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Posts Tagged ‘walking the camino’

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.

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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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Hola dear reader. It’s been 4 days since I returned from my first Camino in Europe. What an extraordinary experience. It was so amazing, if I’d had sufficient funds I would have cancelled my flight home and set off to walk another route….that time will come. I did try to post articles about my journey while I was there, but after starting my walk, within a couple of days, by the time I got to the albergue after an 8-12 hour walk, all I wanted was something to eat, a shower and bed. Not necessarily in that order. LOL

My first Camino was along the Portuguese Coastal Route from Porto to Caminha. From Caminha I took the train to Valenca and then followed the Central Way from Tui to Santiago. I loved every step of The Way.

The road to Santiago do Compostela

The road to Santiago do Compostela; my Pilgrim’s Passport, the Compostela and my Certificate of Completion

Seriously though, the days were exhausting and one of the things I was grateful for at the end of a long day was not having to search for accommodation. I pre-booked all but 2 nights of the 11 days of my journey, and in retrospect, I’m really glad I did. I was brave though and left 2 nights to chance. Both of which I’m glad to say were easy enough to find a place to sleep.

Since I have a back-log of about 8 days of walking adventures to update, I thought I’d start with the places I stayed at while on my journey….since sleep is definitely a pilgrim’s best friend.

The accommodations were varied and depended entirely on whether or not I was planning on just passing through or staying for a few days and wanted a bit of luxury and very definitely based on spoiling myself after a long day 😉 I seemed to have hit the nail on the head in most places.

I will list them, not in order of when I stayed there, but rather based on which I thought was the best.

1) O Recuncho do Peregrino – Estrada de Soutoxuste 45, 36810 Redondela, Pontevedra, Spain.
Tel: +34 617292598. Proprietor: Miguel.
I have listed this venue first because this was for me one of the nicest places I stayed. This was one of the nights where I had not booked ahead, but relied on the Camino to provide the best place. I spotted Miguel’s advertisements a few times on that day, but it was only at the very end of the day with just on 1.5 km to go till I reached Arcade that I finally stopped and phoned the number. He had a room available. Hoorah!! The accommodation itself is unfortunately right on the main road, but was easy to access without having to search along tiny, confusing lanes and almost immediately after you exit the route from the mountain. The albergue is simply furnished but very comfortable. Cleanliness was of the highest standard. I booked a double room which was furnished with 2 single beds each with a side cabinet, and the communal bathroom, also very clean, was just down the hall. It was one of the few places I stayed where I felt I could actually walk barefoot and not get my feet dirty. There is free wi-fi and a garden leading to the seashore (10 minute walk). Miguel provided a beautifully set out and substantial continental breakfast for 2.50euro at a time that suits the pilgrim from 6am onwards. He provided a same day wash&dry laundry service for 8 euro. What impressed me the most about this accommodation was the host; Miguel, the personification of the perfect host; kind, gentle, helpful, accommodating and a really humble person who was keen to ensure that his guests were comfortable and had all they required. I give this venue a 5 * rating based on how lovely the host was, cleanliness and comfort. For me it’s not always about luxury and facilities, but very much on how I felt at the time. And this certainly fit the bill. Miguel is a superb host and has also done the Camino, albeit on a bike.
I phoned ahead on the day to book and was very lucky there was place available. I notice that they are on booking.com
The website: http://orecunchodoperegrino.com/

O Recuncho do Peregrino Albergue

O Recuncho do Peregrino Albergue – Miguel our host; the best

2) Erva Doce Guest House – R. do Cais das Lavandeiras 39, 4480-478 Vila do Conde, Portugal
Tel: +351 919 058 715 Reception: Susana.
This was without doubt my 2nd favourite place to stay. Located right on the marina within easy access from the pilgrim’s route into Vila do Conde, I received such a lovely welcome from Susana, so I simply have to list this as my 2nd favourite place to stay. The guest house is a delightful, tiny abode over 3 floors with an outside and inside eating area/café, it is very clean and comfortable and the beds were made up on arrival. I went for a bit of luxury here and had a private bathroom which was wonderful. The room I booked, CINNAMON BELICHE caters for 3 people which made the beds very close together, so expect to have very little privacy if you are sharing a room. But it was only 15euro with breakfast included. I stayed here 2 nights and shared with 2 different but lovely ladies. My bed was very comfortable, albeit a single. I shared supper with 2 of the people I had met along the route the first day, both of whom were also staying at the guest house. The café serves pastries and small meals and offers a quiet, friendly location for breakfast, lunch or supper. Vila do Conde is lovely town on the Portuguese Coastal Route and offers much to see by way of history. I’m happy to give this venue a 4.5 * rating as it fit the bill in terms of friendliness, cleanliness, location and facilities.
The website: http://www.ervadocehouse.pt/

Erva Doce Guest House, Vila do Conde

Erva Doce Guest House, Vila do Conde – my first night on the Camino

3) Albergue Corredoiras, Corredoira da Barca, 10 baixo 15900 Padron (A Coruna), Spain
Tel: +34 981817266
I stayed here on my last night on the Camino before reaching Santiago. Without doubt, this was the most well-organised and efficient venue I stayed at. You are welcomed at the reception by an extremely organised gentleman (I missed his name unfortunately) and given a complete run-down of the small and compact albergue. The beds are all located in one large communal room and accommodates 26 pilgrims. Each berth is big enough to sit upright in, is solidly built so no disturbances from a restless sleeper above, has its own locker, fresh clean linen, a spare blanket and an extremely comfortable mattress (which I wish I could have taken home with me), and has a small light and a curtain for privacy. You do however have to make your own bed. The locker has a socket for secure phone charging. There are communal bathrooms and a small kitchenette with all mod-cons a pilgrim would need. You are welcome to make yourself a hot refreshment on arrival with one free serving of milk. This albergue was super clean and you are required to remove your outdoor shoes before going into the communal sleeping area. A cabinet in the hall caters for shoes. There are 2 communal computers if needed, free wi-fi, a library and a small reception area with chairs and loads of informational pamphlets and they provide a laundry service for a minimal fee. I had sent my backpack ahead on this day and it was safely packed away in my dedicated locker. There is a lights-out and a ‘be quiet’ deadline of 11pm for which I suspect most pilgrims were grateful. The albergue is easily found just a few yards from the church and river, and virtually right in town for exploring. An exceptionally clean and pleasant venue in a good location just a few yards from the start of the pilgrim’s route to Santiago. I can easily give this venue a 4.5* rating for price (16 euro), cleanliness, general organisation, location and convenience.
Website: http://www.alberguecorredoiras.es/index.php

 

