|Camino Ignaciano: Zumarraga to Arantzazu, Basque mountains
The Advent and Christmas seasons have come and gone and Robin and I have enjoyed them immensely. It is our favorite time of the year. During this period we have looked both inward and outward, and have decided it is now time to get underway once again. We have been home since this past February and are now more than ready to stretch our camino legs once again. We have settled on walking the first week of the Camino Ignaciano, Loiola to Logroño, and then continuing with the Camino Invierno, Ponferrada to Santiago. We will be leaving in early January. The Invierno is a new route for us, and we are anxious to set our feet upon it. But, in truth, the most important thing for us is just to be walking, and enjoying the solitude. We are never lonely during our off season walks. We actually are quite content to embrace the winter weather, the stillness and to marvel at the simple joys that each day provides. I must admit it is all a bit of a mystery. We simply go forward in faith armed with a belief that a journey has been set out before us and we just try to see it through as best we can.
We do share a sense of hope that regardless of what we encounter we will always be able to continue to move along the road to Santiago. It is that hope that brings us peace and joy as we lean into whatever challenges the road presents. God willing it all ends well, and it usually does.
Peace be with you during this wonderful season and may many blessings follow you into the new year.
Today was another day where the weather was forecasted to turn wet in the afternoon. As we made our way out into the streets of Ponte do Lima a grand market had been installed overnight. We quickly forgot about the weather as we took in the number of tents. There wasn’t a square inch of river front that did not have a vendors tent on it. We were told that this occurs every 15 days. All morning people were streaming into the town as we made our way out. We were off to a good start feeling rested, nourished and ready for the day ahead. We followed the Camino arrows out of town and down a rural lane until we rounded a bend and found the trail flooded. This part of the Camino immediately outside of Ponte do Lima is low and very flat. Recent rains had gotten the best of it and there was simply no where for the water to go. We opted to retreat and found a quick diversion onto the N306 that had us paralleling the Camino but on dry land. We carried on up the road, about 2.5 kms until we crossed under the A27. Shortly thereafter we took the next left turn into the the village of Barrosas where we found the Camino arrows once again. From this point onward we never had any serious high water. We did encounter a few spots that required some long steps to cross, but all in all it went smoothly.
Today’s walk was more of a climb than anything else. We just seemed to be always heading upward. Many moments of the day we were on rock strewn trails that steepened up a bit from time to time, but still were quite manageable. We just took our time and chugged along. Thankfully the rain held off. We did come across some fallen trees that crossed the trail, victims of recent very high winds. We managed to scoot over or around them. However a thought came to mind that if we just happened to be on that part of the trail when one of those large trees crashed down, I might not be writing this post. As pilgrims we tend to set out at times when we probably shouldn’t. High winds create any number of hazards and should be carefully considered before committing to the day’s walk. It was quite a pleasant walk through quiet countryside as we enjoyed the sounds rushing streams. Water was clearly on the move today. The feel of this area is very reminiscent of Galicia. So at last we topped our hill and headed down towards Rubiães. Nothing much to report other than footing was a bit tricky with wet rocks and all but onward and downward we went until we were on the flat. We had booked a room a few kilometers outside of Rubiães at the Casa Capela. Upon reaching Rubiães we stopped at the first bar we came to and placed a call to where we were spending the night. As luck would have it the lady who answered our call agreed to come to the bar and pick us up. So after a cold beer our driver appeared and we were off to wash up and dry off. After our showers the lady at Casa Capela drove us back to the Restaurante Retiro (where she had previously picked us up). She arranged with the restaurant owner to drive us back home after our meal. All was very nicely and thoughtfully choreographed. We are now alone in the house as we are the only guests. A bottle of no label red wine is on the table with two glasses, a fire is in the hearth and our boots are drying nicely. The rain finally did settle in but only after we had arrived. Perfect timing once again. Tui tomorrow. Time to stoke the fire.
Ponte do Lima
The market setting up
Looking not so good
This morning we picked up a ride from our hotel to Porriño, and set out from there for today’s walk to Redondela. The day was much colder than yesterday with frost visible on the cars in front of the hotel as we set out. Other than that it was a beautiful morning that promised to stay that way through the day. Having cut about half of today’s walk we had an easy day of it and thoroughly enjoyed just loafing along enjoying the scenery. The terrain started out with a gentle climb that steepened as the morning progressed. Once the top was reached it was a precipitous drop back down to something close to sea level. From that point it was just ambling along the flat until we swung into Redondela. No problems at all. We have an apartment at the Alvear Suites (right on the Camino), and have found its to be quite comfortable. We will set out for Pontevedra in the morning. We might actually walk the whole way. Maybe.
