Ron’s Camino de la Plata 2019-2020

I have walked 4 Camino’s in the last 5 years – French, Portuguese, Northern, and Primitivo (the original Camino). . During the year I have been tossing up about doing one more. The one I have wanted to do was the Camino de la Plata from Seville. But because of the distance – 1039 kms, I kept putting it out of my mind, thinking I might do it when I returned from active ministry. But the thought kept coming back and I have decided to do what I can of it now, leaving on Boxing Day.

 

The Camino de la Plata means ‘the Silver Route’, the word plata’ meaning silver and was thought to have been named by the Romans as the route for transporting silver from nearby mines, but the only mines in the area were gold mines. The name is probably from the Arabic word al-balat, which means cobbled paving or ‘the tin road.”

I leave NZ/Aotearoa on Boxing Day and arrive in Madrid, Spain the next day, and catch a train to Seville, in the south of Spain. I am to begin walking the next day, Saturday, 28th December. See you then….

 

 

 

 

 

 

26 December (Thursday); I have made my final pack. Only new item is a new pair of walking pants. I have decided against tracking poles as I am still not used to them. The 1st part is fairly flat and I can buy some along the way if necessary or improvise and create my own.

 

 

Melissa, Neville and Mark dripped me off at the airport. A chance to weigh my pack. It is 6.1 kg and the carry-on 3.7. That sounds too much but my carry-on has my tracking boots and jacket, plus Christmas cheer to eat.

I am flying Qatar Airlines for the 1st time – 18 hours to Doha and 6 hours to Madrid. I decided to stay on N.Z time so basically tried to sleep from 9pm to 7am. That would have worked well had it not been for the person in the window seat who I had to continually had to get up for!

 

It is a marathon alright. One amusing incident was a Note on the screen telling people to pray in their sears! I obeyed. It would have been difficult to pray in the narrow aisles!

 

27 Demember (Friday):

 

The longest day. Arrived at Doha, Qatar, at 00.10am. We were bused to terminal. Apparently the busiest time here is 11pm to 1am. It’s 6 hours to Europe so the plan is to get there by about 7am, ready for the new business day or holiday. I only had 75 minutes between flights so that was spent getting from A to B. Again bussed to plan. One up for Emirates. The flight from Doha to Madrid wasn’t too bad. They put us to bed almost immediately and woke us up about 6am, with 2 hours for breakfast and to freshen up.

 

Finally we arrived. I was struck immediately by the temperature. It was 8C. I was freezing (and tired). The plan was to get a train from the aAirport to where the train left for Seville. I had been told the trains ran hourly between the cities and thought I would catch one about 9am, be in Seville by 11.30am and spend the day sightseeing. That turned out to be washtub thinking. I had purposefully not booking the train from NZ in case the plan was late, Passport queue was long etc I could do without that.

 

Unfortunately the earliest train I could get on was 4pm, so just had to wait. The Renfe train system is excellent, one could hardly hear anything, it was so quiet. I was in coach 30 so it was a big train.

 

I arrived in Seville at 630pm. I had book accomodation. Taxis had long queues, so I walked it. Tooled me 40 minutes. Good practice for the Camino. It was really difficult finding the place. I had planned to go to the Cathedral to get my pilgrim passport but of course it was closed at this stage. Luckily. The accomodation also had the passport.

 

I went to bed happy to be on another Camino although slightly apprehensive. Sleep interrupted by someone ringing from NZ at 11.57pm!

 

28 December (Saturday): (973 kms to go)

 

I forgot to set the alarm and woke up at 7.30am. A light breakfast at 8am. At this stage I was wondering what to do re the Cathedral. To go back or continue the Camino from my accomodation. I decided to go back and I am pleased I did. The was a Saturday morning Mass and then I was able to get the Cathedral stamp on my passport.

 

The Serville Cathedral is sail to be the largest Cathedral in the world! It is certainly huge, and beautiful. Buried here.Is the bony of Christopher Columbas, which was interned here from Cuba in 1909.

 

I slept the night in the ‘old town.’ The big cities here are like any other city, but they have an ‘old town’ which is as it always was.

 

Stage 1 Seville – Guillena (25 kms : 951 kms to go)

I finally set out about 9.30am. It is fairly quiet, with the city still waking up.

 

The outskirts of Seville is a fairly run-down area. There are a lot of variants, caused by the river and whether there have been rain. But Seville is having good weather, about 17C today and there are no problems with flooding. As a result, I am able to follow the ‘river roots’ which is the preferred and quicker route.

 

About midday I come to the town of Santiponce. The original town was washed away in a flood, and the village was rebuilt higher up, where the monks had a Monastery.

 

I stopped here for a coffee and a bite to eat. Across the road from the cafe is a Monastery. The monks are no longer there. It has been less kept and I spent a while there.

 

The main road of Santiponce seems to go on forever. I was looking for the ruins of a place called Italica. This was built by the Romans about the 3rd century. It is the birthplace of the Emperor’s Tragon and Hadrian. I think it is some distance off the Camino and I missed the turnoff for that.

 

The final 10 kms was a little monotonous, following a straight part that seemed to go on and on. I was pleased to finally arrive about 4.30pm.

 

I am staying at Hostal Francis, and think I will like it here. Besides a room, there is also dinner and breakfast provided for a reasonable cost.

 

When I got to my room I realised just how tired I was. My back was aching through carrying the pack.

 

But a shower and a good dinner have made me feel better. When I was in my room writing this, I could hear band music and thought someone had the radio or a recording up loud. I peered out the window and there was a police car leading a band playing and many townsfolk and children following. I am not sure what it was all about but gave a bit of excitement to all.

 

 


 

Monastery

 

Inside Monastery

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Hard ground

 

Water tower

 

 

Made it!

 

 

29 December (Sunday):

i’m Still getting used to the time zone and woke up several times during the night. A 3 course pilgrims meal last night. Today breakfast was coffee, juice and toast. I have brought gifts from NZ so left one here as I really enjoyed the stay.

 

Section 2 – Guillena to Casteloblanco (18 kms)

Left about 9am. The route today is through undulating country, well away from the road, except for the final 4 kms. It passes through a lot of olive and orange trees. Between 2kms and 7kms it can be very mushy after heavy rains. But that is not the case today. The ground is very hard, but not smooth , so I have to be careful I don’t trust my ankle. Finally I arrive at the road into Castilblanco, and am pleased when the final 4 kms are over.

I meant to mention that yesterday I met 2 others leaving from Seville to do the Camino. The 1st was a South Korean, Peter, and then2nd a young woman that I have not seen agaiI am staying at a Casa for Euro 14. Peter is here, and another Lorean, and a Dutch woman, Ann Catherine.

The

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Just had an unusual Esperance experience, I could hear Church bells so presumed it was Sunday evening Mass. Quite a crowd outside the Church as I went inside. The bells continued to ring, and people looked anxiously towards the back of the Church. Perhaps the priest was late or had forgotten. Then a large black car appeared, and huge wreaths were taken out of a hearse, and a body was being taken into the Church. It was a funeral

 30 December (Monday)

 

Section 3: Castileblanco to Almadén de la Plata (29.2)

needless to say, this was very close to my limits.  I hard been warned about water and food. I filled my 2x1000ml water bottles and some food with me. Because I thought time might be a factor, I left before sunrise at 7.30. It was strange walking in the dark.  The route is in 2 very different stages. 

