Today was by far the most difficult, exhilarating, and craziest thing that I have ever done. Walking 24 kilometers is hard in itself, but walking 24 kilometers up a mountain with ice, rain, and wind pelting you in the face while wearing capris, a tshirt, light jacket, and rain jacket is a whole new feat. I came prepared for nice, warm weather and we got the exact opposite…it was 3 degrees Celsius when we left the albergue and I’m pretty sure that it got colder as we went up.
Even though it was miserable at times and I was literally numb to the bone, I loved (almost) every minute of it. I couldn’t help but think about what we were doing, and why. I climbed a physical mountain today, but I also went up an emotional/spiritual/mental mountain as well. After the Cruz de Ferro, I walked most of the way myself and did some major soul searching. I realized that if I can walk up a mountain in those conditions, I can do anything that I need to do. I woke up this morning thinking the verse, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”, and I truly believe that.
The trek to Molinaseca was probably one of the most physically challenging things I’ve ever faced in my entire life. It sleeted, snowed, and rained as we slowly made our way over the mountain. The wind was unforgiving and hit us at speeds of over 30 mph. The roads were steep and treacherous. Small streams of rain water and decades of traveling wore crevices into the path. You had to constantly readjust footing as to not fall down the hills. This was apparently the worst spring Spain had seen in over 200 years. Most pilgrims find themselves sweating, hoping to stride into Molinaseca for a nice swim. The entire day I was thinking this would happen to me wouldn’t it?
Today was our arrival to the Cruz de Ferro. It is a large cross at the foothills of the mountain where people leave heavy burden stones. These stones represent pain pilgrims had been carrying metaphorically and physically. Some have writing on them, others have small mementos or pictures of loved ones. For me the day was about remembering all those I’ve lost, my grandmother, good friends, and more. It is a beautiful place; eerie as well. It is a place in time that stands still as it’s visitors transgress into new stages of life. I will have to go again someday.
After four or five hours of hiking, my small group made it to a tiny town on a mountain side. We had thought we were almost there, but man were we wrong. After we ordered our third breakfast treat, we learned we had 13 km left. Thirteen?! I was truly intimidated. Those hills wear you out fast. We were even teased by the weather as the clouds cleared up as if only for our tiny visit. We packed up and started to make our way. These new paths would be more fierce than the others. Imagine hiking down wet slippery stone and large, almost unavoidable puddles of muck and rain. Although the terrain was rough there was something truly unique and beautiful about the trail. Purple and yellow flowered bushed lit the way, and the way the towns were silhouetted by the clouds was unforgettable.
We finally made it into Molinaseca as exhausted and sore blobs of skin and bone. I had made most of trip without a single blister. This would set the tone for the rest of the trek…
When we were presented with the task of interviewing a local person at one of the towns along the trail, I could think of no one better than a woman that we met in Rabanal in the early stage of our Camino journey. Isabelle Pilar’s family owns and operates an albergue out of an enormous house with a great courtyard that used to serve as the family’s household and barn. As we sat at the main bar and relaxed after one of our toughest days of hiking, we talked to Isabelle and asked her some questions. The backdrop of the bar was covered with all sorts of money from all over the world, keepsakes that pilgrims had donated to the albergue, and pictures of the albergue staff with peregrinos who had come through over the years. Since Isabelle was in just about every picture, we knew she was important! We asked her if she was the owner and indeed she was. She was full of energy and was dancing around and humming along to the music that was playing in the background of the courtyard. We noticed that it was all in English, and I asked her if she knew how to speak it. She replied no, but that her daughter knew a little bit. Isabelle said that she loved serving all the pilgrims and providing them with food and place to stay, but that it was tiresome work and she was getting old. We then found out that she and her family were selling the entire albergue and barn so that they could begin to retire and live a more relaxing life. Judging from all the running around we saw her do in the short time we were there, it wasn’t surprising that she needed some more help that probably wasn’t available. After about another hour or so of relaxing in the courtyard and eating the chips she kept giving us, it was time for us to turn in. If we weren’t so tired, I think we could have withstood a bit more pampering and her referring us as guapos (handsome)!
