Between Burgos and León stretches a long, flat plateau known as the Meseta. It’s the heart of wheat production in Spain, but in April the fields look like neat rows of green grass. The path is straight and flat and often next to the road, and the scenery is monotonous and in all honesty, a bit boring.
The second day on the Meseta, a huge storm rolled through, with sleet and hail and winds so strong that I could not look ahead because the wind blew the rain into my face so brutally hard that it hurt. I struggled alone on the plain in the wind and rain, my hands frozen and arms numb, until I reached the crest of the hill and looked down at a town bathed in sunlight. When I finally stumbled into a cafe in town, I found everybody from my albergue the previous night huddled in there, warming themselves by the fire.
Some of my favorite days happened on the Meseta, actually, as the walking was easy and I was getting to know people in more depth at the stops. But I was glad for the change of scenery I encountered after leaving León. Slowly we left the plains behind, reaching the charming hillside town of Astorga and then the next day’s climb up the mountain to Foncebadon. The following day was the final ascent to the Cruz de Ferro.
I got up to Cruz de Ferro early in the hopes of seeing the sunrise from the top of the mountain. Instead, the entire area was shrouded in fog. Cruz de Ferro is the place where pilgrims from all over the world leave something behind, like a rock from their hometown. I left a rock from my parents’ garden in Chicago. Before we left, I took this photo of a lone pilgrim before the cross. His name is Chris, but it could be any one of us pilgrims on this journey.
We walked on for a bit through the fog, but as we descended off the mountain the view opened up to a gorgeous panorama of the peaks and valley below. The air smelled of wild lavender and it was simply the most beautiful day of the Camino so far. None of my pictures do it justice, to capture being surrounded by the folds of the earth. The town of Ponferrada was just on the horizon.
Just a couple days later, we tackled another mountain, up to the town at the peak called O Cebreiro. I was feeling tired and worn out from the weeks of walking, and I nearly didn’t make it up the mountain and considered staying at a small town partway up. But I succumbed to peer pressure, put on my music, sang along loudly, and marched up the remaining 5km to the summit. I’m glad I did, because the views were amazing, and quite a few pilgrim friends were waiting for me at the top. It started to gently rain at this point, and I tucked myself into the stone houses with a glass of red wine and watched the rain fall.
The final descent into Triacastela the next day brought relief and a sense of certainty that I was finally, finally going to make it. I am in Galicia now, the mountains are behind me, there is oh so little space and time left between me and Santiago de Compostela.