Foncebadon to Ponferrada (stop over in Molinaseca)

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I did not sleep too well tossing and turning thinking about a sound plan B.  Once I quieted my mind  it was actually quite simply.  We will walk to the town of Molinaseca and find a hotel there to spend the night and then be on schedule for Ponferrada the following night.  However, this meant we would have nothing with us but our day packs.  When I booked this trip I decided to make use of a Camino agent as I did not want the girls to be exposed to communal bathrooms and sleepless nights due to loads of snoring.  The walk is tough enough still to experience restless nights of sleeping. I would be ok as I could take a sleeping tablet but I did not want to go down that road with the girls, so opted to use a Camino expert ¨Follow The Camino¨ to pre-book our accommodation as well as transport our luggage from hotel to hotel.  My back pack was 11kg´s last year and I walked in summer and did not have to have thermals, warm jackets, gloves, scarves, beanies, etc., besides back packs heavier than mine last year was not going to be fair on the girls and therefore I opted to a have our luggage transported.  We packed in suitcase type bags and not back packs so there was no ways we could take our luggage with us and this meant for one night we would sleep and wear the clothes we had on for another day.  Not the end of the world and in fact a good life lesson for the girls.  Armed with our cocktail of vitamins, Cassidy´s  medication, clean set of underwear, one hair brush and our toothbrushes we were packed and ready for the day.

Excitement filled our cosy room as the girls and I waited in anticipation to get our feet on the Camino, it was still dark at 07:00.  We were up, dressed, and ready within minutes and the wait for day light was itching our feet as we wanted to get going. ´We were warned by the hotel owner that it was going to snow and rain but the girls were so excited and there spirits so high that nothing was going to stop them from doing what they have set out to do – come rain, snow, wind they were walking!!  Kitted out in our thermal pants and vests, fleecy tops, warm jackets, scarves and beanies we finally put our feet on the camino path towards Molinaseca, +- 20km’s away @ 08h00.

It was freezing cold and snow patches were everywhere.  The path was wet and muddy and I was worried about Tanika´s shoes as we eventually settled for takkies as she was not comfortable in trail type shoes.  I learnt on my last camino that the shoe is about comfort and not necessarily what the experts advise you to walk in, hmmmm I lost sight of weather conditions, but hell no, who would have thought it would be snowing in Spring.

The iron cross was only a few km´s away and as the tip of the cross was in sight the girls picked up mobility and away we climbed to get to the point of their wish and dreams.  The time spent there was filled with such awe, happiness and emotion as they both blessed each stone they brought along from South Africa and the special hearts they made with well wishes for Brad their brother, the family, children in need and all the homeless people.  I stood back and watched them select a special place to lay each stone amongst the many others that were there, each stone telling a story.  The girls browsed around trying to figure out some of the pain and joy that lay beneath their feet.

While the girls were exploring the pile of rocks I felt the presence of strong cosmic energy. I could feel this energy deep within and the positive warm energy enveloped my entire being and the vibrations echoed through my core.  I felt so connected to earth again and the light weight of my Camino from this point on last year filled my soul with joy and happiness.  I had come to terms with so much pain and emotion by the time I reached Cruz de Ferro. When I felt ready I made a final ascent up the rock pile and touched the cross where I asked the universe to allow all the positive energy I was feeling to carry us safely to the end of our journey, that being Santiago!  With an immense feeling of elation and energy I left a final message for pilgrims who would follow the same journey, Buen Camino and love the journey!!

It was getting colder by the second while we were at the highest point on the camino and it was time to move on.  The rain started belting down on us and we had to put our bulky rain poncho´s on to protect our day packs as well as our bodies even though our jackets were rain proof our pants were not and extra protection was not a bad idea.

Once we left Cruz de Ferro and the emotions dried up (emotions mainly about Brad) we turned the energy and started laughing about every happy moment in our lives. The girls burst into a loud laughter when I desperately needed a bush piddle.  They were in fits of laughter and shocked.  I explained their time will come and they will be happy to master the bush piddle like I have after 35 days of walking last year!

Tanika battled in particular as the rain disturbed her view. Tanika is unable to judge depth without her glasses and if I allowed her to take them off it would have been rather dangerous for her to walk as the paths were filled with rock like terrain.

