Stage 23: Rabanal to El Acebo

4 Oct 2019

Today’s 17 Km route promises to be mostly uphill and to visit two key features: Cruz Ferro (“the Iron Cross”) and the highest point in the Camino Frances, at 1,532 meters (5,026 feet).

I left Rabanal del Camino at 8:30 in dry, partly cloudy conditions and 50F. Climbing out of town, I was treated to views of fog in lower valleys, and even a fog rainbow:

The weather then went steadily downhill as I went uphill. This is the kind of situation I dislike the most, wet weather and me climbing hard uphill. If I put on rain gear, I’ll most likely sweat enough to be just as wet as if I didn’t.

I soon reached Cruz Ferro, where tradition has it that pilgrims leave a stone, or similar object, perhaps with something written on it, to symbolize the casting-off of some personal burden. After decades of this practice, the hill that the pole and cross stick out of has become fairly high. I was sorry to be visiting it on such a dreary day:

The Iron Cross
I left this, given to me 40+ years ago by someone I loved

Then I walked on, and the rain held off. The path wandered through fern forests, wild grasses, and low evergreens, a rocky, slate surface.

Loose footing, anyone?

Then the fun began: long, long stretches of steep descents. Not only are descents especially hard the knees, but on rocky paths you have to concentrate on placing each foot safely, for every step – it’s grueling.

The Camino Provides: a by-donation refreshment stand appeared in the middle of nowhere

Finally, the clouds cleared and the Camino emerged into El Acebo, and my hostel was right there.

The descending Camino is in the background

El Rosa del Aqua hostel is a small, 200 yr-old building, with nicely updated rooms and facilities, run by Mike, a transplanted Texan who fled a career as Fortune 100 accountant, and began running the inn this year. What a great guy! He’s a top-notch host, loads of fun to talk to, and will be very successful in his new endeavor. And, there was Cherri, booked into the room next to mine and already sipping a refreshing beverage when I arrived.

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