Monday, December 17, 2012

Day 48: La Cruz de Ferro

Dscn3470bSeptember 28: I woke up to a slight sprinkle—a huge surprise since I was not expecting rain at all! I had already thrown my tarp over night during the night, wrapped around me like a blanket to help keep warm in the increasingly cold weather, but I adjusted it to cover my other gear that was sitting out (shoes, laptop, etc.) and keep everything dry. The sprinkle didn’t amount to much, though, and quit as quickly as it began. None of my gear was wet by the time I finally got up for the morning.

The big event for today was La Crus de Ferro—the highest point on the Camino Frances at 4,940 feet above sea level. Yeah, I know, it’s not exactly going to cause altitude sickness in anyone! =)

The trail climbed slowly and steadily upwards all morning long to the highpoint—a surprisingly easy walk for a highpoint.

And the cross was crowded with other pilgrims. Most of them seemed to be part of some sort of massive group of bicyclists. The bicyclists outnumbers those of us on foot by a wide margin—the first time I’d seen that on the trail, and it seriously annoyed me. Not the bicyclists per se, but just the sheer volume of them. I felt claustrophic with so many people there, and having them all haul their bicycles to the top of the mound didn’t help matters since they required so much room around them.

It was also the first time I realized that I’d never seen anyone bicycling by themselves. You’ll see pilgrims on foot hiking alone all the time. A huge number of people on foot hike alone—at least for some of the day—but I got to thinking that I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bicyclist riding by themselves. Invariable, when a bicyclist comes up from behind me on the trail and passes me, I move over automatically because I know there’s going to be at least a few more bicycles passing within the next minute. I wonder why that is? Is bicycling alone considered dangerous?

Dscn3477bBut the sheer volume of the bicyclists at the top of the world just annoyed me. Even the Cruz de Ferro (“the iron cross”) was less impressive than I had hoped. I’d seen countless photos of this monument, and it’s even used in the movie The Way, but for being the highest point on the trail, the views weren’t nearly as spectacular as the Pyrenees. (And that’s not even because of the overhanging clouds—the visibility downward was still quite clear!) The monument seemed more like a dump than something special. In a lot of ways, it was a dump—gloves, boots, notes, photographs, and various items littered the place. I threw my small rock into the pile—carried all the way since Le Puy—and was glad to be rid of it. Can’t believe I carried that stupid rock for this ugly monument. I was almost tempted to keep the rock for a better place—that viewpoint over Astorga would have been nice, except that it was now well behind me. But there would be other places ahead. But I didn’t want to carry the rock anymore either so I added it to the rock pile and wished it luck.

The entire day looked like it could rain, but the rain held off. I debated throughout the day with myself whether I wanted to camp out another night or risk camping in rain, but when I walked into the town of Molinaseca, it crossed over a beautiful, ancient bridge and into an equally charming but small town that I instantly fell for and decided I would stay there at an alburgue. I really liked this town, and by golly, I was going to spend the night in it!

At the far end of town, I saw a billboard for a hotel saying that they also had shared rooms—4 beds to a room for 15 euros. For hostels, 15 euros would be on the expensive side, but I liked the idea of having a room with a maximum of only three other people. Not private, exactly, but a lot less noisy and crowded than a room with a dozen or more people in it. And they had free wi-fi to boot. So that sealed the deal for me. I booked myself into one of the shared rooms at the hotel.

The room was a regular hotel room, large enough to comfortably fit a queen-sized bed. But there wasn’t a queen sized bed in the room. Instead, they squeezed in four single-sized beds. And a mini-fridge. A mini-fridge! I hadn’t seen one of those at any of the places I’ve ever stayed in Europe! I took a bed by the window and made use of the toilet and shower before anyone else arrived.

I got online and had a nice surprise: An email from Karolina! She had finally gotten my message about checking her email! It was a short note, apparently typed in on someone else's cell phone, just to let me know that she'd gotten my message and where she was. It was sent the day before so I still wasn't sure where she was now, but I thought back to where I was then, and figured I was about two full days of walking ahead of her.
That was a little disappointing since I couldn't imagine how she'd ever catch up with me unless I took a day or two off the trail which I had no intention of doing. I might have lost my camping buddy for good. But at least I knew roughly where she was and I could stop telling everyone along the route to "tell the Polish girl to check her email!" And maybe we'll catch up in Santiago. I planned to hike past Santiago a few days anyhow, and eventually would have to backtrack to Santiago to get a ride into Madrid. Perhaps we'll catch up on my return trip. It would be nice to catch up and swap our war stories from the trail.

I wrote her a reply and asked her to make sure to keep me informed of her progress—especially as she gets closer to Santiago where I'd have a much better chance of crossing paths with her—and told her I was an estimated two days ahead in Molinaseca.

And as it turned out, absolutely nobody else ever arrived at the hotel room, so I wound up having the entire room (and bathroom) to myself! For all intents and purposes, I had an entire hotel room to myself—a fairly nice one, at that—for a measly 15 euros. Awesome. *nodding* =)

I’m not sure what the rainbows are about, but I don’t
think they are official waymarks! =)

The streets of Rabanal.

A rather elaborate fountain!

This little pool seemed like an unexpected place to find it,
out here in the middle of nowhere.

Some people carry their packs. Some people drag them.
This person did both! =)

So… many… people….

La Cruz de Ferro may have been crowded, but the ground around it
wasn’t quite so bad. I took this photo from the top of the mound,
facing away from the trail.

Time to add the stupid little rock I carried all the way
from Le Puy to the Cruz de Ferro.

I just love this sign. =) (Which also makes a brief appearance in
the movie, The Way.)

Will it rain, or will it go?

The trail up to La Cruz de Ferro was mellow and easy, but the
trail down was steep and considerably more difficult to traverse.
But the views were also better!

The streets of Acebo.

A bicycle monument.

Pilgrims on foot got to go off-road here. Bicycles,
it was suggested, should stay on the road. =)

And through the small town of Riego de Ambros.

Mud on the trail.


The streets of Molinaseca.


My private room for the night! =)

The bridge crossing into Molinaseca.


Anne Bonny said...

Great pics. I can't imagine carrying a pack AND dragging one along. Especially on terrain like what's in the pic!

Okie Dog said...

I was imagining you were carrying this huge rock! What a let down, lol.

Anonymous said...

La Cruz looks bigger in the movie (The Way).