Stage 1  was 16 kms along a road. That nearly liked me!  It was quite warm and the road seemed to go on forever and ever. I got to the stage where I felt I just couldn’t make it. 

The 2nd half was through a National Park. I think it is mainly about the natural vegetation and trees, rather than animals, as I didn’t see any except for pigs.  The later are everywhere.  They are big too.

it was pleasant enough walking although  tiringo. I quickly used up the last of my water and food. The track was undulating except and the end. It is called ‘Calvary’ and is a final uphill climb. Near then too is a grave of a Maurice Laurent, who died just before the top.

the top view is magical. Then a very steep downhill to the village to  Almadén. The housed are all white will brownish roofs. 

I found accomodation  and had a good nights sleep.

 

 31 December (Tuesday):

Stage 4: Almadén de la Plata – Monasterio (33kms : 871.5 kms to go)

This would be my longest so far. It was in 2 parts- Almadén to el Real de la Jara and then to. Monasterio..

The section fron Almadén went through another reserve. It was mainly fenced and a sign on the road warned people to beware of deer. However all I saw was mainly pigs. One of the funny experiences involved pigs. The track ahead seemed to have a light brownish soil to it and over the entire track were pigs. The soil was actually grains of food for the pigs and they were going to stay there in the middle of the track until it was all gone! I had to Mo ever myself around the track and the pigs to continue my journey!

I had filled my drink bottles and was soon using them. It was fairly undulating until towards the end where it became quite steep both up the the top and then down. However this time it did not go down to a college but instead a long walk to el Real de la Plata.

On arriving at El Real i came across an interesting event. All the village cars were lined up for an event called ‘El Kilo..’ Then. At 12.30pm they began to go around the town honking their horns. This went on for a least 30 minutes. I didn’t know what it was about and had no one to ask. I thought it may have been to scare off evil spirits on the last day of the year as I had of something similar before. A could of days later I was able to ask and found out it was collecting food for those in need!

This really bought me face to face with my limitations walk-wise. I realised the longer distances would be too much for me. I did carry on to Monasterio but couldn’t make it on my own stream and needed another form of transporBy the time I arrived at Monasterio celebration the Nee Year was already in full swing. I was going to stay at Hotel Moya bit was encouraged not too by the staff. They said the bar was right under the accomodation and I would get no sleep. The ‘fiesta’ would last until 4am to 5am in the morning!

So I went down the road to a hostel. Had a meal in the restaurant. I had thought of joining in the celebrations of the New Year but decided to have a rest instead.

1st January 2020 (Wednesday):

Stage 5: Monasterio to Fuente de Cantos (21 kms: 859.5 kms to go)

Felix ano Noemi – Happy New Year!

Exciting to wake up to a New Year. I heard nothing last night. It was very quiet where I was. Quiet walk through town also. I had been told nothing would be open but I did find a cafe open for business. I was able to get coffee and toast. Whatevs way to toast the Nee Year! I was grateful to the bar tender and gave one of my souvenirs – her smile was priceless!.

Today’s walk is through a natural reserve. As it is a holiday there are a lot of walkers about. At least 7 of us seem to be going towards Santiago, although some may only so a section. Some had mentioned confusion with the signs but today I found the yellow arrows easy to follow., but I did make a blunder at the beginning. I thought I saw a yellow marker and headed up a hill. When I could see no more markers, I enquired and seemed to be told to go back. But then the person indicated ahead and said 1 lm. I took it to mean that if I carried on 1 Km I could connect with the Camino trail. What he must have been saying is that the road would take me there directly. I reached the road and it took me back to Monasterio where I had just come from. So it is now 10am and I am back at the beginning!

I finally went out the right way and follow directions more carefully. Mainly today was over rolling plains. Few cattle, mainly pigs, but also cattle and horses. Quite a few vines.

From about 10 kms out I could see Fuente de Cantos shinning white in the distance. But it seemed to take ages to get there. I was exhausted when I arrived. The town was very quiet. There were no cafe’s open. Then the place I wanted to stay was at the other side of town. Although it is presumed that pilgrims will stay a auberges or backpackers, in fact many do not, and I met a couple I had walked with having a wine and taped when I arrived there.. sadly, the imternet was not going well, hence my getting behind on these postings.

2nd January 2020 (Thursday)

Stage 6: Fuente de Cantos to Zafra (24 kms : 827.1 kms to go)

I decided not to set the alarm and let my body do the talking. I woke up at 8.30am! It will be a long day.

I thought a coffee and toast would be in order. So I eventually left town at 10am. Today was another good day weather-wise – blue sky, and no breeze, the later not so good as a breeze would help.

There are 2 towns along the way. The 1st is Carroll’s de la Barrow’s free 6 kms. I walked through the town looking for a cafe and eventually asked. It was off a side street at the beginning of town so I left it rather than go back.

It was a long and hard day and the next town – Puebla de Sancho-Perez seemed to take such ages to appear. I realised that once I am by myself I tend to slow down. I was definitely not doing 4 kms an hour – more like 3 which doesn’t get anyone anywhere very bast. When I arrived at this town after 20 kms, I entered the cafe but it was just being closed for the afternoon. However he did show me another cafe. As I was exhausted, I thought the only way I would make Zafra would be to stop and eat. I ordered a salad.

The final 4 kms went well. In fact the outskirts of Zafra appeared within a couple of kms and so I found myself walking through the town within a very short tome.

I am told Zafra is absolutely beautiful but I will need to check that out in the morning. I am staying at Hotel Cervantes, well known from ‘’The Man of La Mancha.’

3 January 2020 (Friday)

Stage 7 – Zafra to Villafranca de Los Barros (20 kms : 807 kms to go)

I stayed last night at Hotel Cervantes. There were images there on Don Quixote and Sancho, well known from The Man of La Mancha. I went to the restaurant next for coffee and toast. I met a group of men there who meet every morning for breakfast. They had never met a Kiwi. In talking to one of hem, he told me how important the pig industry is to the area. People enjoy having pork to eat.

I had been told Zafra is a ‘little Florida’ and it certainly look a bit like that with its lovely palm trees and buildings.

IT’s always good to do something different on the Camino and this time I listened to some music. It was another 22km walk with just one village in between. I met my fellow walkers at a coffee stop at that village.

Today was overcast for the 1st time. It made me think that the good weather I have been experiencing is coming to an end. However, in the afternoon, the blue sky came out again.

Today was an easier day, if any day can be called easy. Mainly passing through bare fields or where vines will grow. No sign of cattle. When I finally Arrived at Villafranca de Los Barros I found my cell phone was flat and I had no way of contacting accomodation or finding my way there. I did find a place where I could recharge the battery and I was able to organise accomodation.

4 January 2020 (Saturday):

Stage 8: Villafranca de Los Borros to Torremejea (27.5 kms – 780kms to go)

I found a nice place to stay last night – Hotel Diana. It was one of the nicest places I have stayed. I had dinner there – in a wine cellar!

