Day 31 – San Xulian to Arzua 

Can I just say in case I haven’t said it before (hahahahaha) another incredible day on the Camino.  

I woke up this morning so refreshed having had a brilliant sleep. In bed and sound asleep by 9.30 last night and didn’t wake up until 7.15.   I slept in!!!!

Up and out as the sky was getting light by about 10 to 8 and set off getting closer to the ultimate destination.  

I am so glad I stayed out of the main town last night as when I set off this morning I was the only person on the Way with the last of the full moon lighting my way.  Oh the serenity! 

My head was totally back into Camino mode – nothing in it!!

Found a beautiful place for breakfast with the best tortilla I had had for a while

Set off down the road and as it was such a lovely day and I was savouring every minute after about 7kms found another lovely cafe in the sun where I had the best coffee and home made, just out of the oven, lemon cake.  Yum. Sat in the sun and devoured it and headed off again.  

Again walking through beautiful woodland and countryside. Galicia is certainly a highlight of this fabulous country.

Over the weeks of walking the Camino I have noticed in most houses they have this little house on stilts with a cross on it

I thought it may have been the family crypt where they keep their relatives. Well today I learnt what it was.  Purely and simply because I was walking past one and the doors were open.  It turns out it is the drying house for their corn.  Simple mistake due to the cross on it!

Well as I was taking a picture there was another lady and her son doing the same thing and so we got chatting, as you do, and it turns out Rosie and Martin were from Melbourne and walking the Camino together. I slowed right down and walked with them for the rest of the day and what a delightful couple.  
It was good for me as they walked so much slower than I did but I enjoyed their company so much and we were talking so much we arrived in Arzua before we knew it.  

They had booked accommodation in an albergue so I just followed them and booked into the same one and after the shower and washing we moved downstairs to the plaza which was right across the road for a few cervezas.  

Before I knew it along came Pierre and Gil so I introduced Rosie and Martin and we spent a very pleasant afternoon in the plaza chatting.  

I went off to the bank and the supermarket for things and came back and someone else went off for something and came back and before we knew it it was dinner time. 

We walked up the street to look for somewhere for dinner and ran into Julie and Michelle from South Africa then Anna and Leonard from Sweden and we had to pop in for another drink as the restaurant didn’t open until 7.30.  

It was so lovely to run into all these familiar faces again as the journey comes to an end.  We all will be in Santiago on Friday so I am sure there will be a very large group of us meeting up to tell stories and laugh and reminisce.  

I am getting teary thinking about it.  

Rosie and Martin had a great night as I was able to introduce them to lots of people and it was just a good fun night.  

So yet again the sun goes down on another memorable day on the Camino.  

Bale buenos noches

Day 30 – Portmarin to San Xulian

Pronounced San Julian. 25kms today and another strange day.  

As I have mentioned about Galicia the valleys are shrouded in clouds of a morning so this morning as I left town again it was a very thick fog.  Very damp also so my hair was wet even though I worked up a sweat climbing the mountain to get out of town.  

It has been interesting the last 2 days as a lot of people have joined the way to walk the last 100kms in a week.  Unfortunately they do not seem to understand the pilgrim way as they are loud, don’t turn the light off, slam doors. I shouldn’t be so negative but it seems like the peace and serenity of the pilgrimage has been lost a little.  

This morning as I left town people were walking in packs and talking so loudly it felt like they were screaming at each other and there is no hola! Or buen Camino!  I walked past a few people and said buen Camino and was totally ignored and they kept on talking.  

For that reason I decided not to stay in the big towns anymore but go to the little out of the way places and stay in local Albergue’s.  

As we are on the final leg of our fantastic journey from Sarria onwards we have to get at least 2 stamps on our credentials.  Of course I have been like a kid in a candy store so I have been getting 3-4 a day anyway.  The stamps have to be dated.  This meant that by the time I got to Sarria my original credential from St Jean Pied de Port was totally full.  

I went to the church in Sarria and they issued me with another one and put ‘continuation’ on it so I now have a new one and yes it is filling up quickly.  Averaging 5-6 a day now.  

