September - October 2017
  • Day36

    Fisterre: end of the world

    October 9, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 14 °C

    Although some pilgrims choose to walk the 60 km from Santiago to Finisterre , or Fisterre as it is said in the Galician language, we chose to take a bus and just walked the last 6 km in, which were right by the coast and very beautiful. Although reaching Santiago is the goal of the pilgrimage, Finisterre is considered the end of the Camino, and kilometer marker 0 is found here. It's a beautiful port town, and 3 k past the town there is a lighthouse where one traditionally goes to watch the sunset. So, as good pilgrims, we went out, and it was delightful to sit with so many others and watch the sun go down. I don't really remember the last time I just sat and watched the sunset. There was a someone playing a wooden flute and the atmosphere, although not hushed, was respectful.

    Now it's one more day here, another day in Santiago, then I am spending two days in Madrid to cleanse my palate before flying back to Maine on Friday. The others are taking a day to go up to another port town, Muxia, and then back to Santiago from where they fly home. The Camino has really been everything that I was hoping that it would be, a psychological and physical challenge, and I am very glad that I have done it. However, I am also very much looking forward to being home. I have had enough of packing every morning, walking every day, looking for a bed every night, eating out for meals. I will greatly appreciate being back in my little house, back to work, back to spending time with friends and family. Will I do it again? Maybe; it's a great way to see another country and culture, find out more about yourself and others, and certainly a very economical vacation. But not right away!

    I enjoyed doing this blog; while I was walking I would think about you all as I took pictures and made mental notes about experiences. Thank you for sharing my journey with me and for all of the supportive comments. "Why do you go away? So that you can come back. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving." Hasta llego, and Buen Camino!
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  • Day36

    Santiago de Compostela

    October 9, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 22 °C

    We arrived in Santiago on October 6, 102.4 kilometers from Lugo ( three 20 K days, three 12 to 15 K days.). Things continued to be somewhat crowded on the trail but never problematically so. You get to a big park overlooking the city and can see the spires of the cathedral, but then you have a rather slogging 5 km more until you actually reach the Cathedral. And unfortunately the cathedral is under construction so it is covered with scaffolding, which makes the pictures somewhat less beautiful. However, we were very glad to be there and to have arrived. We enjoyed looking around Santiago, although it's very touristy and very focused on pilgrims, with more Camino souvenirs than you can shake a walking stick at. We stayed at a very nice place just outside the walls. The following day we went to get our Compostela, which is the official certificate of completion . The line was about an hour long, which is relatively short. They look at your pilgrim credential and make sure that you have stamps along the last hundred kilometers, then they write out your certificate with your name in Latin (in my Saram Patriaam Roberts. (They just left Seikah's name alone :)). About 1000 pilgrims a day complete the Camino, but the office is open from 8 AM to 9 PM so the crowd is spread out to some extent. We are going to enjoy Santiago for a few days, then head to Finisterre, the end of the world.Read more

  • Day34

    The Hordes

    October 7, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    What a difference we have seen since arriving in Melide, where the Camino Frances, the most popular Camino,joins the Primitivo. That's where we saw our first "all things Camino" gift shop, and where I saw a Camino magnet with my name on it (literally, Sara - Camino de Santiago. Of course I got it). Coming out of Lugo we started to see frequent pristine distance markers about every five minutes. Since Melide all of them had the plate with the distance pried out (these were taken for souvenirs, I assume) and graffiti all over the markers and walls. It was usually entertaining graffiti, with little thoughts about the Camino or names of people who have been on it. One group that signed many markers was "Las Enfermeras Raras (the strange nurses). There are also many more people on the Camino and in the hostels, although there are correspondingly more hostels and we have not had any trouble finding places to stay. The weather has been beautiful though hot and sunny, so the last couple of hours in the afternoon can be somewhat challenging. We are all doing well and are excited to be almost to SantiagoRead more

