A tougher stretch of road then we have had for a while. While the guide books suggest this section can be walked in two days we planned on a three days to complete it, and we were happy we did!
This section is characterized by the wild and rocky Cantabrian Mountains tiny stone villages nestled in the mountains.
We climb to the historic site of the Cruz Ferro and the high point of the Irago Mountains before the steep descent down to Ponferrada. Typical Maragato mountain villages with slate-roofed houses like El Acebo. On a clear day, the mountain views are superb. The guide books all warn to be prepared for the possibility of cold, rain and wind, one day our day began with fog.
Yesterday afternoon we arrived in Ponferrada Spain completely exhausted, after a hot bath, we washed some cloths and headed to the hotel lounge for a beer and some tapas. Dinner in Spain is not usually served until after 8 or 8:30pm . Often on the camino if you choose to stay in albergues are anywhere close to the albergue the restaurants will serve a pilgrim’s menu as early as 6:30 or 7 pm. This is usually a “set” menu, you will be offered a choice of starters like soup and salad or maybe pasta, for main courses, fried pork, chicken or beef, served with chips (french fries) and for the desert ice cream, flan, fruit or yogurt is usually on the menu. In Ponferrada we were staying in a lovely hotel that had a bath, not just a shower, soft comfy beds, no bunks in a dorm, and a restaurant that did not serve the pilgrim’s menu. So we had time for a nap. But no energy to see the city.
Today we had a short day planned so we slept in, and spent an hour touring the old city of Ponferrada. As it is Sunday the stores and offices are all closed, and the streets were quiet. We did see the Castillo de los Temparios, but it didn’t open until after 11 am, so we could only view the Templar Castle from the outside. Built in the 13th century to help protect the pilgrims from bandits, it looks like a fairly tale castle, similar to one I think Puff the Magic Dragon would have lived it!
Just outside the castle in one of the many squares that surround the castle is another pilgrim/peregrine sculpture, very modern, but interesting all the same.
We left Ponferrada about 11 am, and travelled about 20 kilometers for Cacabelos. It was flat, mostly paved road though a couple of small towns where we were able to stop for coffee and a small bite to eat. Temperatures reached 28 degrees C, had I know it was going to be so hot we might have left earlier, but since the route was easy there were no complaints.
In Cacabelos we decided to stay at a lovely hotel La Moncloa de San Lazaro, right on the main camino path, We walk in through huge wooden doors into a lovely courtyard covered with vines, potted plants lining the balcony and old baskets, tools, and lovely wooden tables and benches decorated the place. To the left as you enter is the reception area, the hostess was charming and helpful and after showing us our room invited us for a glass of wine. This place is a hit in our books.
After a shower to wash off the day’s dust, and laundry done we headed down for a glass of wine and some tapas, which will hold us over until dinner. The birds were singing to us we sat there overlooking the beautiful courtyard and I wondered how we could extend our time in this camino paradise.
We started the morning at Foncebadon leaving before sunrise, and arrived at Cruz de Ferro to see the sun come up. That is Bill standing on the on the pile of rocks taking a picture. (The elevation at Cruz de Ferro 1550 meters above sea level.) There is a very interesting history of the Cruz de Ferro, it started with the Celtics who leave a rock in the mountain pass and ask their god for safe passage. The Romans continued the tradition, leaving a rock to Mercury their god of travel. As the tradition continued with the Christian pilgrims the Church planted a cross at the site to make the tradition more palitable
Rocky pathway, 17 kilometers downhill from Al Acebo to Molenaseca.
The elevation change between the two town was about 1030 meters of slate and shale rocky pathways, everyone comments on how difficult to the trail was. We did find a couple of beautiful places to rest. About 1 hr out of Molinaseca, there is a grove of oak trees, it has been reported that pilgrims have been resting under these beautiful trees for over 1000 years. Given the size of trees I would believe they area very old.