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A Spanish Pilgrimage 2010. Week 6

Wed May 26. Triacastela to Sarria. Todays distance 21.5km. Total distance 836km complete/108 to go.

There are two routes for todays hike, one up the road and the other down a well marked path. I followed a French lady up the road and not on the path that had more arrows and more people. After a few km’s the road turned into a footpath with trees creating a covered walkway, it was misty and raining and I enjoyed most of the early hike. I bumped into a lady from Belgium, no idea of her name but we had a coffee in Samos and then I moved on into heavier rain, as I mentioned before I enjoy hiking in the rain so the day was just getting better and better. The frustrating part of the hike was the point where the trails met and you had a number of options none of which made any sense by my map! I decided just to follow the arrows and asked a few people on the way who were also unsure where we were. So with no idea where I was or how far I had to go I followed arrows along asphalt, my feet pounding the pavement and mentally my enjoyment levels were slowly depleting.

As I got about 2km out of Sarria I had to take a break and eat some food, the blister between my foot has been leaking again, so I laid out my goretex jacket on the grass and led out snacking on high quality food like chocolate and chips. I thought this was normal behaviour but most of the pilgrims who passed seemed to think it was funny, I got a few smiles and strange looks. I was very comfortable and could have stayed for an hour or two but then the rain started up again.

Before the albergue I stopped by Tourist Information and an Irish guy helped me out, then we had a chat for 30 minutes. I can talk a lot about nothing it seems. He then showed up at the albergue to help process the 30+ people who were queued outside. As I stood outside minding my own business I noticed the lady in front of me had a Mountain Equipment Co-op bag and jacket….this can only mean one thing, Canadian so I go to chat whilst we were waiting to be processed. Once I got my bed I dumped my stuff and left the albergue, everyone else was rushing for the shower, toilets, anything as long as they had to stand in line they seemed happy.

I wanted to see if I could find anyone else I knew so I walked up and down the main street and met four or five people that I knew, I had a beer with the couple from San Fran and then walked into the bottom part of town where I bought some food for dinner and a bottle of wine which cost 65 cents. I also got some iodine to fix my leaky blister between my toes and a couple on my heels. The one between my toes has been an issue for a few days and will not heal as the skin keeps getting broken.

After my quick shower and walking up and down the town center about 20 times, I found nothing was happening so I drank my wine, then got another bottle and bumped into another pilgrim who came for a beer. Just before 22:00 Ellen mentioned the albergue closed at 22:00 and we should leave to get back in….I assured her that Lights Out was 23:00 and we would be fine. As we got to the door of the albergue we pushed it, then pushed it again, then I pushed it harder and still no movement. It had been locked, my bad :-). I was okay with being locked out, I drank quite a bit of wine, not sure where I would sleep though. Fortunately for us the hospitalero had just got his car and driven around the corner, seeing our attempts at entry he stopped to find out what was going on, after some pleading he got out of his car and opened up for us. As I went to my bunk and led down one of the Russians who were also locked out jumped up on the top bunk with a big grin.

Apparently I drank a little too much and with the room spinning and the snoring becoming unbearable I started a new trend for my nights, I moved downstairs and slept on three chairs that I pushed together. At 05:00 I moved back upstairs and slept a little longer.

Thurs May 27. Sarria to Portomarin. Todays distance 21.5km. Total distance 857.5km complete/86.5 to go.

I like to lie on the ground sometimes. I led on the ground this morning whilst waiting for another pilgrim and also letting my head clear, I have a headache for some reason, not sure if it was the wine. As I led on the floor outside the albergue every so often a concerned pilgrim would look and ask if I was okay in one language or the other, with a thumbs up and a “Muy Bien” they carried with their hike and I chilled out a little bit more. An hour went by and then we were ready to go.

It was good to hike with someone else and have a decent conversation. This Camino Frances scenery has been better than the Via de la Plata and now I have some good company too.

After the hike I still had to catch up on sleep and usually I dont siesta but in Portomarin I saw a small park and decided to listen to some music on the grass. It didn’t take long before I feel asleep on the grass, probably due to not sleeping too much last night. The rest of the day I generally hung around town, with the usual walk up and down the main street, visit to the supermarket two or three times, the search for other pilgrims that I can talk to and so on. In the late afternoon it started to rain and the albergue kitchen sucked so I had a pilgrim meal for the first time in a few weeks and made it back to the albergue on time!

I am still having issues with people snoring and had already scoped out alternate sleeping locations. At lights out I grabbed my bag and went downstairs to sleep on three chairs that I had pushed together, it was a good nights sleep although the chairs are not flat and bend my body a little bit in the wrong direction, my sore ribs are a little worse with this sleeping arrangement but you cant have everything.

Fri May 28. Portomarin to Casanova. Todays distance 26.8km. Total distance 884.3km complete/59.7 to go.

