Foncebadon to Ponferrada: The Iron cross to the Templar castle.
It is 2.1 km uphill to the Crun de Ferro. The Iron Cross stands at 1,504 metres and is surrounded by the stones and tokens that many pilgrims leave here as a sign of leaving something behind. It is a simple five meter wooden pole topped with an iron cross. The cross is a replica of the original which is now in the Museum of the Ways in Astorga.
“It is believed that the pile of stones pre-dates Christianity as the Celts where in the habit of marking high mountain tops that were used as tracks with stone, the Gaelic word is still in use today – Cairns. This tradition could have continued with the Romans who also marked high passes to honor the god Mercury who was then the patron saint of travelers.”
We headed out of Foncebadon in the dark and trudged up the 2 km by the light of the head lamps. We found that we could unfortunately not actually see the sun rise from here!
We did however leave our 3 sided rock at the cross.
Then with the first light it was time to head down the other side. We met up here with Emmanuel for the long hard journey down.
Another coffee oasis at the top of the next hill! Luckily we arrived first since 15 minutes later it was mobbed.
Manjarin is an abandon 12th century village that is mostly in ruins, there was a pilgrims hospice here in 1180 and there are records of its existence until the 16th century. Its official population is 1 (Thomas) who runs an unusual unsanctioned albergue with places for 35 pilgrims in tents and wooden shacks. There is no running water and a single pit toilet. He also “claims” to be the last Templar knight. We did not see any sign of him this morning.
El Acebo is another mountain village that was nearly abandoned, but it was revived back to life because of the Camino Frances. Villagers of Acebo enjoyed a tax free life in return for marking the pilgrims route with 800 stakes over the pass from Foncebadon. The descent into the town was steep, rocky, and very hard on the knees.
The village itself is lovely with well kept and restored stone buildings, a nice church and several shops and a bakery.
We got our daily package of cookies to share after our lunch. We found a nice small plaza at the end of town where we could pool all our various food items. We had some fresh bread, laughing cow cheese, and sardines.
One of the many many sets of boots and shoes that strangely people have abandoned to rot on the trail. At least Daniel left his on the shelf at the municipal for some one to use if they could.
Molinaseca is a lovely village at the bottom of the hill about 7.7 km from Ponferrada. There are a lot of shops and restaurants. The walk from here is on the road side and not very pleasant. It feels like a very very very long walk from here into the city center.
In Ponferrada we booked to stay in a very new, modern, and hotel like Albergue. Each room had 3 bunks, a 7 th single bed, and an adjoining Jack/Jill bathroom. They had good laundry facilities with washers and a heated drying room. It is worth the 6 Euro cost if you can pool the clothes of a few people as we can now. Even all our belongings for 4 is just one real load.
“Late in the 12th century the city was entrusted to the Knight Templar who starting building the castle in 1218. However, they only got to enjoy the finished work for just over twenty years. The Templars had become powerful, wealthy, and political, therefore, they were feared which led to their downfall.”
There is a very extensive Templar library here with some beautiful and very old books.
In the evening we sat in the square and had a few drinks with our “family” and then went to the “kebab” for dinner.