May - July 2017
  • Day49

    In Santiago

    July 4, 2017 in Spain ⋅ 🌙 18 °C

    Today we got a cab into Santiago from Muxia because all the buses are on strike. Not bad, 15€ each. That meant a 45 minute drive in a car instead of a slow boat 3 hour bus ride.

    So I had almost the whole day in Santiago to do my shopping. Spoiler alert -- olive oil and kids t-shirts were my highest priority. I had to get the oil in several batches, because it's heavy and it was hot. It was 90 degrees in Santiago today, which is almost unheard of.

    In the late afternoon, my two Aussie friends (both named Ann) got to meet each other in one of my favorite places in Santiago, the gardens of the Costa Vella hotel. (Dana, that's our place!). From there we moved to another favorite place, the Bodeguilla San Roque, for a tapas dinner. It was really a nice evening.

    So, one more day in Santiago and then my 22 hours traveling back to Champaign.
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  • Day48

    In Muxia--no more walking!

    July 3, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 14 °C

    Today was a very short 23 km day, but since the people next to me were up at 5:30, I got up soon after. Made a cup of coffee with my beloved electric coil and set out. Soon after, the sun rose and I decided to take a bunch of "shadow selfies." I'll post the award winners here.

    The walk was really quite pleasant, and I found myself wishing it wasn't my last day. I was feeling good so I skipped the first two cafes. But then there was nothing.... finally after about 19 km, I found a machine that dispensed ice cold drinks for a mere 1.50€. It was right outside a beautiful 11C church, so you know I was in hog heaven.

    The walk from the headlands down into Muxia is very nice. Heavily forested with occasional peeks over the ocean. I found my albergue, found another friend I knew from online camino stuff. In a few hours we will walk out to the rocky coast, but first a little down time.

    So my walking is done, I'm just another number in the camino stastics. The number who have arrived in Santiago this year has already topped 100,000 if you can believe that--and high season hasn't even arrived !!!
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  • Day47

    In Dumbria at the Zara albergue

    July 2, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 13 °C

    Well I am really slowing down. These 32 km were much harder than I remembered them, and I arrived at the albergue at least an hour later than last time. But maybe I took longer breaks this year 😁

    There is nothing spectacular about today's walk, and some of it goes through fairly ugly hills with one half growing eucalyptus and the other half stripped of vegetation. But the camino went through some nice hamlets, where the villagers are usually eager to talk.

    As part of my camino education, today I learned that the tall green stalks with leaves sprouting out and which are cut off from the bottom up are not grelos but something called "col," which translates as "cabbage" but is just leaves with no head. Anyway I had always wondered why even the smallest gardens had hundreds of these plants. Today I learned that the tough leaves are for the animals while the tender ones go into making that delicious soup caldo gallego (very similar to Portuguese caldo verde). The woman who explained this all to me told me that after she finished feeding her pigs, she would make some and I was very welcome to stay. Unfortunately I still had 22 km to walk, so I declined. What a tempting invitation though!

    I am in the Dumbria albergue, which was built with funds from the owner of the Zara empire. It's the only albergue I've ever been in with hot water in the sink for washing clothes. The albergue itself is huge, with common areas, balconies with tables, a kitchen, but only three bedrooms, each one with 4 bunk beds. So far in my room there is a Brazilian man of Japanese descent, and a French couple. The French guy looks like he could be a snorer and so I will use my wonderful silicone earplugs.

    Tomorrow a short day to Muxia. I will meet up with a friend there. If you saw The Way and remember the final scene with all the characters standing on the amazing boulders near the ancient church, that was Muxia. I far prefer it to the touristy Finisterre, though the ritual of going up to the lighthouse for sunset is something I'll miss.

    Home on Thursday!!!!
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  • Day46

    In Vilaserio, two more days of walking!

    July 1, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    Yesterday after showers and clothes wash, Ann and I met up and went to visit a German friend who has packed up and moved to Santiago. There were about 7 of us, all off of different Caminos, and all the interaction was fun.

    For some inexplicable reason, I went to get my Compostela, the cathedral-issued "certificate of completion.". I have more than a dozen, so why do I bother? Even at 7 pm and with about 12 people working, there was an hour's wait. It's just part of the ritual, I guess.

    This morning I was on my way around 7. By 10:30 I was resting with boots off in the prettiest little village on this route. At noon I was buying fruit at my favorite little fruit store on this route and at 2:30 another boots off rest with a Fanta de Limón. An hour after that, my long 35 km day was over and I was checking into a lovely new albergue in Vilaserio. Many hundreds of years old, in the family for generations, and turned into a very cozy place. The woman who checked me in told me that her 70-something year old mother is actually in charge, but she comes out to help on weekends. Before the albergue idea, she told me her mother was in bad health, declining, unsettled. The albergue, she said, has breathed new life into her, and she loves it. The leson I take from that is that a purpose in life is a good thing, no matter what your age!

    Good day walking but my body is going to be very happy to stop in two days!!!
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  • Day45

    Made it to Santiago

    June 30, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    Today was rainy off and on, but since the stage was so short I was able to sit out the occasional downpours in one cafe or another. So when I arrived in Santiago my feet were nice and dry. I really don't mind getting wet except for my feet. I have had a couple of days' walking this year when I really felt like I was walking on a sponge. It's not a lot of fun to take off your shoes and wring out your socks and then have to put them back on still sopping after the break. So let's just say I've been kind of a wimp these last few days.

    Ann and I both left around 7 with plans to meet at the cafe directly behind the Plaza San Lázaro. We walk at different paces on the hills, and I have learned that it is really annoying to someone slogging up a hill to know that her pal is waiting up at the top and will probably take off again as soon as the two have seen each other. So I thought I had plenty of time and wound up sitting inside during all the rain. That meant that poor Ann arrived about a half hour before me and though she's too nice to say it, she was probably a bit perturbed to have pushed on through the rain to "catch up with me."