A good bleep and I was ready for a new day. Overcast again, but turning sunny in the afternoon. I bought an banana, an orange and some buns as well as 2 full water bottles. It is the later that makes my pack so heavy, but it is 27.5 kms today and zilch opportunity of getting food or drink.

I’m using the GPS on my iPhone to see Joan fast I am going and whether a am slowing down on the way. Looks like I am doing more than 4 kms an hour and I don’t seem to slow down. This was a good experiment but lost power on the iPhone and meant I couldn’t take many photos. Not that there was much to see – just miles and miles of olive trees and vineyards. It was hot and I tried to stop every hour for food and drink. I began about 9am and finished about 3ish. It was a really monotonous day, and all of it spent on my own.

I am staying at Hotel Millenium. It does have wifi.. There seems to be competition for the most complicated password This one today is 20 letter and numbers.

There is a choice of restaurants tonight. Tomorrow is an easy leg – only 12 kms to Merida. I am looking forward to Merida day it is full of Roman history.

5 January (Sunday):

Stage 9: Torremejía to Merida) (12 kms – 768 kms to go)

I had my coffee and toast and was away early. I left at 8am and aimed to get to Merida by 11am and spend the day sightseeing, as Merida is full of Roman history. Wishful thinking. The route followed the main road at 1st, then onto a secondary road, and finally through olive groves and vineyards.

I was doing well and then somehow things went wrong and I wound up where I didn’t want to be. Correction took a while and probably cost me 40 minutes or so. Finally into the (new) town and then to the famous bridge crossing the river into the old town. It was built in 25 BC and is 792 metres long. It was seen as a model for other bridges and is the oldest Roman bridge of that length.

I made my way up to the city centre and had my customers coffee. It was now time to find where to stay, change clothes, and do some sightseeing. This is where my problems started. Everywhere I went was closed. When I finally did find somewhere it was now 3pm.

I headed back to the bridge. Next to it are numerous examples to Roman art and buildings. Eventually it was invaded by the Visigoths and then by the Moors. They built a strong Castle there so as to watch anyone coming over the bridge. That was in the 800’s. In about the 12th Century the Crusaders took it over, and gave it to the Knights of Santiago.

There are many other things here that I did not see but will just mention in passing. There is a Roman Theatre, a Roman Circus for chariot races, a fighting area with lions and humans wishing save their lives, an aqueduct and many other Roman marvels. They were certainly marvellous engineers.

I did visit the Church of St Eulalia. This is perhaps seen as the 1st known Christian Çhurch in Spain. The remains of that Church Have now come to light. and I saw executions of it under an existing church.

In Spain, 6th January, the Feast of the Epiphany, is very important, as the 3 Wise Men come to town. So about 6pm the streets were lined with people celebrating the occasion. Huge trucks came through the town with mainly children on board depicting various children’s story-book characters. A lot of loud music and the throwing of sweets from the trucks. The procession took about an hour.

When it was over I tried to find the Church for Mass. After that something to eat and back to my accomodation.

6 January (Monday):

Stage 10: Merida to Alcarscar 35kms. 733 kms to go.

This morning I headed back to the main square to coffee and toast, and I was on my way. Slow walking out. Then I began to walk on a designated cycle / walker-way. I stopped for a coffee. The man wanted to give me a bag of oranges, but I had to explain that I could only take 4 because they would make he pack too heavy. (I had them in the evening and they were delicious.). He also wanted to cut off my beard – I’m happy to get rid of it also-I just need to find a shop open that sells shaving cream!

Then to an artificial lake the Romans had built to supply Merida with good water, and also to irrigate the land. It is a magnificent piece of engineering.

A long days walk. At Abujen, I meet a German woman who is carrying a tent to sleep in. She has done quite a few Camino’s, including the Ignation Camino.

Finally I arrived at Alcuescar. A small and I knew accomodation might be difficult. It was. Everything I tried was closed. Through the persistence of one of the locals, she tracked down the owner and now I have somewhere to stay. Not flash, but it will do. At this stage of the year, owners are not very interested in opening up their premises for just a single person, and I guess I understand that. It’s just difficult when you are that single person.

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7 January (Tuesday):

Stage 11: Alcurscar to Caceres: 28 kms; 705 kms to go.

I began again with coffee and toast at the 1st Bar I could find. It took a while to find the Camino trail again. It was quite cold. There was a frost layer on the grass. I followed a track on the side of the road, sometimes switching to the (little used) for a distraction.

What was a little unusual is the the Camino by-passed 2 villages where it would have been quite possible to have gone through the villages. However there was a water font outside one village, and a restaurant near a service station just outside the next village.

One of the unusual elements of the Camino is the you get to walk across an airport runway. I am told it is an active airport but it certainly seem so today and look pretty rundown.

Quite a bit of cattle about, but not much else. No pigs or oranges trees about either, although there are a lot of oranges being sold.- I was large bags of them being sold at a service station.

I walk 25 kms to Valdesalor but needed help the rest of the way to Carcares. Veldesalor is unusual in that it is a new tomb, built in the 1960’s, and doesn’t have sense of history that most other towns on the Camino have.

8 January (Wednesday):

Stage 12: Caceres to Cesar de Caceres (12 kms; 693 to go).

Carcares was founded by the Romans in the 1st century BC. It was named Noba Caesarian. It’s prosperity declined after the decline of the Roman Empire, and after was sacked by the Visigoths in the 5th century it became an insignificant way Station on the Via de la Plata. The Moors

built a military base here in the 12th century and built the walls of the city but that didn’t stop it falling to The Crusaders forces soon afterwards.

I realised today my plans would not quite work out. The distances between places was either too short or too long for what I wanted to do.

I decided to walk to Casar de Carcares and work things out from there. Things started well enough. I had had my 1st shave since leaving NZ. The hostel provided a free breakfast as part of the cost.

Getting out of Carcares was not easy, and I soon found myself off the Camino and seemingly unable to get back on. So I arrived at Cesar de Carcares by a different route and it took me quite a while to reestablisj my bearings. It was now obvious that I could go no further today. I wanted to ‘rest up’ and didn’t think an aubergue would do that for me. Accomodation seemed very limited. Then I saw an advertisement for an apartment and thought I would try that. That’s is where I am now. The price is reasonable. It even has a clothes washer and dryer, This is great as I have not had a chance to do any of that. Washing it easy but drying not so. There is food nearby. Perfect.

9 January (Thursday):

Stage 13: Cesar de Cáceres to Carnaveral (25kms. 648 kms to go)

Just a word on food. I am sure is famous for its food and I don’t want to take anything away from that. I’m at a disadvantage also I’m not knowing the language. On the Camino they have special reduced cost meals for pilgrims at some places. It consists of a soup, a main course which is usually meat a chips. And a simply dessert. On other occasions they will do their best to help you. Often Vegas are lacking and it is meat and chips, cooked in a lot of fat. They is always wine, which is given to you like water over here. Perhaps I have mentioned that after going for a meal last night and shortly to go for another.

The washing machine/dryer didn’t quite work for me last night, as the clothes were still wet. Some dried during night, apart from socks.