Headed out of town this morning and of course first there was a mountain to climb.  I didn’t want to stop too early as there were so many people walking the cafes and bars were full and running out of food.  

I got to Gonzar and stopped for the ever fabulous Zumo de naranjo and kept on trucking. 

Just past Gonzar my head came out of the clouds at the top of  the mountain and what an incredible view.  It was like being in an aeroplane flying above the clouds

Of course once you get above the clouds the sun is relentless and another very hot day.  

Next stop Ligonde and it was breakfast time with croissants coffee and orange juice.  All the tables and chairs outside were all so wet due to being in the clouds for most of the morning. 

The walk today was so pretty most of it through woodland. One of the guys I was walking with likened it to The Shire in Lord of the Rings 

So pretty.

Got into Palas de Rei about 12.30 and it was time for a sit down and a grande cerveza. 

As I sat admiring the view along came a lot of my fellow pilgrims from the last 5 weeks. Frances, Pierre, Julie and Angela from South Africa.  

Unfortunately Oswin and Kian who I have been walking with the last couple of days left me today.  Oswin is in hospital due to not feeling well for the last few days.  Not sure what it is and Kian has decided to walk a bit faster to get to Santiago a bit quicker.  I hope Oswin is ok.  I have had such a lovely time walking with them.  Two really nice guys.

I wasn’t very keen on staying in another big town tonight so said goodbye to everyone and walked on.  No doubt will see them over the next few days and if not in Santiago. 

Thought I would go onto San Xulian which was another 4kms down the road and again through beautiful countryside 

Got to the albergue and walked in only to be told it had closed for the winter.  OMG!  I was going to have to walk to Melide which was another 10kms down the road.  Oh well off I went down the street rounded the corner and there was the cutest loveliest albergue called Casa Domingo. It had a huge shell out the front and hardly anyone here.  I am now sitting in the most beautiful garden with hammocks and lounge chairs sun drenched. What a little paradise. Give me this over the city any day.  

Apparently this place used to be an old mill and now transformed into an albergue 

I have just booked in for my pilgrims dinner and it looks wonderful back to the days when I first started of the communal dinner.  Don’t seem to have had one of those for a while.  Too busy trying out the local fare of octopus and mussels and prawns. Can’t quite bring myself to try the eel but the local fish has been exceptional 

Tomorrow is another day closer to the end so until then 

Buenos noches

Day 29 – Sarria to Portmarin 

Very strange day today.  As I said yesterday Galicia is very mountainous and there is a lot of cloud in the valleys. Well today, as Sarria is in the valley I woke up to thick fog in the town.  

Sarria is also the town where a lot of people join the Way to walk the last 100kms so it was very busy on the way today.  A little sad as the comraderie is lost a little because a lot of Spanish people come to walk the last 100kms in 5 days and they are in such big groups and so busy talking to each other that the Hola and Buen Camino is lost and they don’t welcome you to chat while they walk which has been such a huge thing whilst walking from France.  

Funnily enough in the wonderful guide book it says ‘for seasoned pilgrims beware of signs of irritation at the intrusion of new pilgrims’.  

In my new headspace I thought about it for 2 seconds and forgot about it and just enjoyed the very beautiful countryside I am walking through today.  

The majority of today’s walk was through woodland paths and gravel tracks but so weird because we were walking in thick fog which was the clouds.  So you could say my head was totally in the clouds today!!

The weird thing was that it was cold and damp and then suddenly we were above the cloud and the sun was shining and it was warm and hot

This part of the walk is walking through a lot of little hamlets which consist of cowsheds and farmers

But no bar or cafes for breakfast.  We had to walk for approximately 2.5 hours this morning before we got to Morgade to have a big cafe con leche, Zumo de naranjo and no tortilla this morning so it was tuna empanada.  So crowded with new pilgrims but did see a few familiar faces.  

As I have walked the Camino I have seen on every pilgrims menu, pork, and as I have crossed Spain I have seen cows, sheep, goats, donkeys, horses but no pigs and I have discovered pig is a delicacy and on every menu but I have not seen a pig.  Well today was the day

Then we came down the mountain and we were back in the clouds.  

