So after 34 days I got home and have the Camino behind me.
Irun – Santiago – Fisterra – Muxia
talked with people from 23 countries
Many sunrises and sunsets, sunshine, rain, fog, wind, smoke, coast, hills, fields, cities, little villages, lots of slugs, cows, donkeys and other animals, lovely people, some shallow but many deep and mind opening conversations.
I guess I’ll need some time to make a proper summary of what happened and what I got from the Camino.
Until then, here are some more stats:
30.86 km per day average
55.57 km on the longest day
4.86 km/h average speed including breaks
carried 9-10 kg – depending on food and water
lost 2 kg – but also converted some fat to muscle 🙂
Although I was only 20k from Santiago I wanted to start early to avoid “rush hour”. So I sad goodbye to Maria – this time most likely for good – and left the hostel around 7. Jeremy decided to tag along and so with a very good pace we were looking for a breakfast place.
Maybe because there was none exactly on the way – and yes, after 800+ kms a 100m off the way is still a distance that one would not want to walk … – or we were in a good rhythm, or maybe because we were kinda running away from all the people on the way, we only stopped after more than 15k at Monte de Gozo, way after passing by the Santiago airport.
Here we agreed that we’ll meet in the afternoon and I went ahead – we both wanted to arrive alone so Santiago.
Around an hour later I arrived. Went around the cathedral a couple of times as I was surprised that it is not allowed to go in with backpack and there was no place to leave it. So I went for my compostella that took an hour.
I’ve also caught up with Lukazs which was a nice surprise.
After checking in the hostel I went back to the cathedral and then walked a little bit around the old town. As nice the town could be, as annoying the amount of people was for me. Starting to understand why 3 days of Camino Frances is recommended before arriving to Santiago: need time to adjust…
Did some groceries and then went on to meet with Jeremy and Lukazs for dinner. Once again we had churros con chocolate but this time not to get energy for the road but for the pleasure only 🙂
We visited the evening pilgrims’ mess where we I saw once again one of the Lithuanian guys and we got to see the big pot(?) filled with incense being swung that was traditionally to overcome the smell of the pilgrims. Looked majestic though.
I sad goodbye to Jeremy as well. When I started and got to chat with the Spanish veteran camino guys I never thought that I’ll be the one out of the people whom I got to know on the camino to go furthest and quickest. Not that I was racing I just didn’t I could keep up and/or keep on going.
Prepped myself some food for continuing the next day and got to sleep early which was a first in some time.
I’ve started alone after a breakfast but caught up again with Maria soon. The sunset was partly hidden behind clouds but before the stars and moon made up for it.
We arrived in Arzua around 1pm where Jeremy caught us as well. This is where the Camino Norte merges into the Camino Francaise along with one alternative of the Primitivo.
We sat down for a churros con chocolate and watched the pilgrims passing by. There were very noticeably more people and many of them looking rather tourists than anything else. The feeling of the Camino changed quite drastically: many tourists with their rucksacks sent with couriers and people walking casually with day-packs not being really friendly or considerate. Even the fairly new camino signs all vandalised. Kinda made me feel bad .. Also the amount of cafés, restaurants and albergues was just overwhelming. Not one albergue per 20k but 20 in one town.
Fortunately most part of the way was still leading through forest. Although we planned to say goodbye in Arzua we went on together searching for a place for lunch and a last drink. However by the time we found one and had a small beer we realised that we only 6k from the supposed end of the next etap, O Pedrouzo. So maybe because of the beer or just feeling the pull of Santiago we decided to do it. It meant more than 40k to which none of us prepared for today.
We found a nice looking hostel and went for a last dinner as next day I was to go to Santiago but Maria and Jeremy to stay behind which this time really meant parting.
After all it was a day with 43+k, record breaking step count and saying goodbye to people whom I spent a considerable amount of time in the past month sharing experiences and having chats about topics that I would have never expected.
Also, I just walked 500 miles and I will walk a 100 more 🙂
After the breakfast provided – and being thankful for a bedbug-less night we started together with Maria again preparing for an easy day: only 25k and the planned albergue opening at only 4:30pm.
Although this was the second day when we were expecting rain we were lucky enough that the rain stopped while we were still eating. We had a little bit of rain later on in the morning but the clouds started to disappear and the weather turned nice.
We mainly walked in forest or next to fields on dirt roads with trees alongside. Some parts were actually quite wild with huge flat rocks forming the road.
The highest part of the Camino was a fairly disappointing place: a little bump on a national road with not much view. It’s a bit more than 700m.
We arrived to Sobrado after 26k in a little bit less than 7 hours. Still had to wait for anything to open as until 4:30pm not only the albergue was closed because of the siesta but as usual, everything else as well.
The albergue was monastery. The rooms were converted barns but that didn’t show. I went to the evening prayers which of course was in Spanish but the singing was kinda nice anyway. Also I later learned that they prayed for the victims of the forest fires.
Afterwards I went to check out the church. It was probably the most beautiful as well as scary church I’ve ever seen: there was nothing but some benches inside, no altar, no organ, just the simply decorated walls and some tombs. All this in the weak light of the already set sun peeking through the windows. Beautiful and somewhat terrifying.
I had some instant soup to warm myself up and some fumed cheese from the region with fresh bread. As simple as it was it felt good.
As there was rain in the forecast I wanted to start early – the earlier I arrive the longer everything have to dry, including me. After all I left around 7 which meant pitch black with still smoke in the air from the forest fires blown by the wind. Not a pleasant start.
There was a hint of rain in the morning however the all day showers forecast never came. Actually I was really glad about that.
