Day 56: Berducedo to Grandas de Salime (20 kms)

Sore muscles reminded us what we asked them to do during yesterday’s walk. We hobbled around bent, and stiff, trying to get down to breakfast. It might have been comical except everything did hurt. Coffee, juice, and toast now residing inside we ventured out into a cloudy morning with temps hovering around 55 F. Once again, no rain (hooray). There was a bit of a climb out of Berducedo, and the a few kilometers downhill along a road to A Mesa. Here the downhill reversed itself and we launched into a long moderate climb up, and out of town. Today’s nuisance were the flies that just seem to be in season.

As we were giving it our all trying to “make the grade” out of A Mesa the flies were in turn doing their best to drive us crazy. We gave the impression that we were two crazed drum majors off their meds as we swung our trekking poles in big swinging circular motions giving notice to all flies we were not in the mood to be messed with. We continued huffing and puffing up the grade swinging our poles, and the flies kept being pesky flies. Something’s you just have to live with. Once at the top we quickly found ourselves being directed down to the reservoir below. As we made our first moves downward we could see a town, sitting far away, on a high plateau, directly across from us. As it turned out that was Grandas our destination for today. So down we went enjoying beautiful views of the mountains, the reservoir, and the forest in between. The actual descent took about just a bit over an hour, but then you do a few climbs and descents as you make your way around the reservoir to the dam that you must cross. At the dam you are now on a paved main road that after 3.5 kms (uphill) leads you to a left turn onto a trail that drops you right into Grandas.

We had beautiful weather all day. Walking in the pine forest around the reservoir was terrific. The long descent to the reservoir, taking it nice and easy, wasn’t that bad. All in all, it was a beautiful walk. The 3.5 kms of climbing on the road to Grandas is on a road grade that is easy to climb. There are a few sections of that road, where if you are outside the guardrail, there is precious little space between the trodden grass path (what lunatic trod it), and a sheer drop of many hundreds of feet. We took our chances with the traffic, and stayed on the road side of the guardrail. Better for the blood pressure. We arrived about 2:00 (started about 8:00. We walked at a rather easy pace all day. We had no reason to hurry. Upon arrival we booked into the Hotel La Barra. Once the usual daily tasks were sorted out we wandered out for a drink and something to eat.

Trying to reconcile your hunger with restaurant hours in Spain can sometimes be challenging, but today we lucked out. We found a restaurant that was open after 3:30, and slid in. Inside we found, not surprisingly, a full table of pilgrims also enjoying a meal in what might be considered off hours. We recognized some people, said hello, and dove into the menu del dia. It was quite good, and the restaurant crew was attentive and helpful. We had a funny encounter, after lunch, as I tried to purchase a bottle of wine to go. The owner, who was tending bar, was trying to be accommodating. So when I asked for a bottle of wine to go, he reached Into the trash bin, pulled out an empty, and started rinsing it. I interrupted, and tried to bring up the word for new, fresh, unopened, but that only drove him back to the trash bin to find a different size bottle. Now we had an assortment of glass, and plastic bottles ranging from 50cl to a liter. He was perfectly happy to fill any, or all, with whatever I wanted. At this point, a patron at the bar, non English speaking, sensed the key to the problem, and uttered something to the boss. I simultaneously made a gesture (God knows why) of putting a cork in the bottle. At once a glimmer of understanding emerged, and he reached into the cooler, and pulled out a nicely chilled bottle of Verdejo (unopened). The staff, now eating their lunch had a good laugh, the patron at the bar nodded his wise approval, the boss, glad to be of service, put all the old bottles back in the trash bin, and I happily passed 4 euros across the counter, along with my thanks. What an amazing transaction. Life on the Camino.

I am experiencing some problems uploading photos, so I am going to post the text and try to send the photos later.