Albergue Corredoiras, Padron

Albergue Corredoiras, Padron

4) Hostel Eleven, Rua Narcisco Ferreira 57, 4740-281, Esposende, Portugal
Tel: +351 253039303
Towards the end of a very long day, I received a phone call just as I reached Fao, which was the last town before Esposende; it was the host of the hostel enquiring as to whether I was okay and if I needed any help. It had taken me that long to get there, he was beginning to think I wasn’t going to show up. LOL Hostel Eleven was a very fresh, clean and hospitable venue with super clean facilities, a welcoming reception area and free wi-fi. The rooms catered for 4 occupants but I didn’t find this an issue as I was lucky enough to share with only 1 person. Each bed had its own locker with a key which is very useful and I found the bed linen to be clean and fresh and the bed was made up and comfortable. Hoorah. The kitchen and bathroom facilities are well organised and very clean and you are able to prepare a simple meal for yourself with your own provisions and make a hot drink with the hostel’s provisions; milk and tea/coffee ingredients available. I found the bed to be extremely comfortable and it was a pleasure to not have to make my own bed. Located along a side road just off the pilgrim’s route, I did find it quite difficult to locate, but I suspect that was because I was extremely tired and unable to read my map properly. But a quick phone call and I was soon there. The area was very quiet and also within easy reach of the town centre. I am happy to give this venue also a 4.5* rating based on hospitality, cleanliness, facilities, and location. I paid 16 euro and this included a very good continental breakfast.
The website: http://www.hosteleleven.pt/

Hotel Eleven, Esposende

Hotel Eleven, Esposende – I loved this venue. Bright and airy

5) Hostal Anosa Casa, Entremurallas, 9, 15702 Santiago, Spain.
Tel: +34 981585926
I found this hostal to be very comfortable and I had a super room. Very conveniently located just a 5-8 minute walk to the cathedral, the hostal is located down a side alley and fairly quiet albeit near to a main thoroughfare and close to the traditional pilgrim’s route into the city of Santiago. The lobby is quite dark and small and there are no remarkable features, but the room I was in was pleasant and I had a lovely double bed that was extremely comfortable with lovely fresh linen. The luxury at this venue was having a private shower/toilet area, although it was very tiny it came with lovely fluffy towels, shampoo and conditioner and shower gel and a shower cap. I had a table, wardrobe, bedside tables, a T.V. and free wi-fi. The walls were quite thin and I could hear the occupant of the next room moving about but since they were relatively quiet it wasn’t really an issue. The staff were friendly and they offer a same day laundry service of 8 euro for 4 kgs. The area is close to shops and restaurants and cafes with many small squares and much to see and a very short walk to the Alameda Park. I paid 55 euro per night with no breakfast. I can comfortably give this venue a 4* rating for location, comfort, cleanliness and facilities.
The website: http://anosacasa.com/?lang=en

Hostal Anosa Casa, Santiago

Hostal Anosa Casa, Santiago

6) Residential Arca Nova, Largo Sidonio Pais, 4910-120, Caminha, Portugal
Tel: +351 935390402
Again I had booked a room for myself and found the venue to be perfectly adequate for my needs. The room was large and clean with a very comfortable bed, fresh linen and a private bathroom with towels. The brightly decorated dining area had a cosy snug off the area and a large verandah. The hotel was close to the station and a very easy walk into the centre of the town and not too far from the river. The venue was clean and the staff very friendly. I paid 40 euro for this room and a very substantial breakfast was included. I rate this venue at 4* for cleanliness, location and the facilities. They don’t appear to have a website but they are on booking.com

Residencial Arca Nova, Caminha

Residencial Arca Nova, Caminha

7) Alojamiento Camino Portugues, Av. Buenos Aires, 40, 36410 O Porriño, Pontevedra, Spain
Tel: +34 886 13 32 52
This was the second hostel that I phoned ahead for on the day and was fortunate enough to get a bed. I had seen it recommended on a facebook page and decided to wing it on the day 🙂 The young lady who welcomed us (a group arrived at the sane time) was lovely and very helpful and had us all marching in time; very efficient. LOL I really enjoyed my stay here and although the rooms were of the mixed dormitory type and we were 6 in the dorm, they were clean and comfortable with comfy mattresses and clean fresh linen. We were also required to leave our outdoor shoes in the entrance hall on each floor, so the floors were clean. The bathrooms were of course communal and there were no lockers, so it was a case of leaving your bag next to your bed but not your valuables. The venue was close to restaurants and an easy walk into town and not far from the pilgrim’s route. I was quite happy with my stay here and happily rate it a 3.5* for location, comfort, cleanliness and friendliness. I paid Euro 12.00, no breakfast.
The website: http://www.alojamientocaminoportugues.com/

Alojamiento Camino Portugues,

Alojamiento Camino Portugues,

8) Hotel Poveira, Rua da Estacao, 56, Campanha, Porto, Portugal 4300-171
Tel: +351 22537 9844
This was the first venue I stayed at in Portugal. A very short walk from the Campanha Station the hotel is large and the gentleman who welcomed me was very friendly albeit with limited English, but even so, with my very limited Portuguese we managed to communicate quite well 😉 I had a private room and bathroom with a bath and shower and clean towels with little bottles of shampoo, conditioner and shower gel. Although I’m not a fan of plastic and would prefer if hotels did away with them, they were useful. There was a t.v. in the room with a BBC news channel and free wi-fi. The room was large with a small balcony and the bed, a double was fairly comfortable. They did a good continental breakfast at an extra charge of 2.50 euro and offered a next day laundry service for a very good rate. The venue was clean albeit quite noisy and close to shops, restaurants, café and a local transport. I walk a lot so of course I walked into town whenever I went out to explore, but it is quite far from the town centre. The area is pleasant, albeit not scenic. I rate this venue at 3.5* for access to transport, cleanliness and good facilities. I paid 45 euro per night with no breakfast which I thought after seeing the venue, was quite high after all.
The website: http://www.hotelpoveira.com/ Please note that their website has a slide show of images of Porto, they are not near the centre of the city even though the images give that impression.

Hotel Poveira, Campangha, Porto

Hotel Poveira, Campangha, Porto

9) Residencial S. Giao, Avenida S.Teotónio 17, Bl. 2 1ºandar -594 Portugal, 4930 Valença, Portugal
Tel: +351 251030040
This location is hard to rate. It is located fairly close to the main station hub, an easy walk, and is located right on the doorstep of the walled city. The apartment was part of a high-rise building with no lift to the 1st floor, although obviously this wasn’t an issue for me, it could be for someone less able. The ‘apartment’ was made up of a number of rooms on the same floor. There was nothing at all interesting about the reception and I only saw the proprietor for the few minutes it took to check in and pay and show me my room. The room was pleasant with a lovely comfortable double bed, clean linen and fresh towels and a private shower room with toilet etc. Facing onto the street it was unfortunately very noisy and I had street lights shining through the blinds all night. There was a wardrobe and dressing table and bedside cabinets and free wi-fi. I think, but am not sure if they offered breakfast so can’t comment on that. I paid 30 euro and feel that was a fair price considering the size of the city and its location. The walled city was a 5-8 minute walk and provided all that I needed in terms of shopping, restaurants and sight-seeing (in fact it was brilliant and one of the most exciting discoveries of the whole journey). The venue is located very close to the pilgrim’s route and is about a 10-12 minute walk to the bridge that crosses into Spain. I will rate this a 3* since the apartment itself was very utilitarian, but the location, cleanliness and room were good.
The website: http://www.residencialsgiao.com/

