Another deliciously difficult decision needs to be made!

Late Spring or early Summer 2016. Seems a bit far away at the moment doesn’t it?

Truth is, in terms of Camino planning they are only the blink of an eye away, even though the anticipation of walking a Camino again makes it seems like years away.

Will next year take me to the Portuguese Camino Coastal route or part Camino Frances again to Ponferada and skip onto the Camino Invierno?

We’ll see shall we?

Camino Primitivo May-June 2015

Ok, so where do I start? How do I give you a feel of what to expect should you decide to walk the Camino Primitivo? Well, pictures might help so I’ll include those of which I took that might best help you to see what you are walking into, (no pun intended 😜).

Some sort of written narrative might help you to understand the highs and lows I experienced, both mentally and geographically. I’ll use the notes I made as a I walked and each evening after showering, laundering and eating.

In addition, I’ll separate each days’ walking so you can if you want to refer to each day to offer help with your own planning.

Before setting out I had researched the route as thoroughly as I could, and it is at this point I would like to thank those forum members who had previously given up not only their time but also their personal knowledge and experience of the Primitivo route to help others, by posting their information on the forum.

I took the Cicerone Northern Routes guide into which I had added notes from the excellent guide provided by forum member ‘ebrandt’. In hindsight, the Cicerone guide was dead weight and ebrants’ guide would have been more than adequate on it’s own. You can find that guide in the forum section ‘The Camino Primitivo’, here is the link.

https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/final-version-of-my-primitivo-guide.31337/
M
On the same page you will find the different stages ‘perigrina2000’ walked. I found that information very helpful in my planning.

Here is that link. https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/my-stages-on-the-camino-primitivo.4841/

Here are the stages I walked, some photographs and notes I made. Hope they are of help or interest.

Stage 1. Oviedo to San Juan de Villapanda.
In Oviedo itself.
image
image

The walking to San Juan de Villapanada began by following brass plates in the pavement to the outskirts of Oviedo.
imageimage

I started walking at 0800hrs and as is my practice stopped every two hours or so for a 20 minute boots and socks off toe-wiggle😊. After a tiring day of going up and down some testing hills I reached the Albergue at 1730hrs. This first day gave a small hint of the stunning scenery I was soon to be walking through. At most I briefly saw about 10 other pilgrims all day.
image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

Considering I had seen so few people during the day I was a little surprised to find I got the second last bed of 22 in the Albergue, which is a Donativo.

image

image

image

image

image

Stage 2. San Juan de Villapanada to Bodenaya
Up and down hills all day again as I walked towards the Albergue de Perigrinos at Bodenaya.
image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

The last 3 miles (5 kilometres) seemed endless and I was very pleased to finally reach the Albergue.
image

image

image

image

image

Inside the Albergue, as you can see is colourful, welcoming and friendly. The same can be said for David the Hostelario. His reputation is well-deserved, “mi Casa su Casa”. He made us all feel welcome and as the evening progressed with a communal dinner as a bonus made us feel like brothers and sisters.

Before dinner he gave us an overview of our options ahead and had an agreed time of 0630hrs in the morning before folks started their morning routines. Happily almost everyone stuck to the agreement with 4 or 5 “bed-racers” up and about at 0530hrs. At 0630 the gentle sounds of ‘Ave Maria’ welcomed us to a breakfast of coffee, tea, bread, snacks and orange juice. I think this was the first time I witnessed the majority of Pilgrims leave 10 euros and more at a Donativo Albergue in addition to ‘purchasing’ their drinks from the fridge. Well done David, my thanks to you for my bed, food and your help in making my Camino a beautiful experience were heart-felt.
image

image

image

Stage 3. Bodenaya to Campiello
The walking today proved to be a little easier than the first two days. I left the Albergue after 0700hrs and set off into a misty morning. The mist was hiding what later turned out to be stunning scenery studded with tranquil moments.
image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

It might be helpful to add a reminder at this point. Although there many small villages along this route it is necessary to make detours to visit them. Those detours are not too long but it does make the distance between ‘cafes, bars and shops’ longer than you may have experienced elsewhere on a Camino. Carrying snacks and water is a ‘must do’ as far as I am concerned on this route. Pay heed to the information on the forum and elsewhere folks, you’ll be glad you did. I certainly was.😄

I arrived at the Albergue in Campiello about 1500hrs. The cost of 23 euros for a bed, dinner and breakfast seemed reasonable given that they have a ‘captive audience’.
image

image

image

23 euros was just about enough for me to spend to eat and sleep in comfort. 😳 I resisted the temptation to join others in the bar and chose instead to buy the biggest cafe con leche on the Camino for 2 euros and sat on the terrace, literally watching my laundry dry.
image

image

I feel asleep tonight praying for good weather tomorrow so I might go to Berducedo via the Hospitales Route.😁

Stage 4. Campiello to Berducedo via the Hospitales Route.