    In any event I know we both enjoyed walking in together--with the endless stream of humanity pouring into Santiago, all strangers to us, the companionship was good.

    I have walked into Santiago many many times. Sometimes it's euphoria, sometimes flat, sometimes bummed out -- but this has to be the weirdest entrance ever. I knew the cathedral would be in scaffolding, but I wasn't prepared for the rest. As we went through the arches, the bagpipes were playing, but no sooner had we dropped our coins in appreciation than he closed up shop. Then as we entered the square, we saw lines of soldiers, and two tanks, I kid you not. Some sort of military celebration was taking place and we were just in time for the salutes, the marches, and the music. It was all very disconcerting.

    I had trouble finding a cheap room but led me out of the historic core to the "real" city. I'm in a very nice pension,28 €, about 12 minutes from the cathedral but in a very different world. I actually got a good menu del dia for 9 €, unheard of up in pilgrim-land.

    This afternoon Ann and I will go visit a German friend who lives in Santiago, and then tomorrow I'll start my last three days of walking.
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  • Day44

    In Pedrouzo with thousands of others

    June 29, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    I am glad I have slowed down to walk shorter stages, because that means that I have been able to stay with my three new friends from Madrid and Ann.

    The 20 km from Arzua were not the most spectacular but most was pretty countryside. There are now thousands of pilgrims, lots of Spaniards, lots of large groups of jubilant teens. And a few old coots like us who have been slugging along for weeks.

    I have managed to stay totally dry these last few days. Since I'm walking short stages and there are so many bars on the camino Francés, I've just popped into a bar or a bus stop shelter every time the rain started to fall.

    The town of Pedrouzo where we are today has a total of 2000 beds, and not one is empty. Crazy, what eill happen in high season? Tomorrow into Santiago. Can't believe it.
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  • Day43

    In Arzua

    June 28, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    Well this was another uneventful day. I left the monastery at about 7:30, knowing I had only 21 km to walk and no big hills or descents. Feels kind of decadent since my earlier stages were so much longer and harder, but my body is kind of winding down and hinting that it wouldn't mind stopping.

    The day was windy and alternated between brilliant blue skies and short hard rain showers. We had the luxury and the luck of being right outside a bar for the first downpour and right next to a covered bus stop for the second. Right before we arrived in Arzua, it started again but by then we were just a hop, skip and a jump from town. The walk was pleasant enough through very typical Galician countryside--rolling hills, lots of green, very rural. Luckily there are still some parts of the walk that haven't been "improved" by the government. For some reason they pour crushed rock on lovely wooded trails and call it an improvement.

    Wow how this place has changed. When Dana and I stayed here in 2007, there was one albergue and one old hotel. Now there are st least 15 albergues and lots of pensiones, etc. Even our old charming Hotel Teodora has doubled or tripled its size.

    Culture shock is inevitable when you leave one camino with an average of 40 pilgrims per night to the camino Frances with hundreds and hundreds each day, if not thousands.

    Feeling slightly better and less discombobulated. I will get to Santiago in two days, spend Friday night there, and then walk, I think, to Muxia in 3 days. Then back to Santiago for two nights before my flight home. One thing that could disrupt that plan, however, is an ongoing sporadic bus strike. We will see.
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  • Day42

    A night in an ancient monastery

    June 27, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    So today I am not feeling frightened or nervous, just kind of flat. Five us walked together (4 single women and one guy) into Sobrado dos Monxes, a town with a Cistercian monastery with 13th century origins. What's now standing is mostly from the 16th century onwards, and there is a much improved albergue. When Dana and I slept here 10 years ago, it was a hygienic disaster. Now there are decent and clean beds, clean hot showers, but tons more people than when we were here. This is good preparation for what we will find tomorrow when we get to Arzua and the Camino Frances.

    After a very nice lunch with ten other amigos, the topic turned to tomorrow's lodging. Turns out three of them had had a hard time finding a place, and the rest of us hadn't even started looking. Half an hour and many phone calls later, the rest of us finally found something. Same thing for the next day. I did have a reservation in Santiago but I had to cancel because I am a day behind. So things are unclear but I do have a bed for the next two nights!
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  • Day41

    In A Roxica

    June 26, 2017 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    I don't want to alarm my family and friends (I am FINE and unharmed) but it was not a pleasant morning.

    This morning I left the Albergue around 7, about ten minutes after a single Spanish peregrina left. The camino goes along the national highway N-6 for about two km and then turns left into a wooded area where there is an old church. I was about 5 minutes before that turn-off when I saw the Spanish woman running back towards me. She was crying hysterically. A masked man had pointed a gun at her and told her to get down on the ground. She offered him all her money but he repeated the threat. She took off her mochila and threw it on the ground and took off running. She runs marathons so she knew she could outrun him, and she thought to herself-- he's not going to shoot me in the back. Luckily she was right.

    I was with her and the police for a while. The Guardia Civil is involved and she will file a denuncia. When we got back to the point where it happened, her backpack was right where she dropped it and untouched. She is lucky but I'm sure it will take a while to get over.

    I walked for the next few hours with several pilgrims who came up while we were with the police. But they stopped for the day way too early for me, so I went on by myself. I think it's like what people say about falling off a horse, you just have to get up and do it again. I did feel a little nervous but realize that's not rational. By the end of the walk I was feeling more confident and able to focus again on my aching tired feet. Though it's easy to fall into panic or fear, I keep telling myself that the rational response is that this is one of a miniscule number of bad incidents on the Camino, and that I am surely safer walking alone in Spain than I am walking alone in many places I frequent. Hopefully, I will get back into the swing of walking alone and loving it.
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