Ron’s Camino Part 3

Part 3 of my 2016/2017 Camino journey wil be from Santiago to Muxia and Finesterre. Until 1492, when Columban’s discovered the ‘New World,’ Finesterre was considered ‘the end of the world.’

So after pilgrims arrived at Santiago, many of them would carry on to Finesterre, throw away their old clothes, wash in the waters, and begin life anew.

24 January (Tuesday):

After a good breakfast, and with 3 boiled eggs on me for lunch I headed off about 930am.

The route led me down the steps in front of the  Cathedral. It seemed a good starting place.  I passed some old houses, many of whom had scallop shell patterns on their walls. One house in particular was covered with them. Then very quickly into the hills. This was quite remarkable  as Santiago is a big city and, especially on the way in, it was like a concrete jungle. But going out this way, I was in the hills in no time.

One of the most notable things about the areas of Spain that I have walked in the presence of the Australian euclaputus tree. It is simply everywhere.  The climate must really suit it.  So I find myself walking through a forest of tall, very tall euclaputus trees.

i have met some interesting people today.  One was a man with a beard and an eloquently carved staff. He told me he had walked the Camino from St Jean Pied de Port, then gone from Santiago to Finesterre, and was now going to Fatima. He had a design of Fatima on his staff. He said he had no money.  I’m not sure if he meant that literally, or that he could not afford things like coffee. He seemed a perpetual traveller. He reminded me of the ‘Flying Dutchman’ Opera,  where one can’t stop but has to keep on going forever.

The other was a South Korean traveller I met. He had worked the French Camino, met someone who had biked a Camino, bought his bike off him, and was now biking to Finesterre, and would then bike to Lisbon in Portugal.  He found it hard biking up the hill, and resorted to a zig zag motion across the road to get some traction. I sometimes do the same myself on steap hills.

I mentioned Fatima earlier. Often there is a blue arrow underneath the yellow arrow, pointing the way to the Fatima Camino.

Perhaps the difficult part of today was the absence of places to eat and drink. The 1st three hours was straight walking. Later that did change and I was able have a break. There were also stratically placed concrete seats to rest on.

Today’s journey is 22.5 kms, from Finisterr to Negreira. I had planned where to stay but when I arrived it was obvious from the front desk and the tradesman that renovations were underway.  I was told ‘We are closed’ but after some discussion I was allowed to stay. There is hot water but no central heating. However I have been given a heater for my room. So all is well.

25 January (Wednesday):

Today’s journey is from Negreira to Olveiroa, a distance of 31.5 kms, which I must admit is getting close to my comfort level. There is a 40% chance of rain.

I had toast and coffee for breakfast before I set off.  Here they have a sort of oil they put on toast, but I am not used to  it and used butter instead.

My journey out of Negreira was tortuously slow.  The footpath and road were icy and I only felt comfortably staying close to the side, and walking on grass or holding onto something if possible. A slow start.

I met an elderly man who talked it English. He was saying how it was in the mornings. He said it will probably rain tomorrow. Today It was supposed to rain but instead there was a blue sky most of the day.

Then into the forest and on really nice tracks. Walking on the fallen leaves was soothing and safe. Again I was walking through a lot of eucuptus forest, but I did come across a different kind of tree.  It gave off a pungent smell.

I walked almost 3 hours before I found a bar / cafe. I asked how far to Olveiroa and was told 22 kms. It was nearly 12 noon and I realised then that I would have trouble making it to  Olveiroa  on my own steam. At the bar I  asked for something to eat and they suggested a bodadila. These are not my favourite but in Galacia they are better. The bread is fresh,  and one of the choices is omelette.  This I really enjoyed. Usually I can only eat part of it and put the rest in my pocket for later. But today I almost ate it all.

I did get some help in getting to  Olveiroa. I am staying at the municipal aubergue.  It is Euro 6.00. I stayed here 3 years ago. There were about 8 of us and we had dinner and breakfast. It may be different this time.

Just an addition to the above.  When we mentioned that we would like dinner it was agreed that we could eat at the restaurant at 7.30pm. It was a 3 course meal plus wine for a flat rate of Euro 10.00. It was really good to have a good meal to go to sleep on.

Of course sleeping in close quarters is an issue. It’s usually a good idea to have your sleeping bag and sleeping clothes organised beforehand.

It is in the morning when the real fun starts. There are those who pack in the dark and leave in the dark.  This happened today.  Then nothing much happens before 7am. Around 730am someone finally turns the light on and we are all grateful for that. By 8am we are supposed to be out and away.

