Camino de Santiago – Week 5

Day 29

Excellent sleeping weather last night and minimal snoring. We arose at 6:45 and ate breakfast of muesli, soy milk, banana, bread, and coffee. Moderately full, we headed uphill on an old farm road through chestnut and oak forest. The hamlet of San Xil was asleep. Uphill to a high point about 1,000 vertical feet above A Balsa. Then down, sometimes steeply, through more forest then grassy pastures to Fuela, Pintin, and Aguiada. We stopped at a cafe for coffee, a piece of vegetable pie, and a hefty slice of Spanish tortilla, which was especially tasty. The two miles to Saria passed through more farm country. Some of the pastures had huge windrows of drying grass waiting to be bailed as hay. We met Bo, Tanya, and Jenny, whom we’ve seen many times along the way. Into Saria (pop. 13,500) where many short-term pilgrims are said to begin the Camino. We bought food at the biggest supermarket we’ve yet visited on our trip. After climbing about a hundred steep steps, we ate lunch outside a bar so I could get a metal spoon to down a pint of vanilla-macadamia nut ice cream. Betsy ate a normal lunch. After a steep descent out of town, we headed 500 feet uphill through old chestnut – oak forest to Barbadelo and Casa Barbadelo albergue. A new place with a view of the countryside. We checked in at 2 pm and got our bunk bed. Lots of pilgrims stopped by as the afternoon passed. Dinner tonightat the associated restaurant. Yet another fine day.

Day 30

This morning I heard voices from the empty lower bunk in our room. Closer inspection revealed a young man and woman snuggling in the bunk. Evidently, the young man in a top bunk in our room left last night to find his girlfriend on the trail. When they returned, they hopped in the empty lower bunk. Betsy and I ate breakfast of granola and yogurt plus coffee from the restaurant. Off for a short day of 11.4 miles with modest elevation gain. A little warmer this morning but we wore rain jackets and gloves nonetheless. We walked mostly on gravel paths (farm tracks) often lined with large chestnut and oak trees and often past grassy hay fields. The route passed through several hamlets with dogs snoozing on the path. Patches of cow flop revealed the presence of cows moving through the hamlets ito and from the fields. Electric fences provided effective cattle management. The rolling countryside had a pastoral look without much evidence of intensive human activity. Betsy and I stopped at a bar for coffee and a snack (a highly tasty nut cake). Alas, I left my glasses on the table. But a pilgrim will find the glasses and take them to the lost-and-found in Santiago where I will retrieve them. Portomarin, our day’s destination, differed from all others: It was situated on a hill above a reservoir on Rio Mino. We descended toward the reservoir on a steep, narrow path of sandstone bedrock then crossed the water on a high bridge. Up steep stairs into town and to the Huellas albergue. Only 4 in our room tonight. Betsy, I, and Charmaine ate lunch from our food bag across the street overlooking the reservoir and the countryside. Four days to Santiago.

Day 31

My lower bunk mate snored from time to time, but rocking the bed frame briskly usually stilled the noise. We didn’t get going until 7:30 after breakfast of granola, yogurt, and a banana. Back down the steep stairs at the entrance to town then across Rio Torres and uphill steeply through old forest to a high point. We began walking along Hwy LU-6356 from forest to cow and hay pastures. The cool weather end blue skies continued today. Today’s walk passed through about 10 villages, mostly with cafes full of pilgrims. We had coffee at a bar at Castromaier at mile 5 on the day. After a mile walk through forest, we walked along a paved road without much traffic. Happily, the throngs of hikers walked on a separate gravel path and not the road shoulder. We ate lunch at a bar in Ligonde with about 30 other hikers. Most of the pilgrims now have day packs, suggesting that they’re sending their luggage via transport services. Apparently, Spaniards can walk the last 74 miles of the Camino and get the coveted certificate. At one point, I counted 14 hikers in sight ahead of me. Near the end of the day’s walk, I ascended a hill then dropped into Palas de Rei. We found our albergue, Casa di Marcello, and checked in. Showers, clothes washing, the food to tide us over until dinner at 8 pm. We walked 15.3 miles today with 3,600 feet of elevation gain. More of the same tomorrow and the next day.

