Camino Way – Day 12

Travel back to UK

Next day we had a fairly early start as we were travelling to the airport by public transport. During the journey we could see more tired-looking walkers with scallop shells on their rucksacks making their way into Santiago.

“Good luck fellow pilgrims.”

What an experience!

At the airport we boarded the plane eventually and after a two and a half hours flight we landed at Gatwick, where we said our farewells to Derek before heading off to catch the train back home to the West Midlands.

Camino Way – Days 9, 10 & 11

Rest Days

The following two days, due to flight alterations, we had a chance to do a little sightseeing, so on day one we went to La Corounna by train. Steve had visited the town sometime ago and he was able to show us around some of the general places of interest and the harbour where we had lunch in a restaurant before jumping on a bus to take us back to the train station later in the afternoon. Once on the train, we had a relaxing journey back to Santiago.

In the evening we wandered into Santiago’s town square to find a restaurant. As it was early there were not many places open, so we went to the same restaurant as the previous night but, unfortunately, the service wasn’t up to the same standard. After our meal we meandered back to our hotel to call it a day.

The next day Steve woke with a throat infection. Due to a national holiday in Spain many chemist type places were closed so we ended up going to the local hospital.

After his treatment, Steve was given a prescription which meant we now had to find a pharmacy that was open. Eventually we found one, so with medication purchased, we now had time to relax whilst we wandered the narrow streets of Santiago at leisure.

As we entered a small open square near some shops, we came across several groups of local people in costume

preparing for a procession through the town. We watched a while taking photos and try find out what was happening, but we no one could tell us.

After the morning’s excitement of Steve and the hospital visit, we decided it was time we had a coffee break before further enjoyment.

Once refreshed we continued to walk around the many winding streets when we stumbled upon the local fish and produce market.

This I thought was most interesting with all the different types of fish, crabs, lobsters and meats on offer, compared to back home.

We spent some time in the market before wandering over to the cathedral. Inside we joined the queue to see and pass by the shrine of St James, the patron saint of Spain;

legend has it his remains are held here. We walked around slowly and absorbed the atmosphere.

On exiting on to the streets we came across the people we had seen earlier in the procession. At this point we still didn’t know what it was for or why.

We entered a shop to buy gifts for Steve’s grandchildren and Steve asked the shop keeper what the procession was about.

We learnt it was the Galician Literature Day (Dia das Lestras Galegas) and was to commemorate the publication of Cantares Gallegos (1863) written by Galicia’s most famous poet; each year is dedicated to a different author.

We stood outside the shops and watched the procession go by.

After the procession it was time for lunch, so we headed back to the restaurant just off the main square that we’d visited when we had just finished the walk ………… and a very pleasant lunch it was too.

After lunch we wandered through the town and headed towards the local park. The temperature now was getting too hot to be in the open so we headed to the local park, we needed some shade from the trees. Once in the park we followed the tree lined paths, when suddenly Steve spoke to a couple of overly dressed ladies but, as usual, there was no response – they didn’t speak English!

As Derek was taking a group photo, I noticed from behind that one of the ladies was reaching out to Steve. ‘Strange,’ I thought. She could have been a pickpocket for all we know so we left quickly!

We made our way back to the hotel to finish our packing, rest and freshen up before going in to town to find somewhere to eat and party.

We left our hotel and discussed wanting to eat outside as it was still very warm. We headed off to find a restaurant and eventually found one in the square, near the university, where lots of locals were dining.

We had a few aperitifs in a bar opposite, keeping an eye out for a vacant table and just people watching in general.

Suddenly we saw an opportunity. Some people were just about to leave, so we dashed over to occupy the seats before anyone else could get them……..and, a further bonus during the rush, we never spilt our drinks!

Now seated we ordered more aperitifs to calm our excitement of the dash; it also gave us an opportunity to check out the menu.

‘What could be better than this?’ we thought, ‘A meal out in the open air, taking in the sights of Santiago Compostela.’ The restaurant was buzzing with diners, relaxing and enjoying themselves, and we were just soaking up the atmosphere and experience.

After the meal, as darkness fell, we eventually started to make our way back to our hotel through the narrow bustling streets, seeing lots of the restaurants open and busy with customers, inside and outside, eating and drinking. It was as if the whole of Santiago had come to life. People were everywhere; it was difficult to walk along whilst trying to avoid everybody, and not accidentally bump into someone.

Finally we were back at the hotel – the end of our last night and a memorable occasion.

Camino Way – Day 8

Rua to Santiago 20Km (12.5 miles)

At breakfast people were slowly appearing, just as others were leaving early. The road was wet from last night’s rain but now the sun was breaking through the morning mist. This looked promising for our final day’s walk of the Camino. As we stepped outside the air was cold, but the sun was shining, giving us the feel good factor.

