Tues Jun 1. Santiago. 0km hiked.
The bar was quiet and as time went on more and more people left, it came down to two Spanish guys, Liam, Joe, Lisa, Helena, Elena and myself. I had a couple Vodkas with Liam, everyone was on the dance floor with various antics going on, and then, all too soon, it was time to leave. Liam/Joe went back to their hostel and I went with the others to another club located somewhere in Santiago. I am not 100% sure where the club was and being a male I had to pay, maybe 6 Euros, I cant really remember.
The stairs led down past the washrooms into the bar area and then into another area which was more like a dancefloor. The walls were decorated with graffiti style tags and the air was filled with cigarette smoke. By this time I knew I was locked out of my accomodation and I needed somewhere to stay so I had to see this through. The club played classic rock and everyone seemed to like to dance….all I can say is it was a good job I was drunk. Its very hard to describe the scene, the actions and the various people who were there, I cannot summarise it for the blog but ask me about it and I will find it easier to explain.
After a few hours of music/smoke/dancing it was around 05:00, time to leave. I staggered up the stairs after the others, Lisa went back to her hostel and I went with Helena/Elena towards their hostel and my albergue. At the hostel I figured out which way the albergue was and decided to run up there to see if anyone was leaving so I could enter. The albergue was locked up like Fort Knox, it has a high wall, cameras and big metal gates. I could probably get over/through somewhere but then I would probably get beaten down by the security guards. I turned back and ran across to the hostel and called Helena, the plan was for Helena to sleep in Elenas room and I could crash on the bed, the time was approaching 06:00 by the time we all got into the correct rooms.
At 09:30 I woke up and sent a message to Helena to get her to come back to what was supposed to be her room so I could leave. We knew the landlady was a little crazy, just like the other Spanish landladies I had the pleasure to meet. The landlady had decided to sit around on the 2nd floor so Helena could not leave Elenas room without getting a mouthful of Spanish. Then the landlady decided to move to the 3rd floor. All of a sudden there was a knock on the door of the room that I occupied, then a loud knock on the window. In my mind all I could think was “WTF is happening?”. As the landlady stood outside my door (I could hear her breathing) I called Helena, maybe she can fix everything. The plan went something like this, Helena would come back into her room, I would stay in the corner of the room, out of sight, just in case the landlady tried to see what was happening. That was it for the plan, we would work out the other details afterwards.
Now Helena and I are in the room, the landlady thinks Helena has just come back from a run and I do not exist. Another call and our plan is ready to roll. Elena managed to distract the landlady on the second floor, I was going to sneak out into the hallway, into the stairwell and run out, ninja style with no noise. If I get caught I pretend I am looking for a room for that evening. I managed to get to the stairwell with no issues, I walk down the first set of steps trying to stop my sandals knocking on the floor. Around the corner I see the back of the landlady so sneak around to the next set of steps and then I go for it down the remaining steps, only stopping to rest when I get out the front door and into the bright sunlight. Free at last!
Not much I can do from here so I walk up to the albergue to see if it was open only to find the doors to the 3rd floor were locked and the reception area was closed. This means I have no bag, cannot shower, cannot sleep in a bed and have to come back at 13:30. At this point I could have slept under the trees at the park, instead I decided to walk around Santiago and meet Odette when she got into town. I walked down the steep hill and then up the steep hill into the walled city and then circled through the streets before bumping into two of the three Irish priests. I had a coffee and quick chat with them before we wish each other the best on the rest of our journeys. Next on my list of things to do….walk around, buy some snack food and sit on the wall watching pilgrims pass into the plaza in front of the Cathedral.
Around 12:30 Odette showed sent me a text message that she was collecting her Compostela, I went across to the office and met Odettes hiking partners from South Korea before we had a coffee with them. After the coffee I showed Odette to the albergue and spoke to the hospitalero, explaining that I had not made it in before curfew, he responded telling me my bag had been moved and I could stay another night for 12 Euros as it is now peak season. At last I could shower, the rest of the day Odette and I walked around Santiago, bumped into Helena/Elena and had a quick coffee before hugging the statue of St James and absolving all of our sins. Most of the tourists in the Cathedral were very serious, Odette was giggling all the way through.
As the end of the day came I went to sleep ready to hike on to Finisterre in the morning. Hopefully I can build on the 3 hours of sleep I had last night.
Wed Jun 2. Santiago De Compostela to Maronas. Todays distance 39km. Total distance 983km complete/49 to go.
Just because I cant sit still I made the decision to go to Finisterre, the end of the known world until Columbus discovered the new world – America.
