Day 24- The Iron Cross

Eddie was the only soul willing to get up at 6am and brave the night with me. Susan and Bene decided to start much later and as a result we would be walking alone. This is also in keeping with Susan’s request to walk alone. We actually got to the main doors of the Albergue only to find the massive wooden gate locked. Fortunately a key was hanging on the door and it unlocked the oversized mechanism; we were out. This morning, and throughout the day, the markings would be difficult to find. As the town is so small it would appear obvious which way to go. Leave town by taking the same road you came in on, just keep going.
Our tiny headlamp and flashlight barely made a dent on the blackness of the morning. The stunning abundance of stars were absolutely magnificent to see. No urban lights to contaminate the sky….. simply breathtaking.
The road out of town brought us to a sign and a path leading to the right. We could see a pilgrim ahead us, their headlamp occasionally pointed in our direction. It was so far off there is not even the remotest possibility we were seen…except for our little light spots. It is comforting to be aware of others on the trail, especially at this time of night.
The path soon started up, and we pushed on with some energy. The mysterious pain in my right leg has completely vanished, as quickly as it had appeared, today it was just gone.
Both Eddie and I were walking at a really impressive clip, despite this becoming a steep climb. The time disappeared as we walked ever higher into the clouds. This creates a feeling like the mountains are even closer. The dampness is tangible and trys to seep into any opening in your clothing. It is obvious it is much colder as you gain altitude.
After an hour and a half we came to a small collection of buildings. These were small, private Albergues catering to Pilgrims wanting to stay off the beaten track.
Eddie and I both had an Aquarius and a banana. (Aquarius is a good tasting Gatorade type drink) We then decided push on. Interestingly, this Albergue was started by a 19 year old fellow, still running the place. He looks to be in his mid or late late twenties now.
After a very short break and saying hello to some people we recognise it is time to go.

As we walked through the last few buildings we heard….”Eddie!….Cam’!”
It was Angela. She had stayed here the night and was just about to set out. Angela is a wonderful young lady from South Korea and had walked with us on the first day, and stayed at Orisson as well. Angela quickly got her pack on and the three of us headed out of town and up the mountain again.
Angela had difficulties with her ankles and someone had come to her rescue. They had cut the top of her expensive hiking boot away from the ankle, and now Angela was walking pain free. Simple and effective.
We continued for another hour or so and the fog continued to close in… until suddenly there appeared a mound and a pole ahead. We were about 50 feet away and could just make out the unmistakable outline. As we moved closer our pace slowed to a crawl and I could see two people standing on the mound. A few more steps and the iron cross at the top of the pole became visible.
The fog enhanced the solemn feeling around this site. Millions of people had come by the point and left something in an attempt to un-burden some aspect of their lives. The mount is roughly 15 to 20 feet tall and probably 35 to 50 feet diameter. A wooden pole with an iron cross at the very top is positioned in the middle of the mound. Stones, small and large, artifacts of every description were everywhere. All items here have had a special significance to someone.
I pounded a medallion into the cross for Margaret. I had promised to leave this in a significant place on the Camino in thanks for her inspiring my Camino.
I had also been given two stones from my Father. One a non descript white stone is from Banff, Scotland. A tiny village on the North coast. This was the home town of my Father’s mother, my Grandmother. The second was a stone wrapped in paper. I opened the paper and found the stone was painted and had a scripture written on one side. I also had brought another stone from Toronto. My stone had some real significance to me. I placed the three stones around the base of the pole, equidistant to each other. I have always liked symmetry.

