Thursday, August 2, 2012

Day 28 Camino de Santiago Aug. 2, Molinaseca

     Wow!  What a day!!! In a good way!
    My little green book said that today was 7.5 hours of hiking 24.5K and a red day - that means mountain climbing.  Personally, the hike didn't seem that steep to me, but the last five k were brutal as it was straight downhill.  It was as if I was walking in a dry waterfall going down hill.  Had to watch my step, not look at the scenery and walk, and even then avoid falling.  Only almost fell once, but poles saved my keister.

    The good news is that today I was witness and participant to two miracles...more on that later.
    Had breakfast before I left and the trail started out uphill right away.  No worries.  Nothing a good cup of tea and two slices of homemade chocolate cake won't cure.  I'm not sure if this is heather, but it looks like what I would think heather would look like.  Regardless it was very beautiful.  Whole hillsides were covered in the purple "heather".  The bees were so thick it sounded like a B-52 warming up on the tarmac.


     The trail today was the most varied of any thus far.  We went through heather, walked on side of road, on roads, on cushy dusty trails, on quarter-size gravel trails, etc.  At one point the trail was extremely narrow and bushes were loaded with bees.  I figured that as long as I didn't stand still, I'd probably be okay.  Amazingly, I did not get stung. (that may have been a miracle but not one of the two!)

     When you look at this picture you should have only one thought go through your mind... "Now that looks like the ideal bathroom spot!"  Was that your thought??  Obviously you haven't been hiking with a belly full of homemade chocolate cake that is being constricted by the waist belt of a backpack.  Why heck, it's a miracle that I made it that far up the mountains!!! But no, that's not one of the miracles either.

 Okay, here it comes...  way up high on the mountain, near the top is the Cruz de Ferro or "El Humungo Cross".  The traditiona is that pilgrims place something that they've brought with them from home on the cross.  Pilgrims have been doing this for 100's of years and now the pile is huge.  I could see the cross from some distance and being the worrier that I am, I thought, "Cripes!  I don't have anything from home that I can leave on this cross.  If it was something I didn't need, I'd have pitched it by now!"  Right at that moment, my backpack strap snapped and I had to take it off to fix it.


 Once the strap was jerry-rigged, I hoisted the pack up and saw something jump off the pack.  I picked it up and it was the metal plate that said "Caribee" which is the maker of my backpack.  BOOM!  I had something that had come from my home!   Miracle #1

It was also proof that when something happens, we don't know if it is bad or good.  When the backpack strap broke, I thought, "Oh, that's not good!" but hey, no broken strap, no miracle!"
So is it good??? Well, what if someone is touching the metal and lightening strikes them?

    Not long after that I came to a "town", that is really just what you see in the picture.  It's billed as an albergue, but it has no running water or electricity.  Frankly, that sounds like a one way ticket to Bedbugville.  I did stop, however, because the guy running it, Tomas, is a bit of a Camino legend.