Had coffee in a rather flash bar and then was off. Again, it was cold as I left but also foggy, in fact the fog did not lift until midday. Travelling along the track a local farmer offered me a lift to his farm further up the track. This saved me a good deal of time.

In this area there are some huge lakes and a reservoir. It was a long walk up hill to get to them. There were 2 bridges across 2 rivers that feed into the lakes. Coming down from the reservoir was a long walk of 10 kms along the N-630 until I finally reached the town of Cañaveral, where I stayed the night.

As usual, it was difficult finding accomodation in such a small town at this time of year. The place I intended to stay at was closed due to a funeral. I stayed at the aubergue. In the evening I went to the local bar and has steak and chips. The TV showed Barcelona playing. The commentators get really excited when Messi gets the ball. I left just after half when the opponents scored a quick goal against the run of play. I went back to the aubergue but the game was not on my TV.

10 January (Friday):

Stage 14: Cañaveral to Grimaldo

(14 kms, 634 kms to go).

The aubergue had breakfast at 8am. It is always quite generous in what it provides. My fellow travellers are aiming for 28kms today but I know it is too much for me and I will settle for a smaller distance.

Today I broke Rule 1 of walking the Camino – walk the the right direction! Today was really cold with a win to boot. For some unknown reason I went the wrong way. It was only after 2 kms that I realised my error. Nothing to do but to turn around. I lost 4 kms in all.

Today has a choice of 2 villages of the Camino, I guess because of the long distances between villages on the Camino route. At 1st I kept my options open but finally decided on the 1st option, Grimaldo It 1km off the Camino and is up a narrow track.

La Posada de Grimaldo had received good reports from fellow travellers and I planned to stay there. Luckily I met the mother of the owner who set me up. A phone call to her son was helpful and he is going to. Drop in this afternoon. It’s a delightful spot and I should be fine here. It’s a small town with not much happening. I have arrived early so can take things easy.

Just a word about the direction markers that I am finding on this Camino Via de La Plata. I am crossing 4 different areas of Spain. They are Andalucía (from Sevilla to El Real de la Jara), Extremanjura (from Monasterio to Cáceres), Casrella Y Leon (from Salamanca to Puebla De Sanabria) and Galicia (from Qurense to Santiago de Compostela).

Apart from the yellow arrows all over the place – on trees, rocks and buildings, each region so far has signalled the Camino way differently. In Andralucia is was a ornate marble plaque. It looked nice but didn’t actually tell you the direction, and I had to rely on the arrows. In Extremanjura 2 of the 3 symbols used (excluding the yellow arrows) are nice but not all that helping in terms of showing you the way. One is a concrete block (last picture above) which is either yellow or green (looks blue in the photo) or both. Yellow means this is the original road or route, green means this is the Roman road, and yellow and green on the same block means this is both the Camino route and the Roman road. There is also a concrete plaque which has the letters ‘V P’ on it, not meaning ‘very important person’ but ‘Via de La Plata,’ the Silver Route. I will see how the symbols change in the next regional area of Spain.

11 January (Saturday):

Stage 15: Grimaldi to Galisteo (19 kms: 620.7 to go)

It’s hard to believe that I am beginning my 3rd today. I woke up this morning grateful – Las Posada de Gramaldi is a beautiful place to stay. I can eat anything I like in the well-stocked kitchen. I had a meal out last night – soup, steak and chips. I slipped the dessert. Now for breakfast toast and coffee, and 4 oranges for the journey.

I began about 8.30am. It was cold and frost was on the grass. Almost the whole day was in the hills, away from the traffic. I had several jobs and am now by myself as the 3 others I was with did this stage yesterday whereas I have broken it into 2.

The day took a little longer than I had imagined. Often one can see the town in the distance and there is a long section, often on toad, to get to it. But this time, Galisteo just came upon me There is a. village outside the Castle walls and a village in the old part of town.

Had trouble getting accomodation, but eventually ended up Aubergue de turistco de Galisteo. It is E15 with breakfast provided. I am writing this waiting for the check in. We have only talked over the phone.

Galasteo is an impressive walled hill town which is very much as it was when built by the Muslim’s in the 11th century.

The Manager did come. Brought breakfast. Apparently the highlight tomorrow is visiting Caparra, an important Roman area. There is no accomodation, so he picks me up and takes me to the next place.

I went for a walk inside the walled city, and checked for a meal. They don’t serve meals until after 8pm, so I will wait until then.

12 January (Sunday)

Stage 16: Galisteo to Carcarboso (15 kms : 605 kms to go)

I was by myself in the aubergue last night. The heat pump meant it was not too cold. I skipped the shower. The breakfast was really not much – 10 biscuits, milk and orange juice and 2 small pasteurise. More something you would have as you walk. I went to the Bar across the road for a coffee before heading off about 9am.

Getting out of town was a little tricky, then it was olong a quiet road. Passed through a small town at 4kms with the Bar closed, and then arrived at Carcarboso 2 hours later.

I really did enjoy this short trip of 12 kms in 3 hours. I think being on a fairly flat road helped time-wise. I headed for an aulbergue that had been recommended. A man, I think not the owner, ushered me in, showed me the room and a few other things and then was gone. I had not paid or anything. I waited what seemed a reasonable time and went out to explore.

Carcarboso does have a character of its own. This is because some artist character has been ‘let lose’ and they have done a lot of 1950’s style scenes. So there is a colourfulness s about the place that I have not seen in small villages before. I had something to eat and headed for the Church. There were people mingling outside. I wrong in my Google translator ‘Is there a Mass today?’ And the person wrote back ‘It’s all over!. Apparently the Mass was at 1pm, which makes sense when you consider people have a late lunch 2pm to 4pm.

13 January (Monday)

Stage 17: Carcaboso to Aldernueva de Camino (38.1 kms : 567 kms to go).

What happened yesterday was that the ‘owners’ had left town and left their aubergue in the hands of a neighbour 2 doors down who runs a business from there. It was he who let me in. But during the day I had no key to come and go, and nothing to connect the heat pump. He returned at 8.20pm full of life to take my money. I let him know that I was gradually turning into an ice statue! Still no key. He said if I went out to the restaurant the door would be open still when I returned and it was. Three course pilgrims meal main course – you guessed it- chicken and chips. The heat pump made a difference and I had a good night’s sleep.

But a worrying one. Today’s stage is 38.1 Kms which is not something I can manage. The distance is because an aubergue closed in the middle of the route, leaving this gap. Suggestions have been to get a taxi from Caparra more about that place later). One hostel offered to pick up people from Caparra take them to their hostel and drop them back in the morning, the shuttle service at no charge. But when I tried to book this place through Booking.com I got told they were not ably to take me. Another possibility was to get a bus, but buses don’t go from village to village but to and from a large city away from the Camino.

I decided to start. I did the 1st 12 kms in under 3 hours, and then another 6 to Caparra. About Caparra. There was probably a settlement there already. The Romans built a city there. The Arch of Caparra was the centrepiece of the city. Today it still stands as it did in the 1st century when it was built. Around it are a lot on archeological sites. You could walk around and for the 1st time, explanations were in Spanish and English, which was a great help.