We woke up with another short walk ahead of us to Astorga. Nothing eventful occurred during the walk. It was, however, the day that the blisters first started to really hurt.
I know I’m just complaining right now but putting pressure on them with every step hurt so bad! I was walking around on my heels just looking like a huge idiot.
We had the opportunity to explore the town for a bit before our dinner. A couple of us went to a few places. Other than the chocolate store, we were just exploring. I actually had the chance to talk with a local. Lucky me, his English was pretty good.
After an amazing dinner, we all went back to the Albergue to relax for the night. Pretty normal day.
In between the cities of Hospital de Orbigo and Astorga at the top of a hill sits a run down building, a man, and a stand with free, organic food. This man, David, hiked the camino and decided to set up camp at the top of this hill and share his food and his life. His goal in life is really to share whatever he has. He provided pilgrims with all sorts of food-watermelon, bread, granola bars, nutella, rice cakes, peanut butter, oranges, and probably about 20 different types of tea… all for free.
David is such a free spirit and I love his life purpose. He gets food from a store (Iḿ not sure if he rides a bike or something, or if he gets food delivered everyday) but either way itś all organic and delicious. He sleeps outside under a canopy-type structure and lives in harmony with the world. That was one of his main points-to live in harmony with nature and his surroundingsm and share what you have with those in need.
As a pilgrim with food waiting for me at every stop, I wouldn´t say that I was in need of food so perhaps I shouldn´t have eaten from him, but I really appreciated his presence and encouragement. David was willing to give all he had to the passing pilgrims, an action that is very unusual, especially outside of the camino.
I’ve been a little behind on posting my journal entries to my blog. I’m hoping to get all caught up today!
Our second day on El Camino was to the Albergue de San Miguel in Orbígo. We had a short walk that day, and my body wasn’t sore from the day before so it was going to be a nice easy day.
After a few hours of walking, we finally saw Orbígo. The entrance into the town was pretty cool. We crossed over a nice stone bridge with a river running right underneath it. To the left of the bridge was a jousting arena! I immediately thought of the movie “A Knight’s Tale” and wanted to joust.
We checked into the Albergue, got all of our stuff settled, and headed out to lunch. After lunch, everyone gave me the nickname “the human garbage disposal”. I eat really fast and enjoy a lot of food….what can I say?
Later that day, we all went to the river and just relaxed. It was great. We took some pics, skipped some rocks, and just chilled.
Right before the night ended Jesse and I decided to joust. We both agreed to fall over when we hit each other. I took it waaaaay too far and completely wiped myself out…video and pics to come soon!
Hola a todos,
So today was a pretty lax day for us pilgrims. We hike about 17km or roughly 9 miles through very flat terrain. The skies had clouds today which kept the heat of the sun off our backs and let us enjoy the walk for the full 9 miles. We stopped at the Albergue de San Miguel In a town called Orbigo. So overall the walk was beautiful but uneventful as far as deviating from a normal pilgrim day, but the best part of today was the food at a local restaurant. Two of the best meals I’ve ever had In Todo mi vida! Very fresh, very well cooked.
The first meal was a second breakfast after walking which consisted of Spanish bacon, sun side up eggs, and French fries. All cooked to perfection and tasting good all you wanted was more. The bacon here in Spain is different then back in the USA, it’s thicker and meatier and at least twice as good, I didn’t think it was possible but there you have it.
The second was a three course meal of spaghetti with a light Alfredo sauce with bacon mixed in followed by a nice plate of French fries and cooked chicken, both better than any I’ve had back home. Finally I had ice cream for dessert, this was the only thing in the restaurant that was from a can.
I’ll be sad to leave such amazing food behind when I head back to the States and to a world of processed foods.