.  Syringes.  Pictures of spouses or children who had passed away  - the detritus of troubled people moving on with their lives.  I looked at the little piece of quartz in my hand and let it drop to the pile.  I had no burden worthy of this place.

I left the cross not even stopping at the small chapel (It turns out it was locked).  I pulled the Oreos GV had given me out of my bag and downed the whole tube not even trying to make them last.

I passed the alberge of Manjarín.  This little albergue appears rundown but it fascinated me.  I've heard bad things about it (dirty, bathrooms are outside, insects).  I've heard good (The food is good).  The albergue is run by monks who, for the life of me, look like bikers.  They would fit right in at Sturgis.  I passed one monk walking a huge dog.  There are Knights Templar crosses and signs everywhere.  I stopped and bought a Camino shell magnet and recieved a stamp on my pilgrim's credential.

As you come down the mountain you see change along the Camino.  The red tile roofs change to black slate.  I stopped at the town of Acebo and found a bar that served tortilla and I took a 13 minute break while I ate the generous piece of heaven.

I walked through Molinaseca.  There were a lot of pilgrims milling about.  I passed a monument with both Spanish and Japanese writing.  Not far from the monument a Japanese television crew was accosting a pilgrim trying to rest on a bench.

From here the Camino took a circuitous route that slowly, ever so slowly, brought you into Ponferrada.  I bought an ice cream and went in search of the albergue.  The Ponferrada albergue is big and it was one of the few albergues where I was not first in line.  As I waited to be admitted I pulled off my boots.  I noticed blood near my left big toe.  I pulled off my sock and saw that there was blood around the nail (it didn't hurt, it was just a little bloody).  The Spanish lady to my left and the Korean girl to my right cringed in horror.  The Spanish lady told me I needed a doctor.    I smiled and said "don't worry I'll fix it" and I pulled out some gauze and tape and covered it up.  There, all fixed - Heh.  The Canadian and his Japanese Girlfriend showed up.  His girlfriend was a nurse and even she cringed when she saw my toe.  It really didn't hurt at all.

I ended up in a top bunk.  I did my chores including hand washing some clothes and hanging them out to dry. I then went to explore the city.  On the way I saw a McDonalds sign.  It said it was ahead.  I headed that way.  When I reached the cool Templar Castle I stopped looking for the McDonalds and looked at the castle instead (Oooo ...  Shiney).  I found an ATM and a pharmacy (it was, of course, closed) and then headed back to the albergue.  I checked my clothes and then went back out in search of the McDonalds once again.

I managed to get pass the castle and crossed a bridge over a river and hit a traffic circle.  There were four options and no McDonalds signs.  I decided this was a sign that I shouldn't eat McDonalds until after I finish my Camino.  I walked along the river and took more pictures of the castle.  I made my way back to the albergue where I ran into GV.  She'd found a grocery store so I headed back out ... again ... and followed her directions to the store and stocked up with sandwich materials and supplies for the next day.

I ate dinner in the kitchen area with GV and a few others.  I met KSam here.  It was a nice relaxing evening if I remember right.  My only issue was that I ate some watermelon for dinner and I ended up having to get up and go the bathroom three times that night and I swear I was sleeping in the noisiest, creakiest bunk bed ever.  I'm sure my bunk bed mates hated my gutts.

Day twenty-six was behind me.  My stop at the Cruz de Ferro gave me a lot to think about ... I'm still thinking about it.  My life is pretty good and I really don't have any insurmountable burdens.  All my burdens are inside myself and I am the only one who can overcome them.  With this realization, things were looking up and, with a little more wisdom, my adventure continued.

Total Distance: 16.93 Miles (27.27 km)
Total Time: 6 hours 34 minutes
Total Elevation Up: 2,085 ft ( 635.51 m)
Total Elevation Down: 4,852 ft (1,478.89m)

[Click on map for a larger version]


  1. I so remember that day!! Another honest to God American...we were generally so few!! That and your toes!! :-)

  2. KSam: American Camino Walkers ... so rare. All the English speakers were Canadians. My toes weren't that bad!