Rockin’ & Rollin’ into Ponferrada

Rabanal to Ponferrada, Part 2:

I was a rocker chick as a teenager in the 80s. I was also a rocked out chick yesterday. Or we could say that I got rocked yesterday.

I just cannot believe how difficult it was getting out of the mountains. Descents have not been a big deal this whole time. I’ve liked descents; descents mean I’m going down instead of climbing up. I will never again moan and cry for a descent after this experience.

When I woke up yesterday morning in El Acebo, I was absolutely not looking forward to the rest of the walk out of the mountains. My ankles were killing me, my calves were killing me, the balls of my feet were killing me. I saw a number of people get into taxis in the village the night before, and when I woke up I decided I too was going to call a taxi. I know it’s cheating, I know!

Ultimately I did not call a taxi. I walked my sore body off of the mountain instead.

As a sidenote, if you are planning to walk the Camino, be prepared to pay cash for absolutely everything. Even if the place has the Visa logo sticker on the window, chances are they will not want to pull out their machine and accept your card. Cash. Cash Cash Cash Cash Cash. The place I was staying at in El Acebo had my card on file through booking.com AND I saw their cc machine on the desk. Yet he would not let me pay with my card. “Cash is better for me,” is a very common refrain. Why is it important to mention this? Because I spent my taxi cash paying for the room instead.

Alrighty then! There is no getting around this: my ankles and I are walking off this mountain.

The first part of the trail followed the highway. My plan was to walk the highway the entire way down, no matter how many extra kilometers that added to the journey.

There was one point where the Camino trail veered off and it was a very easy dirt path. I looked ahead and it seemed that the highway met the trail again at this cute little village. No problem, I will follow the dirt path into the village then find the highway and continue on. Look at how cute this village was! There was no bar with coffee open though.

I walked through the village and it led to the top of the trail again. Where is the highway? I couldn’t see where the highway could be accessed from the village. Oh shoot! There were a number of pilgrims passing me and just walking down the trail like it was no big deal. It can’t possibly be that bad. I will go for it.

Son of a…

I have learned on this journey and trying to update all of you that it is nearly impossible to accurately capture slope degrees in photos. These sections of 100% rock were steep, and they made up about 50% of the terrain. There were spots where I almost wanted to sit on my bottom and scoot myself down like I used to do when I had a cast on. I literally inched myself down over the rocks.

There were points where I could see the highway a couple hundred feet below the trail… and pilgrims walking it. My ankles were so angry with me.

It was equally annoying that while I was gingerly taking baby steps down the rocks, I was being passed by the youngsters and the REI-clad “pro” hikers. At one point, I stepped aside to let a guy pass me, and he stopped to mansplain to me in his American accent “how to use your poles to get down the rocks.” Yes, thank you sir, I am just babying a bad ankle and know how to use my poles. So he promptly turned around to continue flying down the path and immediately tripped over a rock and fell! His chin was bleeding a bit but he insisted he was OK and took off again. Oh geez Louise.

Soon after this happened, I finally saw it.

I don’t care if getting on the highway costs me an extra 5 miles: I am getting off these rocks!

As I walked the highway, I could see the trail go up the top of the hill again. At one point it was another 250-300 feet up. That’s insane and so unnecessary!

The village of Molinaseca was just a little further ahead, and it was very cute.

When I finally sat down for a coffee break, I happened to run into Georgia and Tonya from Florida! It was really lovely seeing them and we ended up walking into Ponferrada together. Georgia sent me these pics last night — you can see how much taller I am than most other women (Amy from Texas and Chantal from Australia are probably the only two women I’ve met who are close to my height).

My original plan was to follow the highway all the way into Ponferrada, especially since it was a straight shot. I had such a great time talking with Georgia and Tonya that I just followed the trail with them through the outskirts of Ponferrada. The walk itself was lovely, but this did put me face to face with my mortal enemy the sun much later in the afternoon and I wanted. It was still worth it.

When I finally reached my hotel, my ankles and calves were screaming at me from the rocks. I decided to switch things around and stay a second night in Ponferrada to give them a rest.

After I took a shower, I know you can all guess what my next task was. Same task I have to work on almost every night.

BUT next door was another of those fancy laundromats! We need these in Seattle.

I met the Florida friends for a fantastic dinner in one of the squares. It was stunningly delicious and full of vegetables.

Here are a few shots from walking around the square last night. I think you can all guess what I will be spending today doing. I cannot wait! (The castle looks like it is almost completely intact, too! I couldn’t help but think it looked like a lego set or like something in Vegas — it’s too perfect!)

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