Day 3: Distance travelled 17.5 kms. Total ascent 298m
Weather: Cloudy cool morning, clear hot afternoon. Est: 28+ degrees
If the Camino is all the people you meet, today was another significant milestone in our journey. The day started with an early breakfast at the albergue – coffee (hot chocolate for the children) bread and jam, as well as plenty of water. Today we continue our march up into the mountains. We are on the trail by 7:45am – the day is cloudy and cool, but thankfully the dark shower clouds of yesterday are nowhere to be seen.
An hour into the walk, we meet up with a Spanish couple – brother and sister it turns out, Emilio and Mercedes. They are fellow pilgrims, both having completed four previous Caminos, and enthusiastically welcome us on The Way. She doesn’t speak any English – or as much as we speak Spanish! Emilio speaks some English so we manage to strike up a conversation. As we talk we explain we are one family – three generations and with eight children. His eyes widen and twinkle with pleasure – he tells us they are also from a family of eight children. He explains this to his sister who shakes her head and repeats”cautro, cautro”. Even with our limited Spanish we understand this…”four, four”. The conversation continues and we can see Mercedes counting the children herself. Suddenly she busts forth with “Ocho! Eowee! Ocho!” She then rushes forward and embraces Rach and showers her with kisses. Her squeals of delight continue for a couple more minutes. Tears wet her eyes, and Emilio then explains that as we had walked up the path towards them Mercedes had been in the middle of a phone call where she heard that her brother-in-law had died. They were thankful that they had heard the news up in the mountains as they were ’closer to heaven’. They then explained that further up the trail was Le Cruz de Ferro, a simple cross monument at 1504m, with a simple wooden pole with a cross atop that has become one of the abiding symbols of the Camino de Santiago. They showed us the stones they were carrying with names of their grandchildren painted on them which they would place by the cross to honour and remember their grandchildren. They said they would also say a prayer for the brother-in-law when they got to the cross. They gave us their email address and asked us to please send them a photo to remember our meeting. It was simple, serendipitous and moving encounter, which I know we will remember for a long time.
Later that morning we crested the first summit, going through the only village which was marked to have a food shop. All we could find was some packaged muffin-style cakes, an orange for everyone and a couple of bags of almonds and hazel nuts. That would be lunch! The map had also indicated a refugio at the 10km mark, but we certainly did not see it, so we walked on… (see in the next picture….that’s the whole village…if you look very carefully you can see the sign that indicates you are entering MANJARIN and also the one that says you are leaving it!!)
We stopped at La Cruz de Ferro. We had all carried stones from New Zealand to place by the cross there – this is meant to symbolise leaving all your troubles behind! It is amazing just how many stones were piled up by the cross – and they had removed several tonnes of the stones a few years ago as they pile had grown dangerously high! (up the the steel band 2/3 of the way up the post on the photo below)
The weather turned beautifully clear and hot on the leeward side of the mountain and we ate “lunch” under some trees with a wonderful vista across the valley. It didn’t take long to eat, then it was back on the trail. The map indicated the next village was at the 17km mark, and we also knew if we arrived too late the chances of finding 11 beds in an albergue were slim, so we kept on walking. Thankfully we passed lots of wild blackberry bushes so we supplemented our food sources with handfuls of sweet and plump blackberries.
ERgirl6 had a couple of falls, and one major meltdown – but to her credit she got over them all (even if it did take a while for the hissy-fit to pass! ). All the children walked steadily, and we finally crested a hill to see the town of El Acebo, a very welcome sight at 3pm – and just managed to find an albergue which accepted us all (we did have to do some convincing that we were all one family, and yes, we had all walked here!). A memorable day, and we are only three days in to our pilgrimage!
ps – for some average unedited videos check out http://www.youtube.com/user/TheFadabear
Tags: 2012, postcard: Camino, postcard: Spain