We followed the road to rejoin the Camino Way and as we walked through the first village of the day everywhere was closed as it was still early. Going down the hill, we sighted up ahead the N547 to Santiago that we needed to cross. As we arrived at the side of the busy road, we could see the route in front of us; there were pilgrims ahead on the path and others joining from different directions.

We carefully crossed the road and followed the path, now entering a forest which had a strong smell of pine. We followed the path for approximately four kilometres passing monuments, derelict houses and farms, overtaking slower pilgrims with the usual, and may I say, near perfect Spanish of, “Hola,” “Buen Camino,” “Gracias”!

Now in Amenal, we passed under the N547 along a well used path that borders the perimeter fence of Santiago airport and runways.

We followed the path and arrived at a monument which read ‘Santiago’.

As we walked around and away from the airport perimeter, we entered a small village where there were lots of pilgrims resting and drinking coffee so we joined the masses and had a coffee break. It was interesting here as we met up with other people we had seen, or met, on the way. After a while the sun was becoming a little unpleasant to sit in so we were soon ready to continue the last part of the Camino.

We joined the path which led us up a steep hill and back into the woods. Nearing the top of the hill we met up with the Texan ladies, Cathy & Suzanne, and we all agreed to meet up in Santiago for a celebratory drink. As we left them to continue their walk, up ahead we could just see pilgrims who were either in small groups or by themselves. Some were walking purposefully whilst others seemed to be suffering with tired feet or with other problems.

We caught up with one lady from Australia who was walking with family friends; they had become separated due to tiredness, but she could still see them up ahead. They had started in St. Jean Pied de Port, France, and she was looking forward to finishing today. As we were walking much more easily than she was, we moved on wishing her good luck and “Buen Camino.”

We continued walking past houses and an industrial compound. The scenery was a little uninteresting which, I suppose, was because we were near a city. On a boringly straight road, two female students came striding past and Steve passed a comment about their speed, to which they replied they just wanted to finish as they were so tired. They told us they were from Australia, both working towards degrees, now on holiday and they too had started from St. Jean Pied de Port. On that point we wished them good luck as they upped their pace.

We passed through San Paio, walking uphill to Lavacolla and then climbed a ramp opposite a church, heading towards Vilamaior. From here we made our way to the Monte del Gozo (Hill of Joy)

where we had the first views of the three spires of our destination, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. At the top of the mount is a modern religious sculpture and there were lots of people taking photos, placing trinkets at its base or just walking around it admiring the structure.

As we looked towards Santiago we could see two people some distance in front of us and recognised one of the rucksacks. Sami and Auntie Alicia

were also admiring the views so we went over to chat before wishing them, “Buen Camino,” and leaving them to their thoughts.

We were now descending the hill to what looked like a school and, as we neared the bottom of the hill, there was a collection of strange looking stones for sale

We looked at them a while before setting off again down some stairs and crossing a bridge over the AP9.

We arrived at the city sign, Santiago de Compostela; it had been covered with sticky labels, trinkets and flowers that people had tied to it.

We did the usual and had a photo taken by the sign. Just as we were about to walk away three Canadian cyclists appeared and asked us to take their photo with their camera, which we did. We crossed the road and were now amongst shops, stores and office buildings,

still following the scallop shell signs on the floor and the kilometre markers along the route to Rua of San Pedro towards the city centre.

We were walking for some time and the surroundings were now very much those synonymous with a city: more and more shops, apartments, offices and a large amount of traffic. As we neared the centre we could see the top of the cathedral on the skyline. The streets were becoming narrower, there were more people. We arrived at the Plaza de Cervantes

to now head downhill to

Praza do Obradoiro and the impressive Cathedral of Santiago. In the middle of the square there is actually an inscription on the ground telling people they have reached their destination. Here, pilgrims were resting on the floor, others were congratulating each other with hugs and smiles of achievement; this was the end of the pilgrimage.

All we could do now was admire such a magnificent building that stood before us, despite the scaffolding for the renovation work, it is a magnificent building.

After a while we decided to go to the offices to claim our certificates of completion of the pilgrimage. As we walked down the street, there were Sami and her aunt sitting having lunch and a beer. Sami told us that the swinging of the orb was to happen this evening around seven o’clock, so after a quick chat and telling us which building was the Pilgrim’s Office, we were off again to claim our certificates, now feeling tired as the day was drawing to a close.

At the Pilgrim’s Office we were guided to the back of a slow moving queue;

there must have been near a hundred people in front of us.

After a good hour and a half we eventually reached the reception desk, showed our passports of the journey and answered a few minor questions before being given our certificate or ‘Compostela’.

Now it was time for a celebratory drink or two.

As we left the office expecting to see Sami and Alicia, they were nowhere to be seen. It had obviously been too long a wait for them so it was off to the nearest bar for a little refreshment. Whilst celebrating with a drink and discussing the walk, we decided it might be very pleasant to come back to this bar / restaurant for our evening meal so we booked a table. We spent some time enjoying the moment and hoped we might see Cathy & Suzanne (the ladies from Texas) before heading off to our accommodation but, unfortunately, they were not around.