Rustling and general early-riser movement woke me to dawns’ milky sunshine filtering into the rooom. It wasn’t raining, the sky was relatively clear despite the early morning mists. The Hospitales Route was all systems go😄. I was so happy that as I finally readied myself for the day around 0730hrs I was whistling the tune ‘Don’t worry, be happy’😃, until that is I realised I was being tut-tutted at by a less-happy-than-me Pilgrim from a country which stereo-typically lacks humour. I’ll let you guess the nationality of that person.

A few minutes later I left the Albergue, stepped into the cool morning and started a gloriously hard walk that was to last until 1615hrs.
image

image

image

It wasn’t to long before the path started taking me onto some steep climbs with the views unfolding in front of me.
image

image

image

The walking was not easy by any means but the history and scenery I walked through was more than worth the effort. I was in my glory. Solitary and both mentally and physically testing, fantastic hill-climbing with a pack on my back, following in the countless footsteps of centuries of Pilgrims, keeping the path clear for those who will follow me.
image

image

image

image

image

imagel

image

It was hot, tiring and exhilarating walking. I was stopping more frequently than usual to take my boots and socks off and was so pleased I had carried extra water. I expect others will find this route easier than I did, and if the truth be known I was pretty pleased when I reached the final hill top and started the relative drop into Breducedo where I would find my bed for the night in the Municipal Albergue for 5 euros. Basic in it’s provision of comfort, the Albergue Hostelario was very welcoming and for this just about done-in Pilgrim, a sight not only for sore eyes but also very tired legs.
image

image

image

image

image

image

image

Oimage

I rested by the side of my bunk bed for a few minutes and reflected on the days’ walk. Yes, it was long. Yes, it was a pretty hard day. Yes, I would do it again……….. In a heartbeat😄

As I sorted myself out I decided to have a shorter day tomorrow. I was aware there was a long steep descent into Embalse de Salime before continuing, so my walk tomorrow would be around the 20 kilometre (about 12 miles) to Grandas de Salime.

I slept soundly that night and before falling asleep, I remember very clearly thinking about how blessed I was to have the health, opportunity and support to be doing what I was doing.

Stage 5. Berducedo to Grandas Salime

Early-rising bag rustlers, whisperers and head-torch users once again woke me earlier than I would have liked, but I wasn’t concerned, I was pleased for them to have the same joy as me from this Camino. I just wish they could learn to accept that the Camino doesn’t go anywhere during the night and will always be there for them whether they leave at 6 in the morning or not.

The last four days had reminded me not to get too relaxed about finally having a descent during the day. So far, every descent had been followed by an ascent. I was very aware there was a steep descent today into Embalse de Salime. What I didn’t anticipate was the ascent from Embalse de Salime up and over to Grandas de Salime.

0715hrs saw me set off into a still developing morning that was cool, fresh and filled with the promise of fair weather.
image

The sun rose steadily behind me and I couldn’t resist taking a photo of every Pilgrim’s day-long friend.
image

I am not sure if it is my imagination but the first part of today seemed to have more road-walking than previously? It was still beautiful walking though, the sort of lonely early morning walking views you wish you could bottle, along with all-around-you birdsong that lifts your spirits.
image

image

image

image

image

The drop into Embalse de Salime was as long and as steep as I had anticipated. After cresting the highest point and starting to descend much of the walking was through beautiful woodland. After about an hour I got my first views of Embalse de Salime and the dam.
image

image

image

image

image

image

image

After crossing the dam I was welcomed to another climb towards coffee and tortilla that offered up good views of the reservoir itself.
image

image

The Albergue was having problems processing people in and I saw some folks I recognised from the past four days in the queue. I thought about that for a few seconds and came to the conclusion we had all stopped here because of the scarcity of stopping places en-route.
image

I had seen on the way to the Albergue that the Galician Folk museum in town was open. After getting the usual ‘look after yourself and clothes’ chores done I headed back into town to visit the museum. These next photographs might convince you it is well worth a visit. The museum is the Museo Etnográfico de Grandas de Salime and although traditions are similar, what you see there are ancient customs and lifestyle of western Asturias and not of Galicia.
image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

After a Pilgrim meal and a couple of drinks in town it was time to head back to the Albergue, rescue my laundry and go nite-nites. On the way back (uphill😂) to the Albergue I had an experience that often happens to when I am alone. Please endulge me whilst I explain. No matter where I go in the world I always encounter goats at the most unexpected times. Believe me, some of those times have been surreal. This time, when I thought I was all alone I made a call home. As I was engaged in conversation I heard an all too familiar bell-sound. Above my head, emerging from long grass was a family of goats. They, as always happens to me, simply stopped what they were doing and just stood there staring at me.

I think it may have something to do with being an Aries😛
image

image

Bed-time tonight brought skies that promised lees-than-fair weather tomorrow morning.

