May 18th 2015 – Day 13
Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca – 25km
I had already walked 260km over 12 days but this day was my last day. I dislike last days on any trip. I had already thought about going back to work and that brings stresses in itself. However, starting out, I had a choice. Take it handy and walk 25km to Molinaseca, or walk to Ponferrada, which is approximately 30km walk. It all depended on how I felt on reaching Molinaseca. .. I was going to soak up the atmosphere and meet some more people. I may even meet Tom and the guys before I finish up.
It was just after 6am when I departed Rabanal del Camino and it was still dark. The albergue was serving breakfast at 7am but I didn’t avail of it choosing to wait until my arrival at the next town, Foncebadon. I remember my time here in 2012, I left with a German, Sabine however I walked out alone this time. It didn’t bother me however. The climb up to Foncebadon is tough, and starts as soon as you leave the hamet. You venture off road and you walk up, up, and further up until you reach a main road. I meet the two Irish women whom I last saw in El Burgo Ranero and chat to them for a while while I catch my breath. From there, there is another steep climb before you see the cross at the entrance of Foncebadon.
The popularity of the Camino seems to have given life to this little part of Spain since I last visited in 2012. Instantly, I could see two new albergues and one other hostal. I stopped at one of the new places “Albergue Roger de Lauria” which serves breakfast. It was bustling even at this time..7am. I suppose a lot of people choose this village as their stop point. John Brierley doesn’t recommend it as an end stage, but a lot of people chose to stay here so they can witness daybreak from the highest point. I ordered my usual breakfast and sat down. The climb took a bit out of me but I had quite a bit more to go yet.
I started to think about the Cruz de Ferro, which was another 2 kms or so from here. On reaching the Cruz, most pilgrims bring along a stone as a symbol of a weight that is on their shoulders. They place the stone by the cross so the weight is no longer with them. Instead of a stone, I brought a small metal shell that was given to me by my friend Anna who I met on my last Camino. I spent twenty minutes or so here and took in the atmosphere. The sun was out and it was beginning to warm up. The arrival of a tourist bus was good reason for me to move on also. From Rabanal, I had climbed 400 metres to the highest point on the Camino so it was all downhill from now. The trail is along a road but the traffic is so quiet that I find myself walking on the road itself.
Another 2 kms or so further on I reach Manjarin, with a population of just one..Tomas. I didn’t stop this time around but took a photo of the many destination signs at the front of his house. I wondered if many stayed in his albergue the previous night. I must try it sometime. From now until the next town, El Acebo which is roughly 7 kms, it is all descent. At first. the Camino stays on the main road but it takes you off road for a while before reaching El Acebo. It is quite tough at times, especially as I don’t like descents. I stop at every opportunity I can. There was one guy selling freshly squeezed orange juice and I jumped at the chance to take a rest. I reach El Acebo at about 11am. The climb down took alot from me and I was ready for a cafe con leche and something to eat with it. Just as I entered the first cafe in the village, I see Tom and the gang. I was delighted to see them. It now meant I had someone to walk with on my final day. I took it easy for a while we gathered our things and set off. I learnt that they had stayed in Orbigo and in the albergue further on in Astorga. They chose to stay in Foncebadon also, which explained how I had missed them for so long.
Once we left, we discussed where we would stay for the night. I told them that I had been to Molinaseca in 2012 and it is beside a river. I think they had been thinking of staying in Ponferrada but the mentioning of a river sort of changed their minds. It is a beautiful town and wins over Ponferrada on all counts. Plus the albergue in Ponferrada is too large. The albergue in Molinaseca is run by Alfredo who is another legend of the Camino. We checked in and decided that rather than have dinner there, we would take a visit to the tienda, buy some food and wine and take a trip down to the river. We had a great time and it was a perfect final day..even though my leg took a battering. I was back hobbling again but I did my best to shake it off. I saw Michael from Cork again who would be flying home the next day, but from Madrid.
Saying goodbyes are hard but saying goodbyes on the Camino are harder. I should be used to it at this stage.
I woke up the next day after 7am and the last of the stragglers were moving out. I, on the other hand, didn’t need to go. I packed up and wandered down to the taxi rank in Molinaseca town. After a badly improvised phone call in Spanish to a taxi company, I was picked up and brought to Ponferrada bus station. The next four hours were spent looking out the window at passing cars and pilgrims as they make their way to Santiago. In typical Galician style, the heavens opened on arriving in Santiago. After another taxi ride to the aeropuerto, I waited for my flight home. While waiting, I met a friend who was also walking another portion of the Camino and was coming home.
So that’s my 2015 Camino over..I suffered, to the extent of damaging some ligaments in my leg. But was it worth it? Oh yes! Here’s to 2016.