Tag Archives: Camino de Santiago

The Beginning of the End

Santiago de Compostela to Negreira
Friday 5 December

Today I was walking again. Towards the end of the world, Finisterre. As it’s winter season, not many alburgues are open along the route. My only option was to walk twenty two kilometres. I could have a later start. I had arranged to meet my Camino angel for a final coffee. It was sad to say goodbye. I hope she finds some peace. It was a pleasure to share my Camino with her.

©Sally Arnold
Archway to the Plaza. Santiago de Compostela.

I walked out of the alburgue, again passing through the archway to the square below. Again, the piper was there this time serenading my departure from Santiago. Again, I was following the yellow arrows. The Camino Finisterre.

Not far along the path I met up with a Spanish woman. She had done most of the Caminos, including the Camino Finisterre several times. She owned an alburgue on the Camino Portuguese route, and spent the winter, when her alburgue was closed, walking other Caminos. She said The Way was her life.

A group of cyclists passed me, and one slowed down for a chat. I saw them again later when I stopped for lunch, and the others seemed to be teasing the one who had chatted with me. Charming flirts those Spanish men.

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Passing through Picturesque Villages.
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Stone Crest Detail.

I was a little stiff after not having walked much for a couple of days, and twenty two kilometers seemed a long slog, especially the last four kilometers. There were eight alburgues in town, but seven were closed for winter. When I arrived at Negreira the only open alburgue was at the far end of town. I was tired, and didn’t feel like walking back for dinner. I’d had a big lunch, and was contemplating going to bed. The Spanish woman I’d walked with earlier offered to share her food, as she had too much for one person. I contributed a can of emergency sardines I’d been carting since France, and we had a lovely dinner together.

The alburgue was full tonight, but we had cleverly nabbed the bottom bunks in a small room reserved for the disabled. If any wheelchairs turned up we would move, but unlikely.

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Every Story has a Middle

Negreira to Olveiroa
Saturday 6 December  

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A Dark and Misty Morning. Near Negreira

It was a long walk today. Over thirty three kilometres. Perhaps more, although I wasn’t sure if there were alburgues open further along the route. I started early, and stupidly forgot to have a coffee form the vending machine in the alburgue. Fogginess begets stupidity. It was twelve kilometers until coffee or breakfast. Dark and misty in the valleys below as I climbed the hills with interment downpours. The rain began to abate, and I was presented with a double rainbow. Two pots of gold! The path was not as well marked in this section, and I had to rely on landmarks from my guidebook.  I turned a corner and saw a tree that had grown and formed a complete circle as the two branches had joined at the top. It’s leaves were yellowing, and I thought it rather lovely.

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Circular Tree. Near Negreira

Finally stopping for coffee and breakfast I caught up with several others who had stayed at the alburgue the previous evening. They were all complaining of how noisy it had been in the dorm, I was glad of my ‘disabled room’, the snoring was also disabled. I walked for a while with an Irish man who had flown over for a long weekend just to walk this Camino. He had a similar job to me, and led walking tours in Ireland. He said he was a bit of a joke with his friends, as he spends his time off doing walks, mostly pilgrimages, and he’s an Irish Protestant! We walked together until the next town with a bar, where he very generously bought me a beer. After that I sped up, I was in afternoon fast walking mode. I was now keen to get to Finisterre, today my walking was about the destination, and I wasn’t so much enjoying the actual path.

©Sally Arnold
A Lone Tree with a Cloudy Sky.

Arriving in Olveriroa, I caught up with a girl I had met that morning. We were both keen to walk further, but unsure that any alburgues would be open, decided to stay. The municipal alburgue here was like a small village – a collection of delightful little stone houses, one with the reception, one with the kitchen, and several with sleeping facilities. There was a sign to find a bed, and the hospitaliro would be back later to pay. The first door we opened was a large two story dorm with lots of beds. As I had read there were several houses, I thought I would try some of the other doors. I opened the door of the smallest house, and it had one bunk bed on the ground floor, and the bathroom, and upstairs, another bunk and a single bed. We nabbed the upstairs, as it was probably going to be warmer. We were soon joined by a young Canadian man who lived in Santiago de Compostela. He chose the downstairs. No one else joined us, as they probably hadn’t checked the other houses, however the larger building filled up later.

