Monday, May 26, 2008

De Ponferrada

As with other posts, these photos illustrate the journey covered by the post below and in the further post of the same day from Ponferrada. That journey was from Rabanal to Ponferrada, crossing the Montes de Leon at Mt Irache, on 25-26 May 2008. The photos follow the (chronological) order of the posts.
285. Beginning the serious climb to Mt Irache, the point at which we cross the Montes de Leon286. Stone walls frame the fields even here, in these high rises
287. Looking back on the valley as we climb
288. On the way up
289. The mist rolls in as we climb
290. The way ahead in an enveloping mist
291. Stark companions on the climb to the top292. The rich colouring of the vegetation is accentuated by the mist293. Entering Foncebadon
294. Roofing in Foncebadon. It seems to work. They have experience with rain.
295. The Cruz de Ferro
296. Some of the contributions to the Cruz
297. Those elements take many forms
298. It's a popular photo opportunity
299. Scenes from the descent in easier visibility
300. Tomas maintains an iconic albergue at Monjardin just below the pass. A pilgrim's hospital existed here from the C12. It is a remote, misty, moist site with beautiful views of the valleys below.
301. Helpful if you were curious
302. More such scenes on the descent
303. It is spectacular to look down on the clouds of mist well below
304. The golden bloom that flourishes in the high country
305. The bellringer at Acebo descends
306. A sculpture memorial to a German pilgrim cyclist who lost his life at the spot outside Acebo. There are a number of such memorials on the Camino.
307. Robin and his son Tris after dinner in Riego de Ambros
308. With Robin
309. The albergue at Riego de Ambros
310. A pleasant reunion with Christian, Ana and Liam outside Ponferrada
311. A view of the albergue in Ponferrada
312. An early morning view from the albergue of its courtyard
313. The Templar castle at Ponferrada
314. The C16 Basilica de Virgen de la Encina
315. A farewell meal for Sandra (second from left) in the albergue. She returned home to Munich on the following day and will return to complete the Camino in another tranche of holidays.

This post is commenced just before 2pm on Monday 26 May in the parroquial albergue of San Nicolas de Flue, a Swiss saint connected to the Camino, in the town of Ponferrada. It has a population of 60,000.

I´m staying here because Ponferrada has a physiotheraphy clinic. Indeed, I´ve just been treated for my achilles tendon inflammation and all is well enough with it. It´s bandaged for 2-3 days and afterwards it´s a regime of ice packs from time to time. It´s behaving itself and I´m trying to do so too, by not walking too far or too long each day. Everything is on track for a comfortable completion. (Hubris, you say? We´ll see.)

Rabanal to Riego de Ambros, Sunday 25 May

This was a spectacular crossing of Monte Irache (part of the Montes de Leon), the highest point on the Camino, 55 m higher than the top of the crossing of the Pyrenees. The climb from Rabanal was just splendid. First, there was direct sunlight and beautiful fields of spring wildflowers, of yellow bloom, and lilac red and white (like Australian flannel flowers) vegetation everywhere. Then, after 6 kms, before Foncebadon, we hit a heavy mist that reduced visibility to 50 m or so. Still beautiful but a very personal, subtle beauty, as if made for each of us individually. At the peak, the Cruz de Ferro, an iron cross mounted in a huge cairn of stones carried by pilgrims over the decades, the sun cut through the mist. I left on the cairn some stones I had been carrying for those dear to me. They are your presence on the Camino.

We then continued to walk across the pass and begin the descent that really ended for me at 11.30 am today in Ponferrada.

It was very cold yesterday although we had little rain. My rain jacket, gloves and beanie kept me warm. It was just freezing in the albergue last night although we had blankets to augment the sleeping bags. I wore thick sox and the heavier Icebreaker also. It is seriously cold in the montes even in late May. There seemed to be a fall of frost in the morning.

Perhaps because of this cold and the other sources of beauty, I took over 100 photos. It was as if Gabe were here and everything just had to be photographed, being so beautiful. Indeed, it was too cold to stop walking all day and it was only when I took a photo that I stopped walking.

I had a lovely dinner last night with an English vicar, Robin, and his son Tristan who has just finished an English lit degree at Birmingham. They are quite delightful. I said good bye to my other recent English friend, Duncan, yesterday although we´ll catch up in London shortly.

There is a queue forming for this Internet and so I´ll finish now but try to do another shortly.

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