Cruz de Ferro

Do or do not, there is no try – Yoda

Camino Day 24, Viernes 2nd Octubre. 562 klms. Molinaseca, León, Castilla y León, España.

An early and very cold start to the day greated us.

The highlight of the day was always going to be the visit to a La Cruz de Ferro, the Iron Cross, located high on the ridge above Rabanal del Camino, just short of the high point of the whole Camino, before one descends into Molinaseca and thence onto the hill country of Galicia.

I will need to update the photos later; for the moment the three below will need to suffice, and I will concentrate on the commentary.

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The walk out of Rabanal in the dawn light is very pretty. Our first stop was to be for desayuno at the little village of Foncebadón. That was a steady uphill walk over about 5 klms. About halfway along a bus disgorged about 50 teenagers and a few 1, obviously out on a school excursion. I heard them well before I saw them! I felt my annoyance levels going through the roof. This annoyance level got even worse when half of them set off immediately before us and half after. So all of a sudden we were stuck in the middle of a phalanx of screaming kids. Despite the uphill incline, we really had no option other than to accelerate through them, and get as far ahead of them as possible, and still allow time for desayuno and then onto the Cruz de Ferro before the horde arrived.

Now there’s a moral to this little tale. It’s all about my acceptance of annoyances around me. The school kids had as much right as me to be there (one could argue that they had more right), and just because I value and seek peace and quiet doesn’t mean that everyone else is somehow obliged to do the same. So these thoughts were floating around my head as we walked towards the Cruz de Ferro.

Desayuno at Foncebadón was lovely. A place with an Eastern/Buddhist feel to it, which from many perspectives is not all that surprising.

As it turned out the gods were smiling upon us, and we did arrive at the Cruz de Ferro before the kids. I had my rock (all the way from San Sebastian because I had forgotten to bring one from home, as tradition dictates! ). The tradition is simple – one places a rock (usually) or some other object at the base of the cross to symbolise the letting go/leaving behind of something which you have been carrying unnecessarily.

In the recent weeks I had debated with myself what it is that I would benefit from leaving behind. It was not an easy or clear debate. The stone is of course symbolic of the change one is going to make in one’s life. If I have a fault that I am most often accused of it is of being arrogant, and it is this which I had debated as I had walked the previous almost 600 kilometres. Now I readily acknowledge that I can be opinionated, although it is usually only the lucky (!) few who get to see this. And I have an inner self-belief that I developed some 40+ years ago and which by and large has stood me in good stead. So I think that to somehow “fix” my perceived arrogance could indeed change my fundamental self. I also recognised that the very annoyance at the school kids which I had felt an hour earlier, and which was still playing on my mind, stems from the same place. Yin-yang.

So as I approached the cross I concluded that that part of my being had to stay.

So what then, if anything. Well, the answer lay in the rock itself. You see, despite constant mental reminders to myself, I had forgotten to collect a rock from either Smiths or Yallingup beaches before I left, and I was annoyed at myself for that. A pattern/habit I have developed over the last year or two is to be very harsh on myself for my seemingly failing memory. My self talk around this is not positive, and I suspect not helpful. So, my “forgetful” rock became a symbol and hopefully a reminder to deal with my seemingly failing memory in a more useful manner, which includes eliminating the negative self talk. Phew!

And for fun, I also left a strand of yak hair which I had collected during my trip to Bhutan a year ago. I wrapped it around a small set of Buddhist prayer flags which themselves were loosely tied took the base of the cross. That was just for fun, and to symbolise my varied and distant travels, and what I learn from them.

I said earlier that the highlight was to be the trip to the Cruz de Ferro. And indeed it certainly was a highlight. But there were more to follow. The fabled difficult walk downhill from Alto Altar, the actual high spot of the whole Camino, and a few kilometres on from the cross, was to my mind not all that hard. Yes, it was wise to concentrate, but not much more was needed than that.

The villages we passed through on the way down, Acebo and Riego de Ambrós, were lovely examples of the types of villages in this area. Not a day has gone by when I haven’t marvelled at the design of the various villages themselves with their narrow main as street, or the colours, the general architecture, or in these cases the roof design and materials. If time permitted I could wander aimlessly for hours amongst the houses, sheds and garden beds. Obviously the detail here differs from that when we first started this great walk a month ago, but my wonderment hasn’t changed.

And then today’s final jewel in the crown – the town of Molinaseca. What a beautiful place. Molinaseca is just a very few kilometres from the much bigger town of Poneferrada, and I guess could almost be a suburb of that bigger town. But it has retained its old town, including its well restored and maintained mediaeval bridge, which is the subject of today’s cover photo.

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In this last photo, the street name is Calle Alfonso de Rojo, “Alfonso the Red Street”. I wonder who Alfonso de Rojo was – was he the Knight whose crest and stylised helmet are above the street name. Was he associated with the Knights Templar, who were so influential in this region all those hundreds of years ago? So many questions.

Tomorrow sees us strive for Villafranca del Bierzo via Poneferrada. At 31 klms (not allowing for diversions and side journeys), it will be or biggest walk. Hasta luego.

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