Joined July 2022 Message
  • Day49

    Santiago - Falkirk Scotland

    June 17 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 30 °C

    I had a very good sleep in The Last 12K B&B, it was very comfortable and the shower was great. I went downstairs for breakfast at 0730 and was surprised to see that it was very busy. When I went outside I realised that it was actually on the Camino Frances and there was a steady line of pilgrims walking by, dozens and dozens of them, some of whom stopped for coffee or breakfast. When my taxi came at 1030, it was still as busy and the line of pilgrims passing had not diminished. If ever I needed a reason never to walk the Camino Frances, that was it.

    An English guy was trying to order breakfast, he asked for a cappuccino, toast with butter and jam, but the barmaid didn't speak English, so he did that really rude and ignorant thing of repeating what he had said only slower and louder. The barmaid looked at me with raised eyebrows so I ordered in Spanish what he had asked for then suggested to him that he ought to have at least learned some basic Spanish before coming on the camino. If you are thinking of doing a camino, remember that how you behave will shape what people think about your home country.

    I finally met some Scottish pilgrims, and we chatted for a while before they set off.

    I had received an email from Ryanair advising me to be at airport security 3 hours before my flight so I did, the airport was very small and I was through security in less than 2 minutes. Coffee beckoned. As soon as the gate was announced I went and sat there. A flight to Bilbao was boarding, about 15-20 minutes after it was boarded and all the staff had gone away, a couple came running to the gate and were furious that it had closed, the guy tried to get a member of staff to let them through but she obviously couldn't do that, she didn't even work for that airline. He tried to force open the door, he went behind the counter and tried to access the computers, he went over to the window and started banging on it because the aircraft was right there. I have never seen anything like it. His partner/wife was trying to drag him away before they got arrested. From where I was sitting it was at once bizarre and entertaining.

    I had to temporarily vacate my seat and go back to the security booth at the gate as there had been no one checking passports when myself and a dozen other passengers arrived.

    When the time came we boarded without fuss, the aircraft was about 2/3 full, and the middle seat in my row was empty so it was a relaxing, comfortable and uneventful flight home. Barbara was waiting for me at Edinburgh airport, and my camino was over...or was it?

    A plan was forming for my camino family to have a reunion in Berlin next year, and at the time of writing it looks like that is going to happen. I had also decided that I would return to Spain next year and walk the Camino del Norte, and hopefully one or more of the ladies will be able to join me for at least part of that.

    If you have managed to read all the way through this camino blog, (well done!), you may have guessed that so much has been left unsaid and many words lie hidden between the lines. Humans seek understanding, we want explanations but the truth is that some things can only be experienced, in fact to explain them is to diminish them. So, I cannot really explain the relationship that has developed between myself and these six lovely humans, especially in so short a time, and it is unusual, even for the camino which is known to bring people together. I am reminded of a verse from the First Testament that speaks of the friendship between Jonathan and David, it says that their souls were 'knit together'. I hesitate to speak on behalf of the others but that is what it feels like to me. As to the how or the why of it, I have no idea.

    Someone asked me what the camino has given to me and I can say that I have never felt as healthy or as fit, but the camino has also given me self-confidence, a new perspective on life and a new purpose for life, and renewed hope in the future. Most of all, it has given me six friends I cannot imagine life without.

    In his book The Exquisite Risk, Mark Nepo writes that "To journey without being changed is to be a nomad. To change without journeying is to be a chameleon. To journey and be transformed by the journey is to be a pilgrim." So, I'm not sure if my camino is ending or just beginning. One thing I do know, is that it has changed me forever.

    "The Road goes ever on and on,
    Down from the door where it began.
    Now far ahead the Road has gone,
    And I must follow, if I can,
    Pursuing it with eager feet,
    Until it joins some larger way
    Where many paths and errands meet.
    And whither then? I cannot say" - Bilbo Baggins
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    Thanks for writing this and sending me the link. I really enjoyed it. It was also brilliant to see you and Babs last week.

    Norman Graham

    I think there's a prize for reading it all the way to the end.


    I’m so glad I couldn’t get to reading this until now because it has provided a wonderful chance to reminisce on all that transpired on my Camino. Thank you for taking such great notes and being such a thorough observer. It was wonderful to see the Camino through your eyes. Much love to you!

