Monday, 17 October 2011
My Camino from St Jean Pied-De-Port to Finisterre took 32 days, it was about 800 kms (548 miles) and I had no rain and no blisters! The way is mostly well marked and in fact contrary to most published info the way from Santiago de Compostela to Finisterre is marked better than most parts. Overall, the route is pleasant although the 3 days either side of Leon are less attractive owing to the flatness of the terrain and the industrial areas. The 3 days to Finisterre were probably the best for scenery and I would recommend the hike from Santiago to Finisterre to anyone. It can be done in 3 longish days but 4 is better and it can also be extended to include Muxia and its coast and if for this stretch you want better accommodation than the albergues de perigrinos (AdP) you had best book first. (For Santiago De Compostela try Maria on 981 582 362 who speaks English and has apartments with kitchens, showers and washing machines - all for 20 euros). For the camino I used the John Brierley map book which lived up to its task. It is just the maps and a small commentary. There are others available by this author that give more info but the maps works for me. In general the AdPs are fine and we only found 1 with bed bugs. However, there are plenty of very good alternatives including better standard private AdPs as well as Pensions, Rural Casa, Hostels and Hotels. Info about the AdPs themselves is sparse and sometimes you can arrive to find that they have been closed for a year. During the camino I found a site in Spanish that had more info and that was at - http://caminodesantiago.consumer.es/albergues/ -. My pack weighed about 10 to 11 kilos inc water which proved fine for me. That said I still had more than I needed. What I actually used was - 2 tee shirts, 2 pairs shorts, 2 pairs of socks and underpants, 1 jacket, my Meindl walking shoes and my flip flops for the showers and the evening (I did take trainers as well but in future would replace both my trainers and flip flops with a pair of 'walking' sandals. I also had a water sac with a drinking tube (which is a must). Beyond that I just used my washing stuff (with 1 bar of fairy soap for everything) and a small medical kit. On the medical side the Compeed stick and some soft tubes designed to protect toes was all I needed. However, many people needed the Compeed plasters as well and they all felt they were very good. On the memory side of the camino the best memory is definitely the different people I met on the way. Other than that I would have to list the prime memories as Smell - Cow poo! Noise - Either the crunch of shoes on gravel or dogs barking! Accom - at between 5 and 10 euros a night no real complaints. Food - Mostly OK some great and a little poor, but for about 10 euros each night for a 3 course meal inc wine it would be churlish to complain. Shop - The amount of fresh fish in every town. Would I do it again? Not the same hike but I would definitely consider another long hike. However, we were spoilt on this one both because of the facilities but also because we had no rain at all. People on the way often asked if I got what I expected out of the camino. My answer was yes - a long walk. BUON CAMINO.
Thursday, 13 October 2011
Thurs 13 Oct - Now back in SdC ready to go to the airport tomorrow. As the airport is only 15kms away we thought we would walk there as it would be like a `normal' camino day before breakfast. However, we would have to leave at 0500 so we have decided to go by bus to the airport! Good 3.5 km walk up to Cape Finisterre yesterday evening and we took a small picnic and a bottle of wine. Did not have much as all of the shops were closed owing to the public holiday, but the bakers was open and we bought the wine from one of the bars (it only cost 4 euros!). Now Cape Finisterre is a very popular place with the pilgims, tourists and the locals. Also as it was a holiday there were probably more people up there than usual. Beside the expected tourist stores there is 1 bar - and as it was a holiday it was closed!!!!!! They really do miss every opportunity to make a good living. It was a fantastic sunset at about 2000 (pictures will be posted shortly) and one of the best I have seen. It was a crystal clear sky and you could still see the reflection of the sun on the sea after it had dropped below the horizon. To make it even more impressive there was a full moon last night so as the sun set in the west we could see the moon rise in the east - a magical moment. Walking back I was thinking about the past 32 days and that it is probably the most number of days in a row that I have walked in the moon light of a morning and the most sunrises I have seen in a row. More worringly, I have now probably had more moonlit walks with Ian than with Christa!! Caught the 0820 bus from Finistere this morning and it took 2 hours to get to SdC all for 12.50 euros. However, getting onto the bus ws the normal european scramble and chaos, I wish they would learn to queque. Have bought my 'local' cheese and a few other bits so all ready for the trip home. This is about the last post for this hike (more hikes to come may be?). I will post the phots shortly and I will probably post a short summary after I get home. Buon Camino!