  • Day29

    Team Camino

    October 2, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    My backup team arrived on Sunday: Janet, Seikah, and Chris. We met in Lugo, had just a little trouble finding each other but a happy ending. We had a great apartment to stay in and had fun exploring Lugo. The next day they started right out with a 20 km walk to San Roman. It was fairly hot and sunny, so we were tired when we arrived, but had a good day. Seikah's ankle and knee are bothering her a little so the second day she used a pack-transport service which helped a lot. Today we walked 14 km, are staying at a nice hostel which is in the middle of nowhere, so we're running a little low on food supplies but certainly in no danger of starvation. We also have to walk 7 k tomorrow before coffee, which is equivalent to Shackleton's hardships in my view 🙂 . Tomorrow night we will be in Melide, where the Primitivo meets the Frances route,so we will be catapulted into great throngs of people, going from hostels that have 25 beds to ones that have 150 beds. Should be sunny and warm for us, maybe a little cooler, the rest of the week.Read more

  • Day26

    Impressions of Spain

    September 29, 2017 in Spain ⋅ 🌫 14 °C

    Although Spain is very much like the United States in many ways, I certainly do not forget that I am in a foreign country while I'm here; there is so much that is different. I have been surprised at how very rural the areas I've been walking through have been. Even when there are big cities, there are farms, cows, horses, right up until the city and almost immediately after. There is very little urban sprawl, and in the smaller towns there are absolutely no gas stations, no chain stores. Even in the large cities I rarely saw a McDonald's or Burger King, and never anything like Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts. Every small town has its own bar/café, and usually a bakery, pastry shop, and a meat shop.

    The people appear to be quite healthy, but of course I'm not seeing the ones sitting on the couch eating Cheetos. I see a lot of older men taking walks, not so much women. There are a lot of bicyclists, again mostly male. However, there is an enormous amount of smoking, and it's rare to be able to sit at an outside café and not have someone smoking right next to you.

    The Spanish are very family oriented and in the evening I enjoy watching children with their parents and grandparents in the plazas. The children seem to be willing to appear in public with their families at an older age then we see in the United States. I also see a lot of older people in wheelchairs who are eating out with their families or just being taken for walks, which seems unusual to me.

    I'm not sure how faithful they are to it but there are recycling bins in every small town, although certainly not in the hostels. I have seen some windmills, no solar panels. I was interested to see them harvesting algae one day and asked about it, as I thought they were putting it on the fields for fertilizer. It turns out that they put it on the fields to dry and then they package and sell it, largely to the Japanese, for food or food additives.

    In general people are very friendly and very helpful, especially to pilgrims. One day I was walking in the morning, caffeine deprived and looking forward to my 1st cup of coffee. I knew that there was a bar in a small town coming up so went looking for it. I was happy to see the table and chairs so set down my knapsack and went in the open door. There I found a somewhat confused woman who said that it was her house, and that the bar in the town was closed. But she then invited me in, made me some cafe con leche, opened a box of cookies, and sat down and chatted with me. She was so amazingly hospitable. I told her she would be in my blog. (Her name is Nieves, which means snows).

    Today I got a bonus beach day as the only way to get from where I was to Lugo, where I am meeting my team, was to go up to the coast and then take another bus tomorrow morning. The weather wasn't great but I enjoyed walking by the ocean again. And tomorrow, with any luck at all, I'll be with Janet, Seikah, and Chris, doing the last hundred kilometers into Santiago!
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  • Day25


    September 28, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 15 °C

    I may be biased, but I have found pilgrims to be a delightful bunch, on the whole. There are two major age groups- under 30 (no kids, free and easy) and over 60 (I've met two people celebrating retirement and one celebrating the last child leaving the house). I was hoping that I would get senior privilege and respect but I am one of the younger of the older people so I don't get anything I don't deserve. I have met pilgrims from all over the world. The Germans certainly are the majority but I have encountered people from France, Belgium, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Russia, Slovenia. I have only met one Asian pilgrim, from South Korea. There are not very many Americans on this Camino, which is good. Not that I have anything against Americans; some of my best friends are Americans. But I didn't come over to Spain to hang out with people from the US. Some are doing long distances. A woman I met from France did 500 km in France alone, and will do another 1000 km in Spain. Others are doing shorter distances. There is no competition about how many kilometers you've walked; people respect that everybody's Camino is different. I met one older man who has a bad back and he was pulling his possessions behind him in a little trolley (see below). That day was so wet and muddy that I think he eventually had to take to the road.

