Homer's Travels: Camino 2013 - Day 30: Foncebadón To Ponferrada

Monday, January 13, 2014

Camino 2013 - Day 30: Foncebadón To Ponferrada

This would be the second repeat stage for me (my first Camino post is here).  My original itinerary had us stopping in Molinaseca, a nice town just before Ponferrada, but, after considering distances, we decided that stopping in Ponferrada made more sense.  I had mixed feeling about stopping in Ponferrada.  I wanted to tour the Knights Templar castle but I'd not liked the albergue ... and there is only one in Ponferrada.

Sunrise on the way to the Cruz de Ferro.
We got up early on a fairly chilly morning.  The mornings would be chilly from now on (actually they'd been chilly for a while now) and I usually started out with my rain jacket on until my body warmed up.  As we left Foncebadón we passed a little store.  It hadn't been there last time and, thinking that Foncebadón was pretty much a ghost town, we hadn't even walked around to see if anything had changed.  If I'd known it was there I would have stopped at the store.

We climbed the hill and reached the cruz de ferro.  Last time I hadn't put much thought into bringing something to leave at the base of the cross.  This time I was a bit better prepared.  We took turns taking each other's picture next to the cross and, when it was my turn, I left three broken shells.  The first shell was the one I picked up in Fisterra last time and had broken while attempting to drill a hole in it.  The second shell was the broken necklace shell also made from a Fisterra shell.  The third shell was the shell J-M had given me on the Aragones and that I'd broken in Navarette.  I'd spent a lot of time trying to figure out what each shell represented.  What I finally came up with was they represented the people you meet, befriend, and lose along the Camino.

The Cruz de Ferro - The Iron Cross.
Along with the three shells I also left the big toe nail that came off my last Camino (yes ... I kept it for two years).  It represented the physical hardship of walking the Camino and walking through life really.

We left the cross and stopped briefly at Manjarin, the most rustic of rustic albergues.  The bathroom was an outhouse across the highway from the albergue.  I smiled at their large dogs and went inside for a stamp and bought a magnet ... much like I'd done the last time.

Green hills even in October.
Shortly after Manjarin the Camino starts heading down.  The Cruz de Ferro is the highest point along the Camino Frances and you drop down fast as the rocky path snakes down.  The rocky path reminded me of part of the Aragones where we were constantly worried about turning an ankle.  Going down was slow and a bit tiring as you carefully picked where you would plant your foot.  The trekking poles were life, knee, and ankle savers.

We stumbled into El Acebo de San Miguel and found a place to stop for breakfast and something to drink.  A lot of people stopped here to recover from the rocky descent.  Last time I'd stopped here for some breakfast too - the first time on the Camino if I recall correctly.  Stopping for breakfast, lunch, or just a snack was now a daily habit.

Along the way we passed a group of people speaking English.  One of them in particular was acting obnoxious.  Loud.  Self-aggrandizing.  Entitled.  I thought a lot about how Americans could be so obnoxious at times.  I thought this until I found out he was Canadian.   I made sure Gv knew this ... with a smile.

We reached Molinaseca and I once again thought it would be a nice place to stop.  We did stop for lunch at a restaurant just at the edge of town.  The food was good but the service was slow.  We walked to the next town and stopped for something to drink.  We ended up stopping a lot this day and I think I may have been the one who wanted to stop the most.  I hadn't resupplied properly in Rabanal I think.

We reached Ponferrada and checked into the albergue.  There were different people running it and they seemed so much nicer than the last Hospitaleros.  The whole atmosphere of the place felt nicer.  Last time the sexes had been segregated.  This time it was not as strict.

Knights Templar castle in Ponferrada ... closed on Sunday afternoon.
It was Sunday and I wondered if the Templar Castle would even be open.  I was assured by someone at the albergue that it would so, accompanied by Ma and her friend (can't recall his name), we headed for the castle.  We reached it and saw that it was in fact closed.  We were now in winter hours and it closed about an hour before we'd arrived in Ponferrada.  I was a bit disappointed but we walked around a bit and still enjoyed most of the afternoon.

I toured the church but was disappointed that the church gift shop, a possible source for a Mary for the Wife, was not open either.  The legend of the church is that the statue of Mary which is on the altar was discovered my a Templar Knight in the hollow of a tree.

Walking back to the albergue I searched for an open food store and found everything closed.  Sunday was not a good day to shop in Spain - most stores are closed.  Fortunately the restaurants were open and this evening Gv and I ate out.  I had a hankering for a hamburger and the one they served at the restaurant was delicious.  We ate on a table in front of the restaurant and I got cold really fast.  The albergue felt nice and warm when we go back there shortly after dark.

Ponferrada seemed more interesting this time around.  Not sure what was different.  I felt more relaxed and I slept well that night.

Pictures can be found in my 2013 Camino de Santiago Google Photos album.

Total Distance on Day 29: 27 km ( 16.78 Miles)
Total Distance Walked: 688 km (427.50 Miles)

Approximate Track of the day's hike.
[Click on map for a larger version]


  1. Ah, Homegrown A-hole. Not only Canadian but from Québec. Ugh.