The journey that never ends

Walking the Camino de Santiago has always has always moved people in different ways. Many people claim a renewed sense of faith, others marvel at the natural beauty they have witnessed, still others blithely check off another hike from some bucket list. Whatever the reasons are that bring people to the Camino one thing is almost assuredly true, they don’t forget it. In fact, I think part of the Camino’s increasing popularity lies with its ability to draw people together both during their time walking, and after they have gone their separate ways. There is this longing to return to that place where we all discovered that life can be much less complicated and yet more beautiful that is so compelling. So, we walk, we discover, we approve, we repeat. Along the way we also try to incorporate as much Camino wisdom as we can into our daily lives at home. A simple formula that often is sadly so hard to get right. Therefore the journey joyfully continues as pilgrims are no strangers to hope.

Camino de comida

Crossing into Ponte Ulla

Mussels in salsa Gallego/Ajada
Leek, salmon and avocado vinaigrette
Grilled cuttlefish
Warm strawberries in an orange, cinnamon sauce
Clams and rice

We are now just one day’s walk from Santiago de Compostela, where we will finish this pilgrimage. It has been another remarkable journey and one that has had many highlights. It is always easy to look to the old friends we have reconnected with, or the new friends we have made, or the beautiful countryside we have walked through when summing up the high points of a Camino. Certainly they were all in play this year as well, but we also found another passion, food.

Robin loves to cook and has wide ranging interests regarding food. Korean food, for her, is first in her heart, but there is room for much more after that. This Camino we were fortunate to discover a number of great restaurants that challenged the belief that Spanish cooking lacks imagination. We discovered time and again great flavorful meals prepared with care and attention to detail. Yes, the typical menu del día, can seem quite uninspiring, but at 10 to 12 euros for three courses including wine or water, it is filling and quite a bargain. However, there is a new world awaiting those who seek just a bit more. This is the space we seem to have moved into on this particular Camino. Today was a great example. We set out walking from the village of Bandeira bound for the small village of Ponte Ulla. This particular stage is one of the nicest ones on this Camino. It is quiet, rural, scenic and a pleasure to be on. It also has another surprise and that is the Restaurante Villa Verde. Once you cross the River Ulla you turn right and go up maybe 100 meters and on the right you will find this gem of a restaurant. We dined here last January as well, and I am happy to announce that the food is still fantastic. The space is clean, the staff is attentive, the presentation is wonderful, and most importantly the food tastes great. So if you need just one more thing to help you decide if walking the Camino is right for you, perhaps the knowledge that a great meal can be found after a hard day’s walk might just be all it takes to tip the balance 😋. Buen provecho and Buen Camino.

Fun in the almost sun

No rain, yippee. Off we went this morning under cloudy skies with no rain in the forecast, and blessedly calm winds. We dropped down onto the river walk for a bit (quite nice) and then popped back up on the 525 where would spend most of today’s walk. It was relaxing (until the traffic thickened up) and enjoyable as we moved on towards Silleda. Today’s walk was just a bit shorter than yesterday’s as we were looking to stay at a hotel we had enjoyed before, the Hotel Via Argentum. We arrived there around 2:15, grabbed a quick shower and headed off to lunch. The 5th floor restaurant offered splendid views of Silleda and the surrounding countryside. We settled in for a nice relaxing lunch. Our waitress couldn’t have been more helpful. We navigated the menu, selected a nice wine and simply enjoyed being where we were. It was another beautiful day walking the road to Santiago.

Pass the pig

Yesterday’s wet weather continued into today, so it was on the road again. But, two factors eased the journey. First, there is an service road that parallels the highway all the way from Rodeiro to Lalín that protects walkers from the heavy highway traffic, and second it was only a ten mile walk.

We had toast and coffee at the Hostal O Guerra in Rodeiro and pushed off uphill to Lalin. As we were just following the road today navigation was not an issue. This was a good thing as gusty winds dogged us for most of today’s walk. I have to admit that combatting the wind was more draining than dealing with the constant rain. Terrain wise it was also quite straightforward. Half the walk was a steady climb and the other half a steady descent. We called into a roadside bar for a coffee break about 6 kms from Lalín. The lady at the bar was quite welcoming and made no fuss as we dropped our wet gear on the floor and happily claimed a table. We were able to get our credentials stamped so we now have our two credential stamps for today. Two stamps a day are required once you are within 100 kms of Santiago, regardless of the Camino you are walking. If you are walking the Camino Invierno that would be from Monforte de Lemos onward.

