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Posts Tagged ‘walking solo on the camino’

On 11th September 2017 I set off on my first Camino, from Porto to Santiago de Compostela, via the Portuguese Coastal Route to Caminha, then inland to Valenca and the Central Way from Tui to Santiago; 240 kms along one of the most amazing journeys of my life.

Portugal was fantastic and I enjoyed the most wonderful weather and scenery along the whole route. My favourite towns were Vila do Conde, Caminha and Valenca, then the delightful Padron in Spain and of course the 2 cities: Porto and Santiago (both UNESCO World Heritage Sites).

I was very lucky to witness the swinging of the botafumeiro at the Santiago de Compostela cathedral on the night after I arrived. It was a phenomenal sight with hundreds of pilgrims gathered in the cathedral to give thanks for a safe journey and to witness this amazing event.

Apparently the botafumeiro is swung every Friday evening at mass and at other times/days if someone pays to have it swung. It’s not a given at every service. I can however recommend attending the pilgrim service even if, like me, you are not religious. It’s a beautiful building that resonates with the history of the aeons, of the prayers of the thousands if not millions of pilgrims who have humbly knelt there for religious reasons, and filled with the gratitude of pilgrims who are quite simply happy to have arrived safe and in one piece…and even some who have not….blisters being the most common ailment.

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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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O Porriño was an absolute delight. I meandered aimlessly here and there, down this alley, through that square, along this lane admiring the older and characterful buildings and houses, a small church; Capela San Benito tucked away behind some trees, some fountains, the regal castle-like council building and just rejoicing in the wonder of being in this amazing place. I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I was able to walk the Camino, to experience all the trials, tribulations, surprises, hamlets and towns and breath-taking scenery it has to offer. There is nothing quite like travelling and exploring a new country.

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O Porriño – The Spanish sure took The Camino in their stride…every where you looked there were Camino shells or references to Pilgrims. I loved it all.

Being Sunday there were, much like I found in Italy, families walking through the streets; different generations arms linked and chatting away, children running about shrieking in play; dashing around on scooters and bicycles, the air filled with laughter. That is one of the aspects of Mediterranean life that I absolutely love…..it’s such a joy to see family groups out and about enjoying the mild evenings, church bells ringing in the background, calling the faithful to pray. Along the pedestrianised part of the town, Plaza del Generalísimo and in the squares, cafés and restaurants had their tables spread out in the mild autumn evening, peopled by residents, tourists and pilgrims alike, waiters scurried back and forth trying to cope with the ever increasing demands. A cacophony of sound; people enjoying life.

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evocative churches, pedestrianised streets, care-worn buildings

I noticed that much like towns in Portugal, there were a number of ramshackle buildings interspersed amongst others in better repair, albeit very old.

O Porriño it turns out was in the province of Pontevedra. It seems that we cross over into the different districts without much notice and you think you’re in one place, but are in quite another, the route a mix of hamlets, nature reserve, rivers, forests, towns and industrial parks. The area around O Porriño is a fairly industrialised due to the proximity of Vigo’s sea port. Most of the buildings and churches in the town and surrounding areas were built using granite, and apparently O Porriño’s granite is known worldwide as Rosa Porriño (Pink Porriño), and exported via the Port of Vigo mainly to countries like China, Italy and Japan.

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the castle like council building, children playing, pretty fountains and quaint houses; O Porrino was a delight

Eventually, I reached Plaza de San Benito where I turned around to make my way back… by now with my tummy grumbling, I walked back through the centre of town towards the albergue. None of the cafés or restaurants on the way appealed and after looking at various menus I decided to chance my luck and eat at the lively Restaurant; Paso A Nivel I had seen just before the railway line near to the albergue.

There I was to not only meet up with the fellow who was occupying the bunk above mine at the albergue, but a lovely English gentleman who saw me sitting on my own and came over to offer me a place at their table. Although I declined the offer, we did strike up a conversation and he went on to say that his group had had a torrid few days; it seems they lost their Priest in Valença 😦 This shook me up somewhat because I knew that Mel, whom I had met just outside of Porto on the 11th was also travelling in a group led by their Parish priest. I sincerely hoped it was not the same person.