As my Camino sadly comes to an end I am very pleased to note that other than my first night in Orisson I have not booked anywhere. I have seen so many pilgrims get into their albergue and the first thing they do is ring ahead to book a bed for the next night.  That is modern technology for you with mobile phones.  I am really pleased that I don’t have global roaming on my phone as other than photos and doing my blog I have not used my phone for anything else, oh just important emails but nothing else and what a liberating feeling it is.  

I have walked into towns and decided that was enough and always found s bed.  Even now with all the extra pilgrims for the last 100kms I am still sble to find a bed.  

Came down the big hill and there was Portmarin in the valley still shrouded in cloud

Amazing bridge we had to walk over to get to the town 

And these were the stairs we had to walk up to get into town.   Stairs at the end of the day are always hard

Of course the town was still shrouded in cloud but got to the top of the stairs and sat down for a while with a vino Tinto and then made our way into town to find an albergue.  I have been walking for the last couple of days with Oswin and Kian.  They are 2 of the loveliest guys and we have had a few laughs and great chats as we cross Spain. 

While we were sitting at the top of the stairs which was about 1.30pm the sun came through and burnt the rest of the cloud off and now it is sunny and hot as per usual

When we walked into town it was market day and the streets were lined with market stalls.  How I wish I had a bigger bag!!

Now sitting at my albergue with a cold cerveza in hand and sweltering in the heat.  Time for a wander around town. 

Ran into Anna and Leonard from Sweden today and Pierre and Gil and so many pilgrims I have walked with over the last 4.5 weeks. 

Had to see the church which is the centre of every town.  This church however has been rebuilt as the original town was flooded.  

In the town square is the pilgrim pointing towards Santiago as we aren’t far away

So another day finishes in another beautiful part of Spain.  We are all out for dinner tonight and bed ready to climb another mountain tomorrow as we get closer to Santiago. Less than 100kms now

Adios Amigos 

Day 28 – Triacastela to Sarria 

As I don’t want this amazing experience to end am taking the last week very slowly. I estimate I will be in Santiago next Friday and am pleased to say that the majority of the wonderful people I have walked with over the last 4.5 weeks will be there also for a wonderful celebration of a fantastic achievement.

Even though I had a room with only 4 people in it, including me, I had 2 horrendous snorers.  Broken sleep but still up and ready by 7.30

I had met Oswin and Kian last night as they were walking through town but they were going on to the next town and staying in a vegetarian albergue. I don’t think they were very happy about it as they love their meet and sausage!

I said I would swing by in the morning and pick them up and we could walk together and eat meat all day.   They are so lovely the two of them and they make me laugh with there continual search for food.  Hollow legs!!!

I swung into A Balsa at 8 this morning and picked them up and we headed up another huge mountain.  I have become quite ok with walking up mountains it is coming down the other side that kills me.  Don’t know how I would cope without walking poles.

It was very cold this morning. 7 degrees and really didn’t take my jacket off all day.  Beautiful walk this morning and again that gorgeous ethereal mist below the mountains that made it look like a lake and islands 

Passing through a lot of little hamlets on the way to Sarria today and believe me the aroma from the cows as you walk through these hamlets and also through the countryside is almost overwhelming.  Very rural!!!

I love that from the way you walk into a town with tiny streets, everyone drives their massive tractors down these streets and as we walk in the cows have been before us so you have to be very careful where you walk and to keep your mouth closed as the flies are incredible. 

Here was one of the culprits 

It was only 20kms to Sarria today so we were here by 11.30 and rather than go on we wanted to find an albergue and stay and savour our last week.

Sarria is 114kms from Santiago and this is where a lot of pilgrims start from in order to get their Compostella. You have to have walked 100kms to get it so this little town of 13,500 people is busting with albergue’s and hotels and is a little more expensive than the towns we have come through. I think it may be that way from now on but we will see.  

In every town at 6pm there is always a pilgrims mass with a pilgrims blessing at the end.  I went to one in one of the towns.  It was totally in Spanish so just copied what everyone else was doing.  No idea what was going on but I am very good at blending in!!!

