Dia trientiuno – Viernes 06 Octubre.
First order of the day – transport all three bags to Molinaseca. Second order – dose up with anti-inflammatories and analgaesics (lots). Third order – get ourselves to the bus station to hopefully find our way to Rabanal. All before 8am. All done!!
Yesterday we had made two enquires of the gruff bus station man – “what time is the bus?” (Janet) and little later “can we buy tickets to Rabanal?” (me). Answers, “8:20 am” and “no, tomorrow” respectively. So we get to the station at 8 – his gruffness is back on duty. Janet doesn’t want to talk to him. It’s therefore left to me, the considerably inferior Spanish speaker to enquire “¿donde es el bus a Rabanal?”
We were expecting some sort of Alsa bus, but it turned out to be a local operator in his mini-bus (you have to pronounce that with a Spanish accent). The mini-bus driver (and his bus) turned up around the appointed hour, he had a chat to his gruffness, who then pointed at us, and then signalled that we needed to pay for our tickets (€5.40 in total), which we did, and then follow the bus man. He collected a co-pilot and then the four of us were off. We more or less followed the path we had walked a couple of years earlier (the Camino running alongside the road we were on). There were many pilgrims out on the path, some of whom must have left Astorga around (or even before) 6am. Half-an-hour or so later we were deposited at Rabanal, with a very friendly ¡Buen Camino! from our driver and his companion.
Rabanal is a special little village for me. I write about a significant experience there in An Impossible Dream (at the end of the chapter Policía). I was looking forward to being there again. It’s a sleepy place; almost nothing is open in the morning. We found a coffee and then headed off for our walk to Molinaseca. I had forgotten that this walk is also the day of the Cruz de Ferro, arguably one of the most spiritually significant days on the Camino. So when I did discover (rediscover – duh!) this, it was a special bonus. I collected a rock from the road in Rabanal to carry the 10 kilometres to the cross, and Janet did the same, and shortly after another for a friend.
I remember very clearly the annoyances and intolerances I carried with me when I we made exactly the same walk 734 days earlier. As I walked I wondered how, or indeed if, these had changed. That’s one of the great benefits of the Camino … unlike anything else I have experienced it provides an opportunity to bury oneself in one’s thoughts. I concluded that my intolerances probably haven’t lessened – they are, after all, an integral part of whom I am – but what I think has changed is that they come and go with greater self-awareness than was previously the case.
We stopped for second breakfast (really breakfast and a half) at the same little hippy albergue at Foncebadón at which we had stopped two years earlier. The same Buddhist prayer flags and sayings were there. The big woolly sheep wandering into the café was new! Foncebadón appears to be going through a growth spurt. Several new/refurbished albergues/hostals appear to be popping up. I assume that this is due to its proximity to el Cruz de Ferro.
As we got closer to the Cross I recalled that we had been invaded by a noisy bus-load of teenagers last time, and that had really bothered me. None of those distractions were present today. And then as we were only perhaps 400 metres from it a bus arrived an disgorged a group of noisy older folk, who immediately swarmed all over the place. I noticed that the intolerances had indeed not disappeared. Janet announced that she was not going to wait around until I had a clear view for some photos (more annoyance on my part). Thankfully the bus group swarmed away as quickly as they arrived, and so the “clear air” which I sought was quickly returned.
I placed my rock at the foot of the Cross, but for the life of me, as I write this two days later I cannot recall what I was thinking at the time. Not that it matters. It’s just a special place to be.
(I did wonder, as an aside, what the bus people found. There were probably 40 or so of them. The bus arrived. They charged (well, ambulated) up to the top of the mound. They gathered around a had a group photo. They got back on their bus, and left. All in the space of about 5 minutes, maximum (and maybe a little less).)
The walk into Molinaseca via El Acebo is physically a bit challenging. It’s mostly a steady downhill, and mostly along a rocky path a lot of which was possibly once a creek bed. Walking poles are essential (in my view). Good boots and non-sore foot preferred (last time I’ll mention that). The view is often spectacular, and the architecture of El Acebo is in the “seen to be believed” category. The weather was very kind to us – clear blue skies all the way, compared, I seem to recall, to a cloudy, misty walk previously
On the way to El Acebo …
El Acebo …
At the highpoint of the Camino (the Punto Alto, a few kilometres along from el Cruz de Ferro), there’s a semi-permanent caravan/bar arrangement. We ended up sitting next to four Americans (Tim and Wesley from NYC and Paula and Warren from Philadelphia). Somehow the brief conversion turned to books written about the Camino, which led Janet to say “well, we have a Camino author present now!”, or something to that effect. Now I carry no book promotional material with me, and so I had nothing to give them. But they took my name and the book name and expressed what seemed to be a genuine interest in obtaining a copy. I don’t set out to make connections in that random sort of a way, but all the same it will be nice if I do hear back from them one day.
We arrived into Molinaseca late afternoon, found our digs (and our bags, which had been unexpectedly delivered to our room), and then promptly made our way to Bar Puente Romano, on the banks of the Rio Muérelo, for a refreshing G&T. Molinaseca is a very pretty little town, almost an outer suburb of Ponferrada. The river was much drier than last time, which seems consistent with the much hotter weather we seem to be experiencing now compared to the same time two years back.
Tomorrow we have a small walk (only 6 klms or so) into Ponferrada and the magnificent Knights Templar castle.
Leaving Molinaseca the next morning …