Walking in Spain along the Camino Ignaciano from Loyola to Manresa, and the Camino de Invierno from Ponferrada to Santiago de Compostela

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Friday, 4 November 2016

Santiago de Compostela, & adios

As promised, at the bottom of this post are the places I stayed at and for those who like this kind of information, the cost.  Note that the distances given are what I made on my "route tracker" app.  As this is not as accurate as the systems surveyors use there could be as much as 10% discrepancy.  Distances are from bed to bed too which may affect the final measurement, as does the way I walked to that bed - sometimes on a very circuitous route!

Well, I have had three lovely days and four nights in Santiago de Compostela, one of my favourite cities.  When I left it after my first Camino in 2005 I remember standing in the beautiful Praza Obradoiro, looking at the Cathedral in the pink of a splendid sunrise, and thinking "well it's been great, but I'll never be back here again'.  Six visits later, it has lost none of its charm for me, and I have visited for longer, and more often than Sydney!
Pilgrims contemplating their achievements in the square.
Praza Obradoiro
One of the Cathedral Towers

I was here in June last year, the height of the pilgrim season and so, though busy, things were much quieter, and calmer, this time.  For example, getting a seat for the pilgrim mass was possible right up to when it started, whereas in June if you weren't seated 45 - 60 minutes beforehand it was likely that standing was the only option.
The Botefumero swung at the Pilgrim mass on Wednesday.


The insence hung in the air
This door being open is not a common sight.  This year is a holy year and it is only in holy years that the Holy doors are opened.  It will be closed in around a week, and this door won't be opened again till the next Holy Year in 2021.

The buskers are still in town -  an instrumental group, singers, a flautist, a guitarist and of course the gaita players, to name a few.  Then, late at night, the Tunas Compeatellanas, a university singing group, perform in the arcade opposite the Cathedral.  They perform traditional foot tapping music, using their considerable charms to entertain and extract money as buskers, and for their CD's.
Tunas Compostellanas are very good at working the crowd.

The past couple of visits I have missed my friend John (for those in the know - Johnnie Walker) because he was out of town.  I was successful this time, not only in catching up with him, but hearing him play the organ at Mass, and hearing his friend Stephen sing.  I had heard what a wonderful voice Stephen had, but never been fortunate enough to hear him.  This time I heard them both, and then had a lovely lunch with them.  My bag is now nearly 30 kgs as I have collected 15 kgs of books from John to bring back for the Australian Friends of the Camino.

This time I stayed in a pilgrim room at the San Martin Pinario.  It was here that I met many pilgrims, having met barely any by comparison in the past few weeks.  I have spent the past few days with some Aussies, which has been nice.  I really enjoyed Ricci and Tim's company and shared a delightful meal with Ricci and her two Irish friends, Wally and Paul.  It is simple pleasures like this that one treasures, among the many.
The far end of this building was a former monastery, now converted to a hotel, with special pilgrim rooms on the top floor.
The rooms are simple, but comfortable enough, complete with an ensuite.
Waiting at the new pilgrim office to collect my Compostela.

As I write I am sitting on the train to Barcelona, with only one hour to go of a 13 hour journey.  Tomorrow I make my way to the airport and within a few days I will see many of you! I am unlikely to be able to use my electronic equipment in Doha and so this will likely be my last post.  Thank you to those who have sent me an email, or added a comment.  I really do appreciate knowing that the time and effort this takes is appreciated by some!  

This has been a wonderful, different Camino.  What, when, where, will the next one be?  Who knows!?  Watch this space!  Till next time, adios.
A rest stop on the second day of the Camino Invierno.

CAMINO INVIERNO

Day 1.  Thursday 20th Oct.  Ponferrada to Borrenes, 22. Kms.  Centro de Turismo Rural Cornatel.  €40

Day 2.  21st Oct.  Borrenes to Puenta de Domingo Flórez de Valdeorras,  17.3 Kms.  Hostal Restaurante La Torre.  €34

Day 3.  22nd Oct.  Puenta de Domingo Flórez de Valdeorras to O Barco de Valdeorras.  22.1 Kms.  Pensión do Lar €25

Day 4.  23rd Oct.  O Barco de Valdeorras to A Rûa de Valdeorras. 14 kms.  Hostal Niza €18. (own shower & basin, shared toilet)

Day 5.  24th Oct.  A Rûa de Valdeorras to Quiroga. 29.5 Kms. Hostal Quiper €17

Day 6.  25th Oct.  Quiroga to Pobra do Brollón.  26.03 Kms.  Hostal As Viñas,  Dinner, bed & Breakfast €34
Day 7.  26th Oct. Pobra do Brollón to Monforte de Lemos.  16.7 Kms. Hotel Puenta Romano  room +  brekky €20

Day 8.  27th Oct. Monforte de Lemos to Chantada.  32.7 Kms. Hotel Mogay.  €33.

