coming down the hill to Molinaseca

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one of the more memorable things about the day coming the Cruz de Ferro after leaving Rabanal was how many more peregrinos there seemed to be than in previous days. the number had been growing, to be sure, since we’d gone through Astorga, but the number struck me on day 25 — perhaps because there were so many new faces, not all of which were welcome additions to the rotation of walking companions.

this last leg quickly became a test of patience when it came to new faces who had yet to grow accustomed to the hardships posed by the Camino (i.e. blisters). one woman we encountered on the descent did.not.stop.talking. the entire climb down to Molinaseca. after following along behind her for about 30 minutes as she regaled her companion with all manner of stories about her children, life, work, anything, I discovered (in having to sit at an adjoining table at the only cafe in town where we stopped for a mid-morning snack) that she’d only know said companion for a matter of hours! the majority of which, presumably, she’d been pouring out her life story heedless of her companions attention or interest (but what do I know, perhaps that “unsuspecting companion” was approaching all manner of peregrinos soliciting life stories and this Canadian woman was happy to oblige [yes, I know she was Canadian. I couldn’t help learning that she was Canadian]).

it was a warm day and the downhill grade was a different, if not entirely welcome, challenge after crossing the mesetas. we passed through two small villages, both hosting albergues and other lodging , though clearly struggling or abandoned outside the immediate radius of those establishments. the buildings were older and wood timbered; the two-story stone buildings lining the through-road in the first village had overhanging second floors, sticking out slightly over the narrow, cobbled road. the second village was much the same; it was an interesting approach and exit — not unlike walking through someones back yard or along the edge of someones property to get into town, which felt different in comparison to all the times we approached via the road into town that has been the road into town since Roman times.

as a counterpoint to Rabanal, Molinaseca also served as an important point along the trail of Roman gold. the town sits at the base of a gorge created by the rio Meruelo. as we crossed over the river on one of the two remaining medieval bridges, we saw a pair of women — obviously peregrinos, probably much newer to the Camino than us — wading in the water. previously we’d heard cautions against wading in water with which you weren’t familiar; with all the potential infection sites peregrinos might develop on their feet, seemed like sound advice no matter how refreshing a wade in a cool mountain-fed stream might sound.

by the 13th century, the town had transferred from the control of one monastery to another, and the latter granted a charter that provided favorable business terms for Frankish businessmen who catered in large part to the peregrinos heading into the last leg of their Camino. a number of structures dating from this period remain today, and the main street (down which we walked, from the river to the outskirts of town where our more modern hotel stood) was lined by two-story buildings in various states of restoration or disrepair. some rented out rooms, some contained narrow, packed shops, and a couple housed the first wine caves we encountered in the Bierzo region. not your typical tourist-friendly rooms like those you’d see in Napa, the Hunter Valley, or anywhere else known for its wine tasting …

in all, Molinaseca was a nice place to rest, rather than pushing on; true, spending the night in Ponferrada might have granted us an opportunity to visit the Castillo de los Templarios, but Molinaseca provided us with wonderfully comfortable beds, a chat with the Australian couple we’d met back in San Martin, “dinner” with a blue-eyed gray cat, and the opportunity to exercise a civic duty …

Author: Erica

born in the midwest with wandering feet.