Stage 6. Grandas de Salime to Padron
The early risers were even earlier this morning. Almost everyone, including myself were up and ready to go by 0700hrs😱.

It had rained last night. The morning was misty and drizzling. The best part of the day was rain with very little chance if any of a clear photo opportunity until I neared Fonsagrada.

image

image

image

image

My favourite highlight of the day was a small dog that kept me company for the last 5-6 kilometres into Padron.
image

It wasn’t until after noon the weather cleared and I could see the scenery again.
image

image

image

I think it was about 3-30pm when I reached the Albergue in Padron.
image

image

image

image

image

image

After a communal dinner in the grounds of the Albergue where Pilgrims kept throwing the little dog scraps to eat, we saw a car arrive at the front of the Albergue. From the car emerged a gruff-looking man who had a quick chat with the Hospitelario. The man from the car opened the boot of the car, beckoned the dog and put it into the boot of the car before driving off. The Hospitalerio explained that the little dog apparently did the same thing every day and the man has to come and collect him every evening. I loved that!!😃😃

Stage 7. Padron to Castroverde
I set out this morning with no clear end point for today in mind. It turned out that I would eventually end the day in Castroverde after about 34 kilometres. There were a few more steep climbs and descents today but the effort was more than compensated for by some more beautiful views.

The temperature had risen markedly, perhaps because I was leaving the highest parts of this route behind me. It was good to spend the first part of the day walking through cool, hilly, forested areas.
image

image

image

image

Although the hills were once again taking a bit out of me it was wonderful, peaceful, scenic and historical walking.
image

image

image

image

image

image

I’m not too sure how long I walked for today, probably in the region of 8-10 hours including toe-wiggle rests. I do remember however feeling a little pleased to eventually find a sign that said the Albergue in Castroverde was only 1 more kilometre ahead.
image

image

image

image

image

I actually don’t remember too much about that evening (no, I didn’t have too much to drink😛). My notes tell me I found myself in the only cafe/bar that was open with others from the Albergue where we had a meal.

My notes also tell me I was toying with the idea of heading to Lugo tomorrow, about 21 kilometres, then striking out further north to try and avoid the busier Camino Frances for as long as I could.

Stage 8. Castroverde to Lugo.
It was after half past eight when I started walking today. I had eventually made the decision to walk to Lugo and see how I felt when I got there. The terrain was nowhere near as challenging as it had been so far.
image

image

image

image

It wasn’t too long before I was climbing the last hill past the viaduct that signals the entry into Lugo. As I passed through one of the old gateways of the medieval walls I was reminded of one of the entries into old town Burgos. Five minutes after passing through the gateway I was outside the Albergue where I would find a bed for 6 euros.
image

image

image

image

It was very easy to see the number of Pilgrims both in the Albergue and generally milling around in the streets had suddenly increased five or six fold, perhaps even more. After speaking with some of them I came to realise that with a little ‘tweak’ the Lugo area was the equivalent of walking the last 100 kilometers from Sarria on the Camino Frances.

I was still musing over my thoughts about heading north tomorrow so took a little walk to the Estation de Autobuses to test out my options. I found I had a couple of options to consider.

On the way to the bus station I had seen a some tourist information signs that suggested Lugo was worth a little bit of sightseeing, so I did and was pleased I did.
image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

I even tried to be all trendy, artistic and pretty cool with my photos😜
image

image

image

There was no mass taking place in the cathederal so I had the time to take a leisurely tour inside.
image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

My notes show that as I was sitting in the cathedral, following an earlier conversation with others, I had still not made the final decision whether to head north tomorrow or go onto Ponte Ferreira. I think I told myself I could make that decision in the morning.

On my way back to the Albergue I stopped for a cafe co leche in a colourful bar and took this photo.
image

A couple of streets later I came across a shop that reminded me of my childhood and asked if I could take a couple of photos.
image

image

Stage 9. Lugo to Ponte Ferreira
As I prepared to leave this morning I was still undecided about where I was going today. I had half an idea to follow the waymarks until I saw a roadsign that would take me towards Baamonde or Miraz.

Lugo was still mostly asleep as I set about following the brass plaques in the road and pavements from the cathedral. Some of the people I was leaving behind I would see several times on the way to and in Santiago de Compostela.
image

image

image

Shortly after leaving Lugo I walking through a mist that appeared from nowhere and disappeared just as quickly. Nothing exceptional about that but it was a little weird.
image

I think it was a little over 2 hours later when I reached a road junction with a sign towards Baamonde. I followed that road for about 5 kilometers, changed my mind and headed back to where I had left the Primitivo. I was to regret that decision later because it added a further 10 kms to my walk today.

There were some quirky things to see on this part of the Way.
image

image

The path wasn’t too difficult. It was more gentle and undulating than it was steep hills but I felt tired, hot and achy. I wondered if I had been drinking enough water before it dawned on me. I had made that detour of around 10 kilometers and getting into the latter half the original 30 kilometers or so to Ponte Ferreira meant I would actually walk 40!😥.

