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31 Days of Gratitude and today I am grateful for the opportunity I had to walk the Camino in September of this year.

It was touch and go. I was meant to walk it in 2016, but due to one thing and another; namely fear, fitness and money, I cancelled. I hadn’t actually paid anything out yet which was fortunate, but I had had my heart set on walking in September 2016. I decided instead to walk in 2017.

I had been training for about 6 months at the time I decided to cancel and also due to procrastination I hadn’t book any flights or accommodation. I had bought some hiking gear and thought I’d be ready to go……but firstly, during my research, I had read about the tragic story of Denise Thiem who was murdered on the French Route, as well as many other people who died from either accidents, heart failure or fell off mountains etc. It put the wind up my sails…or should I say reading those reports deflated my sails.

31 days of gratitude, camino de santiago, walking the camino, portuguese coastal route,

Portugues caravel

I had never before considered that people actually died on the Camino!!! I was horrified. Why, I’m not sure. Secondly I didn’t yet feel fit enough. I decided not to go.

Anyway, long story short (if possible) I planned instead for 2017. I felt so much more comfortable with that.

And on 7th September 2017 I landed in the city of Porto, Portugal on the first day of my big #MyEuropeanAdventure 😉 I had always wanted to visit Porto and now that I’m working on Project 101, the fact that Porto Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site was very exciting. Of course, not satisfied with just one WHS, while in Porto I visited Coimbra which was also on my list of places I always wanted to visit AND a UNESCO WHS. Bravo. 2 birds with one stone etc etc

I cracked on with the training and by the time I left for Porto I had over 800 miles under my belt, a new pair of trainers, more gear and a brand new backpack….my beautiful Osprey Tempest 30 Mystic Magenta aka Pepe – and as it turns out, despite my care to not over pack, loaded with way too much stuff LOL

porto to santiago, padron to santiago, osprey tempest 40 mystic magenta, walking the camino, nordic walking poles.

my trusty companions; Pepe (backpack) and Gemini (Nordic walking poles) – after 230 kms – the final 10.166 km to Santiago

But oh my word…the excitement on the day I left the UK and arrived in Portugal was exhilarating.  I was finally on my way… Camino 2017.

I spent a wonderful 3.5 days exploring Porto, with a day trip to Coimbra, and walked the first section of the Caminho Português from the Sé Catedral to Foz do Duoro, a walk that I absolutely loved, and met my first bona vide pilgrim; Jasmine from Colorado, USA.

The weather was perfect, the city was fascinating, I felt a sense of freedom that I seldom encounter in my day life, and 240 kms of the unknown lay ahead of me…..excited beyond words.

On the day I walked to Foz do Duoro I received some of the best advice that I had heard/read in all the blogs, articles and guides I had perused so thoroughly and carefully; “keep the ocean on your left and head north”.

31 days of gratitude, camino de santiago, walking the camino, portuguese coastal route,

Keep the ocean on your left and head north…

That little gem was communicated to me by a delightful young man at the Tourist Information Centre when I asked him about reaching Matasinhos from Foz do Duoro, and served me well all the way from Porto to Caminha.wp-image-1040417021

I had just about the best time you could imagine on my Camino, despite the pain, the exhaustion, the occasional frisson of fear or taking the wrong route, the sense of freedom was so exhilarating that once I finally reached Santiago de Compostela 11 days later, I didn’t want it to end. If I had had sufficient funds in my account I would have just travelled to the beginning of the next route and walked that too LOL

For some weeks after returning from my Camino, I struggled to put into words what it was that was incredible about this walk – besides, the fantastic scenery, the amazing people, the extraordinary scenery, the stunning churches, the wonderful landscape and the sheer exhilaration of reaching Santiago. It was the essence of simplicity.

Your day is stripped bare; reduced to 3 essential functions; walk, eat, sleep – repeat.

31 days of gratitude, camino de santiago, walking the camino, portuguese coastal route,

Walk. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. – I saw this on Facebook…. 🙂

For 11 days. That is all. You find the route to walk along and follow the arrows. You look out for places where you can eat and replenish your system. You look ahead for a place to sleep for the night. Nothing else matters much. Simplicity.

Of course that doesn’t for one second take away from the other experiences along The Way; the joy at finding a longgggg stretch of beautiful boardwalk ahead of you. The fun of meeting fellow pilgrims along the route.

porto portugal, porto to santiago, camino de santiago, walking the camino, project 101

Agata & Jakob – Poland

Stumbling across a centuries old chapel. Seeing your first horreo. Meeting your Camino Angel.

porto portugal, porto to santiago, camino de santiago, walking the camino, project 101

My Camino Angel; Susana – Portugal

A Super Bock after 4 hours of walking in blazing sunshine and temperatures in excess of 36 degrees C.

31 days of gratitude, camino de santiago, walking the camino, portuguese coastal route,

Super Bock

The sheer pleasure of eating a Magnum Double Raspberry. Of seeing the endless ocean on your left for hour after hour. Walking across a bridge built by the Romans. The amazing discoveries; a 999-arch aqueduct, an exquisite sunrise an equally extravagant sunset.

31 days of gratitude, camino de santiago, walking the camino, portuguese coastal route,

exquisite sunrise

Finding your Camino eyes. Recognising the Signs Along The Way. The excitement of discovering and recognising places that till that moment had only been an image in a book, on a facebook page, in a guide.

31 days of gratitude, camino de santiago, walking the camino, portuguese coastal route,

exciting discoveries

Discovering you are walking along an ancient route; Via Romana XIX, a Roman Road from the time of Augustus (63BC-14AD).

31 days of gratitude, camino de santiago, walking the camino, portuguese coastal route,

Via Romana XIX

Climbing a mountain. Crossing streams and rivers. Exploring cities hitherto unknown. The sheer joy of acquiring your first and then one after the other; your pilgrim stamps in your treasured Pilgrim’s Passport. And at journey’s end, the culmination of miles and miles of walking, sweating, talking, crying, pain and joy, you reach Santiago de Compostela. You receive your ‘Compostela’

santiago de compostela, pilgrims passport, walking the caminho portugues, walking the camino, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago

My Pilgrim’s Passport, the Compostela and Certificate of Completion

and watch the swinging of the Botafumeiro – the famous thurible found in the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral.

31 days of gratitude, camino de santiago, walking the camino, portuguese coastal route, swinging the botafumeiro

the swinging of the Botafumeira in the Cathedral of Santiago

Today I am grateful for having had the opportunity to walk the Caminho Português.

31 Days of Gratitude – Day 6

 

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It’s exactly 2 months ago today since I arrived in Porto and although it’s taken a lot longer than I expected, I’ve now written about my fantastic stay in Porto, a wonderful day visit to Coimbra (recommended) and the first 6 days of my Camino 2017 from Porto to Valenca. Before I continue writing about the final 5 days walking in Spain, I thought I’d pause for reflection and consider what I learned and discovered along The Way on the Portuguese Coastal Route and The Portuguese Central Way (via Tui) from Porto to Santiago.

portuguese coastal route mapacoastal

The Portuguese Coastal and Central routes; Porto to Santiago de Compostela

Firstly I must just clarify that I didn’t walk the Camino for religious reasons, but rather to learn more about myself, and for the sheer adventure. I love walking and I love travelling, so the Camino was the perfect opportunity for me to combine the two. I’ve wanted to visit Portugal for ever such a long time and Porto was my desired destination, as well as which I love the ocean, so it made sense to start there and walk the Portuguese Coastal Route. But because I wanted to visit the walled town of Valenca and of course cross the famous bridge that I’d seen in photos and to also visit Tui, I decided to start off on the coastal route to Caminha and then head inland to Valenca and finish off along the Central Portuguese route to Santiago.

inspirational quotes

I just wanna go on more adventures….

My goal was all about discovery. I wanted to see if this was something I could actually do. I’m a creature of habit and I love my home comforts. I get really grumpy when I have to get up early and/or go without my first cup of tea (usually preferred while relaxing in bed – with a couple of biscuits).

 

So it was going to be interesting to see how I would respond to both rising early and forgoing my cup of tea. I did take a packet of teabags with me….but in all the 21 days I was in Portugal and Spain I only used 6 teabags, and 4 of those were in Barcelona AFTER I finished the Camino 😉 So teabags won’t be on my packing list for 2018 then!

So although I didn’t walk for ‘religious’ reasons, I walked in the ‘spirit of learning’; about adventure and discovery, about what I can or cannot cope with, about the countries I walked through, and about their history. I walked with the aim of finding out how walking long distance, under sometimes challenging circumstances would affect me relating to my human spirit/spirituality or soul as opposed to relying on the usual material or physical things and my comfort zones. I could have planned a similar long walk in the UK but that would have fit in with my comfort zone….so Camino it had to be.

inspirational quotes

When it feel scary to jump….

I knew of and had read about the Camino in the past. My father had cycled various routes in his 70’s and 80’s and in 2005 we had toyed with the idea of doing a Camino together – except he wanted to cycle and I wanted to walk. So that never got off the ground. He died a couple of years ago, so that’s that in that area. In retrospect though, I doubt we would have made a success of it, we never really got on very well most of my life and being together day after day would not have been a picnic. However, my younger brother and one of my many younger sisters have cycled The Camino with my father, which is good. I have of course watched the 2010 film, The Way, with Martin Sheen and loved the idea of, but had no desire to walk the Camino Frances (then). Besides all that, I had been inspired to walk the Camino by someone I knew from 2009/2010; a lady in her mid 60’s who had walked the Camino Frances a few years before and loved it.

But because I planned on walking a different route, I didn’t have any preconceptions of how or what the route would be like beyond the fantastic photos I had seen on facebook and the many blogs I read before my September trip. I had read about how some people have major insights, or epiphanies, or religious experiences that changed their lives in a big way, but I wasn’t anticipating any of those and as it turns out, I didn’t have any.

But what I did have, was the joy of walking and being alone. I am a loner, I don’t have a large circle of friends and I am most certainly not a social butterfly; preferring my own company, social events are anathema to me. Even a tea-party or dinner out with a crowd gets me hot under the collar and I’d rather be ill in bed than have to attend a party. LOL

I had read that at certain points you encounter large crowds of people and apparently at the 100km mark (minimum distance required for the Compostela), the route is inundated with other walkers, but I didn’t find that at all, except for one day in Spain when I encountered a group of oldies on the way to Mos. But we soon parted company and in fact at many times I walked for up to 3-4 hours without seeing a soul except the odd local as I meandered by, or the occasional walker who whizzed on by at speed. So in all, the hours that I walked completely on my own suited me perfectly.

However, I did meet some wonderful people along the route in Portugal and spent an hour or so walking with a lovely couple from Poland; Jakob and Agata between Vila do Conde and Esposende. I was really sorry to lose touch with them after we parted ways for breakfast. But as mentioned in the blog, they were a lot younger than me, walked faster and were with a group of friends, and I dawdled a lot taking photos.

