Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Monday, June 29, 2009

FISTERRE ROUTE - Day 3


I had planned on walking for at least 4 days to Finisterre but with the albergue at Corcubion closed I decided that I would just walk all the way to Finisterre today.
Yesterday had been a long walk - over 32km - and today would also be a long walk if I walked all the way to Carbo Finisterre, the lighthouse at the énd of the world´. - about 36km by the time I walked back down the hill from the lighthouse.
The first pilgrim got up at 5h30 and my cell phone alarm went off at 6am. Conny was getting up so we packed and walked together to one of the bars for a cup of chocolate - she a cafe on leche.
"Are you going to walk to Finisterre or Muxia?" I asked.
"I don´t know" she said. "I´ll see when I get there!"
We walked together until we came across another open cafe bar just before Hospital where the routes to Muxia and Hospital split. Conny decided to stop for a coffee, I decided to walk on, so we said goodbye and promised to email each other. As I passed the cafe bar I saw Pete, the pilgrim from Holland I'd walked with the day before. I walked ahead for quite a while and then he caught up and we walked together for a while. It started to rain so I put on my raincoat.
The route leads you onto a high platteau with wonderful views on both sides. The wind was quite strong and it was the coldest I´d felt since France. I caught up to Pete and we walked together into Cee and Corcubion at about 11am.
"I´m going to stop for a drink" I said.
"Me too" he said. But, it is fiesta in Corcubion and we walked for ages before asking someone if there was a cafe bar open anywhere.
"Only one" said a local, "it is fiesta so everything is closed".
He directed us to the only open cafe bar in Corcubion and we had a hot chocolate and a Madelena before continuing. The path took us up a rocky little trail between high, ancient stone walls. Then we were high above Corcubion and after a km we came across the albergue with all the fiesta paraphanalia set up outside. We walked on in the rain. I stopped to put my raincoat again and and Pete carried on going so I walked alone for a while but caught up to a pilgrim from Switzerland (another Peter) and he and I walked together down to the beach and along a long paved promenade that strecthes for a few kms all the way to Finisterre. When I arrived at the albergue I saw Pete and he told me that it only opened at 4pm so I put my backpack in line on the pavement and joined Pete and some other pilgrims at a bar across the road. We ordered a large plate of chips with ketchup and Mayonaise and sat eating hot chips and drinking Coke for an hour.
The albergue opened at 4pm and it was Ana and Begona who were the hospitaleras. I was shown up to the dormitory, had a shower and washed my undies.
"Hello Sylvia" I heard. It was Bernice, a RSA pilgrim from Johannesburg who walked the camino from St Jean to Santiago and had got the bus to Finisterre today. We made arrangements to see each other later and I left to walk up to the lighthouse with an Australian girl I´d met a few days ago. On the way down I bumped into Bernice again and we are hoping to meet up again tomorrow for breakfast.
I spoke to Begona about tomorrow and she said I must leave my backpack in the room and come back at 4pm. Then, on Wednesday I can go to Corcubion and start at the albergue.
When I cleared my didgi-walker this afternoon, it read 36.5kms. I don´t really feel as though I´ve walked that distance - about 68km in two days. I´m almost tempted to walk to Muxia tomorrow with a smaller backpack, but I´ll wait and see how I feel in the morning - and what the weather does.
Finisterre is a lovely little fishing village and I´m going to stop and watch the gulls fighting over fish on the beach before I go to bed!

