We began our stage today in Foncebadon, a mountain village with a single unpaved street. We delayed leaving until 7:20 so as not to do too much mountain climbing in the dark, only to discover we were in the midst of very dense fog. It was pretty cool.
2 km in we reached the Iron Cross. I had expected that the dawn would have risen by the time we got there, but probably due to the fog it was still dark.
The Iron Cross is probably the earliest and most famous monument for pilgrims on the Camino. There apparently has been a sacred monument in this place since Roman times or before. The monument consists of a small iron cross mounted on a tall pole atop a mound of rocks and stones. It is a place where pilgrims leave stones which they have brought with them for the origin of their Camino. The stones can be placed as a memorial or prayer, or can represent some symbolic weight that the pilgrim is wishing to let go.
I brought a small pebble of limestone from the creek bed in our backyard. Rich carried a fossil (exogyra).
As you can see from the elevation profile we had a very steep and long descent off the mountain today. No view because of the fog for a number of hours.
Now we are in Ponferrada seen in the distance in this last photo.
Yesterday was a long, hot stage to get to Astorga, a town with Roman roots. We were too tired to write, so today I’ll combine two days.
We started out yesterday with a 28.5 km day ahead of us, but unsure how my toe would hold out. Fortunately Rich has expanded his expertise to podiatry and wrapped that little guy up in layers of gauze and tape, and it has survived.
We made 3 new Australian acquaintances (Heather, Peter and Andrew) yesterday morning and enjoyed walking with them until we had to kick into higher gear to ensure a timely arrival in Astorga.
Once in our destination we registered at the large albergue, shared a washer with 2 other pilgrims (the nice German guy wouldn’t affend my sensibilities by making me touch his briefs – how quaint), hung the laundry and sought a beer.
We ended up lunching with our Spanish friend Jose Luis who we met on day one of our Camino, and afterwards viewed a Palace designed by Gaudi and toured the Cathedral.
Today was designed to be a shorter stage but we tacked on another 5km of steep climbing into the mountains. Unbelievably we are now at a higher elevation than we were when crossing the Pyrenees. Tomorrow we will reach our highest point of the Camino and then have a very steep and long descent. (More mountains in the future though.)
Officially there are 10 more days of walking until we reach Santiago. We are leaving Castillo y León autonomy and entering Galicia, where the climate should change to cooler and wetter Atlantic weather.
We’re out of León and in a little bitty town on the ‘scenic route’. We made excellent time but my toe is in severe distress. 28.5 km to walk tomorrow.
Some photos from our 2 days in León where we are enjoying a rest day. We have said goodbye to some pilgrim friends that were moving on and regained other friends we had left behind.
In the next few days we’ll be heading back into the mountains and into Galicia and the final 2 weeks of our journey.
For now we’ve had a mini-vacation with a real bed, great showers and sightseeing.
Tonight we hope to attend a free organ concert in the cathedral.
We’re 12 km out of Leon in a delightful albergue. Due to our extra walking yesterday we can relax this afternoon in the garden with free wifi and some drinks. Laundry is drying on the line.
Tomorrow and the next day we’ll be at a hotel (yay!!!!) in Leon and resting up. After Leon we’ll start climbing back into the hills and leave the Meseta behind. Looking forward to the last 13 stages.
I’m combining two posts in one because of wifi issues.
So the Meseta…
It’s really boring. As Rich said today it’s like we’re doing a Camino across Nebraska. However, we had a nice day anyway because the weather was sunny, cool and with gorgeous strong breezes. We left at 6:15, made really good time and and were lucky enough to snag prime lodging in the destination village.
Other pilgrims weren’t as lucky. With hundreds of pilgrims walking each stage everyday we are encountering situations where there aren’t enough beds available and those arriving even in the early afternoon have to walk on to the next town or further to try to find lodging. That could be 3, 7 or more kilometers on top of the 27 already walked.
We are have reached the halfway point of the Camino and are 3 days out from Leon where we plan to get a hotel and take a rest day.
Today is Tristan’s 19th birthday. Happy Birthday Tristo! Hope you have a fun with your friends.
We had a long day to El Burgo Ranero. We went an extra 7.4 km today to get to a bigger town with more lodging. It’s hot and will be hotter tomorrow.
We’ve been meeting up with some of the same pilgrims along the way and meeting new ones. Today we ended up sharing gin and tonics over lunch (see photo). Had a great lunch of beer, scrambled eggs, bacon and fries.
Thursday night we spent at the Santa Maria parochial albergue in Carrion de Los Condes. This was our second experience with a church albergue and the nuns were very special. They greeted us at registration with hot tea and cookies.
At 5:30 there was Vespers in the church followed by a pilgrim meet-and-greet sing-a-long. Each of the 30 pilgrims being housed by the church that night was invited to tell their name, where they are from, and why they were walking the Camino. Some tales were very inspiring, others were rather heartbreaking.
After mass at 8 there was a pilgrim blessing and then a communal dinner which everyone contributed to and helped prepare.
We did another long walk today, so now we are 1 day ahead of the guidebook. It was a bit hard (17 miles) but the road was good and the weather was sunny and warm.
I think that’s enough of the extended days for me. I had to push my pace really hard and at times found myself chanting in my head “don’t think about your feet”. I have persistent blisters on my little toe, big toe and right heel of my right foot that just don’t seem to heal. They may be with me until the end of the Camino.
Anyway, based on the recommendation of a Polish pilgrim named Yaris, who we first met in Santo Domingo and have reconnected with recently, we are at a lovely pilgrim oasis tonight.
We left Burgos this morning at our usual time and made the guide book’s official stage destination before noon. The day was cool and sunny and the walking was good, so we continued on another 10 km for a total of about 31 km today. My Fitbit reads 19 miles.
The Meseta is one of the areas where we can combine stages or do 1.5 stages a day to gain time for later when we might want/need a rest day. This region is relatively flat, open and empty except for harvested grain fields and wind turbines. It can seem either hot and boring or a great place for contemplation depending on who you ask.
I’m not sure Rich was a fan of the 1.5 stages we did today so I’m not sure what we’ll do tomorrow. It seems we are averaging about 4 km an hour with stops.
Some topics on the dangers of the Camino that I’ve been thinking of writing about:
We’ve finished a third of the Camino and made it to the fabulous city of Burgos in Castille y Leon province.
For better or for worse we took the scenic route into the city via a park along the river. It was much nicer than tromping in through the suburbs but must have been a lot longer because we didn’t see a single other pilgrim along the way.
We’re in the municipal albergue which was remodeled so that it is very modern. It has the cubicle version of bunk beds- like you are sleeping in a box.
This afternoon we toured the gothic Burgos Cathedral. Words can’t describe it. It’s absolutely amazing in terms of art and architecture.
We haven’t decided yet if we’re staying another day in Burgos. I think we’re leaning towards moving on. The Camino calls even if the feet are reluctant.