It was also going to be really interesting to find out how I felt about not having much by way of home comforts, about wearing the same clothes, not having the convenience of a washing machine, and carrying my belongings on my back day after day. My day job takes me all over the UK and I often get fed up with living out of a suitcase, so living out the backpack for 11 days was going to be a challenge…could I cope? How would I feel about not eating a proper breakfast? (you know what us English folks are like!! Full English and all that, or scrambled egg on marmite toast, but if not possible then oats and fruit, or granola and yoghurt with banana etc etc LOL). And I am not usually a coffee drinker…although the thought of pastries for breakfast every day filled me with joy!! 🙂 🙂 How would I manage? Weirdly it was these type of thoughts that I fretted about most prior to my Camino. Not would I be safe, not would I get blisters, not would I mind a mix-sex bathroom. No. My biggest worry was food!!

I am a magpie and a hoarder. I collect stuff all the time. I love books and am continually buying them (or should I say used to). Apparently my wealth profile is: ‘Accumulator’ – just a shame that didn’t apply to money!! If you saw my house in South Africa in 2001 pre UK, you’d know for sure that I collected ‘stuff’ – a lot of stuff. Since living in the UK the last 16 years, things carried on much the same…even though I arrived with very little, before long I was accumulating stuff; mementos, household items, linen, clothes and books; home comforts. But since I arrived back from my Camino, that has changed substantially. I had already started a few years ago cutting back on ‘buying’ and rather spent my money on travel and experiences like zip-lining. 🙂 which is quite simply awesome, and a must do again.

zip lining with zip world in london

zip lining with zip world in London. My daughter and I had so much fun

Cutting back on spending last year is the reason I had money for my Camino Journey, but now I’ve become quite militant about it. My daughter had already been discouraged from buying me things and has now been seriously encouraged/reminded to not buy me anything that I can’t eat, wear or experience.

inspirational quotes

Take a walk, not a pill….

So what did I learn along The Way?

  1. I can get up early and manage to not die without my first cup of tea…or any tea AT ALL for that matter. For someone who usually drinks 5-6 mugs full a day…
  2. I am fitter than I thought and certainly more agile.
  3. I can climb a mountain and survive.
  4. I can walk in the rain and survive, and I still loathe temperatures above 20 degrees centigrade.
  5. I really do love just being on my own and never once did I get lonely.
  6. I am not afraid.
  7. The scenery and the history of the places I walked through was more amazing than I imagined.
  8. I didn’t have any major epiphanies or insights or spiritual experiences.
  9. I’m still not religious.
  10. Although….I do and did love visiting the many churches along the two routes – so peaceful, real repositories of history, with a strong sense of spirituality.
  11. I can manage to live with only a bare minimum of life’s ‘necessities’.
  12. I loved calling out ‘Bom Caminho’ in Portugal and ‘Buen Camino’ in Spain, and getting a response in return…usually with a smile, especially from the locals.
  13. I enjoyed the brief connections I made with fellow pilgrims and locals; just enough to be fun, but not that long it got tedious.
  14. I can, if I make the effort, learn more of the native languages and managed to pick up quite a lot of extra words enroute. I’m currently learning more Spanish and my daughter is going to teach me to speak and listen comfortably before I go next year.
  15. I’m still an accumulator…..over 5,500 photos between 7-28th September bears witness to that LOL At least they’re light, albeit filling up my Dropbox.
  16. I really don’t want all the stuff I still have in my storage – in fact I nearly had a nervous breakdown when I returned home and saw all the boxes waiting. urgh.
  17. Food wise, I still stuck to what I know – like eating ‘tosta misto’ just about every day because I knew what was in it. And because I’m a ‘food coward’ I didn’t try the local ‘pulpo’ or anything too adventurous. LOL
  18. I left the maps behind, found my ‘Camino eyes’ on day 3 and never looked back.
  19. Despite my initial dislike of them, my walking poles became my best friend and my #1 item for future walks.
  20. After I reached Santiago, I could quite literally have just carried on walking…a bit like Forrest Gump, except I had a ticket to Barcelona booked for the 24th 😦
  21. Although it was tough at times, I loved every minute of the journey and even though I had NO PLANS AT ALL to walk a 2nd Camino before I started, I’m already planning for 2018, 2019 and 2020 – Camino Ingles, Camino Norte and Camino Frances respectively. Oh and not forgetting The Portuguese Central Route…I’m guessing that will have to be in 2021 hahahaha. Then there’s the Primitivo Route to think about…..hmmmm. The Camino bug has bitten.

So, having walked 240 kms through Portugal and Spain, would I recommend walking the Camino? Oh absolutely YES!!!! Is it for the faint-hearted? It can be if you allow yourself to open up and experience all it has to offer. It’s not a ‘walk in the park’, it’s tiring, and tiresome, it’s exhausting (especially if you mistakenly plan for long days e.g. 32 kms), but it’s interesting – the history is phenomenal and I really wish I’d had time to explore some of the towns more thoroughly. I’m planning shorter days for 2018. I have read about two nonagenarians (91 and 93 respectively) who have recently walked the Camino Frances, so pretty much anyone can walk it if they are of a mind to.

inspirational quotes

You are not too old and it is not too late

I would recommend packing light – somehow I managed to pack 11kgs which increased to 13kgs with my water-bladder filled. I don’t know how this came about as I weighed everything so carefully and totted it all up. But somehow I think in the final packing frenzy I bunged in a whole lot of stuff I really didn’t need. I won’t make the same mistake again and next Camino I will be militant about packing a maximum of 8kgs. In fact Pepe (my backpack) is already packed and ready for 2018. This is still to be reviewed.

I would recommend training first before setting off. You may think you’re fit. You may think it’s adventurous and fun to set off impulsively without proper preparation, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I’ve read of walkers getting severe blisters, straining their knees or ligaments, damaging their feet or backs and one gentleman I met in Portugal actually had his stomach lining suddenly tear a few days into his walk which landed him in hospital for 6 weeks. It’s not just the distance you walk, it’s also the weight of the backpack that can cause injury.

Personally, I think the reason my walk went so well is because I spent 18 months in training prior to setting off and walked a total of over 800 miles in the 8 months preceding my Camino. Besides my almost daily 5 mile walks, I did two long walks; 1 of 60 miles and 1 of 19 miles in July before I left, and those gave me a really good insight into what I could cope with, how much I could comfortably carry and taught me to 90% read a map. The other 10% I made my own route when I got lost LOL. I also learned that it’s not a good idea to walk in wet socks!!!

I would recommend buying good equipment; a light-weight backpack – I bought the Osprey Tempest 30 L that weighs only 1.01kgs, the right shoes (I tested 3 pairs over the 18 months before leaving), 3 or 4 pairs of really good socks and 2 pairs of inner socks, and my absolute Number 1 essential – a good pair of light-weight walking poles. I absolutely would not have had as good a walk as I did or been able to negotiate those cobbled streets, sandy roads, steep inclines and declines without my walking poles. I most certainly would not have been able to climb those mountains in Spain.

As mentioned, some days were exceptionally long, and by the end of those days I was practically using my poles like crutches. Of all the equipment and gear I had, those would be the one thing I would recommend most highly.

portuguese coastal route from porto to santiago

a tad overloaded would you say? Laundry drying, my food bag…I looked like a bag lady!! LOL

I would even recommend walking The Camino to people who are afraid of being alone, of walking in a foreign country, or just fearful of travelling beyond the borders of their own country. The whole experience was wonderful. I was exceptionally lucky in that I didn’t have any unpleasant experiences, no illness, no tummy bugs, no bed bugs, no bites (despite an encounter with a very small snake in a Spanish vineyard), no theft of personal belongings, no dehydration (although I did get very thirsty on one day after running out of water), no sunburn, and only one small issue with my right ankle, a contracted muscle acquired while climbing those mountains in Spain, that soon righted itself after being massaged and strapped up. One thing I did suffer with, was swollen ankles. This unfortunately was not a new issue as I generally get swollen ankles when I’m at home too, but it was exacerbated by the heat and being on my feet the whole day, so by the time I reached my accommodation each night, they didn’t look good – however, I survived!! A hot bath/shower and a good sleep does wonders.

How did I feel when returning to ‘civilisation’? Overwhelmed!! I recall with clarity the shock and horror I felt as I entered the old city of Santiago.

I arrived at the old town via the Parque de Alameda and approached the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela and the Praza do Obradoiro via Rúa do Franco. The sea of pedestrians walking towards me, the crowds bumping against me, the beggars shoving cardboard in my face asking for money, and the sheer volume of noise was overwhelming. I was already exhausted, extremely emotional at having finally arrived, struggling to hold back my tears, and the noise and sounds were too just too much. I nearly turned and ran.

arriving in santiago, santiago de compostela, walking to camino, porto to santiago

arriving in Santiago old town

I stayed in bed, in my hotel room the next day until I was starving and had to get out for something to eat. It took a lot of energy just to face the crowds of people again. If you’re expecting peace and tranquillity when you reach Santiago…dispel the thought. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like at the height of summer.

When I got to Barcelona 3 days later, once again I was overwhelmed at the crowds and the traffic noise of the big city. It nearly spoiled my visit on the first day, fortunately I immersed myself slowly and with 4 days to explore I didn’t rush about too much, sticking to quieter roads and areas where possible.

Arriving back in the UK was also overwhelming. The rush and the crush of commuters at the airport, on the trains; being on the tube between stations was a living nightmare. Oh where was the wonderful peace and tranquillity of walking through forests and along deserted roads, the sounds of the ocean as I strolled along the boardwalks, sorely missed.

camino 2017, viana do castelo, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, viana do castelo to caminha, visit portugal

a good ocean breeze and a tumble down fort…what more could I ask for?

Thankfully my base is in a fairly quiet seaside town and the house in a cul-de-sac.

broadstairs, viking bay, isle of thanet, english coast, seaside towns of britain

a winter’s sunrise – Viking Bay, Isle of Thanet

Even so, being back in civilisation was a shock to the system. And as for my store-room; I took one look at all my possessions and nearly had a nervous-breakdown. Time to downsize once again.

The most important lesson of all that I learned on the Camino? I didn’t need 99.9% of the possessions I own in order to survive and be contented and happy.

Bring on Camino 2018.

To read more about my #Camino2017 adventures, my journey started here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The signs along The Way are many. When I first started planning my Camino I joined a number of Facebook pages and groups and started reading blogs. And, although I saw a few photos of the Camino waymarkers and some of the yellow arrows, I didn’t realise how plentiful they would be.

camino portuguese coastal route

Bom Caminho Buen Camino Good Journey

My initial impression was that you would HAVE to follow the guide books and to that end I bought one about the Portuguese Coastal Route, which I studied intently, meaning to take copies with on the journey, but forgot. So, while in Porto, in a panic and before I started, I had my daughter photograph each relevant page and whatsapp them to me. For no reason. As it turned out, the signs were virtually every 500 meters.

The Way is incredibly well marked with arrows, the Camino scallop shell signs and waymarkers showing the distance in kms, until they didn’t – weirdly they came to an abrupt end just as I reached Santiago.

Update: 24/11/2017 – I just found out who paints all those arrows and maintains the various markers along the routes. They’re on Facebook as: Asociación Galega de Amigos do Camino de Santiago. A big shout out to them for all the hard work they do to keep us pointed in the right direction.