    Norman Graham

    aw thanks Meg, I really appreciate that, of course so much of it would never have happened without you, you were the thread running through it even before we met actually via Robert and Ana Mária and then Anita and Mirjam. At least now you know what I was writing in my journal every night!

  • Day48

    Santiago Day 5

    June 16 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    I had to check out of The Last Stamp by 11am, but I was able to leave my case in their secure storage room. The staff had been very friendly and helpful throughout my stay and they were happy to order a taxi for the afternoon to take me to my accommodation near the airport. I walked round to the post office near the Pilgrim Office and posted my walking pole home, it was a lot less expensive than buying a new pole. I went for a cooked breakfast at the same place we went the day we got our Compostelas and it was great.

    I wandered around the city for a while taking photographs, stopping for coffee and directing lost pilgrims. Then it was time for my taxi to take me to my B&B near the airport, the driver spoke some English and was very impressed that I had walked from Sevilla, champion he said. The lady owner of the spoke great English, in fact she and her husband had lived and worked there for nearly 40 years. She made me a toasted sandwich and then insisted I try some of the local Galician cake, which was delicious.

    I had a quiet night thinking about Meg, Kathleen, Anita, Anne, Julia and Mirjam, and about the camino and how it had changed me, and about home, and wondered how much of the camino I would take home with me. Time will tell.
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  • Day47

    Santiago Day 4

    June 15 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    I got up very early to say goodbye to Meg, Kathleen and Anita, but it was all a rush, they had just gotten downstairs when their airport taxi arrived so it was less a moment of fond farewells and more a hurried wave goodbye as they drove off.

    I did not have much to do today, my tourist shopping was all done, my bags were more or less packed ready to go and I was on my own, my companions had either gone home or were away on further travels. Anne would also be moving on out of the city to less expensive accommodation whilst she continued to recover from covid. So, I spent the day drinking coffee, and helping other pilgrims find their way to the cathedral or to the bus station or to the laundry, I suspect there's a full time job there for someone who wants it. I don't have much to report about today other than it was somewhat lonely and I was already missing the ladies. So let me backtrack to the 13th of June and the final meal we had together.

    On the night of our last dinner in Santiago together (minus Anne who had covid) I wanted to give them all something that expressed even in a small way how I felt about each of them. I made a few notes so that I would not ramble, but I rambled a bit anyway, so I can't write exactly what I said but it was something like this:

    To Meg I gave the gift of a small plaque of the Madonna and Child. Somehow in this camino she had managed to help bring together a group of people who in other circumstances might never have given one another the time of day. She created space and opportunity for us to get to know one another, and like a nurturing mother she had cared for us, encouraged us and had helped us to find the thing that all humans deeply long for - a sense of community, of belonging. A common saying about the camino is that each person must walk their own camino and in many ways that is true. However, her care and nurture of this group reminded me of another truth, put so eloquently by John Donne, "No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less." I learned from Meg that whilst we must all walk our own pilgrimage, we can never walk it on our own. WE need the friendship and support of others.

    Knowing Meg has challenged me to try to be a person who welcomes the stranger, and who creates the space and opportunities that allow people to come together and that helps them to discover the friendship waiting in that space. To be a person who nurtures what is good in others, goodness that they may not yet see themselves.

    Meg did not help to create an exclusive club but one that would always welcome the stranger and invite them to belong and so to Guillermo I gave the hand of friendship - it was an actual hand made from blue plastic!

    To Kathleen I gave a photograph of a field of sunflowers taken on the camino between Santiponce and Guillena in 2018, it was one of my own photographs, I had managed to find a 1-hour photo lab in Santiago who printed and framed it for me. Ever since I met Kathleen, my days on the camino had been filled with light and laughter, joy and kindness. I will never forget sitting in the dingy albergue in Cea when she walked in, and suddenly it was as if the sun had come out, she lit up the space just by walking into it. Every single day on the camino, she was a ray of sunshine in our lives. So when I think of Kathleen, I am reminded that I need to be a person who brings the light in what is sometimes a dark world. So the photograph of sunflowers was to be for her a reminder of the positive impact she has been to others, to remind her too, of how thankful I am that she brought the light to me.