Found a little albergue so the boys and I did our washing and went for a wander around town. Met up with Pierre and had our pilgrims lunch and am now about to go and explore the tiny town of Sarria.  

Been there done that.  Walked the town and now sitting in a bar on the street having a cold cerveza. 

Sarria has Celtic origins and was a major medieval centre for pilgrims 

I have spent the afternoon in the bar with Gil, Pierre and Kristina and now we are eating Italian in Spain 

The vino Tinto is gone and I can hear my bed calling

Buenos Noches

Day 27 – O’Cebreiro to Triacastela

Slept in an albergue last night with 55 other people and would you believe slept like a log.  Very big hill to climb yesterday and 55 people couldn’t have woken me they tried! 

Left before the sun was up this morning but the moon lit up the sky and it was quite light.  Beautiful coming over the mountains in moonlight.

Walked into Linares which was only another 3kms down the road and still fast asleep so moved searching for breakfast

At the top of the hill was the windy pilgrim 

There are so many fantastic statues to pilgrims all along the way. 

And then there was another hill to conquer. I think it was worse than yesterday but again the countryside is spectacular. I will be using every adjective I know to describe the beautiful area of Galacia. 

Mountainous, spectacular, scenic, green, autumnal colours, panoramic, beautiful.  Some of the most gorgeous country I have ever seen.  

Someone was telling me last night that Galacia was where the majority of the Way was filmed as it is so beautiful.  Hopefully I will see something soon that I recognise from the movie.  Will definitely be watching it again on my return.

So just to give you all an idea of the hills I have been scaling and descending over the last two days

Thankfully at the top of the mountain I scaled there was a very welcome Bar for breakfast. I sat with a few Catalan’s and naturally the conversation was all about what is happening in Barcelona right now.  The saddest thing is that the Spanish government won’t let it happen even if the majority want it. Typical, they will lose too much money!  

As I was passing through a little village I stopped to take a picture of the cows in the shed being fed and this little old lady, must have been at least in her 80s came out and called to me and all the other pilgrims as she had made a huge plate of crepes which she was giving out to us all as we passed.  I was talking to a South African lady who had done this walk 6 years ago and apparently she was there as well handing out crepes.  I just love the generosity of the Spanish people.  

Once over the mountain of course we had to go down the other side but the countryside is stunning.  

As you can see in the above photo in Galacia the early morning mists can give rise to the most ethereal ‘floating islands’ where hilltops appear above the clouds.  

So down the mountain I went meeting some ‘friends’ on the way 

As I was coming down the hill I saw a very ugly site of a quarry cut into the landscape but it turns out that these quarries provided the limestone used in the building of the Santiago cathedral. Medieval pilgrims would carry as much as they were able to the lime kilns in Castaneda.  

Arrived in Triacastela at about 20 past 12 but the albergue didn’t open until 1 so dumped the pack at the front door and went for a wander around town.

Triacastela means 3 castles none of which exist anymore but the parish church is dedicated to Santiago and has an unusual 18th century tower which has carved in relief the 3 castles. 

Wandering through town and I ran into my Brazilian friend Gil so we headed of the the restaurant for a pilgrims meal and I am still here drinking Rose and blogging as I have good wifi.

Just run into Kian and Oswin and I am meeting Gil again for dinner tonight.  

Tomorrow I will set off for Sarria which is only 112 kms from Santiago. Cannot believe my journey is nearly over.  

Out for dinner and ran into Pierre and he joined Gil and I for dinner and also Andreas from Sweden 

At the end of another fabulous day in Spain I say viva Espana and buenos noches

Day 26 – Villafranca del Bierzo to O’Cebreiro

Can you believe I woke up this morning at 6am decided it was far too early so had another half an hour lying in bed and when I looked up I was the only person left in the albergue. 

Pitch black outside and very windy which made the wind chill factor very cold.  Had the gloves scarf, earmuffs, hat everything on but only shorts as I set off over the mountain today.  

As I said earlier on there ain’t no mountain high enough and I can climb every mountain!! And today was the day.