Leaving from the Sé Catedral in the old town of Porto, a remarkably historic building in it’s own right, it made a fitting location to start my journey. It was also recommended in the book. Now I didn’t go in ‘blind’, I sussed out the route a few days before – didn’t want to get lost on my first day on the Camino LOL. So, on the day I left, at approximately 07:30, it was easy to follow the downward spiral of steps to the riverfront.

camino portuguese coastal route porto

Sé Catedral, Porto, Portugal, view of the river and of the route, San Tiago, a pilgrims shell and hat, my passport with stamps from the 8th

1. ancient route

The route down from Sé Catedral to the riverside

Although I didn’t see any arrows or markers at that juncture, and since I took the bus to Foz do Duoro, having already walked that section beforehand, the first time I saw anything resembling a ‘sign’, that I recall anyway, was well after I had left Matasinhos at about 14:13 – a yellow arrow painted on a lamp-post. Now, I’m almost certain that there were many others before then, but either I didn’t see them, or was so intent on walking that I didn’t stop to photograph them…that aspect changed further along on my journey.

camino portuguese coastal route

The first arrow that I noticed on the Portuguese Coastal Route

Truthfully, what I did was ‘follow that pilgrim’. For most of my journey and where applicable, I followed the pilgrims up ahead.

camino portuguese coastal route

Follow that pilgrim

There was one place where I came unstuck, on the road to Esposende, and I’m still not at all sure how, but I just trudged along following the footsteps in the sand. There was one set of shoe tracks that I could recognise, so I followed those all the way through along winding sandy paths, and shrubby land till suddenly I could see, in the distance, a road and some buildings…at last civilisation. I was beginning to think I’d be wandering around there forever!! And at some stage along the route I ended up walking through thick brush and undergrowth with zip, zero, nothing and nada around me except for undergrowth, thick brush, trees and deep sandy paths. I did see a few diggers and excavation equipment but no people. It was weird and a little unsettling.

But to get back to The Way and the arrows. They are plentiful. In some areas there are 3 or 4 and in other areas you have to have faith and search.

camino portuguese coastal route

Tilting at Windmills – spot the arrow! If you’re not concentrating…

Most of the time I walked I was enjoying the scenery or in a day-dream, so occassionally I ended up suddenly stopping and realising I hadn’t seen any arrows or scallop shells or waymarkers for quite some time. This usually brought me to a standstill and a panicked look around! Did I miss the arrows?

camino portuguese coastal route

How could you possibly miss this!!

At that point I’d stand still, take a deep breath and having faith that I was still on the correct route, I’d walk on and sure enough there it was; whether a small arrow painted on a rock, or a faint outline on the road, maybe even, as in one spot, painted on an ivy covered wall…..the ivy carefully cut away around it like a frame! The Signs were there. Marvellous.

camino portuguese coastal route

Learning where to look and eventually knowing where to look

There was one day however that I did seriously go way off and as I was swinging along, I heard distant shouts “Senora!! Hello. Hello. Hello.” Eventually I stopped to look around and see what all the fuss was about, and about 500 yards away, distant figures were shouting and gesticulating wildly in my direction then pointing along a path that was not where I was on? LOL Initially a tad confused, I suddenly realised that I had been so deep in thought that I’d not kept my eye on the route. I scurried back laughing and we all agreed I could have ended up who knows where, but it wouldn’t have been Santiago. I still wonder that if they hadn’t drawn my attention, where on earth I’d have gone to?

camino portuguese coastal route

In case you were not aware…this is the Camino de Santiago..weirdly these signs were all in Spain

But on the whole, the route was amazingly well marked. People have been really inventive in where they painted the arrows and or made the markings to show which route you’re on.

8. fields and houses

Camino de Santiago – signs along The Way

10. I spy with my little eye

Camino de Santiago – signs along The Way

11. blink and you'll miss it

Camino de Santiago – signs along The Way

In fact I often wondered about the person/people who painted the arrows and made those markings, or put up the scallop shells and installed the waymarkers. All I can say is ‘thank you’. Whoever you may be, you were in many instances blessed by me. 😉 I got really excited when I came across the Caminho Beach Bar. I’d seen photos of this on the Fcabeook page and the board of shells (behind me), so I stopped, bought a shell, put my name on it and hung it up…@notjustagranny was here 🙂

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

Caminho Beach Bar – Santiago de Compostela 265 kms!!

As I said, most of The Way was very clearly marked and I seldom had any problems, especially after 3 or 4 days, in locating them up ahead…although some were far between, if you just keep walking you will eventually discover them. One of the things that I enjoyed was discovering the yellow X! Sometimes you’d be walking and what looked like the logical route, is not. Then you’d see a big, or as in many cases, small yellow X – this not The Way. So you’d look around till you found what you were looking for…a Yellow marker…this is The Way. My favourite markers were the brown metal plates with yellow arrows.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

X says “no, this is not the way” – even though you may be tempted, but no…this is not The Way

As you wind your way along the Potuguese Coastal Route the signs are varied. Once you get into the forests and hills, you have to be a little more inventive in where you look.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

keeping your eye on the route, sometimes you had to just be a little more aware, they were not always pretty

A tiny yellow arrow pinned to a tree trunk, a scallop shell attached to a wall,

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

show me The Way to go home…oh wait, this is my home!! I loved these ceramic wall plaques

and frequently just two little lines, one yellow, one white to say ‘don’t worry, you’re going the right way’.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

Crossing Paths – the Portuguese Coastal Route blends with the Littoral Route

I loved seeing the different signs, some were freshly painted, others a very faint outline that if you were not looking you could miss it altogether, and others were right across a busy road that needed to be traversed.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

sometimes it was right in front of you, and others …..well suffice to say, you kept your eyes peeled

The waymarkers were the best, I loved seeing the kilometers measured out, and note my progress… my steps eating up the miles.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

Santiago 165kms – my 4th day of walking and I still had 165 kms to go. Ouch

I think I photographed about 95% of them all the way from Valenca in Portugal to the last one at Santiago. Weirdly though, the very first concrete waymarker I saw showing the distance, was in Valenca; 117,624 kms to Santiago. I saw countless after that. Perhaps they only have them from that point.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

Following an ancient route in modern shoes – leaving Valenca, last town in Portugal before crossing to Tui in Spain – 117.624 kms to Santiago

I loved the many many scallop shells that decorated O Porrino, one of my favourite overnight stops.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

The scallop shells of O Porrino, Spain

And I really loved the signs that showed there was a rest stop nearby!!

Camino de Santiago - portuguese route

Refreshments along the way…

One of my favourite places (of which there are quite a few) along The Way was Mos.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese route

Mos. Oh what a delightful stop this was. A small but pretty little town with a church, restaurant and shops.

Admittedly though I was very disappointed coming into Santiago from Padron. All along the route I had seen yellow arrows, scallop shells and waymarkers, and then suddenly I didn’t.

camino portuguese coastal route

the signs along the way. I found these to be most helpful. It was also fun to see how the kms were going down. down. down 🙂

I was expecting the countdown to continue right up until you reached the 000.000 kms to Santiago and frequent arrows or scallop shells….but no….the last one was the last one and it wasn’t 000.000 kms. The last waymarker I saw on the perimeter of the city said 2,329 kms. After that, the scarcity of arrows and scallop shells was very disappointing. I think perhaps they feel that once you reach the outskirts of the city, you can jolly well find your own way LOL.

camino portuguese coastal route

I saw very few signs after this. They seemed to get scarcer the closer we got to Santiago

But a few pilgrims felt the same way I did…or did I just walk the wrong way? I don’t know.

But what I do know, is that they were a life-saver. There was something incredibly reassuring about finding/seeing the signs. I’m on The Way to Santiago de Compostela.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

Camino de Santiago – I’m on The Way

Trust, that was one lesson I learned on the Camino, to trust in the signs, to trust in the route, to trust in myself. And I made it. 🙂

 

 

 

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Day 15 Thursday 2017.09.21 Padrón to Santiago de Compostela

The simplicity of just being.

I could scarcely believe that today is the day I was to finally reach Santiago. When I started this journey I had no idea of what lay ahead. I had read the blogs, seen the photos, read the guides, researched the areas, and none of them truly gave me any idea of what really lay ahead.

As mentioned in my previous day’s blog I woke really early, only to snuggle back between the warm sheets for an extra hour after looking out the window and seeing pitch dark…

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these shoes are made for walking….

2017.09.21 these shoes were made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do…. Well this is it; day 5/5 and my last day on Camino. What a journey it has been. As I lay in bed last night I tried to reflect on where I’d been and what I’d seen and done, but I was so tired that I was asleep before too long. The bed is right comfy and now that it’s morning I’m reluctant to get up. But I did, quickly before the other pilgrims got going. I wanted to capture this image. Many of the albergues have a no shoes policy. So as you enter the living area you’re required to remove your walking shoes. Marvellous idea; keeps the place clean.

I thought this image epitomised the Camino….all coming together in one place for a brief moment in time, and then we’ll all go our separate ways. I wonder to where? Weirdly I haven’t seen even one of the pilgrims I’ve met previously. I think my marathon push through on Tuesday from Arcade to Caldas de Reis put me too far ahead. Pretty much everyone agrees, 32 kms was wayyyy too much. One of the disadvantages of having prebooked accommodation. Cést la vie eh. But on the plus side I met my Camino angel; Susana yesterday 🙂 Total bonus. I hope I see her again so I can say thank you one more time. I was surprised to note that the lass in the bunk above mine had already left – I never heard a thing…good earplugs, or a considerate pilgrim? 🙂

before I left, I decided to take a last look at the river. The church looked other-worldly in the blue light as I passed through the square – fleeting shadows flittered as pilgrims walked beneath the pools of light cast by lamps on the corners.

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Igresa

On the way I noticed a tiny little coffee shop right across the square; Canton de la Iglesia, just in front of the church, so stopped off at this delightful place for breakfast; best cafe con leche and banana bread ever. I so enjoyed the warm, cosy, lively atmosphere… pilgrims filled the tables and the proprietors were busy bustling back and forth serving food and coffee. The conversation bubbled and you could feel an undercurrent of excitement….I wished once again and not for the last time, that I had made more effort with my Spanish language lessons.

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coffee and carrot cake; wonderful hospitality

I felt so bemused and quite out-of-body. Besides being really tired, despite a good night sleep, I was feeling so bemused at the fact that I had over 210 km’s behind me, with just 20 or so ahead, and only today left before I reached Santiago, I felt like I was in a bubble, my mind in a fuzz. It hardly seemed possible. I cried a lot today LOL

I finished off my coffee and the banana bread, gathered my things together, the proprietor gave me a big hug and a kiss on the forehead and accompanied by the sound of clapping (they applauded everyone who set off 🙂 ) I left the warmth of the café and before starting my final day’s walk to Santiago I turned left for a last look at the church and river.

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coffee and carrot cake; wonderful hospitality on the Canton de la Iglesia

All was quiet and hushed as I walked, the sky an ethereal shade of blue-grey with a splash of pink just tinging the river and sky as the sun rose higher.

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early morning in Spain; leaving Padrón

Finally I could delay no longer, it was now getting on for 08:30 and unless I planned on getting to Santiago in the dark…

As I walked back through the square I noticed the proprietor from the café waving at me…I waved back and smiled. He waved again and held up 3 fingers…..as he did so, to my intense and everlasting mortification I realised that I had forgotten to pay them for the coffee and cake. I nearly died. Have you ever had the wish that the ground would open up and swallow you? Well…..