Wednesday, 12 October 2011
Wed 12 Oct - In Finisterre. Arrived at the AdP at 1345 and plan to walk the last 3.5 kms to the lighthouse on Cape Finisterre this evening so we can toast the sunset! The walk to Olveiroa yesterday was the longest `book day´ of the camino at 33.1 (35.8km adjusted for the uphills) and today we walked 30 kms to Finisterre. In fact the 3 days to here were marked as well as anywhere on the camino and the walk is prettier than most. It would make a very attractive 3-5 day hike for tourists and the Finisterre cape is very pretty (photos to come tomorrow inc all of the beaches). The last 2 days were COP and we had the full moon back so it was a delightful statrt to each day. Been for a quick bite of lunch which was a lovely long roll with chicken, herbs and peppers with a plan to buy some supplies from the local shops this evening. However, there seems to be one small problem in as much as evidently today is the anniversary of Christopher Columbus landing in America so it is a public holiday and the shops are shut! Will post again tomorrow when we get back to SdC assuming we can sort out the transport.
Tuesday, 11 October 2011
Monday, 10 October 2011
Mon 10 Oct - Off to Finisterre an another bright sunny day. Started at 0800 so that we did not have to walk too far in the dark (it is still dark until about 0830!) as we were not sure how well the way would be marked. However, after walking 23 kms today I can say that up to now the path has been marked better than at just about any other time on the camino. In fact so far instead of the annoying 0.5 km markers we have instead markers to 3 decimal places - I really want to know that there are 74.235 kms to go!! Good walk out of SdC and a good view looking back to see the cathedral backlit by the sunrise. In fact it would appear that the cathedral has been built the wrong way round as the view coming from Finisterre is much better and the cathedral more visable!!!!! A very good and green walk today with plenty of variety. It would actually make a very good tourist hike of 3 to 5 days to Finisterre with a bit of effort from the authorities to get a few more facilities on the route - but I am sure that will not happen. Supposedly, less than 5% of perigrenos go on to F, but we have seen quite a few on the path today and many have been turned away from the AdP as it is full. Forgot to mention that yesterday when we arrived at the cathedral in SdC there was a Porche meeting with about 50 cars lined up in front of the cathederal - Ian took this as divine guidance!!!! In Negreira now and arrived at about 1330. Now our routines are qute slick it can make the afternoons quite dull as the towns are closed until about 1700 and there is little to do. Also, walking on, even with the desire and energy is not really an option as we would arrive at the next AdP at about 1500 or later and there is a strong probability that they would be full. Also by Archos tablet PC has stopped charging so I have a restricted amount of time to read my books on it. Should be a very quiet night and we expect to go back to COP tomorrow as we think the signs should still be good.
Sunday, 9 October 2011
Sun 9 Oct - Arrived in Santiago de Compostelo at just after 0900 which makes it about 28 days and 2 hours to get here from St Jean. Simple hike today of only 10 kms after a very fine meal last night and my first real breakfast on the camino - it was inc with the room and as we had plently of time we did not leave until 0715. First impression of SdC is a large city with a small historic centre. The cathedral itself is quite impressive but in surprisingly poor condition on the outside with lots of plants and debris visible in the stone work. Met up with Mark again and with Kerstan. We did want to walk on a bit to Finisterre today but we had to wait until 1100 for the info office to open to first check if there was any accomodation available between SdC and the `'books' first destination as it is 22kms away and we were not sure if we wanted to do the complete leg. Unfortunately, it apppears that there may not be anything in between so we decided to stay in SdC for the day. Have therefore spent most of the day wandering around the town. Lots and lots of tourists who keep taking photos of me and other peligrinos!! Kerstan needed to find a place to stay so we took him to our Pension, but they only had a triple room so we convinced the lady to let Ian and I move into the 3 bed room with Kerstan so it was cheaper for him. After much broken spanish, waving of hands and us promising to tidy our first room all was agreed. This will make it easier for tomorrow as all 3 of us are walking together. We have also booked the same room for thur evening when we get back from F. So a meal tonight and then a late start at around 0800 as we are told the route is not well marked and we do not want to get lost in the dark! Amazingly, my feet are still almost unmarked and we have completed the whole camino without getting rained upon!! Buon Camino.