 

Day 57: Grandas de Salime to Fonsagrada (25 kms)

Departing Grandas this morning

We left this morning dressed for rain as the forecast gave it a 65% chance. There was also one of those exclamation marks next to the day’s forecast (but no further elaboration). I did see a half inch of rain in the forecast, so that sort of clarified the exclamation point. We started out under cloudy skies that really did not look that bad. As we moved along those skies took on a more threatening look. We pushed on along mostly flat terrain heading up to a ridge of windmills. It was a long slow climb that gave the weather a chance to grow into a full menace, and then embrace us with its fury. At first, as always, a few drops were felt. Robin and I popped open our umbrellas even though the wind was rising, and I had questions about how much wind they could be effective in. We were about to find out. We fortunately traveled along some wooded paths that sheltered us for a bit, but then it came time to pay the piper as we dropped onto an open road and the wind and rain rose to a crescendo. At this point we had rain pants and gaiters on, but no rain jackets just our umbrellas. We put them to the test as the wind gusted close to 40 mph, and the rain came at us as if out of a fire hose. At this point we couldn’t change into our jackets as the conditions were so bad. So we hung on with our umbrellas which were now being bent in ways they were never ment to be bent, but they did not break (amazing). We walked along into very strong headwinds, always climbing towards this bloody ridge of windmills. Up and up, wind and more wind (how much harder can it blow), rain and more torrents of rain. It was an absolute mess. We hung on to our umbrellas with one hand and brought our trekking poles into a cruciform configuration to keep the whole show from folding back on itself. We struggled up, and up until we found a main road and opted to walk that to the next town instead of going up into the bush in those conditions. A kilometer, and many umbrella adjustments later, when the wind seemed poised to simply carry everything away, we reached the summit of our climb, and started down off the ridge. I would like to report that all quickly calmed down as we descended, but that was not the case. Each bend in the road brought another blast of wind, and a good hosing down with torrents of rain. All we could do was keep inching forward against the weather that was determined to stop us. Fortunately we had the strength, so we just leaned forward, soaked to the core, and placed one squishing step ahead of another until an eternity later the hamlet of El Acebo loomed into view. As we squinted into the tormenta we could see signs of life ahead. We set our course for the building in sight, and step by step we closed the distance. As we fell through the doorway we found a handful of others sheltering from the storm. Inside the dimly lit, tiny bar, a quick head count was taken and four of us opted for a taxi out of this weather and into Fonsagrada. We had climbed up and down about 13 kms, and the taxi would take us the final 12 kms. We were done for the day. In truth, the afternoon’s weather moderated, but we wanted no part of it. All we could think of was how to get everything dry for a fresh start tomorrow. What a hell of a day. Not many photos as we were preoccupied with the weather. Actually, I would be hard pressed to even describe the areas we walked through, once the rain started, as we were so tucked down under our flexing umbrellas. The forecast for tomorrow, and the days ahead, looks much better. I’ll let you know. For now, it is time to sign off and get some sleep. It is now 8:30 pm and we are still wringing water out of some of our gear.

Grandas
Before the storm
The woodshed

 

Day 58: Fonsagrada to Cádavo Baleira (24 kms)

Leaving Fonsagrada

We were in dry clothes and boots as we made our way out of town this morning. The owners of the albergue/hotel were kind enough to turn on the heat after yesterday’s storm, and that allowed guests to get warm, but also allowed hard to dry things like boots to actually dry out. This albergue, with hotel rooms above it, is right next to the church. The albergue section is brand new, and has been open for about a month (so I was told). The owners were very accommodating, the facility was very clean, and the kitchen was fully stocked.