Red-faced and highly apologetic I made my way back into the café. It felt like all the eyes, accusing eyes, of the world were upon me as I stumbled across the threshold, my apology falling from my lips. Mortified!! Especially as they had been so hospitable and kind.

Oh well…..it stills makes me cringe, even today, 2 months later LOL

After paying my dues, I felt like I should probably also pay penance for my sins, but the church was closed still, so instead I tried to gather my dignity back together and mentally bashing myself on the head I set off along the pilgrim’s route I had discovered the night before.

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Calle de Dolores – The Way to Camino de Santiago

The rain in Spain falls mainly……in Galicia on The Way to Santiago LOL

I had hardly walked a few yards than I had to stop and hoick Pepe off my back, and put our relevant rain covers on before getting set, ready, go again. The 2nd rainy day out of 11 days on the Camino….not too bad.

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the dreaded N-550

Barely 1 km out of Padrón and I encountered the dreaded N-550 Precaución Intersección. Urgh. Weirdly the sign said 16km to Santiago. I’m guessing that was for motorists and not pilgrims.

Wish me luck, 22.519 kms to Santiago.

Ahead of me and coming up from behind were a number of pilgrims. As you will note their backpacks were covered…yes it was raining proper now. Thankfully I had already put rain wear on. It rained on and off pretty much the whole way.

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along The Way of St James

We soon left the suburbs and entered a more rural area passing small plots with charming houses, the now familiar hórreo, and all with animals of one sort or another. I stopped to say hello to some of the ‘girls’ along the way. I saw some fantastic hórreos …they are certainly very interesting. I must find out more.

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Rural Spain, follow that pilgrim along The Way of St James

Day 5/5 Hah, 19.595 kms to Santiago……first 3 kms done and dusted 😊😊

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19.595 kms to Santiago

The route today took us through various hamlets, rural land with a variety of crops, through stands of tall trees and past hórreos and lavendarias. I saw and passed an elderly gentleman strolling along the path…..consider that it was raining!! I was like hello!! Where’s your raincoat dude?

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rural Spain

Suddenly it was 18.369 kms marker…the k’s were going down…weirdly on top of the marker was an eye-mask??? Why do people leave these things?

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18.369 kms to Santiago, rural Galicia

Once again I noticed so much urban decay. I mean seriously, the abandoned houses looked amazing..so beautiful in their slow decline, but oh so sad. People used to live there.

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signs along The Way to Santiago

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Along the Way of St James

Before too long we came to an amazing church; Satuario da Virxe da Escravitude – Santuary To Our Lady of the Slavery. A huge imposing edifice of grey stone slabs towering above the sidewalk. First a long flight of steps to negotiate. By this stage, anything more than 3 steps was classified as a ‘long’ flight of steps LOL Tradition has it that two miracles occurred that caused a temple to be built and eventually this magnificent church. The first one occurred in 1582. The second of the events took place in 1732.

All the pilgrims ahead of me were making their way up the steps, so I followed suit. Wow, what a fantastic building. To my delight, at the back of the church, just behind the magnificent altar, was a tiny office where we queued for our passports to be stamped. The guy was really busy with a large group just ahead of me. I noticed again how few people bother to leave a donation. Surely it’s not to much to ask….for their time and contribution to our journeys!! HINT: Leave a small donation 🙂

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Satuario da Virxe da Escravitude

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Satuario da Virxe da Escravitude

Once again the route took us uphill and down… Thankfully not as steep as the previous 4 days which were at some stage pure murder on the legs. Not long after leaving that church behind us, the route took us past another beautiful church. They are quite simply amazing. I wished I had more time to visit them all.

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Igrexa de Santa Maria de Cruces

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snapshots of Spain – and it’s still raining

I passed the quirky entrance for a restaurant; Bella Vista (beautiful view) and was sorely tempted to stop, but the extra distance off the route just seemed too much. For someone who normally has no qualms at all about taking lengthy diversions, to consider 20 meters too far, was something of a novelty. Truly, by now my sense of adventure was well and truly tired.

I passed one of many memorials. Some of these have been raised in memorium to pilgrims who have died on the route. They are so melancholy. The realisation that someone died on that spot, just feet from where I was walking was a stark reminder that the Camino is not all fun and games.

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snapshots of Spain; Santiago de Compostela

As I passed through a tiny hamlet, a wizened old lady was gathering bundles of hay and carrying them along to a barn – I mused at how different life is between here and the UK. Shortly after that I walked beneath a grapevine covered tunnel and was reminded of the snake I’d seen in the last vineyard….eeeek!!

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vineyards – snapshots of Spain; Santiago de Compostela

The arrows were really inventive and as usual the route is really well marked. Unless you stray off course there really is no reason to get lost.

It’s 10:51 and I’ve stopped briefly for a break. 7.66 kms covered so far. I’m feeling stronger and full of energy. My ankle, strapped securely, is holding up well. This gorgeous little boy has decided to hitch a ride to Santiago 😍😍😍 isn’t he a beauty!!

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signs along The Way – snapshots of Spain; Santiago de Compostela. A wee kitty hitching a ride

15.052 kms to Santiago and it’s still raining. I had read that it rains a lot in Santiago so I wasn’t too surprised.

Another of the very fierce animals I met along the way LOL This little boy just loved having someone stop and talk to him with a bit of a pet through the fence. I had noticed another lady also stop before I got there and then after I walked on, someone else also stopped to chat and pet, so I’m guessing he has wised up to the free love. Clever boy. Not long after that, just a few feet in fact, a wee girlie slunk up and looked for some loving too 🙂 She followed me for ages and despite me picking her up and taking her back to her house, she just followed again and eventually I gave up and just ignored her. She eventually turned back and went home.

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signs along The Way – snapshots of Spain; Santiago de Compostela and some of the very fierce animals

I’ve stopped for food 😊😊 Just delaying the inevitable. Walked 9.96 kms so far and 14.664 kms to go. I’ve met some of the really fierce animals along The Way today 😍😍😍 That dog just loved having his nose tickled. The little cat followed me for ages. Mind you she followed everyone. 😇😇 I’m having such an amazing day. The kms are just flying by, the pilgrim’s are all full of joie de vie and there seems to be a spring in their step. I know there is one in mine!!! I’m trying very hard to not think about arriving in Santiago, coz each time I do, I well up with tears. 😂😂😂 nearly there and it hardly seems possible.

14.5kms to Santiago – Some of the markers along the route were very decorative and I could feel my excitement escalating with every one I saw.

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14.5 kms to Santiago! signs & towns along The Way – snapshots of Spain

I stopped in O Faramello for lunch and a drink; tuna mayonnaise (hot) on a baguette and a glass of the heavenly orange juice. The food in Portugal and Spain always managed to surprise me…when I was expecting it to be cold, it was hot, and when I expected hot, it was cold!!! I was tempted to buy the cake on offer…hot or cold?

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urban decay along The Way; O Faramello – snapshots of Spain; Santiago de Compostela

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Stopping for lunch in O Faramello on The Way to Santiago de Compostela

12.901 kms to Santiago – wheeeee 🙂 so excited now. I passed a little church; Capilla de Francos, Abierta. Doors closed sadly.

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Capila on The Way to Santiago de Compostela

The markers were becoming more colourful now 🙂 The landscape really beautiful I passed a sleepy hamlet where I saw a flock of exotic ducks or were they geese, waddling across the road. Mostly the villages are virtually deserted…I hardly saw anyone besides the pilgrims, who were now quite numerous and I was seldom alone.

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this way…..

The Camino Português takes you through some of the most beautiful countryside as well as busy towns and urban sprawl.

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beautiful countryside in Galicia

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Rio Tinto!!! Camino Português Galicia, Spain

Rio Tinto!!!! Have I been teleported to the Wild West? Where’s that dude on his horse? I just laughed when I saw this. Too funny. My emotions were very raw by now and anything, no matter how mundane, had the capacity to make me either laugh or cry….

As I reached this little bridge my excitement went through the roof!!! OMG just look at that!!! 10.166 kms to go to Santiago. I’m more than halfway there 😁😁😁😊😊👏👏 Wowwww.

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10.1666 kms to Santiago de Compostela

Overwhelmed by emotion I had to just sit down to gather myself. While I was just sitting there at the marker and reflecting on how far I’ve come, pilgrims whizzed by. Sometimes just a Buen Camino or a wave, other times an enquiry: are you okay? Si gracias. Just resting. When I started this journey 11 days ago I had no idea whether or not I’d even be able to walk this far. I didn’t know about all the amazing things I’d see, the fantastic countryside, the stunning churches and views, the hamlets, villages, towns and cities I’d pass through; places that were all just names on a map on 6th September. I hadn’t yet met all the wonderful people along The Way or experienced the kindness of strangers. I hadn’t practised my smidgen of the Português language and a little more of Spanish. I hadn’t yet climbed a mountain with Pepe on my back, slept in an albergue or a mixed dorm. I hadn’t crossed these foreign rivers or bridges, both real and metaphorical. Yet here I am; 230 kms on from where I left and with just on 10kms to Santiago I’m overwhelmed – emotions raged, disbelief, gratitude, excitement, wonder, amazement.

I thought Pepe and Gemini deserved some recognition so today they’re both in the picture. Despite being exceedingly heavy to pick up and put back on, Pepe (backpack) has been my constant companion and without Gemini (nordic walking poles) I doubt I would have made it without a tumble or two; together we’ve come so far. My body is doing great and I’m both exhilarated and excited, and yet sad it’s all coming to an end. The tears are flowing. I wasn’t ready to reach Santiago yet!!! I wanted this to carry on…this wonderful walking. The simplicity of just being. The pilgrim’s are whizzing by while I sit. Oh and it’s raining again 🤣🤣🤣 Raincoats on. Time to finish my journey. I’ll see you in Santiago. And once again I set off.

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that way to Santiago de Compostela

I photographed every marker from here on……

And then there was this…..

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when the next marker suddenly shows more kms to go than the last???

6,660 kms – the number of the beast apparently

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6,660 kms to Santiago de Compostela

2017.09.21 Day5/5 and 5.733 kms and I have no words 😁😁😁🤧🤧💃💃💃💕💕👏👏👏

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5,733 kms to Santiago de Compostela and it’s raining again

Just after the 4,560 km marker I came across a little wayside café; A Paradina and decided to extend the day even further, so stopped for a pee and a coffee, and a stamp for my passport. LOL.

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a paradina, galicia

While ordering my coffee, a couple of ‘pilgrims’ pitched up and very rudely demanded the stamp for their passports. No please. No thank you. Just “sello!!” grabbed it and stamped their passport and off again without so much as a by your leave. That’s just not acceptable. At least buy something, this is a business. These people are doing you a favour by providing the ‘sello’, no one has a ‘right’ to it. If you don’t have time to buy something, then leave a small donation. Pilgrims say thank you and please. Tourists demand. Be a pilgrim.

Much of the route was through green forests dripping with water, over little bridges, past intriguing gates, through tiny villages, and then…..

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the beautiful countryside of Galicia

Whattt??? You give me 2 options now!!! After 235 kms!!! Seriously dude. 😤😤 I’m going right. Because….(mostly because it was downhill LOL)

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which way to go to Santiago

Then, after heading downhill and beneath a huge motorway, and walking along some narrow lanes, at a gap in the trees I could just see on the horizon, the towers of the Cathedral. Oh wowwww. I loved the colourful houses I was now seeing. Urban sprawl.