I managed to have such a good rhythm that I passed a fork where the suggested way diverged from the official. I think I missed some kind of fountain or spring but at least my way got slightly shorter.
I first took a rest after 15k and 2:30 mins. Given that for the first hour I barely saw the path making orientation difficult I was quite happy about my progress. It was here where I realised that I’m on a different way than I’ve planned and so the first bigger town – the suggested end for the day, Baamonde – was less than an hour away. So I cut my break short and went on to have a tea there, get more Compede from the pharmacy and have a second breakfast. I was hoping to get a stamp from the albergue but they would not do it as it was before opening time. Despite that the maintainer was standing right there …
So I went on, picked up some bread just before Miraz where the albergue run by the Confraternity of Saint James from the UK. I got there by 2pm after 35k.
The bedbug paranoia and awareness was just one of the reasons I liked the place from the start. It also had a fireplace that set a cosy atmosphere.
Today I’ve also crossed the 100 mark – actually by quite a bit: Miraz is at 85 🙂
To make a mark of Sunday I made some scrambled eggs for breakfast. Not the best for a 35k day but it lifted my spirits.
We started around 9 with 3 hours of uphill ahead of us. It was no fun especially with smoke and dust in the air: as we later learned there were forest fires all over Galicia … However by going uphill in the morning with occasional descents gave us several sunrise moment over the surrounding mountain ridge.
All the uphill also had the benefit of us getting up to the level of some wind turbines on nearby hills. Nearby hills that we saw few days ago in the unreachable distance and height.
The path for some time went by crop field and some of them were freshly sprayed with fertiliser – one right when we passed by – but mostly it led through beautiful forest paths. Thanks to the smoke and dust in the air the sun had a nice orange-ish colour that made the forest even more amazing.
It took 4hrs to Abadin and 6 more to Vilalba – it should have been 35k but we went one further than the recommended albergue and apparently some more during the day closing at almost 40k.
I’ve made some pasta with garlic and leftover bacon from yesterday that turned out to be better than I’ve expected 🙂
Today the first sign mentioning Santiago appeared on the road that cheered us up a lot. Less than 120k to go 🙂
I left around 8 after having to get back my towel and baseball cup from fellow pilgrims thinking they were for take …
I was hoping to see the sunrise but the clouds started right above the buildings. The weather turned nice slowly from the morning gloom and so I got to go without a sweater finally.
The way lead through forests in most parts and although often laid with concrete it was still pleasant to go on.
Late in the morning I caught up with Maria and we went together from then on. Had a break around noon at Vilamartin Grande that I really needed as I left Ribadeo without a breakfast hoping to have it in a bar around 10am but that place was closed. So finally I got to eat and also to rest after 17km.
We met a Holland guy who was walking the Camino to arrive at Santiago now for the 22nd time, this time for the redemption of a friend of his late wife who has very bad cancer. Apart from his motivation, dedication, and belief, his preparedness was also impressive: he had a backpack with the same weight as mine but his including a tent and cooking equipment.
In the afternoon the weather was more than nice, we actually started to struggle with the heat so when we stopped for our last break in Lourenza the ice cream was an obvious choice 🙂 (also the pain aux chocolate that I was craving all morning)
Boosted with sugar we went on to arrive in Mondonedo after almost 38k and close to 10 hours.
Since by now walking in slippers and without a backpack felt like flying we went a bit around the city and did some shopping for dinner and for Sunday.
Dinner was nice, we got some extra from other pilgrims eating close to us and we talked with them a bit.
The albergue had quite strict policies to prevent bedbugs and we did laundry too so the night started hopeful after dinner.
Today I also started to formulate plans for the end of the trip as well. It was now more than hopeful to get to Finisterra … 🙂
I left the albergue at 8 while it was still somewhat dark. My plan was to get to a viewpoint before sunrise.
I found a nice hidden beach – off track. Then found my way back and got to the viewpoint but by then the sun was already up. The view was still spectacular so all was well. This was already the coastal alternative that I decided to follow. It is a bit longer but it was a short day anyway.
Got to Tapia de Casariego around noon which was a bit slow but with the early stops it was not surprising. I took my lunch here and went on to Ribadeo.
In the afternoon I crossed Maria and a poor German guy who had it even worse than I did a couple of days ago.
The rivercrossing just before Ribadeo left me with mixed feelings. The way leads through the highway bridge (at least with a fenced sidewalk) that was ugly however the view on the huge delta was impressive.
Finally arrived to the albergue on the riverside after just below 30k in close to 8 hours. It was a slow day but kind of intentionally: I started early and had many breaks to enjoy the last day on the coast.
I just crossed the border of Asturia and Galicia and Ribadeo is the last stop before the way turns inland to Santiago.
After yesterday’s reunion we started the day together with Camille, Maria and Jeremy. We were a bit slow but talked quite some in the morning.
However since with Maria we planned to do 34k and we only got 14k in 4 hours we decided to leave the French behind soon after lunch.
It was a quite long day with some beautiful beaches, super green forest paths, occasional mud swamps, a few stream crossings, and some main road as well. However, overall it felt like a long but nice day. Probably the summer like weather helped in this.
We arrived in Luarca after 10 and a half hours and 36k (some coastal path and unintentional detour was involved…). We were not too happy at first when we learnt that the albergue is full however the hostel was not too expensive and quite impressive.
We found a place with pilgrim menu where after so much waiting I finally had a seafood dinner: fish soup and a kind of Spanish fish and chips. The later was OK but the soup was absolutely delicious.
My cold got better however my feet starts to become one big blister despite the plasters and finally the bedbugs got to me: I found that I’m covered in bites :/