Ron’s Camino Part 2


14 January (Saturday):

One of the joys of travelling is writing about all that happened. I have been doing this on this my 3rd Camino, but something has gone wrong and I have lost it all. WordPress may be able to help me. But after many, many hours of trying to recapture what I have lost, I have decided to start again from where I left off last Sunday. As they say, it’s no use crying over spilt milk.

Today’a journey began at Lourenzathe towns highlight, and reason for being, is the 10th century Bedectine Monestery of San Salvador.  I saw it briefly last night as I came into town.  It is a national treasure and the Baroque facade was made by the same architect, Casis y Novea, who built the facade of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

I paused for a cup of coffee con leche (coffee with milk) and I was off.  As usual hard up hill to get onto the skyline again.  Today’s walk is along tracks mainly at the back on towns. On one of these I met a young man sitting on the track with a dog at his side, a guitar in its case and a pack.  When I asked him where he had been, he replied ‘All over Spain!’ He was now doing the Camino Norte in reverse.  As I said goodbye, his final words to me were ‘Enjoy Life!’ A message there, I’m sure.

Half way there I arrived at the town of Mondonedo. This town is one of the highlights of this stretch of the Camino. The 13th century was declared a national monument in 1902 and is known as the catedral arrodillada. (‘kneeling cathedral) for its perfect proportions and short statue. It’s frescos are among Galacia’s oldest and it has a beautiful 5 metre rose window. In the Church, there is also a museum. I spent a good time in the museum and was able to take photo’s. The stamp used to stamp my credential was 200 years old. I was also given a 2nd stamp that the curator who I spoke to had actually designed.

Then some photos around the Church. I decided that it would be good to stay here longer. As there was a bus terminal nearby I decided to stay a little longer and get the 315pm bus to Gontan. I went back to the church but was told at 2pm that it was closing for a while. If fact, the whole of  Mondonedo seemed to close at 2pm. Shopping were shouting and people dispersing. In 5 minutes it was like a ghost town. Welcome to Spain!

I made my way early to the bus stop. I met Diego there, from Spain. More about him later. He told me that it was a Saturday timetable today and the bus would come at 6.10pm.  What to do. I made my way back to the plaza and found a bar open. I had a coffee and worked on this blog. Everything else was still closed, including the Church.

Eventually the time did pass and we got the bus about 6.20pm. The place I wanted to stay at was closed but some folks helped me find an alternative. There was a room above the bar, but wifi only in the bar. They wanted cash. Beggars can’t be choosers so I accepted. Later I had a bocodillo with ham and my 1st beer, which I enjoyed.

15 January (Sunday):

It was fairly cold in the room but 2 big blankets were a help.

Today’s stage in my book is 40 kms but I am cutting that in half  by stopping at  Vilalba tonight and doing the next 20 to Baamonde  tomorrow. This is also the suggestion in the Spanish Guidebook.

I left about 7.30am and made my way into town to a bar for coffee. This was the same place I was unable to stay at last night. Diego was steady there, and a few locals, who seem to come here for a coffee and on to work.

As usual a hard climb out off town. It was cold and I regretted losing my gloves, my only loss thus far. By 11.30 am the moon was still higher in the sky than the sun.

Few bars today to be able to stop and relax. I do appreciate bus stops, were I get a seat and can have a water stop and work out where I am.

I arrived in Vilable about 5pm. I found a nice place to stay. The manager was most helpful. He said I was the 1st perigrino (pilgrim) through his establishment in 2017. This was a cafe/bar as part of the hotel. He also showed me a good place to eat.

For those wondering how I am getting on for church on Sundays, I am conscious of it and keep a lookout for Masses either on Saturday evening or Sunday. On previous Camino’s this has often worked out. But this time I am walking through more isolated areas and, although there are Churches, there is often not Mass on Sundays. However, I do have a Mass kit with me.

16 January (Monday):

There was breakfast provided but this was just coffee and a few small cakes. Then I was off about 8am

The walk today was 20 kms. A lot of ups and downs. Being smaller communities, not many opportunities to stop at bars for coffee. Most transport runs on the main highways, bus buses come this way and help tie the areas together. Today there was some rain but it heavy.

Finally, about 6pm I arrived at Baamonde Aubergue. Diego was there, plus the Norwegian pair I had met earlier. They are changing plans and are going to walk part of thenCamino Grances instead.

I had trouble with the internet. The Galacia-run aubergues have a new system. Type in your mobile phone number, (and prove you are not a robot!) and they will SMS you a code to get you started. This would not work for my phone so no internet for me, except at the cafe down the road.

