Monday, April 20, 2009

6/3/2009 - Fisterra

Apparently we were still in the mood to explore. We went to see Fisterra - ‘the end of the world’. It was windy, rainy and foggy. We went right to the edge where the foghorn sounded. It was so loud that I could feel my whole body vibrate. It was well worth the rotten weather. Actually, the bad weather might have made it better. If you go to the end of the world it’s kind of nice to have dramatic conditions. And the four km walk is nothing. The town itself is quite nice. Not much to do there. There are some ok food places, but the real thrill is seeing the end of the world.

Monte do Gozo/ Santiago de Compostela

We walked straight past Monte do Gozo. What else was there to do? Santiago de Compostela was so close and it was still early in the day… Suddenly we were passing a sign that announced that we had arrived. It was heartbreaking and wonderful at the same time. We trudged further following the arrows. On and on and on into the city. Once you arrive at the city outskirts, it’s a rude shock to discover how much further you have to go. Arriving at the Cathedral we were exhausted and desperately wanting a rest. After asking for directions we made our way into the city. We finally made it to the albergue, only to find it was closed until April. I was horrified. But the kind man informed us that there were two others that we could stay at and he gave us a map with both of them marked out. So off we went to the second albergue. It didn’t exist. We walked around for ages trying to find it, but despite asking for a million directions, we were still left standing at the right address, with no albergue in sight. We began walking to the next one. Suddenly, a French couple that we’d seen previously appeared from nowhere and informed us that none of the albergues were open, and we had to go back to Monte do Gozo. We made it back to Monte do Gozo, struggled up and up and up the hill to the rooms and I almost passed out from bliss. Turns out we shared a dorm with the French couple, and there were only three other women there, which meant that the bathroom was blissfully empty most of the time. Hot water, doors on the showers, a kitchen, and most importantly, the people there were relaxed and lovely.

Once when Gill and I were having a cup of tea in the kitchen, an Italian man walked in, placed a pink scarf on the table and said ‘For you!’ before walking out again. I managed to blurt out a ‘thank you’ to his retreating figure despite my confusion. I’d never spoken to this guy before. Still, despite the fact that after that I was too shy to talk to him, the scarf is beautiful and it made me feel good.

Also, once there was a donkey outside my window. I've learnt to appreciate the little things.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

1st March – Arzua

In Arzua we ran into El Trampo again. We called him this because one of the Spaniards we had met used the words ‘tramp’ and ‘vagabond’ to describe some of the pilgrims. Vagabond is a great word. This was a man who scared the crap out of me by laughing to himself and pretending to only speak Spanish. He would then quiz me about my life, in English, whenever Gill left the room.
The Albergue was closed so we went to a private one that charged 8 Euros. For dinner, we went out to a restaurant because there was no kitchen. There I was introduced to the Cheese Meal of Death. I got a lasagna. It was a few mushrooms and a bit of spinach with a layer of pasta, drowned in cheese. And I mean it was pretty much a bowl of cheese. Gill got a pizza. That was also just covered in cheese. It was painful walking back, we were full of dairy and it was freezing cold. Not to mention the fact that I was only wearing my skins and a jumper. Everything else had been given to the woman who ran the hostel for washing.
Still, this albergue was great. The bathrooms were beautiful. Hot water without the stupid press buttons, DOORS, and I was the only girl there. Privacy is wonderful.

28th Feb – Melide

At Melide, I did something I never thought I would do. I ate pulpo. Some man was out front of his restaurant cooking it and he started yelling at me to try it. I hate it when people yell at me. So despite hating the very idea of eating purple octopus parts, I popped it in my mouth and found that it was actually very tasty.
When we got to the albergue I met the lovely woman who ran the place – Maria. She was so nice. She made a huge effort to chat to us and through her English and Gill’s Spanish we had a fun conversation. We also met a polish guy who talked non-stop! He was very sweet though, and told us some great stories. He said that he enjoyed traveling with his wife, but she didn’t like hardcore hiking so he went out every so often without her. She preferred 10km strolls. I feel much the same way.