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I can just see the towers Santiago de Compostela in the far distance

Soon the route reached the outer precincts of the city and now it’s just 2.329 kms and the route is getting manic; confusing roundabouts, traffic noise, the hustle and bustle of people. It had stopped raining by now and I was sweltering under my raincoat, so I stopped and removed the rain covers….just an excuse to delay the inevitable really LOL

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2,329 km to Santiago

I’m crying so much by this stage I find it difficult to see. I crossed paths with some of the Irish group I’d met a few days before. 🙂 We had a brief exchange of news, catching up on events and ‘how are you holding up?’…. and then I was off…a cathedral was waiting…

And before I knew it; the old city. I passed some fantastic buildings…..

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Santiago de Compostela 🙂

…..walked alongside the Alameida Park, not realising I could walk through it

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Santiago de Compostela – Rua do Franco

and then…..crossing over at the traffic lights I was confronted with the crowds…I almost had a panic attack. Rua do Franco…..the traditional route of the Portugués Camino to the Cathedral. Tears are flowing. Pilgrims in front of me, tourists and travellers…..it was so busy and noisy and overwhelming.

After walking for days with hardly seeing a soul, spending hours on my own walking through forests and fields, alongside rivers and streams and the ocean, to suddenly be confronted with hordes of people was a massive shock to my system.

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Santiago de Compostela – Rua do Franco

And as I walked, nearer and nearer… the tears just flowed….

…..at the end of the passage I could see the top of one of the towers……I cried a river…

2017.09.21 16:41 Praza de Obradoiro and 0.000kms to Santiago de Compostela 😊😊😊😊👏👏👏🤧🤧🤧 11 days 9 hours 21 minutes / 240 kms since I left Sé Catedral in O Porto in Portugal at the start of my very first Camino. I just sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.

I tried to make a video to send home, but I cried so much I could barely speak. What an overwhelming feeling to finally be in Santiago. Too soon. Not soon enough. I wanted to start again!! I wanted a bed!!!

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Praza de Obradoiro and 0.000kms to Santiago de Compostela

The queue at the pilgrim’s office was 1 hour and 55 minutes 😂😂😂 and worth every minute, despite my painful feet 😉👣👣🤧🤧

2017.09.21 Day 5/5 And at last journeys end; my now completed pilgrim’s passport, the Compostela and Certificate of Completion 240 kms O Porto to Santiago de Compostela.

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The Pilgrim’s Office at Santiago de Compostela, my now completed and certified Compostela and the angel I carried by my side all The Way; a gift from my daughter.

What an amazing, incredible, heart-warming, painful, emotional, exhilarating and at times exhausting but unforgettable journey. This I shall never forget. It has indeed been a buen camino; a ‘good way’ for me. I have had the most incredible journey, way way more than I ever thought possible or anticipated – from Porto to Santiago on my #Camino2017

I’m here. My hotel, Anosa Casa was in Rúa de Entremurallas, but there was a road with a similar name; Rúa de Entremuros, on the opposite side of the city….after being sent back and forth a few times, by which stage I was crying again and ready to scream, I finally logged onto the internet and looked it up on Google maps (a life saver). So, after getting my Compostela it took nearly an hour to find my hotel……I was a very unhappy bunny.

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hoorah!! my bed 🙂

The hotel had said they were close to the cathedral, they just didn’t say on which side of the city LOL As it turns out I had virtually walked right past the road on my way in along Rúa do Franco as I entered the city. After checking in and reaching my room, within an hour I was showered, teeth cleaned and sans supper, in bed! Time to sleep….I didn’t stir till 8am the next day. Exhausted on so many levels. But I was here…….Santiago 🙂

Keep the ocean on your left and head north……a journey to Santiago de Compostela.

Going back to the beginning….leaving Porto on the 11th of September 2017

 

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Day 11 Sunday 2017.09.17 – Tui to O Porriño Day 1/5 Camino 2017 part 2 (read part 1 here)

After leaving the city of Tui behind me I was mostly on my own walking through fields and wooded areas, sometimes on asphalt, or along sandy lanes, setting a good pace, all the while looking for the arrows. Sometimes they are elaborate and sometimes quite faint and obscure. But I know now what to look out for; my ‘Camino eyes’ are open.

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and suddenly I was in the countryside…..the Ponte Romano in the distance

As I reached woodland and found the Ponte Romano along which the Via Romana XIX route continues crossing over the River Louro, I noticed a stunning rock sculpture; a cut out pilgrim and a delightful water fountain where some pilgrims were filling their water bottles. “Ola! Buenas dias” …. I walked to the middle of the bridge, just because 🙂 and then continued on my way into cool green refreshing forests.

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a stunning sculpture on the Via Romana XIX near the Ponte Romana, a place for pilgrims to fill their water bottles and the Ponte Romana over the Louro

Walking through the beautiful landscape of the River Louro valley in Galicia, a 700 ha nature reserve, I noticed that the weather was a lot cooler, the landscape was greener and not as arid as Portugal. I felt absolutely joyful. The day was cool with a faint breeze and as usual I shouted a greeting ‘Ola’ or ‘Buen Camino’ as I went. I saw quite a few pilgrims today, but was never in a crowd.

Once again the terrain was variable; all change please…asphalt, gravel, cobbles, paving, mud…repeat…

10:50 Passing beneath a substantial bridge I saw this writing on the wall (I only photographed one side of the message)….

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whizzing through the Galician countryside, the route was variable

Peregrino: que véxalo ceo na terra cando teus ollos divisen as torres de Compostela.

Onde vai aquil peregrino (?), meu peregrino onde irá(?)
Camiño de Compostela. Eu sei que alí chegará.
Bo Camiño e un desexo CONCELLO DE TUI

Which roughly translated means:

We hope you see heaven on earth when your eyes spot the towers of Compostela.

Where is THAT peregrino going ? Where is MY peregrino going?
He is going to Compostela. I know that he will arrive there.
Buen Camino and a wish TUI MUNICIPALITY

Just on 11am I took a small diversion I stopped at a cafe; Bar Muniz just off the N550 for a visit to the loo (by now I learned how to use the loo with my backpack on!! 😂😂), then ordered a café con leche (no longer café com leite) and cheese on a very big roll; which was never what I was expecting.  Soon satiated, with Pepe on my back, I set off once again. Along the way I visited a tiny chapel; Capela da Virxe do Camino, an 18th century basilica building built on the remains of a previous church, which had a simply beautiful interior. The polychrome image in the sacristy depicts a seated Virgin with a baby boy at her breast.

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11am café con leche and the Galician version of toasted cheese LOL Still on the Via Romana XIX, and the delightful Capela Virxen do Camino

Not long after that I encountered one of those places where I stopped with a wtf exclamation… where to now? It happened from time to time…. I was on the verge of a very busy road with a 70 kms per hour speed limit 😲😧 and it appeared as if I was meant to cross over the bridge in front of me (in my mind I was thinking ‘seriously’ are you F@%$ kidding?)

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….seriously??? I missed that marker altogether

…after walking a few yards towards the crest of the bridge I soon realised that no! this was definitely NOT the Way, so I retraced my steps and lo and behold there across the road was a Camino marker…hallelujah! I had missed it altogether. I scurried across, and carried on. As I walked it felt like I was taking strain on my left shoulder and right hip, which was weird as I had been very careful to balance out my packing, but realised, from a similar experience a few days before, that a strap had loosened. I stopped and removed Pepe to tighten the straps up and suddenly heard a cry of “hello Cindy!! ” To my surprise and delight it was my group of 5 that I’d crossed paths with a few times since Porto. Coincidentally they had stayed at the same hotel in Valença as me last night and we had bumped into each other in the reception. I thought for sure they’d be well ahead by now, but no, it seems I was ahead 🙂 So for the next few kms right through to O Porriño I walked with them. It was lovely and lively as the conversations ebbed and flowed. As we traipsed along through the gorgeous woodlands and wetlands of the national park, Gándara de Budiño, we came across a small granite cross and shrine; this marks the spot where San Telmo, the Bishop of Tui, died of a fever 750 years ago on his return from a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. The inscription reads as follows: ” Caminante, here he was sick of death in Telmo in April 1251. Ask him to speak with God in your favor .” It’s a beautiful place so we, like many pilgrims before and I’m sure also since, stopped for a rest by the stream. You will notice the granite blocks used to pave the path. Not easy to walk on.

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A small cross and shrine marks the spot where San Telmo, the Bishop of Tui, died of a fever on his return from a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela 750 years ago. The horseman riding by was surreal to say the least

Enroute at about 12:20 we stopped at a marvellous little roadside cafe; O Chiriringo in Ribedelouro, where we had café con leche, a sugary bun and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice; nectar of the gods. They also stamped our passports 🙂 I love all the little pilgrim reliefs and sculptures on the walls; pilgrims, a pilgrims staff and the ever present scallop shells.

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the wonderful garden cafe of O Chiriringo Ribedelouro, my group of 5 from AUS, and the best orange juice on the planet

After a lovely relax and a chat with a delightful Scottish couple who had also stopped (I met them again a couple of times along the route) we set off again. It was here that I saw my first hórreo; a Galician granary, built up off the ground to discourage rats and mice. The first of many I was to see eroute to Santiago. The oldest document containing an image of an hórreo is the Cantigas de Santa Maria by Alfonso X “El Sabio”. The oldest of these date from the 15th century, are listed structures and therefore protected under law. I just loved the direction board in their garden – O Porriño 9.5kms and Santiago 107kms.

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An hórreo; a Galician granary, a fabulous sign board; O Porrino 9.5kms and scallop shells decorate a wall at the garden cafe of O Chiriringo Ribedelouro

At 13:16 in the neighbourhood of Orbenlle, where the Camino Portugues leaves the municipality of Tui and enters the one of Porriño, at a bend in the route of the Camino de Santiago, we came face to face with a magnificent reproduction of the (The Portal of Glory) ‘Portico de la Gloria’ of the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral made by the painter Xai Óscar. The ‘Portico de la Gloria’ is the Romanesque portico, the cathedral’s main gate, created by Maestro Mateo in 1188.  Xai Óscar, invested four months of ‘nights’ to capture this in the mural. Next to that ‘The Old Pilgrim’ by the same artist; Xai Óscar. Stunning!!

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the fabulous mural, a reproduction of ‘Portico de la Gloria’ painted by Xia Óscar at a junction on the Way to Santiago and the Old Pilgrim

Continuing on our way, by 13:52 we left the quirky houses, rural lanes and sleepy villages

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walking through the Galician countryside, nearly there….just over 6kms to O Porrinó and 105.519 kms to Santiago

and the route took us through the horrible industrial area of Las Gándaras, along Polígono das Gándaras a 3.5-4 km straight stretch of road of dull, harsh tarmac and pollution. Yuck. Glad it was Sunday or it would have been very busy. (you can take the alternative Camino through As Gándaras and the River Louro valley to avoid crossing the industrial park.) It was terribly hot by now and humid. I longed for the cool forests.

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3.5-4 km without any shade and along an asphalt road through a horrible industrial area.