It was freezing inside the room. The temperature on the camino had plummeted in the last couple of days. Winter was setting in. I would be zipping up my sleeping bag tonight. I was hungry, so went in search of food and warmth. I’d only had breakfast today. The only  bar in town was delightfully warm. I was joined by the Canadian, so we had dinner together. He worked teaching English in Spain. It was interesting talking to him about the cost of living in Spain, and life in general. We were later joined by the girl I had met earlier, and the Irish man, who had given up on the alburgue due to the noise the previous night – he had checked into a room at the bar. The camaraderie of new friends again made for another delightful Camino evening.

The End is the Beginning

Olveiroa to Finisterre
Sunday 7 December

Another long day of walking, as I wanted to make it to Finisterre before sunset. The days are much shorter now so I had to start in the dark (not actually that early, as it was still dark at eight thirty).

There is an option from Olveiroa to walk first to either Finisterre or Muxia. Finisterre was the end of the world, back when the earth was flat, beyond there be monsters. There have been pilgrimages here long before the Christian Camino. Muxia is where the body of Saint James (Santiago, Jacque, Jacob), was legendarily washed ashore covered in scollop shells. Recently you have been able to receive a Compostela for both of these pilgrimages. I wanted to go to Finisterre first, as to me it felt the right order.  I liked the romantic notion of Finis – Terre, the end of the world, to end my original planned route.

©Sally Arnold
A Folk in the Road,  Near Cee.

I was keen to arrive, but today I felt an overwhelming calmness. I was in no rush. It felt like the end. The paths were soft beneath my feet. I was looking forward to seeing the sea. The Atlantic. The first couple of towns I passed had alburgues open, I could have walked a little further yesterday. The rain stopped.  The path continued down, and up, then, there it was… the sea rose ahead. I had a quick intake of breath. I love the sea. I love the mountains, but I really love the sea. I could smell it, I’d missed it.

I was soon in the town of Cee, by the Sea! It was a bustling village, it seemed everybody was out for Sunday lunch, and it was market day. I was hungry, but still had a long walk if I wanted to get to Finisterre before dark. I walked through the town, following the yellow arrows which led up the hill, and down again… Perhaps I should have just followed the coast. As I was leaving town, my stomach got the better of me when I saw a sign for a pizza restaurant. Pizza, that would make a change. It wouldn’t take that long. I entered the bustling cafe, and was directed to the empty Resturant behind. I waited. I ordered a seafood pizza, and a half bottle of wine. The usual ‘free wine’ wasn’t included with this meal. I waited. I drank some wine and waited some more. The pizza eventually came, and it was worth the wait. Fresh seafood, thin, crispy. Just how I like it.

©Sally Arnold
To The End!

Time to get back on track. I was feeling content. It was a bit of a climb for this final stage, and the path was not that well marked, so had to keep an eye out for markers. There was a sudden turn to the left along a red muddy path, and two cyclists came plummeting down the hill towards me as the heavens opened. I jumped out of the way as I fumbled for my rain gear. Up the hill I climbed, and then the view! It was worth waking this direction. The maker had been painted with a message ‘to the end’, so to the end I continued. I felt light.

©Sally Arnold
Fading Light at Finisterre

I arrived into the town of Finisterre, and started to look for an open alburgue. I wanted to put down my pack and walk to Cape Finisterre, another few kilometres. All that was open was the municipal Albergue, it would have to do.  I was in a hurry as the light would soon start to fade. I checked in and deposited my bag. I was issued with my new Compostela, the certificate for the Pilgrimage from Santiago de Compostela to Finisterre.

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Lighthouse at the End of the World. Finisterre..
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Sun Setting on the Lighthouse at the End of the World. Finisterre.
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The Bronze Boot at the End of the World. Finisterre.