FINISTERRA ROUTE - Day 2

Leaving Negreira

When I left the hotel rain was threatening but fortunately I didn´t need my raincoat for the first hour. From Negreia you pass through many forests, open land and small hamlets that seemed to tumble into each other.
At one time I was walking along a little lane when a heard of cows started coming down towards me. I went back to where there was a small cross roads. The cows continued to come down, dozens of them. I started to take a video of them and gave a running commentary. "OK" I said to the lead cow "You just go on your way, I don´t want you to come any further in my direction." She stopped and looked at me with her head down so I moved over to the other side of the lane. I was standing in her way and as soon as I moved she started walking up the lane with all the other cows following. I started walking up the lane and another flipping herd started coming down. I was too far up to go back down again so I stood aside, pressed against a stone wall with fat cows ambling past me, turning their heads to give a beady eyed stare at this stranger standing on their lane. There was a woman herding them down the lane and she shouted at them as they passed me. For the next few hundred metres I was stepping around cow dung patties all hot and steamy!
At Vilaserio I pass the vacant schoolhouse where pilgrims can sleep the night and have a shower - no electricity.
I passed 2 pilgrims along the route, then a lone female, then a couple. I had planned on stopping at Santa Marina (19.5km) but I got there at 12 o´clock and the place that reportedly had rooms was right on the highway with a busy bar next door. I didn´t know what I would have done with myself from mid-day to 8pm so I just carried on walking.
Peter, a pilgrim from Holland caught up to me and started chatting about South Africa, the Dutch history, Afrikaans etc so we walked together to Oliveiroa about 12.5km further on. We got there at about 2pm. A sign on the door said that the hospitalero would only arrive at 4pm so please choose a bed and make yourself comfortable. It is a good albergue, the sitting area and registration room is a building on the left side of the path. There is also a stable with beds upstairs and a few mattresses downstairs. Across the narrow, stone path is a stone building with a dormitory and bathroom downstairs and upstairs. Next to that is a small stone building with beds for 4 people and next to that is a stone Horrero that is lit up at night.
While I was doing my washing I met Conny, a woman from Holland (there were about 6 Hollanders staying there) and we just hit it off right away.

"Are you English?" she asked. "No, South African" I said "but I speak English.
"So what do you do in South Africa then? Are you in business?"
"No" I said "I´m just a housewife, mother, grandmother."
"How boring" she said. I just burst out laughing! "And you?" I asked her. "You are a rocket scientist?" She burst out laughing. We went to one of the bars - in another stone building right next to the Horrero, and had lunch and a drink. At 4pm the hospitalero arrived and when it was my turn to register I told him that I was a volunteer hospitalera for Corcubion and could he tell me when it would reopen. 1 Julio - he told me. There was a fiesta in the town and the stalls, bandstand etc had all been set up right outside the building that housed the albergue. I decided that I would walk to Muxia - about 28kms away - and walk to Finsiterre the day after.
At about 6pm a woman arrived in a car and a woman asked for Sylvia. This was Begona from Finisterre. "If you walk to Finisterre tomorrow you can stay for 2 days" she said. So, I changed my mind and decided to walk to Finisterre and not to Muxia after all.
It had been a long day so I went to bed at about 8:30pm. There was one snorer in the room who had the most incredible range or snorts, rumbles, chain-saw growls. I finally fell asleep and only heard him intermitantly.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

FINSITERRA ROUTE - DAY 1

The way out of Santiago to Finisterre

We got up at about 7am and did our final packing.
"I am SO envious of you walking on" said Marion.
"I wish you were walking with me" I told her.
I checked my cell phone and there was a message from Javier Martin suggesting I send an sms reply so that he culd phone me. When he called he said that the albergue in Corcubion was closed due to a 4 day Fiesta happening right outside the the building. He hopes that it will be open on the 30th when I am suposed to start there. He suggested I ask the hospitalera at Oliveiroa to call Bego at Finisterre to ask when it will open. If it doesn´t open until the 1st July, I might just walk up to Muxia and back. Will play it by ear.
We left the hotel at about 8am and Marion walked with me to the cathedral. The route out of Santiago is past the Parador, down the ramp and stairs and then down the little road out of the city. We had a good bye hug, kiss, kiss, wave, wave and off I went. I came to a 4-Way cross. No arrows, no signs. I opened my pouch for the CSJ notes - nothing there. Bugger!! I remembered clearing out the bag and had left the notes in the room. So, back I went into the city and along the little streets to the hotel. Marion wasn´t there so I asked Fernando´s father to open the room for me. As I waited for him on the 2nd floor, up came Marion, so surprised to see me there.! I collected the notes and out we went again. Second attempt - kiss, kiss, hug, hug, wave, wave and on I went.
I turned to take a last photograph of the towers of the cathedral.
It was a lovely walk, very much ike the CtoC in England. Lots of little hamlets, between houses and backyards, a bit of walking on pavements between villages. About 12kms from Santiago there is a hill just like The Hill on the Camino Ingles, a winding, straight up the mountainside, puff, puff and sweat, sweat hill but only about 2km long - a la Polly Shorts on the Comrades route. I flew up it but was tempted to sit at one of the strategicaly placed benches spaced out on the way up.
As I walked along I imagined that Marion was behind me. At first I pictured her in her blue raincoat, head down and hunchback slogging along. "She must be so hot in that raincoat" I thought and hey presto! the picture changed her into her orange top and bandana hat! There were a few places where I wasn´t sure which direction to take. On one stretch I was about to turn back when a rabbit (hare?) hopped along the path in front of me! "That´s Bunny" I thought "I must be on the right path" and just then there was a concrete marker! So, thanks Bunny! (Bunny is what Marion´s grandchildren call her.)
It is strange how your mind plays tricks on you when you walk alone. If you haven´t seen a yellow arrow for a while you start to imagine them in a pile of yellowed leaves on the ground, or willing them in the yellow moss on the sides of stone barns. Sometimes you are convinced that you have seen an arrow ahead only to find that it was a manifestation of your need to see one but not a painted arrow at all. When you finally do see one, you relax and you increase your walking pace. Thank heaven for D Elias Valeno Sampedro who painted the first yellow arrows way back in the early 1970´s with paint begged from the road department!
I stopped after 2 hours at a little concrete picnic table next to a bridge and had half of a soft Portuguese Roll with Happy Cow spreading cheese and half an apple. A pilgrim passed by. "Parles voux Francais?" he asked.
"No," I said, "English, or un poco Espanol".
"Not many pigrims here" he said. I agreed. He told me that he had left Santiago before 8am but had got lost three times!