It was 2pm. I did have taxi phone numbers. I decided I could do the 20kms in 5 hours. Firstly, I got lost, or rather my GPS had me at a very different place from the Camino trail. Not matter how, I could not reconnect with the Camino trail. I practiced a new word in Spanish ‘Estoy pernados’ which translated means ‘I’m lost!’

Eventually I met 2 young guys who put put me back on the right track. Then a lot of walking. After that a young guy picked me up. Turns out, he lives in the town next to Aldernueva del Camino. He works as a farmer at Caperra. A nerdy nice person. He told me the weather forecast is for rain tomorrow.

I arrived in Aldernueva Del Camino at 5pm, and quickly found accomodation (not in an albergue!).

14 January (Tuesday)

Stage 18: Aldernueva to Calzada de Beja (22 kms : 547 kms to go).

I had a good breakfast, including Kiwifruit. The weather forecast was cloudy with possibly rain, but the later did not eventuate. The distance for today of 20 kms did not seem too and seemed nicely broken into 5 km coffee breaks.

There is a Jewish village called Hervas, founded in the 15th century, that I would like to have gone to, but it meant a diversion there and back of 6 kms, so I left it. Next, there was quite a large motorcamp that had a cafe attached.

At about half way, I arrived at Banos de Montmeyer. This has been a hot spring town since Roman times. I was keen to try them out. Unfortunately they were closed. I could see by the number of hotels that this was a tourist town but am afraid not in winter. Even the Tourist Information Office was closed!

From there is a really hard climb of about 3 kms up a Mountains Pass. It was hard going but a real satisfaction on making it. What comes down and coming was on a genuine Roman road with Roman waymarkers leading the way. Then some flat walking along a road, culminating on a 1.7 kms slog up to Calzadz de Montmayor.

I arrived about 5pm. It’s always difficult Arriving in a village like this. You want to check out the situation before committing yourself. But I was met immediately by a man who offered me an aubergue. He said it doubled as a hostel. It fact he was the owner. Dinner and breakfast is provided. So I took it. I have had dinner of a 3 course meal.

15 January (Wednesday)

Stage 19 Calzada de Bejas to Fuenterrobie (20.5 kms : 527 kms to go)

The couple who looked after me were lovely hosts. Originally I was asked if I wanted pasta or soup. I chose pasta and helped myself to a 2nd helping, thinking that was it. But then came meat and a salad (no chips!) and finally dessert. This morning a nice breakfast.

I was told it was raining so put on my wet weather gear and I was off. It wasn’t too cold and the route was along a nice track. The rain was light, nothing to worry about.

I arrived at the 1st town and looked the bar. When I arrived there to Bar was empty, no customers, no bar-tender. The fire heater was on, stuff lying around but no people. Something out of a Stephen King novel. What do I do? I warmed myself by the heater then left. The woman in the house across the road called out and pointed to go back. She served me coffee, then the bread man arrived and then customers. It must have opened at 11am, I was just a bit early.

Another 4 kms to the next Bar. This time I really was wet and I had a bite to eat with my coffee. Then 11 kms to the next stop of Fuenterroble. I found accomodation there ok.

Just to mention that I am now in a new regional area – Castilla Y Leon. This of course doesn’t mean much for the pilgrim except that the waymarkers are different. Gone are the concrete cubes and the ‘V P’ markers. There original Roman markers still appear with a plaque saying in Latin what the marker is saying. Pilgrims are none the wiser! There is also a tasteful wooden sign acknowledging the route. But the yellow arrows, although often not when you need them!

16 January (Thursday)

Stage 20: Fuenterroble to Salamanca’s 50 kms – not all walked : 476 kms to go.)

I was actually in a difficult situation last night. The hostel owner wanted cash and all I hard was the exact amount he wanted. It meant I had no cash left. Up to now every village seemed to have an ATM but not any more. Nothing until Salamanca. What to do? A few lucky things fell into place. The Bar gave me dinner and breakfast on my Card, and also I was able to pay them by Card for a ride to San Pedro de Rosales. From there I was able to walk to Salamanca.

Salamanca is a huge city, with a population of 154,000. It is famous for 2 reasons: For having one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Spain and for It’s architectural heritage. It became part of the Roman Empire after Rome took it off the Carthaginians. The Muslim’s took it in 711 but relinquished it to Christian forces in the 10th century. The University became the University of Salamanca by Royal Decree of Alfonso X . The University achieved great prestige. I was able to see a little of Salamanca today and I will see more tomorrow as I am staying 2 nights here. Tomorrow will be a rest day from the Camino.

17 January (Friday)

No Stages – A Rest Day

After 20 days of continuous walking, I am having a rest day. I’m in excellent accomodation in the old part of Salamanca. Breakfast was included in the cost, plenty is begin the day with. KiwiFruit was again prominent.

Before the enjoyment of the day began, I had 1st to organise transport to Zomara, a nearby town, where I will begin my journey from tomorrow. I used Google Maps to get to the station, which was some distance away. What en I finally did make I found out there were no trains tomorrow (Saturday). I had to catch the bus.

By now the iphone was running low on battery life. I decided to go back to my room, recharge it, and have lunch while I was waiting for the recharge. Bad mistake. I forgot that whenever I leave my room, all power automatically off, so my iPhone was still at 1 per cent battery life! So more time wasting as I waiting in my room so the recharge to happen. After time a trip to the Bus Station to buy the ticket. Success at last! One Company does all the trip, leaving at the same time in both places. I am leaving Salamanca at 10.15am. When I get to Zamora I walk 18 kms to the next to the next town, Montamarte.

I had hoped to visit 5 or 6 places that would be a highlight of my trip to Salamanca but because that has not been the case. I did visit the 2 Cathedrals here, standing side by side. We it came to build the new Cathedral, people saw no point in getting rid of the old one. I did a tour of both with a commentary device which was excellent. It is also possible to climb the Cathedral tower for a great view of the area, but that opportunity was closed by the time I was ready for it. Other attractions had also closed.

18 January (Saturday):

Stage 21: Salamanca to Montamarta (Salamanca to Zamora bus; Zamora to Montamarta 18 kms : 390 kms to go)

There was a slight drizzle as I left Salamanca. The bus trip took about 50 minutes, so by the time I got.my bearings and found the Camino route again, it was getting on for 12. No rain but I kept my rain jacket on and found it gave me extra warmth. The going is mostly over flat land, and very few trees. Not much cattle either. Some vineyards. The 1st stop was a restaurant attached to a Petrol Station. I had a light lunch here.

I have got into the habit of playing music, which helps the time to pass. It’s very quiet. The track is flat and mainly away from the road.

When I arrived at Montamarta, I had in mind to stay at a place that used to be an old mill. No answer to phone calls so asked at the Bar across the road. They gave me the key but it would not open the door. So finally I was given different accomodation. No wifi. Had a meal in the Bar after 8pm (they don’t serve meals until then.)

19th January (Sunday):

Stage 22 Montamarta to Granja de Moreruela (22 kms : 368 kms to go)

My standard breakfast now is coffee and toast. It is not too much trouble to make so people are happy to do it.

It was a beautiful day to begin with. Blue sky, just pretty cold. The coldness went away by mid-morning. But later it became very windy, and this time a head wind.