At 04:00 everyone decided to start using the washroom downstairs, after a while I then decided to go back upstairs and sleep for a bit in the place where I should be, sharing a double bunk with some old guy who snores. The only saving grace is that we both have single sleeping bags. Why would anyone push bunks together, its awkward for everyone, although some people may actually get lucky and get someone decent next to them.

I slept fairly late so started later than usual, its good to just chill out a bit as the albergues have not been full and the weather has not been as hot as when I started in Sevilla so there is no need to avoid the sun and finish hiking by 14:00.

Casanova is very small it has no shop and consists of a few houses dotted around and the albergue which has a working kitchen. After cooking and looking around I noticed a sign for a restaurant up the road that will deliver food to the albergue. A few more houses a couple kilometers up the road and thats about it. I walked around up and down the road to a couple of other villages where the seniors sit on their doorsteps chatting and watching the goings on in the street, the most entertainment for them today is seeing a couple of new faces walk into town.

This area reminds me of Masbury where I grew up, both areas are remote and only have a couple houses dotted around with farms here and there, the landscape is also similar to the UK with fields blanketing the landscape. Today is the anniversary of my Dad’s climbing accident, it has been 10 years since it happened. I know he would have loved to hike through Spain but never had the time, farm labour consists of long hours and little time off, a couple of reasons why he never pushed me into farming. The hiking has allowed me time to look back and remember some of my childhood, all the good things of course.

Its good to be hiking this camino at this point in time and today will serve as a milestone that I can look back on in another 10 years time.

Sat May 29. Casanova to Arzua. Todays distance 20.7km. Total distance 905km complete/39 to go.

In theory I am off to a big town, Casanova was very small and Arzua was going to be great, with tourist information, supermarkets and entertainment. The hike was easy enough and in town I checked out the municipal albergue and decided to go to a private one so I could cook some food. For a late lunch I cooked my microwave meal that I have carried for the last few days, that should reduce the weight of my bag a little.

For most of the afternoon I followed my usual routine, walk around town, find the people I know, find out who is new that can speak English. In the supermarket a young lady queued up behind me and was trying to pay for a bag of oranges with little luck and got an earful from the cashier. The look on Helenas face told me she did not speak Spanish so I offered some assistance, “Do you speak English?” most of my conversations start this way and after confirmation I offered a solution “You need to weigh the fruit and get a sticker.”. Off she went to sort out her fruit and whilst I was sorting my stuff out she said “Thanks.” and I left.

I carried my stuff back to the albergue and had a chat with another pilgrim. I explained the supermarket incident and continued “I think she will think I am fluent in Spanish as I translated what the cashier said.” After being around Spain a bit you learn what to do in the supermarkets, my Spanish still sucks although I worked out that “No balsa” means I dont get a plastic bag. Anyway Helena was sat in the plaza and waved as I walked by, this should be easier than I thought, I wont have to feel too awkward. I walked up to the bench where three pilgrims were sat and said “Hi, hows it going?”, I now knew Jane, Jonathan and Helena. I am getting really good at talking a lot so just started to tell some of my stories without stopping for a breath. Then I asked if they wanted to get a drink at the bar, now we can have a good night for an hour at least. The municipal albergue shuts at 22:00 so Ellen and Helena left early. Earlier in the day I managed to get the key for my albergue so I could stay out all night!

I had a couple more glasses of wine, on top of a bottle I had consumed earlier. I then walked Jane back to her albergue and bumped into another young lady who had spoken to me earlier so I sat down at her table and had a beer. I was the last person into my albergue and threw the key down on the table and just rolled onto my bed and slept, I think it was about midnight but will never know.

Sun May 30. Arzua to O Pedrouzo (Arca de Pino). Todays distance 19km. Total distance 924km complete/20 to go.

I have decided that I need to be more proactive if I want to find some entertainment, that means trying to setup my own party. During the short hike today if I thought a pilgrim spoke English I asked them if they wanted a drink with me in O Pedrouzo that evening, most were slightly hesitant but said yes, I know that really means they do not want to and I will not expect them to show up.

I was hoping that O Pedrouzo would have a similar layout to yesterdays village with the albergue next to a central plaza, no such luck. The albergue was at the start of the town, although I came in from the top of the town and had some challenges finding it. A few Spanish people helped when I asked them and eventually I was lined up behind another fifty people waiting for a bed. As usual all the pilgrims rush for the washrooms and showers so I walked up and down the main street to see what was happening. Its Sunday so no supermarkets are open and the bars are fairly quiet although I did bump into Toby and Alice (I used the wrong name in a couple earlier posts) so I sat and had a chat and a Mother/Son combo joined us, they live in New Zealand.