As we walked out the door the air temperature was 45 F. Yesterday it was 60 F. On went our rain jackets over long sleeve t shirts, and off we went. The Spanish forecast called for another rainy day, but they were wrong again. It stayed dry all day (no complaints). Today’s stage was quite a mix of trail types, and grade changes. There were some quite steep climbs, that had some distance in them, and there were some long descents as well. It was an enjoyable day that let you know you had done some work by the end of it. There was a bar, right on the Camino, just before Paradavella, that made a perfect lunch stop. This was the first bar we had seen, since leaving Fonsagrada, so in we went. It was a jumping place as every pilgrim coming down the trail turned in for a drink or something to eat. Leaving there it was about another 12 kms to Cádavo. The trail wound around hillsides, cut through forests, challenged us on the uphills, and downhills, but in return, provided us with a quiet day in the hill country. We could see the change in the topography as the more mountainous terrain, of previous days, has now given way to the more rounded profiles of lower hills. Still these lower hills had some tough sections to handle. By the time we came upon Cádavo, and started our final descent into the town, both Robin and I were done. We walked past the municipal albergue that looked new and modern, and walked through town to the Hotel Moneda, where we booked in. Our laundry is now done, and we made the lunch service before it closed, so all is well. Tomorrow, we are off to Lugo. We intend to spend two days there as our arrival date in Santiago is still ahead of schedule.

Another windmill ridge to top
Pilgrim hospital
Pilgrims on the trail
Still going up
Lunch stop
Thoughtful trail marking
Into the woods
Follow that girl
Camino path
Typical Spanish bar
Down into Cádavo

 

Day 59: Cádavo Baleira to Lugo (30kms)

Camino path once the fog cleared

We left Cádavo with little sleep. Last night there was a bar having one hell of a party less than a block from our hotel. I reached for my ear plugs at 3:30 am, and they were still hitting it hard. Doesn’t anybody have something to do on Monday other than nurse a hangover? Apparently not. As soon as the hotel reception opened the next day Robin, and I bolted for the door anxious to convert whatever energy we had remaining into kilometers gained towards Lugo. We didn’t bother with breakfast or even coffee. We just wanted to get moving. The morning broke with the surrounding hills shrouded in mist, and (finally) a sepulchral quiet. We huffed and puffed up the hill out of town, and then enjoyed a series of downhills, and small hill climbs all the way to Lugo. We walked on a fair amount of roads today, but for the most part, they were quiet rural ones. The guide book says it’s all downhill to Lugo, but that is not quite accurate, as several climbs came our way as we made our way towards Lugo. There really weren’t many sights to see today. We did stop and admire the Church of Santa Maria in Vilabade. It had an unusual wide porch around it that probably sheltered pilgrims coming down the Primitivo in the 15th century. As we walk this Camino we have seen so many churchs, pilgrim hospitals, and shelters that connect us back to those many other pilgrims, who over the centuries past, found themselves walking these same trails. I find it to be very humbling to connect back across time like that.

I would like to say that the day slid blissfully by, but in truth, we had to dig deeply into inner reserves to reach Lugo. We were just tired, and our feet wanted to stop walking. But, there were more kilometers to go before that could happen. So, after about 7 hours of walking we finally snaked our way up to the city wall, through St. Peter’s gate, and into the old city of Lugo. We are booked into the Hotel Pazo de Orbáne. Our plan is to lay over here for an extra day, and leave on Wednesday to continue our Camino. At this point we are planning to arrive in Santiago on July 6th. We are almost there.

Camino path
My girl
On the road to Lugo
First sight of Lugo
Lugo’s city wall
St. Peter’s gate
Home at last

 

 

 

Day 60: Lugo to Ferreira (25 kms)

Departing Lugo, Puerta Carmen

Our stay in Lugo was great for catching up on our sleep, and for just resting in general. We had a very nice hotel, with the unique distinction of having a brothel (right on the Camino) a stone’s throw away. As Robin and I would walk to the hotel we could see the furtive glances, and restrained gestures of transactions in progress. All involved were old and spent, but sadly could not either escape poverty, or resist the temptation. We watched as sagging arms welcomed another client into a pillow of ample flesh, then pivot discretely, and pass through a bleak doorway into the dim light beyond. Some things, sadly, never change. But, this was not all that made our stay in Lugo memorable. It appears that some sort of municipal workers strike was in progress, and the garbage hadn’t been picked up or the streets swept in a month. In short the city was looking pretty grim. Robin and I have visited Lugo before, and despite its Great Wall, and remarkable cathedral, it has always seemed as though its best days were behind. This visit did nothing to change our minds. In fact we couldn’t wait to leave. Even the Camino path out of the city was a mess. Instead of directing pilgrims to stay on the sidewalks until over the pedestrian bridge out of town, we were led down into an urban swath of sodden over grown, litter strewn, muck that eventually led us back onto the street that we never should have left. We picked up our walking pace to try and separate ourselves from this blight as soon as possible. Looking back at Lugo, hoping for something redeeming, it still just looked grim, and forlorn. We walked on, not without compassion, but without another glance behind. It was off to Ferreira.