The path took various shapes and forms as I walked.
image

image

image

image

image

It was with some relief that although I was much later than everyone else There were still free beds at the Ponte Ferreira Albergue.
image

image

image

image

At cost of 24 euros for bed, dinner and breakfast this was good value for money. A little later I was doing my laundry in a stream that ran through the grounds of the Albergue……….
image

……………and a communal dinner of paella.
image

I slept very soundly this night.

Stage 10. Ponte Ferreira to Melide (the last day of my Camino Primitivo before joining the Camino Frances)
Today the walking was a little hot, colourful and surprisingly hilly at times.
image

image

image

image

image

image

As I started losing elevation on the way towards Melide wild flowers started making an appearance again.
image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

Melide was awash with pilgrims so I settled for a bed in the first Albergue I found with vacancies, the relatively new Albergue Pereiro.
image

image

After settling in and doing the usual end of day routine I suddenly had an urge to eat oranges😳 so went in search of some. As luck would have it……………………….
image

I awoke the following morning to a dawn chorus of chattering, coughing, rustling, door-banging, blister-treating, eager to be on their way pilgrims. Bless them, I hope their Camino was as brilliant as mine had been so far.

My peaceful Camino Primitivo has been brought to an end. I had anticipated it, but wasn’t fully ready for it and accepted this was how it had to be.

Stages 11 & 12 & 13 Melide to Arzua, Arzua to Pedrouzo, Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostella.
No notes made during these days. If you care to you can get a feel for this stretch of the Camino Frances in my Camino Frances blog from 2014.

Here are the photos I took from these last days.
image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

I hope you find some useful information, help and encouragement in this blog if you are planning to walk the Camino Primitivo. If you have walked the Primitivo I would like to think this has brought back good memories for you.

I hope to write another blog for another Camino in the not too distant future.

Until that time……….. Buen Camino😄

Decision made at last.

Finally got my act together.

My next Camino looks like this.

Starting the 13th May (GULP! Just realised the date. Hope that’s not an ill-omen), fly to Dublin then catch a flight to Biarritz the following day. From Biarritz get to St Jean Pied du Port stay overnight and then start walking on the 15th.

At this moment I am planning to walk to Burgos on the Camino Frances (about 250 Km’s). I’ve already walked that stretch so this time I’ll stop at different places and take less time.

At Burgos I will catch a bus to Oviedo and walk the Camino Primitivo to Santiago de Compostela (about 300 Km’s). Then come home via Dublin getting home on 10th June.

I’ve chosen this particular route for a number of reasons.

Amongst those reason are, having walked the Camino Frances I would like to re-do the first part differently. This time I’ll cross the Pyrenees from St Jean in one day to Ronsvevalles, last year I stopped overnight part way making it two days.

On the way to Burgos I would like to try and hop past the recognised guide book stop-overs and see if I can make more use of the ‘quieter’ less used places.

On reflection, last year once I got into my stride after taking the first few days easily I found some stretches of the Camino Frances relatively straight forward walking, so I’m sure I can tackle something a bit more challenging carrying the same pack and weight. That’s where the Camino Primitivo comes in.

It appears the Primitivo is much less popular with nothing like the numbers that walk the Frances. The Frances is very well structured with more places to stop and other supporting services than you can poke a stick at. Not so the Primitivo which has far fewer places, longer distances between them, much less people and as far as I can see more hill-walking.

Maybe I’m biting off more than I can chew so if I need to change my plan, I will. We’ll see shall we.

My beloved 4 year old hiking boots are now a bit tatty and down at the heel. I am just not convinced they will see me through my winter training and stand up to my planned Camino. I need to seriously consider getting some new ones and breaking them in well before I leave in May.

At this moment I am fairly sure I won’t be blogging this time, although I may put updates onto the Camino Forum site for the benefit of other pilgrims, and anyone following this blog who may be planning to walk the Primitivo. It is so time consuming writing a blog on the Camino.

Bye for now.

This decision is harder than I thought it would be!

I’m still trying to decide on my next Camino.

The Camino Portuguese starting from Lisbon might be off the cards now, for lots of different reasons, meanwhile The Via de la Plata (starting in Seville) might be back in the mix again, because I like the idea of hooking up with the Camino Sanabres to miss the crowds on the Camino Frances and still get to Santiago de Compestela.

I suppose I’ll have other thoughts about that rather appealing option when I get my research on the Northern routes underway though :-).

So many routes and so many options.

What Camino next?

I’ve started considering my next Camino.

