Foncebadon to Ponferrada (Pop: 69000)
April 24, 2015
7:45 AM to 2:15 PM
6.5 hrs for 26.72 km
We are in the city again. We hear busy traffic noise from our third floor blue and white room at Hotel El Castillo, a couple of blocks from the castle and historic centre of Ponferrada. There is modern art on the wall instead of crucifixes and madonnas. We have a large bathroom with the biggest shower stall yet.
We are happy there is an elevator. This has been a very up and down day with especially steep downs. In spite of a forecast that said it would be cloudy until three when the rain would start, we walked in drizzle from 9:30 AM on. Even rain proof jackets are no longer rainproof after a while. My shoulders and upper arms have been wet for a few hours.
I shipped my pack along with the heavy half of the contents of Brian’s pack today. I am glad I did. So was Brian. I usually hurrying to catch up to Brian and Margaret. I thought our moving average was seven kilometres per hour. Brian assures me it was only 5.3. We only stopped twice, once for coffee after 12 km in a lovely stone restaurant in Acebo. We parked ourselves beside the roaring fireplace. Our jackets were actually beginning to dry by the time we left. Our second stop was for lunch in Molinaseca 8 km back. It was too wet for a picnic lunch even though we had the supplies. I offered to carry Margaret’s pack but she said she would be lost without it. I told her she would be liberated.
Instead of pink heather hills, our grey day was brightened by white hills. No, not snow, it was only on the higher distant mountains. Shrubs of stiff branchlets covered in small white flowers decorated every hill. I will call this broom until a gardener friend corrects me. Randomly there were smudges of lavender just beginning to bloom purple and a few spots of yellow gorse. As we went along, the broom shared the landscape with a shrub with larger white flowers that looked like wild roses but were not. The five petals each had a flash of burgundy and a yellow centre.
A few kilometres above Foncebadon we came to the Cruz de Ferro at 1504 metres where pilgrims leave a stone and a prayer or a blessing of love on the great pile of stones at the foot of a simple iron cross on a very tall pole. Margaret left her stone as well as two she carried for friends, Keith and Rick. I did not bring a stone but I left my prayers in this silent meditative place where others also gathered near us in silence.
We climbed still higher to 1515 metres, the highest point on the Camino, but our steepest climb still awaits us tomorrow. Mountains give such incredible views even in mist and rain.
We passed the only latrine we have seen on the Camino at Manjarin across the street from where the solitary resident of Manjarin lives. He waved and wished us “Buen Camino”. He has a one room albergue with 35 mattresses and an outdoor toilet. Not our style.
Molinaseca has a Roman bridge at its entrance and very narrow streets but the west side has quite large newer homes with big gardens. This wealthier bigger look continued as we entered Ponferrada. There wisteria was draping itself everywhere, even climbing a large spruce and making it look like a decorated Christmas tree.
Red poppies spilled across embankments as we entered the city. They mixed with mauve and yellow weeds. Flowers definitely made a rainy day cheerier.
Margaret did not sleep well last night, but all of us are feeling very weary now. It feels as if we have been walking for twenty-four days.