23rd Day: Rabanal to Molinaseca

“We need more Peregrinos, but not TourDeGrinos”, said the Hospitalero. Her hair, which she pulled back into a ponytail, was starting to gray. She didn’t hide it. Her face, which was untouched by make-up, showed that she couldn’t have been more than 35. Even her loose fitting pants that looked more like pajamas seemed to show that she had shed social convention. And in fact she had. She told me that she had left her life as an accountant, and as a wife, in Bulgaria to come live in Foncebadon in a communal living refugio after completing her Camino. Originally, she hadn’t planned on staying, but the Camino changed her – she said she could no longer listen to her head and ignore her heart. She said this as she patted her chest. “There are only five of us here. We need at least six. From now on, 40 to 45 pilgrims will come every day. We need someone else to help out.”

Foncebadon is only 4.5k from Rabanal, but all up hill. A French-Canadian teacher stewarding a group of seventeen seventeen year olds told me yesterday that the town is ugly, but the Refugio, which he called a bit “hippy”, is great. He likes that type of atmosphere. I passed through Foncebadon around 9:30, stopping for a fresh pressed orange juice, coffee that came out of a thermos and a chat with a Bulgarian, and then continued on to Cruz de Ferro, where a 10 meter cross stands on top of a pile of rocks.

The origins of Cruz de Ferro are pre-roman celtic. The Celts marked the highest part of the mountain pass with piles of rocks called in Gaelic Cairns. In the 11th century, Gaucelmo christianized the pagan monument and topped the pile of rocks with a cross. After taking a photo for a German Pilgrim, I pushed on to Manjarin, a town with ruined stone buildings that lead linearly to a Refugio run by a Templar Monk named Thomas.

I wasn’t expecting to see Thomas. Word was that he had a heart attack a little while ago and was recovering in lower altitudes. At 1,440 meters, Bruno, a new Hospitalero, tells me that Manjarin is not good for his recovery. I took my time at Manjarin chatting with Bruno about the Camino, he has done six, and the dogs, there are many but only one that is half wolf. I then headed to Acebo, on the other side of the mountain range. I had a Menu del Dia for 12 euros and then busted my knees for 800 vertical meters. First through the town of Ringo de Ambros, with their Dutch-orange colored flowers and then to the lively town of Molinaseca. Tomorrow, if I don’t decide to go back to live as a hospitalero in Foncebadon, I will walk to Villafranca del Briezo, which is 34k away.

The Sunrise from inside of Albergue Guacelmo in Rabanal. A Brittish confraternity runs the place, which has a great backyard area that is big enough to house a horse (or maybe even two). I even had tee outside yesterday. I felt very civilized.


Looking back on Rabanal.


About 45 minutes after sunrise, the colors were striking.


In between Rabanal and Foncebadon, there was a trough that was filled to the brim.


Cruz de Ferro


On top of Cruz de Ferro with the wishes and pictures of previous pilgrims attached to the wood of the cross


A stone I picked up from an abandoned house on the third day sits in the middle of the picture. It’s tradition to carry a stone, either from home, or from somewhere along the camino, to place on top of the pile.


The Refugio of Manjarin is the only thing around except for a smattering of stone houses in ruin and a small cattle farm across the street.


Half wolf – half dog. All pissed at me.


Coming into Ringo de Ambros.


Dutch-Orange flowers of Ringo de Ambros.


Molinaseca appears after around 24.5k (today’s total was 26k)


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