While walking along this stretch, I suddenly found myself in ‘the zone’, and head down, my walking poles rhythmically swinging I just walked and walked, looking neither left nor right I was soon through the industrial park and as I neared the end I found one of the group at my side and steaming ahead – Joan was on a roll (pun intended LOL) – she knew of a cafe nearby; Café Adele. Hurrah, a place to stop. It was hot and I needed an icy cold drink….I knew just what would fit the bill 🙂 Unfortunately the cafe was closed 😦 Onwards……

Then, just when you feel like you want to lie down and die, the route takes you over a steep bridge LOL. It took 30 minutes to get from one end of the industrial park to the other. But the reward was just on the other side in the form of Café Neuvo.

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just when you need it least…a bridge. …and now it’s 101.379 kms to Santiago

And finally at 14:20 Hurrah!! Café Nuevo Eidos Bar; not exactly The Ritz, but it offered a place to sit down, as well as food and drinks. We hurried inside, nature calling loud and clear, and then it was time for ‘Super Bock’. Damn that beer tasted good. The break offered some respite and we all removed shoes and socks and compared/massaged our achy feet. My Aloe Vera Heat Lotion was, as ever, my salvation. So far I have no blisters, but 2 of the ladies from the group of 5 had nasty blisters. Ewww, painful.

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and finally Café Neuvo Eidos – time to rest, drink a Super Bock and compare injuries LOL

After a brief respite, with just 4 kms left to go we set off at a good pace, and with my head down, walking poles swinging, for the next hour and 50 minutes I didn’t stop for photos or anything else except to capture the Capela de Angustias (the chapel of Sorrows) on the edge of O Porriño

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The chapel of Angustias (the chapel of Sorrows) on the Camino through O Porriño

…and then suddenly there we were, in O Porriño. It was now 99.408 kms to Santiago!! Hoorah, less than 100kms to go. Although exhausted, my spirits soared.

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tah dah!! O Porrino and now it’s less than 100 kms to Santiago de Compostela – 99.408 kms

I was caught by surprise that we reached O Porriño so quickly and sad to say goodbye to my group of 5. They were staying at a pre-arranged hotel and I still had to find my albergue. We made a loose agreement to meet up on the road to Arcade in the morning and said goodbye. As it turned out this was the last time I saw them. With no idea where my hostel was I sat down on a nearby bench and gathered myself… Where to next? I had no idea. But with occasional help from the locals, Google maps, and the Camino signs, I was guided to my destination.

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following the signs through O Porrino and finding my bed for the night; Albergue Alojamiento on the Camino Portugués

I didn’t make a pre-booked reservation for the night, but instead I’d taken note of an alburgue; Albergue Alojamiento recommended by someone on Facebook, and phoned ahead earlier in the morning. Yes, they could accommodate me. Awesome. What time will you arrive? Oh about 6pm maybe 7pm. Okay, we’ll wait for you.

As it turned out, I arrived at 4.25pm. I’d wanted to experience the Camino way of not having accommodation sorted months ahead but just phoning ahead on the day and hoping to get a place for the night. I was very happy they had a place at the inn for me 😉

Soon I was checked in and reclining on a very comfy bed in a mixed dorm close to a very busy noisy highway. Thank goodness for my foam earplugs.

Alojamiento Camino Portugues,

Alojamiento Camino Portugués

What a marvellous day. I’ve seen so many wondrous places, enjoyed amazing scenery and all the place names that I’d seen on the maps, researched and wondered about, are now coming alive.

End of Day 1 of my Spanish #Camino2017, and day 11 since I arrived in Porto. So far I have walked/travelled 140kms or so and I am astounded to realise that by Thursday night, all being well, I’ll be in Santiago. Buen Camino.

Walked 18.39 kms. 8 hours 47 minutes and 2 seconds door to door (of which at least an hour was spent in the walled city of Valença and on the bridge over the River Miño on the border between the two countries). Steps taken: 45,382.

After making the acquaintance of my room-mates; an elderly gentleman from Spain, 2 young Korean girls, a young man from the Netherlands and a young woman from I don’t know where, I made my bed and a had brief rest – socks airing above me, then a quick shower, and after repacking my bag and getting my clothes ready for the morning, I grabbed my phone and set off to explore…….

Day 11 exploring O Porriño

Read part 1 of my journey from Valença to O Porriño.

Exploring O Porriño

 

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Day 11 Sunday 2017.09.17 – Valença to Tui and onto O Porriño (part 1)

A Sámi proverb states, “How it goes with the first day’s travelling, so it will be with the rest of the journey.” – and in this instance that proved true; I had an awe-inspiring journey, an mix of early mornings, beautiful albeit tough terrain, cool air, peaceful forests and joyful greetings. I was on my Way.

This was day 1 of 5 walking from Tui to Santiago de Compostela; no rest days inbetween. With my alarm set for 6am, I woke with an overwhelming sense of anticipation, finally the day had arrived for the push through to Santiago de Compostela and excited beyond belief, I felt like I wanted to run every mile and jump with joy. I didn’t of course 🙂

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117.624 kms to Santiago – this was the first of many such route markers I saw along The Way.

I set off really early at 06:43 while it was still dark, and made my way to the walled city. Thank goodness I had found the route last night. Thanks to Mel for the heads up!

Although still quite dark I could see the sky lightening in the east. The streets were eerily quiet and while navigating the city I saw only 3 people the whole time I was walking through. The air was fresh and cool with the wonderful stillness of pre-dawn. I faffed around taking photos of each section of the route, recorded the church bells (because I am like that!) and took a few selfies while keeping an eye on the time. I was keen to watch the sunrise from the bridge into Spain.

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Fortaleza de Valença do Minho (Valença do Minho Fortress) boasts over 800 years history.

The city felt timeless as I made my way along the quiet streets, stopping briefly at the Roman milestone and Santa Maria dos Anjos church. If you walk this way look out for the Roman milestone dating from the 1st century AD. It marks 42 Roman miles (62 kms) on the road from Braga to Tui, and has the following inscription:

TIBERIUS CLAUDIUS CAESER AUGUSTUS GERMANICUS PONTIFEX MAXIMUS. IMPERATOR V CONSUL III, TRIBUNICIA POTESTATE III. PATER PATRIAE BRACARA XLII.

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A Roman milestone dating from the 1st century and Igreja de Santa Maria dos Anjos; the mother church of Valença do Minho consecrated in 1276

Finally I set my compass for Spain, my ‘Camino eyes’ carefully scanning for the yellow arrows as I trod gingerly along the cobbled lanes, down numerous stairs, through tunnels and beneath the fortified walls; muralha primitiva. It felt primitive.

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along the narrow lanes of Fortaleza Valença – a fortress started at the beginning of the 13th century and relating to the reign of King Sancho I

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Fortaleza Valença – a fortress started at the beginning of the 13th century

It was thrilling thinking about all the thousands of pilgrims who, through the aeons, have walked that route before me. The history of this awesome place is mind-blowing.

Then suddenly I was on the bridge and standing on the border, with one foot in Portugal and the other in Spain. My excitement knew no bounds. 🚶‍♀️👣🚶‍♀️👣🚶‍♀️👣👏👏👏

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Tui International Bridge (known in Portugal as Valença International Bridge), completed in 1878 is on the Portuguese Way to Santiago de Compostela

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Tui International Bridge leading to Spain (known in Portugal as Valença International Bridge)

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Tui International Bridge leading to Spain crosses the River Miño from Valença in Portugal. In the distance to the right you can see the cathedral of Tui on the hilltop

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In the past, pilgrims coming from Portugal had to reach Galicia, Spain by crossing the river Miño on a boat, but lucky me I could walk across via the bridge 🙂 These shoes are made for walking…

Tip: when you walk across the International Bridge from Portugal into Spain, be sure to walk on the right-hand side looking upstream, for the markings on the walkway. A footnote (pun-sorry LOL): I was so impressed with my walking shoes; a last minute buy a couple of weeks before I left, these shoes have done me proud: 123 kms so far…good support and no blisters!! The socks; brilliant combination of IsoCool liner socks and double layer anti-bacterial socks worked really well for me. But back to the sunrise…..

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The river Miño flows between Portugal and Spain.

Tui International Bridge leading to Spain crosses the River Miño from Valença in Portugal. I watched a magnificent pink-hued sunrise, took dozens of photos and finally once the sun peeked above the horizon in Portugal, I walked the final yards into Spain…. Hurrah, now I was on the Camino Portuguese Central Way to Santiago de Compostela. (Compostela (comes from the Latin “Campus Stellae” (i.e. Stars Field) – love that!!! ❤ 

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España 🙂 finally I was in Spain for real and on my way to Santiago de Compostela – Camino Portugues – Camiño de Santiago

Unbeknownst to me at that point, I was also going to be walking along sections of the old Roman Road ‘Via Romana XIX’ – see pic in top right hand corner. I just liked the design without realising the connotations 🙂

Tui, one of the seven capitals of the ancient Kingdom of Galicia, is the first town in Spain on the Camino Portugués Central Way and has an awesome cathedral just waiting to be explored. I met two ladies who told me the hotel; Parador Nacional San Telmo, would stamp my passport so I popped in and got my first Spanish pilgrim’s stamp. There was no way I was going to leave without visiting and getting a stamp. Hint: It’s advised that you get your credential (pilgrim’s passport) stamped at least twice a day between Tui and Santiago de Compostela to qualify for your certificate. This is not too difficult as there are so many churches and restaurants etc enroute where you can get a stamp (sello).

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Tui was the capital of a province in the Old Kingdom of Galicia, Spain.

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Parador Nacional San Telmo where I got my pilgrim’s passport stamped, the view across the River Miño and a final photo of me before setting off

Then it was a strenuous but picturesque climb up steep winding streets to the cathedral.

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Benvidos a Tui – Welcome to Tui on the Camiño de Santiago Camiño Portugués : 115.454 kms

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Tui, Galicia in Spain – 1st town on the Portugués Central Way to Santiago de Compostela

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the medieval narrow cobbled streets and lanes of Tui. I loved it 🙂

Tui has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Evidence of this are the sites found during construction of the highway Vigo-Tui, on the border with Porriño. The medieval city was composed of three elements; the cathedral, its hamlet of dwellings, and its city walls. After a very steep climb I finally reached the cathedral.

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Catedral de Santa Maria, Tui. On the top of the hill, the cathedral, begun in the 12th century, preserves Romanesque elements and has a Gothic façade.

Wowwww what an awesome church. Begun in the 12th century, during the Romanesque period, it has a Gothic façade, one of the first in this style in the Iberian Peninsula. The interior is, like most of the churches I had seen so far in Portugal, very elaborate with a number of chapels, altars and shrines to various saints. There’s a fantastic scallop shell as you enter the church and a number of references to St James and decorative scallop shells. In a corner near the front of the cathedral interior is a statue of King Alphonso.

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I explored every corer of the church and the museum. It’s absolutely beautiful

The cloister is also of Gothic style; the oldest in any Galician cathedral. Along the walls and over the archway of the 12th century Chapter Room are a number of intriguing Roman numerals.

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The Cloisters and Romanesque Chapter Room of the 12th century, the primitive meeting room of the canons of the first temple of the city. Just mind-blowing.

