The Templar castle in Ponferrada: http://goo.gl/maps/T97No
Entry 44, January 7th, 2012
I forgot to mention the roscón yesterday. Ernesto bought a pair of these holiday cakes for us because it was king's day and he misses his family. They're large and round with a hole in the center and are only baked once a year for Reyes. There is a toy baked into each one as well – they were delicious as we ate them in the Korean woman's tiny sitting room.
Expenses, Day 44
Albergue San Nicolás de Flüe (Ponferrada): 5.00
Breakfast and Chocolate: 5.00
Trip Total: 1013.34
I keep saying this, but these past two days have been some of the most beautiful country I have ever seen.
Leaving Foncebadon (after saying goodbye to Ernesto and Chan Hee) I was right below the cloud level. The sun rose and I saw a reverse sunrise as it ascended into the mist. It was strange walking through the clouds with everything backlit as if with a red spotlight.
Is Foncebadon where Coelho fought the dog? I can't remember. (note: it is)
I reached the Cruz de Ferro shortly afterward. It is a small iron cross mounted atop a huge wooden pillar around seven meters tall, located at the highest point I will see on the Camino Frances (more than 1500 meters in elevation). Traditionally pilgrims bring a stone in their bag, representing sins and attachments, to the Cruz de Ferro and leave it there as a symbol of casting off these weights. There is a huge pile of stones, mementos, pictures, ribbons and such around the base of the pillar. Thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of stones – some of them massive! My companions have been busy.
I climbed the pile, hand over hand, until I could touch the pillar. Removing my own stone, I considered it for a moment. It came to me on the Camino Aragonés, a rough block of sandstone that sits nicely in my palm. I let it fall and it was swallowed by the rest.
One last little detail about the albergue in Foncebadon before I forget. On the mantle above the excellent fireplace and mixed in with the Buddhas, baby Jesuses, and Krishnas was a somber Obi-wan Kenobi. Epic win.
The rest of the day was spent on slender paths winding through the hills. Mist was pouring off the mountains in the wet East wind. I saw two other ruined villages, one which was called Manjarín (pop. 1) and had an albergue of sorts. It looked interesting, but the owner was busy and didn't want me around. Stuttering generator, ramshackle buildings, downspout made of bottled waters cut in half.
Later in the afternoon we did start to come across little villages fueled by tourism. Kwang-sik said that we made 1000m of downward elevation today, all of it rough, uneven, and rocky. Eventually I made it out of the mountains and into the valley – back into the thick clouds. Above, everything was bright and sparkling, but below it was like being stuck in a dream sequence. Visibility was fifty feet, maximum.
We took Rosa to dinner since she flies back to Italy tomorrow. A bit too much wine . . . tomorrow is Sunday and so went grocery shopping after dinner. Standing in the store, a little drunk, smelling of wine and old sweat, spattered with mud and 44 days unshaven, I realized that I was barely one step above the homeless. The camino truly is a lesson in humility.