Day 9.  28th Oct. Chantada to Rodeiro. 24.4 Kms.  Hospedaxe O Guerra dinner bed and breakfast €32

Day 10.  29th Oct.  Rodeiro to Lalin. 19Kms.  Hotel Palacio. Dinner, bed and breakfast €35

Day 11.  30th Oct.  Lalin to Ponte Ulla.  38.6kms.  Bar Rios.  Dinner, bed & breakfast €27

Day 12.  31st Oct.  Ponte Ulla to Santiago de Compostela.  San Martin Pinario €92 (€23 per night - pilgrim room) bed & breakfast for 4 nights

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Into Santiago de Compostela

Leaving Ponte Ulla for the last days push to Santiago de Compostela began in fog and was quite cool.  I crossed back across the bridge to check out what I'd missed, in the dark, the night before.  Walking back to collect my pack the young bloke who passed me yesterday zoomed past again, presumably having stayed elsewhere last night.  Over breakfast I met an Italian woman and just as she was getting ready to depart who should come along but the "shopping trolley" pilgrim who, I was informed, was a 70 year old Italian, named Paolo.  That meant three pilgrims ahead of me, which soon became five, as around the corner I saw my dinner companions of the night before, Goedele and Peter, heading up the hill - a substantial increase in pilgrim traffic for my last day.
One of the few pilgrims I have seen on this path crossing the bridge at Ponte Ulla.
The little church in Ponte Ulla,
with shells on the bells!

Not only was there a stiff climb out of Ponte Ulla, but the rest of the stage is very up and down, making it a fairly tough final day.  Reaching the 13 km to go point I saw the Cathedral towers in the distance, and was breathing a sigh of relief.  However, it took hours, in the heat of the afternoon to trudge those last few kilometres, and boy, was I glad to get there!

This last stage was surprisingly rural, passing little villages, virtually suburbs, but still maintaining the village appearance.  It was actually only the last few kilometres that I walked through denser housing.

I have had particularly good weather these past few weeks.  My whiz-bang poncho, bought especially to keep the rain of Galicia at bay, has not been used since the brief shower I had back near Ponferrada!  My boots have held up well, though I think I will be leaving them, as much of the tread has gone.  So too, my feet have held up well.  Dr Google is an amazing help when stuck in a place where it is too difficult to communicate exactly what is wrong.  He diagnosed, and recommended treatment for, Achilles bursitis.  Ice, exercise, cream - all have held this at bay, as have the exercises recommended for repair of the Achilles tendon.  At home I would no more think of using Dr Google, but on the road he has proved to be mist helpful!

My turquoise shirt is now a funny striped shirt, showing very well the damage the sun can do.  It has "fade stripes", due to the continual exposure to the sun, very obviously fading the fabric.  Under the straps, and on the back the fabric remains pretty much the bright original colour!
Goedele and Peter heading up what was basically a five kilometre climb out of Ponte Ulla.
The higher I got the clearer it became.  Looking back, the hills looked like islands in a sea of mist.


Like many churches and chapel's along the way this one was closed.  The people of the village had gone to great lengths to make this a restful place, with benches to rest on and a fountain to get a drink. Note the horreo in the background.
This little Chapel was only about 4 kms from Santiago.
The albergue at A Laxe, at the top of the 5 kilometre hike up from Ponte Ulla.

For several weeks I have been seeing huge pots of chrysanthemums in shops.  It seems strange, being from the southern hemisphere where these flowers tend to be synonymous with Mothers Day.  It took me a while to work out why they were so prominent.  It is because on, or near, the 31st October people spend much time cleaning, tidying, and repairing the graves of their loved ones.  They then place flowers, generally a pot plant, on them.  The cemeteries I have passed have been particularly colourful in recent days.
Just one cemetery.

Pots of chrysanthemums (above and below) for sale

The towers of the Cathedral can be seen, but there is still 13 kms of up and down to get there!
They get closer, but still a few kilometres away!
And I made it!