Pretty uninteresting walk to start with as a lot of it was on the side of the road. The only saving grace was the beautiful Rio Valcarce which flowed beside me all day with the lovely sound of running water and very green and lush on one side and road on the other side.
Walked for quite a long way this morning before I stopped for my brekky.  No tortillas this morning so settled for a croissant.  

As I was walking this morning saw some amazing bridges so if anyone is reading this from the office I am putting up a photo to show our bridge department. Huge spans across valleys

Looking at my trusty map once I got past La Herrieria it was all uphill.  

The Very rocky ascent of 265m over 2.5kms.  Sweating and heart racing up a very steep long hill but guess what at the top of the hill when I reached La Raba there was a bar in the shade with freezing beers on tap.  It was rest time!!!!

I love all the al fresco lifestyle here in Spain even the smallest cafe/bars have chairs and tables outside even if they are across the road.  This is how it was when I reached the top of the hill at La Faba.  Big cerveza in the shade as even though the morning was cold the day became very hot.  

Of course that first part of the hill just lulled you into a false sense of security as when I left town there was more in fact it turned out to be 6kms of uphill (mountain) on rocky uneven steep tracks that wound up the side of the mountain.  By this stage I was feeling like a mountain goat!

When I left this morning I thought I would just see how the day pans out as to how far I walked so when I got up to Laguna de Castilla and saw it was only another 2.5kms to O’Cebreiro I thought- ha I can do that!!!  It was here that I saw the sign 154 to Santiago. Can’t believe only that much to go! Not only that but crossed over into Galacia today. 

Well my heart was racing I was breathing very heavily, it was extremely steep and the sun was relentless but the views were unbelievable.  One hell of a mountain to climb but worth it.  My little iPhone didn’t do it justice.  

Came over the last hill and around the last corner and I was at the top of the mountain and just amazing. Worth the blood, sweat and tears to get there.  

So I am sitting at the top of the mountain in the glorious sunshine having a vino Tinto and just had a plate of pulpo which is the Galacian delicacy- octopus. 

I don’t think I have ever had a more delicious dish of octopus in my life.

Again a very tiring day.  I showered, washed and wandered around town.  No wifi here. 

We are so high up and the views from both sides of the mountain are spectacular. 

Of course today I officially passed over into Galacia and the countryside is spectacular 

O’Cebreiro dates back to the 9th century.  This town is another significant gateway on the Camino and has ministered to pilgrims since the twilight of the first millennium   

There is also the church Iglesia de Santa Maria Real Which marks the final resting place of Don Elias Valina Sanpedro the priest in this town who did so much during his lifetime to preserve the integrity of the Camino. It was his idea to mark the route with the yellow arrow and it was largely as a result of his efforts that I am walking the Way today.

So now I am sitting in the sun with a vino Tinto. I have just run into Csubbi and Anna so we will have a drink and catch up later. 

In the mountains this evening so a little chilly.  Still in shorts though!!!

Tired little amigo tonight after all those mountains I conquered today so buenos noches. 

Day 25 – Ponferrada to Villafranca del Bierzo

Only 24kms today as I was still a little tired from yesterday’s effort.  

Cannot believe for autumn how hot it is. Have now had 2 days in a row of over 30 degrees and now being back in mountainous countryside it is very hard on the old Bod!

I think I have mentioned before how incredibly kind and lovely the Spanish people are. This morning I left Ponferrada at about 7.15 and it was dark. Met up with csubba my Hungarian friend and we walked out of town together.  We missed an arrow and we’re heading down the wrong street when we heard this big whistle and a oi in Spanish and here was a lovely old gentleman out the front of his house telling us we had taken the wrong road for the Camino so he then walked us out of town to make sure we got out safely and on the right track.  

The other week I was in Burgos a little lost standing on a street corner with my map in hand and a little old lady with absolutely no English came over and offered to help me and show me which way to go.  

The same in Astorga I was again standing on a street corner with my map and not only did a little old lady with no English but a man pushing another man in a wheelchair all came up to help me find where I was going.  Not one word of English was spoken but I have to say my Spanish has improved somewhat and with hand signals and a few words I understood I was able to find my way.  

