Can’t believe it’s over. The last 24.9 km (15.6 mi) took me to the goal, walking through beautiful countryside with a little drizzle nearly the whole time. I have Rainer to thank for getting us early to Santiago. He had a strong pace and left little time for breaks. On arrival, we almost immediately ran into several peregrinos we lost contact with earlier–a real reunion that continued for hours as others popped up.
First line of business was getting a room, then came the one-hour wait for the Compostela (certificate), followed by several beers and meeting Phillip (from Germany) who then joined us for dinner celebration. The pics speak for themselves:
Today’s 18.1 km (11.3 mi) led me through some of the most beautiful scenery of the entire Camino. The forest smell and sounds of so much water trickling all around me made me stop here and there to imprint a memory.
The Albuerge is next to an 18th century Carmelite Monastery that gives it a special aura. The town of some 90,000 is revered as a special Jacobean venue. It was here that the apostle St. James landed and started his preaching. Two pictures say it all, one on top of a hill (also the front cover of my guide) where he preached and a second with the original stone where St. James’s boat tied up on the River Sar, the stone illuminated under the main altar.
Only one more day!
23.1 km (14.4 mi) closer to Santiago–only two days left and feeling bittersweet about it. The walk through river valleys with many Albariño vines was a real treat. Many of us pilgrims now know each other and we wave as we leapfrog each other on the Camino. It’s particularly special seeing the old Roman road designator number XIX (see pic). Who knows who all walked these roads and now I am–a small thrill.
Caldas de Reis is named after the natural hot springs. One pic had me standing in front of the one springs used for washing. Also took a pic of my favorite Galician architecture with columns holding the first floor.
A few uphill climbs and and paths through mixed forests took me 18.2 km (11.4 mi) to a great looking albuerge in Pontevedra. Four of us shared a washer and I took advantage of it and did my pants too. May not sound important to the casual reader, but it is to a tired pilgrim–it was a gift.
The town has some 83K people in it and has been described as an old Galician town. Many, many old, important looking buildings greet you in the center. I forwent a nap just to get a better impression–vale la peina (it was worth my pain).
Here are just a few impressions, one of which included the Parador (state-run 5-star hotels usually in very old settings), the Pilgrim Chapel in the shape of a shell on the Peregrina (female peregrino) Square, and City Hall:
An easy 14.9 km (9.3 mi) brought me to my first views of the ocean inlet since Porto. Lovely walk–great albuerge at the end of the day, even though a number of us had to wait a half an hour for it to open. Had my first GOOD pulpo (octopus) on the Camino and expect more as I approach Santiago and beyond. Two German ladies are pushing their friend in a wheel chair to Santiago–an amazing task! Had a beer with them and talked about their adventure–enough for their lifetimes.
So much going in here–festivities, music, artisans selling their wares. It’s almost too much for the senses. Here are a few pics.
Beautiful day for getting 19.3 km (12 mi) behind me–now under 100 km left. The past heavy rains have washed out a few areas, but everyone managed to use the adjoining fields as a makeshift detour.
Discovered the cause of my bone bruise: sandals have a crack in sole (too old) that let some jagged rocks intrude. My fault. I should have replaced them.
Going through Tui, my first Spanish town, I stopped in at a small church adjacent to a convent to find four nuns at their morning prayers. At first I felt as if I were intruding, but after a few minutes more as an invited guest. Witnessing, no, immersing in a Camino context in the power of the church–the total dedication some practice–is beyond words.
I have dozens of photos from today–beautiful gripping scenes–but these four nuns by far have punctuated the day for me!
Walked about 20 km (12.5 mi) much of it in the rain and on asphalt to baby my bone bruise–it’s getting better. Part of Valenca is within the medieval walls with very narrow streets and lots of touristy shops and eateries. I’m now on the Spanish border, with Tui just on the other side that marks the 100 km mark. I’ll only have 5 or 6 days depending where I make the night breaks.
Here are some cute pics, one that exemplifies a pilgrim toward the end of the journey, pathetic looking, in one word. Another is the view across the River Minho.
Over half the route (16.8 km; 10.5 mi) led me during intermittent rain through natural paths that kept me off main roads. This segment marked the steepest cumulative climb of the Portuguese Camino when I reached the high pass up the Labruja Valley at 405 m (1330 ft), this from nearly sea level at the beginning of the day. A few 30- to 40-meter segments brought me to all fours as I tried to keep my fragile balance over the slippery rocks. Two cyclists from South Africa REALLY struggled carrying their bikes!
Several hours earlier, I waded through mud and at least six inches of flowing streams that flooded the path–my inner sox never got wet. Still babying a bone bruise at the bottom of my left foot caused by the jagged rocks of the past two days, I’ll try to stay on asphalt roads to tomorrow’s goal of Tui (Spanish border).
After last night’s ascetic experience, I sprang for a Pensao with private room, shower, sheets, and pillows all for 20€. That includes breakfast and travel to a restaurant tonight–not much around here.
The few pictures can’t begin to capture the day’s beauty and beastly ruggedness.
Nearly all of my 14.5 km (9 mi) walk was in the rain. It was almost mystical at times. Arrived at noon only to discover that the albuerge didn’t open till 4 pm. They’re very austere–no blanket, sheets, or pillow. This is pure, raw pilgrim style–I’m not complaining! I’m using the WI-FI in the restaurant next door.
The pics show the difference between last night and today, as well as of the town as one enters with music piped in all around to welcome you.
Walked 19.1 km (12 mi) about half in the rain–poncho and waterproof socks worked well. About five of us gathered here (so far–it holds 10, and they’ll be full tonight) at this Casa da Fernanda albuerge that seems located in the middle of nowhere with an ultra attentive hostess feeding us and caring for our needs–all on a donativo basis. Really cute.
Here are some pics of hospitality (tongue in cheek) along the way, a sample of some of the stretches, and a look at our sleeping quarters.