Residencial S. Giao, Valenca

Residencial S. Giao, Valenca

10) Motel Caldas, Follente Bemil, s/n, 36659 Caldas de Reis, Pontevedra, Spain
Tel: +34 986 53 00 11
This venue caught me out; it was 1.6 kms outside of Caldas de Reis and I had to take a cab to get there. It is in every sense of the word a motel. There was a heavy metal gate across the entrance with a speaker phone which was not very welcoming. Initially I thought I had stumbled into a private gated community of apartments. Each apartment has its own garage and separate staircase leading to the room. I eventually located the proprietor, who was very friendly and kindly brought me a free coke when he saw how exhausted I was. But the room was amazing; a very large room with a fantastic double bed, a marvellous mattress, lovely pillows and fresh crispy linen and fluffy towels and a private bathroom with the most divine bath and shower.  This was a real luxury after what had been a 32km day. There was a small dining table with bench seats, a wardrobe, bedside cabinets, a t.v. and free wi-fi. However it felt the way it looked; like a motel. But the staff were friendly and helpful even though we had to resort to google translate to be understood. I had a very good night’s sleep and for the 22.50 euro I paid which included a basic breakfast of coffee and croissant, I felt it was satisfactory. I’ll rate this 3* as well since the room was wonderful. But it was far from the town centre, I couldn’t see any restaurants close by so didn’t get to eat much that night, although the proprietor kindly made me a sandwich and a drink. Not quite what this pilgrim was looking for after a 12 hour and 32 km walk, but the bath and bed were marvellous. They don’t have a website but are on Facebook.

Motel Caldas, Caldas de Reis

Motel Caldas, Caldas de Reis

 

11) HI Hostel Viana do Costelo. Okay, so I’ve left this one till absolute last. The only positive aspect of this hostel was the location; just off the bridge over the river and to the right as you cross into Viana do Costelo. I found this place to be quite unsuitable and unpleasant and even though I only paid 12.00 euro, it was the same price as a couple of other venues that were of a much higher quality and a more friendly environment. The reception staff were very nice and helpful but the venue itself only had one thing to offer…location. The building is a bland, blank 60’s concrete edifice. The reception area is okay but the rooms were utilitarian, cold, blank and very unwelcoming. Although we did each have a locker the lock was broken. There was only one electrical socket to service all the occupants, and the facilities, both bathrooms and kitchens were not of a very good standard, and I had to try 3 different showers before I got one that worked; the water was tepid and only came out the pipe in short bursts. If I had to rate this place I’d say 1.5* rating and that would be for location and that the linen was clean, although you have to make the bed up yourself. The room had a small verandah which was nice and had lovely views over the harbour, if you can overlook the massive car-park right in front. I cannot under any pretence recommend this location except if you’re looking for cheap and can’t find anything else. Viana do Costelo is however an amazing city with so much to see and do that I was quite worn out by the time I eventually went to bed, which fortunately was clean. I have not put address or telephone details since this venue was such a huge disappointment. They are listed on Booking.com

HI Hostel, Viana do Castelo

HI Hostel, Viana do Castelo

And that concludes my article on places I stayed on the Camino. It was as I expected; some were very good, a couple were wonderful and one or two not so good. One of the main issues was cleanliness and on the whole that was not a problem. I had heard some real horror stories of bed bugs and dirty linen and took along a travel pouch for sleeping in which I never used. The albergues I did stay at were very very good.

I’m planning on walking another route in 2018 and hoping to walk either the English Way or the Frances route so I’m sure my experiences will be very different.

I hope you find this list useful. If you have any good locations from the Portuguese Coastal Route or The Central Way from Tui, please do leave a comment and let me know. Thank you and Bom Caminho and Buen Camino 🙂

The Camino Provides - 2017

The Camino Provides – 2017

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Day 14 Wednesday 2017.09.20 Caldas de Reis to Padrón

Today I learned how ‘The Camino Provides’.

The Camino Provides - 2017

The Camino Provides – 2017

I had bought the badge before I set off on my #Camino2017 and although it was stitched to my bag, I didn’t really give it much thought until; today….I met my Camino Angel – her name is Susana

We are pilgrims on a journey,
we’re companions on the road;
we are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the load.

Words from Richard Gillard’s The Servant Song

After I retrieved my phone the night before, I sank into a deliciously hot bubble bath; ahhh heavenly. I could feel the weariness seeping out my bones and my stress levels beginning to sink. Before I fell asleep in that pool of deliciousness I dragged myself out and before long, attired in my pyjamas – the ‘everything hurts’ t-shirt my daughter gifted me, hair washed and dried, teeth cleaned (I miss my electric toothbrush), I slipped between the cool crispy sheets of a marvellously huge bed with a superbly comfortable mattress at the Motel Caldas. Although my initial impression of the motel had not been favourable, I have to say the bed was divine. I slept like a baby, undisturbed by any sort of noise except the occasional howl of what I assume was a wolf….shivers of delight.

Awake bright and early, I waited patiently for my breakfast, which, after much sign language and a smattering of Spanish the night before, was arranged for 7.00am. By 7.30 it hadn’t appeared. I rang reception, but again my lack of Spanish tripped me up. Then I had the genius idea of using google translate. So once again ‘una momento Signora gracias’ I typed ‘good morning. please may I have my breakfast now’ into google translate and pressed the voice button. Hey presto, quick as a flash google had voiced my request, the lady answered (I have no idea what she said) but within 5 minutes my breakfast was in my room!! LOL Too funny. I mean seriously, using Google translate to talk to someone on the phone!! Whatever next?? But it worked. By 8:14 I was on my way…Padrón. My last night on The Way and I was feeling wayyy too emotional. I walked the 1.6 kms into town and was glad of it….

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Early morning in the spa town of Caldas de Reis

The rising sun, not quite yet above the horizon, cast a rosy pink glow over everything, even the sign board looked pretty. I’m so sorry I didn’t have more time to explore Caldas de Reis, it looks enchanting. I had seriously miscalculated the distances of the various stages. Virtually on my own, I enjoyed my early morning stroll through the streets of Caldas de Reis, so much so that I went for a brief walkabout 🙂 I noticed that even the drain covers had a scallop shell pattern. I encountered one of the many ‘fierce’ animals in Spain LOL. I’d read so many reports from peregrinos saying they encountered fierce dogs and terrifying animals along the Camino, that I was quite trepidatious I may have the same problem…Nope.

