Last night at Monte Irago was great fun. Walking into that peaceful haven in the gathering gloom of a winter's storm was blessing enough, but more was yet to follow. We all performed the usual daily pilgrim rituals and then gathered by the fireplace for a couple of glasses of wine. Filipe, our hospitalero, was preparing dinner. Robin showed him a picture, from two years ago, of us and him at this very albergue. He was very happy to have us back. Our crew for the night are a French couple who have been walking from Le Puy, a German, and James, the American we me at Rabanal. Filipe also has an Austrian girl helping out, as well as David, a delightful Spaniard from Toledo.
We eased into dinner and then the discussion turned to orujo, Spanish grappa. Felipe prepared a nightcap for us all using orujo blanco, lemon, apple, and coffee beans. He put this mixture in a saucepan and set it alight. He burned off about half the alcohol in the normal orujo blanco, and pronounced it ready for consumption. He then ladled his handiwork into the awaiting glasses. It had a wonderfully unique flavor and still enough punch to ensure a quiet night's sleep.
We all seemed to choose 7:30 as a wake up time. The dormitory lights went on and all hands started preparations for today's walk. Filipe is a yogi and encourages pilgrims to join him in his morning practice. So Robin, James, and I joined Filipe and his staff for an hour of yoga stretches. This put us a bit behind our normal departure time, but it was worth it. My body needs some serious loosening up in the morning. It was great way to prepare for our day which still loomed ahead of us. I couldn't help but notice the wind working over the mountain top as we stretched in the albergue attic.
At 9:30 we made our goodbyes and reluctantly stepped out into the freezing cold. A few shards of blue sky amongst the predominant gray encouraged us as we made our way back through the alley we had entered the night before, and out onto the road to Ponferrada. Temps were in the upper 20's but the 30-35 mph headwinds dropped the windchill even more. Cruz del Ferro, the highest point on the Camino, was 2 kms away. We inched our way upward, carefully searching for traction in the ice and snow. We crested Cruz del Ferro in a rare patch of blue, added our offerings and prayers, and moved on anxious to get off the mountain, and into better weather. Fortunately, snow plows were now on the road and that made our work a lot easier. Two hours after leaving Cruz del Ferro, Robin and I were having lunch at a bar in Acebo, the first village down from the top as you head westward. We were thrilled with the improving weather. Fueled with lunch, we set out to continue the long walk down the roadway to Ponferrada. A couple of kilometers later we descended through the cloud deck into brilliant sunshine, and spectacular views all the way down to Ponferrada still many hours walking ahead. The rest of the day was spent descending in glorious weather. We stopped in Molinaseca for a coffee and then pushed on to Ponferrada. We arrived safely and are luxuriating at the Hotel Aroi Bierzo Plaza. All is well. It was a long tiring day but we are now safely off the mountain. Only one more mountain to go. More tomorrow from Villafranca del Bierzo, the launch pad for our climb over O'Cebreiro, the gateway to the hills of Galicia, and to Santiago de Compostela that patiently awaits us.
|Cruz del Ferro|
|The road to Ponferrada|
|Just emerging from the cloud deck|
|Robin going for a stretch|
|Ponferrada in the distance|
|Looking better from down here|
|On the way down to Molinaseca|