    To Anita I gave a small piece of granite carved into the shape of a shell. Australians have a well-deserved reputation for grit and determination, and a toughness that echoes the hard landscape of their birth. Anita exemplifies those qualities is the most positive way. When it looked like her camino was over through injury, she refused to quit, and she demonstrated courage, and resilience overcoming that injury to return to the camino and complete her journey. She is as tough as Galician granite and Australian bedrock and I admire everything about her. I am sure that I will face challenges in the future, perhaps tough ones, and when I do, I will think of Anita. If I ever feel like I have given all I can and I can't go on, when i feel like giving up, I will think of Anita, her courage, resilience and strength and her refusal to quit and I will tell myself, you're not done yet.

    To Mirjam, Julia and Anne (who was there in our thoughts and hearts) I gave a very small gift, a simple blue fridge magnet emblazoned with the yellow arrow of the camino, the ultimate cheap tourist tat.

    From the start of our camino, the yellow arrows pointed us forward, providing direction with the unspoken promise that if we followed them we would find a hot shower, a meal and a bed for the night.

    As I look at Mirjam, Julia and Anne I see three very beautiful and remarkable young women, beautiful on the outside, certainly, but also beautiful where it counts, on the inside. Each one of these young women is instinctively kind, generous, and thoughtful, and they care about the environment, about justice and doing what's right. Furthermore, they are smart, brave, independent and capable of more than they yet know, I think they will change the world, one life at a time, just as surely as they have changed mine. Although I had given them a small gift, a little fridge magnet, they had given me a greater gift: the gift of hope in a better future, in a better world.

    The evening ended as it began, with shared laughter and shared love and a sense that even as our camino was ending, something else was beginning.
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  • Day46

    Santiago Day 3

    June 14 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    Today was a real emotional smorgasbord. After our dinner last night we had thought we would all go to the market for brunch together, but we all missed Anne and so we went down to the park near where she was staying and met her there. It was so good to see her and all thought of going for brunch was abandoned. We all had a wonderful time together, but it would come to an end soon enough.

    Our time in Santiago was drawing to a close, and that very day Mirjam would be getting the bus to Porto and then a flight home. She was the first of our little camino family to be leaving Spain. We left the park, all going in different directions, Julia set off to walk to A Coruña, Anita, Meg, Kathleen headed back to town, whilst Anne and I walked to the bus station with Mirjam. I carried Mirjam's mochila one last time as we walked through the busy streets and waited with her until the bus arrived. Mirjam is really cool about travelling, and she was happy to wait until everyone else got on board, they all seemed to be in such a rush. I wanted time to stop. We hugged and said our goodbyes not knowing if we would ever see one another again. It was the hardest moment of my camino.

    In the afternoon, I went and bought a small wheeled suitcase to put my stuff in for the flight home, I had donated my mochila and sleeping bag to a homeless charity. Meg, Kathleen and Anita were heading off in the early morning to Barcelona so they spent some time packing then we went out for dinner back to the Langrina, where I had best salad I've ever eaten, (Anne was able to come since we were outside) and as a bonus I got to meet the chef (she was lovely, and hilarious). If I am ever in Santiago again, I will be booking a table there.

    So, it was a day of joys and sorrows and filled with memories that will never be forgotten and the hope that the goodbyes we had said and those still to come would not be the last word.
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  • Day45

    Santiago day 2

    June 13 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    I was up early because two guys who were also sleeping in the same unit as me came in at 0200 drunk, and noisy, putting on lights and generally making a nuisance of themselves, then they snored loudly the rest of the night. Later I went and asked the staff if they were staying another night, because if they were I would have had to have had words with them. Fortunately, they were checking out.

    Kathleen was also up early, so we went out for a walk together to see if we could find a café, eventually we found a bakery open and they did a takeaway coffee so we had breakfast as we walked and talked. I loved every minute that I spent with Kathleen, she is just a joy to be with. The coffee and cakes from the baker were really good, and the lovely baker spoke great English, and so I went back several times over the next few days.

    Apart from some more shopping the only thing on the agenda for today was the 12 noon pilgrim service at the cathedral. Meg assured us that we would have to go at 11 in order to get a seat. Mirjam, Kathleen, Julia and I all wanted to go. Meg was right, by the time we got there about 10 minutes past 11, it was already quite full, and just before the service started Julia and I both got up to give our seats to an older couple, I sat on the base of a stone pillar. I was able to follow some of the service but the language difference was a bit of a barrier, but I enjoyed it. We never got to see them swing the giant incense burner but apparently they don't do that very often.

    One of the reasons the camino was so busy is that Pope Francis had designated it to be a Holy Year for Roman Catholics. Normally the Holy Year is when the Feast of St James falls on a Sunday, but last year it was cancelled due to covid. One of the features of a Holy Year is the Holy Door into the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. It is bricked up in-between Holy years and then broken open on the Holy Year and any pilgrim who enters the cathedral through this door is said to have all their sins forgiven. Many people, including from our group walked through it. Whatever our different beliefs, I think that deep down we all want to know that we are forgiven, and some of us have much to be forgiven for. The hardest part, of course, is forgiving ourselves.

    A guided tour of the city plazas had been booked for 1800 starting at the Cathedral Square, and with Mirjam's encouragement I agreed to go along (only the most hard-hearted person could say no to Mirjam). The tour was excellent and we all really enjoyed it and learned a lot about the history and architecture, and myths of the city. The only minus was that I felt totally underdressed, Meg, Kathleen, Anita and Julia were all wearing lovely dresses and Mirjam looked fabulous in her new blouse, in fact everyone had smartened up a bit except me and Guillermo - my wardrobe consisted of 3 t-shirts and 2 pairs of hiking trousers, and Guillermo probably had the same limited wardrobe, the ladies had planned ahead. Still, they didn't appear to be too embarrassed about walking around with us.

    The tour took us down to a park where we saw some public art depicting the two Maria's. We had seen them all over the city painted on walls and on t-shirts etc. so it was great to learn their story. The two Maria's were from a family that supported the monarchy during the Spanish civil war, which of course Franco and his fascists won. Many of the men in their family were tortured and killed, it was a very dark time for many people in Spain. So, the two Maria's started wearing bright gaudy clothes as they went about the town, it was a kind of rebellion against the fear and gloom of the times, a celebration of life and a refusal to let the darkness win. Every day they would come to a certain spot in the park at 1400, because that was when the University students got out of class, and they would flirt with all the male students as they passed, and they did that right up until they were in their 80's. The two Maria's brought life, and colour and laughter and hope in a very dark time, and so they became cultural icons of the city.

    As we stood there listening to their story, I noticed many people going up to the statues and standing beside them for photographs. It seemed odd, because of their story and the way the statues were posed it looked to me like the two Maria's were still flirting with all the men walking past and the outstretched hand was an that I could not resist.

    After the tour we went to a fabulous vegetarian restaurant, the food was delicious surpassed only by the excellent company, and although Anne was not able to be there, she was very much in our thoughts, and in our hearts. At the end of the meal I was able to share how I felt about each one of them and how they impacted my life, and I was thankful for that opportunity.

    In a very emotional moment Mirjam shared with us a little about her time in Finisterre and what had clearly been a very profound and significant experience for her. She offered each one of us a shell from the beach there because she wanted us, in some way, to share in her experience. As I sat beside her listening to her tell her story, I was deeply moved, more than words can express, and deeply honoured that she wanted me to be part of that experience. From the first day that I met her, I knew that there was gold in her, and it shone brightly that night, and I was completely undone.

    Mirjam was booked into the Last Stamp for her final night in Santiago and they put her in the same unit as me, and so we were together for one last sleepover. I lay awake for a long time thinking about the next day, knowing that it would be a day of goodbyes, wishing that it were not so.
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    I have tears rolling down just remembering that last communal dinner and all the wonderful things you shared about everyone. 💕

    Norman Graham

    I was a nervous wreck on the inside, and desperate not to look at you or Kathleen in case I started crying as well...but what a night it was

  • Day44

    A Susanna - Santiago de Compostela 9 km

    June 12 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    We got up early, no surprise there, but we all had a great sleep, and set off making very good time. I don't remember much about the walk, it all seemed very quick , one minute we were on the outskirts of A Susanna and the next we were in Santiago.

    Although we never saw the sunrise over the city as we had hoped, it turned out to be a good time to arrive because the cathedral square was virtually empty. Just as we arrived a large group of cyclists came swooping in and parked all their bikes in front of the cathedral steps and started taking pictures of them. After 5 minutes of this Kathleen shouted something like "I'm sure your bikes are all very lovely, now can you move them out the way!" Much to my amazement, they did, and we got our photograph in front of the cathedral steps, like proper pilgrims.

    We then headed off the the Pilgrim Office to get our Compostelas, we were fortunate that a Viking friend of Anita's was there to help us through the process. As I went to get mine I got the same reaction that Mirjam had, the lady was very excited that I had walked all the way from Sevilla. Job done we went to the nearest restaurant for a very much needed and very decent breakfast.

    We then decided to explore the city, which is like every other old European city, it is a maze of streets that are confusing to navigate and problematic for Google Maps and a café every 20 metres. Anita had made her own arrangements for accommodation so Meg, Kathleen and I checked into the Last Stamp, and I was happy to note we were in the same dorm unit. We went out in search of dinner and found what is surely one of the bests restaurants in Spain, the Langrina, the food was amazing. We went back a few nights later and just had whatever the lovely (and incredibly beautiful) waitress suggested. Everything was amazing.

    Whilst the others enjoyed siesta, I went out and did some gift shopping for my family, small things - I had a 10 kilo limit on my baggage for the flight home. Just before 1800 I set off to the bus station to meet Mirjam off the bus. I was very conscious that when she first arrived in the city she was on her own, and I thought it would be good for a friendly face to be there to welcome her this time. I am glad I did. I took her backpack and we walked into the city and I helped her find her albergue. It took us a while and then I remembered that in Ourense the building numbers were no longer in use and it turned out to be the same here.

    Satisfied that she was settled in her albergue I went back to the Last Stamp and got into my bunk for the night. It had been a long day, but a very emotional, and very satisfying one.
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  • Day43

    Leiras - A Susanna 20 km

    June 11 in Spain ⋅ 🌧 14 °C

    Our penultimate day on the camino! With our bags a lot lighter the walk was leisurely and pleasant with good weather for walking. We all had a good sleep and a good breakfast at the albergue, so we left much later than was usual for us. Quite a bit of this section was on tarmac and so the occasional off-road bits were a relief, we only had a few ascents but they did not present any difficulties, it was the descents which were longer and steeper. I was worried how Anita was coping with her bad knee but she is tough and resilient and she coped well.

    We stopped for coffee at Ponte Ulla and got a few things from the supermarket as there were no shops in the towns ahead of us. It was only 20 km but felt a little longer due to the rolling hills, but we arrived at the Albergue Reina Lupa about 1345 and were welcomed by the very lovely owner. The albergue was outstanding, it was brand new, spotlessly clean, and the beds were well spaced out and each one had a nightlight and USB sockets in the wall. Each bed had a generously sized locker next to it. The best thing of all was that we did not have paper sheets, we had crisp white linen sheets freshly washed and pressed, and a large incredibly soft fleece blanket. We could have cried. It was albergue heaven, and yes the toilets and showers were great, and there was also a washing machine. The crisp white linen sheets meant that it just beat the albergue in Leiras as the best albergue between Sevilla and Santiago.

    When we came in there were two older ladies chatting in the reception area - Australians, it turned out that one of them lived on the same street as Anita, small world.

    We went along the road to a restaurant recommended by our hospitalera and it was really busy with locals ( a good sign) and we had a fabulous dinner, before wandering back to the albergue to pack our bags for the last time on the camino. We had decided to get our bags transported to Santiago the next day. Most of us were staying at The Last Stamp and we couldn't check in until 1400, so it would save us carrying our bags around the city all day.

    We got some bad news from Anne, it wasn't the humidity that was bothering her, it turned out that she had covid, so she would not be arriving in the city on Monday after all. On a more positive note, Mirjam messaged to say how much she was enjoying being in Finisterre and how glad she was to have gone. I was really happy for her and looked forward to seeing her on Sunday night and hearing all about it.

    We all went to bed and despite the excitement about arriving in Santiago tomorrow, we fell asleep in minutes.
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  • Day42

    A Laxe - Leiras 22 km

    June 10 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    We left quite early 0645 in order to leave our bags at the bar Ma. Jose, and stayed for an excellent breakfast, and then set off together.

    For the first time on my camino, I walked in my shorts, the weather could not have been better, it was cloudy with sunny spells and a nice breeze and the path was a mixture of tarmac and country paths. On the final stretch of the camino you find yourself walking through a lot of small towns and so there is less need to carry a lot of water etc. and there are more opportunities for refreshments. We stopped at least twice for coffee, and in one café I saw an amazing looking cheesecake, and it made me think of Mirjam who loves cheesecake, but they didn't sell it in slices , just the whole cheesecake, which was far too big even for the four of us!

    We found another café that was open and sat for about 30 minutes chatting. Kathleen saw a lovely yellow outfit that she thought might be good for us to all wear for when we arrived in Santiago. Apparently that is a thing, and you will see groups arriving all day wearing the same t-shirt or hat or carrying the same flag etc. Sadly, I don't think it came in my size.

    Meg and I arrived at the albergue about 1300, with Kathleen and Anita arriving shortly thereafter having walked right past the 10-foot high sign saying 'Casa Leiras Albergue'.

    The albergue was run by an delightful and fascinating couple, Andrea and his wife Cristina, he was Italian and she was Spanish, they were both really engaging and interesting to talk to, both of them were wonderful storytellers and conversationalists. We chatted for a while about how they came to own, renovate and run the albergue and to be honest, their ethos of life and how to live it was very appealing. what I loved was that they were living the life they loved, the life they had chosen for themselves. If you like chess then this is the albergue for you as Andrea was a mad keen chess player.

    The albergue was absolutely the best we had stayed in so far. It was spotlessly clean, the beds were well spaced apart and the toilets and showers were outstanding. Rather than have to sit around serving us we were told to help ourselves from the bar and write up our own tab. We all agreed to have dinner there, in part because there was nowhere else to go, but also because we guessed, correctly, that the food would be fabulous, which it was. I was so glad we had decided to stay there, it's a very small place with no facilities other than the albergue, but it was one of the most pleasant days I had on the camino.

    Mirjam arrived in Santiago today and sent us some photographs of the cathedral, apparently, when she went to get her Compostela, the staff were very excited because she had walked from Sevilla. I was so happy for her, our hearts were bursting with pride and joy, I was just sorry I had not been there to share it with her. We also got word from Anne that she was slowing down a bit because she was finding the humid weather a bit difficult, so she would now arrive in Santiago on Monday. We decided that we would all go the the cathedral square to meet her, when she arrived.

    So, after a very wonderful day, we went to bed content and at peace.
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  • Day41

    Cea - A Laxe 35 km

    June 9 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    We were up early and left our bags packed and tagged for collection and set off for the bus stop with our day packs. when we arrived there was a man waiting for the bus, he spoke great English, he had lived in the USA for a while, and he confirmed that the bus would be there at 0630, which it was. It seemed like just a few minutes later we were in Castro Dozón, unfortunately we were there too early for any cafés to be open, but whilst we were pondering this calamitous event, the Repsol station opened and we were able to buy a few snacks before setting off.

    Once again the path was good, a mixture of tarmac and off road and we were enjoying one another's company. We did get split up a little as we all walked at different paces, so those of us ahead stopped for a rest at a nice seating area where there was a fountain for peregrinos. One of the ladies went behind a wall for a pee and just at that exact moment around 40 elderly hikers on a guided walk came slowly trooping past! Fortunately, none of them looked over the wall.

    It didn't take us long to get to A Laxe, which we couldn't pronounce, and Kathleen came up with the idea of calling it Alexa, and that worked. We had to wait 30 minutes before it opened, but we got all of our washing done in the machine and got it hung out. Our bags had been delivered to Ma. Jose bar further along the road so we went to collect them and stayed for drinks. We came back later for dinner and it was excellent, the lady owner was lovely.

    We were fortunate enough to get a dorm to ourselves and it was clean and tidy. I know you want to know about the toilets and showers - they were ok, not great but not terrible either. In the afternoon during siesta Kathleen and I walked along the road to the petrol station/café/shop and bought a few things and sat and had ice cream. It was one of my most enjoyable moments on the camino, she is a very special lady and spending time with her was a real blessing.

    It was hard to believe that we only had two full days of walking left before we reached Santiago. As I looked around the dorm later that evening, I think we were all feeling the same, excited that we were almost there and yet at the same time not wanting it to end.
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  • Day40

    Ourense - Cea 24 km

    June 8 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    We were all up early because the two bags that were being transported to the albergue in Cea had to be delivered to a bar by 0730 and it was 20 minutes walk away. While we were there we had some breakfast then doubled back a little to join the right-hand route out of Ourense. The walk was very good but the first hour or so was slower going due to the unending steepness of the path, the city sits at the bottom of a valley that we had to climb out of. Thanks to Ougo I found the walking uphill ok but I was finding that my breathing was laboured and my heart rate was too high. Fortunately Anita, (medical scientist), talked me through how to breathe on the uphill and that made a huge difference - my heart rate dropped by 20 points for the rest of the hill. Eventually the path began to level out and we reached the 100 km marker.

    The Galicians really don't want you to get lost on the camino and since arriving in Galicia we had noted the abundance of unmissable granite markers that also gave the distance from Santiago. Disputes about the distance aside, these way markers gave the distance to three decimal points, I didn't know if it was someone being pedantic or if the Galicians subtle way of saying they did it better than all the other autonomous regions, probably the latter.

    Walking with Meg, Kathleen and Anita was a joy, there was plenty of mutual encouragement and support, some banter (as we say in Scotland) and a lot of laughter. It made the time pass very quickly and soon enough we were in Cea.

    We arrived at the albergue in Cea to find it open but with no one there. It was dark and dingy and would turn out to be one of the worst albergues we stayed in, it was not very clean and it was a little bit smelly, but we were given fresh disposable sheets and pillowcases. The toilets and showers were acceptable rather than good, but at night some of the lights would not go off. I don't think any of us got a great sleep.

    Anyway, Meg and I were sitting in the dark dingy reception area waiting for the hospitalero when Kathleen arrived, and suddenly it was like the sun had come out, she transformed the space just by walking into it. I realised right then that I had not spent a single moment on the camino with her that had not been a joy. She was and is a ray of sunshine, and when we went out for a walk I told her so.

    When the hospitalero arrived he was very excited to discover that I was from Scotland and he went into another office and came back with some photographs that looked about 30+ years old, he was still recognisable in them at events in Edinburgh and the Wallace Monument in Stirling, and at a highland games somewhere, meeting Prince Charles. I told him that the Wallace Monument was not far from where I lived, in fact you can just about see it from my house.

    Cea was another unremarkable town with little to recommend it, however we did have a fabulous dinner at a nearby restaurant/bar/grill. As we were eating who should turn up on his bike but Guillermo, it was great to see him again, as he cycled off, we all agreed that we would try and find a needle and some black thread for had to be there.

    The next section of the camino was another one where there were problems regarding accommodation. Since the covid pandemic many albergues had closed and some of them had not yet reopened, and some were closed permanently. That was the case in the next section. The albergue in Castro Dozón was closed leaving a 35 km trek to A Laxe. Having considered all our options, we agreed that we would get a bus to Castro Dozón (14.6 km) and then walk from there to A Laxe. A quick online search revealed that there was a bus at 0630 and the lady in the shop said the bus stop was next to a bar, but we had been given conflicting times for the bus. So, in the evening I went out for a walk to find it and also how long it would take to get there, and the lovely barmaid pointed out the bus stop to me and confirmed that it would be there at 0630. It was 10 minutes walk. Over my camino I had taken a couple of taxis and buses and whilst this was not ideal, I think in each case it was forced on us by external circumstances. Some of the issues were personal matters of health and injuries but some were the fallout from covid and would require some long-term solutions by the regional camino associations. Not everyone walking the camino can walk 35 -45 Km in a day, especially when the temperatures are reaching the highest on record. Scientists have been warning us about a climate crisis for decades. It's here.

    With that organised, there was nothing to do but get to bed and try and sleep...but you already know how that went.

    I got word that Mirjam had arrived safely in A Laxe, our next stop. I could not help but think about her and Anne and Julia, like little birds having flown the nest, on their own each one following their own path. Much as we all missed them terribly, everything was as it should be, for everyone must walk their own camino, and as Sting famously sang, "if you love somebody, set them free."
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