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one of the very fierce animals I met on The Way to Santiago 😉 even the drain covers have scallop shell patterns

Wow, Day 4/5 – my pilgrimage was almost at an end; I was on my way to Padrón, but not before my early morning treat of coffee and pastry.  I spotted a likely cafe; Panadería Cervela just over the road from the Igrexa de San Tomé Becket tree-lined square and was soon ‘sitting in a cafe in Caldas de Reis in Galicia’ drinking café con leche and eating pastries on this my 2nd last day of my Camino 2017.

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Café con leche and a sweet pastry for breakfast

How amazing is that! My 2nd last day!! It felt so surreal. I’d been crying for ages and just couldn’t stop. This has been such an incredible experience – exhausted, excited, in pain and tired beyond belief, I don’t want this to end. Wow. Camino eh. Fantastic. I’ve a 19km push through to Padrón today and sent Pepe ahead again with Tuitrans. Tomorrow I’ll carry him into Santiago – suitably symbolic, me thinks. I can’t quite believe that I’m just 2 days away from my destination. Is my journey just beginning, or ending. I felt dazed.

As with Portugal, and the many towns of Spain now behind me, Caldas de Reis had it’s fair share of ramshackle buildings in the centre and outskirts of town. This really is a mystery to me, this urban decay.

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Urban decay and The Way

By 09:22 I had left CdR proper behind me and was heading into more rural terrain, the ever present scallop shells, arrows and little walking man on a blue board guiding me on my way. I was going to miss this so much.

With the suns rays casting a rainbow halo on the ground, I encountered my first marker of the day; 41.443 kms to Santiago. Oh my gosh! I had almost 200 kms behind me from when I left Porto. Truly, I could hardly believe I’d come this far. Awed AND dazed LOL

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41.443 kms to Santiago

Ahead of me, pilgrims trod a well-worn path past suburban houses; destination Santiago de Compostela. I briefly wondered where they had all started their journeys. And no matter where we started, now for this moment in time, we were all walking the same path; weaving our way through vineyards hung with bunches of deep red succulent grapes, treading quietly past ancient stone-built sheds adorned with small figurines sculpted of stone; St James – the pilgrim. Dotting the fields, the now familiar hórreos. The rising sun threw shards of light through leafy boughs still heavy with the leaves of summer. Soft rays casting shadows; highlighting the terrain of an ever-changing landscape; asphalt gave way to gravel and sandy paths, the whisper of footsteps – pilgrims walking in contemplative silence though tunnels of shady green forests, past the deep green and russet browns of ferns mixed with delicate pink heather growing with wild abandon along the wayside . A tearful pilgrim gently rests a token atop a cairn of similar tokens. Stop briefly to give her a hug. A temple of God could be no more hushed.

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Pilgrims walking. Vineyards. Stone sheds. Morning sun. tunnels of green. Autumnal fern

And now; 39.337 kms to Santiago.

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39.337 kms to Santiago

10:32 and I’m in O Cruceiro, a marker tells me I’m still on the Via Romana XIX. Awesome. Ahead a stunning Iglesia; the Church of Santa Mariña in Campo, the sun’s rays casting rainbow halos from behind the facade. A still sleepy village, its inhabitants just glimpsed between the trees. Blue skies.

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The Via Romana XIX. O Cruceiro. Church of Santa Marina in Campo

36.284 kms to Santiago.

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36.284 kms to Santiago 🙂 and pilgrims walking

35.568 kms to Santiago and a photo op. By now I am adorned with Camino trinkets; keepsakes or amulets to keep me safe? My fabulous walking poles ever to hand! I didn’t lose weight on the Camino LOL

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35.568 kms to Santiago and I’m adorned with amulets

In an orchard, the night’s chill leaves crusty ice on strands of a spider’s web; diamonds glinting in the early morning sun.

35.039 kms and a bunch of juicy green grapes…. left in offering or forgotten?

Then Casalderrique; a town on the outskirts of the Caldas de Reis to Padrón del Camino Portugués to Santiago de Compostela. Fascinating. I’m loving these strange, evocative words and names.

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a spider web strung with diamonds. 35.039 kms and a bunch of grapes. Casalderrique

Suddenly the weather changes; a swirling mist descends, enveloping wooded hills, sleepy houses, and the watery rays of sun, sending a chill along my spine. And 3 minutes later we have blues skies again – the sun heading towards midday doesn’t quite warm the chilly air.

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a damp mist descends. pilgrims walk beneath blue skies

A self-service wayside café with a loo for peregrinos. A stunning pilgrim sculpture and scallop shell mark the spot.

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Peregrino stop; rest awhile

34.584 kms to Santiago – Benvidos O Concello de Valga – Camino de Santiago.
Once again we’re required to cross the dreaded N550 & it’s now 33.799 kms to Santiago
Reminiscent of Portugal, I am once again following footprints in the sand.

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Benvidos O Concello de Valga – Camino de Santiago.

33.089 kms to Santiago and once again we’re on asphalt and walking through forests of green.

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32.049 kms to Santiago back on the gravel, and it’s all downhill from here

By now my right ankle was burning; each step excruciatingly painful as I gingerly put pressure on each step downhill. I really could have done without downhills today.  After the last 2 days of extensive and excessive walking, and crossing 3 mountains, my right ankle is in a bad way. I’ve barely covered 5 kms and walking down the steep downward and the steep upward inclines has been agony. I have a badly contracted muscle just above the right ankle that’s just seriously painful. For the last km I’ve been saying I’ll stop soon I’ll stop soon but just kept going. Suddenly there, in a shady clearing above a stream, I saw a wooden shelter and a group of 4 ladies resting. I hobbled over, they made space for me and to my sheer wonder, one of their party, a young lass said “I’m a massage therapist, can I massage your feet?” OMG I could have cried. Oh please!! 💞💞 The pain of the massage was tremendous, but the relief was even more so. With lots of laughter and admonishment, 3 of the ladies, chirruping away in Spanish produced a scissors, a roll of strapping tape and foot cream! After massaging my legs and feet Susana strapped up my ankle; the relief was amazing.

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My Camino Angel; Susana from Vila do Conde

Thank you Susana from Vila do Conde, you were truly my angel today. Today I learned how the Camino provides 💞💞💞💞🙏🙏

The Spanish ladies left after admonishing me about walking too far (Susana translated) and then Susana left soon after, repeatedly asking if I was okay now. Yes, thank you so much. I’ll just rest awhile and continue on my way. With lots of hugs and a wave with the tentative possibility of crossing paths in Padrón we said goodbye. Sadly I didn’t see her in Padrón.

Walking a lot easier now as I made my way slowly to Padrón. Actually, I wasn’t in any hurry. It was a fine day, the sun now warm on my skin, I passed fields, a pretty stone church (they are so lovely), and then suddenly……..29.883 kms to Santiago. OMG!! 😀

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Hoorah!! 29.883 kms to Santiago

To my delight I spotted a pair of old boots covered with stones of all shapes and sizes, sitting on top of a Camino marker. What story could they tell?