It was easier walking without my pack, but I had forgotten my trekking poles. I am used to walking with them, but no time to return. The light was dimming. I hurried. I could see the unusual deco style three story pyramid lighthouse ahead, but it was still some distance away. Cars were retuning, passing me in the opposite direction. I noticed a couple in the distance walking towards me. As I approached, they speed up, and crossed the road in my direction. He was grinning. It took me a moment to recognise him, my Brazillian friend! We hugged, and hugged again. His friend was his new girlfriend, whom he had convinced to fly from Brazil to join him on the Camino. We had walked out of Saint Jean Pied Port together, but had lost each other along the way. We had been sending messages, but hadn’t managed to catch up… until now. If it was a movie, it would have been too corny an ending. The beginning is the end. The end is the beginning. They were rushing to catch their bus back to Santiago, I was rushing to catch the last light at the end of the world. We hugged and parted. I grinned and felt the joy of yet again experiencing the magic of the camino. Full circle.

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From Paris to the End of the World! Finesterre.

It was getting dark, but there were still tinges of red in the western sky. I passed the lighthouse and the crowds of day-trippers. The smell of burnt clothing permeated the air. It has become a tradition for pilgrims to burn an article (or all) of their clothing here, and return Phoenix-like to the world. I climbed down the rocky cliff, cautious without my sticks. The tourists were snapping away, but I just wanted to sit and contemplate. I found a comfortable spot on the rocks with the sea crashing below. The red and orange soon turned to black, and the area emptied. I’d made it. I’d made it from Paris to the End of the World.

No, Really it’s the End

Finesterre to Muxia
Monday 8 December

My Camino was over. I felt an overwhelming calmness. I would continue to Muxia, but I had already completed the task I had set out to do. This was my epilogue.

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Early Morning. Finisterre.

I began early, it was a municipal albergue, and we had to be out by 8am. I crossed the road for coffee and breakfast, waiting for the sun to lighten my path. It was raining, but at least it wouldn’t be dark. Another 30km today, but there was no urgency. I was hoping I would catch up with my Dutch friend – he wasn’t in Finisterre and had walked ahead to Muxia – we still had that dinner date.

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Ancient Cross, Finisterre.
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Galician Stone Grain Barn. Near Muxia

I skirted the coast road in the drizzle, stopping for some final pictures of Finisterre at an ancient cross. I was enjoying walking with the smell of the ocean; and later on, only occasional glimpses. The picturesque landscape was dotted with the Galician stone grain barns that had become a feature of this area. It surprised me how similar they are in structure to the wooden rice barns in Indonesia where I live. The mostly undulating path was kind to my feet, however I was getting hungry. There were not many stops along the way today, and when I saw a sign for a bar, took the rather long uphill detour. I was too early for the menu, but coffee and a sandwich would have to suffice.

I passed the Spanish woman who had shared her meal a couple of days ago, she was doing the reverse walk to me. She wished me “Buen Camino en la vida” and I gave her directions to the bar. Soon after, I received a message from my Dutch friend – he was in Muxia and was waiting to have dinner with me. His message put a spring in my step, and I was now keen to get out of the cold and damp elements.

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The Road to Misty Muxia.
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Sanctuario de Nuestra Señora de la Barca. Muxia.

Approaching Muxia speed signs along the road announce “Muxia 50” – I had just turned fifty, so decided this was the place for me. In the distance I could see the rocky fronted seaside town. It didn’t look very big, but on arrival it was some distance still to walk to the alburge where my friend was waiting. It was a pleasure to see him. The very hospitable host made me a cup of tea, and made me feel very welcome. We were the only guests. My friend had opted for a private room, so I had the large and comfortable dorm to myself ( for now). After a shower we walked to the headland to see the magnificent Sanctuario de Nuestra Señora de la Barca church, built on the ocean rocks. The waves crashed against the craggy cliff, the sea was wild. We sat mesmerised, watching for more than an hour. There were not the crowds of Finisterre, it was raw and untamed. I liked it, there is magic here. Back a little on the cliff, we saw the final Camino marker, this yellow arrow had no distance indicated, there was nowhere else to go. Nearby we spent some time taking cheesy photos of each other jumping in the “I’ve made it” fashion in front of the raging ocean.

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I Made It! Muxia.