The 1st town was 12 kms away so I stopped there for a light snack and a coffee. I put my raincoat on at this stage as it helped to Koop the cold head wind out. 2nd stop 4 kms after that, another coffee. Finally another 6 to Granje de Moreruela. Found accomodation.

A word about tomorrow. He Camino de La Plata is not a complete route in itself. It finishes its journey to Santiago de Compostela by going the way of 1 of 2 routes – either the French Camino or the Sanabres route.

For the French Camino, the route carry on north for 4 more days to Astoria, and then follows the French Camino to Santiago. The alternative is the Sanabres or Mozaroba Way which heads north-west from Granje de Moreruela. I have decide to do the Sanabres Way as I have not done it before.

20th January (Monday)

Stage 23 Granja de Moreruela to Tabara (25.5 kms: 341.3 kms to go)

I was lucky to get a feed last night. I 1st Bar wasn’t interested (maybe theBar owner as looking after the Bar by themselves). But the 2nd Bar was fine. Then I had breakfast – ‘the usual’ coffee and toast at the 1st Bar.

It is made very clear that the Camino de la Plata decides here at Granja. Behind the Church there is a sign pointing to Astorga and the French Camino route, and Ousene and the Sabenese Way. I have chosen the later.

Today I begin a move to North Western Spain. Previously I had been going in a Northerly direction only. Even after a few hours I began to notice differences. Hills are beginning to appear, whereas for the last 2 or 3 months it has been pretty flat. The other change has been the appearance of shrubs and small trees. Quite a change from barren flat fields. It is still quite cold but because of the small hills and bushes and shrubs I am protected some

I meant to mention yesterday the Camino did a large diversion to visit the remains of an Roman town. Today, there are the remains of a Cistercian Monastery that was founded about the 12th century. It is important as it was the 1st Cistercian Monastery built in Spain.

Today one of the highlights seeing a large lake and crossing a river that runs out of it. The 1st college was after 13 kms so I stopped there for lunch.

Finally reach Tábara about 3.30pm. Found accomodation. They have a restaurant attached, so I have had a meal here and breakfast in the morning.

21 January (Tuesday)

Stage 24: Tabara to Camazala de Tera (28 kms : 313 kms to go)

Both last nights dinner and breakfast were included in the price, which meant I didn’t have to go searching for somewhere to eat.

Tabara is s off the Camino so I 1st needed to retrace my steps a bit. As usual it was cold when I left at 8.30am, and my fingers didn’t really stop feeling the cold till about 10am. It was was more hilly today with some bush and small trees. They were at times sheltering me from the cold wind. Eventually the Camino decided – one way through ghosts 2 small hamlets and the other to Villanueva de Las Peres, and larger town with a Bar and Restaurant. I chose the later as it was about lunchtime. When I arrived there I found a notice on the door, saying it was closed due to a personal matter, which I took to be a bereavement.

Then on to the 2 towns of Santa Croya de Tere and Santa Marta. They are 2 beautiful towns, seperated by a small river. I was particularly interested in the Church as it has the oldest statue of Santiago, from the 9th century. I carried on 5 kms to the town of Camazana de la Tere, a little off the Camino.

22 January (Wednesday)

Stage 25: Camazana de La Tera to Mombuey (32 Kms : 283.8 kms to go)

Last night’s dessert was Kiwifruit. It’s really well-known over here. Where I am staying is like a Truckers stop. There was the noise of big engines – last night until about 8pm and again this morning. The place I was staying was very cold and they would only put the heaters on at 7pm. Still, I survived.

The pharmacy sign gave the temperature as 5 degrees as I began my journey. My fingers weee not freezing and it wasn’t as cold as it had been. It took me a while to get back to the Camino trail. It was a day of no coffee as every Bar was closed.

The highlight was gong to a Dam. It was quite a struggle uphill to get there. The Dam is on a large lake. The road across the Dam seemed very long it was quite scary and I was not prepared to lose either myself or the cell phone in taking the ‘perfect shot.’ On another Occassion I travelled along a Canal between a couple of villages. But it was a lond day as it was off road and the tracks were very rocky in places. Having no where to stop and have a coffee and something to eat also made it difficult.

Arriving at Mombuey was great, especially going into a room that had the heaters on and not needing to wait.

23 January (Thursday)

Stage 26: Mombuey to Puebla de Sanabria (31 kms: 252.4 kms to go)

I enjoyed my meal last night, really knowing what I was having, and enjoying it. I also appreciated the warm room.

Today’s walk followed a highway. I saw quite a few rabbits as I walked along. Too quick to take a photo of. The Camino is now going through smaller hamlets that are quite close together. They are too small to offer any services. They are between 2 and 5 kms apart.

Two of the difficulties the Camino faces now is the Auto highway and the Train line. The Auto highway is well protected. Cars go very fast with few on/off ramps. The railway is also well protected – you can’t just walk across when there’s nothing coming. As a result bridges are built over them so one can move from one side to the other. So for the Camino, this means finding a bridge over (or sometimes under.)

I found it hard going today and got a taxi in the end to Puebla de Sanebria. As a result I arrived there early. That gave me one of the few chances to ‘look around.’ I was pleased that I did. Puebla de Sanebria has a Castle that I was able to visit. It was built as a fortress in the 12th century and added to in the 14th century. There are also 2 church’s of the same period. Houses have been built alongside them and they fit in very well. I was surprised to find s cafe up there, which I made use of. I was also able to check out the shops, The standard evening meal time seems to be 8.30pm so I will got back they for something to eat.

24 January (Friday)

Stage 27: Puebla de Sanabria to Lubián (31 kms : 222.7 kms to go)

An amusing incident from yesterday. I had decided I needed to get a taxi. I was going to ask at the Bar. At this particular Bar, the owners have a history of being grumpy and unhelpful. I put my hand to my ear and said ‘Can you phone me a taxi?’ He replied ‘I am the taxi’ and offered to take me. The fee was reasonable also.

The highlight today is to climb the tallest peak on the Camino Via de La Plata Alto (Mount) Padornelo. At 1303 metres it is the highest point on the Via de La Plata. The 1st 12 kms was fairly flat. When that was over, a went to a Bar for a coffee and bought some snacks. Then began the 10 km climb. It was 10 kms to the top and taking getting on for 3 hours.

At the top was a restaurant. I decided to make my lunch the main meal of the day. That was both a good and not so good decision. It meant I left for Lubián later than I thought that Lubián was only 6 kms away much it was much further than that. It seemed to take me ages and when I eventually arrived there abut 6pm, I was pleased, as it would have been difficult to find an eating place and also the Casa was a bit isolated. A good day, spoiled somewhat by the time it took me to get to where I was going.

25 January (Saturday)

Stage 28: Lubián to A Gudiña (24kms :199.5 kms to go)

The Casa Rural I stayed at last night was very welcoming, but in spite of the heater, was quite cold. In the morning I had breakfast of scrambled eggs and rotators, toast and banana cake, fruit juice and coffee. Who could ask for more!

Today had another mountain to climb – El Canda – at 1150 metres. Near the top the trail went through a tunnel to get to the other side and Galacia. The tunnel and El Canda are the boundary between Castello Y Leon and Galacia.