Saturday, 8 October 2011
Sat 8 Oct - Good room last night with towels and sheets and as we did not plan to walk more than 20 kms we intended to have a lie in. Strange how all of a sudden not only are the Spanish up past 0300 making noise but they seemed to congregate under our room's window at 0600!! Got up at 0700 and left at 0730 with a plan to walk to a AdP that we booked via the hotel last night. Got to the right area and asked at another hotel where the AdP was and they said 'go right and it is 600m up the road'. Well after walking around for about 45mins we gave in and carried on along the camino. We knew that the next place was going to be about 6 or 7 km along the track. Finally found a place to stay at about 1430 afteer walking 30kms! However, it is a 4 star hotel and at 50 euros (special pelegrenos rate ) inc breakfast for the 2 of us it is a good deal. The internet is free as well! Given that during the camino the hotels have always seemed to have the best food for the 'pilgrim's menu' then tonight's meal at 15 euros pp should be good. It would seem that 80 euros for dinner bed and breakfast inc internet for the 2 of us is a good deal. I also phoned ahead to book another AdP in SdC for tomorrow, but hopefuly we can find it easily as it is very near the cathederal. That said we only have about 10kms ro go to SdC in the morning so if we can find some accom a part of the way on the route to Finisterre we may just walk through................ As I have said before, a lot of people join the camino at the 100kms point and many more on the way - especially a day out for SdC do they can walk to mass. However, the newbies are very obvious. Not only because they have smarter and more pressed clothes but also because they are still taking photos of every camino sign and they find the little hills a struggle. Most significant is their lack of practice at getting out of the AdPs quietly in the morning. By now, those that have been on the route from weeks can get out of bed, pick up their bags and walk straight out of the communial areas with the minimum of noise and fuss.
Friday, 7 October 2011
Fri 7 Oct - Finally given veg with the meal last night for the first time in 27 days of pilgrim menus. Now in Arzua which is less than 40 kms from SdC. Only walked about 24 kms today as the next stop that seems to have accom is about 12 kms away. Similarly, we will prob only walk about 20 kms tomorrow and the next day, as in part accom choice is awkward and there is little point getting to SdC before Sun as we then have 3 days to Finisterre and then we will be back in SdC by bus on Wed eve. Our flight is on the Fri so we still have a day spare. I guess we should then go and see the big church. For the last 100 kms the way marks have counted down in 0.5 kms which can be a little off putting. It has been a little fresher today and my coat stayed on until about 1030. Just a t-shirt as usual after that but I still did not break out into a sweat today. Still the forecast for the next week remains dry - will we survive the whole camino without getting wet? I know that many behind us have been caught in some bad weather! All remains well with us although Ian's expensive boots have just about collapsed as the rears have come unstitched!
Thursday, 6 October 2011
Thurs 6 Oct - Tried the cheap white wine for a change last night and it was better than the cheap red they mostly serve. However, as the wine is only about 1 euro in the shops it should be no surprise. Left Portomarin on a nice clear and crisp morning heading for Palas de Rei which was only 26 kms away. COP start and arrived at PdR just before 1200, however, it was not an attracive town so we decided to walk on for a while. Stopped after about 1 km for a shandy and a bite to eat and then headed for the next AdP which was about 4kms away according to our book. Unfortunately, it was closed. However, the next one after about another 2 kms was open an looked good. It is a small AdP with only 12 beds and the village has no obvious name. Completed my inspection and all was OK so we had our showers and settled down only to discover that Kestan who we travelled with earlier on the camno was here. So much back slaping incurred. One very obvious thing on the camino is how much property is empty and in disrepair. Many have land and rivers with them so anyone with the desire to lead `the good life´ should maybe consider moving here. ano shops near this AdP so we will be eating hereand currently the menu just says - plate 1, plate 2 and wine all for 10 euros. Someone asked what is for dinner and they were told a surprise! Tomorrow we head for Arzua with 61 kms to go to SdC.