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these boots were made for walking…..

Another hórreo and a field of corn. And now Cedelo. The time was 14:09 and I had been walking for nearly 6 hours with just a few rest stops in between and a massage LOL. Another vineyard, dripping with plump bunches of ripe red grapes. Oh how delicious they looked. Hard to resist the temptation.

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snapshots of Spain

Don’t STOP walking Go. Go. Gooo

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Don’t STOP walking..Go Go Gooo!!! follow the yellow arrow!!!

Contrary to the advice given, I’ve stopped for a short break. It’s blazing hot. Almost 3pm and I’ve been walking for well over 6 hours.

26.603 kms to Santiago. 6 hours 38 minutes and 14.84 kms covered so far!  Padrón where are you. Slowww going today. Another downward slope. Urgh.

And on I walked; slowly passing towns and hamlets – As Cernadas, Chenlo, San Miguel, Condide, Valga. The names unfamiliar on my tongue, I longed to pronounce them properly. A silent vow to learn Spanish.

I passed a house adorned with the most glorious display of glorious bright pink Hibiscus!! A café wall adorned with dozens of scallop shells; fresh brewed coffee served here. A bizarre dummy dressed as a pilgrim nun standing next to a display stand of trinkets. An arrow points me in the right direction. A small village dominated by an enormous church its graveyard packed tight with marble and stone graves and memorials. A railway line to be crossed; my nemesis. A pretty painted house, red and white paint peeling off mouldy walls. A tunnel snakes beneath the railway line; the blue board with the walking man points the way; pilgrim this is your route.

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hibiscus

 

Suddenly we’re in suburbia once again – Pontecesures; thus named because in Roman times a bridge was built here. Pontecesures was one of the main Galician ports during the Roman era from whence products were shipped to Rome. The litchen-covered 10 arched bridge spans the River Ulla and separates the provinces of Pontevedra and A Coruña. I hurried along my way, crossing the bridge and for just a brief moment, again we’re on the dreaded N550. The sun-warmed day with bright blue skies reflecting in the water of the river as it flows rapidly by.  I’m getting closer now. Just a little further and I’m walking alongside another stone-arched bridge, this time carrying the N550 rather than spanning a river. At the junction of Aldea Calzada and Ponte Aldea, a scallop shell filled with plants rests on a stone pillar inscribed with the letters ‘no ori eses dsp’: interpreted as: “Neptune, the inhabitants of the Iria forum, placed this one at their expense“.

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Pontecesuras – not far to go now!!

15:19 – 7 hours and Hurrah. Padron is on the horizon 👏👏👏😀😀😀

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Padron!!!! 😀

25.018 kms to Santiago. 16.425 kms walked. This was the last marker I saw before reaching Padrón, so I’m guessing mapmywalk (said I walked 13.83 kms) didn’t update properly after losing gps signal at various points along the way. Clearly my distance was indeed the 18.4 kms that the Guide book I bought calculated LOL

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The last marker before Padrón….who lied? Google, the Pilgrim’s Guide or the markers!!

Hoorah!!! its 15:09 and finally I’m in Padrón, a cafeteria on the corner tempts me in, but I resist.  I strolled along the tree-lined “Espolon Promenade” where I saw a statue of Camil José Cela (1916–2002), writer and Nobel Prize winner who was born here. Padrón is a concello (Galician for municipality) in the Province of A Coruña and divided into five parishes. I’m in the parish of Santa María de Iría Flavia (or Iría Flavia).

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Padron; the parish of Santa María de Iría Flavia

The town suffered several attacks in the 10th and 11th centuries by both Vikings and Normans….geez, they were everywhere!! According to tradition, it was in Iría Flavia that the Apostle Saint James first preached during his journey in Hispania. Legend has it that soon after his death (AD44), two of his disciples brought his head and body in a stone boat to Iría Flavia from Jerusalem where he had been beheaded by “Herod the king” (Herod Agrippa I). The river Sar flows alongside the promenade through Padrón and past the cathedral where you can see the ‘pedron’. After resting here the disciples took his remains inland for burial at Compostela, now known as Santiago de Compostela. As a result, Iría Flavia, now colloquially known as Padrón, has developed into a popular passing place on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route.  Besides being famous for it’s links to St James, Padrón is famous for it’s peppers (Galician pementos de Padrón).

I stopped at the cathedral; Iglesia de Santiago where the body of St James lay before being taken to Compostela. Tradition has it that it was here that the boat coming from the Holy Land carrying the body of the Apostle James was moored on the “pedrón”, a granite block; still preserved under the altar of the Iglesia de Santiago. The history of these places is just extraordinary. I stayed for about 30 minutes, just enjoying the overwhelming sense of spirituality, peace and tranquillity of the cathedral. I had my passport stamped, bought a trinket and made a donation.

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Iglesia de Santiago where the body of St James lay before being taken to Compostela

After a few minutes of contemplation I left the church and did a Google search for my albergue. Only 85 metres away 👏👏👏😀😀😀 Hallelujah.

I’m not sure who thought cobbled roads were a good idea, but I’d like to assure them they’re not. 😕😕😕 Albergue Corredoiras is probably the most well organised albergue I’ve stayed in so far, although I had to make my own bed 😂😂 Reminded me of boarding school. I’m in a multi bed, mixed sex dorm and now in the fully reclining position, as you can see from my last pic. I did not know that my feet could be this painful, however the 3 x 500mg paracetamol I’ve swallowed since this morning appears to be kicking in. So I’m going to do what every sensible pilgrim should do… sleep. 😴😴😴

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Albergue Corredoiras

What a journey. Today has been so painful, but it forced me to slow down. It’s been very hot again today and the last 5 kms were tough. I noticed that the Buen Camino greetings were more tired that before, pilgrims walked slower, feet dragging. Padrón looks amazing. I’m glad I got here early enough to rest for a while and then hopefully get out to explore. Just a little bit 😉

Day 4/5 walked 13.83 (?) kms and 39374 steps over 7 hours, 58 minutes door to door. I’m not sure which is more accurate, Google maps or mapmywalk 18.7 vs 13.83 kms. Hmmm??

Tomorrow; Santiago de Compostela. Too soon…..

But first, a little rest and then time to explore…. LOL The proprietor gave me a basket for my laundry but I was so tired I simply didn’t have the energy to unpack. Dirty clothes till Santiago I guess. I figured that pilgrims of days gone by didn’t have the luxury of a washing machine, so I too would just wear whatever it was that came out my bag.

I loved the configuration of the hostel sleeping quarters. Each bunk had it’s own locker and a curtain for privacy. Pepe had once again been safely delivered, so into the locker went he, and onto the bed went I. Snooze time. See Places I stayed on the Camino for more about the Albergue Corredoiras.