After booking into our accommodation, a long awaited shower and a change of clothes we set off to the cathedral. Once inside, we were guided around the pews till we found an ideal spot next to the main isle where the orb, or incense burner, would be swung. The mass began and was fairly easy to follow. After about thirty minutes a priest appeared carrying something which was smoking. He placed it into the orb and the cathedral began to fill with the aroma of incense. More priests (tiraboleiros) appeared at the side and suddenly the orb was lifted and pushed away by the first priest who then stepped aside to join the others. All this time the service carried on.

As the incense burner was swinging, the tiraboleiros pulled down on the rope to create the soaring pendulum effect. As it gathered momentum it swung past the ends of the pews and looked like it would hit the roof of the cathedral, but it didn’t and from this point it was allowed to slow down gradually.

Still filled with awe from this wonderful sight, we went outside where we saw Denise, Heather and Carol, who we first met on day three at Portomarin. We discussed the moving experience before going our separate ways for dinner.

During our meal that evening we talked about the events of the past few days and the people we’d met on the way. This was followed by a walk around the square in front of the cathedral. As we passed the arches of a building there was a traditional Spanish group playing instruments. People had gathered to watch, so we had to take a look. There, in front of the group, were two Japanese gents dancing to the music, and everyone was enjoying the atmosphere.

After a perfect day of meeting fellow pilgrims and being entertained it was time to turn in for the night.

Camino Way – Day 7

Arzua to Rua 19km (11.87 miles)

After breakfast we could see there was light rain, but the type of rain that makes you very wet in no time at all. I decided to try out my new £1.99 poncho that was a mistake! It turned out to be absolutely useless.

The start point today was a few yards from our accommodation. We walked down the steps behind our hotel onto a quiet road, and then straight on until the last house of the town, following more pilgrims; the weather was not showing any signs of improving. As we were leaving Arzua we came to a small church and had a look inside, along with other people, then continued on our way towards Pregonotono, passing under the N547.

We were now walking through lots of wooded areas and crisscrossing the main N547 leading to Santiago, basically walking parallel with the major road. We went through some pretty, tranquil, and somewhat wet, villages – Calzada, A Calle and Brea – until we reached O Emplame. Here we were looking for signs to Santa Irene and discovered the route by following other pilgrims. As we arrived in Santa Irene our guide book suggested we visit the chapel, but as we were feeling cold and wet we carried on into the forest until we saw a sign showing an alternative route to avoid crossing the major road. According to the guide book this was the direction to take, but all it did was lead us to a hostel and a cafe’ that was closed, so we crossed the road again, back into the eucalyptus woods towards the village of Santa Irene. At this point we walked up a hill very close to the road and at the top were a couple of cafés, so we decided to have a coffee break. The drizzle had ceased but we were wet and feeling very, very cold. We stopped at the nearest café. Inside it was difficult to find a table as there were bodies everywhere – people just sitting, eating, supping hot drinks or queuing for toilets – and the air felt damp too, due to wet coats hanging up to dry off in the heat of the room.

As luck would have it someone was just leaving. We ordered coffees and got out of our wet gear. After half an hour or so, and being warmer than we had been, it was time to move on. Our wet coats, although now drier, were still horrible to put on but it had to be done.

Outside we crossed the N547 again and headed back into the eucalyptus forest looking for signs to Rua and O Pino, our next hotel. As we walked through the forest the trees were giving us some shelter and the ground didn’t appear to be wet. We passed a monument and started to descend a much narrower path, our guide notes telling us to look out for the Rua Tourist Office.

At the end of the path, and what looked like a small village street ahead, there was our Tourist Office, closed. At this point we had to turn right as our hotel was two hundred metres straight ahead.

We arrived at reception, booked in and went to our rooms very quickly. Steve had a look round and found a drying room so it was all wet clothes off and into the drier. Whilst this was happening we each had a hot shower and a change into warm clothing. Once the wet clothes had dried we went down to the bar for a drink and tapas. As we entered the lounge bar the two ladies from Texas whom we’d met in Palas de Rei, but didn’t know their names, were having a quiet drink – but not for long.

Steve noisily introduced us and they reciprocated, telling us they were Cathy & Suzanne.

Whilst Steve & Derek discussed how the walk was going I chatted to a lady from Norway who was walking the Camino alone and had started from St. Jean Pied de Port, France. This was her first ever long distance walk and when I asked what training she had done in preparation she replied, “Play a lot of golf!”

Following the tapas and a drink we booked a table for our evening meal then retired for the afternoon.