AUbergues don’t really provide much, except a bed for the night. However, the price through Galacia is a uniform E6.00, which is appealing. They have strict rules as regards closing, lights out, leaving in the morning (out by 8am)

17 January (Tuesday):

I left about 8am and had what was to be the most unfortgettable day of the journey thus far (apart, of course, from the accident earlier on.)

Accomodation is as issue on the Camino’s in winter. Private establishments are not going to stay open in the hope that someone ‘might’ just turn up. This is more so with the Camino Norte than the Camino Frances.

The issue today was whether they was any accomodation (aubergues) between Baamonde and Sobrado dos Monxes.  This is a distance of 40kms. Too much. My Guidebook recommended the aubergue at Miraz at 14.5 km as the best place to stay the night. Miraz has 2 aubergues but they only operate from Aboy March to October.

The person in charge of the aubergue said that there were 2 aubergues open, one on either side of Miraz. Then, as I left the aubergue, someone contradicted that, saying there was an aubergue open in Miraz, but no others.

I was apprenhensive to say the least. All I could do was walk hard and be prepared for whatever came my way. The day began with a long hike up a really steep hill, and then the route went into a forest for sometime.

I was apprehensive about the forest. After my accident I just felt it could be a bit rough underfoot and I would be better to consider another way. If you can imagine the forest on a clock-map being 3pm, then I could see myself continuing walking to 12noon, and then cutting straight south to 6 o’clock, where Miraz was.

It semed a good idea at the time and I quickly walked to 12. I stopped there for a coffee and then proceeded south to where Miraz was. I began to make my way downwards towards Miraz. Then something unusual happened. A young man in an old car stopped and enquired of my movements. I explained that I was heading for Miraz and he offered to take me part of the way. His name was Max (as in ‘Maxamillion’).

He mentioned that I was on a new, yet to be opened route of the Camino. We talked about the forest and why I had decided to come this way. He associated New Zealand with ‘Kiwi’ (bird or kiwifruit I’m not sure, possibly the later), the All Blacks, and Lord of the Rings, and a beautiful country. A lovely person. He showed me his house, and finally drove me straight into Miraz and dropped me off at the bar. He gave a warm hug.

I asked for a coffee con leche, and wrote in English on my Google translator, where the next aubergue was. The barista said it was definitely Sobrado, 24 kms away.  There was also a Korean or Japanese couple there and they said they had come from Sobrado and that it would take 6, possibly 7 hours to make it. They added that the Monestery at Sobrado closed at 8pm.

I really had no option. Incidently, I had seen in one blog that the bar held the key to a vacant priests house that had a few mattresses in it, but that was not offered to me as an option here. It was 11.15am and semed do-able to get to Sobrado and the Monestery if I could click on at 4 kms an hour for 6 hours.

That vision was shattered in the next few hours.  with I left the bar at Miraz I plunged into really hilly, rocky territory. It reminded me of Waiouru back home. Although I had missed one forest, I had met another. Travel was really slow. I didn’t want to fall or make a mistake and so had to travel really slowly. I really hated this bit.  I needed to be out of this forest as soon as I could.

That’s my account of the area. What  the Guidebook had to say was quite different. To quote: ‘Savor the 1st 4 kms – some of the last scenic, off-pavement on the Norte. Today you will also reach the highest point on the Norte at 710 m at Marcela’

Well, I hated those 4kms. It would have taken me much over an hour, perhaps closer to two. The thought of reaching the Monestery before 8pm was going to be a challenge.  Finally, out of the forest at large, I struck the most barren of roads. Just no traffic at all.  For some reason it seemed like something out of a Stephen King novel!  It was cold, and a little windy. I was also hungry. There were no bars up here or any semblance of life.

I did find the aubergue at Roxina, which was shut, although they had left the washrooms open. It was now about 3pm and little sign of life, apart from some local forestry work. I seemed to walk forever. I did get to a slightly bigger highway with the occasional car through. I knew I couldn’t make it now. I asked a young man at a house about a taxi. Every village has someone who will call themselves at taxi driver for a price. He took me to a house and we negotiated a price to go to Sobrado. So I got to Sobrado by taxi. I was told the Monestery would open at 4.30pm. It was 4pm. Time for a coffee at a very flash cafe.