Returning to the town, we finally had our dinner date, of sorts – it was a nice enough restaurant, but not really the splash out meal we had planned. Tomorrow we will go to the tourist office to collect our final Compostela – there is an additional one available for walking to Muxia. Then we would catch a taxi back to Santiago de Compostela. Yes, a taxi. I had a plane to catch. my walk was over. The End. But we know it isn’t.

The Way Home

Muxia to Santiago de Compostela
Tuesday 9 December

We took our time packing up this morning. There was a bus back to Santiago, but it was either too early; or too late to fit in some last minute souvenir shopping.  We had booked a taxi. We left in search of breakfast, and our most important task for the day, to procure our final Compostela. As the tourist office was closed when we arrived, we ate breakfast; but it was still closed on our return. We had been informed that the Compostela was also available from the municipal office. Off we went. Unfortunately the actual certificate wasn’t really worth all the fuss. It was an ugly, non-design with (Oh MY God) Brush Script (horror of horrors, typography blasphemy), and not at all like the beautiful medieval looking latin one we had been issued in Santiago. There is a design project in the making.

Returning to the alburgue, our taxi was ready and waiting. It had taken us four days to walk to Muxia from Santiago de Compostela, but only a couple of hours to return. It was the first time for more than three months that my friend had been on any form of transport other than his own two feet. He had walked from Amsterdam. I had cycled and walked from Paris, but had a couple of days detour off my Camino several weeks prior. The world sped by. It felt odd. We were cheating, a little.

When we arrived in Santiago, we didn’t want to be caught not walking, and asked the driver to drop us in the backstreets so we could walk into the old city. We both checked into San Martin Pinaro Monastery again, then went shopping for some Camino souvenirs. We were later than planned. I only managed to buy a couple of Santiago cakes as gifts to take to my friends in Paris, and nothing for myself before the shops closed. Next time.

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Parador Hostal de Los Reyes Catolicos, Santiago de Compostela.
©Sally Arnold
The Kitchen deep in the bowels of the Parador Hotel. Santiago de Compostela.

My older American friend had now reached Santiago de Compostela. She was also staying at San Martin Pinaro. I knocked on her door to invite her to join us for dinner, but she was unwell, and said she would join me for an early breakfast before I caught my plane. My Dutch friend and I had arrange to try to go to the free pilgrims’ meal provided by the Parador Hostal de Los Reyes Catolicos. It has been a tradition for centuries for the hostel to provide free meals for pilgrims, and since it has turned into a five star hotel, they have kept the tradition; albeit on a small scale, with only ten places available. We rushed to the appointed meeting place – the green gate on the left of the main entrance, at the appointed time. There were only three other pilgrims waiting. There were not many pilgrims on the road at this time of year. On cue, we were  escorted through the main entrance hall of the grand hotel, then back into the bowels to a tiny pilgrims’ dining room. There was no five star table service here – we had to go to the kitchen and collect our meal ourselves. It wasn’t a five star meal either, although it wasn’t bad. I did, however, love the sentiment and tradition of providing pilgrims with a free meal. And, it did also include free wine. So, with this, our final meal of our pilgrimage, we raised our glasses and wished each other Buen Camino!

Fumigated!

Santiago de Compostela
Thursday 4 December

A nice sleep in. A leisurely breakfast. Then I had to check out of my luxury palace. Thanks again to my Brother, great birthday present. I didn’t have far to carry my backpack today, as recommended by my older American friend, I checked into the San Martin Pinaro Monastery, next door. Equally as historic as my five star hotel, first built in the ninth century, however my monks cell was a little more austere. I did have my own very modern bathroom, and a comfortable bed. Several other pilgrims I had met were also staying there, including my Dutch friend. He was leaving for Finisterre today, so we had a final coffee before he left.

I then rushed off to the Pilgrim’s mass at the cathedral where they announce all the pilgrims who have arrived in the last twenty four hours, well your country anyway. I believe they also say where you start and by what method (walking, cycling, horse, other.) but it was all in Spanish, so I don’t know. I did hear ‘Australia’. A lot of the mass was sung and it was lovely.