Yesterday I had very little sleep, I went to sleep around 22:00 in the hostel and up at 06:00, packed, said bye to Odette and left for a hike expected to be around 25-35km. I wasted an hour getting out of Santiago, it was not very clear that early in the morning, then I picked up the pace. At one point I missed an arrow and carried on down the road past some houses with very aggressive dogs, they were too aggressive to have people passing much so I turned back and after about 1km picked up the arrow I had missed, thats an unneeded 2kms. I then hiked to the suggested stopping point in Negreira and thought I could handle the next 18km to Maronas/Aldea de Santa Marina.
When I got to Maronas I missed another arrow, adding another 1.5 to 2km to my trip not accounted for above. The information for the hostel is only on the laptop and the battery is flat and I cannot find the hostel, its hot and my feet are aching. After finding the correct path again I sat in the shade of the trees at the park. I ate and drank and hung around for 30 minutes before deciding I could hike on to the next place if needed, this would be another 10-12km but the information is on the laptop so I will just carry on until I find somewhere to stay, even if it is an expensive hotel.
As I hiked on another 2km I saw a bar with a hostel next to it! Then a dutch lady came from the bar so I took the opportunity to check my information. After the brief introduction I asked how far she had come and explained that I came from Santiago and I may carry on to the next town. In her guide I had walked 44km already and the next place was 12km. “I think I can handle another 12km.” I offered. “Are you crazy?” she countered, “You have already walked 44km, you must have something in your legs to walk that far in one day. You need to stay here.”. Really she was right so I resigned myself to staying in the hostel and eating in the bar as there were no other services in sight.
A quick shower and change into my clean clothes then I led down for a quick break. Three hours later the landlady came into the dormitory to tell everyone that the Meal of the Day was ready at 19:30 and the time is 19:30 now, I rubbed my eyes as I came out of my sleep. I went down to the bar and ate with a French couple and two Germans who all spoke English so I had a chat with them before leaving for more sleep, I guess the last couple days of activities are catching up with me. Not to worry, early start tomorrow as I may be able to make it to Finisterre.
Thurs Jun 3. Maronas to Finnisterre. Todays distance 39km. Total distance 983km complete/49 to go.
Today has crept up on me, its the final hiking day of the pilgrimage and I made it! Just one more hostel night to go and then off home. The hike started in the mist until I gained some elevation and could see the mist sitting in the low laying fields. Yesterday I hiked a good portion of the distance so today should be easy enough.
After hiking through a couple of villages, and a larger town, where I bought lunch at the Carrefour before eating it on the grass next to the beach, the hiking took me through some undulating hills in a remote forest area. I bumped into various pilgrims only stopping for a quick “Hi, have a nice day” before getting my head down and hiking up over the last hill. As I crested the hill I could see the ocean below me and stretches of yellow sand, its hard to run with a backpack so I had to control myself and walk briskly down the dusty and steep slopes. Closer to the beach the dusty path turned to boardwalk, I could hear the sea lapping at the beach and decided to dump my bag, take a dip and then figure out accomodation later in the day. What an end to a hike, warm sun with a cooling ocean and a backpack to lie against. No need to move for a while.
Finisterre has a couple of hostels, the one where I get my credencial was full so I went up a few streets and back alleys to find the other hostel. After getting a bed on the lower bunk in a room of six I headed back outside. I texted a couple of other pilgrims who I thought had gone home and they offered to make dinner for me. I wandered around the shops and purchased some wine before heading over to their private rental, it was a fair distance away. The house had three rooms and another guy had been staying for a few weeks so after dinner we all headed to the bar. As the night went on more alcohol was consumed and more people were in a party mood. We walked around and found some busy places to drink more and talk to random strangers who had been hiking or sight seeing. I cant remember too much at this point. After the bars closed we somehow found our way to the beach, a couple of travelers had a fire going so we gate crashed. After a while I remember feeling some drops splashing on my face, a dull morning light had crept over the horizon and rain drops were starting to fall. We brushed the sand off of our clothes and headed for the private accommodation, no doubt I was locked out anyway.
I still had a good few hours to sleep before 8am, I passed out on the sofa only to wake to someone speaking loud and fast in Spanish. i turned my head up and came face to face with the senora/landlady…..uh oh. She carried out ranting and for a minute turned and went somewhere else, I saw my chance and was gone in a flash. The rain was still lightly falling as I walked back to the hostel with my disheveled look. As I walked in everyone was leaving as the cleaners were in kicking them out, I got a few questionable looks as no one had seen me the night before. Luckily I was allowed to pass out on my original bunk and get a couple hours more sleep. Later in the day after I had cleared my head I hopped onto a bus and was given a nice ride back to Santiago where I met up with Odette at the hostel I was locked out of a few days earlier.
So its time to leave Spain. Another bus ride from Santiago to Santander then a 24 hour ferry ride to the UK. Through the ups and downs it was all worth it. I may return at some point to hike another route or follow my footsteps again. The myriad of people I have met on the route prove that it is accessible to almost anyone, you just have to want to do it and believe that you can – oh yeah, and make time in your busy work/life schedule!