Monday, June 22, 2009

Camino Ingles Day 2: 22nd June to Bestanzos

We started today off with a bang!! Straight up through the village to the top a very steep climb, then through a wooded forest also climbing. I must definitely be getting fitter as although I am quite slow going up steep hills I am no longer tired when we reach the top.
Today we walked through forests, sometimes through grassy fields, on sand paths, narrow tar roads passing small farms and again mostly uphill. After a couple of hours we walked down a steep hill into Mina where we stopped at a cafe bar for coffee and hot choclate and a baguette with jam, we did not eat the whole baguette so took the rest with us. The rest of our walk today was again on the same terrain. We were again fortunate to walk mostly in shade. We have a very comfortable room above a cafe bar. When we arrived at our accomodation we did the usual ,bathed and did our washing. We had a late lunch in our room, I had the rest of my baguette and the last tin or paté that I had been carrying for days and a orange for desseert - delicious! Syl had her baguette, cheese and a nectarine.
We had a walk around and as usual mostly everything is closed. We were lucky and found a supermarket open so bought a few provisions for the road tomorrow and a salad which we can have for dinner in our room. I bought myself a pack of wine (3 little boxes each 200ml) I will have one tonight and carry the other two for another time. A lovely end to a fabulous day.

I woke before the alarm. My fingers looked like sausages but they weren´t throbbing anymore. I had to put Band-Aids on three cuts on my left hand and strap the two middle fingers on my right hand. I´ve found it really difficult to pack the backpack and tie shoe laces using just a thumb and a forefinger!
The path out of Pontedeume goes straight up, and up, and up for about 15 minutes. Once we left the confines of the town some of the paths were very overgrown and my trousers and spats were soon quite wet with morning dew. It was a lovely walk today. This is walking as opposed to hiking. The paths are either gravel, small tarred village roads, double tracks through fields or leafy trails through the forests. There are many up hill sections so it is more strenuous than I expected it to be but no mountains, just steep short climbs and some equally steep descents. The landscape is similar to walking from Sarria to Santiago with eucalyptus gums, fir trees, small plots of vegetables and many different fruit trees - figs, apples, pears, cherries and nuts. None ready for picking but should be a bumper crop this year. We stopped at Mino for a coffee and bread and jam. Everynow and then we got glimpses of the river estuary.
When we reached Betanzos at about 1:30pm most of the bars in the square were closing. We visited the tourist office for a sello and directions to the Cheino Bar for a room. On Johnnie´s guide it is 15€ each but she charged us 20€ each for a small room with a bathroom down at the end of the passage. We found an internet cafe but had to wait until 4:30pm for it to open. We found a supermecado and bought a made salad, some olives, cheese and a bottle of wine for Marion and had a feast in our room.

Camino Ingles - Day 1: 21st June Ferrol to Pontedeume

MarionI missed Val´s alarm clock this morning - Syl had set hers but for some reason it did not go off, we didn't really oversleep, were up at 6.15 and at the bus stop long before our bus was due. We went into the cafe to get something to eat and drink.
It was a 2hr bus ride to A Coruna and then another 1 1/2hrs bus ride to Ferrol, by the time we reached Ferrol it was already 12.30 so we dicided it was already quite late to begin walking 25k´s so caught a taxi 1ok´s to Neda. Although the train and bus ride were very scenic it was great to get back on the road, was a bit tired of sitting for so long. The secenery is very different here in Galicia, today we will be walking on the coast. We started off walking at 1.30pm and very soon we were on a secondary road climbing up and down (mostly up) with splendid views of the River Estuary. We walked through a few villages as one ended so another started. We walked through a couple of wooded forests, sometimes on grassy paths with grass almost as tall as us, some sand and rocky paths and some gravel and tar roads. All our walking today has been mostly in shade and it seemed mostly uphill. Always with pretty flowers alsonside of us and lots of wild cherry trees.
All of a sudden coming down a slope we could see a large beach full of people. The beach is in the village Cabanes 1k from Pontedenme where we stayed the night. We walked down to the beach and then along the promenade to our village. The guide book suggested that we go to Bar Louis as they have rooms to let, we found Bar Louis quite easily and have a very comfortable room.

This part of the camino doesn´t have many albergues so we will mostly stay in rooms or hostals. We settled in and both of us were hungry so went out to find something to eat. As usual most places were closed and would only open for dinner at 9.00pm far to late for us. It was 6.00pm and we really did not want to wait until 9.00pm. We walked around for a bit and luckily found a cafeteria adjoined to a hotel that was open and had a delicious salad and large plate of chips.

SilWe left the Hotel early and made our way around the ancient Lugo wall to the bus station. Two years ago, Marion, Finn, Anneliese and I walked the circumference of the wall along the walk way at the top and I still have a certificate on my wall at home that I received in 2004 after giving a donation to help preserve the wall. This time we kept to the lower pavements on our way to the station.
Depressing places stations. Especially over a weekend when there are few people and nothing is open. We discovered that there were no buses to Ferrol until 4pm so we opted on taking a bus to A Coruna and another from there to Ferrol.

