Sunday, October 13th – 8:08 pm
Room 1 at La Posada del Druida, Foncebadón
Today’s Walk: Castrillo de Los Polvazares to Foncebadón
At 8:45 am J’Nell and I are treated to a brilliant sunrise rising over the exact center of town, casting a golden glow on the cobblestone street. Simply stunning. I would have liked to have stayed longer in the enchanting Castrillo de los Polvazares, but as always we must keep moving onward.
We follow a quiet path on the alternative Camino with the gorgeous forest and amazing clouds until we join the main road. Before leaving we had coffee, bread and jam at the albergue, graciously left for us by Basia and Bertran, so there’s no need to stop anywhere soon. We pass through Santa Catalina de Somoza with more outstanding puffy and dramatic clouds all around us.
The next town ahead is El Ganso, and we are surprised to see so many people on the country road with the mountains rising in front of us. Since we stayed overnight off a main stopping point in the book, we figured (wrongly) our timing was askew in our favor. In El Ganso we enjoy coffee and a needed rest at the famous and funky-cool cowboy Bar, which has been open since 1991.
We keep climbing with clear skies to our right and ominous clouds ahead and to the left. Most of the people we saw this morning are gone, likely having already reached Rabanal, the main stopping point in this stage in the Brierly book. We skirt away from the paved road and every step is extremely rocky and uneven. We keep going up, up, up into the forest with these same conditions, and our feet take a beating.
We reach Rabanal and find the Benedictine monastery called San Salvador Del Monte Irago. They welcome pilgrims to stay for two nights with a vow of silence. Last evening, after our research and discussion, J’Nell and I agree if they have open space, we will take part in their two day wordless retreat.
With heavy rain on the forecast, the monastery seems like a good place to contemplate the journey we’ve experienced thus far while waiting for the storm to pass. But unfortunately their office is closed until 2:30 pm, and as it’s only 1 pm, it’s too risky to wait. To sit around for an hour and a half only to find out they’re booked would be a major bummer. So we charge onward and upwards.
It is another 5.5 Km to Foncebadón, a steady ascent into the mountains over more rocky paths. But wow, the views! And we only see maybe five or six other people as we climb.
This 1.5 hours of hiking is challenging, but very special. I take videos in an attempt to capture the quiet beauty of being in the mountains, but of course they’ll never accurately reflect the wondrous feeling of being here. With the stunning clouds in this high altitude, it brings me back to the magical Day One on the Camino in the Pyrenees.
The air is so crisp and I inhale deeply. I smell the freshness of the trees and the earth, and hear that lovely sound of bells jangling from the horses, cows, sheep or other animals we cannot see. Magical. We reach the town at 2:30 pm, turn back around for a look out at the land we just climbed.
We don’t have a reservation anywhere, and the first place we try, El Trasgu, is full. Thankfully, directly across the street, La Posada del Druid has one private room left. It will turn out to be one of the nicest places we’ve stayed on the whole Camino thus far- super clean, modern, friendly staff, and has the best shower (fully-enclosed so the water doesn’t go everywhere, great pressure, and very hot) I’ve experienced in all of Spain.
After cleaning up and resting, we go across the street for beers at the Trasgu restaurant/bar. I wonder what that word means, and when typing Trasgu into Google Translate, it answers me with the same name. This leads J’Nell and I to keep saying “Trasgu is Trasgu”, which cracks us up no matter how many times we repeat it and becomes a comical motto.
I do further digging, and Wikipedia says Trasgu is a mythological creature in Spain and Portugal who is a mischievous goblin. We don’t find any of those at the bar, but there are several cute, mischievous kittens who roam outside near the sliding glass door.
It is nearly 7pm, and we’ve only eaten a light breakfast to go along with the nuts and olives we got with our beers. So we walk back to our place for our three course dinner, which we paid 10 euros for each in advance when checking-in. A great meal of lentil soup, ham slices with pepper, and pudding with a cookie and an earthen jug of wine.
Tomorrow’s a big day, one I’ve been looking forward to since J’Nell and I decided to walk the Camino. We will get the opportunity to take part in the Cruz de Ferro ritual, where we will leave a stone we have carried with us from home at one of the most ancient sites along the Way. This will be at the highest point on the whole Frances Route, nearly 5,000 feet above sea level.
The place has been a significant spot pre-dating Christianity, as the Romans and Celts would leave offerings of gratitude to their pagan gods there. As Christianity took hold in the region and pilgrims began walking the Camino, they would leave stones at this spot. In the 11th century the hermit Guacelmo, who founded Foncebadón, set the Cruz de Ferro (iron cross) on top of a tall oak trunk at the site. The one we will see tomorrow is a duplicate, as the original historical item is at the museum I visited in Astorga.
The practice of leaving stones there, which has created a large mound surrounding the trunk and the cross that towers over it, continues today. From what I’ve read, doing so symbolizes either letting go of something, forgiveness, gratitude, or some kind of combination of the three.
On a visit to my hometown in July, I collected a small stone from Lynn Woods and it’s been in my pack since starting the trek. I’ve done a lot of thinking about what my rock can symbolize. I will have these ruminations in my mind when we reach Cruz de Ferro early tomorrow morning, but will not share them here as some things should be kept to yourself.