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The Cloisters of Catedral de Santa Maria, Tui

I had my pilgrim’s passport stamped at the Tourist Information Centre next to the church, my 2nd of the day in Spain…too exciting. I paid the €4 entrance fee at the cathedral which gave me access to the church, museum, cloisters and battlements, and spent a good 45 minutes exploring and, despite saying no more climbing towers, I climbed the tower battlements for some amazing views. The steps were so high you almost needed a step ladder to get up them!!! Going down was tricky. 

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climbing the church tower of the Cathedral of Tui

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the view across Tui, the river Mino and in the distance the International Bridge and on the hilltop, the walled city of Valenca, Portugal

I was, at about 9:20am, startled to discover the time!!! Wow, I figured that I had been exploring the church for 2 hours, but in fact I had forgotten that the clocks went forward by 1 hour between Portugal and Spain LOL. Whew. Nonetheless, it was time to get going. As I was leaving I stopped to photograph the elaborately carved doors and noticed the cross pattée (?) carved into the walls on both sides of the entrance…intriguing.

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A cross pattée carved into the walls and the elaborate doors

As the bells chimed 10, I reluctantly left the cathedral area and made my way along steep winding picturesque streets, only this time downhill. I looked out for the Camino markers, which were plentiful and believe it or not, I photographed every one of them all the way through Tui and just about the whole 18.39 kms to O Porrino…just because. 😉

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looking back at the cathedral, charming little pilgrim sculptures, streets of Tui

I just loved the little pilgrim sculptures on the walls.

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a little pilgrim sculpture shows the way. if you look above his head you can see a faint yellow arrow

I passed the Hospital for the Poor and the Pilgrim’s, past the Convent of Las Clarisas where I saw my first rather large groups of pilgrims,convent of saint domingo tui, church of saint bartolome tui, Camino Portugues, Camino de Santiago, tui, spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation, walked down stairs, through tunnels and along deserted downward sloping streets and lanes. It seemed spookily deserted!

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Tunel das Monxas and following the Way through the streets of Tui in Galicia

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the route is so well marked with yellow arrows, scallop shells, shell tiles and various other markings, you can’t fail to find your way. I walked completely sans maps or guide books.

I saw only a few of the locals along the route, and occasionally a few pilgrims, certainly not in the large numbers I was expecting.

There was one sculpture and cross that absolutely intrigued me; located on the wall of the bridge that crosses over Rúa Canónigo Valiño, it looks like a sculpture with religious connotations; souls burning in the fires of hell?? Intriguing.

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an intriguing sculpture

I have not been able to find out more information about this despite extensive google searches.

(2017.11.13 – addendum with huge thanks to Maria of  ‘Spanish Tuition Services‘ “I can help you with the “intriguing sculpture”. This type of construction is called “peto de ánimas” (roughly translates as souls’ money box) and they are quite common in Galicia. They represent souls in the fire of purgatory, with some figure watching over them (in this case, the dove/Holy Spirit). They also have a “peto” or money box for passers-by to leave an offering for the salvation of those souls. When a soul is saved and goes to Heaven thanks to your offering, they will later intercede on your behalf, so you can go into Heaven too”. – so there you have it; I’m so delighted to finally know what it signified)

Passing a number of fascinating historical buildings and churches I was longing to tarry awhile and explore further, but O Porriño waits and I can tarry no more.

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The Judaic Tower, the Convent of Saint Domingo (built 1330),  Praza San Bartolomé bandstand, the Church of St Bartolomé and an ancient communal washing area.

I was absolutely amazed to discover that I was also walking along the Via Romana XIX!!

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walking along a section of the Via Romana XIX

It always gives me a thrill, no matter where I am walking, when I discover links to Roman times…the thought of those Roman soldiers marching along the roads…I can almost hear the tramp tramp tramp of their sandalled boots on the cobbles….ahead of me was the tramp, tramp, tramp of the modern day pilgrim in their special super duper gortex, arch-supporting inners and uppers, special lace-up, isogrip boots in leather, fabric and waterproof, with  performance soles and protective toe bumpers!! I wonder what the Romans would make of today’s hiking footwear. – according to wikipedia:  Caligae (heavy-soled hobnailed military boots) were constructed from three leather layers: an outsole, the middle openwork layer which formed the boot’s upper, and an insole. They were laced up the centre of the foot and onto the top of the ankle. Additionally iron hobnails were hammered into the soles to provide the caligae with reinforcement and traction – okayyyyy, not quite what we wear today then. 

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a few pilgrims on the way; Bom Caminho – 114km to Santiago de Compostela

Suddenly I was out of urban Tui and into fields and the rural landscape of Galicia.

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and suddenly I was in the countryside…..

I was seeing more pilgrims now as well as locals. I called out “ola, bom dias” or “ola, Buen Camino” to everyone I saw and got many a cheery wave and “Buen Camino” in return. I’m on the Camiño de Santiago 😁😍🚶‍♀️

Continued….Part 2 Tui to O Porriño.

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2017.09.13 Day 7 – Vila do Conde to Esposende – expected distance: 22kms (not!!)

Walked 27.71kms. 65029+ steps

The road to Esposende is not paved with gold.

camino de santiago portuguese coastal route port to santiago

time to go – Vila do Conde to Esposende

My post on instagram: It’s 7:07 on 13th September and I’m on my way. This is my 2nd day of walking on the Portuguese Coastal Route. Sad to be leaving leaving Vila do Conde but I’m excited to be heading to Esposende, which is apparently 22kms away (as it turned out, it was substantially further, but that may be because I kept going ‘off-piste’ to explore LOL).

It was a stunning day on the coast of Portugal. I left the guest house in Vila do Conde at 07:07 and got my wish for the day; I watched the sun rise.

camino de santiago portuguese coastal route port to santiago

sunrise in Vila do Conde looking upriver towards the Santa Clara Convent

camino de santiago portuguese coastal route port to santiago

sunrise in Vila do Conde looking downriver towards the sea

Fabulous. I stopped here for a while and ate some of the breakfast the Erva Doce Guest House had prepared for me. Watching the sunrise is such a privilege.

camino de santiago portuguese coastal route port to santiago

watching the sunrise in Vila do Conde

I eventually left VdC at just after 8am after faffing around taking photos of the various sculptures, my shadow (?) and then re-visiting the chapel on the seafront.2 vdc day 64 the chapel I particularly loved this sculpture….she looks stoic, resigned, and sad…waiting for a boat that never returned?

camino de santiago portuguese coastal route port to santiago

waiting…..

This section of the route was so beautiful and I was hard-put to not stop every 5 seconds to take photos. I spotted a most gorgeous church with a beautiful memorial in tiles.

camino de santiago portuguese coastal route port to santiago

Povoa de Varzim

Along the way I met a delightful couple from Poland; Jakob and Agata. We chatted all the way to Povoa de Varzim and I barely noticed Pepe weighing me down. We stopped to admire a fabulous tiled wall. I love that there are so many of these fabulous tiles right across Portugal; azulejo with Povoan boats and siglas poveiras marks; a form of ‘proto-writing system’ thought to derive from the Viking writing system known as bomärken from Scandinavia.  Archaeological finds in the area, including stone tools, suggest that the Póvoa de Varzim area may have been inhabited as far back as 200,000 years ago. 

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Me, Agata and Jakob in front of the Muro de Azulejos in Povoa de Varzim

Once we reached Pavoa de Varzim I sadly parted company with Jakob and Agata who rejoined their group to go find breakfast whilst I went in search of coffee. I spotted a little wooden shack on the beach, one of many, and stopping at the 3rd one along I ordered my ‘cafe com leite grande y croissant por favor’. Yummy; I really got into the strong coffee and pastry for breakfast thing. My language skills had by now gone from ‘hola, camino?’ and ‘gracias’ to a whole sentence hahaha. I was ever so pleased with myself.

camino de santiago portuguese coastal route port to santiago

practising my Portuguese and asked for coffee at Jóse and Teresa’s shack in Povoa de Varzim.

Just on 11:22 after my coffee at Teresa’s shack I set off and soon saw my first Camino markers; now that’s more what I was expecting. 😉😉😉

portuguese coastal route from porto to santiago

Finding the signs along The Way 🙂

I met some really lovely people on the route and it was most enjoyable just chatting away as we walked. The disadvantage of course was that I missed quite a few photo opportunities that I wanted to capture, but felt like I didn’t want to hold them up. Which is one of the reasons I prefer to walk on my own…even though it’s really lovely to meet folk from all over the world.

I’ve got 25.1 kms to Esposende and done 7.98 so far. Bom Caminho I’m loving my #Camino2017

portuguese coastal route from porto to santiago

a tad overloaded would you say? Laundry drying, my food bag…I looked like a bag lady!! LOL

I had such a fantastic day. On the route I met two ladies from Ireland with whom I chatted for a while. When I commented on how little luggage they had, they laughed and told me about Tuitrans, they had sent their backpacks ahead. Hmmm…food for thought.

Waving goodbye I set off jauntily, waving at everyone and wishing them Bom diaz or Bom Caminho depending on how they were dressed; no backpack and boots = local – a backpack, boots and waking poles = pilgrim ;).

A young lady sitting on a wall chatting on her phone wished me Bom Caminho as I whizzed by which nearly made me cry. It was so unexpected and so wonderful. 💞💞🙃🙃🙃 I stopped in my tracks and with tears in my eyes; “gracias Senorita”. If she hadn’t been on the phone I would have hugged her!! I’m loving my #Camino2017

Getting back onto the boardwalks was fantastic. They were so easy to walk along and allowed you the freedom to enjoy the scenery while walking without having to worry about which way to go.

portuguese coastal route from porto to santiago

such a gorgeous day and the boardwalks are fantastic

There were so many wonderful sights long the route; chapels, windmills, memorials….

portuguese coastal route from porto to santiago

chapels, windmills, memorials

I loved these little structures….haven’t been able to find out what they were.

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago

loved this little building.

I really got into the spirit of the camino and wished just about every soul I passed ‘bom caminho’ Mostly they responded, sometimes not. In truth, the locals were lovely. Mostly pilgrims responded in kind, but the people I found the least friendly (sorry guys) were the German men. The German ladies on the whole were friendly enough, but the most friendly were the Irish, Portuguese, Eastern Europeans pilgrims and occasionally the Americans, who tended to be very focussed. I didn’t meet anyone from France.

Just after 11am I reached QuiAo; walked 9.73 kms. The weather was stunning, and I was blessed with a beautiful day, albeit already hot….which I did not enjoy.

portuguese coastal route from porto to santiago

I was blessed with some wonderful days

11:15 and time for my first Super Bock of the day. Okayyy, I know, I know we hadn’t crossed the yardarm yet, but it was hot 😂😂😂

portuguese coastal route from porto to santiago

QuiAo and my first Super Bock of the day

By this stage I was beginning to struggle with my backpack, but motoring on. I tell you what, my walking poles were a blessing. I was able to set an easy flowing pace and with the momentum I whizzed along the boardwalks…which btw are bloody marvellous. The poles will be my #1 essential item for any future walks, whether in the UK or EU.

portuguese coastal route from porto to santiago

my wonderful walking poles….they were a life-saver

Suddenly to my delight I came across the Caminho Beach Bar!!! I had seen photos of this place on facebook and instagram and was hoping I’d see it too 🙂 And there is was!! I stopped and bought a shell on which I wrote my name and hung it on the board. I wonder if they take some down each night, wash them and sell them again LOL I also bought the first ice-cream of the day!! Magnum Double Framboesa. Delicioso 😉

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The Caminho Beach Bar 🙂

Whizzing along, in the distance I spotted the spire of a church. Never one to miss the opportunity to visit another church, I diverted from the track and made my way along a narrow winding road. I didn’t see many people except for the occasional car going by…usually at speed!! Hello!! narrow roads? Slow down buddy. The houses were painted a delightful array of pastel colours, and some a brilliant white that hurt the eyes. The area is very dry and the fields don’t look as if they could support any sort of vegetation, never mind anything useful. I found a whole new appreciation for England’s green fields, trees, bushes…you get it 😉 Mind you the blue skies….heavenly!!