In the evening we had an aperitif before going to dinner and as we entered the busy dining room we could see that most of the clients were fellow pilgrims. We had a pleasant meal and after coffee we retired for the evening

Camino Way – Day 6

Melide to Arzua 13km (8.12 miles)

The breakfast area this morning was busy with locals and a few fellow pilgrims. After a hearty repast we soon prepared ourselves for the next stage to Arzua and as we were leaving we looked around to say goodbye to Jackie, but there was no sign of her. Stepping outside it was overcast with a slight drizzle and walking through the town we passed by a Sunday market

which was already busy at 9o’clock. To our surprise we met Sami & Alicia and exchanged pleasantries with them before going on our way. Within a few metres we were walking uphill, a steep hill, which, as you well know by now, isn’t good for the digestive system so soon after breakfast. We were walking mainly through forests, crossing rivers and streams via large stepping stones

which could have been tricky in heavy rain. There were several ascents today and I remember going up one particular long, steep hill with small cafés en route; unfortunately they were all full so we didn’t stop.

We walked through eucalyptus and pine trees and through the quiet villages of Bonete and Castaneda to Rabadiso where we reached the bridge over the River Iso.

There was a café open but as it was lunch time it was busy so we crossed the bridge and continued to Arzua.

We were now walking uphill again towards the town and the major N547 road. As we were near the top a voice from behind spoke. It was Jackie, the lady we’d met yesterday; she had set off early whilst her friend, who was suffering with pneumonia, had gone ahead in a taxi to meet her at the next accommodation. The others in her party were nowhere to be seen!

Approaching the town, which appeared busier than I’d expected for a Sunday, the rain started and this time it wasn’t just drizzle. At this point Jackie decided to take shelter for a while as she had another kilometre to walk outside of Arzua town. She was meeting her husband who was to walk the rest of the Camino with her before they went on holiday together. We said our goodbyes and continued into town where we soon found our hotel. As we approached the entrance we could see a line of suitcases outside under a canopy, but couldn’t see ours. On booking in we were told our cases were in our rooms.

After a quick check and a change from our wet gear it was back to reception to ask for recommendations of where to have lunch. Once we had directions we were off. Within five minutes we were having refreshments and tapas and as we liked the place we decided to eat there later, so we booked a table for the evening.

As the weather had improved we decided to have a walk round to check out other restaurants. There were some interesting, but expensive, places to eat so we decided to return to our hotel for some relaxation.

As we crossed the road and turned the corner we met Sami & Alicia who had just arrived in town and were looking for their accommodation. As it turned out we were standing right outside it and hadn’t noticed!!

We went back to our rooms for a warm shower and rest and then spent a very pleasant evening in a wonderful atmosphere with lots of people eating and enjoying themselves. After our meal we headed back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.

Camino Way – Day 5

Palas de Rei to Melide 15km (9.4 miles)

After breakfast we were in the foyer saying goodbye to our hosts and looking outside at the showers when Steve asked if they wouldn’t mind taking our group photo. Once outside, but in the doorway, this was done and then Steve insisted they should be in the photo as well,

so they joined us; it was all very friendly and jovial. We said our goodbyes and were off. The rain had stopped by now and it was just drizzling. We needed to find the route again and within a few metres of our hotel we saw pilgrims so we followed them out of town.

After an hour’s walking the temperature was even cooler than previous days. What looked like the start of a shower turned out to be hailstones, this only lasted a minute or so then cleared again. As we walked through a forest and on to Ponte Campana we caught up with the two ladies we’d seen in the restaurant last night. As Steve chatted he found out they were from Texas, U.S.A.

and were enjoying the Camino. Soon after we said the usual, “Buen Camino,” and “Adios,” before leaving them to the rest of the day’s walk.

By now the sun was beginning to show itself again. The path was much as before, going alongside roads then entering forests. Following pilgrims ahead,

we crossed several small

rivers using ancient foot bridges. As we neared the village of Furelos we crossed the final bridge of the day;

it was very busy here with pilgrims gathering to take photos of each other. We found our way through the crowds, across the village square and on to the town of Melide and our hotel.

As we entered the town we saw a lady walker. We had seen her earlier with her friends, but now she was alone. She was looking at her itinerary of which hotel she was staying at and where to find it. When Steve asked if she was OK, she said she’d had a dispute with the others and had been left to fend for herself. On checking in which hotel she was staying, it turned out she was at the same one as us, so she joined us to walk into town.

As we walked we introduced ourselves and she was Jackie from Australia, but originally from New Zealand. She had been walking with five other friends but the group had split up over a disagreement. During our chat we found out that one of the ladies had become ill with suspected pneumonia, and was now travelling via a taxi to the various locations because there were no hospitals until Santiago.

Eventually we arrived at the hotel and said we would book in, then find somewhere to have lunch. Steve invited Jackie to join us and we met up later in the foyer before heading off into town.

It wasn’t long before we were walking down the narrow streets and could hear music being played. As we turned a corner some musicians were playing,

so we watched them a while. Looking around we saw a handy little bar with locals having tapas and drinks. This was very inviting so we went in, got a table easily and chatted a while whilst waiting for drinks. We said about finding the restaurant that was famous for a local speciality, “pulpo” or octopus to us. It was here we planned to eat that evening.