  He has about 5 people living there with him and he dresses like a Knight of the Templar.  Hey, who am I to say he's not.  He gives out coffee, tea, cookies, and has souvenirs for sale.  All in all, it's a guy living out his dream.  It's a shame that people who wear glasses can't be taken serious when they don certain roles, such as a cowboy or a knight.  It just doesn't work.  Even if you really are a cowboy or a knight, you will never be the poster boy.  Life ain't fair!
    These signs were just outside of his "fort" and the one that you should pay attention to is the one that says, "Finistere".  (It's just above Jerusalem).   Finestere means, "end of the Earth" and when St James was told to go to the end of the Earth to preach the Word, that's where he went.  It's about four days west of Santiago, and I'll probably go there.  There is a ritual that all pilgrims do when they get there.  It's something to do with being naked.... Okay just kidding, but I'll describe it more when there is a shorter blog post that could use some words!
     One might think that ol' Sir Tomas is a bit daff, and one might be right, but he seems happy, isn't hurting anyone, and really, with this view... who is crazy??  The views today were very reminiscent of the Pyrenees, which I have concluded are the prettiest part of the world that I have ever seen.
     After leaving the bespectacled Templar, the trail begins it's final ascent to the highest point on the Camino and it was along this part that the second miracle occurred.  I was walking and BOOM, I had an idea of what I can do in my next next life in this life.  It has something to do with the Camino, but... well here it is:  First the preface.  Not to brag, but as a principal, I "led" a school to the highest State honor it can achieve, the A+ rating, the highest honor that a school can earn in the nation, The Blue Ribbon nomination, (won't know if we won until Sept.), (First school in PVUSD in ...ever???), the ninth ranked school in the state (which includes schools that get to pick their students), a school that increased enrollment from 680 to almost 800.... okay get the point?  I think I can say objectively that I had some clue about how to run a school.  Okay, so with those qualifications, you'd think that a district would want someone like me to help their principals, right?  Oh but the fly in the ointment...they've got no money!!!!  That's where the Camino comes in.  On the Camino, you see on a daily basis, people doing nice things and asking little in return.  Sooooooo..... here's my offer to districts - Would you like me to help your principals be more effective...for free?... Yes, you read that right.  Why not money?  Well, that's private, but basically, money is not the currency that I am currently dealing in.
What do you think?
    Okay so after the miracle of my ticket home hit me, I spent the next 20 k brainstorming ideas of how to help principals... which I will not bore you with now.  (By the way, I had this miracle idea without the benefit of 600mg ibuprofen mixed with a cerveza).  I was a bit high as in WOW what a view!!  A 360 degree panorama that pictures do not justify.  Recognize the guy in blue?  Yep, that's ol' Spandau- talks to me in German as if I understand two words he's saying-met on the first day in St. Jean- Gunther!
     The city you see below is the one that I spent 1/2 the day walking down to, and as it turns out, is much like the one that I will be staying an extra day.  More on that later.  
       In the meantime, a girl and her boyfriend were hobbling down the mountain and I asked what was wrong.  Her knee was hurting her so badly that it was painful to walk. (Holy Rebeca of Luis and Carmen fame!!)  I gave her one of my hiking poles, my knee brace, and then shot her to put her out of her misery... okay not true.  I carried her back pack (what did she pack?  a thong and a pair of sandals???  The straps on my pack are heavier!!) and then I rolled my pack down the mountain to the town of Acebo.  From there they caught a cab to the hospital.  The guy is a huge fan of the Phoenix Suns and I gave him my address so that if he ever comes to Phoenix, I can take him to a Suns game.  Here's the cool part - I don't know their names?  No one ever asks who you are?  You just do.  I like that.  So what is the motivation for doing things for people?? Just to be nice!!
What a cool little town - Acebo! It's the picture above!
   Acebo is in an area called La Bierzo, and the homes have balconies that hang over the street.  Very picturesque.  Some might need some stabilization money invested!!  Soon!!  But with the right person.... and wifi, a dishwasher and a microwave... I'd be very happy!!
    Some of the homes, I think if they made me an offer on them, I'd be hard pressed to not buy them.  I could be very happy in a house this size.  The town was stunning.  I wished at the time that I had decided to stay there.  It had everything I needed, 25E private room, wifi, cool climate, and flowers on a balcony.
    But I decided that it was too early to stop, and besides, I had read that in the next town, Molinaseca, I could soak in the river!  Okay, so I said good-bye to these very picturesque homes with their slate roofs and headed the 8K to Molinaseca. was straight downhill for the entire way.  My knees were jumping out of my pants, screaming, "Fool! Why didn't you stop in Acebo??"

    Finally, the black slate town of Molinaseca came into view.  Of course, this is delusional.  It seems that once I see the towns, they keep moving away from me as I near them.  But eventually, I did get to the town, and for once the church/cathedral/ermita is the first building I came to!!   I could hear kids screaming with joy and I could see the top of an old bridge and put two and two together to get - aha! this is where the river is!!

     I like to put a lot of thought into my decisions, though I'm sure it may not seem that way... however, I saw the river, I have a computer, I have the time...I decided to stay in Molinaseca for an extra day.  I'll heal, write some on my idea, eat, swim.  Das ist good!  (Gunther would be so proud of my German!)

 I couldn't wait.  I checked into a room, took a shower, walked back down to the river and soaked my tootsies in the water.  It was cold, but not like Tahoe, water.  That is cooooolllldddd water!  I will check tomorrow to see if there are trout in this river and if so, will search for a guide and stay another day.

    I then went to dinner after going to the pharmacy to get band-ades, and heat compresses.  I had hoped they had one that was body size, but had to settle for back and knee size!  After dropping that back into the room, I headed out to dinner to a place called Casa Ramon.  Unfortunately, I left my camera at home so you are stuck with these pictures.  :(
     Casa Ramon was a trip.  The best restaurant in Molinaseca according to two people.  I sat outside and there must have been 8 kids ranging in age from 5-10 running through the tables.  The owner, Ramon, and his son were working the tables and cooking and messing with the kids.  It was a great time, and the food was awesome!  I went inside to pay the bill, because this is Spain and waiters are on permanent strike.   Inside was a very old bar that said, "come back tomorrow and have a sangria!"  Okay!! I will.  There was also a table, in fact, just one table and Ramon and his wife were having dinner.  "Buon Provecho!"  I've been wanting to say that!

  Molinaseca is a sister city of a city in Japan.  Hence the Japanese writing.  Is it my imagination or does this Pilgrim look stoned??? Maybe he's just returned from Tomas the Templar????

     Okay there was another miracle today, probably the most unexpected one of all.  I actually took a photo of a cat!

“Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.” 
 Mark Twain