I continue to marvel at the bridges here. The Auto highway and the National Road (at present N-525) go in the same direction, often side by side. But whereas the National Road has been built around the hillside, the Auto takes great strides like a giant walking from hill to hill with barely a step in between.

With a little help, I arrived in A Gudiña, the end of today’s leg. I am staying in a recommended hostel.

26 January (Sunday)

Stage 26: A Gudiña to Laza (35 kms : 165 kms to go)

The Hostal last night was good. Had trouble finding somewhere for an evening mean but managed in the end. Breakfast ‘the usual.’

Obviously I knew I was not going to be able to walk today’s leg in total. I knew that and was prepared to see what would eventuate. As luck would have it, I was picked up by a guy visiting his father, in a small village of 4 houses. The lift took me over some of the hilly sections.

I then walked on to the town of Campobecerros. It was a steep incline into the town. The work of the AV Railway Line was very much in evidence. I stopped at the beginning of the town to fill my water bottles, and then began to walk into the town. I was just coming close to the Church when the Church bells began to ring. People were walking towards me to go to the Church. It was 12 noon. I asked if Mass was on and they said ‘Yes, now’ (at least I imagine that is what they said. So I went to Mass then. Afterwards, I kind of waited to see if there might be introductions or something but nothing happened. I guess my rugged appearance may have put them off. I went to the cafe and had a bit to eat. One of the mass goers came to the same cafe and say me and seemed to say ‘I saw you at Church!’ But that was it.

I made a bit of a mistake after that which added a few miles to my tally. Finally I arrived at Laza. I had in mind to stay at a hostel, but the people there informed me that the electricity was not working so there was no heat or hot water and that I couldn’t stay there.

So it was the Municipal Albergue. This was a very elegant place. Only 8 Euros. I was the only one there. No food but nice rooms, including a common rooms with nice couches.

Of course, the 1st thing that pilgrims ask is ‘What is the password?’ Therein lies a problem in Galacia, where I now am. There is no password written on the wall or anything like that. Basically, you ring a number, or find a website where you give your cell phone details, and a code is sent to your cellphone. That code is yours to use at all albergues in Galacia for 12 months. It works fine for Spanish SIM cards but not always for others. I have had this problem previously and have never solved it. Hence I was not able to do my blog last night.

Apart from that it was a great aubergue, and I enjoyed my sleeping bag once again.

27 January (Monday)

Stage 27 (Laza to Xunqueira de Ambía (32 kms : 132.1 kms to go)I

I certainly enjoyed my nights sleep at the aubergue. I left there, returned the keys, and had breakfast at the same place I had eaten last night.

Today it rained, probably the 2nd day a real rain on the Camino. The section began with quite a big uphill walk. It seemed to go on forever. I was picked up by someone who must have taken pity on me and he took me quite a way.

By the afternoon the rain had stopped and I began to dry out. As you can’t see from the photos, it was quite nice walking. I did have one difficult situation. The path I was on became flooded, caused be the 2 trenches one either side becoming full and overflowing onto the path. It took perhaps 30 minutes to find the safest way to carry on. It was a long day, arriving at Xunqueira de Ambía about 4.30pm. I am staying in a Casa Rural.

28 January (Tuesday)

Stage 28 Xunqueira de Ambía to Ourense (22 kms – 110 kms to go)

I had a very warm nights sleep and my wet clothes were dry by the morning. Only my shoes were still a little damp. Had breakfast – coffee and toast, and I was off. The weather forecast was 70 percent chance of rain. In fact, only a few spots all day.

This should have been the easiest of days but initially I managed to make it difficult. Somehow near the beginning of the day I missed a turn off and went 90 degrees in the wrong direction. The GPS gave me options to eventually find a turning that would eventually get me back on track. But would take time. A couple picked me up, took back to the Camino track, and even shouted me morning tea at a Cafe. How lucky was that!

From there on it was good walking along a little used road. But 7 kms from Ourense I came to the outskirts of that town. Not so nice. I missed the countryside vista. All industry until the city itself. Then still a long walk through the city to the old town. Arrived there about 4pm. Found accomodation.

Ourence has a population of 106,000. It is a the lowest point of the Camino since Seville. It is situated in the deep valley of the River Mino which gives it a climate hotter and dryer than much of Galacia. For that reason the Romans settled there to take advantage of the climate and of the natural hot springs.

The expression ‘the old town’ doesn’t really apply to Ourense. Certainly the beautiful Cathedral and some surrounding buildings are from a different period, but everything else is modern. Huge stores everywhere. I went to the restaurant across from where I am staying to check when the meal time was, expecting it to be 8pm or 8.30pm. Instead it was 9.30pm. No wonder it is so quiet in the mornings. Everyone is asleep!

29 January (Wednesday)

Stage 29: Ourense to Castro Dozon (approx 35 kms : 68.9 kms to go)

A slightly slower start today. It is 12 degrees which is about the warmest I have had. It was raining as I began and stayed that way all day. Crossed the ‘Roman Bridge’ across the River Mino. It is actually not as old as Roman times, but is built on Roman foundations.

Because Ourense is in a valley, the only way out is up. As I was negotiating a uphill segment, a woman offered me a lift. I said 5 kilometres but she was happy to take me further. When I said I was planning for Cea, about 17 kilometres away, she was happy to take me there. She told me there was a Cistercian Monastery near there and offered to talk me there. It was a 10 minute wait until opening at 12 noon, so she waited so she introduce me. Then she off. I called her my guardian angel for today.

The Osaria Monastery was built about the 12 century, with parts added on over the years. 12 monks live there today. I bought a book about it so I can learn more.

The Monastery is on a variant route on the Camino. I was given a tour of the Monastery by one of the monks. Then it was time to leave.

The journey out of the Monastery did not follow the road but over a serious of tracks, some of thigh were waterlogged with the recent rains. So it was a lon, slow journey journey out, until I finally Castro Dozon, where I am staying the night.

The only accomodation available is in the Municipal Aubergue, so I am staying there. They are not using the wifi texting password system that I mentioned earlier but a simple password which I am using now. Neither cafe provide a meal as such but I was able to get a simple meal at one of the cafe’s.

30 January (Thursday)

Stage 30 Castro Dozon to Silleda (27 kms – 41.3 kms to go)

I had a good nights sleep in my sleeping bag and blankets. But this morning meant getting into wet clothes again. But strangely that wasn’t too bad and I soon got used to it. The weather forecast was 70 percent change of rain, but it was more light drips which stopping by mid-morning. Eventually all my clothes were dry.

A lot of the day was along the National Highway but with the Camino trying to make it less dangerous and monotonous by giving off on side tracks when it could.

I sped the morning making my way to Laban. When I arrived there I realised I was noticing a change. The houses and buildings were modern and not particularly Spanish. They could be found anywhere. Different from the villages i had been to, which would often be built or renovated in the old style. I stopped at Laban for lunch – pasta. I was having some trouble working out where to stay – apart from aubergue ( which I didn’t really want to stay in 2 nights in a row, especially with the coldness and the need to dry the wet clothes in my pack. I had planned to stay slightly ahead of the schedule but I realised that where there was alternative accomodation to aubergues, was just too far. I noticed a sign pointing to the Bus Station, so I went there to de if there was a bus to Sallida, the next large town and it turned out there was one at 2.50pm, in an hours time, so I waited and caught that. It was a little different being on a bus rather than have them pass me at what seemed a great speed.

