Friday, 20 May 2011
Firstly I can state that I will be one of a handful of pilgrims that finished the Camino and will not write a book on it. The coffee tables of the world are cluttered enough with My Camino, my journey to self-discovery etc. Thanks Paulo.
The Camino was much as I expected. I walked for 34 days with 1 day off in Burgos taking exactly 5 weeks. It was a physical challenge but within my limits. Thankfully, no injuries, blisters or bruises. The Albergues were better than expected; a lot of them have been renovated in the last year or two. The prize goes to Roncessvalles which just opened in April. Its old Albergue which is still there had a bit of a bad reputation. The showers were better than I was expecting. The snoring was as anticipated but my tolerance to the racket improved in that I used the ear plugs only 2-3 times. On the other hand, they were not very efficient so maybe I gave up on them. The coffee was much better than expected, similarly the food. We ate mainly pilgrim meals for 9 Euros each evening. The freshly-squeesed orange juice was a triumph to the point that we passed up the second cup of coffee of the day to have one. Everything was cheaper than expected outside of Santiago (outside of the tourist drag in Santiago). We were also glad that we contributed in some way to tourism in regional Spain, especially in those small villages.
The highlights included the walk through the mountains down into Molineseca, the days walking through the Pyrenees, the stained-glass windows in the Cathedral in Leon, the town of Astorga and of course the weather. Am off now to start the rest of my holiday which will include a few quiet pints in Coffey's in Clogh and in Freeny's in Galway. I have been walking now for a day without my 8kg rucksack which is a bit strange. I am walking with a bit of a 'here's me head and me arse is coming' type of gait. No doubt my equilibrium will be restored in a few days.
This has been a Quinn-Martin production.
Headed off at 7.15 am which qualifies as a bit of a sleep-in for us. We took it fairly handy most of the day and had a few stops. Met Marcus early on with his dad but wasn't game to ask him about the fags. He works as a trauma surgeon which must be a very stressful job so we thought that if the odd smoke eased the stress a bit it can't be all bad. The walk into Santiago was very pleasant, most of it through woods. We cam across quite a few markers on the Camino where people had died. One of the first we saw was for a Japanese pilgrim. About 10 Kms out of Santiago we saw a lovely commemoration to a Myra Brennan.
"Myra Brennan, (52 yrs) née Holland of Kilkenny and Sligo, Ireland who died peacefully in her sleep in Santiago de Compostella on 24/06/03 having just completed her second consecutive Camino".
It finishes appropriately for a Sligo person with a piece from Yeats' Lake Isle of Innisfree:
"And I shall have some peace there
For peace comes dropping slow".
"From Slievenamon today, together all the way"
The memorial was set up on the 5th anniversary of her death by a Brigit R.
She did a fine job.
We arrived in Santiago at 1 pm and headed for The Cathedral. Found accommodation on the way and dropped off the bags. Didn't have a shower as we wanted to smell like real pilgrims when we got our certificate. We then trundled to the Pilgrims Office which was doing great business so we had to queue for half hour and busied ourselves congratulating with the other pilgrims each others' efforts. Managed to get a certificate in Latin without telling too many fibs. The plaza in front of The Cathedral was crowded with pilgrims and everyone was greeting each other probably for the last time. The plaza was also full of young people protesting for real democracy in Spain which entailed a hefty list of items. The pilgrims also showed great interest in the protest which I suppose was part of the plan.
Went out for some beers with a few pilgrims which cost 3 Euros for a small glass. Everyone was bitching about the prices as we were used to getting it for next to nothing on The Camino. Went out for tapas with Marcus and his father, Karl Heinz. Didn't get up to much today. Went to the pilgrim's mass at 12 noon. Had to get there early as it is always packed. It was the normal choral Mass which was very pleasant but not as good as the day before where they had a nun that sang like an angel; or at least better than Julie Andrews. The major excitement was the large crucible with burning incense which they swung over the congregation.
Wednesday, 18 May 2011
Some of the Albergues give you paper sheets and pillow cases. I am assuming that this is to reduce the risk of being bitten by bugs or of transporting them. They seem to be a bit of a problem on The Camino. On the first night back in St Jean, Marion from Berlin said that it was too early in the year for them and they are only a problem in September. She had done the Camino before so Gaby was delighted to hear this as she had spent a couple of weeks reading up on them on the net. She washed our silk sheets for the sleeping bags in some bug repellant stuff she found on the net but we both reacted to it very badly. My lips started swelling up; thought it might turn into a scene from The Exorcist for a moment there. Anyway, the sheets were washed another 5 times to make them habitable. We only heard of bugs one night on the Camino and that was in the Benedictine Convent in Leon which up to that was getting rave reviews. I stayed in the Municipal Albergue that night. So, with one night to go I can say we had a good run on the bug front. Santiago will probably be invaded by locusts tomorrow.