After the initial drink I chilled out in the park and wandered around a bit more, grabbed a shower and then ventured out again. I had a couple beers with Jonathan and then Helena joined us, and Toby and then Ellen came by. A couple more beers and then I invited myself for dinner with Helena who had bumped into a group of Irish pilgrims. When I showed up for dinner I recognised a few of the Irish pilgrims, I had spoken to them in the day trying to arrange my party and I had a drink with Sorcha last night. The group is made up of three priests, a few support personnel and a group of various ages from a University (my memory is a little fuzzy on all the details) probably around 15-20 people. The whole group was very friendly and did not have a problem with me sitting down for dinner, I had chicken breast with egg and chips.

After dinner we grabbed an ice cream with the group and I had a laugh with Liam and one of the priests about soccer as Liam had an Arsenal shirt on. Although my party never really happened it was a good night anyway. I got into the albergue on time although the hospitalero had left the door ajar for everyone. As I was looking for my alternative spots to sleep Ellen had found an upper level in the albergue which had enought space to sleep four people on the floor. As the lights were already out I moved my blanket, pillow and sleeping bag up to the upper level and slept in my bag on top of the blanket on my own, the windows were opened slightly so I slept really well.

Mon May 31. O Pedrouzo to Santiago De Compostela. Todays distance 20km. Total distance 944km complete/0 to go.

Around 05:30 I awoke to the sound of pilgrims moving around, I walked through the dormitory below my sleeping area, through the doors at the end and into the dormitory where I was supposed to be sleeping. My bunk was being used as a temporary packing station for another pilgrim so I went to the washroom and cleaned my teeth before jumping up on to my bunk and sleeping for another hour.

Today I want to get to Santiago early, get my bed, certificate and relax, at 06:30 I jumped off my bunk and left within 10 minutes by stuffing my sleeping bag into my backpack, going to the washroom and then lacing up my shoes. On the hike I passed a group of pilgrims from the albergue located 10km up the road, I had a quick chat with them and found that they had only just started to hike around 09:00, I also passed a couple pilgrims from my albergue that had started earlier in the day.

As I approached Monte Gozo, a lookout point for Santiago, it was very misty so I did not even bother walking to the lookout point and kept on track for Santiago. The time was approaching 10:30 and I was in Santiago city but not the walled part of the city where the Cathedral is located. I had seen a few people in front with backpacks and mistakenly thinking they were pilgrims followed them halfway around town before deciding to just head for the wall and cathedral. I few minutes uphill, then back around another side street I found a way up to the walled part of the city and entered from the opposite direction, no big deal I could see the front of the cathedral later.

My first task was to go to Tourist Information get a map and find out where the best albergues were located. Once that was complete I stood in a fairly short queue to get my certificate or compostela from the church people. I checked the non-religious box and when asked by the assistant if I had done it for any spiritual reason I changed my answer, I had heard the compostela is different depending on religious/non-religious. Mine is yellow and has my full name written in latin. On my way back down the stairs I said “Hola.” to a few people I recognised and then headed for my albergue about an hour and a half before it was open. I was happy to sit outside and wait but I bumped into the hospitalero who was very friendly and let me in to the complex early.

The building hosts 300-400 beds and is very large with four floors and a multitude of other activities are hosted daily. In the basement I had a shower and washed my clothes, Jean-Pierre and Jacques from the Via de la Plata recognised me as Odettes son and left a message for her. I left my bag and went out to explore Santiago. I bumped into a few people I knew and planned a meeting with Helena at 19:30 in front of the cathedral, could this be the party?

I had big plans and invited a few other people but did not have high hopes of anyone showing up. Before 19:30 I bumped into Helena and met Elena, Helenas friend who had some big issues with blisters but was in good spirits. Around 19:30 I met up with the large group of Irish pilgrims from yesterday and then Helena, Elena and Elisabeth came over, I had spoken with Elisabeth a few days earlier but it took a while for us to remember from where/when. As the group had become very large I had dinner with Helena, Elena, Elisabeth at an Italian restaurant. Once we were seated Elisabeth recognised Nick who we joined. My Gnocchi alla Bolognese was pretty good, the wine was good and we had a relaxed conversation. After dinner we managed to track down the large group of Irish pilgrims, the majority of times you meet another pilgrim is when you happen down the street and they are stood right in front of you, this was no different. At the first bar we had another bottle of wine and shared stories, as the group shrank we were left with Will, Joe, Liam, Lisa, Sorcha, Elena, Helena, Elisabeth and myself.

At one point we went around the group summarising high level details about ourselves, an easy way to get introduced and find out some information about the others. As it came around to me I started a quick competition with Joe, Liam and Will about who had broken what bones. The group was great and everyone had a good time, I finished off a couple bottles of wine with Elena and a little help from Helena before we moved onto a bar/nightclub. I think it is now Tuesday so read the next post for the rest of the fun.

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  1. Nicola Stevens May 2, 2014

    Stunning pictures and a great blog to read

  2. Nicola Stevens May 2, 2014

    Stunning pictures and a great blog to read

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