Day 36 Morgaden to Ventas de Narón (Via Portomarin)

I had a really good night’s sleep last night. It was so nice to be in a bed that wasn’t a bunk …and our tiny dorm (four women, two men) was really quiet. If anyone did get up in the night I didn’t hear them … and when people were getting up this morning they were still really quiet. Bliss!

The skies were clear when I set off this morning (around 7:30pm) and it was wonderful to see the stars again, though the moon wasn’t visible! Sadly it didn’t last as the valley was having a pea soup of a misty day … and it was already noon and up the next mountain before I saw the sun …but it was worth waiting for!

As I write this I’m sitting outside the albergue, and both me and my washing are enjoying the strong sunshine!

I’m less than 80 km from Santiago …

(Will upload photo later if I can!)

Though I’m less than enthusiastic about the Galacian waymarkers. In some of the cities they had a similar countdown system for the pedestrian crossings (wait 55 seconds more) and then it gave you up to 75 seconds to cross. Somehow these countdown km to Santiago feel a bit the same … and so I’ve mostly been ignoring them, other than checking that I’m still walking in the right direction!

That’s not always as easy as it sounds and Portomarin was particularly confusing. First you crossed almost into the town over a very very high bridge (terrible for those with vertigo) and then the sign mislead you into going up a steep flight of stairs into the town, whereas actually the Camino more or less avoids the city, taking you back across the water on a smaller, lower bridge.

It was there I sort of met some very lost Americans. I could hear one saying ‘it must be this way as the sign says santiago’ but actually it was a road sign … I consulted my map, realised we had to recross the water and when I finally found a waymarkers to confirm the route signalled that this was indeed the way to go.

I loved the hike out of Portomarin, the fog slowly cleared as I climbed and the terrain was nice too. I kept bumping into Owen from Ireland (from dinner last night) and we had some interesting conversations. But eventually he pressed on!

Then I met an Australian couple, the lady (Rosemary) desperate to talk about her Camino experiences (they started yesterday in Sarria) but what was interesting was they’d first visited the first and Second World War graveyards in Europe, which was, for her, also a Camino pilgrimage of sorts.

What was funny, however, came to light a bit later on. They (and a whole heap of others) were part of a group. They all had matching day packs, and at strategic places there was a guide who cheered them on and made sure they were on the right path! Then at Gonzar they were all directed into a bar for lunch …and a few km on there was an air conditioned WiFi bus for those who needed it. Definitely a Camino for softies but an important one for them none the less.

Now, while I’m sitting here a family from New York (who as the daughter said, doesn’t travel light!) I think they think they are slumming it staying here in this beautiful Casa, and worrying that no one was watching their stuff … and now the young couple skipped off again to the other albergue, dragging their suitcases! It’s hilarious in a way, but yes, it’s their Camino (they are going from Sarria to Palas de Rei (around 45 km in total)

As for me, well I’m less than 80 km from Santiago de Compostela! Imagine that. And in only five weeks I’ve walked across most of northern Spain. I’ve seen and experienced things that have made my heart sing … and the walk has been a joyful one.

Today I’m thankful for the return of the sunshine, the opportunity to sit outside sipping a beer,and for the warmth to be drying my clothes again. I have a clean, comfy bottom bunk to sleep on, and tomorrow the Camino will call once again.

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Happy pilgrims meet up

Marilee squealed when I entered the albergue where she was having a bite to eat. I snagged a bed for the night and rushed back down so we could have a quick chat before she headed back out.

She had parted ways with Emilio (who is probably in Santiago now) and Noel and met Ellen (my German Camino friend who is a fashion designer!) and told me that in Ellen had met the RC bishop of xxx in her albergue and he would be celebrating a special mass in Santiago on Saturday afternoon. It sounds like a lot of his diocese is with him.

Ellen Marilee and I will be in Santiago together. They’ve already made reservations (hotels) but I haven’t done anything yet. I had hoped to meet Marieana there (and still might).

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I was thinking about the Relentless Catholics today as I walked. They were the trio of men I met way back in Navwrrete. They have arrived in .santiago, where one of them, Fr Bill (a priest incognito) celebrated mass for the pilgrims in St James Cathedral, Santiago de Compostela. Fr Bill goes back to Texas to celebrate not only his 80th birthday, but 50 years As a priest in the RC Church.

As I was walking I was thinking what I’d like to ask them as they return to the US

How has the Camino changed your view of

  • Yourself
  • Other people
  • The world
  • God?

These are important questions, though perhaps better phrased as

What has the Camino taught you / revealed to you about xyx ?

I’ll try to reflect on these for myself …

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A thoroughly fun evening in Casa M

I am starting to get ready for Santiago

I’m 100.1 km away and will be there on Saturday! 40 days from St Jean Pied de Pont!

our host, who had a wicked sense of humour

And a dozen or more hungry pilgrims!

