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Day-47 (31 May—Fri) Santiago

Last day of my extraordinary Camino trip. While making my rounds in town, I “randomly” ran into the two pilgrims again with whom I celebrated in the few previous days—Ewald and Thomas, both German. Here are a few last memories before leaving in the morning: First, the venue for the Pilgrims’ Mass and boy was it overcrowded at the Church of San Francisco; then Thomas and my lunch together showing my pulpo (octopus)—this time fried!

While here these last few days, Santiago was celebrating Ascension Day with lots of activities including a huge venue for rides, eateries and game galleries just a block up the hill from where I’m staying.

 

Day-46 (30 May—Thu) Santiago

Took the bus to Muxía today, a small fishing village a bit north of Fisterra. Many pilgrims elect to walk to one of these towns after arriving in Santiago. Only two buses go to Muxía, one in the morning (8:45) and one in the evening; similarly only two back, one very early and the other at 2:30PM, which limits the visit to about 3 1/2 hrs, although that is plenty to walk about the town and see the main attractions.

These pics captured the memories: Monument to the Prestige oil spill disaster that happened just off the coast in 2002. Natives of Calatayud (known in Spanish as bilbilitanos) also came here. In the Middle Ages they brought ropes for boats in Muxía and took dried conger eel back with them as payment in kind, transforming it into a delicacy for the palate that is still eaten today. Our Lady of A Barca (Nosa Señora da Barca) shrine. Had just enough time for a yummy lunch of sardines. 

Day-45 (29 May—Wed) Santiago, Spain

The joy of completing a Camino! My 45th day on the road, first walking through Croatia and the last 22 days going from Salamanca, Spain to Santiago via the Camino Sanabres. Festivities of the Ascension were under way as I entered the Cathedral’s east side—it doesn’t get any more special than that with dancing and music. Then 30 min in line for the Compostela, pictures in front of the Cathedral’s west side, and a few beers to celebrate—life is good to be blessed this way.

Here’s my video, and photo in front of the Cathedral, and the last pic is the view from my albergue window—wow!

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Day-44 (28 May—Tue) Ponte Ulla

A brisk walk of 20.0 km (12.5 mi) brought me to Ponte Ulla just before lunch. Getting so close to Santiago (1 day to go) brings new faces onto the scene by those walking slowly as well as a few old faces I haven’t seen in weeks. There’s also strategizing going on. Some want to go further to avoid a 1,000 ft climb immediately in the morning or want to get to the Pilgrims’ Office early afternoon, whereas others like me want to do the climb fresh and while it’s in the 50’s F.

A few interesting observations (pics) along the way are worth a mention. The first is this eucalyptus grove—a very hot topic because of its effects on the environment and employment. In Spain, where environmentalists complain that eucalyptus is crowding out indigenous forests of native oak and beech in Galicia and La Coruna, ecologists say that traditional rural lifestyles, while not as profitable, provide more employment. By one study, an Iberian olive grove requires 199 worker-days per hectare (2.47 acres) to maintain each year, vineyards 128 worker-days and a eucalyptus plantation four worker-days—that’s amazing! They use it mainly for paper pulping.

Two other things struck me. First, the growth on this tree and secondly, we discovered that the couple from Texas that has walked with us for a while shared a fact about the husband (sitting on the right) that he’s a Mount Everest climber (2002). The NY Times article in the past few days on the terrible situation near the top brought out his accomplishment!

Lastly, the albergue I’m staying in tonight is the best: all private rooms—I thought I died and went to heaven!

Day-42 (26 May—Sun) Castro Dozon

Had an easy 14.4 km (9 mi) day except for the 1500 ft climb, but even that went fairly well. This brought me to within 3 days of Santiago, and you can hear people’s plans already for going home. The albergue here in the tiny town of 290 inhabitants of Castro Dozón amazes me. It’s a municipal one and modern and besides they have a lady come in at 1:00PM to make hamburgers and cook a menu del dia—she stays until 8:00PM. She does that because there’s no restaurant in town, even though there is one bar.

Above are a few memorable pics from today: first is a typical foot bridge overpass above a stream flowing below; the second is a typical marker on the Camino with a painted arrow—all the km indicators have been ripped off as mementos by pilgrims; the third and fourth capture our group of 10 having lunch at about 1:30pm; and last is a glimpse of one of the rooms with bunks.

