Day-157, Sunday, Sep 25, Santiago, Spain

Last day of walking was day-156; today, Sunday, was the first full day in Santiago highlighted appropriately by the pilgrims’ mass at noon. We stood in line already at 10:30 in order to get a seat. It was a beautiful mass celebrated by two bishops, assisted by 8 or 9 other priests and capped with the swinging of the botafumeiro–all captured in the attached pictures.

After the mass we stood in line to enter the Cathedral through its Porta Santa, opened only during holy years, and for specially designated years such as 2016, the Year of Mercy. 

Day-156, Sep 24, O Pedrouzo to Santiago, Spain

Our entire crowd at the albergue this morning was overflowing with eagerness to get onto the road, Bob and I being no different. We covered our last 19 km (11.9 mi) with all stops pulled out. Out the door in the dark to a cafeteria for breakfast and one short coffee break on the way had us arriving in Santiago at noon. 

The pilgrims’ office was at a new location for me: down past the Parador and to the first right. An hour’s wait produced two lovely Compostelas that I will treasure. The lady at the counter couldn’t believe where I started until I showed her four credentials. The official distance actually walked was: 2936.6 km that equals 1835.4 mi!

The pics show everything important at the moment: my walking buddy Bob who spent nearly four weeks with me (almost as much as Eddie at the front end of the pilgrimage); the electronic board that indicated the next of 14 windows ready to serve you at the pilgrims’ office; my Compostela; and the view of the Santiago Cathedral from our room at the Roots and Boots Albergue (for only 18€)! What a trip this has been–just now am I beginning to absorb it. 

Day-155, Sep 23, Arzúa to O Pedrouzo, Spain

Today was next to the last day on the Camino–the 21 km (13.1 mi) just flew by. I pulled out all of the stops and made the distance in almost four hours flat. And tomorrow we have fewer than 20 km remaining. The fog imbued the journey with a mystical quality while the many peregrinos sprinkled along the way brought to Bob’s mind the image of lemmings running toward the sea to escape their overcrowded environment. There was hardly a segment to be found without pilgrims!

Our albergue here in O Pedrouzo is the municipal one (6€ and they have 120 bunks)–and the town has at least a dozen albergues. Backpacks were orderly aligned waiting for the albuerge to open at 1:00 PM–mine was third in line and guaranteed a primo bunk.

Day-154, Sep 22, Sobrado dos Monxes to Arzúa, Spain

Today is all about sharing our Del Norte Camino with a wave of folks coming here from the Camino Frances–new faces and new stories. It was a perfect hiking day of mostly downhill with cool temperatures for the entire 20.3 km (12.7 mi). We started out in the dark and I couldn’t see the first step coming out of the monastery so I took my fifth, and hopefully, final fall–luckily not a bad one. I felt sad later because I lost my cheapie water bottle from Poland (it was my friend) but I couldn’t see it.

We’re staying at the municipal albergue which opened at 1:00PM for 6€ and by 4:00 PM it was full, but there must be at least a dozen albergues in the town of Arzúa and pilgrims are wandering all about. Only about 40 km to go!

The first pic shows a typical backpack transport service that is available for pilgrims. The second is our municipal albergue with over 40 some beds. Then there I am smiling at lunch and the final pic of Bob and me in front of the albergue. We look forward to breakfast right across the small street–they open at 6:00 AM. No rush because tomorrow’s destination has many albergues with capacity of hundreds.

Day-153, Sep 21, Miraz to Sobrado dos Monxes, Spain

During the 22.5 km (14 mi) today, I think I walked either uphill or downhill, but no level. It was tough and slow. The morning fog gave it a mystical sense especially while walking in the dark fir the first 40 minutes.

Arriving at the destination found me having to wait 3 hrs for the albergue, an old Cistercian Monastery founded in the 10th century by the Benedictines, the refounded in 1142 by the Cistercian Order. All this time Bob was locked in the albergue but had already reserved me a bed.

The place is amazing even though only a few monks are currently here. Pilgrims housed in one of the former cloisters which makes sleeping here very cold but special! The attached pics are from the church and courtyard.

We’re well under 60 km from Santiago and I made all three legs of air reservations today: to Warsaw, to JFK, to LAX.

Day-152, Sep 20, Baamonde to Miraz, Spain

Today started my 6th month, but being only four days out from Santiago de Compostela, I don’t plan on chewing into the 6th month very much. The day was much more comfortable temperature wise than yesterday, but the short but steep climbs made the 15 km (9+ mi) seem longer. We left last night’s albergue at about 7:45 AM to have breakfast right next door, and we arrived here at Miraz by 11:30 AM. 

Our albergue is run by the Confraternity of Saint James, meaning among other things that all the hospitaleros are British. A priest is staying here so there’ll be a service at 7:00 PM. Since they didn’t open until 3:00 PM, we had a very looong lunch break chitchatting with fellow pilgrims over some beer. Although having only 26 beds, the albergue is spacious, clean, newly painted and well equipped. 