We passed a church along the way
Some fortified coffee
Junta albergue in Redondela
A nice lunch break in Redondela
We had a fine and uneventful walk to Pontevedra. The weather started out chilly but quickly warmed up and layers of clothing were peeled off. There were some hills to climb, and more stream bed rocks to hop, but with abundant sunshine, the day just seemed brilliant. We were feeling strong and walked at a good pace all day. Once we walked into Pontevedra we stopped at the first bar we could see and ordered our usual two cañas. Once our thirst was quenched we caught a cab to the Parador where we would spend the night. The price was quite reasonable with breakfast included. No complaints, we had a great room and the hotel was just steps from the Camino.
Friday brought a few morning rain showers along for the ride. So, as we stepped out of our hotel we reached for our umbrellas as we set out for the bridge that would takes us across the river and set us on our way to Caldas de Reis. I would say within 45 minutes the umbrellas were back cinched alongside our packs. There was a little uphill work to do to climb out of Pontevedra, but after a couple of hours things really flattened out. We were walking in a shallow valley from that point on to Caldas, and it was pretty much dead flat. I wasn’t watching the clock that closely but it seemed we left the Parador at 9:00, and walked into the palm lined church plaza in the center of Caldas at 1:15. We had kept up a good steady pace but our tongues were not hanging out as walked into town. Again, much like yesterday Robin and I both felt healthy and strong and the kilometers slipped by accordingly. Two great days walking that we thoroughly enjoyed. An added treat for us was the lodging I booked just outside of Caldas, the Torre do Rio. Very nice indeed. Beautiful building set on gorgeous grounds. It’s worth trying I can assure you. Two more days to Santiago. We are off to Padrón tomorrow and will arrive in Santiago, in the rain, on Sunday. That’s all for today. Time to start relaxing in our new digs.
View from our apartment in Redondela
Chapel just outside Pontevedra
Pilgrim church in Pontevedra
Basilica of Santa Maria in Pontevedra
House on the road to Caldas do Reis
It wasn’t all road walking today
Church plaza in Caldas do Reis
Our backyard at Torre de Rio
The pool fed by a stream
New hotel to the left, ruins of old mill to their right
Robin and new friend
We awoke a bit early at Torre de Rio, and started in on the breakfast that had been set out the night before. We had told the lady in the dining room the previous night that we would like to get underway before their preferred breakfast service at 9:00. So she had everything laid out for us. As we were enjoying our meal the day staff arrived and immediately asked us if we wanted something else such as eggs, bacon, ham, etc. So we signed up for the full meal deal and felt more than adequately nourished for the day’s walk ahead. A taxi took us back into Caldas de Reis and dropped us off at the church. Five minutes later we were crossing the Roman bridge out of town and heading off to Padrón our destination for tonight. We caught yet another break with the weather and set out under clear, cool conditions. As the sun climbed over a ridge whose shadow had kept us fairly cool it’s radiant heat now forced a halt and our jackets were peeled away. We proceeded uphill (mostly) and then downhill (somewhat) following a mix of paved roads and forest trails. In all it was a very good day’s walk. We arrived in Padrón at 1:30, had nice cold Estrella Galicia and headed off to our hotel, the Chef Rivera. After some lunch and a shower we walked over to the Church of Santiago. The sacristan invited us up to the alter where the stone pilar to which, according to legend, the boat that brought St. James’ remains to Spain was moored, now resides. We enjoyed our visit to the church, that is until a Spanish tour group laid siege, after which we quietly retreated. We strolled around a bit just enjoying the evening air, and eventually called it a night. We are Santiago bound in the morning. It is always a time of mixed emotions when our time on the pilgrim road draws to its end and life back home beckons us to return. But, God willing, we will find another road to walk when, once again, we are ready. For now let’s just get to Santiago. More on that tomorrow.
The Roman bridge out of Caldas de Reis
Looking pretty good.
Eat your greens.
The pilar is just behind and below the altar slightly to the right of center.
Pilgrim statue in Padrón.
We left Padrón on Sunday morning at 7:40 and walked into the Pilgrim Office in Santiago at 1:15 pm. We had a great final day. We outpaced the weather until just at the very end when a few showers hosed us off. But, it was arrival day and nothing was going to stand in the way of the special joy a pilgrim feels on that day. As always there are reflections on this or that or some other thing regarding the Camino just walked. I’ll leave those for another day. For now, our joy is palpable. Robin and I have experienced the gift of yet another Camino, two if you throw in our days on the Camino Vasco. Santiago continues to seem like another home to us. It isn’t perfect, but for those on the pilgrim road there is no sweeter place to walk into. Now we just need to exhale and relax. Actually we are pretty good at that as well. Prayers and blessings to all from Santiago. We will be shapeshifting into our other selves as of this coming Thursday when we once again return to our home state of Washington in the magnificent Pacific Northwest. Thanks to all who in some way shared this journey. Peace be with you.
John and Robin
Prayers offered at the chapel at the Pilgrim Office in Santiago.
View from our room.
Changeable weather earlier today.