May, 8, 2016. Sunday. Walked 16 miles in the rain over a mountain – too tired to post but all is good.
Left at 6:55 a.m. Arrived at 4:00 p.m.
Today was indeed a challenging day. I left my lovely hostel with its antique furniture and charm before 7 and entering into a cold bleak morning, It was barely daylight and no one was on the Camino yet but me. I walked through the cobble stone streets of Rabanal Del Camino with the rain hitting my poncho and hat and walked up hill into the fog. Soon another pilgrim passed me and we were off the street on a dirt path,or rather a mud path as it had rained all night long. I was going up hill on a narrow mountain path and it felt like I was in the mountains of San Diego County hiking with Brian.. Except I knew I wouldn’t be hiking in our mountains early in the morning by myself (the other pilgrim being long gone) – I would be afraid of mountain lions early in the morning. From a distance I heard a cow so I figured if there was a dangerous animal around, I would have heard about it, and at the very least it would want the cattle before me. I went around a corner, dodging the mud puddles and saw the cattle, and then I saw a big “toro” like you see in the pictures with the Matadors, big horns, bulging eyes staring at me.There was a fence between us – a little string of a wire – so I picked up my speed and got past him quickly . . .and then just kept walking – up, up, up. Constant rain, this would not be a day to take pictures- but a few maybe??
I was sloshing through the thick mud, trying to walk around the deep puddles but the ground was soaked and water was running everywhere. I couldn’t help to risk my camera and take a photo, I was amazed with the color on the shrubs. It is a risk (taking pictures), it means unzipping my poncho, taking off my gloves, trying to prop uo my poles up so they don’t get muddy to snap the lens shutter. I wouldn’t be doing it much today but I still couldn’t help myself in this early morning hour.
I was climbing on a wet muddy trail and I looked down about 20 feet below me, and there was the road with about 20 pilgrims on it – I knew the trail was parallel to the road, but I wasn’t sure if it would by pass something important, so I had elected to stay on the Camino. Now the asphalt looked safer than the mud I was sloshing through so I made my own path to the road and started climbing on a small country asphalt road. I felt like I was walking up the road to Palomar Mountain with an occasional car coming by.
Walking along in the rain on asphalt was easier -I heard my name being called and it was J from Brazil on the bank above me. She climbed down through the shrubs and joined me. The next couple of hours it was just walking in the rain on that same asphalt road – and again it felt like I was on the road to Palomar mountain. We had no view of the mountains around us because of the low clouds – just the road and an occasional car.
At about 9 we stopped at this wonderful restaurant in a teenie tiny town to get out of the rain and get something warm. The man behind the bar was so warm and friendly and I heard him speak at least four languages while we were there.
Last night when I blogged I talked about if I made it up the mountain. I was putting no pressure on myself because of the weather. I didn’t know how long I would walk in the rain, or if it would start to storm, or snow. Weather in the mountains can be so unpredictable. I just knew I would try, I would be safe and I would enjoy the day. The one thing I wanted to happen, weather permitting, was to go to Cruz de Ferro. It is a cross where people bring rocks from their hometown and leave them at the foot of the cross. It is a symbol of what your are leaving on the Camino, a burden, some sort of “baggage” that you are not taking home with you. It can be a very real thing and a very emotional thing for many people on the Camino. When I was speaking to M from the northwest the other day, he wasn’t sure what his baggage was but he was sure there was some business he had to do at that cross.I shared with him my own experience and our Good Friday services at Legacy Church where we often are encouraged to leave our burdens at the foot of the cross, and it could be symbolized as a stone, and give it to Jesus, don’t take it back. He died for our sins and our pain.
J from Brazil and I walked and walked in the rain. The temperature was dropping and the icy wind was whipping around our hats and ponchos. We were not sure if we had missed Cruz de Ferro- it seemed according to the map that it should be closer. Finally, we came around the corner and there it was.
There were people at the cross when we arrived leaving, crying,visibly upset. It was such a chilling cold when I was there, we didn’t stay long. Although my San Diego rock was intentionally meant to be more of a cultural meaning than a spiritual one, I think I have learned some things on the Camino that I hope to leave here.
After Cruz de Ferro, J from Brazil and I went back on the dirt path and were soon ankle deep in mud.We sloshed around with the cold wind chilling us and making the trek over rocks and running water treacherous. J decided her tropical blood had had enough, she was going to stop at the next town. Before we reached the next town, there was a break in the rain and the snub came out for the first time. J saw snow for the first time on the mountains south of us.
When we made our descent into the next village it was rocky, steep and treacherous. Once we got to the bar, we had a little snack, ran into Mary and Sofie and J decided she woul go one more village before making her decision. This descent down the mountain is the steepest of the Camino. The farther down we went,things started changing. There were more wildflowers. Flowers I had never seen before, but it was raining and the trail was dangerous, not a time to. be taking pictures. Lavender was growing wild everywhere on the banks and the sides of the cliffs as far as we could see. Wildflowers that wer yellow, several shades of blue, red, lavender, purple,white, an occasional red poppy dotted the sides and banks of the Camino. I turned around as we walked through one particular shady area and snapped a picture, but it does look like what I felt. I felt like I was in a magic forest, in a fairyland, maybe Snow White’s forest. It was so wonderful and so totally unexpected. S from Germany, an agile hiker became our personal mountain guide as we followed him down the very treacherous path, rocks striated like they were petrified wood, mud up to the to our shoe laces, parts of the path sheer stone at 45 degrees. It was a long treacherous descent, but I wouldn’t have missed the magical colorful experence for anything. The sweet smells alone in the heavy rain would have made it all worth. it.
After more than an hour, we finally saw Molinaseca and were so grateful for our safety into this beautiful, charming little town. We knew others were going on to the larger city Ponferrada, but we were home for the night.