Apparently the pilgrimage to Santiago has now become so popular (450 people left St Jean Pied de Port the same day as I did to walk the Camino) that a lot of towns that were becoming almost ghost towns are now experiencing a huge rebirth with the amount of pilgrims passing through their villages and needing an albergue to stay in.  

The town of Foncebadon that I stayed in the night before last, 4 years ago was almost non existent but now there are new albergue’s and supermarket all for pilgrims and businesses are booming.  I am extremely happy to be contributing to the Spanish economy as they are so friendly.  You walk through their villages or even the big towns and they all say Hola, buenos dias and buen Camino all with a huge smile on their faces.  

The countryside has changed yet again and now back into mountainous countryside with grape vines everywhere.  

I know over the last few days I have been going on about seeing UFOs but today I think I passed a witches house.  Yes there was a huge cauldron hanging outside the house

I have also seen new Camino signs

I walked with Csubbi (pronounced Chubby) for a few kms, stopped in Fuentes Nuevas for my usual brekky of grande cafe con leche, zumo de naranjo y tortilla – yes I am pretty fluent now!!!!

Got to Camonaraya and Csubbi had to do some shopping so I walked on and yet another glorious day.  

Even though it is still really hot the autumn tones are now starting to show and it is really beautiful.  That is one thing we don’t really see in sydney is the turning of the leaves. Unless you are in the blue mountains or the southern highlands

I had been told that the Way from Astorga to Santiago was the most beautiful and of course I am not there yet but it certainly is stunning.  I don’t want to compare though because every part of The Way has been beautiful in its own unique way.  

The villages I think are changing a little bit and some of them look a little Swiss or German. I just love the pots of geraniums and petunias out the front of everyone’s houses. 

I am now less than 200kms to Santiago which means I am now in Galicia another beautiful part of Spain. 

Got into Villafranca del Bierzo at about 1.30 and my body said STOP!  I have been walking 7 days a week between 6-7 hours a day and suddenly my feet are tired.  I noticed a few days ago when I decided to wash a bit of dust off my boots that the soles of my shoes that were like tire treads when I left and very new are now worn away at the heels and am hoping they make it to Santiago. This may contribute to my sore feet or I am just hot and tired!  Only time will tell.  

Villafranca is a very pretty town nestled in the hills with a river running through it. My fist sight of the town was of course the big church which is the first thing you see in every town in Spain. 

The church here is a 12th century Romanesque church with its north door being the ‘Door of Forgiveness’. This is where medieval pilgrims unable to continue to Santiago received absolution and a compostella.  In this account Villafranca was sometimes referred to as ‘little Santiago’.  This town started to develop in the 11th century. 

Found my albergue for the night and there were only 2 other people who checked in at the same time so after we had our showers and done our washing Frances from Barcelona and Kristina from Slovakia asked me if I would like to join them for lunch.  So lovely and friendly. We found a nice up market restaurant and went in and they had a pilgrims menu which was delicious. Mixed salad and bread, I had local trout from the river which was delicious and rice pudding. Of course together with the mandatory bottle of red wine all for €11.

So after a quiet afternoon of resting my body another pilgrim I have met, Joanna from Melbourne arrived and we decided to go into town for a sangria.  

Met Frances on the way and we wandered into the plaza for drinks and dinner.  

Of course once you get to a central area you run into so many other pilgrims you have met on the way.  

So Joanna, Frances and I were sitting enjoying a drink – amazing sangria 

And along comes my 2 boys Oswin and Kian who stopped for a chat then off to have dinner and then Pierre from Quebec joined us but he went off for a meal then Frances had to leave but Kristina from lunch joined us and then Raphael from Brazil that I had met on the way and then to top it off here was my lovely friend Gil from Brazil and we started the walk together in St Jean. So we all sat down and had drinks, meals, conversations and lots of laughs

Here are a few extras from the day

Joanna and I doing a selfie looking back over the bridge at Villafranca 

The mandatory pilgrim and the sign of the Way beside him (the shell)

And as a final good night my feet with the sign of the Way

So until mañana buenos noches.