Stage 26 – El Acebo (León) – Ponferrada (Bierzo)
Total Distance – 17.0 km
Adjusted for Climb – 17.0 km (descent 700 m)
High Point: El Acebo at 1,150 m (4,940 feet)
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El Acebo (pop. 17) was a godsend to us because of the steep and dangerous descent that immediately preceded it which made me grateful that this typical Roman mountain village was there to shelter us. Some documents and ancient books refer to the name of the village as: EL ACEBO DE SAN MIGUEL ARCÁNGEL, which is the name of its church and patron saint but this long version of the name is not used anymore for the village. This village in the 15th century achieved the distinction of being freed of all taxes in exchange for its inhabitants marking of the treacherous Camino route during the winter with 800 poles so that the route could be travelled during the winter snows. They were also expected to give shelter to peregrinos and to rescue those that found themselves in difficulties.
It was here that Sue noticed my clothes that were being dried and she was amazed that I could fit them and the rest of my equipment in my Mountainsmith day-pack! She, then and there, decided to christen it the “TARDIS”, after the blue police box that Dr. Who uses on TV to travel the galaxy anywhere in time and space. The TARDIS is infamous for actually being much, much bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside. TARDIS stands for Time And Relative Dimension In Space, TARDIS! While I do not consider myself to be “Dr. Who” I was pleased to have the TARDIS along with me on the Camino.
When Sue and I set out that morning we immediately were greeted by some unexpected travellers. These sheep were very well-behaved and were happy to follow their leader through the countryside and onto the road.
Soon we were on the trail towards Riego de Ambrós (pop. 35, alt. 930m), and we found it be a decidedly pretty mountain village. It was clear that houses were being renovated here for either seasonal or permanent occupancy. The beauty of the surrounding countryside and the closeness of Ponferrada by car made it an ideal location.
While it was fun to be walking in such a beautiful area we soon were hit with a dose of reality in the form of a very steep, rocky, and dangerous descent. We knew it was coming because the guidebooks had alerted us to it but nonetheless it was a slow descent.
Soon however we were to be rewarded with the beautiful sight of the town of Molinaseca (pop. 800). Nestled astride the gorge cut by the río Merulo Molinaseca is the gateway to the broad central valley of the Bierzo region. Occupying a strategic position leading to the Foncebadón pass it was an important Roman checkpoint on what they called the Interamnio Flavio – the Roman gold road. Two ancient bridges, the largest called the Puente de los Peregrinos, remain to give the town additional charm.
It was a pleasure to be in this very picturesque small town nestled against the hills. While there Sue and I had to take a small break to enjoy the scenery. As you can see from the pictures we were not alone in our desire to relax and enjoy the view!
While we would of loved to have spent the rest of the day relaxing and enjoying the view we had to get going. As I walked through this small town the streets reminded me a little of parts of Dijon in France.
The rest of our journey that day was without a stop for rest except for a small detour to see an ancient Roman fountain that to my amazement was still delivering water! I stared at this fountain thinking that it had been bringing water down from the mountains for well over 1,600 years and probably would continue to do so in perpetuality!
I stared at this fountain thinking that it had been bringing water down from the mountains for well over 1,600 years and probably would continue to do so in perpetuality!