Monday, September 19, 2011

Camino De Santiago: Day 22-El Acebo to Ponferrada

I know, it's been a while. I've been busy moving, and the new house doesn't have internet. But, after a walk, I'm missing the Camino today and figured I better get after these!

I can't believe I left you hanging after the last Camino post. Remember Evil Knight Templar Miguel? Yeah, well when I woke up the next morning, I was still upset. We had all come to the conclusion that he was crazy, but I was still ready to show him who was boss. We got all ready upstairs, came down to the entrance hall where he was sitting at the table next to the donations box (he had added a new sign with a arrow pointing to the box) presumably waiting for me--waiting to win either by a) proving that he knew I wasn't going to leave a donation or b) proving that he could treat pilgrims however he wanted and they would hand him money anyway.

Ol' Miguel had another thing coming.

We put on our boots and right before we were ready to make a break for the door (no way were we going to eat his breakfast), I walked over to the box, pulled out my borrowed one cent coin, and with the tiniest imaginable plink sound, claimed victory (seriously, those coins are almost plastic).

Pilgrim buddy Victoria and I went straight out the door, feeling vindicated. Take that Miguel!

Four steps later I realized I left my walking stick inside.

Of course I did.

For the splitest of seconds I thought about leaving the stick behind (But it was my best friend?! I couldnt do that) or asking Victoria to go back and get it for me.

In the end though, I knew I had it coming. (Seriously, these are the kinds of things that happen to me.) I swallowed my pride and walked back.

(As it so happened when I peaked in the door Miguel was busy digging in a cabinet across the room. I made a beeline for the bucket of sticks, retrieved mine and (I think) made it out the door before he even saw me.)

All that. Even before 8:00 am.

(And don't worry, I left a bigger donation at another hostel to make up for this!)

Anyway, once we were on the trail the scenery soon wiped away all the bad vibes:

I returned to my habit of saying It's so beautiful! every five (two?) minutes. 

We found Juanma and Maica! She found that hat in our hostel in Rabanal. Someone knitted a bunch of warm hats and then sent them to the hostel to give away to pilgrims (nights in the mountains in Galicia can get cold). We laughed about the hats (they were mostly crazy colors), but she took one anyway. In the end she was super distraught when she accidentally lost it!

The Camino for most of the day was entirely paved with bushes of these white flowers. Taking over my habit of mentioning things every couple of minutes, Victoria couldn't get over how wonderful everything smelled. I, on the other hand...couldn't smell a thing. (Spending my days hiking in the forests wasn't good for the springtime allergies!)

We picked a few of them to bring along

We were having such a good time smelling the roses, taking in the vistas and telling stories that we didn't realize what had happened until it was too late. 

We were lost. 

Thankfully though, we were not alone. 

Also, thankfully we were not the ones who had to go all the way down a steep hill only to figure out it was a dead end. We met a couple of pilgrims on the way back up and we all looked around stumped. True, we hadn't seen any arrows for a while, but where did we go wrong? 

Someone called out, Everyone get out your guidebooks! We pulled together all our various German, English and Spanish guidebooks to figure it out. We hiked back about 1.5 km, waving off pilgrims and scrambling up the false stone arrows as we went until we found the problem: The path split in two and the Camino followed the small branch--unfortunately the stone arrow marking the path had been run over by cyclists and looked more like a barrier than a way marker. 

Finally back on the right path, the beauty continued in fields of wild lavender...

small villages...

and shepherds. 

We made it to Ponferrada as it began to rain. The local pilgrim hostel had great facilities...but odd requirements. Mainly, that you had to give the volunteers a hug to get in. Yes, even if you didn't want to give them a hug. I tried to casually sneak past the hugging, but I was caught. And hugged. 

Turns out these crazy people were "Knights Templar" (just like Crazy Miguel). 
Turns out Ponferrada is the capital of Knights Templar country. 
It also turns out that calling yourself a member of the Knights Templar today is on the same level as calling yourself a member of Star Trek.  (Or so I was enlightened by fellow pilgrim Denise. While I felt foolish for not knowing this, the last couple of days started to make more sense.) 

Ponferrada had a nice castle to explore

But the entrance price and all the Knights Templar-ness of it all turned us away. 

The river in Ponferadda

Finally, after we all cooked dinner, we did what we did every night and looked over our maps for the next day. Mark and Denise, from Australia, had a big map--which felt much more satisfying (by that point we had walked almost two feet on the map!)

Overall it was a scenic day, full of ups and downs, which led me to one lasting conclusion: Never trust a Knight Templar. 

1 comment:

Old Pilgrim said...

Wow! We met Mark and Denise in Navarrete in April. That's a long trip.
If you happen to have their email, could you send them mine? We'd like to get in touch with them, but lost track of theirs.
Henry Herfindahl