Santiago de Compostella Cathedral is famous for the Botafumerio, a huge incense burner that is swung high across the cathedral on Fridays (I had also heard the day was Sunday) and special occasions. It was neither Friday, nor Sunday, nor as I was aware a special occasion. As the mass was finishing there was a kerfuffle in the aisles down the front, and I realised the famous ‘fumigation of the pilgrims’ had begun. The weighty
Botafumerio swung high and low, driven by a series of wheels and pulleys propelled by a large group of men in crimson robes. The smokey incense filled the air. It was quite a spectacle as it swung higher and higher, the crowds gathering around to try and capture the moment on film. I felt very privileged to have witnessed it, as I really wasn’t expecting to see it. Apparently you can pay a large sum of Euros to have it swung on non allotted days. Perhaps my brother added an extra birthday present? Yet another wonderful Camino moment.

I had planned to have a wander around the city, and visit some museums, but first I had to book a flight back to Paris. I visited the contemporary art museum, and a museum next door to that that had an amazing Escher like staircase. Three intertwining spiral staircases that you could step from one to another between floors. The museum had exhibitions of early Spanish technology and a platform that lead into an ancient church that was being renovated where you could view the process from high. It was interesting, if not a rather eclectic museum. I then visited the cathedral museum that housed many treasures, but soon tired. I’d had enough for the day.

I had arranged to meet my Camino angel for dinner, and we ran into German friend of hers on the way who joined us. Her friend had a resturant in mind, that when we arrived seemed more like a wine bar. There was no ‘menu’ with ‘free wine’, so we ordered a bottle. I order the pulpo (octopus), the ubiquitous dish in this region. This was a rather upmarket version, with prices to match. Instead of the usual boiled octopus with chunks of boiled potatoes, oil, salt and smoked paprika, this had a potato purée to which the spices and oil had been added. It was nice, but I think I prefer the more rustic version. The German woman had arranged to meet her French friends, so said goodbye. We had arranged to meet the other group at nine thirty, so also departed, however, when we arrived a little late they were not there. We thought they may have gone to another bar, so decide to wander the town to find them. We passed a bar with the German woman, and her French friends were also people we had met, and hadn’t seen since Pamplona! We joined them for more wine, and another lovely long night with new friends.

SANTIAGO!

Lavacolla to Santiago de Compostela
Wednesday 3 December

I didn’t start as early as planned. I was beginning to get tired. I only had twelve kilometers to walk, and was hoping to make the twelve o’clock pilgrim’s mass at the cathedral. I climbed Monte de Gozo and was able to view the sprawling suburbs of Santiago. I soon joined the city traffic. On the outskirts was a large sign announcing my arrival in Santiago de Compostela. I started to tear up. I was surprised at my reaction, I still had several kilometers to go, so pulled myself together.

I was walking in a daze, almost hesitating at arriving at the cathedral. The city became busier with people going about their daily business. I couldn’t see any pilgrims, but continued along the yellow arrows, getting harder to find in the city. I felt I was walking in slow motion. Slow emotion. The weight of history, of my own Camino. I couldn’t tell if the people around me were frozen in time or speeding past me, it was a very filmic experience. I could see the angels from ‘Wings of Desire’ atop the surrounding buildings. Their whispering and flaps of their wings drowned out any other noise. My steps were heavy. Getting closer, I slowed. An old man stopped and pointed my way. Again. I felt tears steaming down my face.

I arrived at the arch at the entrance to the plaza. A man in traditional Galician costume was playing the bagpipes. Haunting. Overcome. I slowly stepped down through the archway, entering the plaza below. The main face of the cathedral was in front of me, unfortunately covered in scaffolding for renovations, but that didn’t hide the overwhelming experience for me. There were no other pilgrims, in fact there was hardly anyone in the plaza. I needed to sit down and cry. Although long, the Camino wasn’t a difficult walk, but I guess my emotional response was more due to the whole experience of the Camino, not just the physical. It surprised me, but I couldn’t stop sobbing.

I looked up and saw another pilgrim approaching. I raised my hand in greeting. I didn’t know her, but she came over and threw her arms around me. She was on her way to Finesterra and had been in Santiago for a few days. She had met my Irish and Italian friends, and pulled out a T-shirt for me to sign that already had their messages. She said it was her dream to travel to Indonesia, so asked for my contact. That’s the Camino, she said. She took my photo in front of the cathedral. We hugged again, and she was off to the end of the world.