We got the 8h10 bus to A Coruna, a 2 hour trip north to Betanzos and then veering west to A Coruna. We just missed the 10am bus to Ferrol and to wait an hour for the next one which was a slow bus and would take 1.45 hour to get there. We headed south to Betanzos again and then veered east towards Ferrol arriving there at about

When we got there we had to decide what to do. Start walking to Neda 10 kms away and spend a night there: start walking the 25kms to Pontedeume (our original plan) which could take us ± 7 hours depending on the terrain. That would mean getting there at 8pm - too late for us.
Third option was to get a taxi 10km to Neda and start walking the rest of the 15km from there. We opted for plan 3 and took a taxi to the church of Santa Maria in Neda and started walking at about 1h30pm. The distance would still qualify Marion for a Compostela .
At first it was confusing following the arrows - some psychedelic yellow or green, others blue, some road paint yellow. Once we got used to the different signs we were fine.
The camino Ingles is very well marked with arrows and stele with shells. We hardly ever had to check Johnnie Walker´s notes but did so whenever there were confusing signs. It must´ve been a nightmare planning this route through forests, away from main roads, around little hamlets, industrial estates, across fields and through small hamlets past subsistence farms and alleys behind people´s houses.
Eventually we arrived at Cabanas at about 4:30pm to find thousands of people crammed onto the beaches and under the trees with cars jamming the little road we had to walk on to cross the river Eume into Pontedeume. We followed Johnnie´s directions, found the road San Augustin and Bar Louis (with the help of a kindly gentleman at a nearby bar) and were soon ensconced in a comfortable room with a modern en suite bathroom, all for 24€ for the room. Excellent value. Once washed and sorted we went out looking for food. Nearly every bar was closed to diners but we found the cafeteria at the Hotel across the road and a woman took pity on us starving pilgrims and made us a large salad and plate of chips with bread and vino. We scoffed the lot and returned to our room.
It was hot in the room so I tried to lift the metal, sliding window. It slipped and fell straight down, jamming the fingers on both hands between the bottom frame and the window. EEEEish!! It was like a guillotine and I lost my breath before shouting at Marion to open the window. The middle three fingers on my left hand were bleeding on top with deep purple blood blisters on the soft fleshy underneath parts. The right hand was more painful as they had been caught on the knuckles and were swelling fast. I ran to the bathroom and put them under a running tap. Marion went across the road to the cafeteria and told them she needed ice by pointing at someone´s drink. We put the ice in my facecloth glove and I held the cloth in both hands. If the window had been any wider open it might have chopped my fingers off! All I could think of was "How am I going to work at the albergue in Corcubion with broken fingers??"
I took two anti-inflamatories and, unused to drugs, they knocked me out. I was fast asleep, hands on my chest like a mummy in pose for the rest of the night.

Travelling Day

This morning we had breakfast together and then had to say goodbye to Val. I am so sorry she is not walking the rest of the way with us. I will miss my drinking partner!!
Syl and I spent nearly 2 hrs walking around Pampolona looking for an internet cafe but without success.
We caught a bus to the station and thought we would have something to eat at the station resturant before catching the train. Well one look at the food and decided against it and to rather just have a coffee and Syl a coke and we both had a packet of crisps.
We are now on the train almost a 10hr journey. Lovely scenery but a long and tiring journey. The train has a cafetaria so we have had somthing to eat and drink to pass the time. We change trains at Monforte at 8.oopm and will arrive in Lugo at 21.55. Luckily we are staying in a hotel tonight very close to the station and tomorrow catch our bus at 8.00am.

After a sad hug and a goodbye to Val, Marion and I walked around Pamplona before getting a bus to the train station in Pamplona and the train at 13h10 to Lugo. It was a long, looooooong... journey. Pamplona to Monforte Lemos, 8 hours - a 50 minute wait and then another hour to Lugo.
It was strange to pass ´camino´places along the way. Most looked very tired passing through the backsides of the towns! Burgos, Sahagun, Leon, Astorga, Sarria ... all with unkept yards, graffitti covered station walls and large, dirty blocks with washing hanging from every floor.
Passing through the meseta at breakneck speed was weird. Rolling brown fields for as far as the eye could see and the occasional stork swooping down from a church tower.
At 18h45 at Ponferrada the temperature was 32oC. When we arrived at Lugo at 10pm the sun was just setting and it was quite cool. We found the Hotel Muralla across the road from the train station - 40€ for a large triple room with en suite. Good value. We were exhausted (from doing nothing all day) and went straight to bed.

