Sunday, 11 September 2011

Into the mountains; day 23

Ever since I introduced Liz to the concept of churros we've been on a mission to find them. Pedro advised us to go to the churreria sonrisa in astorga. When we got there last night it was closed but a sign on the door promised it opened every morning. We jumped out of bed hoping Sunday's weren't an exception and almost ran to the churreria. On finding it open at 7am and full of saturday night revellers I did a little jig of joy (much to the revellers inebriated amusement). A glass of fresh orange juice, a plate of freshly made churros and fresh thick hot chocolate is the ultimate way to start a pilgrims day and we felt it was totally justified fuel for todays climb into the mountains.
Leaving the city the sun was rising (yeah I know it does that every day but really it never ceases to blow my mind how beautiful and different it is every day) turning the clouds into a sea of red lava behind the cathedral.
It's starting to feel like I am getting close to home. The scenery is complete different again, the landscape is getting wild and the food is getting better. The mountains ahead of us look dark and ominous. I've purposely not done much reading about the camino but I couldn't help hear about how hard the climb was going to be. This made Liz and I feel apprehensive and what with the food getting so much better, the fact we passed so many towns and the 'need' for fuel to make it up the mountain; we were stopping every hour or so to fill our bellies. After a quick stop in a beautiful little church, Felix cafe in murias de rechivaldo was our second port of call for breakfast number two. Run by a spanish woman who has lived in 12 different countries, it had a taste of each to satisfy every stomachs desire. An hour later we were sitting at a bar in El ganso and I was eating empanada. An hour or so later I was sitting at a bar in rabanal del camino and I was eating calamaris, salad and chips. By this point we still hadn't even started the I incline! Eventually the ascent began firstly over foot comforting sandy paths and then onto slate stones. Through thick dark green bush and purple and pink heather. The clouds were grey and threatened rain. The wind was forceful and against us. the cool climb was refreshing and energising after the endless flatness of the mesita. It is absolutely breathtaking here. The smell of burning fire was in the air. We passed a shepherd and his two huge dogs all asleep by the side of the grazing flock. upwards I climbed delighting in the energy of the climb, the coolness of the temperature, the power of the wind and the wildness of the landscape. I was almost disappointed that the climb wasn't harder. Arriving at foncebadon, a few km from the cruz de ferro I could almost hear the Gallego bagpipes in the distance. We checked in to a great albergue hung our washing out for it to then get rained on, huddled in the warmth of the bar catching up with pilgrims we hadn't seen for days and discussing the swell of new pilgrims from astorga - some joining from another camino that starts in Madrid and many simply starting from that city. A young german girl, new to the camino asked me to pop her blisters for her because she didn't have the stomach for it. I set about bursting them with a needle and advising her on how to take care of them. She looked weary while I was still high from the walk. Who would have thought it that I could love walking up a mountain so much and be so much better able to do it than I was 23 days ago.
I think about the day ahead. The iron cross awaits me; a time to let go and let God. I think about how the camino will soon come to an end... What will I do without the daily 25 km hike? How will I be in the world? How is it I can feel so different and yet so much more myself than ever before? I don't know the answer to any of these questions but I'm more ready than ever to face the iron cross.

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Location:Astorga to foncebadon

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