The first 3 hours of walking were either along roads or on roads. We then found ourselves following markers that led us off the main road, onto some wooded paths, and then onto some quieter roads. We arrived in San Roman around 12:30, and stopped at the bar there something to drink. A few other pilgrims we either there or just arriving. Pushing off from there we followed the Roman Road (with Camino arrows but no shell markers) to Ferreira.

The walk from San Roman, once we topped the first hill, opened up a very pleasant vista of rolling Galician hills. We dropped down, and climbed up following the contours of this very lush countryside, thoroughly enjoying the beauty spread before us. We found ourselves on rural roads that were more like beautiful country lanes. It was quiet, save for the pleasant birdsong, and the cooling breeze rustling the tree tops above us. These were perfect walking conditions for us. The temperature today was near 70 F, with no rain. Can’t get much better than that. We arrived in Ferreira at 2:45 and checked into the Casa Rural da Ponte. We were greeted by Manuel (owner), and got quickly settled in. Robin and I are now sipping some wine, in Manuel’s garden, and looking at tomorrow’s walk. Dinner is coming up, and Manuel just threw our wash into the dryer. All is not just well, but pretty close to perfect. We are blessed. Santiago is now just four days away. A little bit of rain is creeping into the forecast, but that is not an issue. Santiago here we come.

Camino path out of Lugo
Camino path before it got ugly
Pedestrian bridge out of Lugo
Threatening skies
A patch of blue
The roads we follow
The path
Into the Camino path
Mobil market
Bar at San Ramon
Climbing up
Arrival Casa Rural da Ponte
The Roman bridge
Close up

 

Day 61: Ferreira to Melide (20 kms)

Churches are always with us

This morning was one of those near perfect mornings where a cool temperature of 55 F matched up with partly cloudy skies (not too much sun), and a peaceful walking environment to produce a wonderful morning’s walk. Robin and I set off across the world’s smallest Roman bridge, and immediately picked up the Camino headed for Melide where we will join the Camino Frances. We were in no particular hurry as we planned on spending the night in Melide. We were walking alone. No other pilgrims in sight. We couldn’t help but think how this will change when we join the pilgrim surge on the Camino Frances. But, for now the stillness was a gift. Our first major waypoint was the village of Seixas, where a new albergue has been opened. We walked the usual mix of roads and paths to get there. Once there we headed up to cross over a ridge of nearby windmills. This section was very nice, and reminded us a bit of the Hospitales route with its openness, rocky terrain, and elevated views. Dropping down from the ridge we eventually walked a road to a point where we could see Melide off in the distance (still some 2 hours away). The sun, by this time, had reclaimed most of the sky, and the air temperature had ticked up to 68 F. There was a cool breeze keeping us company as we walked along. This was our day, all the way into Melide. We walked into town at 1:00, and promptly found the pizzeria/cafeteria (where we have eaten before) right where the Camino Frances enters Melide. We are staying at the Hotel Carlos 96, which is down at the bottom of the main street. It is clean, has a restaurant, and a double costs 45 euros (room only). Back at the cafeteria, Robin and I had an outside table that gave us a perfect view of all the pilgrims entering town from the Camino Frances. As we ate our lunch we saw an almost continuous stream of pilgrims walking, limping, or cycling into town. Our world had suddenly changed. Not to worry. We will blend into the traffic flow tomorrow. For now, it is time to clean up and, do what we do best, relax. More tomorrow from Arzua.