Once out of the bar and back on the track we made best speed for Lalín where we arrived at the Restaurante Mouriño at 1:15, just in time for lunch. Just a quick word about Lalín and its fascination with all things pork. This is a pig crazy town that has all sorts of festivals that in one way or another promote the consumption of pork. One local favorite, and the reason we called into the Restaurante Mouriño, is a dish called Cocido. It consists of a large platter of boiled potatoes, greens, and chick peas and a second platter of pig parts (don’t ask just eat). It is a hearty fun meal that, due to the broth the veggies are cooked in, is also very flavorful. So if you are ever in this part of the world ask for Cocido, and please pass the pig 🐷.

We finally moved on to the Hotel Villanueva where we are encamped for the night. Robin is enjoying a nice Ribeiro white while tending the spider web of clothes lines (by choice, I might add), and I am in the bar sipping a glass of fine Mencía finishing up today’s blog post. It’s a tough job, but… off to Silleda in the morning. Rumor has it we might even see the sun ☀️. Things are looking up.

Let’s just call it wet

Today we only walked about 11 miles in a little over four hours, but it seemed like it was a lot more. We caught a lift to the tiny village of Penasillás which lies right at the foot of Monte Faro. We stepped out of the taxi into a cold steady rain punctuated with occasional strong gusting winds. It was going to be one of those days. Our very first step was up a steep incline and many other steps followed suit. The road up the mountain for the first part just went straight up, no switchbacks. So we just settled into a slow steady climbing cadence and 1h 10m later we were at the top, soaked with sweat from the exertion. Here we peeled off to the right and walked another 1 1/2 hours along a gravel road paralleling a wind farm. Here the body rocking gusty winds tirelessly tried to penetrate our hard shells seeking our sweat drenched shirts, trying to chill us. We countered by keeping our pace up to keep our cores warm. I just didn’t want to peel off in those conditions and change into a dry shirt. In the end it worked out, but in short it was an exhausting, cold, wet day. By the time we came off the mountain, and dragged into Rodeiro, Robin and I were thankful to call it a day. We are staying at the Hostal O Guerra, a wonderful respite for weary pilgrims. We presented ourselves at the bar (leaving some small puddles), confirmed our room and moved directly to the comedor for lunch. The people who run this place are very kind and gracious innkeepers. We stayed here last year, and once again we have been well cared for. Our room is crisscrossed with drying lines as we try to get ready for another wet day tomorrow. But, as always, we have much to be thankful for. Yes, it was a challenging day, but one that still put a smile on our faces especially as we continued to thaw out in front of the pellet stove in the bar. Food, wine, heat and dry clothes are the touchstones of a happy winter pilgrim, and yes, we are very happy 😃. Off into the rain again tomorrow. Who cares 😉. It will all work out. Closing in on Santiago.

Finding our Miño

I ducked out of the Hotel Cardenal just after breakfast to track down a new pair of gloves to replace a pair I left somewhere in Pobre de Brollon. I got lucky and discovered a sporting goods store just around the corner. Once I had the gloves sorted out I remembered we needed two stamps per day for our pilgrim credentials starting in Monforte. Right across from the sporting goods store was a bar, so in I went for a quick cortado and out I walked with our credentials stamped, and a fresh coffee buzz.

Back at the hotel we leisurely gathered our gear together and eased out the front door around 11:00. We took a taxi 3.5 kms to A Vide and began walking from there. We did this to avoid ploughing through city streets and avoiding shoulder walking on the feeder road out of the city. Last year we did the same thing but we had an added enticement, thick fog. All things to consider as you plan your day.

Our walk today was all on quiet paved roads. Some off road sections were available, but due to the weather we opted for less mud and more pavement. There really wasn’t much to it. We just moved along chugging uphill for the first 5 miles and then a long flat section before dipping into Diomondi. We had some beautiful views of the Miño valley despite the rainy weather.

Our host for the night, Ian, kindly picked us up at the church in Diomondi and ran us downhill to the beautiful Casa San Estevo. Here we met his wife, Irene, at the door and our day was complete. Well, almost for a bit later Irene served a lovely dinner, which along with some enjoyable conversation and a sampling of some tasty orujos, truly completed our day. We are dry, warm and well fed in this beautiful home cared for by a very special couple. Thank you Irene and Ian for welcoming us once again. Now it’s off to bed.

Beam me up

The Hotel Las Vegas was a bit of a disappointment. The people running the place were friendly and accommodating but it offered little but a very basic room. The bar opened early but only for coffee and plastic wrapped sweets. Robin and I sat in the very dimly lit bar, had a coffee, and shoved off. As we walked out of town we passed three other bars that had lights on and seemed to be doing better business. Putting all that behind, the day broke beautifully with mild temperatures and scattered clouds. So, off we went knowing today would be a climbing day. It was only a short distance later that we crossed under the N-120 and started up. In the next 1.5 hours we climbed about 1800 feet through dead silent forest (well there were a few birds welcoming us). Beautiful. The day unfolded with long flat walks cut into shaded valley slopes, more descents and more steep climbs and finally a long flat section that brought us out of the rough and onto the final descent into Pobre do Brollon. It was a gorgeous day, well spent, but also tiring. This is a huff and puff stage that makes you earn every kilometer that you walk. But, so well worth it.