Even though I had arrived in time, I was now too late for the pilgrims mass. The magnificent and historic Parador Hostal de Los Reyes Catolicos was behind me, at the side of the plaza. Built in the fifteenth century, and said to be the oldest continuously operating hotel in the world. My brother had given me a birthday gift of a night in its five star luxury, so I went to check in. Apparently in the past pilgrims could stay here for five nights in winter with medical and priest services on call for free. Five nights would be nice.

I then went to collect my Compostela, the traditional ‘certificate’ of completion of the Camino de Santiago. I don’t really need proof, as my Camino will hopefully remain with me, but it’s a nice piece of paper with a Latin inscription stating that I have arrived to honor Saint James.

Mass had finished, so I thought I would go into the Cathedral. The main entrance was blocked because of the renovations, and unfortunately the famous carved stone front door, the Portico de Gloria, was covered. I climbed back up the stairs through the arch, to the pilgrim’s entrance. Coming out of the cathedral was the group from the other evening, they had risen very early to make it for the mass. Inside, the cathedral smelt like I had imagined churches in Spain to smell. This was the first one that matched my imaginings. Centuries of incense. I again was overcome with emotion, and fell to my knees, not something I do often in a church.

After leaving the Cathedral, more earthy things were on my mind, lunch. I had arranged to meet my Dutch friend in a cafe. Miss Venezuela and My Camino angel had gone to Finesterra by bus for the day. It was nice to see him and hear his Camino stories. After lunch we went to my hotel for a tour, as I was a guest I had free roam. Four large cloisters, of which my room overlooked one, endless corridors with sitting rooms filled with art and antiques, exquisite details and luxury. When I am a rich old lady who lives out her days in a hotel, this is the hotel I want to do it in.

My Dutch friend left, and I went to enquire about a tour of the cathedral roof that he had told me about. They said it would only be in Spanish, and would start in half an hour. I said I would come later, as I wanted to go to the nearby Franciscan church as I was told they were issuing special compostelas to pilgrims as it was a six hundred year anniversary. I returned to the cathedral for the tour, and the only other people were a French couple who also had no Spanish. The guide said she would do the tour in English and French. We climbed the stairs high up to the roof. The light was fading, and colours filled the sky. The roof was stepped granite, and easy to walk across. The views were stunning, an angel’s eye view. The architectural and historic explanations were fascinating. A wonderful experience.

I wandered around the city some more, still feeing dazed and overwhelmed. I had made a half hearted arrangement to meet my Dutch friend and Miss Venezuela for dinner, but I hadn’t heard from them, so decide to return to the hotel to perhaps eat in one of the restaurants. As I walked through the arch to descend the staircase into the plaza, a new busker had replaced the bagpiper, and on a melodica was playing Hallelujah by Leonard Coen, a song I love. Again, haunting.

Returning to my room, I received a message from my Dutch friend, the three of us met, and went in search of food. Later, when we were returning, we again ran into the other group of pilgrims, so joined them for a drink. I was not in the mood for crowds, and wanted to make the most of my five star experience so soon returned to my room for a bath.

Airport Hotel Happiness

Ribadiso to Lavacolla
Tuesday 2 December

That Liquor No. 43 was not a good idea. I did not feel my best this morning, but was keen to hit the road. Could I make it to Santiago today? I was keen to try, and would walk as far as I could. There is an alburgue twenty kilometers before Santiago, and another four kilometers before. Too short or too far. There are some hotels near the airport, about twelve kilometers out of town that seemed a reasonable distance. We shall see.

It was a three kilometer walk until coffee this morning. As usual, I needed coffee. I saw a garage, crossed the road and in my daze bought a chocolate milk, and was flicking through a magazine left on the counter. The English musician arrived and commented that I was looking at men’s farm porn… I started to focus, and realised he was correct. The magazine was a tractor catalogue.

I continued to the next bar, a mere thirty meters ahead, and had coffee and a proper breakfast. Several others from the previous evening arrived… But I was on my way.