Wednesday, 5 October 2011
Wed 5 Oct - Quiet night in Samos with a surprisingly good meal given that there was only 1 cafe open for food in the evening. Afterwards we spent an amusing half hour feeding some rather large trout - Oh for a rod when you need one! COP start although we have recently been buying some dry cured ham from the shop to eat for breakfast - yum yum. Very misty this morning and in the sun did not clear it away until almost mid-day. However, one of the amusing effects of the mist was to see that both Ian and I were obviously blessed as whenever a vehicle approached us from behind we got a large halo aroound our heads, the camino must be having an effect. The 2 She Orcs that had been stalking us (C&S) took an alternative path from us after O' Cebreiro so we did not see them last night, however they did reveal that they were really 2 elven princesses in disguise before they left!!!! (they did not like being classed as She Orcs!!) It is now dark until around 0800 so the Spanish must welcome the forthcoming clock change. We passed the 100km to SdC today which is a key point. Many people start the walk from the 100km point as they can still get the pilgrim's certificate if they walk the last 100km. This means that the path is a little busier and we are also seeing more coach parties that stop and walk a little of the way......... makes it noisy at times. We planned to stop at Mercadoiro today and got to the AdP Ok. All looked good and we had a shower but when I did my normal hunt around the beds and room I found some bed bugs so we up and left immediately without unpacking!! The AdP refunded the money but at first he just offered to change the matress..... - NO WAY! So off walking again and it was nearly 1500 by then. Ian called the elven princesses and asked where they were. Fortunately, they were already in an AdP in the next town which was about 6km away so we asked them to try to book us 2 beds. Luckly they could as we did not arrive in the town (Portomarin) until after 1600 which would be a bit late normally to get a good room. So we walked about 35km today but should nop have a day in hand so alls well that ends well. P:S: Ian has found an alternative use for his spork as he cannot find his comb so use the fork end instead!!!
Tuesday, 4 October 2011
Tues 4 Oct - A good evening last night and I can confirm that the local cheese and honey from OC was really good - a lot like honey cheesecake without the pastry. A COP start and another good hike today of about 33kms through very green countryside. That said we past through a lot of small hamlets that were primarily redolent of cow shit. However, many of them could easily stand in for a typical 'constable' English village complete with hay wagon and stream. Any one of them moved to UK and tidied up would have tourists flocking to see them. We have also seen a host of chesnut trees during the last few days some of which have clearly been very old. Although the primary risk to health on the camino is blisters I would expect scurvy to come a close second given the almost total lack of vegetables served with the meals. In fact there is often a cry of delight when some greens are served with the meal. Arrived at Samos just before 1400 and now settled in another AdP which at the moment looks quite good! Much of today's walk was like hiking down English lanes and I even managed to catch an autumn leaf - so that should be my good luck secured for next year.
Mon 3 Oct - Fairly standard camino night last night with a COP start. Great hike today with wonderfull scenery. Completed 31kms in 7.25 hours and this included a 400m accent in the first 10kms and then back down 350m ready for another 700m accent to our destination of O Cebreiro. Had two short breaks on the way for breakfast and a beer (well a cervaza with lemon really,which is very refreshing) and it was a tough walk but very enjoyable and I doubt that either of us would have been able to still breath at the end if we had tried it 3 weeks ago. Thought on the way how interesting it would have been if someone had a record of what peregrinos looked like and how they dressed through the ages - now its all lycra, cotton, goretex and metal walking poles. It would also seem that Ian has a stalker as he has now ' miss laid' two pairs of pants! About ready for tonights meal and hopefully it will inc the local speciality of O Cebreiro cheese and honey. Checked into the municipal AdP at first for 5 euros pp, but with more than 100 beds in two rooms - all bunk beds and all head to head with some side to side as well it was not attractive. Then a man came into the room that C and S both recognized from their previous night as a very lound and continuious snorer! So Ian promptly went looking and found a good two bed private room for 15 euros pp so we moved! Feeling lucky, so we have just booked our flights back for 14 Oct should allow us to walk to Finisterre as hoped.
