Day 24 – Foncebadon to Molinaseca — 20km´s

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I was hoping to admire the sun rise from Cruz de Ferro so got up rather early, but it was  raining and very cold.  Snug as a bug in my only jacket (wind breaker that provided no warmth whatsoever) I started the climb to the iron cross.  I knew today was going to be a BIG day for me, as I was finally at that point of the Camino were I was ready to let go……

Over the last few days I had been reflecting on the stones I brought from home to leave at Cruz de Ferro.  At first I thought the stones I saw yesterday in Rabanal with PURPOSE painted on them would have been ideal to leave at the cross, but hey – they were way too heavy to carry on the climb up to Foncebadon and then a further climb up to the iron cross.

I have marked the day as one of the epic stages of the El Camino, where not only does the beautiful scenery weigh heavily upon your emotions, but so does the significance of the cross. I have been looking most forward to getting to this point of the walk.

The cross consists of a wooden pole about five feet high surmounted by an iron cross.  At its base there has been a mound forming over the years. A legend says that when the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela was being built, pilgrims were asked to contribute by bringing a stone. The tradition is to throw a stone, brought from the place of origin of the pilgrim.  I will tell you a little more about the two stones I have been carrying with me for days to “dump” here at La Cruz. (Maisie / Alan / Kevin Jones / Kay / Jonathan / Yolande – you were all part of the discussion and deeper meaning behind “dump” @ MOFAM the weekend we watched the DVD – “The Way”)

There are several theories as to the origin of the cross – It may have been erected to mark the road when it snows, as it becomes frequently hidden from view – others believe it is just a pile of stones called Montes de Mercurio, erected since Celtic times to mark the strategic locations of the roads.  Those who continued the tradition by placing a stone along the path, then called it Cruz de Ferro (which means Iron Cross).

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In itself, it’s not a spectacular cross, rather a “plainish” one set upon a tall pillar with a tall pile of rocks strewn at the base. BUT it’s those rocks that are so significant.  I could not believe how many people were at the cross when I got there as I had left fairly early.  Carsten and Kieren from Germany (father and son) it was great seeing both of them again.  Carsten was the chef with two others (all men) the night only 11 pilgrims arrived in Calzadilla, seeing him reminded me of the great fun night we shared and the yummy food we ate and oh yes the vino tinto (red wine) we drank, squeezing every last drop from the bottles.  

Rita and Anthony arrived while I was preparing for my “dump” (that is the emotional / baggage dump).  Rita was in high spirits after a really bad day yesterday with her leg.  She shared that the owner of the Casa Rural in Rabanal mixed up a concoction of “whatever”  which she downed in hope of easing the pain, minutes later she was laughing and ask Anthony to get her another.  Two of these concoctions and she woke up this morning feeling like she could run a marathon.  Hmmmm I wonder if that concoction would work wonders on my aching feet!!!  After catching up with Rita and Anthony, Carsten and Kieren I had this overwhelming feeling of anxiety and stir up of emotions.  Immediately I fell into the questioning mode — so why has this STOP stirred up emotions?  As one embarks on the walk, one “puts” into the stone/s a burden upon your mind and heart. By casting away the stone at Cruz de Ferro, you apparently symbolically cast away your burdens. I brought along two stones that Cassidy and Tanika gave me 8 years ago.  The girls gave me a few rocks that they carefully planned with a message written on them when they were visiting their dad one holiday.  I took a picture of the rocks thinking when I get to this point I would take one last look at the message they wrote before I  “dump” my burden!

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I put great thought into what burden I would cast away. But then about half way through my journey across Spain, I realized my burdens were maybe a bit insignificant relative to the burdens of others. Standing now at Cruz de Ferro myself, I looked at the pile of stones, many with writing on them, many weighing down pictures, pieces of cloth, clothing and letters and I wondered what other burdens lay cast beneath my feet. I placed my stones carefully (I did not “dump” the stones as originally planned) as I have come to realize how grateful I am for the relationship I have managed to maintain with the girls dad  – rather than dumping the past I will cherish the beauty of what we had and be THANKFUL for the “precious gifts” we brought into this world namely Cassidy Michelle and Tanika Mikayla – I feel blessed today!!  As I continued to spend a moment pondering my own blessings, my heart went out to Phil as he has missed out on so much JOY and UNCONDITIONAL LOVE and a FUN LOVING FAMILY!! May peace be with him- I would not want this any other way but the way it has been and continues to be……

Carsten at the cross

Carsten had an emotional moment at Cruz de Ferro and in a way so did I, as much as I felt blessed I was emotional.  The two of us continued down the mountain in silence and  I felt so fulfilled and so in touch with my inner being.

Carsten and I have spent a few days (especially evenings) getting to know each other and he is really a dear soul and I felt connected to him in an odd sort of way (friend)!  He trusted me enough to allow  me into his personal space and had shared so much about his life, I suppose part of the reason why I cared so much about how he was feeling after Cruz de Ferro.  Total strangers yet very close Camino friends.  Anyway our silence soon got flooded with conversation and when we got to Manjarin we were in need of the daily dose of cafe con leche and tostadas – but no luck.

