Camino de Santiago, Camino Frances, pilgrimage, Spain

September 25th, Day 24: Rabanal to Molinaseca — Sunrise at Cruz de Ferro

Sunrise at Cruz de Ferro.

We are the first ones up and out the door before the albergue owner is even awake. He sleeps on a sofa by the front door, and we actually have to wake him to let us out. We want to make sure we’re at Cruz de Ferro for sunrise, and while we only have about 9km to cover, it’s a steady climb up in the dark.

Past pilgrims’ rocks and stones.

We leave as a group, headlamps on, and begin the steady ascent. I fall back, my body feeling lethargic at this early morning hour, but we reconvene in Foncebadon at a small albergue. We have a small snack and copious amounts of coffee to wake us up. We only have a short walk now, and plenty of time to get to the cross for sunrise.

Cruz de Ferro, as I have learned, is quite a symbolic spot on the Camino. It is a place where people let go of their worries, their guilt, the extra weight they’ve been carrying, anything they may want to shed. Many do this by carrying a small rock to place on the growing pile under the cross. Some leave photographs, flags, and other mementos. On the hike up, I debate leaving my hiking boots!

Our Camino Family at Cruz de Ferro.

We make a sharp left and we have a clear view to the east – a beautiful sunrise is unveiling itself. Straight ahead, we can see Cruz de Ferro. We arrive, and drop our packs and chat with the other pilgrims here. The sunrise is epic and we are here for long after the day has dawned. Everyone takes their time to reflect on this part of The Way, and then Ramon breaks out a bottle of whiskey. It’s Kyle’s birthday and we toast to him. We are the last to head out, but we have a downhill climb ahead of us. At first, it seems like it will be easy, but many of us struggle on the way down, as this is the first climb we’ve had since crossing the Pyrenees on day one.

On the outskirts of El Acebo.

The landscape around is us just beautiful and such a welcomed change after the flat Meseta. We are on winding paths with views of rolling hills in the distance, all glowing in early morning sunlight.

It’s a long walk before lunch, and we pass only one town in between, Manjarin, where a small makeshift cafe is being run by a past pilgrim. We’re not sure he has the means to feed us, so we carry on another 7 kilometers to El Acebo. We’ve covered 16 kilometers, and I sort of feel like I have just trekked through desert and can now see water. We are all in need of a break.

We find a cute cafe with an outside patio on the outskirts of town and find two tables which we literally fall in to. The early morning, paired with a proper hike and descent and no real meal yet is not a good combination.

But, we eat and drink and slowly come back to life and decide to cover another 9.5 km to Molinaseca. The afternoon walk is hot, but I feel strong, and we seem to cover the distance easily despite the heat. Dima and I arrive on the outskirts of Molinaseca first and we sit on a bench and wait for the others to arrive. Then, as a group of eight, we head through town and begin the hunt for acommodation.

Molinaseca is picturesque. We cross a small bridge entering into town and walk down a main, narrow cobblestone street. To our left and right are houses, inns, cafes, shops and markets, but every building is decorated with the most beautiful window boxes. It’s the middle of siesta, so not many people are about, and in a matter of moments, we have reached the end of town.

Molinaseca.

On the far end of town, we discover a hotel that’s offering pilgrims rates. It seems to good to be true, but for little more than the price of an albergue, we can stay for a night and have access to the hotel ammenities. But, when the owner sees that we are traveling as a group, he has a better idea for us. Across the road from the hotel is a 2-bedroom house. We each pay 8 Euros and he leads us to our own home for the night. The two rooms each have two sets of bunkbeds, and we have our own bathroom, kitchen and laundry facilities. And two watchdogs. Score! Tammy and I bunk in with Ramon and Jesse and Kyle and Jen end up with Bill and Jan. Dima and Keren have opted for the municipal albergue.

A sweet old lady with her flower offering.

I get to finally meet Bill and Jan. They are sort of like the ‘Mum and Dad’ of our Camino family. We don’t spend a lot of time with them, but whenever we pass, they are always checking in on us to make sure everyone is ok. I’m thankful to have the time to get to know them better here.

The guys head out to drink beers and Tammy, Jen and I head to a small cafe by the river and order tinto de veranos. On the walk into town, it’s obvious siesta is now over. People are coming out of the woodworks, shops and markets are reopening, and we meet a sweet, old lady in the road, carrying a bunch of bright yellow sunflowers to church. She chats with us in Spanish, calling us guapas, and insisting we take photos with her.

Kyle’s Birthday dinner in Molinaseca.

After happy hour, we head to dinner. With no real plan or idea as to where we will end up, we get lucky and score a table for eight at a restaurant at the beginning of town. It is the second day we have been reunited now, and it’s great to feel the chemistry of our group growing. The vino tinto flows and we order Kyle a birthday desert. Maria, our waitress, brings shots of Cuarenta, and other pilgrims send drinks and treats to the table. As people leave, they stop to wish Kyle a happy birthday, the language of the sentiment changing with each pilgrim.

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