 

When we left the small medieval village of Manjarin two things came imminently apparent.  The first was that we were on a serious descent.  Trekking downhill can be and often is harder on the body than uphill.  Our  trekking poles (walking sticks) made the day easier on our knees and quads. These poles allow you to transfer a great deal of the work to your core and upper body when used properly.  We absolutely loved our trekking poles as they too aided to balance us on the hectic descent. The second was that the weather was going to be quite fierce. The cloud bank brought pretty strong winds, sleet and rain that came at us from above, the side and even sometimes from below. While I knew we were innately protected on this journey I was a bit concerned going through the thick of this storm. Part of the descent required very deliberate footing as it was dangerously slick.

 

I could smell the cafe con leche in Acebo. A much-needed stop to refuel our bodies and warm up in front of a cosy fire. The bar was filled with pilgrims enjoying the heat and chats. We were luckily dry except for the bottom of our pants and Tanika´s shoes and socks which we could dry in front of the fire. We allowed ourselves and enjoyed a lengthy break as we did not have much further to go and besides the atmosphere was so splendid we did not want to leave. We met Sean and Romanie from South Africa who live in Craighall, just round the corner from us. Two interesting Americans and a friendly gentleman from Ireland.

The last stretch from Acebo to Molinaseca was absolute hell on the knees, the Camino goes from 1505 meters to about 400 meters. The rocks were wet, the paths muddy, the snow thick and the rain continued. The slippery rocks made it challenging for the three of us and at one point I slipped, went flying in all directions. Cassidypolitely continued in front of me oblivious to what was happening and Tanika was laughing so loud she could not control herself and wee’d in her pants. Full of mud I regained myself and then decided to burst into laughter as well as I could imagine what sight Tanika must have been exposed to. Tanika was so wet already, wet thermals and pants would make no difference to her adventure.

Thank the heavens we got through the madness of the weather with only one slippery slip and every time we thought about it we all burst out in rage of laughter again.  I came off the mountain with the girls quite thankful for our safe descent. Molinaseca was a welcome sight indeed. It was a beautiful town that was quite wealthy in medieval times and had some nice homes that seemed to indicate it still retained its status as a wealthy enclave. It was charming enough that I was happy we were spending the night there and this also allowed for a short walk to Ponferrada the next day so we would be back on schedule for our booked accommodation.

No rain, no snow, not too shabby we got going on the Camino path at 09:00, there was no rush and we had the entire day to walk the 8km to Ponferrada. The casa rural (bed and breakfast) we stayed at was very cosy and special. We enjoyed a delicious wholesome breakfast in front of the fire. The owner took the time to come greet us and wished us well on our journey. He could speak fluent English and Tanika capitalized on this fact and asked him many questions about his casa rural. We learnt that the dinning hall was once upon a time the stables for the horses. The rooms were the main house which they converted into several bedrooms with on suit bathrooms. The table stands were the wheels of wagons used hundreds of years ago. So much history in this little casa rural that we found interesting.

Most of the walk was on tarred surfaces with one detour through a quaint village.

The stretch into Ponferrada was slightly demoralizing. I had forgotten the Camino trail circled the town without making progress towards it, well so it felt. After crossing over a large 11th century bridge which gave the town its namesake “Pons Ferrata” (Iron Bridge) and passing through the town wall, one of the first things you see is the large and imposing Templar Castle.

I so badly wanted to explore the castle last year but it was closed and was looking most forward to exploring it with the girls. I had no idea it was such a large and historically important castle. Legend and lore holds that keys to the Holy Grail and Ark of the Covenant are located within the walls of the castle. The tour around the renovated part as well as the old part was most interesting. It would have been a fairy tale come true had a knight in shinning armor presented himself in front of the girls. We continued to explore every nook and cranny of Ponferrada and enjoyed peaceful time in the cutest, funkiest cafeterria.

We were on track with our scheduled pre-booked accommodation and ready for a warm good nights rest.

Templars Castle

 

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  • Michelle

    What a great adventure…. be safe all of you. While I was reading this I was just thinking to myself that there is no school in this world that can give the girls this type of education. So cool!

  • Sharon

    Sounds amazing… Enjoy the journey girls!

  • Lee Swanson

    Awesome reading this. I def want to do the camino some day

  • Rob Nell

    Sorry Sparks, but I can’t help sitting here and chuckling to myself at the ups and downs you having. Mostly the fact that (as always) you see the funny side to the falls one experiences daily! So I am actually laughing WITH you. Keep up the commentary, great reading material after a long day at work! *HUGS*

  • Alan stock

    Hi michelle, your blogs are so positive, when you look back at your last trip you did not know what to expect in the beginning, but hey second time around, you started as you finished. Really great

  • Wendy Eriksen

    This is why you remain so close to my heart. Chirpy and positive. xo

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