We rose at four, Eva and Inga a little less awake than me, and packed in silence after quietly celebrating Eva’s birthday. I’d procured coffee in a thermos the night before, which I had promised to leave in the room, so we drank lukewarm java from the supplied cup and ate a few of the power bars I’d bought at the market below.
We left the hotel and made our way to the Cruz, me wearing my headband light, which prove to be a mistake: light attracts flies, flies get inhaled. Having eaten my own weight in bugs I felt queasy when we arrived, fifteen minutes later and way too early for sunrise.
It was five in the morning and the sun would not come up until six thirty, which gave us a good forty minutes to celebrate Eva’s birthday. When I leaned over to kiss Inga, Eva snapped a picture. “Now me,” she demanded, and we took one of her and me. Then Eva handed me her phone, doing the same to Inga. Finished, we turned around to stare in the amused faces of last evening’s Irish peregrinas.
When the first light appeared on the horizon, we made our way to the Cross. Eva went first and dropped her stone at the heap, then Inga, and finally me. We finished just in time before a horde of pilgrims arrived, occupying most of the mound and posing for pictures at the cross.
The Way sloped downhill before turning into a treacherously steep decline. Eva, leaning against Inga and me, made it down into the town of Molinaseca before calling it a day. We cooled her foot in the cold waters of the river, ate ice cream, and debated the next steps.
“It’s clear that I can not walk like this,” Eva contemplated. “Three days of rest might do it, however. Let’s do this… you and Inga walk to the foot of O Cebreiro, we meet there, and walk up together in three days.”
“We don’t have to walk up O Cebreiro,” Inga grinned.
“Anyone scared of horses?” she grinned even more.
We dropped Eva at a local hostel that would take her, on account of her injured leg, for three days, then left town. “Just you and me, eh?” Inga asked. “Yeah,” I responded. “You know, this is our chance, probably the last, to do another Logroño.” “Shall we all meet at Las Herreiras in three days?” “Yeah, I’d like that.”
And so it was decided. We arrived in Ponferrada before dinner, Inga taking a room at a hotel designed to look like a templar’s castle, and myself passing through after having visited the real castle, to Camponaraya, another hour and a half outside of town. Calling ahead, I made sure to have a bunk, and finally trotted, deep in thought, at my own pace again.
Camponaraya’s albergue was quiet, I was one of three pilgrims, the other two an elderly couple from France. We talked in French, German, English, and broken Spanish, the hospitalera joining us after nine o’clock to offer everyone a night cap of liquor and compliment us to bed.