Day 27 (to El Acebo): Cruz de Ferro

The earplugs partially helped, but … 

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… the Italian gent made quite a  fighting effort to be heard. I woke around 5:00 and decided to start early today. After sneaking outside I packaged my backpack in the courtyard.
It was pitch dark outside.
Since the path is following the main road I’ve put on emergency vest for the first time … over the front … so I’m more noticeable. The headlamp failed me, but fortunately the path is white gravel and the sunrise is slowly peaking from the hills behind me.

The next village on the Way is firmly asleep with the exception of the French pilgrim who is also up early. An angry dog without a leash barks a strong challenge as I enter another village … but not stronger then the music from my headphones so I noticed him only after passing him by. I ran into Joana next to the village church, but her pace is quite faster then mine.

A steep climb starts up the mountain. After x amount of km I reach a mountain village … last settlement before Cruz de Fero. The path winds along the mountainside and behind the peak of the cross can be seen after the last corner.
One of Camino customs is to take a stone near your home, (representing a burden weighing heavy on one’s soul) and carry it with you in order to leave it beneath Cruz de Fero. Over the years a small hill of stones grew beneath the cross. High up the pole of the cross I spotted a red and white checkerboard … its a parish banner from Zagreb (Croatia’s historical coat of arms is 25 fields of red and white in checkerboard pattern)… another reminder of Croatian pilgrims who passed here before me. After I unloaded my pile of stones … significantly lightened … I continue onwards.
By the way, on a related flashback … on my way to Spain, as I was passing through security at London airport, my cargo of stones triggered some kind of security alarm … I had to open my bag and explain why I was carrying it, before I was allowed to proceed.

Next village ahead has a genuine medieval albergue, run by a guy dressed in in authentic garb of a knight Templar. Alas … the genuine medieval experience does not include running water, sanitation or electricity … so decided to forgo it. I may be a history buff but I also heartily appreciate all amenities of modern civilization.

The Way continues through idyllic rural scenery … and the hills are alive with a sound of mu … uu- ing” coming from the cows at nearby pastures. A bit downhill … then a bit uphill. I keep passing by (because I take my usual frequent breaks) a Korean girl who is edging along at snail’s pace because her feet are severely blistered. She had quite an ambitious daily goal of 40km.

On top of the next hill there is a improvised bar in a camper, with very hospitable service. I was pleasantly surprised how low the prices were, considering its in the middle of nowhere.

The Way continues downhill … steeply downhill until I finally reached the next town. I was looking specifically for parochial albergue and had to ask around until I found it.
I parked myself at El Acebo albergue around 15:30 and found Tess already there.
Albergue is based on a donativo principle and it includes dinner. I felt my largest contribution was in translating for Tess, who managed to convince Manuel the hospitalero to let her prepare dinner her way. I got to admit the dinner was quite good … even Manuel agreed.

For dinner we are joined by first Russians I met on the Camino. Kristina with her two friends. Since they only know a couple of English and Spanish words, we manage to establish a communication combining Russian with Croatian.
After dinner Manuel heads out to watch the game and the rest of us retire to beds.

That was day no. 27.