Sometimes I like to think back to this time last year/month/week and remember what I was doing. It’s hard to believe it, but this time last year, I was walking across Spain on the Camino Frances. My friend Steph and I were about one week into our journey and had already made some new life-long friends. These were the innocent days, before I got attacked (firstly by unidentified bugs and, shortly thereafter, by my own body trying to deal with the crazy looking bites). Ah yes, when all we had to worry about was being tired and a bit sore, the summer heat, blisters and washing our clothes by hand.
It has been nice to have a look back at my posts from this time. Such great days – beautiful places and people. And wine.
In case you’d like to reminisce about the Camino, or if you’re planning your own Camino adventure, I recommend this documentary by Drew Robinson: A Journey of the Mind. It brings back a lot of memories for me – undoubtedly, walking the Camino was one of the best things I’ve ever done. More for the people than for the bugs. But then the bugs showed me a different side of the people (myself included), so it really was all good.
The doco runs for 40 minutes, so maybe grab some sangria and tapas (bug spray is optional) before you settle down to watch it. Buen Camino!
Here are some pics from these past two days as we come to the end of our journey. We revised our plan a bit – instead of cruising into Santiago on Saturday, we have added some km and will arrive on Friday instead. The 30km trek today felt quite long (tho the eucalyptus trees were a welcome touch of home), but tomorrow should be less than 25km for the final stretch to the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.
Mixed feelings now – after 31 days of walking, it will be so strange to fall out of this routine (5.45am wake up; 6.30am departure; stop in the first town for cafe con leche and toast or a chocolate napolitana; walk til 1.30pm or thereabouts; find a bed; shower; wash clothes; eat lunch; find a supermarket for supplies; fill in time til early dinner; bed at around 9pm – usually later in the earlier days, sometimes earlier in the latter days).
I have met some wonderful people, seen some truly beautiful sights, eaten some delicious food, drunk some nice wines (once even mixed with Coke, a Spanish taste sensation, and often chilled reds with Lift and ice to make a refreshing sangria-style number). I have walked more than 800km, carrying a backpack that weighed around 8kg. I have laughed a lot, thought a lot, prayed a bit and enjoyed my time away from everything in the real world.
Without wanting to get too sappy, this experience has been a real gift and I am so grateful to my peeps at home for their love, support and encouragement; to my Camino family for their extraordinary friendship and incredible care (especially Steph, Susana and Dave); to all the people we have met along the Way who have shared this awesome experience; to the Boss who arranged for perfect weather, great people, beautiful sunrises & sunsets and a safe journey; to the slightly crabby Doctor who jabbed me with two healing injections; to the people of France & Spain who have welcomed us into their towns and baked delicious pastries; and of course, to Steph – my blister sister – without whom I would never have gone on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
And to YOU: if you get the chance, or can make the chance, to take part in a little or a lot of this epic ride, I wish you a super dooper Buen Camino. Xo
We had a shorter day today – around 22km to arrive in the small village of Ventas de Naron. It seems that the ‘hood consists of two private albergues (each with its own bar/cafe/restaurant – possibly a bit OTT when you could reach one from the other in less than 10 steps), a lot of farmland and that’s pretty much it. So, the perfect place to chillax and enjoy a siesta…and a Magnum ice cream and some Milka chocolate.
There were some pretty scenes today as we reached Portomarin under a blanket of cloud. Spain, your Galicia is especially beautiful – so many truly breathtaking views (and hills, but that’s another matter) – it has been my favourite part of the Way. The lush green hills, the fat & happy cattle, the yappy dogs that seem to greet us in each village, the extraordinary starry skies that look like movie sets, the atmospheric foggy mornings. Love it.
Now there are a lot more people on the Way – a lot of tourists travelling on coach tours, carrying tiny day packs and completing the final stage to Santiago in style. A different feeling to the early weeks, when the sense of community was so strong as we all faced this intense experience together. Now it often feels like we old-time pilgrims have merged with some perky holiday campers and the sense of pilgrimage is very different. But there are many ways to walk the Camino, so good on them for being here. And if they experience even a small part of the wonderful journey we have had, they will be very lucky too!
Today was another cold and foggy start as we followed the torch light along the dark forest path after leaving beautiful Samos. Another great day of walking through interesting farming communities (lots of cows and dogs), with some very strong aromas. Our guide book author describes the sensory experience of this area far more eloquently that I can: ‘…rural Galicia at her best; wet and green with the sweet smell and squelch of liquid cow dung underfoot’. Amen to that.
We are staying in a new albergue here in the teeny tiny town of Ferreiros (where we were greeted on the way into the village by an ostrich – yes, really) and as I write, we are enjoying the still-warm evening sun at 6.30pm. Life is good!
Today was probably my favourite walking day so far – and that’s a very big call to make! We left by 6.30am and everything on the mountain was pitch black. A low fog hung around all morning, adding to the amazing atmosphere – especially as we first walked through a forest with only my torch app to guide us through the darkness. It was cold – the coldest I’ve been here – a refreshing wake up call til we stopped for coffee. There were also some steep inclines (albeit shorter than yesterday), which were a not-so-pleasant surprise – but given that there’s not really an alternative, the climbing mission was accomplished!
It felt as though we were the only ones out walking – at one stage, Andy and I saw what we thought was lightning up ahead…but it turned out to be two French dudes taking flash photos of a statue that we couldn’t really see, even with our torches.
We stopped for coffee and while we were in the tiny stone bar, the sun finally made its way up and everything became a lot brighter. Except the fog stayed low – making for some beautiful Celtic-style views as we walked through stunning countryside.
We took a different path to the guide book as we wanted to walk a longer day and get out of sync with the stages of the book (followed by approx 98% of pilgrims, I think) as we have generally had better experiences with towns and albergues that way. So, a 30km day took us to Samos – the view of the impressive monastery as we came down the hill made up for the tricky, rocky descent.
We’re expecting to make it to Santiago on Saturday – with two cushy, short days on Friday and Saturday to time our arrival for the morning. Tomorrow, we will pass through Sarria, the town that marks 100km to Santiago – and apparently the start of the mass pilgrimage, as it’s the shortest distance you can walk and still receive a Compostela (certificate) when you get to Santiago. Not looking forward to the expected crowds – we have been so fortunate to have had such a positive experience on our journey: hardly any pilgrim traffic jams as we walk or stop, always a place to stay and plenty of dining options. Hopefully, by staying off the guide book path we can hold on to this more intimate experience for a while longer!
With less than a week til our arrival in Santiago, everyone is starting to finalise their post-Camino plans. Steph, Andy and Chris will continue walking to Finisterre – an extra 3 days’ walk to the coast – which I would have loved to do, but the timing didn’t quite work as I am off to visit to my Dublin family for a week before heading home. I plan to catch the bus from Santiago to spend a day checking out Finisterre, to see what the ‘end of the earth’ actually looks like. Will be strange not to walk it, but that can wait til my next Camino!