Day 20 - The Heights of the Camino
Rabanal del Camino to El Acebo
18 kilometers - slightly over 11 miles
Another climb, this time to the two highest points on the Camino Frances.
First is Cruz de Ferro at 1495 meters (about 4500 feet above sea level), then Alto de Cerezales (30 feet higher).
Cruz de Ferro
The Iron Cross or Cruz de Ferro has a long tradition for being the point where Pilgrims lay a stone from their home at the foot of this cross, representing the laying down of problems or worries to God.
As a result of this tradition, the pile of stones laid for God, has grown very high. It is a very unique place.
Note the high mound of stones at Cruz de Ferro
Here, Jackie laid a stone for her son, Brett. Obviously, as a mother, he, and all of the kids, is in her heart every day, but today he was the special child and we said a prayer for him at the cross.
After a time contemplating. It was back to the Camino, and we were soon at the very small village of Manjarin, with a very unique bar/cafe of sorts.
The resting spot proudly displays the banners, flags and other memorabilia of the Knights Templar. The knights were important players in the history of the Camino, as the chosen protectors of Pilgrims on the route.
Here, Jackie enjoyed the first part of her on-the-go breakfast for the day. The cafe had donativo cookies, which she enjoyed.
Cookie from a Knight
Down the road further, a young lady, next to the Camino, was squeezing frresh orange juice. Jackie bought one.
Fresh squeezed orange juice in the middle of nowhere
Finally, a short time later, we came upon a truck-pulled camper with a complete kitchen set up. Here, Jackie enjoyed a coffee.
Between the three stops, her breakfast was covered.
It is nearly impossible to believe that only 60 miles ago we were sweating it out on the Meseta before reaching Leon.
Today, the weather was very cool most of the morning.
We were obviously at a much higher altitude, but the surrounding landscape is so different.
One week ago, we saw harvested grain fields as far as we could see.
Today, from the top of this walk, we were looking down on beautiful, lush mountains, with grazing cows, and seemingly miniature villages below.
We just don't know anywhere in the United States where it would be possible to see such changes in such a short distance.
Our Hotel and Local Driver
As we mentioned earlier we love our hotel in Astorga. We have loved it so much that we have stayed here three nights instead of our planned single night reservation.
To do that and keep moving, we have been picked up at the end of each day's walk and returned to that spot in the morning to continue the Camino.
We were picked up today at El Acebo and will be delivered there tomorrow. We are getting in the walking miles, and spending some money with Antionio Carrera Perez, our taxi driver each day that we stay here.
Antonio is the perfect driver from Astorga. He loves this area and he is a caring and tenderhearted man.
He and Jim have very confusing conversations of sorts in Spanish and English.
Today, following our walk, after picking us up in El Acebo, Antonio took us to an amazing village off of the Camino path, but near Astorga.
The village is Castrillo de los Polvazares.
Founded sometime before the 16th century, the village is very unique in one aspect. All of the walls and all of the streets are constructed of the same stone. Castrillo was one of the most important places for the reconquest of Astorga in the Independence Spanish War as it was the first village of the territory where the Spanish troops rebelled against the French army.
Time has forgot this wonderful village, which is quiet and dignified.
We drove down main street, then turned a corner to a more secluded street.
Antonio, pulled a key from his console and stopped at one of the houses in the town. He motioned us out of the car and told us to follow him. Entering a door, we learned that the homes in this village were situated much differently that we imagined. The walls of the homes, were actually walls of small courtyards used by homes, situated inside the doors.
We have a few photos. It is difficult to imagine how the homes are organized without seeing them.
Antonio will pick us up tomorrow morning at the hotel and deliver us to El Acebo, from which we will continue our way west. We have a short walk planned for tomorrow. It is our last night in Astorga.
Because Antonio decided that we had the time tomorrow, he plans to take us to a very unique village, on a hillside, which sits far below the Camino. It should be cool.
Tomorrow will also be our last at this amazing hotel in Astorga, the Posada Real Casa de Tepa. We have had amazing service at several other hotels along the Camino, but this hotel offers a special courtyard oasis, that we don't know how we can forget.
We are staying in Molinaseca tomorrow.
Until then, as Frank Sinatra once sung, Buen Camino.