We eventually found the restaurant and discovered we had actually walked past it on our way to the hotel. Heading back to our accommodation, Jackie asked if she could join us for the evening and we agreed a time to meet up in the foyer.

After freshening up with a shower and a rest we met as planned and set off to find somewhere for an aperitif or two before our meal.

The temperature had dropped again and the evening was now quite cool. As we passed the adjoining restaurant to our hotel we saw a group of ladies staring at us. It turned out they were the other members of Jackie’s walking group.

We found a small bar, had a drink then headed to the restaurant for dinner. Checking the menu, other than the speciality it was fairly simple food. Jackie was attempting to encourage Steve & Derek to try the octopus, along with telling us how she cooks it back home, so we ordered a small portion. When the food arrived it looked OK, but was somewhat basic and when it came to tasting the octopus, which I thought was very nice, Steve & Derek were reluctant.

They did eventually taste it, but were not keen and didn’t want any more, so Jackie & I made short work of it.

As we finished our meals and were chatting, Sami and her Auntie Alicia arrived;

they were eating there too. We gave them our opinions about the meals before returning to our hotel where the adjoining restaurant was still busy, which was surprising as it was late. The friend with whom Jackie was sharing a room was actually the lady who was ill and she wanted to check on her, so off she went leaving us to have a coffee and a night cap before retiring for the night.

Camino Way – Day 4

Portomarin to Palas de Rei 24kms (15.4 miles)

It was an early start as it was to be our longest day of walking and the breakfast area was busy. The weather had changed, it now looked overcast and threatening to rain. Once we had finished breakfast and placed our bags in reception we were off for the day’s walk. As we stepped outside into the cold air we looked around and saw Sami walking towards us as the route actually passed the front of our hotel. We said, “Good morning,” and had a natter before continuing on our way together.

We were high up in the town

and the route led us down to the river. Ahead we could see lots of early pilgrim walkers so the route wasn’t difficult to follow. Sami stopped to take photos whilst we carried on.

We soon crossed the bridge over the river Mino, following the signs up our first long climb of the day, which is just what you want after breakfast! The path, which climbs through the woods around the Embalse (reservoir) de Belesar before joining a main road, became busier as people were struggling and slowly walking up the steep incline.

What was funny was listening to the different nationalities of walkers all gasping and struggling to say, “Buen Camino,” as we walked by and “Gracias,” in reply to our “Buen Camino.”

After a while we were soon at the top of the hill and shortly to join the road, which we crossed several times. Although it was a main road, it wasn’t that busy so we were able to cross safely.

Ahead we could see we were getting closer to another group of pilgrims and when we met up with them it turned out to be the Canadians, (from right to left) Denise and Heather, plus the American lady, Carol, from yesterday.

We enjoyed a little banter to break up the gloomy weather and left them still smiling.

The path was much gentler now and we were walking through several small villages and passing farms. As we followed one bend, and approaching a small cluster of buildings, there were pilgrims outside what looked like the possibility of a café. What a good time for a coffee break!

Rest over, we continued on our way. As we approached the village of Gonzar, the square was busy with pilgrims having coffee and/ or breakfast, so we walked on and were joined by the couple from Norwich whom we’d met in Sarria on our arrival. They were walking a much faster pace so didn’t stop to chat, just spoke a little as they passed by.

Lots of grey clouds were appearing and rain looked ominous, so we decided to don waterproofs as a precaution.

There was a lot of crisscrossing the road till we eventually started our highest climb of the day to Sierria Ligonde at 720m (2,362ft) followed by a gentle descent to Portos. In one of the villages there was a coffee store with locals outside and pilgrims resting.

A young local girl was trying to get people to stop for coffee, shouting, “Free hugs,” which was quite amusing, Steve stopped for a hug

or two

but we didn’t have time; we were changing out of our waterproofs. In the background we saw cattle were approaching;

the farmer was moving his herd to another field on the outskirts of the village.

The cows just walked on as they knew where to go, with the farmer and his dog keeping them in check, holding up traffic

without a care in the world and no complaints from following motorists, which was great to see. The locals in action.

At this point we could have taken a detour to Vilar de Donas to see a monument which would have added an extra 2 kilometres on the day’s walk, but with an ominous looking sky we decided against it and descended the hill

into Palas de Rei. The weather had stayed overcast and cool.

As we entered the town, down some steps and passing a church, San Roque Park was opposite. According to our information our hotel was close by and as we crossed the main road we could see it up a side street.

At the hotel our hosts made us very welcome and when we asked for suggestions as to where to eat in the evening they were very helpful.

We were shown to our rooms where we just put our rucksacks down, changed from our walking boots and were off to find somewhere for lunch. At a restaurant close by we decided to check it out first; it was fine so ordered drinks.