I made my way to the Monestery. The Monasterio de Santa Maria de Sobrado was founded in 952 and soon rose to prominence in the 10th century when the then abbot of Sobrado became the bishop of Santiago in 1142.  It became the 1st Monestery to join the Cistercian Order.  The Monestery features an impresive Baroque main church with a dominating facade built in the 17th century by Pedro de Monteagudu, as well as two 17th century cloisters, a 12th century chapter house, a Renaissance sacristy, and multiple chapels, including an early Romanesque chapel of John the Baptist.

At 4.30pm the door opened and I met the monk, who I thought was the GuestMaster, but as the seemed to conduct the liturgies as I was to see, could also have been the Abbot. On the liturgy, he wore a green skullcap.

He was an Englishman!  So communication was no problem. He took my details, showed me around. I was welcome to join in Evening Prayer at 7.30pm, Night Prayer at 9.15pm and Mass in the morning at 7.30am.

He mentioned that another perigrino had arrived in the morning. He then left me to my own devices. I found where I was staying. The other perigrino had set himself up already. As I came out of the sleeping area and who should I meet but Diego. I then realised what had happened. Diego had left Baamonde 1st. As I left I saw a bus, marked ‘Santiago’ heading off. Diego must have got that bus, arrived at Sobrado about 9.30am and checked in at the Monestery later in the morning. Checking in is 10am to 12 noon and 4.30pm until 7pm.  This was further confirmed when he brought a jar of the Monestery jam. I refused a similar offer as I didn’t want extra weight in my pack. But if you are not walking, as in Diego’s case, it’s not a problem. It pained me somewhat that he was doing this, but I guess everyone has their own journey to travel.

I arrived at the chapel and celebrated Evening Prayer with the monks. It was a beautiful spiritual experience. For those who have seen the film of the monks who were murdered in Algeres, then the worship here brought similarities. They were 14 monks and about 5 others dressed in (warm) civies. The later may have been in training as they came and went from the cloister with them.  They sang the liturgy.  Everything was done with great dignity. I would like to have taken photos but it would not have been right to do so. I had something to eat in the town and returned for Night Prayer.

Then sleeping the night in the small 8 bed dormentry. I chose a top bunk as it had supports to stop someone fallen out.


18 January (Wednesday):

I went to the Mass at 7.30am. I think Morning Prayer was incorporated into it. It was a beautiful experience. I was able to receive communion. I had thought of spending the day at the Monestery but I am not sure what extra things I would have been able to be involved in. I am sure there will be extra opportunities at Santiago.’

Diego was making no signs of moving. He seemed more intent on his cell phone, possibly checking out bus times.

I spent sometime exploring the Monestery, had a cup of coffee at the cafe and I was off about 9.15am.

Today’s journey is unique in that it is the last day of the Camino Norte, as this Camino merged with the Camino Frances at Arzua. It is 22 kms.

There was still a feeling of being in the country, but as Arzua gets closer one notices more industry on the sides of the road, mainly engineering.

Today I did a test on my speed and found I was  doing 9 kms in 2 hours, so about 4.5 kms an hour. Having said that, there was no really nasty stuff where you have to watch your footing.

Finally reached Arzua about 3.30pm.  Yes, a culture shock. Many pilgrims walking around, and in cafe’s. But getting accomodation was still a problem. There might been 5  or more allergies here but many will close over this period if they feel it is not worth their time to stay open. it   As a result there might just be the Government albergue left.  Same with pensions, Cass’s and hostels. I went to a pension. Was going to charge me almost as much as a hotel, but made it very clear there would be no heaters, although there were water heaters in the corridors and in the room. I said no thank you and went to a hotel where, for 5 euro’s more,  I had a double bed, heaters, breakfast, wifi, bath and shower.


19 January (Thursday):

Breakfast was coffee and 3 pieces of toast. Quite filling.  Early on today I met a South Korean walker. A nice, gentle person. He is with a group.  A nice chat and a selfie photo.  Wanted me to visit Sahara Familia in Barcelona. I told him I planned to.

In many ways today was one of the nicest days for walking.  Not much gradient.  Walk was through beautiful woodlands. Very quiet and peaceful. I didn’t see all that many on the walk. There were 3 in front as I began, three passed me and I met the South Korean guy.

I am heading today from Arzua to O Pedrouzo. This is 20 kms and is the final stage but one.  In fact my GuideBook says do another 20 to Santiago. The Spanish GuideBook has 2 stages though.

Another nice day of walking. Mainly along country roads and at other times along larger roads. I met the South Korean perigrino again. I did make one small mistake on the route, and the farmer stopped to put me right. It was a little bit hard today, and I was surprised when the South Korean perigrino told me there was only 4 kms to go.