I know there are some of you reading this who would like to know distances etc.  Next post I will put that information up.  It is quite an exercise accessing good wifi, so it will have to wait until next time.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Two long days from Rodeiro to Ponte Ulla.

Today I head to Santiago de Compostela, he last day day of a very beautiful way.  The past two days have had a few little unexpected treats.

Leaving Rodeiro, heading for Lalin, I decided I would go the shortest possible way, which was along the service road running parallel to the main road.  This, being Saturday, was not as noisy as it might have been and turned out to be an easy walk, a gentle uphill for about 7 - 8 kilometres, and an equally gentle down hill for the same distance into the town.  This meant I arrived at lunch time, with plenty of time for chores, a siesta, and a look around the town.
The town Hall in Rodeiro
On a roundabout in the centre of Rodeiro is a wheel - a wheel of the traditional 2 wheeled Galician cart.  Behind this, on the left is a lively little statue of two eldery folk in traditional dress.

Walking this way also meant that, compared to other days when this wasn't possible, I could do a bar crawl!  There were a number of bars along the road where I could stop off and get a drink, usually coffee.  In the last bar I stopped at, obviously a hub for the village as well as a watering hole for travellers, I met Rachel.  She spoke fantastic English and it turned out she had also walked the Camino.  She and her friend were heading up to the Alto de Faro for a walk on this morning.  Through her, I was able to find out what looked like grass mats hanging on pegs were.  It turned out that they were wet weather gear - very ingenious, and probably effective, in times gone by when modern fabrics didn't exist.
Rachel's friend modelled the tradional rain gear for me.  Behind his left shoulder you can see the knee pads that were to keep the bottom of the legs dry when walking through the grass.  From memory, I have seen people wearing clogs (wooden shoes on peg ,"stilts") in Galicia too.
Lalin has a lot of special pork dishes and this "monument" commemorates this.  Bit bigger than the pigs in Adelaide's Rundle Mall!

I was expecting, and had, a very long day from Lalin to Ponte Ulla (pronounced Ooya).  It was long in both distance (around 38kns) and time - I didn't arrive till after dark, walking the last kilometre in total darkness.  I was VERY glad to see the bar, where I got a room, on the other side of the bridge!
I met a couple of blokes out on an evening stroll at the top of this hill.  They assured me it was only three kilometres to Ponte Ulla.  An hour and a half later, after setting a cracking pace downhill, I got there!  They were obviously thinking in the car, or maybe as the crow flies!

About six kilometres from Lalin the Camino Invierno ends, and merges with the Camino Sanabres, the route coming up from the South, having begun as the Via de la Plata.  Pilgrim traffic increased markedly, I saw one pilgrim pulling what looked a shopping trolley with his pack on it, but was actually a hi-tech trolley specifically for that task, and one other young man zoomed past me after lunch.  Then last night I met two pilgrims based in the UK, and over breakfast an Italian woman.
The albergue at A Laxe, where the Camino Invierno and Camino Sanabres merge.
Both days I was blessed with sunshine, bordering on too hot, and wonderful views.
Another surprise!  Sunday was a hunting day.  This was the first group of hunters I came across, then after lunch I could hear gunshots.  When I noticed that the path was heading in that direction I decided it was time to put on some hi-vis gear!  I rounded a corner, and found a group of hunters chatting, so checked that it was safe for me to continue!

Walking through the forest at one point I became distracted taking photos.  I knew there was a Roman bridge somewhere, but I was  not prepared for the lengthy stretch of roman road, nor the beautiful location and condition of it.  It is extraordinary to think that these still exist after hundreds of centuries, yet so much of our modern infrastructure seems to fail after just a few decades.  Granted, the traffic is more dense today, but chariots of old would have been pretty rough too!
The Roman bridge in the midst of the forest
The stones fit so well and still stand after all this time.
A chariot ride down this road would have been a bit bumpy.

I amw now in Santiago, having started this post several days ago.  Will tell you about my last day of walking next time.  Wifi has got slower and more difficult the further West I go, so I am now behind in my posts.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Monforte de Lemos to Rodeiro.

The past two days have been wonderful.  The weather continues to be fine, sometimes hazy, but the sun always shining, and the scenery continues to delight.  The walking has been strenuous at times, but the sights more than make up for it.