We called into the Pirate Bar, had a beer to cut the trail dust and asked the lady at the bar to call us a taxi to take us to Monforte de Lemos where we have booked into the Hotel Cardenal. The Hostal as Viñas where we stayed last year has closed and carrying on to Monforte made good sense. So, at day’s end we are, once again in good hands. Our laundry is whirling around in a nearby lavendería. we had another hearty Galician lunch, and all is set for our departure tomorrow for Diomondi, just before Chantada. The Casa Rural San Estevo will be our home for tomorrow night. Ian and Irene our hosts kindly offer to pick up pilgrims at the church in Diomondi and we are looking forward to staying with them again. The journey continues and we are so thankful for that.

High above the river

Today we continued with our new Camino philosophy that basically states that we do not have to walk every step of any Camiño, but we must try to enjoy every step we take. So far that is working just fine. So today we took a taxi to our jump off point at Montefurado, and after 5 hours walking we reached our lodging for tonight the improbably named Hotel Las Vegas. This is in the village of San Clodio just beyond Quiroga.

Today’s walk was another stunner. Most of the time were on a secondary road the LU 933. It was very quiet, with no traffic, and a nice soft shoulder to walk on. It also followed a route high above the Sil River granting us some spectacular views. We lucked out with the weather and felt only a very few sprinkles over the course of the day. We encountered a few boar hunters, heard the baying dogs and the occasional rifle shot. Other than that it was a very pleasant and quiet day.

As we entered Quiroga we were looking forward to lunch at the Restaurante Aroza. We ate there a year ago and it was wonderful, but as today was Sunday, it was closed. However, a kind, local gent took us under his wing and off we trotted (literally) to another restaurant that he knew was open every day. A few moments later (only a few due to our high speed of advance) he led us into the Bar Chapakuna, on Calle Rio Lor, and briefed the barman that we needed a good feed. We thanked him for his kindness and for allowing us to get in a good sprint before lunch, and off he trotted.

Lunch was a wonderful menu del día. The huge plates of well prepared food (first and second courses), four draft beers, no desert (no room) and two cortados con gotas (small coffee with a few drops of spirits) came to a total of 24 euros for both Robin and I. Quite a bargain (see the attached photos, and you be the judge. Another fine day on the road to Santiago. Might have to walk a little further tomorrow 😉.

We blinked and then arrived

There are days that require some creative thinking regarding how far to walk. Today was one of those days. In order to avoid an unnecessarily long walk to Quiroga we broke it up into two stages. As we have limited choices as to where we can find lodging we opted to stay in A Rúa de Valdeorras just 8 kilometers from last night’s hotel in Arcos. So just about the time we were loosening up our legs we arrived. But, although short it was a beautiful, peaceful walk along the banks of the River Sil. We departed luxuriating underneath our umbrella canopies and enjoying occasional mountain views through breaks in the mist that shrouded the valley. We arrived with umbrellas furled as the steady rain eventually gave way to simply cloudy skies. We pushed on into town to a bar we had visited before. We ordered two beers, Estrella Galicia, and in keeping with Spanish tradition, they arrived with some free nosh. Today it was potato chips and small plates of tripe and chickpea stew (quite tasty). Suitably restored we headed up towards the Camiño trail out of town and our lodging for tonight the Casa Rural Pacio do Sil. We are now dry, warm and awaiting some vino and other delights. With my Spanish ordering food always conjures a bit of mystery. But, so far so good as we continue to inch our way along the Invierno to Santiago.

A bit more like winter

Light snow greeted us this morning as we made our way across the street to the El Torre bar where we warmed ourselves with coffee and a roaring pellet stove. We had a somewhat restless night last night and as a result did not get up until 8:00. It was a bit later than usual but some days that is what it takes. We got underway at 9:40, shuffling off into the still morning air with hoods up against the falling snow. The day was perfectly quiet allowing lots of time to think things through. Today’s stage was mostly on a nicely prepared trail with little to no mud. All day we kept close company with the Sil River from Puente Domingo Flórez to O Barco de Valdeorras climbing and descending with the changing terrain. We called into the Bar Mar in Sobradelo for a coffee. The owners there are very nice people who appreciate pilgrim business. From there it was a straight shot to O Barco where we enjoyed another great meal at the restaurant Casa Galaica. We grabbed a taxi from there to the Hotel Calzada in Arcos where we are now safely and warmly tucked in. Off to A Rúa tomorrow (short day). All is well.