Then a bit further on two cyclist pilgrims passed me. I saw the French pilgrim again about an hour later walking up the right hand side of the road past the concrete marker on the opposite side pointing to a lane on the left. I called out and pointed. He threw his hands up in the air and turned back. I bought a cold coke at Casa Pancho cafe-bar in Trasmonte and got a sello there.
I also popped into the Casa at Ponte Maceria for a sello, a beautiful place about 4kms from Nergeira next to a river with a waterfall and a long bridge. The woman told me that they have rooms so I took her leaflet and will let the CSJ know.
The rest of the walk was easy and I arrived at the hotel at about 13h45. I was tempted to go on to the albergue but they have a strict policy of only taking 20 people and it was a bit late to walk another 1km out of town so I just booked into the hotel which is very nice with a special discount for pilgrims.
I passed a supermecado, went inside and bought a small box of creamed veg soup, another roll, 2 bananas, a yoghurt and a coke for tomorrow. I´ve already had half of the soup and poured the other half into the small water bottle to carry onto the next place.
I watched a bit of news on the television and caught the weather forecast which is for rain for the next two days. The views from here to Olveiroa are supposed to be beautiful but there might not be much to see if it is raining and misty. Oh well, whatever will be will be.
I´m now off to try to find a telephone box - the one in the hotel chews euros and doesn´t work with any of my cards. Tomorrow I will walk as far as Santa Marina - 19.5km - and hopefuly stay at the albergue run by the Bar Antelo. Might not be an Internet there so will post again when I can. Adios for now.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday in Santiago

Marion
Everyday we started off with the sound of an alarm clock to wak us up, and then it was a rush around to get ready to start our day of walking, so as we had a free day we did not need to get up early so we never set the alarm. It felt so strange to wake up without hearing the alarn and no need to rush out of bed to get ready. I found it difficult to lie in bed so got up anyway. Most of the day we spent looking at shops and I bought a few souvenirs to take home. The highlight of the day for me was going to the pilgrim service at the cathedral. The cathedral was packed with mostly pilgrims and quite a lot of tourists. The botefumeira was hanging down so Syl said that they must be going to swing it - that sent a tremble through me as when we were here in Santiago 2 years ago I was so looking forward to seeing the botefumeira being swung and they did not swing it. I found the whole service very emotional especially the nun singing and the atmosphere in the cathedral, it was electrifying.





















