Day 39 – Rabanal to Molinaseca

Walked today: 7.8 miles

Walked Camino 2019: 285.2 miles

It was dark when we left Rabanal (elev. 3730 ft) and we stopped at Foncebadón (pop.13, elev. 4650 ft.) for breakfast.

We saw the pilgrim being followed by a horse once again while walking out of Foncebadón.
Looking back at Foncebadón on the way up to Cruz Ferro

As day was breaking, we walked up another mile to Cruz Ferro (elevation 4930 ft).

Us at Cruz Ferro
Us, at Cruz Ferro, up close

The site consists of a tall wooden pole topped with an iron cross. This is said to be an ancient monument, first erected by the ancient Celts, then dedicated by the Romans to their god Mercury (protector of travelers) and later crowned by the cross and renamed as a Christian site by the 9th-century hermit Guacelmo. For centuries, pilgrims have brought a stone to the place (either from home or the flatlands below) to represent their burden. The stone and the burden are left here, leaving the pilgrim lighter (literally and figuratively) for the journey ahead. Today all sorts of symbolic items are left behind, and some stones bear written messages.

Jim left a stone he has been carrying from Col Lopoeder the high point in the Pyrennes, and another stone from Alto de Pardon near Zariguegui. Merging these symbols with Cruz Ferro stones on another high point of the Camino was his way of … we’ll get back to you on that.

From Cruz Ferro we followed the pass over the Irago Mountains. The pathway

rough footing
expansive scenery
more rough footing and beautiful scenery
more scenery
scenery and rough cliff side walking
Tough choices between watching your next step and the views

was rugged at times but the views were beautiful and expansive. It was a struggle from watching every footstep to avoid a Camino-ending fall, but not wanting to miss the ever changing “oooh” and “ahhh” scenery that changed, left and right, with every few steps.

We had one last treacherous downhill section of loose, sharp rock as we descended, slowly into El Acebo (pop. 37).

El Acebo seen from our descent

Walking into El Acebo, still in one piece.

We stopped at a familiar bar from our visits in 2015 and 2017. While sipping our second CCL of the morning, we were satisfied and relieved that we had made it safely to this point. The next section between here and Molinaseca, a descent of another 1900 ft, is for us, one of the most treacherous on the Camino. We survived it in 2015 and 2017, but wondered what we had to prove by doing it once more. We thought about our knees, we thought about the risk of a twisted ankle or sprain or knee injury, with still 150 miles left to go for Camino 2019.

We finished our drinks and asked the nice lady at the bar to please call a taxi to take us the remaining 4.5 miles to Molinaseca, our destination for the day.

Our taxi driver in his best English and sign language said that anyone with knee issues should avoid the section we were skipping. We told him that we had done it twice before, but decided to do it with him in his taxi this time. We also told him we were old but not stupid he laughed and agreed with our logic, having knee issues himself.

When we arrived in Molinaseca, Luis, our driver, explained to us with his translation app that the most difficult part of the rocky path had been created in Roman and Celtic times by metal wheeled carts carrying gold and other items which cut deep ruts in the rock, making it treacherous to walk on.

So we not only survived to walk another day, but learned some interesting history about the Camino, before it was the Camino Frances, nearly 1000 years before.

We had walked through Molinaseca twice before but never stayed here. Its a charming little town on the outskirts of Ponferrada with a majestic medieval bridge reserved for pilgrim traffic entering the town of 854 residents.

We’re staying at the El Capricho de Josana (43€),

our room in the “attic”

strategically located on the Camino path through Molinaseca,

The view down Calle Real toward the Puente de los Peregrinos from our Hostel Rural

just as you exit the old section of town.

We had lunch at a restaurant overlooking the pilgrims bridge and the Río Meruela and were joined by Gary from Texas who also happened to be staying in Molinaseca tonight.

Our tummies still full from lunch we decided to skip dinner and chill for another nice day on the Camino Frances.

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