I see her walking through a pathless forest or a maze, a labyrinth. As she walks she spins and the fine threads fall behind her following her way, telling where is going, telling where she has gone, telling the story. The line, the thread of voice, the sentences saying the way.
~ Ursula K. Le Quin (Poem along the way)
The mountain I was already staring at in the distance from Casa de los Dioces had a very important landmark on it called Cruz de Ferro. Its a bit of a climb but on top of the mountain is a bigass cross with a pile of rocks around it. The pile is made by people leaving a stone or something else that they took from the beginning of the trip, representing something they took from home with them and then carrying it all way, then leaving it there as a sort of memento of something that weighed them down.
I was running low on tobacco and I had smoked my last cigaret and ate my last food a day ago in the evening. The random meeting with the guy in the village in the evening was nice however and put fire in my legs. Things were also slowly opening back up with a couple of rebellious people walking around. Very nice. Also people seemed to be using the “workout-” or the “walking the dog”-excuse to take a little stroll outside. Very nice. Everyone seemed to be in a very good mood. Not wearing masks or anything, which is a little weird since a week ago – it was still the apocalypse, but as soon as the government says its ok to go outside for a couple of hours per day, the Covid has been defeated and everybody is groovin’ hard.
Bars were planning to open as well in a couple of weeks, looking forward to drinking my first tea on a terrace.
The camino felt even more lonely than before and I got persuaded to take a couple of naps just in the middle of the trail under a tree, a rare thing indeed on the busiest pilgrimage route during this time of the year normally. There were more people around but I still had no social contact with them whatsoever.
After waking up next to a little chapel, I searched the town for some food and some greedy spaniard named Fernando was nice enough to sell me a sandwich for 7 €.. He also gave some food for Lucy however, so I guess its alright. Further down the town was actually a little shop where I bought some small things. I also rang the bell of a convent to get a stamp and the priest was very surprised to see me. We had a little superficial chat and I continued after a small break.
Cruz de Ferro
After climbing up the mountain and through a small town called Foncabadan, I came across the place mentioned earlier called Cruz the Ferro. A cross on top of a pillar reaching about 20 – 30m into the sky. Everything was silent and the sun was slowly setting over the mountain ridge. A weird atmosphere took hold of the place and the pile of stuff left there (mostly rocks) was pretty impressive. I didn’t linger for too long since there was no water fountain or anything and I had eaten only an apple to quell my thirst about 2 hours ago. Not an ideal situation. Also no tobacco for the entire day made me feel way too healthy. Good thing I balanced it out with borderline dehydration. I left a bullet that I collected from the house in France on the pile, it seemed only fitting.
Statue 50km back, nice foreshadowing
From the mountain top it was a breezy glide down the mountain with the occasional bushes overgrowing the path, a beautiful sunset in the West guided me along the camino and when darkness fell I walked into a small town. I had put on music and I hoped to walk all the way to Ponferrada (the next bigger city, another 15km downhill from where I was at that point, or so I thought) but all of a sudden Im being stopped by a voice of someone yelling pilgrim towards me. I took out my headphones and confirmed to them that I was indeed. 2 Germans called Franzi and Thomas walked towards me, they were working in an albergue there and invited me to come sit with them for a sec. They also smoked to my relief and it was very good to have a little tobacco. Not to mention the immediate care package they gave me, banana and nuts. I hit it off immediately with these 2 kind Souls and they were as happy and surprised to see me as I was them. We smoked a little bit of a joint and they offered to put me up for the night, and then I could continue in the morning and honestly an offer so good by such good company – how could I refuse. I chilled with them a little bit more but the weed hit me like a ton of bricks and I soon made way for my tent, replenishing my bodily fluids and chowing down the food they had given me.
The next day I woke up and crawled out of my tent that I put up in the garden, I got to meet the owner of the place – A Texan guy called Mike, who’s active nature and humor is only matched by his culinary skills. He was in a bit of a pickle due to the lockdown since there weren’t any customers for the last 50 days. I decided on staying another day and do a little helping around the garden meanwhile acquainting myself with Thomas and Franzi. Thomas and me also did an epic seed swap (no, not what you think you dirty mind). Thomas was very excited with my philosophy behind bringing along seeds to give to others and gave me all kinds of cool seeds, from tomato to pumpkinseeds and beans and herbs among other things. Thomas was really forthcoming with his collection since the philosophy of exchanging seeds really resonated with him, he also gave me a website that deals in heirloom seeds and wow wtf, also got some “street tomato” seeds. A tomato plant a friend of his found growing in the middle of the street.. Very nice.
I originally planned on going after a beautiful pasta lunch that Mike made but the masterchef and everyone else convinced me that I should just stay another day, also the fact that they were going to the supermarket in Ponferrada tomorrow made it a very clear decision for me to stay another day as I could skip the, from what they told me, pretty rough and steep path down to Ponferrada. A guy came by called Finn, from the UK. We built a fire and the beer flowed freely. Very nice to have people that are making a lot of losses still sharing everything they had and I was very thankful. Also the fire and the surrounding area and the sun making everything gold was absolutely stunning.
The next day I woke up early and Franzi had made me a nice sandwich, I hung around a little with Thomas and Franzi until Mike was ready to go. Finn had slept there but already left in the morning and Franzi, Mike and me took the car to Ponferrada. We stopped in a cool town along the way that would have been my end point for sure since they weren’t lying about the path down the mountain. It didn’t look fun to walk at all, also the lack of shade and the sun burning hardcore would have made the pretty little town with the bridge and the river flowing through it my end point for sure. They dropped me off in the city centre however and I could make some very good gains today, already shaving off 14km downhill and then another 8 to Ponferrada. Mike dropped me off very conveniently and we said our goodbye’s.
What a fucking blessing these people were. Extremely lucky to meet them..
Ponferrada looked busy, people were out and about the and lines for the different stores was immense, still no bars or restaurants open but there were more than enough supermarkets available and I stocked up for the journey ahead. I also finally bought some tobacco and decided to buy 3 packs while Im at it.
I also ate a shitton in the city on a bench at the edge of the town, I was a little famished however as I left the city I ate a bag of chips at the edge of a cemetary and just when I was about to go I found a hand of Fatima pendant, very cool. Now I have 3 different religious philosophies on my necklace and I certainly took it as a sign of things to come hopefully, the famous tomb of Fatima being located in Portugal and the hand of Fatima being a well known Islamic symbol.
Hand of Fatima
The next town was Camponayara and at the end I found a pretty cool spot in a sort of picknick area, it was a little bit higher up with a fountain nearby and nice pinetrees sheltering me from the rising sun the next day. An extremely good spot since the next day I already felt the heat in the early morning. Fucking 40 degrees celcius my dudes and dudettes. Holy shit.. Couldn’t even take Lucy back into the town without almost overheating her. Its fine though, I took it slow after walking back into the town to get some food and returning to the picknick spot and just watching Youtube videos and listening to podcasts all day until it finally cooled down a little.
Montán wasnt much further now, only about 90km which should make me hit it within a week if everything goes according to planned. I hoped the weather didn’t throw me a curveball though and would basically condemn me to walking in the night again. Its whatever.
Homestretch baby, homestretch..