Tomorrow will be the last hard day, not because of the 23 km distance, but supposedly because of the climbs–we’ll see.

The first pic shows an interesting reflection on the way that occurred  to me to be the metaphor for the Camino itself being full of one’s own reflections on life; the second pic shows our backpacks patiently waiting in line; the third is where mass was held this evening; and last are the signs with a traffic mirror that also captured me.

Day-151, Sep 19,  Vilalba to Baamonde, Spain

Had to dig out my gloves this morning during 48 deg temp (thank you, Douglas)–they made the first few hours more tolerable. Stayed primarily on the bike trail portion of the Camino, and left at 7:30 AM and arrived at Baamonde by noon–huge and nice hostel here with nearly 100 beds. Again, only gentle climbs made the day a pleasant walk.

Bob and I committed to arriving at Santiago on Saturday the 24th (a day earlier than the last ETA)–that means only 5 remaining days of walking! We plan to stay at a hostel in Santiago called “Roots and Boots.” And it’s time to make plane reservations in the next few days after we see how our ETA holds up.

You can see the morning fog beyond the small kale field (a common ingredient in Galician Caldo (special, hardy soup) that we had for lunch (except the one at lunch was cabbage based) and also behind the typical Galician cemetery. The next pic shows some pilgrims checking in at the hostel (you need your passport, your pilgrim credentials, and 6€). The final pic is at lunch at the last course with Tarta de Santiago and a shot of liquor in the coffee. We much prefer to eat the big meal at about 2:00 PM, rather than waiting until 8:00 PM or even later for the kitchen to open up again for dinner.

Day-150, Sep 18 Gontán to Vilalba, Spain

I slowed my pace a bit from yesterday’s over the 19 km (11.9 mi) to the albergue at Vilalba. It was an easy walk with partial cloud cover and a range of cool to mid 60s temp. I ended up at the municipal albergue and Bob at a private one (we just missed cues), but I walked over to his place after I got settled and we had a mid-afternoon meal together and coordinated for tomorrow. We’re headed to Baamonde at which point we’ll be only 94 km from Santiago!

This town of some 15,000 has a character all of its own: hilly; a touch of medieval with a remaining tower that now contains 6 rooms of a parador with a new structure close by as the remaining hotel; 40 to 50 pilgrims staying overnight, since Vilalba is on a major Camino Route (del Norte). 

A few pics: a Galician cemetery along the way; motorcycle races 100 meters from our albergue (the left-most building you see); the remaining tower of the old citadel; a jamoneria, where I had to have some jamon iberico (see the hanging hams in the background).

Day-149, Sep 17 Mondoñedo to Gontán, Spain

One of the best days in weeks: somehow, not sure how it happened, I got my pace back over a long gentle climb of nearly 1000 feet over a 4 km run and then 1000 more feet for a total 14 km (8.8 mi) distance–a pretty short walk; met a bus, at our break, with a Boston Tour Group (mostly elderly ladies) who just fell in love with us seeing real pilgrims, since they just came from Santiago; then after arriving at our destination of Gontán (a small village of surely less than 1000) experiencing a street market that they hold only twice a month where we ate freshly cooked pulpo (octopus) and churros dipped in chocolate for desert. They even held an animal auction. What a great day! And then a short nap.

The pics: from raw octopus to the man snipping an octopus for our plate and me holding one fresh out of the boiling water; the view out our albergue window down on the street fair and last a street view of the street fair. BTW, the albergue here was completely filled last night. We were here #1 and #2, having left at 7:30 AM (in the dark) and arriving just before noon.

Day-148, Sep 16, Gondán to Mondoñedo, Spain

I welcomed today’s rain over the short 14.2 km (8.9 mi), knowing it would stop the next three days. Lots of up-/downhill but all decently mild (10% or less). Bob went ahead and we met again at the Cafe on Cathedral Plaza in Mondoñedo near our goal. After a brief pause, we toured the cathedral and museum where I spotted an unusual painting: the descent of Jesus from the cross. Although others have painted the same theme, I think this is the earliest stage of descent I’ve ever seen painted. Jesus is still on the cross with only one hand freed and they’re removing the nail from his second hand. It’s a daringly bloody depiction so early in his descent that it focuses on the body and mechanics of freeing it from the cross rather than on the agony of those around him usually shown in other “descent” paintings (see the quad pic). I’d welcome comments.

Although we wanted to stay at a nearby special albergue two km further that was advertised to highlight authentic Galician country life, the Office of Tourism talked us out of it, and another couple of pilgrims that went there and changed their minds corroborated it–supposedly it wasn’t recognized as an official albergue–lots of hype–no rules! Anyhow, the municipal albergue here rates as one of the best: elevators, handicapped equipped, spacious and clean. Now at 5:00PM it’s only 1/3 filled.