This was an oddly quieting experience for me as a non-exclusive religious person. I felt this was at least a part of what my Camino was intended to provide me. It was a deeply personal moment in reflection.
After spending 20 minutes, more Pilgrims were starting to arrive and decided to head off. Eddie and Angela were no where to be found so I was on my own.
The fog refused to lift but did thin from time to time. The path I was on would take all Pilgrims over the highest point on the Camino somewhere around here….but you would never know it. The views must be spectacular.
Finally a sharp decent and it was obvious I was taking a path off the mountain top. The path is incredibly rough and steep at times, and you walk beside steep drop-offs for more time than is comfortable. It is made more psychologically challenging due to the fact the cliff face drops off into a white foggy sea. Where’s the bottom?
After 40 minutes the fog gently breaks away and every step reveals the mountains surrounding this area. Valleys and the ever steepening path pull you away from the fog above, and the sun starts the process of warming and drying you out.
Less than 2 km after dropping out of the fog a small town, looking every bit like a simple Swiss village comes into view. I decide to have breakfast. Heck, it’s after 10 now, no wonder I’m hungy. While enjoying my breakfast and the break Eddie and Angela come into town. We talk for 15 minutes enjoying the sun and drying ourselves out.
I decide to to push onwards solo again.
The rocky path all follow becomes extremely steep in places. Loose rocks increase the chance of injury. My $38 walking poles once again prove their worth. Walking without sticks, and I do emphasise the plural, would be a serious mistake. When factoring in the additional weight of the pack, and the odd centre of balance it creates, the poles provide so much more needed stability. One other factor seldom mentioned; walking with your hands at your side produces swelling of the hands. The poles elevate your hands to much closer to the level of your heart improving the return blood flow…..no swelling. I have taken my poles out on flat sections simply to avoid this problem.
Finally I descend into Molinaseca. This is picture postcard of a Spanish town, cradled by a slow moving river at one end. The streets are narrow with shops and restaurants on either side. It is obvious the Camino is a serious source of income or this town.
We had decided to stay at an Albergue just past the town called Santa Marina. This is a private Albergue and I am able to get beds (not bunks) for Eddie, Bene, and Susan in advance. You can hold spaces in a private Albergue, not in a municipal Albergue.
Roughly 20 minutes later Eddie and Bene come into the Albergue. Bene was able to make up the starting difference and I had just missed her arrival at the breakfast stop by minutes. Bene really is a walking machine….once she wakes up in the morning.
Word was Susan was well behind and by 5 o’clock we had given up hope of seeing her today. Later we received an email telling us she had stopped for a service given by an order of Templars monks. In her words “the robes, music, and environment gave the whole experience a sort of Star Wars feel”.
This and the fact the downhill sections were proving difficult on her knee, she decided to cut the day short by 10k. Her plan is to catch up in a day or two. Susan is determined to take on the one last severe climb.
Tomorrow has to be a 30km day to keeping to the new schedule, arriving in Santiago on time. This also sets us up for the mountain climb. We have decided to break the mountain into two days by walking a  slightly less on one day, and a little more on the second.
I’ll just have to let you know how this goes………
On a very sad note, Benita has decided to return to America prematurely. After committing so much effort it is now apparent she will have to come back again to finish the walk. Everyone she has met wishes her well.
Hey Benita….you’re the greatest! Be safe Pilgrim.

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8 thoughts on “Day 24- The Iron Cross

  1. Hello from Canada; I said that if I had known about the Camino trail when I was younger, I would have tried it. Lucky I didn’t know about it, I NEVER would have made it. I was with you all the way reading your account of the climb and descent of the mountain. That does take guts and especially doing it alone! Congratulations.

    Tomas came home in time for Thanksgiving dinner at Nancy’s place. There were just the four of us and the turkey and food were abundant and everything was delicious. I sat around like the matriarch and didn’t raise a finger to help. I’m enjoying the memory of the days and occasions I fed 20 plus (family) members and cleaned up with some help. These are all wonderful memories for me.

    I am enjoying the daily mail from you, I’ll miss it when you come home but look forward to more stories.

    Keep on trecking (and writing) Love Mom.

    • I’m so glad Tomas was there with you, Nancy an Carol. Did I miss turkey? (There is room for multiple jokes here)
      You have earned the full rights as the Matriarch. Enjoy! I remember those dinners fondly, especially if Uncle Frank started to sing…..
      Love you and miss you.
      As Always….. Cam’.

  2. I am so happy that you are well again. I just had to laugh out about Bene being a “walking machine”. Hope you manage to walk the whole way. You are all on my mind every day. All the best to you. Sabine

  3. Hi Cam, with great interest I read all your posts about your heroic adventure. We are very proud of you and look forward to your return, and hope you are back with unforgettable experience, memories and great pictures. Happy Thanksgiving Day and I wish you will return save and sound shortly.
    Helen

    • Hi Helen…thank you for the Thanksgiving wishes.mine is not a heroic effort in any way. There are so many others I would nominate for this….but not me. It is a journey of a lifetime. I wish I had done this many years ago…and will encourage others to join the Camino. I am anxious to get home and see everyone in just over a erlang and a bit.
      Take care and say hi to Peter nd the girls for me.
      As Always…. Cam’.

  4. Hi Cam,
    Thought I would chime in. I have been reading the blog “religiously” and feel like I have gotten to know the entire family. Have been following the trip on the large map we printed at the office as well. I found your description of the iron cross very moving. Good luck with the rest of the trail and I look forward to seeing your photos on your return!

    BE WELL!
    Matt

    • Mucho appreciado Matt…..
      I honestly feel indebted to everyone back home allowing me to take this journey. Obviously there were many things coroners to pick up in my absence, espequally you. Thank you.
      Seeyounextweek!
      As Always….. Can’t.

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