As we were partaking of refreshments, the lady owner, who spoke very good English, asked if we were walking the Camino. As the conversation became involved with plenty of questions from her, Steve commented on her use of English. Apparently she had lived in the UK for nearly 30 years until she’d divorced and moved back to Spain.

So now it was time to go back to our hotel, to freshen up and rest awhile. We said, “Adios,” trying out our Spanish you see.

As we left we then looked around to find the restaurant, as suggested by our hosts, which was just two minutes from the hotel. It looked good so we booked a table.

As we were heading back to our accommodation, we met Sami and her aunt who were looking for somewhere to eat later on. We were introduced to Auntie Alicia who looked more like a sister, she was quite young looking. After chatting for a short while, we returned to our hotel whilst Sami and Alicia went to check out other restaurants.

It was raining that evening so our hosts offered us hotel guest umbrellas as we were leaving, which was kind, but there was no need as it was a very short walk to a bar. Here we had an aperitif or two before going to the restaurant.

As we entered the restaurant we saw Danny and two fellow lady pilgrims. We asked what they would recommend and they suggested a couple of meals to try out. Soon after they left.

We looked through the menu and decided what we were having. The evening was both relaxing and enjoyable and helped by a very nice bottle of wine.

Then it was time to return to our hotel for a good night’s sleep.

Camino Way – Day 3

Sarria to Portomarin 22kms (13.7 miles)

After breakfast we left the hotel around 08:30. Stepping outside was a bit of a shock as it was quite cold, despite the sun shining. As we walked through the town the streets were empty. We followed the yellow signs for the Camino Way; painted arrows

scallop shells and paintings on the floor or walls.

The first sign was within yards from the hotel

We turned a few corners before seeing our first group of pilgrims outside a shop, with what appeared to be a guide giving instructions.

We walked past them to begin climbing up three flights of steps.

Passing the various café bars open with people inside chatting loudly over breakfast, we neared the end of town whilst still following the yellow signs and gaining more height. We arrived at the top of a hill and just past what was the juvenile prison

in its day. There was also a viewing area overlooking the town

so we could see more of the landscape over Sarria. We stopped for the first photo shoot of the day and then walked on passing the old market Campo da Feira, which has existed since the 14th century, before descending a steep hill, being careful of passing cars where parents were dropping off children at the local school.

At the bottom of the hill we headed off across a stream to follow the path climbing through woodland, now seeing more pilgrims.

As we were passing them,

we heard the first of the many sayings – ‘Hola’, ‘Buen Camino’, ‘Gracias’.

Still climbing the path, it became wider

and easier to pass others and it was more open with views across the land. We could also see in the distance the viaduct

we had travelled over the previous day on our way to Sarria.

The route took us past some very old outbuildings which looked like they may collapse in a strong wind; they were obviously still in use as there was equipment inside.

Now the morning began to feel warmer. The path was good which helped us to make steady progress, and as we reached a small village a group of Chinese ladies were outside their accommodation, waiting to have their photo taken. They saw us passing and waved to us shouting, “Buen Camino.” We replied with a wave and returned the phrase, “Buen Camino,” loudly.

As we continued through the village we arrived at a shop selling T shirts, hand carved walking sticks, trinkets

of all kinds and scallop shells. We purchased our shells and tied them on to our rucksacks to show we were true pilgrims before having our passports stamped.

We continued along the path for some time until we came across what looked like a restaurant/coffee shop.

There were no other buildings around to indicate we were in a village so we decided to stop for coffee as there were other walkers taking a break here.

After we removed our rucksacks to sit down, to our surprise Sami appeared and joined us.

After coffee she was on her way but we stayed a little longer to soak up the sun and atmosphere. As more pilgrims were arriving we thought it was time to go, so decided to set off along the path

heading to Portomarin for the night’s accommodation.

We later arrived at the high point at Momientos overlooking the town of Portomarin,

with lovely views all round, only to be given a leaflet by a man advertising his restaurant in the town and showing us the way to go as there were two routes to follow.

We descended the hill, passing through another small hamlet of houses

and farm buildings and came to a signpost offering an alternative route. One path was 902 metres whilst the other was 565 metres. It was not difficult to decide; it was getting hotter by the minute and we just wanted to get there, so we took the shorter route. Also, as there were other pilgrims in front of us showing the way and we thought it would be a good idea.

As we went down the path into what can only be described as a gully, with high sided sandstone walls, crumbling sand & gravel stepping stones, boulders with large uneven steps down and extreme care required, it came across our minds that the longer route may have been the safer one!

As we finally arrived at the bottom of the gully, we immediately stepped out on to a road, which was quiet, with views across the River Mino and the Belesar reservoir.

