Thursday, October 8, 2009
Out of the meseta and up into the Cantabrian mountain range.
A 17 mile walk today. Astorga was the last of the meseta, the high plains, fertile farming area of Castilla y Leon. From here on, it is mountains into the province of Galicia, where Santiago is located. The first part of the walk was relatively flat, but the second half was a steady climb. Astorga is at 900 m ( 2800 ft) but Foncebaden is 1450 m (4500 ft) elevation. Tomorrow, Cruz de Ferro ( Iron Cross) is the high point of the entire camino at 1505 m (4934 ft). Cruz de Ferro is the place where people bring stones from wherever they start and leave them. The idea is the stones represent their sins and they are forgiven as they leave them behind.
Foncebaden is a small village of less than 100 people. There are roving goats and a donkey in the streets. Lots of ruins, but the peregrino business seems to be reviving the town and there are three albergues located here. I checked into the parish run albergue and was the first one there today. The hospitalero asked if I would like to join him for his midday meal. By the time he was finished, a French Canadian women had also checked in, so we had a simple shared meal of cooked potatoes and onions, sausage, bread, and red wine. It was very nice. Tonight, I will have a peregrino dinner at one of the other albergues in the village. There is not a restaurant here. In fact, I am using the slow 1980´s computer at that other albergue as it is the only internet in town. One is grateful for any little convenience in such out of the way palaces. There is someone in the dining room playing a guitar and other pilgrim´s are singling all the old classics everyone can think of.
The walk today was beautiful up through the foothills and into the mountains. It threatened rain a few times and it alternately cloudy and sunny, but the scenery is just so beautiful. From here on, there are supposed to be a few good days of weather, which will be nice as there are more mountains to cross yet.