Tuesday, 17 May 2011
Sunday, 15 May 2011
Samos is a lovely town that is dominated by its Benedictine monastery. It is still a working monastery with at least 12 monks we saw last night at Gregorian chant. The monastery is the oldest in Spain, built in the 7th century. We went for a guided tour yesterday at 4.30 which was in Spanish and cost 3 Euros. Didn't understand hardly anything so I was able to get creative when it came to the history of the place. They have a 90-bed Albergue in the Monastery which probably keeps them ticking over. The monastery is huge.
There was a fella from just outside Tipperrary where we stayed last night who was cycling from St Jean to Santiago. He was feeling a bit poorly as he had come off the bike that morning. It was very honest of him to say that he was looking at 2 girls at the time. I was going to tell him never to cycle through Italy or he'd kill himself but decided to leave it. He was hoping to get to Santiago tonight if he got on the road by 7am. Tony cooked last night in the Albergue so we stayed in for a change. After that we went to Gregorian chant and then off to the bar where we had lunch for a glass of wine (top bunk last night). Headed off at 6.30 am and managed to have breakfast in the town. The Galician dialect (language) is very different to the Spanish that Antonio Banderas speaks, didn't manage to understand a word at breakfast. Had a quiet walk to Sarria along the road, no traffic. The man from Tipp passed me on his mountain bike at 8.15 am. He must have had a later start than planned; up late watching the Eurovision I suppose. Passed 4 English girls in Siarra and one of them said "Girls, we are on it" referring to the start of their Camino. I trundled past them with nearly 500 Camino miles behind me doing my best not to make a condescending comment. The Galician countryside is very like Ireland. In the last few days the Camino has gone through country lanes connecting farmyards. Went through quite a few dairy farms which were the first I'd seem on the Camino. Pulled into Ferrerios and stopped in the Municipal Albergue for 5 Euros. Only 98 Kms to go to Santiago.
Saturday, 14 May 2011
Got up at 6.15 and had breakfast in the Albergue. Gaby is very chirpy once she has a coffee in the mornings. Headed off into a very heavy fog as the Albergue was at a decent height on the mountain. The fog cleared after an hour walking. The Galician region is beautiful and similar to Ireland. We took the longer of 2 routes on the Camino through a lovely wood to a town called Samos where we are stopping for the night. This is one of the nicest towns on the Camino.
We had lunch when we arrived and I enjoyed myself so much that I was heading off without paying. I might go back there for a drink later so the owner knows I wasn't trying to do a runner. We are about 12ks from Sarria which is just over 100 Kms from Santiago. I was thinking that if I got to Sarria tonight I would hit Santiago by Wed which would leave me enough time to walk another 3 days to Finistere on the coast. It is 86 Kms from Santiago and was known as the 'end of the earth'.
You can get a Camino certificate if you only start from Sarria. Those people that start the Camino in another country sometimes look down on those slackers that only walk the last 100 Kms but I wouldn't even dream of such a thing.
Staying in a nice place here that has free wi-fi. No rain again today.
Friday, 13 May 2011
Thursday, 12 May 2011
Tuesday, 10 May 2011
Went out for a pilgrim´s meal with a bunch of pilgrims. It was 10 Euros, 1 Euro more than we normally pay but who´s complaining? There were about 30 people in the room we were in in the Albergue last night. A couple of soft snorers only so nothing controversial to report. Don´t even bother with the ear plugs. Had breakfast at 6.45 am with coffee which means that the Albergue gets an extra star.
Had our best day on the Camino so far interms of scenery. It was a tough day but very rewarding. The big news is that Marcus from Germany gave up the fags at 9 am this morning on top of the peak Crus de Ferro. We took photos of him to mark the occasion including one with his last smoke in one hand and the Red Bull in the other. We will be encouraging him for the rest of the Camino; no pressure though.
The walk today was made for photographers and poets. ¨Mary had a little lamb¨ might be the height of the poetry you´d get out of some of the pilgrims with all the Vino Tinto that was consumed last night. Every turn on the road was a picture postcard as we walked up through the mountains which were completely covered in heather. Blessed with the weather again (touch wood). Walked through some lovely villages which are thriving now as a result of the revival of the Camino. The descent from the mountains was a bit tricky and I nearly lost my footing a few times in the shale and stones. But the poles and the boots and my elasticated flexibility saved the day. Well the boots definitely did the job. Gaby has been back in the boots for the last 3 days and is going well. Touch wood she hasn´t had an issue with her achilles tendon since the start of the Camino. We pulled into this lovely place which would clean up in the Tidy Towns Competition. The Albergue we are staying in is a little out of town and seems new. The room we are in has only 10 beds and no bunks. I need to calibrate the number of pints I can have each evening if I am on the top bunk. Not too far to fall tonight so things are looking good. We are heading back in to the village tonight for dinner at 7 pm to meet the other punters.
I´m informed we actually walked 29.5Ks today when you allow for all the ups and downs through the mountains. 25Ks as the crow flies though so that´s the official count. Doesn´t make me feel any less stiff. There are only 216ks left to Santiago.
