Thursday, April 10, 2003

October 19, 2001
Rabanal del Camino- Ponferrada (cold/rainy)
20.0m/32.0km - 339.1m/542.6km

Last night I had a strange dream. I dreamed I was lying in my bunk and that I woke up to find myself in the middle of an earthquake. I heard people screaming and saw a man being tossed through the air. The man in the lower bunk next to me was trying to hide under his bed. Someone else was trying to get out of the room before the building collapsed.

This morning I learned it wasn't a dream. Climbing into the top bunks can be a little difficult. The man in the top bunk next to me was trying to get back in his bunk, so he stepped on the edge of my bed to help him, while at the same time boosting himself up by putting his hand on B's bed above me. B woke up and saw a man looming over her and screamed. This startled the man so he pushed off both beds and propelled himself into his bunk. At the same time the man in the bunk below him was pulling his mattress on to the floor to sleep because his back was hurting. And some guy happened to be walking by on the way to the bathroom. My life is turning into a Three Stooges cartoon.

Beautiful walk today through off-and-on rain showers. We walked through the ruined village of Foncebadon and it is a creepy experience. The streets had been made of stone and the cycle of heat and freezing cold in the passing years have caused them to rise up, making what had been the main street a path of jumbled rocks. The town is not deserted, we see a couple of dogs and a man standing in the doorway of one building silently watches us as we walk by.

We climb up to the top of a pass where the Cruz de Ferro is and take a rest break. A cross has been up here for centuries. It was first put here to help pilgrims find their way through the mountains. The one here now is small and made of iron. It is attached to a three-foot long wooden stake that is thrust into a huge pile of rocks. It is a tradition for pilgrims to bring a rock from home and add it to the pile. I did not know this so I find a rock near the road and toss it on the pile.

We next reach Manjarin,another abandoned village, and again stop. The only thing in this village is a refugio. This refugio is not an official refugio and is operated by a man named Tomas. At one time the government was going to cut off the electricity to the refugio because they did not approve of it. Tomas went on a hunger strike until they backed down. After seeing the refugio I can see why they wanted to shut it down. It is somewhat like a bad hippie commune from the sixties and does not look very clean. We meet a girl who spent the night and asked her what she thought. She hesitated and then said carefully that is was different.

On the other side of Manjarin we reach a two-lane highway and have to make a choice. The path goes to the left alone the road but across the road we see a yellow arrow pointing to dirt and rubble slide that leads to the top of the mountain. We decide it would be quicker to just go straight up, since the path must follow the highway around as it weaves its way to the top. Climbing this is tricky and hard. We spread out so we do not knock rocks and dirt into each other's faces. J is the first one to the top and I hear him swear loudly when he gets there. When B gets there I hear her yell out loudly. When I get there I see why. We are at the top of the mountain but the highway does not come here. The top of the mountain has a military radar station on it and the road from it leads back down to where we left the highway. I think the local kids painted the yellow arrow as a joke. My life is a Three Stooges cartoon.

Just before Molinaseca we stumble across a man living in a tent. He puts the tent up in the Spring and stays until the end of Fall. He gives foot massages and fixes the feet of the pilgrims that pass by. When we walk up he motions to us, asking if we would like a foot massage. We say no. He points at my feet and makes a motion to come. This guy knows feet. He can tell just by the way I am walking and standing that my feet hurt me. I hesitate and then shake my head no. I am afraid he might hurt me.

As we continue walking to Molinaseca I brood on my decision. Why was I afraid? When I reach the edge of Molinaseca B and J are sitting on the sidewalk and leaning against a railing waiting for me. I sit down and tell them what I have been thinking about and berate myself for being afraid. I am in pain but I refused someone's offer of help because I was afraid. Why? I feel a great sense of loss.

We stay at the brand new refugio in Ponferrada. It is run by the church so for the first time we are separated by gender. Men to the rooms on the left. Women to the rooms on the right. When I take a shower I find plenty of hot water. I also find more water pressure than I expected. After I step into the shower stall I look up at the shower head as I turn on the water. A blast of water hits my face so hard it knocks me back and nearly drowns me. B is next in line and she can the shower head over the shower stall door. When she hears the noises I make she figures out what has happened and I hear her laughing. I laugh too.

We go out for dinner and find a fancy Italian restaurant and order a good wine with our meal. Again we are too early for most of the locals and only have a man and his son as dinning partners. During dinner J mentions that by next Friday ( a week from now ) we should be in Santiago.

When I go to bed I notice that almost all the pages in my guidebook are gone. This experience has been such a dream that this fact (the missing pages) and the stamps in my passport are the only way I know that what is happening is real.

I am looking forward to tomorrow. I read in my guidebook that the church in Cacabelos has a picture of Baby Jesus playing cards with St. Anthony carved into the altar. How could I not stop to see that?

No comments: