April - June 2018
  • Day51

    Santiago de Compostela

    June 11, 2018 in Spain ⋅ 🌙 13 °C

    Such an overwhelming mix of emotions as I first glimpse the spires of the cathedral through the mist. Joy, sorrow, relief. This was a hard camino - duro. I struggled. But it was very, very beautiful. The landscape, the flowers, the loveliest of cities, Sevilla, Mérida, Cáceres, Salamanca, Zamora. Such a journey.

    And the people. Those with whom I formed bonds of friendship and who I will see again, and those I met briefly but who showed this stranger great kindness. They touched my heart.

    Walking into Santiago on the Via de la Plata route is different to the entrance to many cities. No tramping through horrible industrial areas or endless suburbs. Instead it is a soft dirt path through farmland, then a typical Galician green lane alongside streams and waterfalls and suddenly you pop out with the view of the cathedral straight ahead. Wonderful.

    The whole of the last day of walking I found so beautiful. It is hard to believe Galicia was once (is?) the poorest province in Spain. Solid, well built, large houses, with late model cars in the drives, manicured gardens and well tended vegetable patches - all looking prosperous and well maintained. And forests and fields and - flowers.

    And so now after prayers at the sanctuary of St James, two days of reunions, fabulous seafood feasts, and far too much shopping, I start my journey home.

    Ulteía y sustraía.
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  • Day47

    Albariño at the fair

    June 7, 2018 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    I am within 38km of Santiago, in deep Galicia, land of mystic woods, deep green valleys, legends, stories and Celtic music. And pulpo, and fiestas and fairs. Of which there is one tonight where I am staying, in Silleda. We shall eat pulpo and drink Albariño - glorious local white wine.

    So close to the end of my long walk. Below are assorted photos which show today - including some from a little jewel of a 10th century church. Always I pass beautiful vegetable gardens and especially in Galicia. Lots of “grelos”, a green vegetable from the brassica family used to make Caldo Gallega- vegetable soup. Breakfast in the truckies stop to start my day. And an advertising sign, just for Ian (who does not like to walk). I think he’ll be able to work out the meaning.
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  • Day46

    A monastery followed by - cold rain

    June 6, 2018 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 12 °C

    Today started with a tour of the Monastery of Oseira- a huge pile currently under restoration. From the outside it looks dark, dank and foreboding but the interior has a few beautiful surprises. My favourites were the lovely statute - the Virgen of the Milk (no surprise what she is doing) and the palm tree room - four wonderful slender twisted columns supporting the roof; full of movement. I don’t know the date of the room (the monastery was built in 1137 but it was enlarged and partly rebuilt following a fire in 1552). The room reminded me very strongly of Gaudí, who apparently visited and was impressed.

    Following a taxi ride back to the Camino it was a day of head down and trudge through rain, mud, cold and overhanging wet vegetation. When I hit the main road, up popped a bus with bus just arriving. When St James offers, I accept!
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  • Day45

    The last 100km!

    June 5, 2018 in Spain ⋅ ☁️ 12 °C

    I spent two days in Ourense. A spa town since Roman times. Ostensibly to give some injuries time to heel - but also to lie languorously in thermal pools. And - wow! - soak the ingrained dirt out of my feet. Dirty feet are the price paid for walking in sandals through mud and slush. Ourense also has some rather good confiterías. Which required my attention.

    Today I left Ourense and braved the constant rain and climbed out of the valley of the River Miño. A 19% slope for 2km (corrected from 5!). Then it was all soft paths and lush green forests. But still very very wet. A stop for coffee with Cesar - a retired lorry driver who offers pilgrims hot soup (much appreciated) and home made cakes.

    I am now ensconced in a little room with private bathroom - for €10. Too good to miss.
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  • Day43

    First pulpo on Corpus Christi

    June 3, 2018 in Spain ⋅ ☁️ 15 °C

    Flowers and coloured sand patterns outside the churches for Corpus Christi (don’t ask) and. —- pulpo! Delicious.

    But a long walk into Ourense - or at least it felt long - and my feet do not look objects of beauty. Or feel good. Cracked heels. My own fault, not paying them enough attention and not moisturising. Tomorrow I might look for a podiatrist to patch me up so I can make the final push to Santiago. Only 100km to go.

    How do you tell a pilgrim? She puts beauty cream on her feet before her face.

    In Ourense we traipsed down to the thermal baths and soaked for an hour. Bliss! And it is free.
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  • Day42

    Ah, Galicia, land of delights

    June 2, 2018 in Spain ⋅ ☁️ 12 °C

    A lovely very short 14km walk today. Down into the valleys, along typical Galician lanes, through close settled villages where life is so much softer than up in the mountains. Today I saw roses everywhere and was reminded of my dear friend Catherine, who loved them. The rose photos are for her.

    I and my walking companions could not go past this extraordinary house for tonight’s accommodation - it is like sleeping in a museum. Built in 1776 it stayed in the same family, none of whom ever threw anything away, and one of whom became a minister under Franco. He restored the house luxuriously and collected even more extraordinary objects. Eventually it passed out of that family. It is now owned by a man from Philadelphia who fell in love with it while walking the Camino and bought it lock stock and barrel (and tortoise shells, and masks from Guatemala, chess sets from China, elephant tusks, knives from Borneo, carvings from Japan, etc, etc). The wine collection alone is huge - I only got a glimpse of the cellar - with racks and racks of dust covered bottles.
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  • Day41

    Once more unto the breach...

    June 1, 2018 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    As I struggled up the 560 metre steep incline I did question my sanity. And contemplate a taxi. But there was no way a car could get onto the narrow shale track - it could only be a helicopter rescue. At which point I ate some chocolate from my secret stash. I do think the Kissing Point Road hill will be a piece of cake after this.

    As always once I reach the top it feels awesome. Today’s peak was marked by a quite famous bar, where pilgrims write their details on a shell which is hung or pasted somewhere in the room. Photo under - me and my gang.
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  • Day40

    Soaring high

    May 31, 2018 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    Two days of mountains. Incredible views. Big climbs. Then amazing wonderful walking along long ridge lines - up above the tree line. Really exhilarating. Spain really is a land of mountains.

    It’s been very cold, though mercifully no rain (or only sprinkles) while walking. Last night we were lucky enough to find a restored house in a tiny dot of a mountain village, with roaring wood stove and triple glazing on the windows.

    Today it has been all downhill, back to earth, and staying in an albergue. Where some very kind Italian gentleman insisted I take a bottom bunk. People are so kind. I’m in Laza, in a cozy bar while the rain tumbles on my clean clothes, hanging on a line back at the albergue - too bad, I’m not leaving here to rescue them! And with very sore feet, sore ankles, and sore hips. A few injuries to my feet. I think a rest day is in order.

    Glimpses for the last week of the extraordinary work being done on the high speed rail line. The tunnelling is hard to believe. I can’t imagine how many billions of euros. Yesterday, on a tiny winding narrow mountain road, 7 cement mixer trucks passed us, one after another (with cheerful toots and waves), and lots of other heavy equipment.
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  • Day38

    Climbing mountains

    May 29, 2018 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    Whew! Yesterday was misty, cold and rainy and I was very glad to reach the little hotel in Padornelo just before the water really started to bucket down! It must be one of the best feelings in the world to sit in a warm restaurant looking out through plate glass windows at the rain, knowing you have walked 24km and are done for the day. The hotel was heavily booked with construction workers from the high speed Ave works (train). It must be an economic boon for this area, albeit temporary.

    From Padornelo I set forth this morning not really prepared for the strenuous ups and downs along the mountain path. Up, down, then up, up it seemed to go. Real scrambling in places and twice I lost my footing in mud and heavily decorated myself with Mother Earth. No damage to anything except my dignity.

    Some beautiful scenery, and the sound of water in streams beside the path, and waterfalls. Wading through water at times - when there is a rocky bottom it’s fine - it’s only mud I dislike!

    So eventually I made it to the pass at altitude 1,260 metres, and into Galicia. Then a few more kilometres to my accommodation, a little hotel in Vilavella.

    I think today was only about 20km. But steep. I am looking forward to dinner.
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  • Day36

    Castles, stone boats and wolves

    May 27, 2018 in Spain ⋅ 🌙 21 °C

    I’m in Pueblo de Sanabria, a small tourist town with a 13th century church, a 15th century castle, and a wolf sanctuary nearby. At the foot of the path over the mountains into Galicia - Santiago is getting closer.

    Getting here was a fairly painless 18km hike, with rain holding off until the last 20 minutes. Along paths that remind me of Galicia, culverts between moss covered stone walls, and then stretches of gorse and heather covered heath.

    Sanabria itself is lovely - steep narrow streets, stone houses with overhanging wooden balconies and slate roofs. A castle complete with stone boat. Legend has it that Jesus visited Sanabria dressed as a pilgrim and sought food from the locals. All refused him except some kindly women in the panadería (bakery). In anger, he struck the ground with his staff, whereupon Lake Sanabria sprang forth and drowned all except the kind women who climbed into the stone boat which was pushed by the river up to the high point beside the castle, where it still rests today.

    We are staying in a charming small hotel slap bang in the middle of town and opposite the best tapas bar. The albergue is across the river and out of town and is run by a rather dour couple. We like albergues but are selective! By sharing a room there is little difference in price. With the advantage you get your own sheets, towels and a good hot shower.

    Tomorrow looks a challenge. A very steep climb to 1350 metres. Let’s hope we are safe from the wolves.
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