So much laughter my abdominal muscles hurt,

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Meet Alison and Tess from Scotland

Tess is originally from South Africa, but they both now live near Aberdeen

They started in Sarria, so this is their second night on the Camino,

Alison walked the same part a few years ago with the group from Scotland from hell.

She was hilarious in telling why :)

Edited to add Alison studied Spanish at Edinburgh univ. In 1977 in Utegara she went to the first Galician Celtic concert (post Franco) s interesting

she’s written a book (bot yet published) walking the Camino up Santiago’s nose. Alison Chandler …

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Day 35 Samos to Morgaden

(Slow internet photos later)

This part of Galacia is very different. A German pilgrim, Muriel, commented on it to me earlier, saying it reminded her of Scotland or Ireland (and no it’s not the rain … it’s actually bright and sunny now, though not warm!) … and I’ve suddenly realised that it’s the dry stone walls more than anything that remind me of Scotland and the north of England.

I was glad to see the sun break through mid day and for a while it actually felt warm! I left Samos in the rain, it wasn’t cold, and the rain wasn’t heavy, but walking in the sun is so much nicer!

This past weekend has been a three day holiday weekend in Spain, and it seems to have marked the end of the tourist season too. The first cafe I passed (Teixos) 3km after Samos was no longer open for breakfasts (until Advent!). I probably wouldn’t have had my morning coffee there anyway as it was a bit too early, but it turned out that I didn’t actually stop until Sarria.

I had coffee in a non pilgrim cafe (frequented by locals) and I was given two delicious cakes to have with my cuppa! They tasted so good after walking 10km.

My destination today was a tiny hamlet and albergue just before Ferreiros (half way between Sarria and Portomarin) and the hike here was lovely, but surprisingly tough. I’d forgotten we’d be climbing again from 440m to ‘only’ 700m, but it was one of those never ending climbs. The Camino follows an old road, and weaves through lovely woodland and a whole series of what I thought would be villages but which turned out to be more like farm steadings with an extra house or two, and none of them were named so while the Galacian waymarkers helpfully told me I was getting closer to Santiago de Compostela, I didn’t ever feel I was getting to Morgade … but then suddenly I was there.

The room is wonderful. There are only six of us (4 women and 2 men) and not a bunk bed in sight.

Dinner is at 7 which is great too. I’m always ready to eat!

But before I sign off for today, a few words about Sarria. Many tourist pilgrims start their pilgrimage from Sarria as it’s 115 km from Santiago, and thus qualifies for the 100km for the Compostela (certificate). I therefore expected it to be a bit of a tourist trap … and as I was approaching the town (pop 13500) I was praying Sarria would woo me just a little bit. And it did.

Every pilgrim who has walked through Sarria will recognise this scene

(Photo won’t upload)

These steps escalinata maior lead right up into the old pilgrim town, and its where most of the albergues and cafes, bars and restaurants are located. I hit it at the perfect time … yesterday’s pilgrims were long gone, and today’s were still to arrive, innkeepers were busy cleaning rooms and doing laundry and even the cafes were having a bit of a break. It was quiet, peaceful and as I clipped through I could sense pilgrims before me weaving their way up the stairs and up the hill too, including the pilgrims I’ve got to know on my Camino many of whom are ahead of me and fast approaching Santiago (and some who’ve been and are on their way home)

Thank you Sarria for such a wonderful experience!

Talking of pilgrims ahead, I bumped into Marilee from the US when I got to Morgade. She was having a lunch break. I saw her last a week ago when she was still walking with Noel from Australia and Emilio from Texas. She’d run into Ellen who was in Sarria last night and a bishop (from Germany) was staying at the same albergue. There will be a special mass on Saturday afternoon with the botafumeiro (special insense burner) so I will try to meet both of them there!

Yes, it looks like I’ll limp into St James’ Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela on Saturday! 100.1 km to go …

Before dinner we talked around the woodburning stove. Pilgrims from Switzerland, France, Germany, Italy (Milan and Torino), the US …

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Meet Game (hi-me), Bernardo and Elisa

I met the two brothers on the outskirts of Sarria this morning. They came into the cafe just I was leaving and Game helped me adjust my poncho.

A few minutes later they were walking with me again as the cafe didn’t serve breakfast. I met up with them again in the tiny hamlet of Morgade where I’d just checked in for the night and they’d just stopped for lunch!

I kept meeting Elisa (from Barcelona) on the Camino today … one of us stopped to strip off a layer or change socks, then a few km later we passed again. It was funny.

The brothers are originally from Columbia, but Game lives in Spain (Andalusia) nowadays. This is their first Camino, and they started from León. They are quite free spirits, don’t book or plan ahead and are enjoying all aspects of the Camino – the walking, the lunches, the different albergues etc.

While we were talking Daniel (the author from Spain) joined us … then everyone forgot I don’t speak English and I could sit back and enjoy watching them converse. Sadly Elisa and Daniel both smoke (roll ups) as do many Spaniards.

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