That means “Height of Forgiveness,” and traditionally a pilgrim reaching this height was pardoned, even if she didn’t make it all the way to Santiago. The wrought iron statue of peregrinos here – a recent addition – reads “donde se cruza el camino del viento con el d las estrellas.”
And it is the path of the wind. Above me and stretching off along the hilltops are wind turbines. Their steady thrum contrasts with the higher, faster chirrup of a grasshopper nearby.
I am sitting in the shadow of a stone shrine much older than anything else up here, waiting for my parents to catch up and feeling the arches of my feet relax from the long climb. My decidedly untraditional pedometer app tells me we have walked more than 7 miles already.
Beside the shrine is a cairn. People have written on the stones they left, benedictions and remembrances. Hats and scarves are pinned under the stones. Ribbons are tied to the peregrino sculpture. I have nothing to leave; the stone in my backpack I am saving for Cruzo de Ferro, later in the trip. So I kneel before the cairn and kiss my fingers to the stones, then I sit and I write, taking away intangible things since I have nothing tangible to leave.
Man, that was pretentious. The idea of being on a pilgrimage can give one airs when one writes.
After the height, of course, comes the drop; Alto de Perdon is a steep climb up and an equally steep climb down. A tip to anyone who’s planning on doing long-distance hikes like this that have a lot of elevation changes: you must have a walking stick, you must have good shoes, and you must be prepared to take the downhill slowly. Climbing an uphill path takes a lot of effort but it’s rarely particularly dangerous. Gravity is not friendly on downhill paths, especially if they’re at all gravely.
I took off ahead of my parents after we took our break at the top of the hill, and reached the conveniently placed bar/inn at the bottom of the hill around, oh, two or three in the afternoon, probably. It was hot, I was exhausted, and I have never tasted anything as delicious as la cerveza I ordered from the very pregnant hostess.
We’d originally planned to push on to a larger town, but by the time Mom and Dad reached the bottom of the hill, everyone was so tired that we decided to stay where we were. I don’t remember anything about the sleeping arrangements, but I remember my first peregrino dinner, where I sat in the dining room and the hostess came and told me that they had these options for dinner (including, to my surprise, a vegetarian one) and these options only. Mom and I sat and drank vino tinto and listened to the conversations of other travelers around us, a Babel of different languages. (I remember this place having mostly older travelers spending the night; over the course of the Camino we’d meet peregrinos of every age, from high school kids to retirees to a young couple from Israel walking the way with their toddler daughter.)
I think that dinner might have been our first introduction to el Camino’s favorite thing to serve vegetarian peregrinos: white asparagus from a jar, which is served cold and is super off-putting if you’re not expecting it and/or are used to firm green asparagus. Maybe we came across that later, though? I didn’t take enough pictures of food on this trip. (Because it was almost entirely the same food for all four hundred miles — but the story of bocadillo woes can wait for another day.)