Today was a HARD 20 kilometers! It reminded me that not all 20k are the same. The first part of the day was the rest of the climb to the tallest point on the Camino and it was all downhill from there! I mean steep, loose rock, challenging downhill. But of course, it was great. But, I must remember that 20km takes different amounts of time depending on the terrain. I certainly wasn’t doing my normal 5km/hour pace.
The day started in the dark. I wanted to be at Cruz de Ferro before sunrise (which is now after 8:30am here in Spain).
I left shortly after 7am in the pitch dark with my trusty headlamp shining the way. There were several headlamps ahead of me and behind me as well. Dawn was breaking as I crested the hill and saw the Iron Cross, an Iconic Landmark on the Camino. It took my breath away.
This is one of the major steps in the pilgrimage to Santiago. Here you leave the stone you have carried throughout your pilgrimage as a token of the burdens you are releasing from yourself. I told Ray I have such an amazing life, I didn’t know what burdens I had to let go of. He said I would think of something as I walked up there, and of course, I did.
As I got nearer the cross with a huge pile of rocks mounded around it, I saw a dozen or more bodies of people sitting very quietly on the mound up toward to base of the cross. Other than the stones tumbling beneath my feet as I climbed up the mound, there wasn’t a sound. I couldn’t see anyone, just their silhouettes all facing the east. It was amazingly peaceful.
But then, more and more people came and this meditative moment turned into Disney World.
This is what you imagine your Cruz de Ferro moment would be be like.
And, this what it actually is.
Still, it is memorable and once I got up the guts to climb down the mound of rocks with my pack on in the dark, I moved to a quiet space and thought about the “burdens” I was going to shed. I left Cruz de Ferro before the sun rose. And up the trail went. I didn’t think we had that much further up to go, but I was wrong. And then we started going down; luckily by then it was light.
The terrain reminded me of the Pyrenees. And there was even a herd of cows with bells ringing.
Natashia from Holland and I struck up a conversation. She is very outgoing and super positive. When I expressed concern about the downhill, she said, “we can do it, just take one step at a time.”
We took several fun photos as we were walking.
And along the way we picked up a handful of Natasia’s closest friends and five of us stopped for breakfast after a town finally presented itself. It was THE BEST BREAKFAST on the Camino so far!
Ruth, who was part of our group, was really hurting and she said she needed protein. She ordered three sunny side up eggs, bacon, ham and lomo (pork loin) and potatoes. And a chocolate croissant and bread. It was all gone by the time Ruth was finished eating! Walking clearly works up a hunger and petite Ruth had earned her morning meal!
When I left the bar, I saw Janet, one of the three women from Burlington and we walked together the rest of the way into our stop for the night, Molinaseca. I appreciated having her footsteps to follow and the conversation took my mind off of the tough decent. I hope I didn’t slow her down too much.
We passed through a sweet little village, Riego de Ambrose, and saw some super cute goats and some beautiful buildings.
Finally we reached Molinaseca which is a lovely town. I checked into my Alburgue, the second in three nights owned and run by Brazilians.
I had linner after taking a shower. It was delicious and all homemade for just €12 including, of course, bread, wine and dessert.
I had plenty of time after linner to explore town and went to the church and met Tim. He was sitting in the church entrance welcoming pilgrims and answering questions they had.
Tim, from the US, walked the Camino three years ago, returned home, sold all of his possessions and now lives in Spain 8 months and the US 4 months each year. Tim volunteers his time to this church and thanks to him, it is open for Pilgrims to visit.
The bridge into the town is beautiful and well-maintained so I went down there for another look at it before sunset.
As I was sitting out on the upstairs deck that looks out to the street, I recognized Patricia, the owner of the Brazilian hostel I stayed at a couple of nights ago I waved to her an she threw me big kisses. This Camino is a small world!
Reflections: Death on the Camino
Death happens. And it happens on the Camino too. The story I have most often heard is of the pilgrim who went to sleep and never woke up. But as in life, there are all kinds of ways people see their last day here on the Camino.
Today I met a woman from Holland. I believe her name in Holland is Tinka, but in Spain it translates to Christina. She is here walking in honor of her friend who died on the Camino on her way into Leon in June. She and the pilgrim she was walking with were hit by a car driven by a young man who had only had his license to a few months.
The other woman in the accident is still in critical condition here in Spain. The dead woman’s son is also in Spain now walking the Camino appealing to pilgrims to leave a rememberence when they pass the accident scene.
Shortly after I started walking in Burgos, I read about a male pilgrim dying of a heart attack at the entrance of the Alburgue in Roncesvalles. He had successfully made it up and over the Pyrenees and his heart just gave out.
A few days later, a 30-something male pilgrim jumped into the Atlantic Ocean at Finisterre and died. There was little info on what happened, but I have heard suspicion that he went into cardiac arrest when he jumped into the cool ocean water.
Just a day after I walked through Terradillos de la Templarios, a man from Virginia on his third Camino with his wife just didn’t wake up in the morning. I spoke with someone who had dinner with him the night before and she said he was happy and having a great time. Then he was gone.
I don’t mention these deaths to be morbid. First, the reality is that the Camino isn’t something that you do every day. It taxes your body like probably nothing else you have ever done. But, more important, the Camino is a metaphor for life and death is a part of that. Three years ago an aquaintence passed away somewhat unexpectedly and the light turned on for me when the minister said, all we are guaranteed it right now. That is when I made the decision to walk the Camino. If not now, when? I reasoned.
So, when you are trying to decide if you should do something or does it make more sense to hold off and do it another day, ask yourself, if not now, When?