In case you missed it,you can read about Day 3 here from Arcade to Caldas de Reis

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Day 12 Monday 2017.09.18 and Day 2 of 5 of my Spanish pilgrimage – O Porriño to nearby the small fishing village of the San Simon Inlet (just beyond Soutoxuste and 1 km before Arcade).
The only way to climb a mountain is to put one foot in front of the other….

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“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb”. Nelson Mandela

Time left O Porriño 08:30. Time arrived at San Simon 17:30. 9 hours including stops for meals and rests. Walked 21.87 kms. 48437 steps. Elevation 287 metres. Felt like Mount Everest.

Today was the first time I experienced rain on the Camino.
After a really good night’s sleep despite there being 6 people in the room, I left the hostel at just on 8.30am. I had planned to leave at 7.30am but my body was still tired and I’m trying to be sensible and listen.

About 5 minutes after I left the hostel as I was walking towards the Camino route I had a dizzy spell so immediately went into the first cafe I saw; Cafe Zentral and ordered café con leche and a croissant, delicious. By 9am, I was on my way. I mosied on thru O Porriño following the tiled scallop shells and ubiquitous yellow arrows; on the road, sidewalk, walls…ever so handy.

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Breakfast in O Porrino at Cafe Zentral

O Porriño was one of my planned cash withdrawal points so I stopped at one of the ATMs…have you ever tried to withdraw money in a foreign language? I remember the first time I needed to withdraw money in Portugal….The instructions were in Portuguese and initially I tried to guess which buttons to press based on the configuration I was used to in the UK. Uhmm, yes rather LOL. Eventually, I realised there were a number of icons; flags of various countries on the machine. Press the Union Jack…voila English. What an adventure. Admittedly though, I was terrified the machine would swallow my card if I made too many mistakes.

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learning the language is a good idea LOL

After withdrawing my cash I set off with determination; destination Arcade. This end of O Porriño was very industrial and not as pretty as the side I entered and as I rounded a corner, I saw there was a Lidl supermarket!! What?? Lidls in Spain? Bizarre. LOL

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leaving O Porrino via an indusrial estate

Shortly after that I had to negotiate a nasty round-about that was exceedingly busy but I finally got a gap and zapped across. In front of me lay a long stretch on the motorway; Estrada Porrino Redondela aka N550. Horrible.

It was thereabouts that I encountered my very first large group of Pilgrims. It was weird to see so many people occupying this space and I felt affronted by the noise of everyone chattering away and grateful that I was on my own and didn’t have to participate. I know it was really unfriendly of me, but I tried my very best to lose them…eventually after realising that they were walking faster than me – they had daypacks, I was carrying Pepe – I fell back and finally they disappeared into the future. The next time I saw them was at Mos, they were leaving as I arrived. Perfect.

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finding the way and encountering the N550 and large groups

I had noticed a metal plaque attached to a rock wall with famous mountain peak elevation comparisons and thought “oh please let us not be climbing mountains today!!!” Well, ultimately my prayer was not answered. OMG 😱😱😱😱 it’s hard going and it’s raining, a fine soft rain that soaks through everything.

Still following the tiled scallop shells and yellow arrows, on walls, stones and trees the route took us away from the highway and on a scenic tour through the suburbs. I saw a cute little doggie face peeking over the top of a wall from a distance and stopped to chat. He was sitting with his paws resting on his chin just watching all the pilgrims walking by. 😊😊😍

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how much is that doggie on the fence there…keeping an eye on the pilgrims

After crossing beneath the A52; Autovia das Rias Baixas, soon I was out of the city precincts. The route took me onto a fairly rural stretch where I started to see more and more pilgrims. The weather was inclement with spurts of soft rain and bursts of sunshine.

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a scenic route through Galicia and yes, those grapes were very tempting, and no I didn’t 😉

After a short while once again across the Estrada Porriño Redondela, and onto a more pleasant road; Camino das Lagoas. Except for the odd stretch of motorway, or crossing said motorway (N550), this was a pleasant route that zigged and zagged, this way and that, and stretched pretty much all the way to Redondela.

I eventually caved in and stopped at one point to put on my poncho and the backpack cover on. I got myself into an awful tangle with trying to straighten the poncho out after I got Pepe back on, so a tiny little Spanish lady assisted with straightening me out. She rattled away in Spanish but I had absolutely noooo idea what she was saying. I just kissed her cheek and said “Grazias Senora” and chau as I waved goodbye, ever so grateful for the assistance. It’s been hard work trudging up hills but I’m getting there…. wherever there might be 😂😂

I loved walking through the fields and vineyards, admiring the Spaniards creative recycling; using plastic bottles to make scarecrows, of which there were many and they were inventive and adorable. There were a number of the hórreo; Spanish granaries on the route, as well as some really beautiful shrines, some of which were works of art.

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a stroll through the Galician countryside on a cloudy day, lots of hórreos scattered about and beautiful shrines

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a beautiful shrine and creative scarecrows

It rained on and off the whole morning. Well done to my Mountain Warehouse backpack cover, absolutely brilliant. Kept everything dry. My Mickey Mouse poncho, bought in Florida in 2003 and never yet worn, was put to the test. It passed.

Finally I reached Mos, not that far from O Porriño as the crow flies, but bleeding hell going up those steadily increasing inclines. Murder. I hadn’t ever considered there might actually be mountains on the Way to Santiago LOL.

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Mos was such a pretty little hamlet.

Mos was a delight!! Beautifully paved road, a few houses and a scattering of restaurants, a Pilgrim’s gift shop and a quaint little church; the church of Santa Eulalia. I decided right there and then to stop for another café con leche and a rest. But first I had to investigate the gift shop; Bo Camino, and have my passport stamped.
Stamp. Carimbo. Sello. Timbre – catering for many languages!

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Bo Camino, Mos. Get your passport stamped here. I loved the way they used the scallop shell to register different languages

93.194kms to Santiago.
I tried to find out more about Mos but there is very little by way of information on Wikipedia and don’t even bother to look at TripAdvisor: Type in keyword Mos and you’ll get dozens of responses, none of which are actually in Mos, but mostly miles away. Urgh. All I got was “There is no significant urban nucleus and most of the population live scattered across the municipality. Family-owned farms and vineyards are very common.” And that was that then.

By 11:15 I was on my way – 92.936kms to Santiago; barely 200 yards LOL

I was amazed to discover I was still on the Roman route: Vias Romanas A Tianticas!! Part of the 19th Roman road on the Antonine Itinerary. Whoa, okay! Awesome. I did some research while writing this blog and found an absolutely fascinating website (you’ll need to translate it) that lists a number of routes and places. Awesome http://www.viasromanas.pt/

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the route out of Mos and onto the ancient Roman roads; Camino da Ponte da Roma and “Cruceiro dos Cabaleiros”

Leaving the Pazo dos Marqueses behind, you start climbing the Rúa dos Cabaleiros up to the cross of “Cruceiro dos Cabaleiros”, a polychrome 18th century cross, on one side the image of the Virgin and on the other of Jesus Christ, named for the horse fair that is held here. Also called “Cruceiro da Vitoria” to signal the victory over Napoleon’s troops, the milestone not only worked as a boundary marker, but it’s also believed to have fertility powers for women who want to have children. After opposition from the locals it was left insitu and not moved to the Museum of Pontevedra.