Once I reached O Pedrouzo, I again had trouble finding accomodation. After a lot of trying, I finally found a place.  It was a pension. A little bit more expensive but I was just grateful that I had somewhere to stay. Nicely decorated, it reminded me of  Balanax Pension in Gijon many weeks ago. It is good when someone takes a personal interest in their pension and puts their own stamp on it.  There were only bars open so I has a coffee and a large croissant.  Also a few things from the Supermarket.

20th January  (Friday):

My last day in the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. It turned out not to be as easy as I expected.

The route seemed to be in 3 stages, with the 1st stage to Labacolla, about 8 kms, a third of the journey.  This was an important stage, as was here that the pilgrims ‘washed and scrubbed up’ ready for the final walk into Santiago.

Somewhere after here I somehow made a real mistake. I effectively went round in a circle, or perhaps a square! Quite sometime later I found myself  retracing familiar places – a subway, a pathway, words on signs, shells on a fence. Yes, it was true. I had been this way before, not 3 years ago but 90 minutes to 2 hours ago.

What to do? Have a coffee. At the bar I had to make a decision, Cut to the quick and find the nearest highway to Santiago, or carry on, no matter how tired I was. I thought of the pilgrims of the past.  What would they have done? Also the significance of these last few kms.

So I carried on. The long slow trek of 8kms up to Monte de Gozo.  I had not eaten since having a croisant this morning and just the 1 coffee.  I had some sardines so had them and water.  I finally made Monte de Gozo. I tried to imagine what it was like for those early pilgrims, who had walked hundreds, perhaps thousands of kms to finally see the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral from Monte de Gozo. Of course, trees now cover this area, and it is not possible to see the Cathedral, but one can imagine what it was like for those early pilgrims.

Then the long talk into town. I was dying for a coffee but tried to keep going. Finally, at 4.15pm I arrived at the old town and the Cathedral of  Santiago de Compostela. Last year I remember meeting Sandy and partner here, as I was making my way to the Cathedral, and them taking photos and taking me to collect  my Compostela. This time I did head for the Cathedral, but a sign ‘No Backpacks’ meant I would have to go there later.

I was pleased to have arrived and very happy, but I needed to do a few final things. I received my Compostela, written in Latin. I also received a Certificate of Distance travelled. I met a Japanese woman who happily chattered until she reached the Paragon Hotel (you know, the one in the film) where she was staying.

I was not sure where to stay. I checked out one hotel but it was too expensive. So I went back to my old haunt of the last 2 Camino’s, the Hotel Avienda. But they were pretty full and were having trouble with the wifi, as they were accessing a new supplier as things were still not right. I went back to the 1st hotel planning to stay and the kind receptionist knowing my plight, said they had another hotel with prices I could afford, so I gratefully accepted.  It’s a splenddd hotel, at a price I can afford. I ckecked and had a good soda in the bath.

Later, I had a meal out, a perfect end to the day.

21 January (Saturday):

My original plan was to leave Santiago today, carry on 4 more days – 3 days to Muxia and 1 to Finesterre  and then back to Santiago for a few days rest. But, like the apostles, I want write everything down so I am going to spend some time here re-doing everything that I have lost.  I will see happens after that.

It was good to be back it Santiago. It feels like a 2nd home to me. When I received my credential, there was a quote on the wall from the 10th century Codex Calistinus which stated ‘Santiago has become the joy of people from across the world. Because of this, those who arrive with sadness, return with joy.’

I plan to spend a few days here before continuing 4 more days to Muxia and Finesterre, which once were considered the ends of the earth.

I went to the evening Mass today and spent time taking  in what Santiago has to offer.

22 January (Sunday):

I went to the pilgrim’s mass today at 12 noon. You may be wondering if I experienced the Botofumeiro.  It is a huge thurible that sways up and down the middle of the church.  Originally it was used because the pilgrims smelt after their long journey and was an attempt to keep the smell away. I certainly saw it in the middle of the sanctuary but it was not operating.  Because it is costly to operate it is paid for by local businesses as something for people to see and stay for. It is usually used on a Friday. However now, in the down season, the businesses  don’t want to pay for it to operate and the church won’t use it unless it is paid for or subsided.

I have had a few days rest, and tomorrow continue my journey to Muxia and Finesterre.

This is the end of Part 2. Tomorrow I will begin Part 3 – Santiago to the end of the earth