June 7, 2011 Foncebadón to Ponferrada

Awoke to cold Foncebadon parochial albergue chapel and hurried to get dressed in the chill air. Breakfast with Sebastian and woman from Quebec and young man from Belgium. Off to walk, mostly uphill until Cruce de Ferro.

At Cruce de Ferro watched Sebastian, Bea and others have their private, quiet time.

Long and grueling downhill to Manjarin where man kicked dog and everything smells of cat/dog piss/poop. Very disturbing scene and can’t imagine ever wanting to spend any time there, much less an overnight.

Further downhill to delightful town of El Acebo where met Daniel of U.S. on his eighth camino. Daniel had been with Danish man who died outside Estella. Told him I would connect him with family of man who died.

Onward downhill to Molinaseca and cervesa on grass near river. Continued out of town with pilgrim family as Ponferrada gradually began to appear. We all put our things in the giant, municipal albergue and went to see the Templar castle which was open but unfortunately too expensive at 6€ each. No pilgrim discount. Along with others decided to bag castle and instead went grocery shopping for dinner — my first pilgrim-cooked albergue meal. Glorious meal of spaghetti with goat cheese/vegetable sauce — three helpings. Had to shoo four women out of the men’s bathroom where they were doing their laundry. They didn’t seem to mind the idea of us showering while they washed clothes, but somehow it seemed like the women should use their own ample bathroom or the outdoor laundry sinks like everyone else. Another pilgrim party with group games under patio arbor. Bed at 22:00 in vast, basement dormitory with no windows.

June 16, 2008 Rabanál del Camino to Molinaseca

I left the Rabanal albergue, once again thankful that the hospitaleros there had allowed me to stay without any payment and hoping dearly that I would find an ATM soon.

After Rabanal it is a climb, up and up to Foncebadon. This is the town remembered in Paulo Coelho‘s book, The Pilgrimage, which years ago had inspired me to plan a future camino pilgrimage. In the book the central character fights a wild dog in an abandoned house of this mountain village. It’s easy in non-fiction Foncebadon to see how the imagination could lead a person to a story like that. Though there were no wild dogs to be seen it was clear this was a spooky and deserted village.

After Focebadon I came finally to Cruce de Ferro, a mound of stones with a tall wooden pole on which was mounted an iron cross, hence the site’s name. Here at Cruce de Ferro pilgrims leave a rock or memento of their life at home or of a sin for which they ask forgiveness. I watched as a friend from England and another from Quebec left their stones and we took turns taking photos of each other at this famous camino site.

Standing at Cruce de Ferro reminded me of the pilgrims I’d missed over the last days. I realized that Danni, Trevor and Tim now were ahead of me and I was lonely and sad as I thought of their friendship. If I could walk far enough each day I had a good chance of catching them, perhaps at Molinaseca or Ponferrada. With each turn of the trail I looked ahead, trying to see if the pilgrims in the distance were perhaps my pilgrim family.

I passed Manjardin, stopped for a break at El Acebo, and then on tired feet made the final kilometers down to the beautiful, riverside town of Molinaseca. I searched the town for an ATM, to no avail, and instead used my credit card for a cash-free stay at La Posada de Muriel, a delightful inn with fine views to the south from my pleasant and sunny room. No Trevor, Danni or Tim in town, but at least a nice room and hope of an ATM at Ponferrada the next day.