I ordered a substantial meal (the menu was thankfully also in English) and sat down at the back of the room. Suddenly, to my delight, there was my Dutch room-mate. He came over and I invited him to join me. We had a wonderful evening, chatting about the Camino, the experiences we had had, the places we had seen and the people we had met. He was intrigued to realise that I was travelling solo. Not the first time people had expressed surprise at this. I wondered why, since I had read about so many women my age who travelled solo. Perhaps it was more common on the Camino Francés.

Finally after gabbing back and forth for over an hour, we walked back to the albergue which was in the same street, albeit further along and quietly crept into the room.hostel

With 6 occupants and a tiny room it was difficult to move about and not disturb anyone, but I think I managed fairly well and all too soon, with a bonne nuit (French LOL) I, with ear-plugs firmly installed, slipped into the heavenly land of slumber. It was just after 10.30pm and I didn’t stir till morning. Bliss.

Read more about Part 1 of my journey: Valença to Tui
Read more about Part 2 of my journey: Tui to O Porriño

addendum: Sadly, as I was to discover just a few days later (22nd) after I arrived in Santiago, the Priest who died was indeed Mel’s priest and friend, and to my horror, it seems that on the evening I bumped into Mel in Valença, was the night he died. Of which at the time I met Mel, she was as yet unaware. I felt sick to my stomach.

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One of the more unfortunate aspects of walking as a solo woman on the Camino is the perception that you’re easy game. I’ve read recently on the Facebook forums that I follow of women being harassed by men; naked men who chase after these women whilst masturbating, men waiting under secluded bridges till a woman comes along then yanks his pants down to expose himself. Men follow along behind the pilgrims and make lewd comments, or just hang around making a general pest of themselves.

Many of the women quite understandably get quite frightened, or as in one case was so badly upset by the whole thing that she packed up and went home. It’s a real issue and seems to be escalating somewhat. There are often discussions about how to deal with these incidents with some folks suggesting pepper spray which is banned in Spain, or whistles, and various other suggestions, none of which are really acceptable and could lead to further problems.

I recently read an interesting article about the escalating harassment of women in the Middle East regions, that although not specifically about the Camino, does talk about the harassment of women in middle east countries. Interesting, although unfortunately they don’t mention the biggest factor in these countries; women are viewed as 2nd class citizens…ergo men can do what they like coz they’re superior. Perhaps they should look at the cultural issues from the cradle up….men treat their wives in an appalling fashion, often abusive. Boys witness this and think its okay to be abusive towards women. Its pretty much the same in every patriarchal society. It won’t change till parents teach their kids about respect.  Reading this article I get the distinct impression that the author/researcher is making excuses for why boys harass girls. These young men “have high aspirations for themselves and aren’t able to meet them,” he says. “So they [harass women] to put them in their place. They feel like the world owes them.”

Harassing women is not a new phenomena in the Western world; its as bad and has been for decades in our society where morals are loose and again, men are disrespectful towards their wives. Frankly those men’s magazines and light pornographic magazines, sexually explicit films, advertisements with half naked women spread across cars et al, all play a part in the sexual harassment of women. I remember with clarity, as a young girl developing breasts and having to start wearing a bra, the boys, would come up behind me or my school mates and snap our bra-straps or try to undo the hooks – behaviour they STILL indulge in 50 years later. We were always, without fail told to ‘just ignore it’. In fact I recall very clearly telling my daughter much the same thing 25 years later….either that or wallop the boy in question….which of course would then lead to her being punished for ‘assaulting’ the little shit.

However, there has been as is a shift being made in this area. I recently read where a Mother was called into the Headmaster’s office because her daughter had punched the boy who snapped her bra-strap. The Headmaster and the parents of the boy tried to make an issue of it, but the Mother neatly turned the tables by reminding them that what he had done is actually sexual harassment and that she would be happy to call the Police and lay a charge. Problem solved. Frankly I wish I had done that for my daughter, how much more empowering it would have been.

But, and here’s the thing…..it is sexual harassment, and the problem begins at home. Until all of society begins to see women as equals and deserving of respect, until parents unanimously teach their sons about the boundaries and how to treat a woman with respect, women will continue to be harassed on the streets….no matter which country we live in. I, however, am not holding my breath.

And if any man, young or otherwise even attempts to give me grief while I’m walking the Camino, he will live to regret it.

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