The Via de la Plata (VldP)is ruled out at the moment because there is too much asphalt for my liking. I’ve read other people’s VldP blogs, the VldP book by Gerald Kelly and lots of information on the fabulous Camino Forum, almost everyone talks about the amount of asphalt walking. I don’t mind some stretches of road walking but the amount spoken of by others just doesn’t meet my walking needs. I want countryside, with or without coastal walking.

I’ll now be considering the Camino Portuguese, the Camino Norte, the Camino Ingles and the Camino Primitivo as possibilities.

Bye for now.

The last days and a lifetime of memories yet to come

28 June – being a tourist and waiting for folks to catch me up.

There is a startlingly, ice-blue sky with the heat from the sun drying the rain-soaked streets sending up streams of steamy mist to be lost into the heat of the day and forever again not to be seen.

The sun, with its atomic power sends out life-giving rays that reach deep into the corners of the shady streets, dazzling the unprotected eye, warming the welcoming skin, gladdening the saddest of hearts, cheering the darkest of memories and highlighting the promise of dreams from the night to come true, whatever they may be.

At the Church of San Francisco I was led to tears by a young man, committed to God, dressed in the simplest of brown robes with a rope for a belt who asked of me a total stranger, whence I came and what I was looking for in my native tongue and welcomed me to his world of peace and calmness with the voice of what I can only describe as a boy angel. I have heard that voice again many times since then and each time I have wept.

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

Steps today 17692

Sunday 29 June -Santiago de Compostela to Negreira

Today I can only offer thoughts and observation from the day from the notes as I walked. I hope they make sense to you……….. They do to me.

– a toothless old man sitting at the side of the path watching two cats eat the carcass of a small bird

– a bridge, centuries old, made by hand that has carried countless pilgrims, carts to market and families long since turned to dust

– eucalyptus trees by the hordes

– wild flowers leading me onwards and upwards

– a small dog that has learned how to beg a meal or a snack from passing pilgrims

– freckles traced and joined in a line using the sun as a guide

– beautiful hill walking

– returning pilgrims retracing the steps I have yet to take

– taking the wrong path and adding an extra hour to a long days’ walk

– pilgrims with an aura of calmness now we are in this part of the Camino, or, is it an emotional volcano about to erupt when they, we, reach Finisterre?

Steps today 33564

Monday 30 June Negreira to Olveiroa

– a forest path soft underfoot

– a silence broken only by birdsong

– a veil of mist hanging like a curtain over a scene that awaits the sun to lift the veil and warm the land and chase away the coldness of a grey dawn

– a silvery dew-drop beaded grapevine with tiny droplets of early morning magic that sparkle, like a diamond encrusted green tiara awaiting the arrival of a beautiful yet to be born princess

– an old road, the cement and concrete dried since decades past that hS the deeply-embedded paw prints of a dog long-since dead

– the splash of a mountain-spring fed water fountain

– a wall of trees with a ceiling of grey , rain-filled clods set against a carpet of tall grass that flows into the distant undulating multi-green hills

– a pilgrim, seemingly at peace with his world who stops at a fountain and drinks deep into his belly with long gulps of cool fresh water then walks on

– a cup of coffee, an apple and a cafe filling and re-filling with a procession of pilgrims

– a multitude of languages

– unforgiving, unyielding and unfeeling Tarmac that takes to soul out the sole of your feet

– rolling green-framed hills

-multi-coloured walking clothes competing with wild flowers

– dogs, dogs and more dogs

– another Albergue, more strangers sleeping in the same room

-rain, rain and yet more rain

-a happy, memory-filled day that no-one can take away

-Kevin, Liz and Chase saying goodbye

image

Steps today 44505

01 July Olveiroa to Muxia

To give you a feel of how it was to walk today follow these simple instructions.

1.Put your walking boots and walking clothes on with a pack on your back.
2. Cover yourself and your pack with your waterproof gear.
3. Take these next 4 photographs and put them in a clear plastic bag and make the bag water-tight.
4. Wearing your gear and carrying the photographs step into your shower (or turn on a water-hose) and stand under the running water.
5. Now walk around the shower (or under the garden hose) for about an hour whilst looking at the 4 photographs.
6. When you are wet turn of the water and carry on walking until you are nearly dry.
7. Just as you are about to become fully dry, turn the water back on for another hour or so.
8. Repeat steps 4 to 7 for several hours with the added bonus of walking up and down a flight of stairs.
9. Then, just as you think you can truly take no more, tell yourself you need to because you have just seen a wayside marker sign that tells you you have about another hours’ worth of walking.

There you have it. That was today’s walk. It was hard, tiring, wet and wonderful.

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

Steps today 44432

02 July Muxia to Finisterre

Quite simply a perfect day in every way.

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

Steps today 41530

03 July Finisterre Faro (Lighthouse)

This last part of the walk was deliberately left until today. To do it yesterday would not have been as enjoyable having walked a long-way.

It also provided the opportunity to get a photograph of a French couple I first met when I stayed the night in the Convent Espiritu Santo. Don’t try to tell me the man doesn’t look like Pinochio’s father from the Disney film.

