Winter Camino – Day 21

What goes up must come down. Down. No, further down. There, that’s it.

It turned out to be the busiest night in an Albergue to-date. Seven of us crammed into one 50-bed room. Yeesh. Seems the word has gotten out, Winter Caminos are what all the cool kids are doing this year.

I’d hoped to get an earlier jump on the day but after being up often during the night listening to the ‘symphony’ I just seemed to lose my inspiration to jump out of bed this morning. Instead a leisurely breakfast and on the trail just before 9:00am. Because I’ve somehow managed to not be the last one to leave I find numerous excuses to stop on the trail. It works. Within 15 minutes all the stragglers have passed me by. The Camino is all mine again.

A new dusting of snow is on the ground in Rabanal del Camino. This dusting, however, is growing some teeth each passing minute. Before a half hour has passed I really do have to stop and throw on my Icetrekkers. Underway again it’s time to start shooting some photos before I lose the morning glow.

The temperature is frosty this morning, about -4C. The first hour of the day was wind free so very pleasant. That changed quickly in hour two. The wind pick up and with wind chill I’m guessing it dropped to -6C. I decided it was high time to do up my jacket!

The first, and only if you discount the one-person Pueblo of Manjarin, village I will pass through today in Foncebadón. Not a lively place even in the height of summer, the Pilgrim footprints passing through town give the only indication of life.

I can’t be bothered to swing into Monte Irago for a morning cafe con leche, opting instead to keep plugging along in the snow. The day will be long enough without extra stops. Leaving town and on the hill heading towards Cruz de Ferro I turn around and admire the view. From up here Foncebadón is actually quite pretty.

But there is no time to dilly dally, I must follow the tracks and carry on my progress.

Today’s highlight is naturally Cruz de Ferro. Although not a recognized/consecrated location, this simple iron cross high upon a wooden pole has become synonymous with the Camino Frances. The (new’ish) tradition of bringing a stone from your home country and using it as a symbol of something you want to cast off or miracle you wish for has become a highlight for too many Pilgrims to count. Today I left behind a special pink stone, a symbol of a miracle in need for someone special.

Since the spot is mine today I sit in the small covered area and reflect on my journey to-date. I ask myself the same question numerous others have asked me, “Why are you doing this again?” I’m still not sure I have a complete answer but at the very least I am happy and content which ain’t a kick in the pants.

It’s not much further to today’s highest point and the wind has cranked it up a notch or two. Somehow I went from a 15C spring walk to traversing the frozen tundra of Siberia. Today I am thankful for the people who make Buffs. Under my wool hat and protecting my face, this is a life saver.

As I crest the hill I am treated to the vastness of this mountain range. Layer after layer of mountains work their way back to the horizon. With the snow capping each one I am given a new perspective on this scene.

And now what went up is about to go way down… the next stop is El Acebo, some 4kms down. Steeply down. I extend my trekking poles to help ease the stress on my knees but there is only so much they can do. It is relentless and with snow covering the many rocks on this trail I really must pay close attention to each step. After a long and slow descent I have come down below the snow line again and can see Ponferrada off in the distance. I will leave that for tomorrow with today’s destination becoming El Acebo.

I decide to try the new, spiffy Albergue I’ve read about online, La Casa del Peregrinos. It seems to be a polarizing destination, either loved or hated and not much in between. So far I am a fan. I am alone here tonight but the beds are new and comfortable, the dinner was very good and I managed to have a cheeky beverage when I arrived. There was a small issue with the hot water but when brought to the attention of the staff it was rectified and reported back to me. That is impressive! I would stay here again without reservation.

Distance walked today: 17.3 kms

Total distance walked: 460.5 kms

Today’s map:

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4 thoughts on “Winter Camino – Day 21

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