We crossed the bridge over the River Mino and ahead of us was the staircase which the guide books recommend we walk up as it leads into the town. This was all we needed on a hot day. Phew! We climbed the staircase and at the top looked back at the wonderful views over the river and we could see other people crossing the bridge. As we watched the pilgrim behind us climb the stairs with ease, despite carrying a large Bergen rucksack,

we congratulated him on his efforts, to which he replied, “It’s no problem. I am in the Norwegian army and normally carry much heavier weights than this.”

As we entered the town we soon found our hotel, booked in and asked the receptionist for advice as to where to eat later on. We then headed off

to look for the central square of

Praza Conde de Fenosa,

which was easy to find, and here we had lunch

overlooking the Romanesque fortress of St John.

After lunch we were off to sort a venue for our evening meal. We walked around the town but found ourselves back at the restaurant where we’d had lunch and decided this would as good as anywhere, so we booked a table.

We were heading back to our hotel when we came across two French ladies taking photos of each other. They asked for one of us to take their picture by the statue and Steve, being a gentleman, leapt forward to oblige. They returned the favour

and in conversation we found they were from Bordeaux and enjoying their holiday.

To our horror they were not walking the Camino, arrrrrgh! NOT PILGRIMS.

After a little repartee and a few photos later, they asked if we could recommend anywhere for them to eat that evening and we just said that we were eating in the restaurant where we’d had lunch.

After a short while we bid them “Farewell. “Au revoir,” “Adios,” with a friendly smile and a wave. We headed off to check out a restaurant that had earlier been suggested to us, but after eventually finding it the menu didn’t look inviting enough, so we decided to stay with our original plan and eat where we’d had lunch.

As we approached our hotel we saw Sami who was looking for a place to eat, so we suggested she joined us for dinner if she wanted. After a brief chat we three amigos decided to check out another restaurant/bar nearby and have a beer.

It was a good menu, with views across the reservoir, but very expensive for pilgrims, so we had a beer or two on the patio to get over the shock.

There were two Canadian ladies who had obviously been there for some time as they were a little raucous. One of them was having problems with her foot and was receiving a foot massage from a male pilgrim who happened to be a chiropractor. We could hear from the loudness they were having fun and then they shouted across the patio to us, introducing themselves and discussing the Camino. Another lady joined them but she was from New York and walking the Camino for the second time, which was impressive. As the banter subsided we said our goodbyes and headed to our hotel.

Later in the evening we had a casual walk into town; the weather was still pretty warm. We arrived at the restaurant and given a table inside, which was wonderful as the air conditioning was on. After we had an aperitif and checked out the menu Sami appeared. She had decided to join us for dinner which was great. Whilst discussing the events of the day’s walk, the two French ladies we’d met earlier appeared. They came over to talk but the restaurant, being small, had nowhere for them to sit, so after a few pleasantries they said, “Au revoir,” and left.

During the meal there was an even bigger surprise when in came the two Canadian ladies, (Denise & Heather). They had seen us eating and decided to drop in to noisily say hello. It was a brief moment, and then they left. After a very pleasant evening, we said goodnight to Sami and returned to our hotel.

Camino Way – Day 2

Gatwick to Sarria

We were ready to transfer to the airport at 04:30; it was a cold, fresh morning and still dark. Our minibus arrived and we were soon loaded up and on our way with other people squeezed into the vehicle.

At the departure terminal we booked in and went through the security checks, only to have my shower gel and sun cream confiscated as I had too much and Derek had his favourite Swiss army pen knife of 20 plus years taken away.

Soon we boarded the flight and were on our way. Nearly two hours later

The Pilgrim Brothers / Los Peregrinos Hermanos landed in Spain.

The weather was overcast, misty and with some light rain. As we stepped outside the airport to find the bus to take us to Lugo, we made our first contact with fellow pilgrims. As we chatted, we were introduced to David, Danny & Sami, all independent travellers. David was from Gloucester, Danny from Brighton and Sami from London. After a forty minutes wait the bus finally arrived and as we wanted to be sure it was the right one people started to talk to the driver who, unfortunately, didn’t speak English. Then to our relief, Sami stepped forward and spoke to the driver in Spanish.

She told us it was the right bus and bags/cases needed to be put in the luggage compartment. Once on board we were soon on our way. As we drove through some of the local towns we could see pilgrims walking towards Santiago. It was also a good opportunity to snatch a few minutes sleep.

We arrive in Lugo bus station where we had to change buses and find our next one. As we were checking the destination board, Sami came over and told us there were two buses – one which was slower, going to all the villages or the fast one which went through two towns to Sarria. The problem was the faster one was due to depart at 3:00pm, so we would have to wait around for one and a half hours.

As we decided to wait, we left our cases in the left luggage store and explored Lugo;

after walking around the town it was time for lunch.

Lugo was interesting; the sort of place we really needed to stay longer to learn a little more about the town. We only had time to visit one cathedral and walk part of the Roman wall before heading back to the bus station.

We met up again with Sami, David & Danny and boarded the bus for the final leg of today’s journey.