26 January (Thursday):

Today I walk from Olveiroa to Muxia, a distance of  32.5 kms. It is something I have not done before, as the last 2 times I have gone Olveiroa to Finisterre. It should be a little easier but hard none the less.

There are 6 staying the night-4 women and 2 men. Normally we are to be out by 8am but things are a litle slower this morning. The other man left in the dark at 7am. I left about 8.30am.  It is 5kms to Hospital and I planned to make that 1st of all. Originally there may well have been a hospital here to care for the needs of pilgrims, but nothing remains.

It began to rain last night as we were leaving the restaurant  and has continued this morning.  It has ben one of the few wet days  I have experienced here this Camino. I came across a bar at Logoso. I was surprised it was open so early in the day. The woman suggested toast for breakfast and I accepted. Thinking about it, this is probably the safest bet in asking for breakfast. It’s easy to make and the toast is always big and filling.

I carried on the Hospital. Usual warning that there would be no food or drink opportunities for the next 15 kms. I was able to explain that I was walking to Muxia and not Finisterre. Shortly after Hospital, there are clear signs that Finisterre and Muxia straight ahead.

At this time, it was really windy. I was high in the hills and there were no trees for protection. I thought I would be blown over!  Once I took the Muxia turnoff was great for a while. The wind was at my back and I seemed to be sprinting along.  I even began to jog for a time. But that didn’t last. I was soon into the heavy work of up hill and down dale.

The 1st big town is Dumbria. The barman put some brandy in my coffee and it certainly tasted differently.  Later, as I left Dumbria, and the Camino left the road and went through a forest area, And I realised that the plastic covering for my pack had gone. It just wraps around the pack and is held in by elastic. I don’t think my pack is waterproof. So rain today or tomorrow will drench it. I do have 2 plastic bags I can keep a few things dry in. So far I have lost a pair of wolly gloves, a plastic top for one of my water bottles, and now the cover for the pack. Hope the weather is kind to me.

i seemed to be making slow process and wondered at times if I would made it. I kept plugging and eventually 1st saw Muxia in the distance, and eventually did make it there.

Finding the aubergue was hard as they had moved it to another venue. I was greeted warmly and given my certificate for completing the journey from Santiago de Compostela to Muxia.  I also found a pension for the night and had a meal. What more could one want!

27 January (Friday):

Today I will be walking from Muxia to Fisisterre, a distance of 28 kms.

I woke about 4am and checked on the weather – raining in Muxia, Finisterre, and Lires (midpoint). I began  to think about my (now coverless) backpack and ways I could cover it).  Perhaps a plastics rubbish bag with holes for the straps. Another possibility was to leave this final day and return to Santiago instead.  I decided to wait till the morning.

Another slow start.  I decided to ‘go for it.’  There is a saying ‘The Camino will show you the way!’  I had coffee in the restaurant downstairs and I was off at 9am. At least I could see the way. The road was blocked for cars ahead as there had been a slip. Debris covering the road showing the affects of a storm.  The rain had stopped.

I began the long trudge uphill. I realised why I found the trip into Muxia from Finisterre so difficult last year. It was just so long and I had to watch my footing. I seemed to go up and up for at least 90 minutes, but then finally I was on a plateau that I was to stay on for quite a while. Then the rain came. They was no protection up there. It would rain on and off all day, usually followed by bright sun. Yet it was also good to be on the plain.

In this 28 kms leg there are only 2 opportunities of food, and, much more importantly, a stampa, which is the only proof that you have actually been that way, and not caught a bus from Muxia to Finisterre. The 2 stops are Frixe and Lires. Probably the later is enough, but it seemed best to do both just in case something was wrong at Lires and it was closed.

I remember Frixe from last year. They had built a wooden kiosk at the beginning of town, with chairs and a soft drink vending machine. It seems so out of place. Last year I already had my stampa from Lires and didn’t bother getting one here. Today I decided I would get one. What a journey.  It took ages to find the bar. I was conscious of losing time. Then the barman couldn’t his stamp. I needed that stamp. Finally he found it! Someone kindly showed me the way back to the Camino trail. He told me that Liles was 2 kms away – 30 minutes. That wasn’t the case for me.

About 20 minutes further on I made an tragic error. I didn’t see an arrow pointing down the side of a house and instead followed an arrow on the Muxia route and found myself going backwards to Frixe. it is a problem on this route with some arrows pointing Finisterre and other arrows pointing Muxia.  How disappointed I was when I saw that kiosk again.