Look familiar
On our way to the ridge
Melide in the distance
Camino path (senda)

Day 62: Melide to Arzúa (13 kms)

Main Street Melide

As we are still ahead of our original travel plans, we decided to spend another day on the Camino. So our walk today will be quite short, only 13 kms. We slept in, had a late breakfast, and finally hit the road shortly after 10:00. As we walked up the hill through Melide it dawned on us that our departure time might place us between those pilgrims departing early, and the through walkers who would start arriving in Melide around noon. We picked up the Camino just outside of town and with it a few pilgrims. As we walked along we met several others, but it never was crowded. Perhaps our unintended departure strategy was actually working. There were showers in today’s forecast, but it remained dry and cool for our walk ( and beyond). One thing of note, was that there seemed to be more new places to sleep and eat. Money continues to be put into Camino infrastructure, at least where we walked today. We arrived in Arzúa at 1:30, had some lunch, and then were shuttled off to a casa rural, Casa Brandariz, about 10 kms from Arzúa. We will be shuttled back to start our walk to Arco tomorrow. All very organized. Two more days to Santiago, and this pilgrimage (at least the walking part) will be completed. Robin is now dreaming of eating Korean food, so that means we are really close to going home. All is well.

A pilgrim’s room, Melide
Casa Brandariz
Robin relaxing in the garden
The neighborhood

 

Day 63: Arzúa to Amenal (23 kms)

Two among many

We had a very nice stay at Casa Brandariz. Our hosts couldn’t have been more accommodating. It was clear they enjoyed being in the hospitality business. I thought it was a nice touch that they shuttled pilgrims both from and back to the Camino without any additional charge (10 kms each way). We finished a very substantial breakfast, packed up, and found our ride back to Arzúa waiting in the driveway. We were off into a morning of heavy mist, just shy of rain. Arriving in Arzúa, we slung our packs, popped open our umbrellas, and pushed off on the Camino. It was just after 9:00, and the pilgrim herd was heading out of town. We slipped in, and adjusted our pace to create a little space for ourselves among the many others stepping along towards Santiago. It always seems that the pace picks up once you are a couple of days out. It is as though the long anticipated arrival cannot be put off for another moment. Robin and I fall victim to this as well, particularly on arrival day, when we are almost at a trot (don’t want to miss the pilgrim mass at noon). The mist of early morning finally converted to a continuous light rain by midday. It was warm enough that a rain jacket would have been too much, but the combination of rain pants, and an umbrella was near perfect. I can’t recommend the use of an umbrella in warm weather enough. It really is a great solution. Enough said.

We stopped at one of the two bars at the top of the hill in Santa Irene. It was time for a bite to eat, and to get out of the rain for a bit. We had been walking for a solid three hours, at a good pace, and it felt good to get off our feet for a few minutes. The bar was a teeming mass of wet pilgrims that created a hothouse like atmosphere as food and drink orders were passed in a variety of versions of Spanish to harried waiters. Somehow it all worked and orders were filled. One thing that is quite noticeable is that our legs are pretty strong. The hills we have been walking up the last couple of days don’t seem to phase us at all. We have been up and down so many hills, for so many days, that I guess we are finally “in shape.” I wonder if we will ever feel this way again. Leaving the bar we crossed the road just behind a large group of school kids. The trail narrowed and we became a captive audience for a variety of “camp songs” as the throng moved along. This was not going to work if we had to follow this group for anther 3 kms. We looked for opportunities to find a passing lane, and eventually scooted free. We were not going to stop in Arca so we avoided the walk through town. All the school kids, and most others, headed for town as that was where they would spend the night. We pushed on for another 3 kms to a small hotel in Amenal, the next town down the road. This location would chop off a few kms from tomorrow’s walk, which is forecasted to be rainy as well. Robin and I have just returned from the hotel restaurant where many mud splattered cyclists, and walking pilgrims have been seeking shelter, and something to eat and drink. Tomorrow will be a wonderful day for us regardless of the weather. One thing Robin and I have agreed to do is that upon arrival in Santiago, we will change from our (now tattered) hiking boots to sandals, and drop the boots in the first rubbish bin we pass. They have done what they were purchased to do (thank a God), but soon it will be time to look for some other footwear. What a treat. More tomorrow from Santiago. We are so close.