Monday, 9 May 2011
Went out for a pilgrim's meal last night to the Hotel Gaudi. It was only 12 Euros for 3 courses and a bottle of wine. Gaby felt a bit fuzzy headed this morning so I think it might have been Ribena instead of house wine that we have been having upto this. Sat on the balcony of the Albergue having a beer with Frank and Tony before we called it a day. Headed off after breakfast this morning at 7.30 am and walked only 20Ks today. Gaby gave us a discount of 5Ks after our big day yesterday. The walk today was great; the countryside reminds me of the west of Ireland. Walked through a village that used to have a lot of thatched houses. Now they are in ruins and not much thatch to be seen. Must be the insurance premiums that killed them. We are staying at a lovely Albergue again tonight for 5 Euros and it seems to be a family business.
Sunday, 8 May 2011
The village we stayed in last night was very quiet. Had a pilgrim´s meal in the Albergue. Only 4 to a room so it was quite a good spot. Waited for breakfast at 7am and then headed off. It was a hard day today but the only Albergue that was available on the road didn´t look too hot so we kept going. For the first 5 miles or so we had a stiff breese blowing so I have to put on the gloves and the beanie. We have been walking the ¨plateau¨for the last week and the landscape is about to change again. We have just finished the most boring part of the Camino. The last 5ks are the hardest on a 30k day. Tomorrow we may have a 20k day. This town is faboulous with a huge plaza. A bit quiet on a Sunday mind you. We have been blessed with the weather again today. That´s code for no rain. The hostel here is great with fabulous facilities for 6 Euros. Free Internet here which is a bonus. Will now go and find a place to eat.
Saturday, 7 May 2011
Walked into town last night from the Albergue with Frank Wall. Went for a couple of beers in Leon and then caught up with Gaby. Gaby took the bus while I walked the tar and cement. Leon is a fabulous city with a great atmosphere. The big attraction is the Cathedral with its stained-glass windows. I much prefer Leon to Burgos. Bought a new pair of socks, a Swiss army knife and a pack of Compeed plasters. I felt a bit decadent. The Compeeds are the pilgrim's friend. If you feel a hot spot on your feet you put a Compeed on it to avoid a blister. We went out and had paella for dinner with the usual suspects. Called into a small little shop on the way home and had a glass of wine. It was a great little place. They gave us smoked ham, chorizo and cheese as well which was a nice touch. Had a shortish day today. Had no rain while we walked. The place we are in is quite nice, only 4 beds to a room. With any luck there might be a match on the telly after dinner.
Friday, 6 May 2011
We Had a pilgrim meal last night with the same punters as the night before. Finished off a Mafia crime audio book last night by Michele Giutari which was OK. Headed off this morning at 7.15 am and arrived at the Municipal Albergue at 10.45 am. Most of the people in the Albergue this morning took the bus to Leon as the walk was quite boring close to the main road. Stopped for 10 minutes for a coffee which was the height of the excitement. The Albergue here is great for 5 Euros. I am a bit out of town so I will have to head in to buy a new pair of socks. I have lost 2 pairs already.
Thursday, 5 May 2011
We had a decent pilgrim´s meal last night with Marcus from Paderborn in Germany and Frank Wall of Kilkenny. Frank´s grandfather established the men´s clothing shop in the city. His grandmother was a Dooley from Castlecomer. We settled in to watch the match after dinner. Marcus who is a Shalke fan went to bed after the second goal went in. I ended up watching the second half on my own and had to put the lights out. Had a tough day today. There was no place on the whole walk where we could get refreshments. The landscape is as flat as a tack so I had to take out the wide-brimmed hat as the sun was relentless. We are about 18k from Leon now which is the second biggest city on the Camino after Burgos. The walk tomorrow is mainly along the main road with heavy traffic. It looks like beer and tapas for tea tomorrow night.
Wednesday, 4 May 2011
Tuesday, 3 May 2011
"No matter how much I glitter baby,
I shall never be gold"
That song always reminds me of driving through the back roads from Enniscorthy to Graignamanagh last May with the CD blaring. Jimmy McRae would have been impressed with my driving. Pulled the plug today after 23k in Ledigos, 3k short of our target. Hauld up! they have wireless Internet here. There is not much more to this village than the Albergue and the bar I'm in at the moment. There is a local at the end of the bar driving shite out of a cigarette, right beside the no smoking sign. The revolution will not be televised.
Sunday, 1 May 2011
Had a lovely pilgrim meal last night in Hontanas. Headed off before 7am without breakfast. Had a good day as well today walking 28k. We are thinking that a day off is not all it's cracked to be as you just get stiffer without the walking. Maybe 2 short days is the way to go instead. Walked through some lovely hills this morning. There are plenty of wind turbines on the ridges of the hills and mountains. Haven't seen too many solar panels though. If the grass is as green as it is they must get plenty of rain in these parts. The Albergue we are in is very nice. Most of the pilgrims we saw on the road are staying here. We had some rain today but not too heavy. 5 minutes after we arrived there was a downpour. Federcio from Tuscany who is a physiotherapist told me I wasn't doing my stretch exercises the right way last night. He showed me a couple of exercises so I am expecting the new elasticated me to appear any day now.