Today I happily walked alone, having had a fix of company. At first my pace was slow. The landscape was mostly eucalyptus. Give me a home among the gum trees. I then began to speed up to my now regular faster pace. Soon I was thinking of lunch. I didn’t want to linger, as had a later start, so thought a sandwich would do. Rounding a bend, the Korean from last night’s group, jumped out yelling my name, insisting I stop. There was a bar in the middle of nowhere, just when I needed it. And what a great bar. The ceiling was covered in hanging T-shirts – Camino cast offs and souvenirs, graffiti, and a very friendly host. It seemed it was party time again. Shots of a golden liquid were being poured, that looked suspiciously like No. 43, except this was homemade. I declined. I ordered a cheese sandwich. More people arrived. Another round of homemade drinks, this time a coffee liquor, so I tried it. Sweet nectar. The others had settled in for the afternoon, as their destination was not so far, but I had places to go. When I went to pay, the barmaid said the drinks were on the house, and made a small drawing in my credential as my stamp. Nice.

I continued walking, but as the afternoon faded, my big night was starting to catch up with me. I had passed the airport, but hadn’t seen any hotels and was getting tired. I found a hotel, but it was closed for winter. I had another fifteen or more kilometers to Santiago, but was too tired to walk that far. I saw another hotel from the back entrance, so was hard to see if it was open. I saw a light which looked promising, and happily it was open. It was a little more than I had planned to pay even with the pilgrims discount, but I was tired, so checked in. The room was large, well heated, and had a bathtub! Yes, a hot bath.

The hotel had a large, but almost empty Resturant. The pilgrim’s menu was a bit more expensive than usual. I wasn’t holding my breath that the food would be good. To my surprise, it was possibly the best meal I’ve had in Spain. Scollops for entrée, a paella, overflowing with fresh seafood, and the now ubiquitous Santiago cake, an almond tart. This was homemade, moist, and delicious. They also served cheese, and a very good bottle of wine. Full, tired and content, I retired to bed.

The Little Lame Boy

Eirexe to Ribadiso
Monday 1 December

Alone in my alburgue. I was beginning to feel like the little lame boy who was left behind in the Pied Piper. Please wait for me. I received messages that my Irish friend and Italian friend were already in Santiago. My Dutch friend, Miss Venezuela, and my Camino Angel would all be there in a day. Please wait for me. I had been walking alone for a few days. Hardly seeing any other walkers. I do enjoy walking alone, but had missed their company.

As well as checking my daily horoscope, I’d now taken to online Tarrot card reading. One of the cards I chose today was the hermit. Alone. Loneliness.

I walked through Palis de Rie and was pleased to see the Spanish girl who had made the magic potion. Another person I recognised! She invited me to have a coffee, but I’d just had one… I would continue walking. Alone. I was starting to get hungry. I’d only had toast for breakfast. I really need protein to start my day. I was beginning to get antsy. Low blood sugar. I need to eat. I saw a sign for Melide, the next large town where I’d planned to have lunch, but the town seemed far in the distance. Six kilometers I guessed. It seemed longer as I walked. I need to eat now. I followed the path into the centre of town, and eventually found somewhere to eat.

I was tired today, and my pace had slowed. After lunch I was feeling sad. Thinking of motherless children, and childless mothers, I began to cry. I asked Siri to play ‘Let it Be’, instead she played ‘Let it Snow’, which made me laugh, and lightened my mood.

I soon came to a small fruit stall that was unmanned with an honesty box. I chose a punnet of raspberries, and as I was getting out my money heard voices behind me. I turned around, and a group of five pilgrims I had walked with previously arrived, a young Canadian, a Korean, and three Spaniards. I was happy to see them and have some company for the rest of the afternoon.

Along the way were many mushrooms on this part of the walk. One of the Spanish men knew his mushrooms, and was making a small collection for dinner. He showed one that was quite orange in colour, but when picked quickly turned blue. Nature is amazing!

We walked together to the small village of Ribadiso, arriving at the lovely stone alburgue beside a crystal clear river. The English Musician was already there, and they were expecting some of the others from their Camino family. I had walked with most of them on and off, as they had all started walking the Camino the day after me. More people arrived, several whom I had met. I began to feel better, that I would not be walking to Santiago alone.