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We bumped into Cathy and Kevin who spent the night in Manjarin and explained how primitive it still was with the outdoor bathroom and toilets across the road from the Albergue.  The “shack” that is what it looked like, was an old barn with an attic and this is where they slept.  They both shared that it was an amazing experience and the “last templar” (as he calls himself) was a great host.  The cafe con leche was screaming for me and I decided to move on in the hope of getting to the next village Acebo within minutes as it was downhill all the way.

And then, OMW – the downhill was so steep it was worse than the climb.  Thank goodness Carsten stuck by me as I was sure today was the day I would break a bone in my foot.  My feet had no support with the sandals and were everywhere on the loose rocks.  The climb down was grueling, almost a little like bittersweet, the highlight of the cruz de ferro and the manic descent to Molinaseca.

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Once we arrived in Molinaseca a natural swimming pool at the river  welcomed us into what seemed to be a festive little village.  Carsten was meeting his son in Ponferrada and as much as I wanted to continue walking with him my feet where telling me to stop.  I really thought that I deserved to spend the afternoon in Molinaseca after the grueling steep downhill where a mountain biker almost wiped me out.  Carsten suggested I rest and have something to eat, maybe I would feel better and continue with him to Ponferrada, it was only another 7 km!  When you have sore feet even a 100 meters is not an option.  I stayed in Molinaseca and Carsten walked on to Ponferrada to meet up with his son.

The Albergue had a long queue and I was praying I would get a bed for the night.   While I was in the queue I hear a familiar voice call my name.  It was Debbie, she was tempted to stay but was still feeling strong so walked the 7 km to Ponferrada.  So many familiar faces made the stay in Molinaseca an enjoyable stop.  Randy, Tammy, Don were amongst the few that I joined for dinner close  to the Romanesque bridge that leads across the river into the town and the main street.  At the end of the bridge on the left was this great little cafe where I hung out for a while with a view of the bridge and saying hello to fellow pilgrims passing by.

Randy is from Canada and walking the Camino for his brother who was diagnosed with pancreas cancer 5 months ago.  His brothers baseball cap was attached to his back pack. I had not seen Randy for a few days so the catch up with him today was very special.  Randy’s wife walked the Camino 10 years ago and he was knowledgeable on some of the routes and what to expect.  Randy’s blisters and feet were still in bad shape and every time I would see him nursing his feet it was an inspiration for me to continue with my small blisters in comparison to his, which by the way have healed!  One afternoon (a few days ago) it took Randy close to 4 hours to nurse his feet and get them ready for his journey the following day.  I could feel his pain as well as mine watching him.  Anyhow, Randy shared with me that his brother passed away two days ago.   I had no words and felt so sad as I knew Randy wanted his brother to know when he got to Santiago which was still +- 8 / 9 days away.   Randy would skype his brother every evening, sharing the days experience with him.  The funeral would take place once Randy got home and he was asked to deliver the eulogy – I have no doubt that after walking the Camino the eulogy for his brother would  be inspiring.  Good luck Randy, you were great fun and I know your aim is to get to Santiago by the 23rd / 24th so hopefully I will catch you in the square on the 25th / 26th.

A great day and feeling so much lighter, odd but even my back pack felt lighter after Cruz de Ferro, yes I left two stones there but I did not have that heavy feeling on my back the rest of the day.   I am looking forward to another day on the Camino tomorrow.

On I walk, feeling lighter ……..

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Showing 10 comments
  • alan stock

    Hi michelle, the randy story really cuts you deep, puts your life in focus pretty quicky.

    • sparkalot

      Alan – yes it does!

  • kimsj24

    Sjoe- I just keep crying when I read your posts…but its a sad/happy muddled cry. I love reading these…please post the rest…

    • sparkalot

      Kim – now that the photo’s are sorted I will post more frequently.

  • kay

    OMW, what sad, yet beautiful stories each person doing the walk can share. I could easily sit and listen to each person’s motivation for embarking on this journey. It’s truly inspirational!

    • sparkalot

      Kay – I am sooooo happy you are enjoying the “story”!!

  • Elrisha

    Okay its Sunday and I have been checking my phone since 3 this afternoon, where is the other blogg’s??? U can’t take one on an ’emotional journey’ an then have to wait a week an den…………Nothing!!! Not Ayoba!! Please let the rest follow SOon I can’t wait for the end

    • sparkalot

      The pressure!! (only bluffing) – will post more frequently now that the photo issue has been sorted. The photos tell the “story” so much better!

  • Mike

    You have an amazing ability to write. Makes one feel as if we there with you. Keep going. Keep writing its awesome reading. Pleased your load is lighter. Lots of love and encouragement Mike N

    • sparkalot

      Mike – finally have the some photos uploaded just for you xx

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