 Thankfully, the dogs have improved, or I should say, the control of them has.  The big, scary ones have all been either on a chain, or behind a high fence.  I left Monforte de Lemos in fog, but as the day progressed the sun burnt it off and it was a lovely day.
I wasn't paying attention as I left Monforte de Lemos, and just missed injuring myself on this abnormally low slung overhang!
Looking through the fog.
I met this handsome pair at A Vide, on the way out of Monforte de Lemos.

Chantada, my next stop after Monforte de Lemos, was a beautiful town.  The buildings were interesting and the people caring and helpful.  My guide notes said it had arcaded streets, and on chatting with the hotel receptionist I learnt that these "arcades" are called soportalis and exist solely so that the home owners can get inside their homes without getting even wetter.  He assured me that from October to May it barely stops raining, but, fortunately for me, this is a dry autumn.  We also had a chat about my observations that there seems to be more affluence in this part of Galicia.  He thought it might be because the rivers have provided work, and made work easier.  The rivers provide water for the vines (and these days the electricity) and in the past the water provided the power to work grain mills etc.
Chantada, and one soportalis (right)
Chantada (above, and below)

Getting to Chantada was hard work, as I had a couple of big ascents and descents.  I had left the River Sil, and this was the day I crossed the Rio Miño, but have now left that far behind too.  Approaching the Rio Miño I had to follow a very steep path downhill.  It was very rocky, and the way the rocks were arranged so carefully made me think that I was probably walking on an ancient road.  Parts of the path hadn't seen the sun all day and so the rocks glistened with moisture, reminding me to take care.  The path was so steep that it zig-zagged it's way down the hill, and once over the bridge, the road I chose to follow (less steep) zig-zagged up the hill!  Despite the incredible steepness, every available piece of arable land was in use, primarily with vines, but some vegie patches too.  The vineyards are terraced, and as I plodded up the hill in the late afternoon, wherever I looked, I could see people out, tending the vines.
Diomondi, at the start of the descent down to the Rio Miño, has a beautiful Romanesque Church, an historical monument.
These bovines watch over one door of the Diomondi church
In Diomondi there were two beautiful horreos.
Just one carpet of chestnuts that I am often having to negotiate.
The only way to access the vines is up steps such as these.
Terraced vineyards, and the last of the zig-zag (downhill) path can be seen cutting diagonally across and down.
Looking down on Belesar, on the Rio Miño.  Note the terraced vineyards behind.

I was a bit weary arriving in Chantada, and after dinner went straight off to bed, leaving my exploring till the following morning.  I also did a bit of unplanned exploration, as my notes and the signs didn't quite match, but a second breakfast, and a closer look at the map got me sorted, until lunch time!  The day began with a slow, steady ascent, which escalated to a much steeper one some nine kilometres later.  This was so that the Alto de Faro could be climbed, which is, I am informed, the geographical centre of Galicia.  The views from the top were stunning.  The Ermita de Nosa Señora do Monte do Faro is near the top of this climb, in the middle of a clear field.  I sat there, alone, amidst the blooming crocus, with magnificent views wherever I cared to look and ate my lunch.  I could hear no sounds, except for a bee buzzing amongst the crocus.
A horreo (used for storing grain) in Penasillás, on the way to Alto de Faro - a five kilometre climb is about to start!
Tackling the last bit of the climb up Alto de Faro.
Ermita de Nosa Señora do Monte do Faro.
The cruceiro with the Ermita in the background.

When it came time to push on I had my first real "don't know" moment on this journey.  I couldn't find any yellow arrows, only a mojón pointing down the hill.  I went that way briefly, it felt wrong and so I climbed back up to check I hadn't missed anything.  Still no joy, and so climbed the few metres to the top of the Alto, and again, no joy!  I consulted Google maps and decided that I would forgo the Camino and make my own way to Rodeiro where I planned to spend the night.  The route it took me was on tiny little tracks, and with no uphills to speak of.  At one point, in the distance I could hear a dog/s barking, and was a little fearful.  As I approached the small hamlet, the dogs let loose, and were loose, but fortunately their masters were sitting on a wall having a late afternoon natter.  I stood still and waited for things to calm down, had a chat to the two men and a woman, and headed off to Rodeiro, reaching my destination about a half hour later.
Looking down from the Alto to the Ermita, where I had my peaceful lunch break.
The path that Google maps took me down - very steep, and very rocky.  It was slow work until I got to the bottom!

Santiago is close.  I will be glad to reach my destination and stop, but sad too that I will have no more walking to do.  That is always the way!
I am now well past this marker (at the start of the descent at Diomondi), but it is nice to see one not spoilt with graffiti!