Day-41 (25 May—Sat) San Cristovo de Cea

My hike of 23.6 km (14.8 mi) started over what was the first bridge over the river Minho. This Roman bridge is one of the historical landmarks of the city, linked to its origins. When it was built it was a strategic passage, the only point in many kilometres to cross the Minho. Rebuilt in the 13th century (hence its pointed arches, striking for their height) and consolidated in the 17th century, it was declared a Historic Monument in 1961, along with the nearby Chapel of Our Lady of Los Remedios. You must cross it while walking the Mozarabic Way – Via de la Platato Santiago de Compostela.

Here are a few memorable pics of the day: first a medieval bridge hidden behind the brush; second the Roman bridge over the river Minho; third Plaza Major at our destination town with our albergue group gathering at the local plaza major and being deluged with a group of Spanish tourists—we didn’t realize our town was so “important”; and fourth, the medieval bridge I was crossing.

 

Day-40 (24 May—Fri) Ourense

Although not at full energy, I walked 22.2 km (13.9 mi) mostly going gently downhill. Another perfect day for walking: cool and partly cloudy. With 109 km to go, it’s the Sanabres counterpart to Sarria for the Camino Frances, the closest point where one can still earn a Compostela for walking 100 km. It’s a real milestone to get here—only five days to go until I arrive in Santiago.

Since local and regional elections are this Sunday, there are placards everywhere and lots of activities (cars with loudspeakers and candidates walking through the streets of Ourense). And beside these, there are also the EU Parliamentary elections over a four day period that ends this Sunday night when results will be televised.

There are two main attractions here in the “big” city of Ourense (about 110,000 pop): the Romanesque Cathedral and the geothermal baths going back to Roman times. The former I visited but had to pass on the latter (not enough energy and no swimming suit).

Here are a few memorable pics from today: the first is the interior of the Cathedral and the second the exterior; the third pic is of the altar, such detailed scenes from Christ’s life; then one of the candidates walking through Plaza Major in front of city hall.

This picture is of one of the side chapels showing such extreme opulence—it blew me away.

Day-39 (May 23—Thu) Xunqueira de Amabia

Today was an exceptionally easy day more than making up for yesterday. But sadly we lost one of the Danish fellows to an injured ankle that swelled up during the night—he had a taxi take him to a hospital in Ourense. I covered 14.2 km (8.9 mi) with little climbing and the landscape was fabulously covered with broom flowers—apparently the name comes from folks drying the stems and using them as brooms.

Here are a few memorable pics of today’s scenery: the first is one of the Galician granaries called hórreos—I just love them; this encounter was guaranteed to get me a little muddy; here’s the broom flower that dotted the landscape; proof I was there; and finally the paths in between two granite slate fences—my favorite routing, but there are only limited sections of this kind.

Day-38 (May 22—Wed) Vilar de Barrio

It was a long and exhausting day coming about because others and I arrived at the first planned destination (15.3 km—9.6 mi) much too early (about 10:30 AM); so after a coffee break at Laza, we went on to the next option (another 12.2 km—7.6 mi) but discovered their one and only lodging (an albergue) was shut down because they weren’t handicapped compliant. At this point we had already climbed a total of more than 2000 ft and felt exhausted. Fleming a Dane and I made a pact that if beds weren’t available at the next place (Vilar de Barrio 7.7 km—4.8 mi), we were going to split a taxi and go directly to the next big city Ourense and enjoy the geothermal baths. So by now it’s nearly 5:00 PM when I arrived and luckily lots of bunks are open, only about half full. Bottom line, I walked 22 miles (35 km) and climbed over 2000 ft and of course came down that amount over gravelly, stony trails.

Here are some memorable photos: first, one of a number of building sites for Spain’s high-speed train; then a photo of forestry operations since the trail led through timberlands; next a shot of the forest landscape; this photo has a few of us getting some energy at about 2:30 PM before tackling the last unplanned five miles; and last, a touching self-service snack stand for pilgrims with a donation jar (that came just at the right time)—I was enjoying a snack with Thomas, the Buddhist monk—we’ve been chumming around somewhat, but his pace is incredible.

Day-37 (21 May—Tue) Campobecerros

No cell service. I’ll make it short. Great day: 21 km (13.1 mi) and some climb. Left a little before 7:00 and arrived a bit before noon to get the last lower bunk—lucky me! Great camaraderie with Australians and a fellow from Denmark. Coffee on the road and in front of albergue.