Camino de Santiago Day 9:
Rabanal del Camino to Ponferrada
Every once in a while on a hike, you schedule a day that you know is going to test you.
You know when you schedule that higher mileage that it will push you to your limits.
But you kind of want to see if you can do it.
Honestly I don’t often have big push days as I prefer to not arrive at the end of a day feeling like I am going to die.
But at some point I realized that I needed to shorten day 8 after the all night bus and as a result, I just left it so that the miles cut from Day 8 would have to be made up on Day 9.
I was kind of sad to leave Rabanal del Camino actually. It might be one of my favorite Camino stops.
But around 7:45 I finally started my uphill march to the next town, Foncebadon, where a straw snail reminded me to take my time.
And then on to the highest point on the whole Camino.
El Cruz de Ferro
The Iron Cross
It’s traditional to bring a stone from home and leave it at the foot of the cross.
I brought a piece of Rock Island, literally since the island our town is named for is all rock. It’s been quarried and used all over town for different buildings and landscaping, so it was easy to snag a small piece and tuck into my pack. I picked it up on one of the many walks I took at home to get ready for the Camino.
I left my rock and started the steep descent into the valley below.
The path descended throughout the rest of the day, varying in steepness.
Some of the time I just walked along mindlessly and then sometimes I was carefully picking out every step.
Since I had so many miles to cover, I made short stops and just ate snacks I had with me.
I also tried not to check my mileage too often so I wouldn’t get overwhelmed.
Just keep moving. Just keep moving.
Past the heather and the gorse bushes.
Past chestnut trees.
And more blackberries.
Through more villages that looked like good places to stop.
Onward I marched.
I reasoned that if I didn’t reach Molinaseca before 3pm that I would take a bus or taxi the rest of the way.
Then I made it by 2pm.
Ugh, why am I not staying here?
I said to myself as I crossed the river and saw the beautiful scene.
Places to sit by the river with drinks and people eating lunch.
But I still had 5 miles to go.
I grabbed a sandwich and a drink from a shop, sat quickly on a bench to finish it and then kept going.
From Molinaseca to Ponferrada was almost all road walking, some of it along the main road connecting them.
It was a bit of a slog.
I finally dug out my headphones and played music for the last couple hours.
I kind of danced dileriously into Ponferrada. I was looking for any kind of steps to take that were different from the ones I had been repeating for so many hours. Changing my step just a little brought great relief.
After what seemed like forever, I finally reached my albergue at about 4:30pm, totally spent.
There was already one other gal in the room and she too had walked the same long distance as me.
She was from Budapest and we decided we that we would both shower and then go try to find an early dinner together.
Our room had 8 bunks but we were only joined by one other person, a biker from Barcelona. He had covered 60 kilometers.
I had seen lots of bikers while I was hiking and I did not envy them climbing up and down those hills on bikes.
On our way back from a dinner of eggs, shrimp and potatoes, the sun was setting on the church tower across from the castle this town is famous for.
Lots of folks were out in the town square and taking photos of the castle. It was Saturday night so Ponferrada was hopping.
But we were shutting it down. Time to rub our sore feet with whatever creams we had and to try to sleep enough for tomorrow.
My new friend and I compared blister treatments before turning out the lights and saying goodnight.