    I am coming to the end of my time as a solo traveler. I will finish this part of the Primitivo today, and tomorrow get transportation to Lugo to meet my team (sister Janet, niece Seikah, friend Chris). The walking has been beautiful these last few days. I've left the coast and the walking is definitely much hillier but the scenery is very interesting. It's been in the 80s the last couple days so when you're walking on the road under the blazing sun it gets very hot, but in the shade it's quite pleasant.
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  • Day21

    A Day in the life

    September 24, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    Every day on the Camino is different in terms of being in a new place, seeing different things and people. However, there is a rhythm that is common to all the days.
    In my first hostel I saw that we had to be out by 8 so I set my alarm for 7:30. Ha! What a waste of time. At about 6 AM the rustlers start in, people quietly gathering their possessions or maybe just counting their money, I don't know. Sometimes you get a bonus half an hour to an hour to sleep a little bit more, but by 7 people are no longer trying to be quiet, and the lights generally go on at 7 or 730. It takes 15 minutes to get dressed and packed (wearing the same clothing every day since Labor Day makes the dressing easier), so I'm usually out by 8 or 830. Usually the hostel is not close to a place to get coffee, but even when it is I find that it's nice to walk for an hour before getting coffee and something sweet, it tastes SOO good and lubricates the joints. Then I walk for a couple of hours, stop briefly for a piece of fruit, walk a few more hours. I try to stop around 1 or 2 o'clock for a real break, meaning that I take off my backpack and my shoes and have some bread, cheese, chocolate. I've always almost always arrived by 3 or 4 o'clock, check in and get a bed (with any luck at all), take a shower, wash out my clothes, maybe lie down for a minute. Then I'm ready to go explore. I might do another hour or two of walking the rest of the day, but that is sauntering in Keens , no backpack.
    Food is somewhat challenging on the Camino given the timing of meals in Spain. They have their midday meal between noon and three, and then restaurants shut down for any real food until 7 or 8 o'clock pm. It doesn't really work for me to wait until 8 PM to eat; I'm getting ready for bed by that time. At times it would be possible to have a noon meal as I'm walking, but I don't like the idea of sitting down and having a full meal before I've arrived where I'm going. So there are some days that I don't have a real meal. But in medium size towns , restaurants will serve snacks in the afternoon hours, so I often have dish called a tortilla which is somewhat like an omelette. It costs less than $2,, and the ice cream I have for dessert is about $2, so I'm eating on the cheap. I do work pretty hard at getting an apple, orange, and banana every day, and every once in a while I'll get in a salad or some vegetables.
    I love exploring the towns, especially the ones by the ocean, in the late afternoon. I like looking at the houses and sometimes chat with people. This is also a time that you can get to know other folks in the hostels. I'm usually in bed by nine, although it's hard to get to sleep before the last pilgrim has laid his or her little head down on the pillow, as it could be quite noisy before then. I'm actually sleeping quite well in the hostels, even with the law that there must be one snorer in each room.

    Today I'm taking a rest day in Oviedo. The camino that I'm walking has just split off from the coastal route and there are some hilly areas coming up, so I want to get ready. I also only have six days until my team comes to join me, and I need to be in good shape for them. We'll be climbing every mountain, fording every stream, fighting off alligators and bulls; strenuous times ahead! I also have to hone my leadership skills, being firm but kind, I iron fist in a velvet glove. Once they arrive on the 30th in Lugo, we will have a week to walk into Santiago and then a week to play around walking towards the coast. I'm looking forward to seeing them.

