Journal Day 5: Ponferrada

Morning out of Rabanal28 May 2013
32.8 km – 20.3 mi

Rabanal was a great small town.  I was a little sad that I was too tired to walk around and check it out.  I will simply have to return.

I left the albergue at 7:30 am, and walked the stone road, still slick and wet from the rains the night before.  The sky was dark and cloudy, with some pockets of sun eerily shining through.  It was the type of sky that promised that more rain was to come.

The promise soon came true, as I headed out of Rabanal.  And just to keep it interesting, some snow and sleet were mixed in as well.  If that wasn’t enough, the wind blew so hard, the rain/sleet/snow fell almost horizontally.

I was thankful for remembering to pack my poncho, gloves, waterproof windbreaker, and rain cover for my pack.  I did not have to use these items often, but they were certainly necessary for the trek over the mountains.

For some reason (maybe it is being from the Pacific Northwest, where we Northwesterners don’t even carry umbrellas), I didn’t put the poncho on until it actually started to rain. Perhaps I thought I could wait it out (I did have my rain cover for my pack and my waterproof windbreaker on).  But as the rain fell harder and harder, showing little signs of letting up, and the wind blew so hard that the rain hit me square on, I reconsidered my position, and attempted to put on my poncho.

Ponchos are great, but they can be a little cumbersome to put on when you are in a downpour and the wind is whipping the poncho every which way.  I was able to get it mostly on and was trying to situate it over my pack and snap the snaps, when some ladies came up and asked if I wanted some help.  I gratefully accepted and they straightened the poncho out over my pack and buttoned me all up.  I must have looked pretty silly in the middle of the trail trying to get this done myself!

I thanked the two women profusely for their help, and after I was all bundled up, we continued on our way.  We kept pace for a while, and chatted.  They were both from Sacramento, CA. One of the women was part of the group American Pilgrims on the Camino or A.P.O.C.  When I told her I lived in Santiago and about the Pilgrim House project, she seemed very interested, and really liked the idea.

Eventually, the rain stopped, but the wind kept up its blustering.  I was ok with this, as it helped to dry me out from when I was exposed earlier.  I was also not as cold as I thought.  The many layers I had on, and the walking helped to keep my body temperature insulated and up.

Once I arrived at Foncebadón, I was glad I had not stayed there.  The town looked practically abandoned.  The muddied ground, grey clouds and swirling mists, did not help to promote a welcoming atmosphere.  I did not have much choice, though, as I had already walked over 5 kilometers, and the next possible place for food wasn’t for almost another 10 kilometers.  I needed to try to find some food here, or I could be in trouble.

I looked for a café, and found a tiny store run by a couple of very nice Spanish gentlemen.  I asked for a café con leche (latte, basically) and chose some snacks to munch on.  The coffee process was totally manual.  The guy ground the coffee beans (manually) in this huge, hand cranked grinder.  Then he went in the back to heat up some milk.  Finally, the grounds were put in a French Press with the warm milk to steep.  It was an incredible process for a cup of coffee, but boy was it a darn good cup of coffee!  As I munched on my snacks and drank my coffee, I was soon also joined by 3 or 4 Germans who were also making their way through.  They mostly talked amongst themselves, but we smiled at each other as we ate and drank.  I picked up a few more snacks for along the way, paid for my wares, and left happy to be fed and stocked for the next leg of my journey.

Although it was overcast and misty from the mountain weather, the scenery was eerily beautiful.  The trail was lined with tons of wild flowers, and the area was green all around.  It reminded me of my Pacific Northwest.

I was also feeling amazingly cheery.  I was not bothered in the slightest about the wind, rain, and snow.  I giggled to myself as I made my way through the mud and crazy weather.  It just seemed ridiculous to be hiking through it. I loved it!

The Cruz de Ferro was not far from Foncebadón, and soon I saw it atop its rock mountain of laid to rest burdens from pilgrims who have come and gone.

It was still pretty windy and a little wet, so I dropped my pack underneath the covering of the small church and walked up to the top to drop off my rock.

Here I must make a confession.

I am a pilgrim idiot at this point.

I knew I was supposed to drop off a rock here, but I hadn’t done any research as to “why” I was dropping the rock off.  I figured it was a way to mark what I had done or something.  “Anne was here!  Yay!”

Although I had neglected to find out the meaning of leaving the rock, the rock itself (at least) had some special meaning.  It was given to me by my friends, Todd and Angie, in Portland, OR.  After a dinner and watching the movie, “The Way”, Todd handed me the rock to take with me to Spain for when I eventually walked my Camino.  It was from a pile of other rocks and treasures they had brought back from trips to the Oregon Coast.  He wanted to be sure I had something from home to place here at the Cruz de Ferro.

(Later I did find out that the rock was supposed to signify laying down a burden.  I thought about it for a while and determined that I didn’t feel like I had any burdens to let go of.  So I was content to simply leave a little of the Oregon Coast in Spain.)

On the way down from the Cruz de Ferro, a flurry of snow began to fall.  It didn’t stick too much, but there was still a lot of it.  This was the highest point of the Camino.

From here it was all downhill.

(This was an especially long post, so I am breaking it up and will post part 2 in a few days.  Stay tuned!)

Click here for pictures!


About Anne

I moved from Seattle, Washington to join a project in Santiago, Spain called Pilgrim House. The Pilgrim House is a place where pilgrims of the Camino can come and find community, conversation, and prayer.
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