Today we walked from Winter though Spring into Summer
On the way out of the village come across 'Jack Sparrow' and his crew they have pitched their tent inside one of those little picnic shelters for pilgrims. It must have been a tough night for them camping with the rain and sleet. They are a hardy bunch of youngsters who take pride in leaving last and arriving first. Even though 'Jack' carries the largest and heaviest pack we have ever seen they all yomp along at a rate of knots. After a couple of Km spot the bright red jacket of Jozefien behind us and we wait up for her.
Low light en route up to Foncebadon-Looking back towards Rananal
The mist turns to rain- the rain to sleet but we don't care because we see something we never actually thought we would-the sign for Foncebadon. In fact the walk up is grand and talking to Jozefien 'shortens the road'. I can't believe that we get there so fast and that I have exorcised another of my camino demons.
Nell hugging the sign for Foncebadon
Entry into Foncebadon
We celebrate with hot chocolates in the cosy little Cafe. Frances phones up her mother Alma as she is following our progress assiduously and has been to Foncebadon herself so she knows what significance it has for us. We tell her that "no there are no fierce dogs but plenty of very fierce weather".
Hearing Frances chat with her Mum brings to mind an old photograph of my mother. It was taken at the top of Helvellyn in the winter of 1948 or 1949 the day is sunny but there is deep snow. My mother's wearing a 'cadged' leather bomber jacket laughing in the sunshine with her friends-gosh how she would have loved make this journey-even as an 80 year old armchair pilgrim!
There's a young Korean boy in the cafe as who seems to be tagging along with an Italian man and a pretty American pilgrim-the girls hands are cold and the Korean lad gallantly gives her his gloves and uses a pair of socks for himself. The other young man, kitted out to the nines, hands ensconced in good gloves looks on 'approvingly'. Frances, Jozefien and I exchange glances ...... gosh are we three bad pilgrims!
On the way to the Cruz de Ferro the temperature plummets and, even with our good gear on, its bitterly cold.
There are sudden short downpours of rain but the ground was so cold the 'run offs' freeze almost immediately and then it's back to sleet and snow brrrr.
Frances and Nell at the Cruz de Ferro the highest point on the Camino. I left a stone I had picked up from the top of Djouce in Wicklow on one of my training walks
Cruz de Ferro (1,505m)
Jozefien and the courteous young korean at the top. He only had a thin poncho over his fleece and socks on his hands as he had given his gloves to an American girl. In these winds and temperatures ponchos really aren't enough. We have our coats on under ours and that's just about enough to keep warm and damp.
At the top we get a bit giddy as we did in the Pyranees
Heading down temperature improves and it feels like Kerry on a 'soft day'
In my poncho I look like a cross between the Incredible Hulk, Quasimodo and a large green umbrella but at least Frances can spot me in the mist/sleet/snow/rain/fog... in fact Stephen can probably spot me on Google earth! Jozefien sports an 'interesting' but effective combo of balaclava and a sunhat-'needs must when the devil drives'.
The trees are bedecked with soft pale green tresses of the most luxuriant lichens I have ever seen - a sign that the air up here must be pretty good.
Good lord it actually stopped sleeting/raining in fact it got spring like..... and we don't quite know how to cope with the prospect of good weather
Walk into Acebo and lunch and was never more welcome. The restaurant is stuffed with knackered but contented pilgrims - it's good to share that feeling of achievement.
The three of us opt for the local speciality and all I can say is why somebody should go to such culinary lengths to make something that isn't steamed bull testicles resemble steamed bull testicles is quite beyond me. The accompanying chickpeas and hearty sausage are delicious. Jozefien, taking a practical dutch attitude of 'it's hot and we've paid for it' makes a brave attempt to eat 'the item' but we can tell her hearts not in it. At the end of the day we are all un(wo)manned by Acebos challenging 'bonne bouche'.
Jozefien thought she may stay in Acebo or Riego de Ambros so Frances and I pressed on as we wanted to get down to Molinoseca.
This descent is so beautiful and now, having walked from Winter to Spring between Monjardin and Acebo, going down through Riego de Ambros to Molinaseca we walked from Spring into Summer. It seemed like paradise to us- the heather and pine of the higher ground replaced by rock roses, broom and lavender and in the church yard at Riego Crocosmia and Iris were in full bloom
Church yard Riego de Ambros
I climbed up to the open air belfry to meet two local belles with a reputation for having wicked tongues and of spreading their tales far and wide. I introduced myself to-Maria and Maria Magdelena-they have their names and birthdays inscribed around their rims.
This is Maria Magdelena Riego de Ambros
Pennyroyal growing on the church yard wall Riego de Ambros
Rock roses, broom and lavender
Having 'conquered' Foncebadon and the Cruz de Ferro we were feeling just a little bit cocky. But that was soon knocked out of us by the, visually stunning, but ankle wrenching,knee jarring, blister bursting drop into Molinaseca. The descents into Cee (Santiago to Fisterra route) or down to Zubiri are a cakewalk compared to this-sweet Jesus I signed up for pilgrimage not bloody martyrdom and if (its a big if) I can walk tomorrow it will only be by an act of God.
Decent to Molinaseca-visually and physically stunning
I do remember sitting down in the chair waiting for the shower.... after that ....nothing until I was woken a few hours later by Frances to discover that my legs had 'locked'. Locomotion is made possible by rocking from side to side and swinging my legs out at the hip . However small children, dogs and older people were at serious risk if anywhere near this manoeuvre. Great now I have 'the moves' to go with my 'Frankenstein' boots. Frances,being a good(ish) pilgrim, tries to suppress her giggles at my 'progress' and I get cross and then of course I start laughing to which doesn't help my balance at all-we end up looking like a pair of drunks and not a drop has passed my lips....yet!
Facing 30km tomorrow so we need food, drink (for medicinal purpose in large quantities) sleep....oh and a not inconsiderable amount of divine intervention.
Getting 'locked' in Molinaseca