I showered and headed out to a local bar with a few of the group. We met the others and ordered a soup for dinner. After dinner one of our Spanish friends suggested we order a local liquor, Liquor No 43. An almost fluro yellow sweet vanilla and citrus flavored concoction. The barmaid said we were the first to order this for fifteen years. Between the seven of us, we finished the bottle. The Spanish pour is very generous. In hindsight, regrettably.

As we were about to leave, another group arrived, including the young German I had walked with, the Spanish magic potion girl, and a young Estonian man whose birthday was today. They had planned on cooking a feast and had carried ten bottles of wine. Party night!

We returned to the alburgue, and the cooking began in the well equipped kitchen. Strangely well equipped, it had ten sinks. Ten. Four stoves, but ten sinks. I had already had too much to drink, but bugger moderation, there was more wine!

The food took several hours to cook, and by one thirty, was ready to serve. There were very few plates, less than there were sinks, so it was dished up on cardboard. No one cared, as we had already consumed copious amounts of alcohol. The party continued, but I was past my prime, so excused myself and went to bed.

Power Angel

Barbadelo to Eirexe
Sunday 30 November

The days are getting shorter. It was still dark when I had to leave to alburgue at eight. There was no street lighting in this tiny village, so I searched for my headlamp and found my fluro reflective vest from my cycle trip. It was windy, but not cold. I needed coffee. My head was full of cotton wool, I hadn’t had the best nights sleep. Eight kilometers to coffee. I trudged on. To my surprise and delight, I saw a bar open only half an hour along the route. Coffee.

As I was leaving a Spanish couple who had been the only other guests at the alburgue arrived, they were soaking wet. It was raining. I put on my rain gear, and ventured out. It wasn’t heavy, and only lasted ten minuites before it warmed up again. I was feeling much better after something to eat. I had my day mapped out. I would stop again in an hour and a half for second breakfast, then should arrive around lunch time in Portomarine. I had decided I would have a big lunch today, as it seems to give me energy for the afternoon’s walk, and then I don’t need a big dinner. Portomarine sounded like a large town, so should have some restaurants open.

I passed a marker – only one hundred kilometers to Saintiago! It seemed too soon. I arrived in Ferreiros just as church was finishing. The bar next door was crowed with the faithful. They were all keen to wish me Buen Camino. I ordered a coffee, but they had no food. Not far further on was a small shop, they had a selection of homemade tarts. It was hard to choose. I selected an almond and apricot one and wolfed it down. Perfect.

The walk was mostly uphill today, then a steep decent to cross the Large Mino River, climbing again into Portomarine. I looked for a Resturant facing the river, and was in luck. High on the cliff, with a magnificent view, was a glassed in dining room. I ordered the Menu del dia. Steamed mussels with salsa, trout, and creme caramel. The sun shone through the window. The food was excellent, except for the dessert, which came presented in the Nestle plastic cup. They could have at least pretended it was homemade. Oh well, I had had my delicious dessert earlier.

I had planned to stay in a village called Hospital in another twelve kilometers. It was all uphill, but after my big lunch, my pace had increased. I was making good time. Soon I had caught up with a German man, the only other person I had encountered walking today. Strange, the last one hundred kilometers are supposed to get busier. He said he was trying to walk fifty kilometers today, and was feeling a bit tired. I had inspired him to continue, he called me his Power Angel. He said he needed a Coke, but I would work just as well, and help him speed up. We arrived in Hospital sooner than I had planned, and I still wanted to walk. He was continuing to Palas de Rei, but I didn’t want to walk in the dark. I said I would continue to the next open alburgue. He had done the Camino before, but came back every year to walk the last one hundred kilometers. He said he wanted to do it in three days. He told me how Germany was the best country in the world to live, as they have lots of rules. He has two young daughters, and has their careers mapped out for them. One is going to be an architect, the other a dentist. I asked was that their choice? He said no, that is what he has decided. He was very German. We walked for another five kilometers to Eirexe. The light was fading and the alburgue was open. I said I would stop for the day. Before he continued we went to the bar so he could have a Coke, a replacement for his Power Angel.