26th Feb – Ligonde

Ligonde was a tiny place with a lovely albergue. We had stopped at a place about 4km earlier and were told to keep walking because there was nowhere to stay. So we continued. Until we saw a lovely new looking building that, of course, was closed. I was so tired. But we pressed on because there was nothing else to do. And about half a km more there was another albergue! This always seems to happen. You see one that is closed, then right around the corner is an open one. It’s as if Spain is laughing at us. But unfortunately this is where we met some obnoxious Spaniards again. They were nice enough, but they were in our faces and simply HAD to keep their radios on all night.
Dinner at the tiny restaurant across the road was wonderful. It was basic food, and none of it was particularly tasty, but the sheer amount was very welcome. It was quite fun, as we watched Spanish film clips for ages during dinner. Some 50 year old woman was fronting a band and kept gyrating around the screen (and on a pole) in the tiniest of dresses. Her make-up was an inch thick and very scary. It was funny, but sad at the same time.

25th Feb – Portomarin

The walk from Sarria to Portomarin was hard. We had seen some Spaniards on the way at various times. Eventually they overtook us for the final time. About 15 minutes later we saw them sitting on the ground treating their blisters. Not pretty. At that point I was very glad we’d taken care of ourselves and had rests.

The first view of Portomarin was wonderful. The dam was so still that the reflection of the town in the water was a perfect mirror image. Walking across the bridge was great fun - I don't know what it is about walking across a stretch of water. For some reason I just find it fun. Easily pleased I suppose.

Of course, once you see the city, you still have to walk through it up to the albergue. The woman we needed to see wasn’t around so we sat out the front and waited. A freaky looking white dog wandered up to Gill and slobbered all over his pants. I found this hysterical. He didn’t, so after some yelling the dog trotted away.

The albergue itself was quite new and nice. But it held one dreadful shock that I hadn’t been prepared for. As always, I dumped my stuff and went to have a shower. I found the women’s bathroom, walked in and… there were no doors on the shower!!! I know, I shouldn’t have been so horrified, seeing as it was a female only bathroom, but I am not really happy with the idea of showering in front of people. It’s not exactly a good way to relax.

It’s a nice looking town though. In the morning there was a wonderful amount of fog and when I turned around to look back, the church rose up out of the fog. It was so beautiful. The old city of Portomarin lies beneath the dam. The church was moved stone by stone to the new location. The stones still have the numbers on them. It is one of the most beautiful places I have seen on the Camino.

Friday, April 3, 2009


Sarria was an accident that happened on the way to Samos. We didn’t mean to go there, because I was stuffed. I couldn’t stand the thought of adding extra kms to the walk even for a giant monastery. But we got confused due to either fatigue or poor signage (a bit of both maybe) and ended up on the road to Sarria. So we wandered around the monastery for a while. I was so hungry I didn’t want to wait any longer for food. We stopped at a little bar next to the monastery (if you take a right when you first see the monastery on the Camino, it has tables and chairs out the front and is quite close to the river). There I ate the most horrible omelette in the world, served by the most uninterested man in existence. It was a little bit surprising. For every cafe that has staff that actually want customers, there are three more that view pilgrims as an inconvenience. I felt so disgusting after that meal, that I made a conscious effort to always have bread on me so I wouldn’t ever be forced to chew on lumps of gristle and fat again.
It was a pretty town, but I was totally put off by the bar. Foul foul foul.


There were three albergues that we could see in Tricastella. We settled on the one that seemed the least popular as I was desperate for some privacy. And some steady hot water. Which we found. I was so grateful for the nice beds, the hot water and above all, the massive and clean bathroom. All such simple things, but they are hugely important to me. Yes, I am that lame. This was the place where I ate the saltiest meal in history. My body hated me more than ever. Then, when we packed up and left in the morning, a large dog decided to become my friend. I don’t trust strangers, and I trust strange dogs even less. Especially when they get nippy with me. After waving my sticks around (and thank heavens for them) the dog left me alone. Gill found it all quite amusing.

23rd Feb - O´Cebreiro

We took a bus in the morning but ended up walking anyway because there will soon be a festival and there were no ‘rural’ buses. That turned out to be a blessing because on the walk we saw the most beautiful scene. The fog was so thick it was covering a town and the valley below.
We then ended up in O´Cebreiro. I’m glad I went through here. It was strange to be in such an old place. It’s such a beautiful and bizarre little village. There were lots of round stone houses with roofs made of straw.
Apparently in the twelfth century a faithless priest in O´Cebreiro was celebrating mass. The weather was so dreadful that he assumed nobody would come. But one farmer did make the trip. God wanted to reward the farmer so he turned the host into flesh and the wine into blood. Then a statue of the Virgin Mary bowed down to the miracle.
The small stories on the Camino are what makes travelling so wonderful.