After leaving Mos the route takes you along Camino da Rua onto the Estrada Alto de Barreiros Santiaguno and eventually onto Camino Cerdeirinas and back onto the Estrada Alto de Barreiros Santiaguno. It’s not a straight road to Arcade!! You have to wonder about the all the mead those Romans drank. The route switched back and forth between Via and Estrada to Camino and Egrexa (?) and a sign saying Camino de Santiago. At that moment I kinda wished that I was in Santiago, I was that tired. But….not to be wishing the days away, I was loving my Camino.

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following the yellow arrows and scallop shells; the Pilgrim’s Way to Santiago. I loved the sculptures

A Roman marker; fascinating discovery

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a Roman marker indicating the remaining miles, much like the markers we have today

Time 12:43 Walked 11.80 kms. Approx 10 kms to go to Arcade. Thankfully it’s mostly downhill now. About 5 minutes ago I missed the turn off from the asphalt and walking determinedly head down ‘in the zone’, when I heard people shouting “Hello, Hello. Hello Senora!!” I looked back and a group of pilgrims I’d seen a few times were shouting for me to indicate I’d missed the turn LOL Who knows where I’d gotten to… probably not Santiago.

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Camino de Santiago…but if you’re walking with your head down, you won’t see it!!!

It’s been really challenging all this climbing, but according to a couple I met yesterday, I’m walking strong and that’s encouraging to hear. I truly could not have done it without my walking poles; Gemini. I stopped in a forest glade to recuperate. The pilgrims are all whizzing by me now as I sit relaxing and finally eating the trail mix I’ve carried around for the last 12 days hahaha. 300 grams off the load soon. It’s been raining on and off most of the morning and Mickey Mouse has given me a free sauna. Jeez it’s hot under that poncho. I’m hoping to reach Arcade today… Hold thumbs 😉
Galicia is poetically known as the “country of the thousand rivers” (“o país dos mil ríos”) and although I don’t recall crossing many rivers today, I did see and pass a number of streams. I guess the rain helps to keep them filled.

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Estrada de Padrón and those downward inclinations that I was not inclined to walk down. Level ground was gratefully received. My walking poles a life-saver

Enroute I walked along the Estrada de Padron!! But not the Padron I was aiming for located just before Santiago, although it was marvellous – lots of trees and greenery. And now we were into the serious inclines….up and up. It seemed never ending. The views, albeit misty were amazing. I got all excited when I spotted some boots on a wall, being used a flower pots. I remembered seeing this on Facebook!! My spirits lifted and I grinned from ear to ear. I so loved discovering these little scenes.

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One of my delightful discoveries. Just before Bar Corisco

8 kms to go to Arcade. I’ve stopped again 😉 Barely made 1 km progress in 1 hour but OMG that was the worst incline I’ve experienced so far. What goes up, must assuredly go down again. If I’d known what was waiting for me, I’d have stayed in that forest glade. Blimey. The downhill gradient was so steep that I couldn’t actually go down straight. I took it in a zig-zag fashion and hopped sideways. My right ankle is unhappy and my left knee even more unhappy. I wish I had a sled.

Meanwhile it seems I’ve walked 5 kms since I saw the sign for the Bar Corisco on the Camino Romano. When I saw that I had arrived at the place I decided to stop for lunch. Many other pilgrims had the same idea and the place was full. Incredibly, with all those patrons, there was just the one Senora rushing about taking orders and serving food. Poor woman. I felt like I should help her. The soup was just amazing and I ordered a 2nd bowl. Food for the soul and spirits. For someone who doesn’t normally touch Coke, I sure drank a lot on the Camino. Gave me energy.

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Lunch at Bar Corisco. Best vegetable soup ever

I left her a whopping big tip. I know you’re not meant to, but by golly she was working hard. They also have an albergue here. Camiño Romano, 47 – SAXAMONDE – 36816 – Redondela (Pontevedra) If you’re interested in finding out more about Bar Corisco https://www.paxinasgalegas.es/corisco-194770em.html

After leaving Bar Corisco I continued walking downhill on the Camino Romano. Just after the bend I saw a tractor chugging up what is a very narrow road and steep incline so crossed to the other side and stopped to wait for it to go past. As soon as it was far enough past me, I turned to my left to look for traffic and a car raced past so close I’m sure my pants cleaned the side of his car!!! I shudder to think of how close he went by. If perchance I had stepped forward just one step first and then turned to look he would have knocked me down. If I’d been unfocused before that moment, I was hyper alert after!!!

Hint: Just after Bar Corisco the road narrows substantially and is very steep going downhill (Camino Romano).

The route from here was horrid….exceptionally steep declines. What goes up, must I guess, eventually go down. Very uncomfortable to walk along. I can’t remember much of the walk after that, except that there were uphill and downhill challenges to get through. I do remember a group of about 13 cyclists whizzing by at one stage, most of them calling out “Buen Camino” I shouted back “grazie, Bom Camino” and tried to not feel envious at how quickly they flew by. I did call them bastards in my head. Petty jealousy LOL

Continuing along the Camino Romano which blended into Camino dos Frades and then after about an hour or so I was back on the N550; Rua do Muro/Estrada Porrino Redondela…..blah blah blah. I was too exhausted to care about much except a bed.

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Reaching Redondela.

And then I was in Concella de Redondela, passing along a stretch of the N550 which was exceptionally busy and quite horrible. Mostly industrial. I finally entered the town proper and was so glad I’d decided to go to Arcade instead of stopping there. I passed a handsome church as I entered the town; Convento de Vilavella, aka Vilavella Ensemble – a combination of convent, church and monuments. Construction started in 1501 and completed by 1554. After various changes, it now functions as a restaurant and wedding hall. I wished I had the time to visit….

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Convento de Vilavella, Redondella. circa 1501

I passed some fountains and a few interesting features but there was nothing to get excited about until the route took me through the old town which was just charming. Since I stuck religiously to the Camino route, following the arrows and tiled scallop shells, I didn’t venture off course and thereby I suspect I may have missed the more picturesque areas of the town. When I look at my route on mapmywalk I can see there is a large park-like area alongside the canal/river.

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passing through Redondela on the Portugues Camino de Santiago

I passed the house, built in the classic Galician style, where Casto Sampedro y Folgar lived; lawyer, archaeologist and folklorist, he was apparently one of the most emblematic characters of Galician culture. The streets along this section were absolutely fascinating and I briefly wished I wasn’t just passing through. A priest asked me, in Spanish, if I was looking for a place to stay or passing thru. I had no idea what he actually said, but with my few snippets of Spanish and some sign language I got the gist of it. I’m passing thru grazie. We waved goodbye. A few paces on and some random gentleman walking past wished me Buen Camino. Even after all these days, it still catches my heart and I just wanted to kiss him. Instead I shook his hand and thanked him with a big smile.