This first photo was in a bar. The owner was a pilgrim who had travelled the world and brought back a piece of the soil from every country he had been to.

image

image

image

Then there was no further to go.

image

image

image

image

Steps today 12538

At 1635 hrs I set foot on a bus to be moved from one point to another by a power other than my own two legs which have carried me for 1,345,889 steps over a distance of 910 Kilometers.

The number of steps at the end totals 1,345,889, none of them regretted, all of them wonderful and shared with so many special people who came into my life, enriched it in different ways and left me with memories that will last a life-time.

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

You made my Camino all it could be and more. Buen Camino to you all.

 

 

A multiple post with photos to follow – set over a few days and not spell of grammar checked :-)

Friday 27 June ……… Walking into Santiago de Compostela

This is Giovanni from Italy, Marie from Marseille and Arnick from Avignon, both in France. We met last night and shared a scary conversation which I think neither of us understood, but appreciated.

The first 60 minutes or so of walking today was through woods before I suddenly found myself beside a major road which I found intrusive.

Then I found myself walking around the perimeter of an airport (Santiago?) before being taken back into quieter roads and lanes. Along this stretch, for the sake of something to take my mind of the monotony of near to or on the road walking I once again started reading graffiti.

Villamajor came into view and shortly after I was having a toe wiggle with a coffeeand croissant with the sun on my back.

At 11 o’clock, give or take a minute or two I walk into the outer-reaches of Santiago de Compostela. It seems to take forever to get through the suburbs and into the old city itself.

When I reach the Cathedral there are no trumpet fanfares, no bands playing my favourite tune, no welcome banners, flags or bunting with my name on it. There is only me, with my own thoughts and feelings, one of hundreds who will soon join a queue at the Pilgrim Office to get a Compostela.

As I wait in the queue with the others I hear my name called time and time again. Thee are a lot of people who remember me, perhaps because of my accent who remember my name, but, sadly, embarrassingly for me, unless we have spent more than a few hours walking together I can’t remember their names unless I look back at my notes or this blog. (Is that an age thing?).

I am flattered. I am not for the first time on this Camino humbled. I am above all happy.

I make a big decision for me. I decide to to go to the Pilgrim Mass in the Cathedral. Once inside and before the Mass starts I somehow find myself in a queue to “hug the Saint”, a few minutes later, I have my arms wrapped around the neck of a statue of St James. It could have been emotional but for the priest who didn’t give me a small card like he did with everyone else because I didn’t make donation.

The Pilgrim Mass was as I expected. I didn’t have a clue what was being said, why and who to, although I did hear the word “señor” lots of times. At the end of the service the Botafumerio was swung ( look it up guys if you don’t know what that is), and to be fair, it was a special event, for me, emotionally.

A bed was eventually found.

Steps today 32815

28 June – being a tourist and waiting for folks to catch me up.

There is a startlingly, ice-blue sky with the heat from the sun drying the rain-soaked streets sending up streams of steamy mist to be lost into the heat of the day and forever again not to be seen.

The sun, with its atomic power sends out life-giving rays that reach deep into the corners of the shady streets, dazzling the unprotected eye, warming the welcoming skin, gladdening the saddest of hearts, cheering the darkest of memories and highlighting the promise of dreams from the night to come true, whatever they may be.

At the Church of San Francisco I was led to tears by a young man, committed to God, dressed in the simplest of brown robes with a rope for a belt who asked of me a total stranger, whence I came and what I was looking for in my native tongue and welcomed me to his world of peace and calmness with the voice of what I can only describe as a boy angel. I have heard that voice again many times since then and each time I have wept.

Steps today 17692

Sunday 29 June -Santiago de Compostela to Negreira

Today I can only offer thoughts and observation from the day from the notes as I walked. I hope they make sense to you……….. They do to me.

– a toothless old man sitting at the side of the path watching two cats eat the carcass of a small bird

– a bridge, centuries old, made by hand that has carried countless pilgrims, carts to market and families long since turned to dust

– eucalyptus trees by the hordes

– wild flowers leading me onwards and upwards

– ua small dog that has learned how to beg a meal or a snack from passing pilgrims

– freckles traced and joined in a line using the sun as a guide

– beautiful hill walking

– returning pilgrims retracing the steps I have yet to take

– taking the wrong path and adding an extra hour to a long days’ walk

– pilgrims with an aura of calmness now we are in this part of the Camino, or, is it an emotional volcano about to erupt when they, we, reach Finisterre?

