Friday, February 3, 2012

Pilgrimage Day 24: Rabanal del Camino - Ponferrada

Today's leg goes to Ponferrada which is nearly 35 km away. I'm going over a mountain area and will visit several villages along the way. I look forward to all this and get off before sunrise. After an hour I see the red sun start to rise in the east and it is a magical moment. I follow a path that leads me up into a mountain terrain. It's a little tough to walk here and it's fairly steep uphill. It becomes warm in the blazing sun. I have 2 liters of water with me today for safety's sake.

The view becomes just fantastic when I'm approaching 1500 meters above sea level. I feel like I'm on top of Spain and have a view over large areas in all directions. This must be experienced to believe. The mountain landscape is just beautiful. Completely different the long day in the flat highlands.

I come to the village Foncebadón consisting of old houses built of stone. Most of the houses are abandoned and collapsed. The houses which are inhabited here are only used as summer residens now. The path leads me after a few km to the Iron Cross. This is a cross of iron that is placed on top of a 10 meter high pole. The pole is planted on a large pile of rocks. Each rock  represents one pilgrim. I stop here and take up a small stone that I have with me from Norway in my pocket. The last thing I did before I left home was to fetch a from the garden where I live. I've had it in my pocket during the entire journey. 
Now do I add my stone to all the others here. The stone represents something I want to get rid of. For me this has to do with the shame that I have taken upon myself during my doctoral work on shame and sexual abuse. It is an irrational shame and I just have to decide here and now that this shame is something I'm finished with. I put the stone from me and will walk away from it. It is a symbolic act. There are 4 other pilgrims here at the same time with me and they do the same thing. They put stones down. When I bend down to put my stone from me, I see that there are all sorts of things here: letters, wedding rings, jewelry, small toys, a teddy bear, etc.Things that represent some of the individual. Most places, however, from a stone that I have done. I take some pictures here and go from the place. It feels a little strange. Adding a stone which I carried with me from Norway. But it's fun to be part of a tradition. This is something pilgrims have done for hundreds of years. I am now a part of this tradition and the act binds us together in a way. The road ahead is still through a mountain landscape and I'm enjoying myself very much.

I come eventually to the next village called Manjarín. The road goes downhill and now I come to the village of El Acebos. The path is is not so wide but it is good to be here still. I will eventually Riego de Ambros and then to Moninaseca. I go over a lovely stone bridge. Many pilgrims stop here because it is possible to take swim  in the river.

I choose to walk another 7 km today to get to Ponderrada. Here is a great Templar castle that was built in 1178 and was in function until 1312, when the knight order was stopped. The whole castle is intact and it is very fascinating to stay both in it and outside. There are plenty of mysterious signs on the walls that fill my imagination with dreams. This is a destination point for many who are attracted to this knight order even today. I walk through the narrow streets and find me a magnificent hostel that is privately run. Idyllic surroundings, a pleasant place to stay and I'm tired after a long day of hiking. I go to bed early after a light dinner consisting of soup and some fresh bread.

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