Bars filled to overflowing

 

Day 64: Amenal to Santiago de Compostela (17 kms)

We made it, but the cathedral needs some mending

Robin and I could not get to sleep last night. We both tossed and turned. I finally dozed off (according to Robin) at 2:30. Robin thought she might have gotten an hour’s sleep. The alarm went off at 6:00. As one might imagine, there was not much delay in getting out of bed this morning. It had been raining pretty steadily overnight, but at 7:00 when we stepped out the door the rain had stopped. The day was still dim due to the cloud cover, so we stepped cautiously uphill onto the Camino trail, which was just alongside our hotel. Dim turned to dark, but we still managed a good pace, especially once the tree cover opened up, and some daylight could get through. It was arrival day after all. We climbed quickly up to the airport, walked around its perimeter, and stopped for a coffee, just beyond Lavacolla. There were lots of pilgrims drawing a bead on Santiago, this morning, and almost none of them were idling along. We enjoyed the cool dry morning, and found it just perfect for the pace we were walking (around 5 kms/hr). We eventually came upon even more pilgrims, and visions of chaos at the Pilgrim Office started creeping in. We stepped on the gas just a bit more. We topped Gozo, where first timers were taking lots of photos, and just pressed on. Down the backside we went picking up a few more slower walkers in the descent. As we walked into the outskirts of the city the crowd continued to thicken. That’s when I saw the guy with a flag. He was leading an army of pilgrims towards the Porta do Camino, the Camino Way into the old city of Santiago. How to head them off? A closer problem was a second, but equally large, force of Spanish pilgrims all wearing green hats, and carrying walking staffs that looked like shepherd’s crooks, if these two armies converged ahead of us it would be nightfall before we reached the head of the line at the Pilgrim Office (to receive our Compostela for our pilgrimage). Full disclosure, no nefarious tactics were used to improve our position. The green hats we simply out paced. As for the flag guy and his army, they stopped just inside the gate to take off their boots. They must have made some pledge to enter the city barefoot. That was all that we needed to slip past.
We came down the Camino past the north door of the Cathedral, and rounded up right in front on the Plaza Obradoiro. I knelt down and offered a quick prayer of thanksgiving, and then we jetted off to the Pilgrim Office on Rua do Vilar. When we arrived the line was just backing up into the street (not bad at all). The green hats and the flag guy were nowhere to be seen (prayers answered). A little over an hour later we had our documents in hand, and were on our way to the Parador to check in. Once this was done we still had about 12 minutes to get to the cathedral for the noon pilgrim mass. As we walked in the north door, We were stunned by the numbers of people in the cathedral. It was simply put, packed. I would estimate that there were at least 4000 people at the mass. Just a wild guess. The botafumeiro was rigged for flight but never took off. The swinging of this huge censor high above the cathedral transepts is a big crowd pleaser at the end of mass. But, sadly, not today. After the mass, we moved out of the cathedral listening to many convesations in several languages. This cathedral is a destination for all those, the world over, who choose to walk the Camino. I must admit I never tire of the excitement it generates. The rest of our day, as you might expect, was spent eating, and drinking. While we were so engaged, I spotted a French guy we met on the Le Puy route. As it turned out he had arrived, via the Camino Frances, yesterday. What fun it was to see him, and share our stories. Camino life is like that. People just seem to turn up when you least expect them. Perhaps it is that unpredictability that helps keep camino life alive, and fresh, just when you might think it isn’t. One thing for sure, it is full of surprises. More later once we have had dome time to think this one through.
In closing, I offer our heartfelt thanks to all those who followed our blog, and offered comments or encouragements. It is always a very special treat to hear from someone when you are far from home, and the day, perhaps, has been less than what you had hoped it would be. Thanks for staying with us, and keeping us going. You do make a difference. That’s it from Santiago, thank you, and good night.

Cathedral Nave
The north transept as we were leaving
A quiet garden for my special girl
Time for cold one
Cathedral repairs now underway