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Aguacadoura, Portugal; blazing hot and very dry. I think the idea of siesta is very sensible.

The church was beautiful, albeit closed. Darn!! Opposite were the ruins of a beautiful chapel. Aguçadoura is a Portuguese freguesia (“civil parish”) and former civil parish located in Póvoa de Varzim. I spent an hour here, resting in the shade. If I saw 3 people, it was a lot. Siesta, maybe. Good idea 😉

portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, camino de santiago

Igreja de Aguçadoura, in the parish of Povoa de Varzim, Portugal

Setting off just before 2pm, I found the boardwalks once again…they stretched into the distance. Betwixt and between, I was wishing by this stage that I had planned a shorter day, but I was still loving the walking and the boardwalks which went on and on and on.

portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, camino de santiago

the boardwalks were marvellous, made following the route so easy

Just after 2pm the boardwalks ended and the track changed to road and paths, I didn’t like them at all!! The markers were still prominent and I had no difficulty finding them. I had stopped off at a roadside cafe for a drink and nibble, and another Magnum Double Framboesa, shortly before the boardwalks ended…thankfully. What lay ahead was not fun at all.

Still following the markers which were a welcome sign. It got hotter by the second and within no time at all I’d emptied my 2ltr water bladder and my 750ml water bottle was being used sparingly. There were no cafes, restaurants, hotels or lodgings to speak of and I didn’t want to divert in case I got lost trying to find a non-existent mirage.  But I carried on; staggered on more like – exhausted and overheating, I was soaked with perspiration. And sun-burned. 😦 Hot. Hot. Hot.

portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, camino de santiago

I did not like this new terrain. I had been perfectly happy with the boardwalks…thank you!!

After an exceedingly long, tiring and energy draining stretch I back-tracked slightly and turned off along a side road, that I’d passed earlier, which lead to a caravan park hoping they’d be able to give me water. I was desperate by then. Thankfully they were open and bliss of bliss had a cool, shady cafe where I holed up for an hour downing a couple of delicious, ice-cold Coke-Cola (horrors! I usually avoid coke, but omw it does the trick when you’re dehydrated and exhausted). I removed my shoes and socks and rested my legs which were horribly swollen by then, the cool air on my feet was blissful. I topped up my water bladder and had something to eat.

An instagram post: “Apparently it’s another 9.8 kms to Esposende, so all told I’m doing okay. If I didn’t stop to take photos every 5 seconds I could be there by now 😉😉😉”

The Orbitur camp site was a blessing, albeit 1.6 kms off the route, I’m so glad I back-tracked and made the effort. As I arrived at the camp I met a lovely young man from Cyprus with perfect English who had the same idea as me, get out the sun…except he checked in to the camp and stayed overnight. Clever lad. Unfortunately I had booked accommodation in Esposende so had to crack on.

Setting off again just after 4pm, and an hour later, just before Apulia I saw a sign that made my heart go cold. A diversion!!! What to do? Oh lord. I had read on the facebook camino pages how some albergues change signs to divert you to their premises, or weirdos change signs around for nefarious reasons. So when I saw that sign I literally stopped in my tracks. I decided right there and then (excuse the french) “fck that, I’m carrying on in the direction I was going! No desvio gracias”, and anyway I could still see signs showing the way – not the diversion. And then a short distance later, the reason for the diversion became apparent LOL They were digging up the road. Bless them, the workers, they stopped everything and let me squeeze through.

portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, camino de santiago

Diversion?! No thanks!!!

And then to my delight I spotted a church! Bonus. 🙂 If I’d followed the diversion I wouldn’t have seen it. But, if I’d followed the diversion, apparently, as I found out later, I could have not only found a cafe to buy water, but I would have walked back to the beach and avoided what came next!! I wish that I had thought to get some more water at that stage, even knocking on someone’s door would have been sensible!!

portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, camino de santiago

Caminhos De Santiago – Apulia – Esposende

It was now just on 5pm and I had left Vila do Conde at 7am…I was tired, and hot and thirsty. What to do? Nothing except keep walking. I located the markers and carried on.

portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, camino de santiago

not a happy bunny, but still taking photos LOL

The road to Esposende was NOT paved with gold. In fact it was, at some points, just bloody awful. But hey, I’m here writing to you so I must have made it through LOL. Still following the markers which were scarce and not always easy to see, the path went off into brush and trees with only a very narrow sandy road to follow; it was horrible. The profusion of footprints was encouraging. Pilgrims came this way…..

portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, camino de santiago

seeing the signs, albeit scare was very encouraging.

It really was blazing hot and I could not bear the sun any more. It was also terribly dry and arid on this section and there had been no sign of habitation for about 6 kms and the worst was still to come. When I hit the next section I was about ready to give up and this was the first time on the Camino that I felt uncomfortable. I remember stopping briefly and looking around thinking that if I disappeared here, I’d never be found.

portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, camino de santiago

this was not a happy place to be on your own

Thank goodness the signs were still there or I’d have thought for sure I was lost.

The distances were really confusing. Depending on which guide you read, or which site you visit, the distances to towns along the way were different. It would help if you knew from which point they take their measurements. And don’t even mention Google maps!!!

Then finally, just as I was getting really desperate….signs of civilisation! Hoorah!!

portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, camino de santiago

Hoorah! Signs of civilisation – Portugal I ❤ you too

As I reached Fão, I got a phone call. It was the young man from Hostel Eleven who was calling to ensure I was okay and hadn’t had any mishaps – it was that late in the day. I assured him I was just a short distance away. The last 15 kms were sheer hell. Hot!! Dry! Dusty! So many times I was sure I was going the wrong way and then I’d see a Camino marker… And so it went, through very rural Portugal along deserted, cobbled streets, sandy lanes, thick dry brush, scrub and scrappy trees and sometimes a mix of both. It all started so well 😉

portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, camino de santiago

Hostel Eleven. Fao. Esposende 2kms 🙂

I remember how excited I got when I saw the Hostel Eleven van…I thought I was near… I wasn’t. 😦 When I reached Fão I noticed the Camino signs taking the route across the road, past a church and presumably along the riverside. But I didn’t have the energy to cross the road so just carried on. Not my brightest idea as the pavements were scarce and I was battling a tide of vehicles coming from behind…some of which passed within a whisker….probably cursing this stupid woman walking along the road. I cannot tell you my overwhelming relief when I arrived at the bridge….nearly there. I was shattered.

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago

Ponte metálica de Fão – the bridge between Fão and Esposende – Cávado River

But the Camino wasn’t finished with me yet!! Just after I crossed the bridge I missed the turn, the safer route….and as a result I had to contend with traffic at a round-about, walk along a road with a 50 miles p.h. speed-limit and cross a very busy, narrow bridge. At times I had to step down into the water channel alongside the tarmac and squeeze myself into the bushes lining the road to avoid the traffic going by. Urgh. Horrible.

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago

despite the signs, this was not the best way to go….But I was in Esposende 🙂

I staggered into town stopping the first 2 people I saw and in my broken Portuguese (read: non existent Portuguese) I asked if they knew where the hostel was? Hah! Imagine my surprise when they replied in English with a very British accent; sorry but no. LOL. I finally arrived at the hostel in Esposende after wandering about a bit trying to find the place and finally resorting to mapmywalk. Hostel Eleven #4 on my list of places I stayed on the Camino. A nice little hostel, very clean. He welcomed me in and immediately gave me something to drink, saying that most pilgrims get in mid-day or early afternoon. Hmmm, yes, well not every pilgrim is daft enough to keep stopping to take photos…of everything they see; 100’s of photos. hahahaha.

Caminho Portugues da Costa - Esposende

Hostel Eleven, Esposende. The 2nd place I stayed on my Camino

Time of arrival: 19:07 – Bless him, he had been really concerned about me. He showed me around and to my quarters for the night. Bright, colourful, breezy and clean!!! I was suitably impressed and rather glad I could use the kitchen to prepare a meal…finally the packet of 2-minute curry noodles I had been carrying around were put to good use. LOL

I made a very welcome cup of tea, ate my noodles, had a shower and went to bed and sleep. 😕😴😴😴😴 I didn’t even have the energy to go out and buy a proper meal or explore. The day had started so well.

27.71 kms Vila do Conde to Esposende. 12 hours 21 minutes and 15 seconds from the times I started walking. 😢😢😢😢

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago

the road to Esposende is not paved in gold

I’d made it, albeit very very tired. But today’s walk caused me to change my plans for the next two days. I had planned on walking to Viana do Castelo on 14th and bus to Caminha the 15th, but I swapped that around. Took the bus to Viana do Castelo and walked to Caminha. Good plan. It also gave me the opportunity to explore Esposende for a few hours in the morning. And a much needed rest day. The bus ride to Viana do Castelo was terrific and I saw more of the area than I would have walking along the beach.

My favourite people of the day were Jakob and Agata from Poland. I was so sorry to lose touch with them at Povoa de Varzim when I went off for coffee and they went to get breakfast, but I suspected that they would walk a lot faster than me, and they were with a group of friends, so I didn’t want to hold them up. Besides the fantastic conversation we had while walking, Jakob was wearing a pair of pants that I greatly admired…which he loved hahaha. I hope someone knows them and I can connect with them again.

Since I started my Camino on Monday in Porto (seemed much longer than that already) I’d met a couple from South Africa, and then in order of appearance I met people from UK, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Poland (the lovely Agata & Jakob), Ireland, Spain (Barcelona), a lovely Portuguese gentleman who lived locally in Povoa de Varzim with whom I had a most marvellous 10 minute conversation, and the young man from Cyprus. I had conversations, some just briefly, with all the people I met, mostly because I said “hello”. Wonderful!!

Today was a very tough walking day and except for the Camino markers I would have thought I was lost. At one stage there was quite literally nothing I could see in front, back, to the left or right except trees and dusty road…. I was grateful for the footprints in the sand; there was one set of prints I locked onto and followed, they were like a beacon in the night…I was going in the same direction. I’m mentioning this again because it was a very isolated section, between Apulia and Fão. and if you’re on your own like I was….so just a heads up. I felt really uncomfortable and remember thinking that if anyone with ill intent came along at that point, not only would I have not had the energy to scream or run, but there was no-one to hear. I could have disappeared and no-one would have known where I was. It was one of two days of the whole walk that I felt really isolated; perhaps I was picking up on some vibes. Who knows. The only other time I felt the same was between Viana do Castelo and Caminha where I encountered a similar environment.

I spent some time thinking about the pilgrims who had gone before me. We are like seeds, all in one place for a brief moment in time, then scattered to the winds. As hard as the afternoon was, I’m still loving this experience. My #Camino2017 ❤ 

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