Steps today 33564

Monday 30 June Negreira to Olveiroa

– a forest path soft underfoot

– a silence broken only by birdsong

– a veil of mist hanging like a curtain over a scene that awaits the sun to lift the veil and warm the land and chase away the coldness of a grey dawn

– a silvery dew-drop beaded grapevine with tiny droplets of early morning magic that sparkle, like a diamond encrusted green tiara awaiting the arrival of a beautiful yet to be born princess

– an old road, the cement and concrete dried since decades past that hS the deeply-embedded paw prints of a dog long-since dead

– the splash of a mountain-spring fed water fountain

– a wall of trees with a ceiling of grey , rain-filled clods set against a carpet of tall grass that flows into the distant undulating multi-green hills

– a pilgrim, seemingly at peace with his world who stops at a fountain and drinks deep into his belly with long gulps of cool fresh water then walks on

– a cup of coffee, an apple and a cafe filling and re-filling with a procession of pilgrims

– a multitude of languages

– unforgiving, unyielding and unfeeling Tarmac that takes to soul out the sole of your feet

– rolling green-framed hills

-multi-coloured walking clothes competing with wild flowers

– dogs, dogs and more dogs

– another Albergue, more strangers sleeping in the same room

-rain, rain and yet more rain

-a happy, memory-filled day that no-one can take away

-Kevin, Liz and Chase saying goodbye

Steps today 44505

Was my act today for me or for others?

About 6:45 this morning I was taking the first steps towards my last day before reaching the city of Santiago do Compostela.

Thee will be time enough later, perhaps another day to talk about about how far I have walked in terms of distance to reach this point.

For now I just want to tell you about today’s walk which took me for most part through semi-rural and rural areas where I walked a path edged by high hedgerows, farm buildings, barking farm dogs chained when they should be free to run and more neatly tended crop fields.

I stopped for a breakfast of coffee, a chocolate bread thing and some toast at the same place Kevin, Chase and Liz have stopped. I took this photo but Liz was in the cafeteria, mothering Kevin and Chase again.

image

As I eat breakfast a long line of pilgrims passes by. Some of them stop to drink and eat, the majority continue on their way. I am genuinely taken by surprise by the number of people, some of whom I recognise but can’t remember their names who call out to me and wave or stop to say hello and ask how I am. The short discussions we have remind me of where we first met. Not all of them are shown in this blog.

Breakfast over I continue walking. Now I am in the cover of a high tree-lined path with the sky still grey and overcast.

image

Plantations of well-managed young Eucalyptus trees provide an attractive background to walking that takes me up and down gentle hills that a chips could easily negotiate.

Sometimes the path is tree-lined, sometimes high-banked with man-made foundations peeking through countless years of lichen and moss, as fighting for the very right to exist as an entity in its own right. I can see these stones are doomed to be hidden from human sight, perhaps forever, in a short time.

At times I am taken close to a road where the noise of heavy Diesel engines break my concentration momentarily before I am lost in thought again, lulled by the sound of my own breathing, the crunch of my boots and the tap, tap of my walking poles on the ground.

Once every so often people pass me. Some of them are fresh on the Way having set out to complete the last 100 kilometres of the route, which grants them the right to claim, which for some is a much-coveted possession, a Compostela, when the reach Santiago de Compostela.

Ok, moving on now, let’s play another little game. Imagine you have people who look after your every whim desire and that you need never worry about a thing, just mAke choices. Something like this………

“Which shirt and tie would sir like to wear today.”
“How would madam like her hair done today.”
“Shall I prepare you a fresh fruit breakfast or would you prefer eggs today?”……………
……………………………………………………………………………. “What colour of Hydrangea plant would you like to see today?”

image

image

“How many different plants would you like to walk past in as small a space as possible?”

image

Towards the end of the day I came across a simple memorial to a pilgrim who had lost their life walking the Camino. The main feature of the memorial is a pair of bronze walking shoes set in cement. Presumably they are casts of the person’s actual shoes. I read the words of the memorial. I looked down at the foot of the memorial and saw just a few feet away a small silver heart attached to what was a long-time-ago silver chain.

Next to the cast shoes was a white stone. I picked the heart from the ground, said a prayer for my dead mother, father and brother and placed the heart on the white stone. Even as I type this I am unsure if I did that for the memory of the pilgrim, the memory of my loved ones or for myself. Maybe it was all three, I don’t know yet.

image

at O Pedrouzo I found my bed for the night. You need to be rather broad-minded to use the showers.

image

imageimage

image

image

image

Steps today 29948

Bye for now folks

Like the discarded clothes of lovers eager for each other’s body……..

25 June Casa Domingo to Arzua

This morning saw a start to the day not unlike those of the past week or so. Another cool grey morning heavy with mist and the promise behind the low clouds of a sun that was never to fully appear today.

The countryside was again undulating, green and tree-filled. Young crops are starting to compete with each other for space in the neatly tended fields where the promise of a bountiful harvest is showing itself just above the soil of a rich fertile land.

I am soon lost in thought again and at some time or other after I don’t know how far I am looking at something I have seen for as long as I can remember and I take a photograph of it. But, before you see the same photo let’s play a little game.

