Camino Day 29: Foncebadon to Ponferrada 25km

On a mission today. Out of the albergue and on to the Camino in the dark way before sunrise. Packed up and breakfast eaten. Why this early start?

The reason is that Cruz de Ferro, that famous pile of rocks with a cross in it, is only 2km away from Foncebadon. A well informed source, Deb after 2 earlier Caminos, suggested that Cruz de Ferro at sunrise is a must see.

Cruz de Ferro is also on the second highest point on the Camino at 1505 meters in altitude. The highest point is some 8km beyond at 1515 meters above sea level.

Here I am half asleep in the breakfast bar…

…needing fuel to get me started.

Deb, the fearless leader with the torch, guided Win and me to Cruz de Ferro in the predawn light. Win decided that she would like to come along too.

I didn’t bring a rock to Cruz de Ferro, and I didn’t have anything insightful or spiritual to say. I didn’t leave a note there either. But I could still wander up to the top of all those rocks and make my photographic mark.

The opposite side of Cruz de Ferro now with sunrise in the distance.

These places tend to have a lot of things stuck to them or left behind by other pilgrims. Cruz de Ferro was no exception.

Cruz de Ferro looked pretty darn spectacular during sunrise. Long shadows and great colours. So one more final photo before we move on…

It appeared that Cruz de Ferro was a telegraph pole with a cross on top. Is that so?

I realized that we don’t yet have a photo of Deb, the fearless leader who also lives in Melbourne. So here she is…

Wind turbines are plentiful at least in the northern part of Spain. They are a constant on the horizon somewhere.

Manjarin was another abandoned village brought back to life through the resurgence of the Camino. It now has a permanent population of… 1.

Hospitalero Tomas provides a basic albergue here providing 35 “beds”. Make that 35 mattresses direct on the floor.

This was a place. You could stop for a cuppa but as there was nobody there apart from Tomas himself, we didn’t.

Oh yes, several dogs also form part of the permanent population of Manjarin.

Moving right along and there was a donativo set up in exchange for… Who knows?

Given the altitude, there were lots of brilliant views to be had today.

Here is what’s left of a peregrino who didn’t quite make it all the way to Santiago de Compostela…

Perhaps not. The skull looked more like it came from a dog.

Another example of an old road, perhaps from Roman times.

According to a German pilgrim, the tree below is 1000 years old. I asked him why he thought so. His answer was a bit unsatisfactory. Something like that “you can tell it from the bark”…

The town of Molinaseca is the proposed end of stage 24 in the guidebook and it’s not hard to see why. Pretty place.

Molinaseca felt quite wealthy. We stopped for an ice cream but then continued our journey. It was too early at 12pm to stop for the night.

Ponferrada looked also like a wealthy town in its own right. A town that did not need pilgrims to survive and thrive.

Camino markings in Ponferrada, the arrows, were dismal. Deb said that she had already got lost here once before. Now she got lost again, together with the rest of us which were Ben, Aaron, Sophie and me. Yes, the others are back on the trail!

Albergues were scarce in downtown Ponferrada. We had passed several walking into Ponferrada. Closer to the town centre, they were nowhere to see.

Plan B was to book at a private hostel called Rio Selmo (no, the local river as river’s name was Rio Sil). Deb had already rebooked a room there.

So that’s what we did. I ended up sharing a double room with Ben, 25€ per person, while Aaron and Sophie shared another double room.

We all reconvened at 5pm to go out for a few drinks before having a meal.

A table opposite Castillo de Los Templarios in the centre of Ponferrada was perfect.

A couple of close up photos of my fellow pilgrims and drinking buddies. This is Deb.

Ben.

Aaron.

Sophie. Asking personal questions and writing down the answers in a questionnaire. Why? For fun. She had played this game with us all.

Castillo de Los Templars looked like this. Impressive from the outside but I heard that there was not much to see from the inside.

Templars are big in Ponferrada. This next photo is from a dedicated shop selling templar stuff only. I could only fit a small part of all the things that they displayed in the shop window.

For dinner, Deb knew about a place that had garlic prawns on the menu. There was an immediate consensus to eat better so that’s where we went.

We would call that shrimp in Australia. Or school prawns. Besides, it was good enough to warrant a second serving. Or were we that desperate?

Vino tinto followed and it may have been a bit too much of it for too long. Still, it was a fantastic evening and I didn’t get to sleep until after midnight. But it was all worth it 🙂

575km walked. 210km left to walk after Day 29

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