Day 25: Foncebadón – Ponferrada

So, let me tell you about my day…

After yesterday’s climb, and knowing that I ‘only’ have 26km’s to walk today, I decided to start at a more respectable time – 08:00 (it’s weekend, after all).

From Foncebadón (really a great little hamlet, in a stunning setting), one climbs again, until you get to ‘Cruz de Ferro’ (iron cross). This is a major landmark on the Camino – where pilgrims put a stone down, as a symbol of asking forgiveness for their sins. For modern day pilgrims, it really still is quite a significant marker on the way (even if you aren’t religious), and while there I saw some pilgrims praying, others crying. Reaching this point on my own personal journey was no less significant or emotional – only, for me (don’t know why) I really only became emotional when I reached the village of El Acebo, about 7km’s down hill from the cross.

From the cross, however, one starts a hellish descent that only levels out about 15km’s later at Molinaseca (below in the Bierzo valley).
To give you an idea: we started the day at about 1100m above sea level, then climbed to 1530m’s, and then descended to 340m above sea level. It’s not only an exceptionally steep descent, but also quite challenging surface to walk on (especially with a backpack on your back). It was the first stretch on the Camino where I realised that, even a single step gone wrong, can result in quite serious injury. It really is impossible to describe it – and it seems to go on forever.

I now understand why pilgrims repent their sins and get their ‘slates clean’ at the cross at the top – believe me, you need as many blank pages as possible in your little ‘sin book’, as the swearing and cursing coming down that mountain would not lay well with any god!

Anyway, coming down from the cross, I had a beer and cold drink at El Acebo, and really only there did I become emotional as I thought about the experience of reaching the cross. Though I’m currently not too far off the 600km mark, nobody will ever know or understand how many thousands of miles I’ve walked in my head and heart over the past months. It may only be a simple little iron cross on a mountain in Spain (conquered by thousands every year), but for me it was an extremely meaningful and significant waypoint on my own journey.

From El Acebo one continues the downhill walk to Riego de Ambrós, stupidly believing that the worst is behind you.
Not so: from Riego de Ambrós, a further 5km’s of the descent continues (over extremely tricky surface), until your are finally washed out at the bottom on a tar road, right at the entrance to Molinaseca.
It was extremely gruelling – my knees, toes, and body in general, are wasted!

From Molinaseca it’s another 7km’s to Ponferrada, where I stay over tonight. It’s a much larger town (perhaps even a city) than I expected, but I am just so tired that I doubt if I’ll be doing much sightseeing.

I arrived shortly after 15:00 (today’s downhill slowed my pace to about 3.5km’s per hour), had a beer, checked in, showered, did my washing, had a quick bite to eat, and now I’m actually ready to go to bed.

One thing I could laugh about today was when I asked Tara (we met up at the cross), if she knows what happened to the one-legged guy?
As I’ve mentioned before, she has a great sense of humour. 
“I guess he hopped onto a bus”, she said.
I nearly pee’d in my pants!

I have another long day ahead tomorrow, and I need some sleep. I’m bloody tired.

May you all have serious braai’s going, and something cold in your glasses.

Buen Camino!

PS. Jy’t net een tjommie. Vaseline!

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