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passing through Redondela on the Camino Portugues

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Right in the centre of town; An hórreo is a typical granary from the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula built in wood or stone.

hórreo galician granary, concello de redondela, camino de santiago, o porrino to arcade, walking the camino, portuguese coastal and central route,

passing through Redondela. Wish I’d had more time to explore

Apparently Redondela is where the Portuguese Way of St James becomes one; coastal via Vigo, and central via Tui.

Redondela is apparently most famous for its viaducts. Two viaducts built in the 19th century meet here; the viaduct of Madrid and the viaduct of Pontevedra. I think I shall have to walk this route again….I didn’t get to see the viaduct properly this time around 😉 There is also the church of Iglesia de Santiago de Redondela dating from the 16th century that I didn’t get to see.

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the viaduct of Madrid and the viaduct of Pontevedra meet in Redondela

It took 45 minutes to pass from one end of Redondela to the other!! I was in quite a lot of pain and hobbling more than walking. That right ankle was a bitch, but I didn’t want to stop. It felt like if I stopped, I’d not get going again.

concello de redondela, camino de santiago, o porrino to arcade, walking the camino, portuguese coastal and central route,

following the blue tiled scallop shells and the yellow arrows

And then I was into rural countryside and from 4pm onwards I barely saw a human being, till I reached the albergue.

concello de redondela, camino de santiago, o porrino to arcade, walking the camino, portuguese coastal and central route,

leaving Redondela and this chap was pretty much the last person I saw till Arcade.                     Rua Torre de Calle 81.775 kms to Santiago

The Rua Torre de Calle. 81.775 kms to Santiago.

The route took me past some beautiful areas, forests and farms. The only sign of life; a few sheep and birds. My right ankle was hurting terribly by then and I hobbled along like a decrepit hobbit. Hahaha. Oh I’d have paid a king’s ransom for any form of transport at that stage.

Every now and then I encountered the dreaded N550 again!! ‘Precaucion Interseccion’ – Cesantes 0.5kms. I passed loads of sign boards advertising the names of various albergues, but I wasn’t quite ready to stop just yet…I had planned on reaching Arcade before nightfall with the hopes of finding somewhere to sleep there.

camino de santiago, o porrino to arcade, walking the camino, portuguese coastal and central route,

shady glade, inclines, declines, and the dreaded N550 ‘Precaucion Interseccion’ – asphalt and gravel were my constant companion LOL

Traversing the slopes of A Peneda, a mountain with an elevation of 329 meters, was a real challenge. Dragging myself up inclines and zig-zagging down the declines, I walked through lovely, green forested areas, so quiet and peaceful. Thankfully the route didn’t take me all the way over the crest of the mountain, but rather along the sides…still, it was high enough!!

I passed an installation near Cesantes covered with dozens of scallop shells, all with dates and names written on. If I’d had a marker handy I could have left a message.  I hadn’t seen anyone since I left Redondella and was entirely on my own.

camino de santiago, o porrino to arcade, walking the camino, portuguese coastal and central route,

the scallop shell installation near Cesantes and O Recuncho Do Peregrino 🙂 and the sun was now behind me

I noticed a sign-board with details for an albergue that I’d seen at least 3 times before now; O Recuncho Do Peregrino (raven of the pilgrim), and suddenly I just made up my mind; this was the right place and exactly at that minute I phoned and asked if they had a room available for the night? Yes, a double room. I don’t care that I’m paying double I just want a bed and my own space. I booked it. Arcade can wait till tomorrow!

79.122kms to Santiago. I could scarcely believe that it was now less than 80kms to go.

It was completely wild here, lots of trees. Galicia is one of the more forested areas of Spain, mostly eucalyptus and pine and shrubbery growing with wild abandon. The route is incredibly variable; asphalt, gravel, sandy and cobbled and as I hobbled along I suddenly noticed glimpses of what I thought was the sea through the trees!! It was in fact the Ria de Vigo lagoon.

o recuncho do peregrino, camino de santiago, o porrino to arcade, walking the camino, portuguese coastal and central route,

The Ria de Vigo Lagoon, and my journey’s end O Recuncho Do Peregrino and my bed!! Hoorah 🙂

And then finally, O Recuncho do Peregrino; 250 meters. I had arrived at my destination. The albergue is just 250m from the Pilgrim’s Way and despite being right on the verge of the N550, it wasn’t noisy. As it turns out, Arcade was only another 1 km further, but I was in no mood for walking…I wanted a shower, food and a bed. Pronto!!!

This albergue is excellent, very simply furnished, and very clean and Miguel, the proprietor is wonderful. So welcoming, friendly and helpful. I had a fantastic hot shower, which was blissful. In O Porriño the water was cold by the time I got to shower so this was sheer heaven. Miguel organised my laundry for me; washed and dried for €6. Brilliant. He also organised to have my backpack transported with Tuitrans to the motel in Caldas de Reis. I quite simply cannot carry it again through the mountains and tomorrow is a 32/35 km day. For €7 it’s well worth the cost and will take the pressure of my ankle. I hope I can actually walk tomorrow.

Not so much a #buencamino at this stage than a mere #camino. If I wasn’t in polite company I’d use that word that Helen Mirren advocates, I was that tired LOL I would have loved to take a walk down to the beach, but just the thought of walking even 10 feet, never mind 30 meters was too much for me. I repacked my bag and went to bed, too tired to even be hungry.

So wow my Camino 2017 set about throwing up some interesting challenges. Never once in all the planning and researching I had done prior to walking the Camino had I registered/realised that I would have to climb ‘mountains’. I couldn’t believe how many inclines there were. Okay it wasn’t really proper high mountains, but I can assure you, that with Pepe on my back and my ankle playing up, it felt like Everest.

Places I walked through today: O Porriño, Ameirolongo, Veiga Dana, Mos, Santiaguino das Antas, Saxamonde, Redondela and stopped just 1 km short of Arcade near the fishing village of San Simon Inlet. I could see the shimmer of blue of the lagoon from my bedroom window. I’d forgotten there was the island nearby, but truly, I was too tired to care. Even if Queen Elizabeth had come to visit, I woulda said – terrific, I’m glad for her. And still gone to bed!! LOL

FYI the albergue; O Recuncho do Peregrino, is closed during 2017 for the months of November, December, and January and February 2018. This albergue is listed as #1 on my Places I Stayed on the Camino If you’d like to know more for 2018; his website is http://orecunchodoperegrino.com/

If you’re interested in learning more about the Roman routes, I found this website linked to the Portuguese aspect of the Roman roads. http://www.viasromanas.pt/vrinfo.html

Tomorrow: Arcade and the marathon to Caldas dei Reis.

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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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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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