Day 29-October 11, 2017
El Ganso to El Acebo, Spain
I decided to start today much later and let daylight start to peek. Leaving this late I’m walking alone out of the village. I actually got to the main doors of the Albergue only to find the massive wooden gate locked. Fortunately a key was hanging on the door and it unlocked the oversized mechanism; I was out. This morning, and throughout the day, the markings would be difficult to find. As the village is so small it would appear obvious which way to go. Leave town by taking the same road you came in on, just keep going.
The road out of town brought me to a sign and a path leading to the right. I could see a pilgrim ahead me, their headlamp occasionally pointed in my direction. It was so far off there is not even the remotest possibility I was seen. It is comforting to be aware of others on the trail.
The path soon started up, and I pushed on with some energy.
I walked at a really impressive clip, despite this becoming a steep climb. The time disappeared as I walked ever higher into the clouds. This creates a feeling like the mountains are even closer. The dampness is tangible and trys to seep into any opening in your clothing. It is obvious it is much colder as you gain altitude.
After an hour and a half I came to a small collection of buildings. These were small, private Albergues catering to Pilgrims wanting to stay off the beaten track. I had an Aquarius and a banana. (Aquarius is a good tasting Gatorade type drink) I then decided push on. Interestingly, this Albergue was started by a 19 year old fellow, still running the place. He looks to be in his mid or late late twenties now.
After a very short break and saying hello to some people I recognize, it is time to go.
I continued for another hour or so… until suddenly there appeared a mound and a pole ahead. I was about 50 feet away and could just make out the unmistakable outline. As I moved closer my pace slowed to a crawl and I could see two people standing on the mound. A few more steps and the iron cross at the top of the pole became visible.
Millions of people had come by the point and left something in an attempt to un-burden some aspect of their lives. The mount is roughly 15 to 20 feet tall and probably 35 to 50 feet diameter. A wooden pole with an iron cross at the very top is positioned in the middle of the mound. Stones, small and large, artifacts of every description were everywhere. All items here have had a special significance to someone.
My stones from my family had some significance to me. I placed the stones around the base of the pole.
This was an oddly quieting experience for me. I felt this was at least a part of what my Camino was intended to provide me, the unity of family.
After spending 20 minutes, more Pilgrims were starting to arrive and decided to head off.
The path I was on would take all Pilgrims over the highest point on the Camino somewhere around here. The views were spectacular.
Finally a sharp decent and it was obvious I was taking a path off the mountain top. The path is incredibly rough and steep at times, and you walk beside steep drop-offs for more time than is comfortable.
Less than 2 km, a small town, looking every bit like a simple Swiss village comes into view. I decide to have breakfast. Heck, it’s after 10 now, no wonder I’m hungry.
The rocky path all follow becomes extremely steep in places. Loose rocks increase the chance of injury. My walking poles once again prove their worth. Walking without sticks, and I do emphasize the plural, would be a serious mistake. When factoring in the additional weight of the pack, and the odd centre of balance it creates, the poles provide so much more needed stability. One other factor seldom mentioned; walking with your hands at your side produces swelling of the hands. The poles elevate your hands to much closer to the level of your heart improving the return blood flow…..no swelling. I have taken my poles out on flat sections simply to avoid this problem.
Finally I descend into El Acebo. This is picture postcard of a Spanish town. The streets are narrow with shops and restaurants on either side. It is obvious the Camino is a serious source of income or this town.
I decided to stay at an Albergue just on the outskirts of the village. This is a private Albergue and I am able to get a bed (not bunk).
Day 30-October 12, 2017
El Acebo to Camponaraya, Spain
Another day begins with the well rehearsed routine. I am out at dawn. The way is poorly marked, or at least I am not able to find the yellow flashes or arrows, so I continue down the road hoping this is the right way.
There are good sidewalks….and arrows marking the way.
After three hours of continuing down the mountain on the most rugged trail I’ve experienced so far, I enter Ponferrada. I stop for breakfast. This is basically a big city “what-da-ya-want” shop. The pastries are pretty bad but the orange juice is freshly squeezed….it passes for breakfast on the basis of the juice only.
Just as a side note: freshly squeezed orange juice in this part of Spain is the norm in my experience…..very nice.
My path out of town is very confusing. I was complaining the previous couple of days at the lack of arrows, now arrows are pointing in all directions. I suspect these are pointing out alternate routes through the city. I asked a group of elderly ladies, and they start talking, and talking. Finally one turns and points. I’m good with that. Offer up my appreciation in Spanish….”gracias”, and I head down another street.
Eventually I am passing through old section of town and come to a castle. This castle is right out of a “Robin Hood” movie. I am pretty sure the Sheriff of Nottingham is in there, apparently he doesn’t open the doors, or the gift shop, until 11.
The town I am at is quite small and there are only 2 Albergues. The first one I came to had a bed for me. Today is a national holiday and I was concern because I was told getting a bed might be a problem.