Imagine, or draw on a piece of paper your dream location for a home. Do that now, before looking at this next photograph. Go on, play the game. Imagine that home in that place, or draw it……………………………………………………
………………………….

Does it look anything like this?

image

This walking today could be anywhere in my local area, such is the lay of the land and the type of flora and fauna. Except for this……

image

image

image

image

image

Then there is one other major difference. A gastronomical one. Check out this menu, line three, centre choice. (Yeeeeeeeuk!)

image

Some of the river and stream crossings in the bottom of each valley are interesting and carry not only pilgrims but centuries of tales to tell if only they could speak.

image

image

For some time now the indigenous trees have been giving way to Eucalyptus, their tall forms reaching high above the topmost branches of their European cousins.

image

In places where they are the dominant plant and where they outnumber other trees, their habit of shedding their bark makes the woods look hotel rooms where pairs of lovers who were eager to take take others bodies had quickly and untidily shed their clothes, littering the ground around them and the branches of smaller trees with their discarded clothes.

image

image

image

I take a break amongst the Eucalyptus.

My mind wanders. I recall that one religion (Buddhist?) believe that all life, human and non-human has feelings and karma. If that is true, does it mean that the trees smaller, and in some senses less beautiful than the Eucalyptus, envy them?

Do they, the smaller trees, like some humans do with each other, look to the Eucalyptus whom they see as more pretty, beautiful or handsome than themselves with envious, inferiority loaded and learned comparison complexes and say to themselves “I wish I had the looks and body you have”, forgetting everything that makes them beautiful as an individual themself?

The last hour today was difficult with many short steep climbs which at any time other than the end of the day would not have been a problem. But, the day ended well for I met up with my Pennsylvanian Pick-nickers (Kevin, Liz and Chase) again and it is really good to see them.

This is my home for tonight.

image

image

image

image

image

Steps today 35143
Bye for now folks

Where goes the storm, I follow

24 June Gonzar to Casa Domingo – Ponte Campana

After last night’s thunder-storm the air is fresh and clear which is more than can be said for the quality of air in my dormitory this morning. You can guess for yourself what a room that is fifteen paces long, five paces wide and housing twenty four people in twelve bunk-beds smells like after a few minutes when the windows are closed.

I tried to photograph the storm last night. Here are my photos of rain the likes of which I have not seen for a long time.

image

image

The lightening caused some problems including the loss of power and wifi for the customers here throughout the night, and sparodically this morning. Strange thing was though the barman somehow managed to get the television going last night so he could watch football? Go figure that one out folks????

This is Barbara from Padova in Italy on the left and Mila from Lubilyana in Slovenia on the right, and Angelito from Valencia, Spain. We shared a table and a drink last night as we sat out the early part of the storm and ate what little food we had left between us and a lump of freshly-made tortilla from the bar (yum, yum, yum). I like being with these three, they smile and laugh a lot and are very patient with me and my lack of multi-lingual communication.

image

image

I’m not sure if it was the weather or something else but almost everyone this morning was up and moving around ready to go starting from about 4:30. As for me, I found myself outside the Albergue, hardly washed, with nothing in my belly nor a hot drink to send to me on my way at 5:30.

But hey! Was I ready to walk or what!

With the very comfortable feel of my pack on my back, my boots on my feet, my sticks in my hands and a cool, crisp morning air filling my lungs, a heavy mist sticking my hair closely to my forehead and chilling me at the same time, I was already filled with a wholesome feeling of what was to come, as once again, the power to move me from one place another on this earth of ours was to come only from the strength of my own body.

Just minutes after first setting out I was once more climbing. Not strenuously, not overly-demanding but just a gentle enough rise to tell me I was gaining height.

Being very dark at this early hour I thought I would be a wise old man and latch onto a group of young people who were just ahead of me as we moved into a wooded area. My idea was that I would use the eyes of four younger people to help me find my way in the blackness.

Ten minutes later I realised I had forgotten those younger eyes were being carried by legs that were also younger than mine, so, I was soon on my own in a dark wooded area playing “Guess which way is the correct to go”.

As it turns out some more younger people than I came up behind me and I was able to track them until it started getting light enough for me to see for myself.

This is the early light of the today showing a stark contrast between the living and the dead in the same trees. I found this emotionally powerful and moving.

image

The walking today was both gentle and demanding at different times, dry and wet at different times, cool and warm at different times, uphill and downhill at different times and always, always enjoyable all of the time.

Here are the rest of today’s photos including my home for the night.

image

image

image

Be careful of the ants in this part of Galicia.

image

I think this is where the fairies come out to play at night when we are all asleep and the children dream of toys, swings and puppies.

image

Some people have always had the correct words to tell everything in as few words as possible…………..

image

……….. and some things don’t need words…..

imageimage

image

Home for the night.

image

image

image

Steps today 30591
Bye for now folks