Day 22: Fly Girls on the Mountain

We sadly had to leave Ethel, Clem, Walter, and Ishtvan after a light breakfast of bread, butter, and marmalade. We started off with some trepidation as we had heard that this mountain we had to climb and descend were rather challenging, even more so than the crazy ones we have already done. We heard of several pilgrims getting their packs carried for them.


Well, we had to climb them, and what goes up must come down, so what else could we do but walk.


The fog was just sitting on the mountains, gorgeous, as we started to walk uphill. The hill wasn’t anything too terrible, a nice steady incline that is friendly to the knees. But then.


The flies came.

At first, we thought it was our hard-boiled eggs in our packs. Then we realized that the flies were swarming around every pilgrim. Clouds of flies around us, following us. Even though these flies started moving further and further away from their home, they followed.

We tried to ignore them and focus on the beauty of the mountains instead. It was almost like the Pyrenees, inxluding the cows, but less steep and less mystical, but stunning nonetheless.


We then made it to Foncebadon, knwon for its eeriness that Paulo Coelho and Shirley MacLaine have written about.


The eeriness was there with the fog, but as soon as it lifted, it seemed a rather sunny, fun place where we saw Mar, the Spanish professor, Vittoria, the Irish-Italian who is a videographer, and our little brother, Alex. Kind-hearted Alex had stayes in the other albergue with Max, the Italian. He had loaned Max 60€ until he could get money (said wallet was stolen in Leon). Max promptly gof drunk and got in a fight with a Mexican priest and scared the hostelera. Alex, who rarely gets angry, finally told Max that he could no longer help him. We hope Max finds whatever he has lost on the Camino.


After Foncebadon, we continued upward, following two pilgrims clearly in love. Soon, in the distance, we saw the Cruz de Ferro.


The Cruz de Ferro began as a pagan tradition until the Church put an iron cross on top to “legitimize” it. The tradition is that pilgrims place a stone from their home to place it there, either as a symbol of leaving sins behind or in memory of others.


Kat placed hers alongside stones, photos, and stuffed animals.


Continuing upward, we reached Manjarin, a remote home. Tomas is the hospitalero who runs an albergue known for its character and his stories. He rings a large bell to let Santiago know pilgrims are on their way, which he did once while we were there, but not for us. The place was charming, though his adorably puppy was sad and lonely, and we didn’t find Tomas particularly friendly (and making presumptions about us). He was also not very helpful when Kat realized she had left her small backpack back in Rabanal.


Phone numbers did not work for the albergues down in Rabanal, of course. Fortunately, a man with a car was there and offered to drive Kat back for the price of gas. Our little brother Alex was there and he offered to accompany her so we felt safe.


The rest of the climb upward was challenging in some parts, forcing even the hearty mountain bikers to push their bikes up.


The descent down was steep, though not as terrible as we have seen. We saw severral pilgrims without packs; we lugged ours. As we descended, the views were stunni.cities could be seen, including one that looked like Whoville in the Grinch.


Out of the mountains grew this tiny mountain hamlet of El Acebo, our stop for the day. It had one main road that could handle one car at a time Apparently, they were exempt from taxes in the medieval times as long as they maintained pilgrims’ poles.


We put our bags down in queue at a simple albergue, donation-based, run by the priests. Clean and simple. Alex continued on to the next town.


We had lunch with Bernie, our favorite psychiatric nurse from Australia, who we will miss dearly when she has to leave. The menu pilgrim was high quality and the best we have had so far: gazpacho, spaghetti carbonara, veal steak, and tortilla with shrimp.


Strawberries and cream and lemon sorbet completed the meal. A few flies, of course, made an appearance.


A shower and rest, followed by a light dinner, in this gorgeous mountain town which even the flies seem to adore. We hope they don’t follow us tomorrow.