Santiago, and Beyond

Friday, October 23rd was another of those “great day where nothing especially remarkable happened” type of days.

Started hiking again under the stars, but a surprisingly warm start to the day. I find it very helpful to be able to adjust my clothing without having to stop walking. So where possible I go light on core warmth and adjust gloves and hat, with a raincoat that without too many gyrations I can put on and take off on the march.  


This is good as it always seems to get colder just before dawn, and of course location, elevation, wind, etc all have an impact too. It’s also good insofar as our little group doesn’t tend to wait for a slacking member, each reckoning that someone who falls behind will either hike a little faster, or we’ll reconnect at one of our very infrequent breaks. This certainly isn’t the only (or even perhaps a “normal”) convention, but it’s a modality of hiking that’s pretty common among long distance hikers.

We saw a lot more people on trail today, definitely some of them showing signs of having started in Sarria. Milky met an English couple who seemed happy to talk with a fellow countryman for a while. Indeed, while we’ve encountered many English speakers on this trip, I can recall very few from the British Isles.  Toward the end of our hike we met a couple from Michigan, with whom Lucky immediately launched into a friendly passion about a recent college football game.

Lucky also made a new friend in the bar where we had our sort of “second breakfast” – – – a small black cat that seemed to have the run of the place was Lucky’s firm friend once he started to share some of his food. Then when we went to a supermercado in the afternoon in Pedrouzo, Lucky bought some cat food treats to have available when he hikes. I think a sort of bumper sticker on the back of Lucky’s pack would be appropriate that says “Warning: I brake for cats”. Because he does.


Lucky makes a new friend in a bar

This was a moderate hiking day, 17.4 miles (28.1 km). We mostly kept a respectable pace and so ended our day in Pedrouzo at about 1 pm, 12.3 miles from Santiago.


Our room in Pedrouzo

Saturday was somewhat rainy, not too bad but with rain, clouds, and an even earlier start than usual I didn’t take a lot of photos.


Lucky deploys his cat treats early this morning

As it turned out, we got to Santiago in plenty of time to attend the noon pilgrim mass, but I was dismayed to find a prominent sign just before the entrance saying that backpacks are not allowed inside. I can understand why, but we had no problem all along the way walking into churches with our backpacks on, and while perhaps my memory is faulty, I recall a number of pilgrims doing so two years ago in the Cathedral here. My immediate reaction was “so the pilgrims mass is in fact for everyone but pilgrims.”  I guess I had this vision of walking right from the trail into the mass, but…  I’ll get over it.


Packs not allowed in the Cathedral

So instead we stood in line to get our certificates of completion (of great demonstrated importance to me, given that I don’t know where the one from 2 years ago is filed away).  Then we got ourselves checked into an Albergue (“The Last Stamp “).

And we have firmer plans now for the rest of our trip.   Finisterre and Muxia are both on the west coast. Most Camino hikers stop in Santiago, but a few continue westward until they hit the ocean, typically at Finisterre, but some go a bit north of there to Muxia.
We’ve decided to do both, and when the trail splits we’ll go first to Muxia, then hike south not too-o (?) far from along the coast to Finisterre. We picked this approach on the understanding that there are more bus trips back to Santiago from Finisterre.

We’re confident that this will take us 4 days, leaving us 5 free days to plan out before we all fly home.        Two general approaches occurred to us: either rent a car and drive around to various places in Galicia (we all fly out of Santiago on Nov 3rd), or base ourselves in Santiago (the capital of Galicia) and perhaps take one or more bus excursions from here.

We opted for the latter, and so asked at the tourist information office, and found (and later booked for 5 days) an inexpensive room (pilgrim rate) at the wonderfully located and very cool and extensive Seminario Mayor, a XVI century monastery:

Not sure how we’ll spend our post-hike time, but tomorrow is supposed to offer good weather, while the next several are expected to be windy and rainy. So we’ll start towards Muxia tomorrow, reckoning that it’s better to have at least one more day of good weather hiking, vs. four in a row of bad.

Kind of interesting interacting with other pilgrims here, as everyone has the feeling that “we’re all done”. Not a big deal, as we still enjoy the walking. And perhaps when we get back to Santiago we’ll run into folks we hiked with earlier.


Milky does the conga on the Conga street

As it is, we ran into Italian Manuela, who we saw some time ago (very friendly, zero English, my Italian very very limited but doesn’t seem to matter). And George, a friendly and interesting Spaniard who has slowly bicycled his way along the Camino – – – with his dog.  We encountered him about a half a kilometer from the Cathedral (his completion we presume), walking his bike and barefoot. Because he had heard or read that this (barefoot) was an old pilgrim tradition for the last bit. Though he said that a lot of people were staring at him as he made his way along.


George with his bike & dog, showing off a bare foot

Wandering about Santiago we saw a Dutch woman that Milky and I had talked to at length the night before. She’s hiked various Caminos in Spain and Portugal, and this year is a helper/leader in a pilot project that allows sight-impaired people to hike the Camino. She had told us that they had a string of prayer flags that they planned to parade in to the Cathedral square, and sure enough, we happened upon them as they were setting that up.


Dutch pilgrims with prayer flags

And while I was typing this up, Leo showed up, bunking tonight in our little room of 8. Leo is American, very friendly and easy to talk to. He’s also very tall, and we speculate that he’s become used to sleeping diagonally in these bunk beds, and perhaps still with his feet dangling out beyond the end.   Where, in fact, the bed structure even allows that. Never gets him down, he seems unfailingly cheerful. We met Leo a few days ago at a communal pilgrim dinner.

It’s been a great trip, and we look forward to our additional four days of hiking extention to it.

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