La Cruz de Hierro
DAY 22: June 24th, 2014. Astorga – Foncebadón, 25.9 km
Today was a perfect day. Today was walking painless, it was walking lonely and smiling under the rain. It was the smell of the pine trees after the rain stopped, it was reaching Foncebadón full of energies, it was the hippie albergue Monte Irago. Today was organic food, Toni’s tree house; it was sleeping in the gym and waking up when the rooster crows.
DAY 23: June 25th, 2014. Foncebadón – Ponferrada, 27.3 km
The first rays of the rising sun slowly woke us up to the new day. As we started to get up, the door opened and the albergueros came in for the morning yoga class. Last night we agreed on leaving later today to enjoy the yoga class that the albergue included in its price.
For someone like me who has never done yoga before, it felt like a very sensual experience. And at the same time we were all there, our Camino crew. That albergue had a special magic and we were all witched.
A couple of kilometers after Foncebadón was the Cruz de Hierro. An iron cross on a five-meter-high wooden pole, it is an emblematic place in the Camino de Santiago. Pilgrims carry with them a stone from their hometowns and it is tradition that they drop their stones here, at the Cruz.
The stones symbolize what the pilgrim is leaving behind and mark a rebirth in this last part of the Camino. All the stones have accumulated during the years, forming a sort of small hill at the base of the cross.
I found out about this tradition way too late, so I had no stone with me. I took one in Foncebadón, though, and since I didn’t have anything that I wanted to leave behind, I wrote my wish.
On one side of the stone, I asked that the Camino might be a metaphor for my life, and that I might accomplish whatever I wanted to.
On the other side I wrote: May we all reach Santiago together and with our own feet.
Nóra felt sick yesterday, and this morning she woke up with an incredibly swollen foot. If Foncebadón was paradise to all of us, it was definitely hell for her. She can’t walk, and she took a taxi to Ponferrada.
Reaching the cross was a very emotional moment. Tears were just coming down my face without knowing why, the stone almost squeezed in my left hand, while my head was filled with moments of my life, coming back as if I was playing the rewind button in a VHS.
I left the Cross alone, lost in my thoughts. I walked through bright green hills, up at 1500 mt. We had some tough 1000 mt down, but the knee was behaving good and it didn’t hurt for a second.
When we reached Ponferrada, Nóra was waiting for us at the Albergue Nicolas de Flüe. She had been to the hospital, and she will take a bus tomorrow.
I am honestly glad I don’t have to make this choice. I am happy I do not have to choose between whether resting a few days until I can walk with my feet again, like I did in Logroño, and to leave the group, or to “cheat” on the way and take a bus, so that I can stay with my friends. It would have been way harder to take this decision now, and Nóra has all my respect for being able to choose to stay with us.
DAY 24: June 26th, 2014. Ponferrada – Villafranca del Bierzo, 24.1 km
We devoured our breakfast consisting of delicious chocolate con churros from a lovely bar just in front of the castle, before heading back to the fields for another beautiful walk.
José and I wanted to take the guys for lunch at Prada a Tope, that I had got to know in León. But apparently a divorce caused the place to close, so we headed to Moncloa, where we had an incredible lunch with really good wine.
Happy and tired, some of us had a few minutes siesta, while José and Juju were dancing salsa. We would have stayed there much more, but we still had a few kilometers before Villafranca del Bierzo, where we opted for the municipal. Here we met Jasper again, and with him I went to eat some delicious txipirones, soon joined by the others.
The idea was to go by myself, have something quickly and then catch up on my journal, but that was obviously too optimistic. You are never alone on the Camino, it’s so true! And when I want to find a moment for myself, to be alone, I actually realize that all I want is to spend time with the other pilgrims, my new friends, and to live the moments, rather than writing about them.
So instead of being alone with my diary, I found myself laughing until late with Jasper, José, Lavinia, Denise, Diego, Justina and Nathan. Solitude is definitely a word that doesn’t exist in the Camino dictionary 🙂