So I retraced my steps and covered the same ground to the house. I knocked on the door to be certain and then carried on to Lires. 

The entrance to Lires is rather nice,  a stone pathway built, which leads you into the town. I had the best cup of coffee con leche, received my  stampa, bought 2 bananas and 2 donuts for the journey and I was off.

At this stage there was a choice of routes, and I followed the coastal route to Finisterre.  It was a long hard slog. Lots of ups and downs. I was conscious of the time. Just before Finisterre, instead of going straight into Finisterre along the beautifully stoned pavement, the Camino swings wildly back into the hills and comes into Finisterre from the back, which seemed to me a bit strange.

I arrived at Finisterre at 6.30pm and had my certificate signed in Latin as proof that I had completed the journey. I was exhausted. The reason I was concerned about time is that the last bus leaves at 7pm for Santiago. So I just made it. Luckily I also just had enough money for the ticket, leaving me with Euro 3.00 left.

The trip to Santiago was 3 hours. This was because it followed the coast for over 2 hours. At one stage we swapped buses. The bus station is almost 30 minutes from the hotel where I had been staying. I decided to go back there. I arrived about 10.45pm and had about 30 minutes to do till the hotel. A passerby kindly took me some of the way to the hotel. I booked myself into the same hotel I had been in previously, for 2 nights. Ideally it would be good to go tomorrow (Saturday)!but I have nothing organised and will need tomorrow to do that.

28 January (Saturday):

I awoke at 8.45am! Proof of how tired I was. After breakfast, the main decision is how to get to Barcelona in good time for my flight out on Wednesday evening.

Plane, bus and train had all been mentioned. Some say plane is the cheapest at about Euro 30.00 with RyanAir, but there can be problems with cheap airlines if you are not aware of all the facts, so I am favouring bus or train, more the later.

When  I was told at the hotel that the train station was only 5 minutes away I went there immediately. There is a train tomorrow (Sunday), leaving here at approx 8.30am and arriving in Barcelona at 9.45pm. I just need to book a hotel near the railway station in Barcelona.

it was a rainy day in Santiago today. I had thought of  a tour of the city but the rain put paid it that. I spent the day washing my gear, seeing some of Santiago, and more of the Cathedral, finishing with the Saturday vigil Mass.

29 January (Sunday):

Today I took the all day train from  Santiago de Compostela to Barcelona. It was a long trip of over 13 hours, which I needed to make as my flight leaves from Barcelona. My carriage was for those who had paid a cheaper, non transferable fare. The seats were adequate. They was a selection of music and a film. Also a cafeteria. I guess I missed here the ability to converse with people because of not knowing Spanish. People seemed to introduce themselves and chat away freely. I certainly would like to learn a little Spanish if I was to come again.

I hadn’t booked a hotel or hostel, believing there would of accomodation around the Station. In fact this was not really the case. It may have been better to have booked what I could afford and either walked there or got a taxi.  I found hostels were closed, but eventually found a hotel. I settled in for a good nights sleep.

30 January (Monday):

Today I visited and spent most of the day at Sagrada Familia, the famous Church in Barcelona, designed by Antoni Gaudi. Over 90 years after his death it is still being built, faithful to his plans. It is due for completion in 2026, the 100th anniversary of his death.

i certainly enjoyed my visit here. Gaudi  has been described as ‘God’s designer.’  he was certainly ahead of his time. I found it quite an extraordinary experience and well long remember it.

31 January (Tuesday):

Today was spent on a bus tour of Barcelona.  It is certainly a beautiful city. When walking the Camino, and also on the train trip on Sunday, one can get the impression that Spain is very old and backward. But when one gets to Barcelona (and I am sure other Spanish cities), one sees what a thoroughly modern place Spain is.

The bus tour was fascinating. I stopped once, at the Catalonian Museum of Modern Art. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

In the evening I visited a New Zealander who is now living in Barcelona.

1 February (Wednesday):

Today I continued with another bus tour, the best way to see Barcelona. I had 2 stops. One was at a model Spamish Villege and the other at the Acquarium.

In the late afternoon I picked up my pack pack and walked with it for the last time to the Station and then caught the train to the Airport. The Airport is not quite so flash, even with the railway station, and definitely with other airports. My flight is at 10pm.  Approx 7 hours to Dubai, then 17 to Melbourne, then 3 to Wellington. Arrive Friday afternoon.

 2 February (Thursday):

No Thursday to speak of.  Just in he air and skipping a day.

3 February (Friday):

Arrived home safe and sound.