Sil
We went to bed quite early and watched Bafana-bafana play Brazil on television. Neither of us could stay awake but I got up to switch the TV off at 1.5 mins to go and saw that Brazil had scored. It was raining this morning and we kept ducking into the arcades to escape the drizzle.
We went to the morning market and Marion bought souvenirs and a t-shirt. How Val would have loved this market with its fish section, meat section, fresh fruits and vegetables. She would also have loved the restaurant windows in Santiago with their live lobsters, octopus and other regional food displays. Next time Val!
We went for coffee, chocolate and churros at a little coffee shop nearby. Then we went to the cathedral and found seats in the cross section. It was packed with pilgrims sitting on the floor on the sides. The nun sang, the priests trooped in and the mass began. The Botafumeiro was hanging from the vault but nobody was sure that it would be swung at mass so there was an air of expectation. I looked around me at the man faces there, mostly pilgrims. Some were dozing - many can´t understand the Spanish and the elderly priest mumbled like the Godfather so we couldn´t even make out the names of the countries that pilgrims had arrived from the day before. I thought of the medieval pilgrims and stories of running battles in the cathedral between pilgrims from different nations. On some occaisons the battles were so great that the cathedral had to be scrubbed clean of the bloodshed and re-consecrated before it could be used again. There were a few grumbles from people who blocked other´s views but no blood was shed! I thought about this cathedral being declared a Patrimony of Human kind. It belongs to all the people of the world and the people of Satiago are the custodians. A pilgrim told us that she had walked to Rome and was revolted by the the cold, hard, lavish grandeur of St Peter´s compared to the bustling, éveryman´atmosphere in Sant Iago´s cathedral. I know what she meant. People here arrived in shorts, boots, walking sticks, packs still on their backs and nobody was turned away. At St Peter´s they scruitinze the length of your skirt, whether or not your arms are covered, and woe betide anyone who doesn´t meet the criteria!
When communion started and the 8 priests in scarlet robes were summonsed, there was a stirring in the congregation, most eyes on the Botafumeiro - was this it? Were they going to see the Holy Smoke burner swinging across the nave? No. Not yet, first communion and then the maroon robed tiraboleiros arrived and the large silver thurible was lowered to a stirring of the congregation. Cameras starting clicking and people jostled for a better position to take videos. Soon it started to swing, first away from where we were sitting and then higher and higher above our heads with large gasps, oohs! and Aaaahs! with each swing. Then it was over and people clapped. In 2002 when I walked to Santiago we saw the Botafumeiro swinging in the cathedral. Later, at a meeting with Don Jaime (priest in charge of the pilgrim´s office and the mass) he asked if we had enjoyed the mass. Ýes,´we said, ánd we saw the Botafumeriro.´ He was not pleased. ¨No importante´he said. But I don´t agree. Every pilgrim who visits the cathedral wants to see the Botafumeiro and those that don´t are usually disappointed.
After mass we window shopped and then went to a special lunch at the ´Cafe Casino´- I had a vegetarian canneloni with crispy cheese topping - very tasty. We then walked down to where Marion will get her bus, looking for a shoemaker to cut and restitch my new waist bag that I bought yesterday. The Info centre told us that there was one in San Pedro - the road that pilgrims walk in from the Camino Frances - so off we went to the other side of town. The shop was closed until 4pm so we had an icecream and strolled up and down San Pedro greeting tired pilgrims as they trudged through the Porto Camino on their way to the cathedral. We took a trip on the little tourist train on a scenic tour around Santiago. Neither of us is hungry so we sit in the square, Marion with wine and me with a Kas orange drink, a packet of Dortios, olives and some cheese and watch the people in the square. On the way back to the hostal we meander through all the little alleys and we are offered morsels of Tarta de Santiago and Carprichos - little almond meringues. Marion tastes the regional goat's cheese and decides to buy one to take home. Tomorrow Marion leaves for home and I start off on the Fistera route. I´m not nervous to be walking on my own as I know that many pilgrims walk this route. So, until the next internet machine, this is Sil, over and out from Santiago.















































































Marion Saturday.