We arrived in Sarria and thanked Sami for her help with the language issues. As we removed our cases from the bus, we had a group photo

before going our separate ways to find our respective hotels.

Following directions from Macs Adventure travel guide and asking some of the locals where the hotel was (this was fun in itself), we were eventually shown to the path leading to the hotel by a very smart looking gentleman.

We booked in and received our travel documents from the local travel company, in partnership with Macs Adventure. This included a book of route directions, an information booklet of the local areas en route, a list of hotels and our essential individual pilgrim passports for the walk.

This passport had to be stamped at least twice a day to prove we had walked the distance of the Camino so as to receive our certificates at the end.

We arranged a time to meet up in the foyer after a shower, rest and change of clothes before looking for a restaurant for our evening meal.

I met Steve as arranged but he and Derek had already been out and found a restaurant nearby. As we stepped outside the hotel it was noticeable just how the temperature had dropped in the evening. We walked over a footbridge and about 100yards away was the restaurant where Derek was waiting and had reserved a table. To our surprise David and Danny were also eating there.

After a refreshing drink, a little tapas and

a chat with Danny & Dave about their meal, two other pilgrims came into the restaurant. It turned out they were from Norwich and were shortly followed by two more pilgrims who came from Vancouver.

Now it was time for us to dine. We sat down to look through the menu when we had an even bigger surprise. Sami arrived and joined us for dinner. During the meal we asked if she was walking the Camino by herself. She replied, she was meeting her aunt in Palas de Rei and would walk to Santiago with her.

The meal was filling and welcoming. What a splendid end to what was a very long day.

Camino Way – Day 1

Travel to Gatwick

We travelled on the 09:40 train from home to Birmingham in order to catch the train to London Euston. As we boarded the busy train, a young man was sitting amongst our reserved seats, with his work bags also occupying a seat. He was wearing an orange gilet with white stripes, the sort worn by train employees. When he realised the situation he politely moved to allow us to take our seats.

After about thirty minutes, Steve spoke to him discussing his travel destination. The young man then took great pleasure in informing us he worked for the rail service and was travelling to a meeting in London.

Creating conversation, Steve then asked about HS2, the super fast train the government was planning. The young man started to tell us about how it’s all developing, what to look for at the side of the tracks to see how it’s progressing, also how to compare tracks and fences, what it means when equipment is lying on its side, which buildings have to be demolished and which have to be preserved, how they are working with various green agencies to protect wild life, diverting water & drainage etc ………. really interesting information!

He talked all through our lunch, giving more and more information about HS2 and then, as we arrived in London, he proceeded to educate us about the underground rail system – enthralling! As we arrived at Euston we parted company with a cheery farewell and started to walk away quickly.

Now it was time to dash from Euston to Victoria Station via the Underground.

With our bags in tow, as well as wearing a rucksack, it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park for a novice like me who is not used to the hustle & bustle of London, so it was going to be an experience.

Staying close enough to keep Steve in view was a challenge in itself. Then to deal with ticket barriers that didn’t open due to incorrect use of the tickets, so causing a build up of people behind me, almost pushing me through the gates, then walking on to steep descending escalators not knowing which side to stand to allow others to pass whilst still maintaining Steve in my sight was a big learning curve. Then off the escalator in full flow to find our next platform was yet another experience, with everyone either running or rushing past us; the good thing was everyone was moving in the same direction. Once at the platform, which was very narrow, the heat and the smell of fumes were noticeable, as was the closeness of the people to the edge. Within seconds the train arrived, luckily it stopped with the doors in front of us, and it was a squeeze on and from behind to board. Once in position we had to find something to hold on to for when the train moves it moves quickly. Then to be offered seats by two young ladies who must have thought we needed to sit down was a little hurtful to our pride and we politely declined. Now the train was moving, with an increase in noise and a shaking of the carriage. Hot air wafted between coaches via the open windows at each end of the carriage – this appeared to be the only ventilation – and it felt that as soon as we reached our maximum speed limit we began to slow down and stop.

Time for us to exit the train, as quickly as we could before the doors shut again. ….phew!!! What an experience, and at my time of life!

At Victoria Station it was much easier to find the next platform that would take us to Gatwick as there were painted lines on the floor to guide us. Again we had to deal with ticket barriers, but this time it was more interesting as some were not working so a guard checked tickets whilst another tried to sort the ticket barrier. Once through we were then hindered by a traveller who decided to stand still in order to put his tickets safely in his travel wallet so we had to step around him and rush on to the train where we luckily found seats.

Soon we were on our way to Gatwick, passing various landmarks I recognised from the television. Once at the station, it was a steady walk to our taxi pick up point, ready for our transfer to the hotel for the night and await Derek’s arrival later in the afternoon.

Derek arrived and, once settled in after his long journey, it was time for chat, light refreshments and dinner before calling it a night as we had a 3:40 call in the morning to take us to the airport.