Foncebadon to Ponferrada – 27kms
This was a big day on so many levels. First, it was a lengthy distance over really difficult terrain and secondly, it was reaching the highest peak of the Camino at Cruz de Ferro.
I had pushed to Foncebadon because I wanted to be closer to the peak to see the sunrise at Cruz de Ferro.
Cruz de Ferro (also known as the Iron Cross) is the point on the Camino where traditionally, people leave the stone they have carried the whole Camino, symbolising letting go of their sins, their burdens, negative thoughts, whatever it is you feel has been weighing you down or holding you back.
So much of what I had read about Cruz de Ferro was about a place of peace, of quiet reflection and re-connecting with your journey.
I’m not religious, but I do consider myself a spiritual person and a great believer in self-reflection, so this tangible way of letting go greatly appealed to me.
Considering its popularity and significance, I really shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was incredibly taken aback by the “tourist attraction” feel of the place.
There was a huge carpark across from the cross and the main road quite literally ran right past the base of the mound caused by people’s stones. I thought that this would have to mean at some point, people’s stones would have to be cleared away, which felt a little sacrilegious.
Watching people climb up simply to get a photo of themselves touching the cross felt a little the same.
The breaking point came when an American guy kept directing people on how to get a good photo and he was directing a young woman where to stand, then to touch the cross and started joking, saying “that’s it, work it, work it.”
I had one of Bree’s hearts to let go of here and at that moment, I knew I couldn’t do it and I needed to get away from the crowds of people that continued to pour in.
The other factor was you couldn’t actually see the sunrise as the whole area was surrounded by trees. On the far side where the car park was, I could see a path and I followed it to find a break in the trees to get away from the crowds and to watch the sun come up.
I found the most beautiful spot and knew this was the place to leave Bree’s heart. I watched the sun come up, I cried and I thought about my journey so far.
When I finally left, I thanked the Camino for providing me this moment.
From here, the path narrowed considerably, so it became crowded with people impatient to pass and lots of talking.
I was still in reflection mode and the hordes of people became overwhelming, especially when a transport vehicle stopped and unloaded a large group of young, loud Americans. I just wanted some peace to process.
The Camino provided… in the form of a leaking water bladder!
Not the way I would have liked, but it definitely removed me out of the “clump” of people.
I pulled everything out of my bag and lay it on the road to dry out a bit while I investigated my water bladder. Fortunately, it was a simple case of me not screwing the lid on properly, so I wasn’t going to be left dehydrated for the rest of the day. But do you know, in that whole time I had the contents of my bag lying on the road, not one person who walked past asked if I was ok. At least 50 people walked by!
I did get my solitude though and it was quite lovely walking the various paths and looking out at the spectacular views.
Today was the day of the brutal descent though. I was mentally prepared for it thanks to a few messages from people. I think because of this and the most incredible views, I actually had an enjoyable time.
At one point, it was so steep, I felt like I was abseiling down, then realised if I was face forward, this is rappelling I think?
Anyway, it was super steep and next thing I came upon a young Korean girl (flag on her bag) who is strolling down with a pole in one hand and talking on her mobile in the other! Hat off to her.
I stopped in El Acebo and had fried eggs on toast, which was a fabulous change from the usual morning meal. El Acebo was gorgeous and if by some miracle I was here again, I would definitely stay here.
From here, the descent went even steeper, but I totally rocked it! It was like I was floating across the rocks. I barely had to think where I was putting my feet and it was like my boots had magnets and they were sticking to the rocks. I was passing people over and over again. That NEVER happens to me.
Another little joy for the day? There was an abundance of wild, ripe blackberries again. I happily munched my way to Molinesca.
I walked the last of the steep bit in with another lady and when we got to the bottom, we both raised our sticks and cheered. It was a fabulous feeling making it to the bottom.
Molinesca was another gorgeous village, but I was pushing on to Ponferrada, so had a quick rest and continued on, but it was really unpleasant along the road again.
I passed the cafe where my bag was supposed to be on the way in… to discover it wasn’t there and been delivered to my destination for Friday night!
My one saving grace was I was staying in an apartment which meant towels and soap included, but no change of clothes and the all important change out of the boots. The castle was right next to my apartment so it was my one token photo of sightseeing.
I was so tired and now feeling sulky about no fresh clothes that I just wanted food and bed. I found a fabulous little cafe near my apartment that served food all day and played 50’s and 60’s American hits. The eclecticism of this place raised my spirits, so I was a much better person walking out than in.
I had a shower and wrapped myself up in a blanket and discovered another joy – Netflix! I totally spoiled myself lying on the couch watching movies.
The best part of the evening was the messages from Riley (my gorgeous son). He was on the plane on his way here. I can’t wait to see him.