    No theme to the pictures today, just miscellaneous scenes.
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  • Day17


    September 20, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    One of the hardest things about the Camino is staying on it. Th route is marked with yellow arrows, supplemented by signs, shells, and other markers. When you consider that there are more than a thousand miles of routes to mark, it's not surprising that there are a few spots that are less-than-clearly marked. Also, when the path takes to the scrub brush, or the beach, there's really no place to put a mark. (It's amazing how much yellow moss can look like an arrow!). I think I've only been totally off the trail once, but there have been many times that I thought I was lost, and it made me so happy to see a friendly little yellow arrow. In Asturia, you go in the direction AWAY from where the shell points, but in Galicia it's the other way around. Shells are pretty but arrows are clear.

    I'm happy to report that we've had 2 beautiful rain free days! Usually I'm walking with the Picos (like the Alps) on one side and the ocean on the other - stunning scenery all around me!

    Play the game of "find the arrow" below!
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  • Day15


    September 18, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    Columbres - Llanes 23.5 K (total 200 K)
    I planned to go only 9 km to stop at the hostel in Pendueles that had a communal meal, but I got there by 11:30, and the town didn't look that interesting, and I couldn't find the hostel, so I kept walking. I encountered a couple of people from Quebec, and a French guy, so got to speak French. The walk was great and my energy was good. It started raining at about noon, got heavier, and then raining off and on. At the end I was on a path paralleling the sea, with a German guy. The path seemed to go on and on forever. We could see the city but didn't seem to be getting closer. It really started to come down as we entered the city, and it was almost 4 o'clock. I was going to go to the hostel but it was raining so hard, and as I got into the city I saw an English-speaking guy coming out of a hotel. I asked him how much the rooms were and he said $40, which sounded pretty good, so I got a room of my own. I was ready for a good night's sleep. I walked around a little, did a little computer work. Good long walk today, intermittent shoulder pain but nothing bothersome. My legs and feet were tired at the end of the day.
    Overall the hostels have been really good. They are definitely what make the trip affordable, and for the most part enjoyable. Along the hundreds of miles of all of the Caminos, every 5 to 10 miles there is a pilgrim hostel. They generally cost $10-$20 a night. My route was along the coast, and passing through many tourist towns. Can you imagine getting a bed for $10 a night in Kennebunkport? It's really a pretty amazing system. On the other hand, the accommodations are fairly bare bones. The hostels don't open until three, and sometimes there is a line around the building and people are turned away. I've only had to wait in line once, and have always gotten a room. They are able to fit lots of people into a small space with the use of bunkbeds; I was even in one hostel where the beds went up three levels. Luckily I've only been on the top bunk once. Of course that was a bunkbed that did not have a ladder but rather a bar about 6 inches from the bottom bunk and then another one 6 inches below the top. To get into bed, I used a technique consisting of an initial lurch and then a hoist, twist, and thud onto the bed. Very reminiscent of Simone Biles mounting the uneven parallel bars. All of the hostels have a place to shower, a place to wash out your clothes, and lines to hang the clothes on. Most of them have some sort of outdoor space to hang out in, and some have basic kitchen facilities. They are certainly a good place to meet other pilgrims, and there are some that make a special effort to create community among the pilgrims, such as Guemes. There they have a communal dinner and a talk about the Camino, and we did some singing.. It was really a special place. You have to be out of the hostel by 8 (sometimes as late as 9).
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  • Day14


    September 17, 2017 in Spain ⋅ 🌙 19 °C

    San Vicente - Columbres 17 k
    Nice walk, no rain! Walked a little more with Jacob, he's off to the Santo Toribio route. I really enjoyed connecting with him; over the two days we did a couple things together and it was fun to have someone to be with. I got to Columbres at about 1 o'clock; luckily they let me into the hostel early, along with a Danish guy; others had to wait. It was Sunday so stores were closed. I walked into town, saw the museum of Emigration which was fairly interesting. The hostel ended up fairly full, including the French guys I've been seeing over and over again, Jeremie and Louis. I didn't really talk much to anybody.Read more