From Rabanal Del Camino to Molinaseca
Day 19, Wednesday 11 September 2013
Distance to Santiago: 241,9 km
After an early breakfast provided by the English managed Refugio Gaulcemo, coffee, tea, bread, marmalade, apple jelly, we left for Molinaseca. This was one of the best albergues we stayed in because of the personal care and genuine hospitality.
I was concerned about my ability to walk this stage today. The highest point is Cruz de Ferro (1 505 m) and yes it is higher than the Pyrenees, but not as steep. It was still dark, I could therefore not see the mountain and it might play a role.
The early morning was crisp and cool. I always loved the first hour of the walk in the dark, early morning, in the stillness, the sounds of your own footsteps and walking sticks and sometimes the sounds of birds. The path from Rabanal del Camino was rocky, narrow and steep but surprisingly I actually enjoyed the climb. We stopped once or twice to enjoy the awesome sunrise.
We stopped for coffee at Foncebadon, a semi-abandoned village with several crumbling houses with a handful of residents. With the increase of pilgrims on the Camino Frances, this hamlet is now stirring back to live. Just beyond the village were ruins of an old monastery and pilgrim hospital that was built by the hermit Gaulcemo. The wooden cross with in the background a building that needs serious maintenance. In contrast with yesterday, it was a pleasure to walk today. I might be heard yesterday when I cursed the heat, steep hills, and the physical exhaustion. Today was a present from above. Nature was awesome and everywhere to observe. We encountered trees with red berries, awesome views, it was cool, although uphill, it was gentle and enjoyable. Nature’s chapel surrounded us and was awesome.
It was cool all morning, with a light breeze. We approached the Cruz de Ferro, a simple iron cross that became one of the abiding symbols of the Camino as the doorway through the mountains. It stands 1 504 m above sea level. Pilgrims used to put a stone or other token of love there.
We went past Manjarin, a famed spot on the camino due to the eccentric character, the modern knight hospitalero Tomas, who came to this ruined village and set up an albergue. Outside there are painted wooden signs pointing to many different cities with the kilometres given. Tomas who runs this place, claims to be a modern day Templar, and has some rather odd rituals. From here the path descended sharply, the views were awesome and you could see the Camino path twisting ahead for kilometres.
The last steep uphill was between Manjarin and Acebo. I could understand why there are reported injuries, deaths on the camino, especially here.
The path was narrow with deep cliffs and when walked in bad weather, fog and rain it might be very dangerous. After a tough descent down from the highest point on the Camino Frances through El Acebo and Riego de Ambros, we were glad to see Molinaseca appear in front.
Finally we came down onto the road just above Molineseca, but even this last few hundred metres past the chapel, and down to the bridge seemed like punishment. Coming down into the town on the Camino, you cross over a medieval bridge and on the other side of the river to the left, you can see the beautiful terrace by the river. We crossed the medieval stone bridge into the main part of the town, were a huge group of pilgrims sat at a bar beside the river.
We walked on through the town to Albergue Santa Marina Molinaseca , which was at the far end of the town. It was a newly built modern place. Clean, neat and plenty of floor space, even between the beds. We booked in, also reserved tickets for the Pelegrino meal after Marinda confirmed that that they provide for vegetarians. We had done our washing and rest awhile. Later we went for supper where the vegetarian meal, soup as first course, had “just a little bit of meat in”. We asked our money back and went out for supper.
We had walked 29,5 km for the day.