Sunday, 2 October 2011
Sun 2 Oct - Fairly standard evening although we did treat ourselves to the 'menu especial' - which was a plate of very good dry cured ham with some local cheese and a good steak for the main course. Ian had the icecreams for pud! It also inc a very good wine. Met up with C and S again in the AdP and we were greeted like the returning candidates in The Apprentice! During our meal C revealed one of her key tests for future possible husbands - evidently, they must be able to remain standing after she has taken a running leap to jump on them 'like a starfish'!! The hike from Molinaseca this morning was COP and mostly on roads and pavements until the last 10kms. It was also the worst marked section so far and we had to be very careful not to miss the route. The last part was through vineyards which made a pleasant change. There have also been plenty of walnut trees on the route so we have been enjoying the fresh nuts. Started out quite chilly at less than 10 degs and by 1100 it was still only 13 degs. However, by 1500 it was 35 degs and rising. Luckly, the local flies are just like the rest of the population and we rarely get bothered by them before 1200. Now at Villafranca del Bierzo after a 31km hike.Off as normal tomorrow but we will probably cut the book's hike of 32kms down to around 25kms as there are a lot of climbs and when we leave the next day we do not want to be at the top until daylight so we can hopefully appreciate the views.
Saturday, 1 October 2011
Sat 1 Oct - White rabbits, white rabbits, white rabbbits (Christa knows!). A good night last night except that England lost against Germany (Juliet and Marcos) at bar football and worse of all 50 % of the German tems was female! I blame my attack as he was spiked with white wine! Have also found that the ear plugs work very well - as when Ian is snoring I just stick them up his nose! COP start and scenery much improved again with a gentle climp to the highest point of the whole camino at 1505m. Also there seems to be less people on the camino at the moment, but this may just be because we are ahead or behind a large group. We have seem lots of wind farms on our trip and got close to many of them and I can confirm that up close there is some noise - but just a light whoom whoom as the blades rotate, but the real problem with them is the very bright flashing lights that are mounted on every windmill which can illuminate the sky for a large area. Not only have I seen more sunrises in a single stretch during the camino but also I have seen far more magnificent night skys and it is really great to watch the 'gloaming`' appear just as dawn approaches and you realise that you can see just a little bit more. I have already referred to my dislike of hikers that use twin poles as they pollute the camino with their click, click, clicks so I have designed a new tee shirt. You know the one that shows the evolution of man from crawling, through walking on all fours to standing upright? Well I intend to add a few other stages showing hiker with 2 stickes, then back to crawling and finally back to the slime - evolution to devolution/degradation???? We have spent millions of years evolving to walk of two legs and some people seem to think going back to 4 limbs is better!!! Walked to Molinaseca today, a total of 33kms. Went further than intended because it was such a good walk and we felt fit. Now in a good AdP and we caught up with Claire and Sara (who is looking a little sunburnt). So now washing done, blog typed, phots to up load then it will be time for supper. Buon Camino!
Fri 30 Sep - A good evening in VdO with a 'pick and mix' from the local shop of hams, sardines, olives, toms, asparagus and bread for supper all washed down with a 2 euro bottle of the local wine. COP start but Paolo the owner of the AdP was especially cruel in the morning as he was cooking bacon and eggs when we left! It was a really good AdP (called AdP Villares de Orbigo 0034 987132935) and is only 1 year old. Had a couple of short stops on the way today for a rest and a snack as we were not certain just how far we would go today and this inc a stop in Astorga which had a very large and impressive church. Should we be surprised by how many churches and crosses the camino passes? Scenery has improved again today with more trees and general vegetation as well as more bends in the path so that you cannot see too far ahead. No web or wifi today so ths is being posted on 1 Oct, but at least today there is a good internet connection and I have been able to upload more phots - the link will be posted later. Interestingly, although there is often web and or wifi available and there is an organization that oversees the AdPs there does not seem to be any effort to collate info about the AdPs. For example, we have twice got to our planned destination to find that the AdP has been closed for more than 1 year. We also arrived at one large town with only 1 AdP to find that it was closed for 3 days - probably for de-infestation! - This info would have been good to know before we left the last AdP and made our plans. Furthermore, if the AdPs or pelegrinos had access to a web site for such info then they could advise others about good or bad AdPs. With advertising on the site as well as AdP contact details this could be a winner - one for Mike or AJ to consider? Off towards Acebo tomorrow and staying in El Ganso tonight in another great AdP and it looks like the local bar has lasagne so Smeagol is happy - I think he needs a substitute for icecream as he already knows the Spanish selection by heart and I think it is the only Spanish words he knows so he can ask for his favourite with ease!