Last night’s sleeping arrangements could probably have been better. Frank is still not sure whether it was our French or German bunk mates who flavored the room so pungently. Still, we awoke rather early for mountain village time, and gathered our things.
Our host from the previous evening greeted us and asked if we were hungry. Looking around at other pilgrims’ coffees and plates of toast, Mikey was a bit hesitant. After all, one can only consume so many carbs in a day! But our host understood our quandary and instructed Mikey to sit down and wait for breakfast.
Needless to say, all the other pilgrims were jealous of our “American Breakfast” of eggs, bacon, and (of course) bread.
Ok, no relation to our breakfast – we just thought that the horses in a pasture with snow capped mountains in the background were worth posting. The morning was completely beautiful with only a few wispy clouds. This was perhaps the most picturesque start to a day yet.
Well, the Cruz de Ferro (Mikey begins as he puts on his professor hat) stands 1,505 meters atop a mountain along the way. A tradition dating back to the late medieval period exists wherein pilgrims deposit a stone carried with them from their point of origin. Ergo, there’s a big pile of rocks at the cross’s base. But wait, there’s more!
The mountain was originally a holy place of worship for the Roman god Mercury until it was “christianized” during the middle ages by placing an iron cross at its summit. And while we are splitting hairs, the mountain is actually 1,500 meters high, but the pile of rocks measures 5 additional meters raising the summit to 1,505m in total.
What goes up, must eventually come down – including Frank. The hardest part of today was descending the peaks we had climbed over the past few days. This picture does not accurately portray how treacherous our hike was. Frank is walking at a 35% grade over loose shale rocks. Hang ten, Papa!
Speaking of shale, we noticed that something was missing from this picture: terracotta roofs! As we saw in the picture above, this region abounds with shale rock. Thus, no one wastes time baking clay shingles when they can layer thin shale rock over their heads.
Something else was missing: food in our stomachs. So Frank and Mikey took a break and grabbed some healthy grub.
This is the standard Spanish salad. It consists of lettuce, tomato, onion, tuna, carrots, and corn. The last two ingredients are optional, but the first four are mandatory. This is served with olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. (Fun fact: a salad with tuna is considered to be vegetarian!)
We stayed at a really amazing hotel called the Palacio Hostal. Oh, and the manager did like ALL of our laundry for 7€! Total score, plus we had a balcony overlooking one of the main streets. The trees out front were kinda wacko, though.
Speaking of wacko, this was a most original way of promoting a grocery store. Take note, hipster DJ wannabes working that sales job!
Still, we decided to go out for cooked food at a restaurant along the river. Oh, boy!
In honor of the Camino and its scallop theme, we feasted on some grilled shellfish. The ones on the left are grilled with a delicious crême sauce while those to the right are more traditional olive oil and garlic based. In case you were wondering, neither Frank nor Mikey could decide which was better.
For the main course, we both opted for fried local river trout. Having passed SO many streams and rivers, we mutually concluded that there must be something tasty in the water. Yep, Mikey and Frank called this one spot-on.
Unlike American-style fried fish, the Spanish do not batter their catch. Instead, they clean said delicacy and drop it into a shallow pan of sizzling olive oil with garlic. A pinch of salt and pepper finishes off the dish perfectly. That is to say, “fall-off-the-bone perfection!”
Well, that’s about all for this leg of our journey. Tomorrow will be a short walk TO a city and a LONG walk through all it offers. Stay tuned for Ponferrada! Buenas noches, vos.