Val - (sacked Minister of Nutrition)
I am writing this again 3rd time...first time Tombi chewed it up, second time I deleted it instead of publishing it! Here we go again.....this morning we had breakfast together and then parted company. But we went to a wonderful food market and I took pictures of the fish counter which was amazing, I bought some walnuts and they had bags of snails hanging and they were still alive and their little heads were coming out between the was horrid.
I worry about Syl on her own but know that she is the most capable person and will be fine. I am also glad that I will soon be back in my own bed! I couldn't imagine anything worse that working at an Alburgue for 2 weeks and cleaning it...but Syl will do this with absolute aplomb.
I head for the department store which is huge and lovely and I love Pamplona....there is something exciting about being in a city for the first time...and with a credit card! (or two).
I go straight to the cooks' floor and buy a real Spanish Tortilla pan, the sort with two pans which hinge together so you can flip it over (I cooked one when I got home and was really pleased with it!).
I bought two espresso stove top coffee makers, that makes about 4 we own now! But these are stainless steel and good looking. I buy a pair of shoes and some luggage but now my feet are really hurting and swelling up so I have to give in and go back to the hotel.
I call a taxi, sort out my luggage and then he arrives. Any Spanish that I possessed deserts me and between flapping my arms and looking up at the sky the taxi driver says "Aerporto" and we are on our way. He attempts to ask me where I am from and I think he is asking where am I FROM, so I say South Africa, and he says "oh Blanco" yep white. But what he meant was where have I walked from, so eventually I click and say Lourdes. We travel the remainder of the journey in silence. Conversation has been limited this trip to "where have you walked from, where are you walking to and where are you from...South Africa...oh Blanco"

I fly to Barcelona and hit the duty free... Martin sms's me to say the card is beeping away and I assure him that the shops are about to close. I finish shopping and go to a bar have a couple of glasses of wine and write my blog... which Tombi chews up, I retype and delete it and type it again.....I love people watching and next to me are two 'oaks' from Melrose...well they have that on their t shirts...looks like some bar in Melrose. They see some young girls (American) and begin to swap the usual macho remarks and I think you 'oakes' don't stand a chance...they really are not great looking but I like them 'cause they are South African and I am homesick. Then the flight is ready and we board. I take out my contact lenses and settle down for the long trip to JHB. However, we then learn that we are only flying to Madrid where the passengers will split to catch connecting flights to Montevideo, Mexico and JHB. I must say I thought it strange that so many Spanish people would be flying to JHB. Problem, I have taken my contacts out and now have to run to catch the connecting flight. I cannot see and do not have time to put the lenses in so a young couple from Port Elizabeth take pity on me and I follow them up and down escalators and on the train. I also look out for my Melrose 'oakes' so I shouldn't get lost...really don't fancy Mexico tonight. Finally on the plane and my feet are huge and swollen and shooting with pain.
I have a couple of glasses of tinto and have a really good sleep. However, the changing of planes has left my itineary really tight and I have barely 10 minutes to spare to get to the boarding gates. I go to the baggage carousel and don't for one moment expect my case to be there given all of the plane changes. And even if it is, I couldn't get it wrapped at Pamplona so they have probably had their pickings at the notorious JHB airport.
I don't find it straightaway so do the usual recce to find out where Baggage Services are...have you noticed how it used to be called Lost Baggage, then Baggage Enquiries and now most are Baggage can just imagine.
" Hello baggage, and what can we do for you? She what, sat on you to get your zip done up and then called you a 'cheap and nasty little suitcase'...well that's physical and mental abuse. Well we can offer you a week in Dubai...oh, had enough of shopping with her have you...well what about a week in the sun with the bronze Samsonite over there and his friend who is real leather? Ok, well just a week because we have to return you within 10 days, have our reputation to protect you know."
And along comes my case, in perfect condition...I race through Nothing to Declare but get the eye and am called out of the queue. Then the custom officer says to unlock and undo my back pack and the first thing to come our is the lovely and very expensive Chorizo that I bought at the airport. He takes out his penknife and cuts it through and then chucks it into the dustbin...ouch!
Anymore he says, I tell a porkie and say no. Then he takes out the bag of walnuts and cuts it open so they fall on the floor, what are they he says...nuts I say, ok. Then I scramble and pick them up not sure if I am allowed to have them and escape when he then moves to the next person. I race to the boarding gate realising that my cell is flat and I have to quickly phone Martin. I buy some sweets with a R10 note and get change which I duly put into the wrong slot and it doesn't refund. Buy another sweet and get change and this time get through to Martin.
Then race to the gates and board the plane to Durban...I want to be home now.
I arrive, get my suitcase and see Martin immediately, what a lovely sight. He takes me home, opens a bottle of champagne and presents me with a beautiful basket of my favourite flowers of roses and lilies. My feet are huge but the Champagne works as a pain killer but Martin has anti-inflammatories ready and by the morning they are beginning to go down.
I had a lovely nights sleep after one of my favourite meals cooked by Martin...seafood pasta with the mussels which Martin had gathered. Next morning off for an overhaul, hair and nails and to feel human again and then finally to the biokinecist to sort out my feet.
I have torn the ligaments and my achilles and have some therapy and then sent off strapped up and told to stop wearing high heels and start stretching...the reason is that my calves are too tight and the stoney terrain and not doing my boots up to the ankles has probably been the cause. But he said it was going to happen because my calves are just too tight and I am upset, because it has really knocked my confidence of a long walk again. I am cross because I did 700km in Italy without so much as a blister and this trip has only been around 300kms.
And so Bon Camino my two friends, go well and return safely......