Camino de Santiago Day 8: Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela
Day 8: Astorga to Ponferrada, 65 kms.
- Camino de Santiago Day 1: Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela
- Camino de Santiago Day 2: Estella to Navarrete, Spain
- Camino de Santiago Day 3: Navarrete to Belorado
- Camino de Santiago Day 4: Belorado to Burgos, Spain
- Camino de Santiago Day 5: Burgos to Ledigos, Spain
- Camino de Santiago Day 6: Ledigos to Leon, Spain
- Camino de Santiago Day 7: Leon to Astorga, Spain
I left Astorga at first light. The road started to ascend at the outskirts of town and though it was well-paved, it got steeper and harder as the kilometers wore on. In the few and far-between level stretches, I occasionally stopped to catch my breath. I was passing thru the highest point in the Camino and it was pretty isolated and exposed.
Astorga to Ponferrada, 65 kms.
When I got to Rabanal, 20 kms. away, I was dead tired! I thought of stopping for lunch and resting my legs but rain clouds started to converge on the horizon so I thought it would be better to leave before it opened up. It proved to be a mistake!
The climb over the Montes de Leon mountain range began in earnest and all signs of habitation disappeared to be replaced by sparse vegetation that grew thicker as the elevation rose higher. It was here in this isolated spot that the rain began in earnest. They were huge drops that later turned into white sheets of water that blocked out everything in sight! Frantically, I looked for shelter but save for the few trees around, there was none except for a rocky outcrop on the side of the steep mountainous slope that was good enough for me to squeeze in but not the bike. I made sure my camera was snug inside its case before hugging the backpack between my chest and legs as I huddled under the plastic poncho which I bought earlier.
It took over an hour for the downpour to taper off to a light drizzle but the sky was still an angry, dark mass of grey. I decided to press on, after eating a sandwich and my last Granola bar, passing by the small abandoned village of Rabanal where houses were boarded up which gave me the creeps. I started wondering what to do if I ran into zombies lurking around!
At Foncebadon, I could not find the turn to where the Cruz de Ferro was located so I continued on fearing another heavy downpour. This was supposed to be the highest point in the mountain range where a tall iron cross was planted and pilgrims for hundreds of years have placed stones taken from home as a symbolic way of leaving their burdens behind. They said that the stone size should be commensurate to one’s sins – mine would’ve been likely a good-sized rock!
The steady climb lasted for another dozen kilometers or so until the small town of Manjarin where the steep descent began down to El Acebo. I had to be extra careful to pick my way down through the slippery road where rivulets of water appeared out of nowhere. With two hands gripping the hand brakes, I freewheeled for several kilometers until for reasons I can’t remember, I suddenly found the bike sliding beneath me and myself hurtling through empty space! Landing on top of a pile of dirt with Compo a few meters ahead of me, I picked myself up and saw that my knee had a bad gash and there were cuts on my forearm. Thankfully, nothing seemed to be broken and my helmet saved me from a bad knock on the head!
This time, I gingerly pedaled slowly until the town of Molinaseca where I stopped for coffee, cleaned myself up in the cafe bathroom and bandaged my knee from the First Aid kit which came with the rental bike. It was still quite early and since the weather had cleared up, I thought it better to push on to Ponferrada, 8kms. away where I found a nice hotel. For once, really exhausted and miserable with the condition I was in, I decided to splurge on some luxury. God knows I needed a wide and comfortable bed with soft 400-thread count sheets to ease the aches and bruises my tired body felt. Plus music to soothe my nerves.
I dialled room service and after a sumptuous dinner of sopas de gallego, bacalao and Cava sparkling wine, I felt rejuvenated once more but immediately drifted off to sleep the moment my head hit the king bed’s mattress….
Note: This was my daily journal throughout the pilgrimage route which took all of 12 days from Pamplona to Santiago de Compostela.