Day 32

A quiet night in the albergue even though it wasn’t full. We slept in until 7 then ate breakfast downstairs with granola and yogurt. Today proved similar to yesterday but with less elevation gain and loss (2,600 feet). We passed through 12 villages interrupted by Melide (pop. 7,800). The route ran mostly through forest fat enough from Hwy N-547 to eliminate traffic noise. We ran into Stephano Barbaro from Italy who showed us the book of poetry and photos we published in memory of his late wife. At Lobrero we got coffee and a snack in the company of lots of other hikers. A distinctively patterned common chaffinch patrolled under the tables eating bits of spilled crumbs. We continued our ups and downs often through forested countryside crossing Rio Furrlos on a classic bridge then uphill to Melide (pop. 7,800). Out of town we lost elevation to Rio Lazaro and ate lunch on a stone bench in the forest. One new aspect of today’s walk is small, planted eucalyptus plantations. This highly flammable tree may render Galicia’s forests more fire prone. We tired after lunch but kept walking. A highlight was seeing a dozen Holstein cows walking along the path supervised by slight woman and a dog. We finally reached Ribadiso de Baixo then up a short hill to Milpes albergue. Our friends Jenny and Patrick have the next bunk and Lucy and Alice are downstairs. I hope we eat dinner together. We’re 16.8 miles closer to Santiago.

Day 33

My musical lower bunk mate played her tunes frequently last night. For some reason, we got up early this morning for breakfast with coffee, dry granola, bacon, and fried eggs. At 7, we set forth in a warm morning under blue skies. No jackets or gloves this today. The guidebook showed multiple short ups and downs today with a total of 3,600 feet of elevation gain. Our route ran mostly through forests, often of planted eucalyptus trees, generally following but not close to Hwy N-547. Lots of shade courtesy of trees overhanging the path. We passed through 10 villages, about half of which had watering holes. Not as many pilgrims as we expected given our proximity to Santiago. Breakfast soon disappeared from my stomach. We stopped for coffee and a tasty chocolate croissant plus more dry cereal in A Calle. Somewhat fed, we continued our ups and downs. Many of the pilgrims who passed us had day packs that suggested their recent arrival on the Camino. These folks also looked overly clean including their new shoes. We walked into Arua and the albergue where we had reservations. Casting caution to the winds, we picked up Betsy’s shipped backpack and walked another 2 km into Pedrouzo to find beds. We decided to check the municipal Xunta albergue (which operates on first-come, first-served basis). A queue of somewhat scruffy, younger pilgrims awaited the 1 pmopening. We got in line and got single beds number 54 and 57 for 8 Euros each. Showers, clothes washing, then a late lunch of pizza and beer. Off to DIA for groceries for tomorrow then in the prone position to rest our legs. 14.7 miles today. Santiago tomorrow.

Day 34

Last night’s snoring beat all previous records. I wondered how many pilgrims left last night to take their chances outside somewhere. Betsy and I arose at 6, and ate granola and yogurt in the albergue. A few minutes later we had coffee at a cafe. Awakened, we retraced our steps to the Camino and headed west through forest. In 3 miles we rounded the end of the runway for the Santiago airport as a jet took off. How many peregrinos pondered the irony of a jet climbing overhead while they hiked the Camino? A few miles later we stopped at a cafe next to a plywood factory for coffee and a piece of coffee cake. Onward past a campground (one of only two that we’ve seen). Onward to a high point and a view of Santiago. We descended and crossed over Hwy A-54 into Santiago. The 3-mile walk through town on busy streets to the cathedral seemed to take forever. On the way, many more pilgrims joined the parade than we’d seen earlier in the day. Where did they come from? Did they sneak in via taxis? Spontaneous generation? Finally, we reached the cathedral and joined perhaps 500 people sitting or standing or congratulating each other. We said hello to Bo, Tanya, and Jenny and soon to Lucy. We left for the pilgrim’s office to get our certificates, which was surprisingly quick. Then to the Linares albergue. Hopefully, we can join our friends for dinner. We completed the Camino de Santiago.

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Comments 1

  • Sue wiley : Jun 5th

    To lisbon, Portugal from Tampa, fl by way of nyc with my niece. She is great, pleasant traveling companion. Began on Camino at Tui. Lovely trip. Enjoyed Santiago and cathedral, etc.

    Enjoyed your notes.


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