I am in a 1 Star hotel, which is the same cost as a hostel, or Casa Rural, or even an aubergue that offered meals. So quite happy. So different from last night.

31 January (Friday)

Stage 31: Silleda to Santiago de Compostela (41 kms : 0 to go)

The hotel has a little cafe attached so I was able to have coffee and toast there. The TV was on and was all about Britain Brexit and Britain leaving the EEC. The ‘count down clock said 15.45 04 hours, minutes, seconds to go.

I planned to enter Santiago tomorrow. Just to get close enough tonight so tomorrow’s entry won’t be too difficult. (It didn’t quite happen like that.)

The 1st 7 kms were to Bandeira on a really busy road – the N-525. When I arrived there I thought I would skip the 1st few cafe’s and grab one at the end of town. There wasn’t another. Rather than go back, I sat down and had 2 donuts I had saved from yesterday. Then the Camino went on it’s own route, away from the busy and dangerous N-525. Beautiful country scenery. The Camino went through a lot of rather small villages. At one, there was an aubergue and a cafe run by an Italian. I had coffee and a toasted sandwich of ham and cheese. Nice guy to talk to. Then on again.

The problem was where to stay the night. I wanted to be close enough not to push it too hard tomorrow. Reached Ponte Ulia, a suggested stopping place, 22 kms from Santiago de Compostela, but it was early afternoon and I would like to be a bit closer. There was Outeigh, at 18 kms away, but it was an aubergue Oman isolated area with no food outlets at all and possibly problems with wifi. A Susana was only 8 kms after that and had an aubergue and hostel. There also restaurants and other abilities. So I went for A Susana. I had some help in getting there.

I caught the bus at 5.30pm for the princely sum of 2 Euro. A Susana was really on the edge of Santiago so it was through an industrial and business area. In about 15 minutes I was there. Mission accomplished although not quite in the manner I had imagined.

I made my way to the aubergue / hostel full of good spirits. Only 8 kms / 2 hours to walk tomorrow. Great. Unfortunately they were having plumbing problems and were closed. I could not stay there. Was there any other accomodation? No. What can I do? It is 4.30pm, there is a local bus to Santiago de Compostela at 5.30pm. So I really had 2 choices – to walk or bus. Every pilgrim looks forward to the last few kms. It is a moment to be cherished and remembered. To take the bus seemed anti-climatic in the extreme. However, another fact was the weather – it was beginning to rain heavily. If the final stretch was over busy roads it would be dangerous – both for myself and for traffic. The bus was the only safe alternative.

It was now really pouring down, like nothing I had experienced on the Camino. I made my Breakfast way into the old town looking for somewhere to stay. That was a little difficult as today was a Friday and the beginning of the weekend. However, I did find a 1 Star hotel that suited my budget. I was now drenched. After a clean up, a went out for a meal and called into a day. Hence no blog today.

1st February (Saturday)

Stage 32: Santiago de Compostela.

Waking up and knowing it’s not another ‘day on the road’ was certainly a good feeling. Normally I set the alarm for 7am and aim to the at a breakfast stop about 8am and on the road by 8.30am when it is beginning to get light. Of course, at the aubergue, you have to be off by 8am, even in winter.

The 1st thing was to go to the train station to get a train to Madrid. I will Santiago for Madrid at 9.35am Monday, arriving in Madrid 3.06pm. I will spend the night in Madrid and leave next evening for NZ, arriving Waitangi Day morning.

Next stop was the Pilgrims Office to collect my Certificates – Certificate next the journey and a certificate of the kms completed. That went very well. There is a custom for the 1st 10 Pilgrims arriving each day to be giving a free meal in the flash Parador Hotel. I did enquire whether I was in the 1st 10 today, but was informed I was no 73!

There is a small Chapel next to the Pilgrims Office which had a Power Point about the Camino which I found useful and may go back for another.

Next important job was Laundry. Although there is a lot of talk about how often one should was clothes on the Camino, in winter it is difficult because of the weather. I found a laundry-mat and was able to wash and dry clothes.

Another important buy was an umbrella. My waterproof jacket, pack and pack cover were only ‘so much’ waterproof, still making what they were meant to cover damp. So for Santiago an umbrella was a much better solution. It was a heavy rain today today.

I had planned to go out for a meal in the evening but was just too tired.

2 February (Sunday)

Stage 33: Santiago de Compostela.

There were 2 Masses today. There was a 9.30am English Mass at the Chapel next to the Pilgrims Office. I was the only one there apart from the priest. He was Salesian Filipino priest who is serving the local Filipino Community. He immediately asked me to con-celebrate the Mass with him, which I did. He had done a couple of the Camino’s, including the one I had just done. He mentioned next year was a Holy Year and it would be good to come back for that.

The next mass was what have been the 12 noon Cathedral Mass, bFut because of the renovations of the Cathedral, it was held at a different Church. The bishop was the main celebrant. Because it was the Feast of the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple. This involved the traditional lighting of the candles – the Jesus is the Light of the world. We all gathered at the back of the Church, were given a lighted candle each. Children introduced the Mass and we’re very prominent throughout. They read the prayers and formed a circle in the sanctuary for the singing of the ‘Our Father.’ At the sing of peace they had no inhibitions, going over to the altar servers and priest for the sign of peace. There was also the opportunity of reconciliation, which I took advantage of.

After the mass, a light lunch. Then a quiet afternoon, mainly watching people enjoy themselves. The rains of Friday and Saturday have good and today is a beautiful day, 16 degrees. I returned to the hotel to get rid of my umbrella and later to leave also my jacked, the 1st time I have not worn it.

I explored the Cathedral. Previously it was just the outside that was been done up but now the whole of the interior is been done up. There is just access to one Chapel and a pathway that takes one past the high altar and past where the bones of James the Apostle are said to be, plus the main alter. Everything else is covered. Not a statue to be seen.

People are out in great numbers, enjoying in winter this beautiful summer weather. The ice cream stores are doing a great trade. Everyone is in a good mood.

3 February Monday)

Two beautiful days. Temperature 16 degrees. Took train to Madrid, with a change at Ourense. Time went quickly. Once to Madrid, the local train network had an electoral fault and stopped for an hour. Took a while to find accomodation in Madrid.

Madrid Airport has been in the news. An Air Canada flight has problems with engine shortly after take off and had to circle Madrid for a while in order to lose fuel and be able to land. The day before flights were cancelled for an hour because of a drone in the area. I know that in NZ the e-gates have been closed so a longer wait there.

4 February (Tuesday)

Decided to get to the Airport early. Now 11am. Leave for Doha and Auckland 310pm. Arrive Auckland 4.50am 6 February, Waitangi Day. Flight to Wellington about 7am.

Looking forward to getting back in Aotearoa New Zealand.

This will be most last report.

Regards Ron