I walked with Syl to the square, it was awful saying goodbye as I would have loved to have walked the extra few days, just a pity that I had booked my flight before we knew that Syl was going to walk to Finisterra instead of catching the bus. After leaving Syl I decided to go and have a coffee in one of the cafe bars before going back to the hotel to pack . When I arrived back at the hotel going up the stairs ahead of me I could see someone bending over with a backpack on with a South African flag. My mind was concertrating on what I was going to do for the rest of the day so at first did not register that it was Syl. It went through my mind "must be another South African in the hotel" all of a sudden the figure straightened up and I realised that it was Syl. I said " what on earth are you doing here", she told me that she had left her directions behind for the day and had come back for them and was busy writing me a note. So back to the square we went and another goodbye was said. Most of the day I wondered around the shops. I did go back to the cathedral to the pilgrim service at 12.00 and was ever so fortunate as again theyswung the botefumeira. I arrived at the airport early and they would not let me book in as the plane that was leaving from Madrid to South Africa had been overbooked by 10 people, they needed to wait to seeif I was going to be given a seat on that flight before they would book me from Santiago to Madrid. I was rather upset as I had confirmed my flight a few times. So I went and sat in the resturant and had something to ear and drink. The lady from the Iberia counter came to look for me and said that it had been confirmed that I would be on the flight so could now book in but the flight was delayed. So when I reached Madrid I had to hot foot it to my connecting flight. Can you imagine my relief when I sat down on the plane. Unfortunately when I arrived in Johannesburg my luggage had gone missing from the plane to the conveyer belt!! Luckily they found it and delivered to that night to my daughters in Joburg where I stayed for a couple of days before coming home to Durban. I am really sad that my journey is now over, will have to start planning another. I often look for my sticks when getting up from a chair and miss the backpack on my back. Cannot wait for a get together with Val & Syl to go over our times together.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Day 5: Sigueiro to Santiago




















Marion When we started our walk the very first day it was raining. When Val was doing her last day we had some rain. Well guess what - my last day of walking and it rained most of the way on and off. Really enjoyed the walk this morning as most of the way we were back through forests and farmlands, up and down, twisting and turning so much better that the day before on the long flat path. It felt quite emotional to arrive in the square at Santiago, we felt so proud of ourselves of our achievement. I am looking forward to the service in the cathedral tomorrow at 12.00.

























Sil
After the hot bath, alcohol Romero rub and 2 massages with Arnica, my feet felt really good this morning. I put sheeps wool under the toes and a thick Dr Scholl´s blister pad around the spots that stung yesterday. I could feel right away that they would be better today and even though we did 16kms in 4 hours I didn´t have any problems.
We arrived in Santiago this morning after a fairly quick walk from Sigueiro, most of it in the rain. The path was mainly through forest and farmlands and straightforward and besides the odd encounter with a highway, we both enjoyed it. After passing an industrial centre we stopped at a cafeteria for coffee and found that we were the only women in the place. Seems to be a morning meeting place for the local workers.
The camino Ingles comes in to Santiago from a different direction to the Camino Frances but we still had to go under the arch with the cathedral on the left. There were no arrows after we walked through a park on the outskirts so we had to follow John Walker´s CSJ guide into the city. There were no changes to the route although John thought there might have been a change. The square was crowded with people (mid-day) and we gawked at the cathedral, hugged each other and asked someone to take our photograph. It is quite strange to see so many pilgrims and know that there isn´t one you have met along the way. We did not see one other pilgrim on the Camino Ingles, not even a cycling pilgrim. Marion commented that it didn't really feel like a pilgrimage because of the lack of other pilgrims to interact with.
When we got to the Hostal Pazo de Agra Fernando gave us a cheery welcome and took us straight upstairs to our room - pay tomorrow he said. We walked back out of the old city to Ivar´s Camino Travel Centre to collect my parcel. Whilst there I recognized a voice and there was Joy Anderson from the south coast (the lady who let me know the day before she was leaving that her pack weighed over 10kg). She started crying and screaming when she saw me and hugged me and kissed me like I was her long lost sister! Ivar and Marion and one of Ivar´s friends, Frank, looked on in amazement.
Then another woman walked in and I said, ´Hello Sue¨. It was Sue Kenny, a Canadian pilgrim who has written a book on the camino and a video called Las Peregrinas. Sue looked a bit baffled and then Ivar said, ´This is Sillydoll from South Africa!´ Then there were more hugs and more exclamations of surprise and amazement. She and I hugged and kissed and we all had photos taken together.
We queued at the Pilgrim´s Office for Marion to get her Compostela (I asked for the tourist certificate) and I had a chat to Maria who I met in 2002, 2004 and in 2007.
M and I have just been to lunch and to the Info centre next to Hostal Suso. I collected some papers on the Fistera route and then we went to lunch. I sorted the stuff in my parcel and posted most of it to the Correos in Corcubion so that I don´t have to carry extra stuff while I walk to Finisterre. I think I´m going to leave a little earlier than originally planned so that I don´t get to the first place too late.
We haven´t decided what to do tomorrow besides go to mid-day mass. Will wait and see.
It is great to be back here (the 4th time I´ve walked into the square) and it was quite an emotional moment.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Day 4: Bruma to Sigueiro

Marion
Very misty this morning lovely to walk whilst it was so cool. For the first 6k´s it was a long straight road, I thought it would never come to an end. At long last we entered a forest it had a few ups and downs then through farm lands, almost like small holdings. The farms in this area are very basic and simple.
We did walk through a couple of very small villages, everything was closed - so no morning coffee to be had anywhere. The last few k´s before reaching Sigueiro were again on a long straight road. Although it was a shorter walk than yesterday it seemed a lot longer, I suppose because it was mostly flat not much variation.
I look to find the good things whilst we were walking to take my mind off the long flat road, like the quietness, the birds singing etc. as I have to make the most of it as my walk is nearly over, only tomorrow for the last 17k to Santaigo.
Whatever village we have walked through in Spain is very noticeable that everyone has a vegetable patch - but what is amazing is that the amount of cabbages that everyone grows, I wonder who can ever eat that amount of cabbages! They also grow a lot of potatoes besides other vegetables.
In Galicia most of the dogs are all on a chain. So sad!!!

Sil
It was so quiet in the albergue that we both had a wonderful sleep. Hospital de Bruma is one of those tiny hamlets where you first come across a couple of animal barns, then a few houses on either side of the road, most that have their own barns as well, then a small stream, a tiny church and then you walk out the other side. 20 buildings all-in-all, if that.
We had a breakfast and then started walking to Sigueiro. We saw a woman cutting down cabbages. Almost every farmer grows tall, spindly cabbages which Marion thinks are used to make walking sticks.
One map said 22km to Sigueiro, the CSJ Guide says ±24km and Benino said 26km. No importante, we have to walk there no matter what the distance. The CSJ guide says, á pretty straightforward day´and they are not kidding. It was really heavy going with long, straight, tarred or gravelled roads through endless forests. It reminded me of walking through les Landes on the Via Turonensis route.
There were a few hamlets to pass through but nothing opens until around mid-day so we didn´t have a coffee opportunity. By the 15km mark my feet were starting to hurt underneath, something I´ve not had before. We stopped at a bus shelter at the 18km mark and I took off my boots to air my feet. I had red, hot spots under a few toes as well as the insteps and heels. This is a problem when walking on flat, tarred or gravel roads with boots. I added a bit of sheep wool and a small foam padding to the worst spot and hobbled on for another 8km. Long, long, flat, straight roads through endless forests with hardly a bird to be seen or heard and no other living thing for miles. At one time it started raining and we put on our raincoats but half an hour later it got hot again and we stopped to take them off.
At the approach to Siguerio the guide takes you down a waymarked path to the local swimming pool. ´´Turn left around the swimming pool, see the final marker pointing the way over waste ground´it says. We battled to find a marker as the whole area is under construction and had been graded and cleared with construction fences and the beginnings of buildings under way.
We found our way to the Hostal Miras, Downstairs was a cheerful bar which seemed to be run by a family of women: mother, daughters and grandchildren – a 15 month little girl who was well at home with the customers, and a new 6 day old baby, who may have been a boy, judging by the blue blanket. Upstairs the rooms are basic but adequate.an old but graceful hostal above a bar, and were taken upstairs to a room. I cooled my poor feet down with Alcohol Romeo and massaged them with Arnica. Then I hobbled to the bathroom and hey presto! there actually was a bath! I scuttled back to the room, collected my universal plug, and was soon soaking in a hot-tub with Arnica and the last of my shampoo. Bliss. We had a coffee at the Hostal Bar and found this internet Cafe in a bar down the road.
We will arrive in Santiago a day early and will have 2 nights there instead of one. I will be checking out the route into the city as it might have changed.