Another year has passed. So much has happened in the past 12 months involving the Camino. It’s nice to have the last few weeks free to reflect on the past and think of the future. I’ve decided to do another post where I look back on 2018.
The end of the year saw the first ever Camino Society Ireland Photo Contest on the 16th of December 2017 at St. James Church in Dublin. A photo I took near Ledigos was included in that exhibition and also in an exhibition in the Cervantes Institute in Lincoln Place. I wrote about the first exhibition here and the second exhibition in March here. These same photos have travelled from Ireland to Spain and back again and are currently situated in the Information Centre in St. James Street.
Another way of being a pilgrim on the Camino is to Volunteer. I gladly “give back” to the Camino through Camino Society Ireland. As well as giving information in the centre in St. James Street in Dublin, I edit their quarterly newsletter “Shamrocks And Shells” and help with social media. The newsletter is now a little over a year old and 4 issues have been produced, with over 20 thousand views. Something I am quite proud of.
The first Celtic Camino Festival in Westport was a success. I was there from the 13th to the 15th of April 2018 and it was marked with talks, a showing of the Camino Voyage, and a Celtic Camino walk. I wrote an article here.
December 28th will mark my 1st year in Donabate. A great little town but with so much work planned for the future, I’m not sure if I am to call this home just yet. Over 700 homes have been approved, but without the right facilities and infrastructure, it will be chaos going to and from work. The Northern Commuter train line is fine but there are no bus services.
There are many things in my life I am happy with. I’m loving life in my new home, I have many good friends but I would be lying if I said I am 100% happy with my lot. I’m not. There are a few areas I want to better myself in and there is no time like the New Year to start. So here’s my list for 2018:
Focus on my blog. My blog has been slipping. I just need to allocate my time more evenly. I have upgraded the blog in the last few weeks so there is no excuse now for more content. With planned Caminos in May and September, I will hope to upload videos from my time in Spain.
Think of ways to walk a full 30+ day Camino, whilst still managing to pay a mortgage.
Plan a trip to Canada to visit peregrino friends (for 2019 or beyond).
Improve my writing, maybe find a writing skills course.
Make more of an effort to meet new people and be more social.
Dig out my guitar again: it has been so long since I played a tune. I guess confidence comes into it.
And there we have it. Another summary of my year. How was your 2018?
May 14th, 2018 – Day 8
Padrón to Santiago de Compostela
One of our longer days on this Camino at 29 kilometres made longer by an error in the distance markers at O Milladoiro. We set off early from Padrón with the sun yet to rise on a wet and drizzly morning. But hey! we were in Galicia! Our minds were set on Santiago and arriving in the Praza!
The first interesting village of today is Iria Flavia. This was an important Celtic settlement. Later the Romans gave it municipal rank as a Roman road passed through it. The Collegiate Church of Iria Flavia was built between the 12th and the 17th century over an old church that dates back to the 1st century. This was the first cathedral in Galicia.
The path meandered through villages, rural areas, and some lovely woodland paths. We stopped at a cafe just off a main road in A Escravitude. The owner treated us to large tostadas and cafe con leche at quite a reasonable price. Well done there! Across the road from the cafe is a large church. Unfortunately, it was not open at the time and we walk on. We walk away from the main road for a while until we reach Picarana.
From here to Santiago, the Way is most asphalt, a mix of pathway and cobblestone. We arrive at Milladoiro and the route in is straightforward. Our pace quickens as we are eager to reach Santiago. We arrive in via the south and not under the archway. The Praza is buzzing with pilgrims. We check into San Martin Pinario before catching our collective breaths. It was Ray’s first time in Santiago and found the whole time extremely positive. We decided to wait until the following day to collect our credentials. It left me with some time to meet some people in Santiago – especially Nate and Faith in Pilgrim House.
The following day, we attended the English Mass in the Capilla del Pilar. I was happy to be asked to read at this Mass. Back at the Pinario, we reluctantly packed and made way for the airport. I’m not sure what Ray’s plans are for the return to Santiago, but I will be back next year.
Another short day at 18km, we were on the homeward stretch. Thoughts of Santiago were becoming more frequent and it was just a matter of time before we arrived in the Praza. Ray knew little of what to expect and I suppose it is good going in blind. It had been 7 years since I walked into Santiago, so that feeling may as well be new to me.
We left Pension Caldas in the mid-morning and wow we took our time. We were in no hurry. Today was a relatively short 18km through some spectacular woodland areas. 50% was on forestry trails, mostly dirt or gravel. The other 50% was on asphalt. There was always a threat of rain from the off and we received a smattering of showers right through the day. It wouldn’t be enough to wet you through though. One of the highlights of the day was passing the old Iglesia Santa Marina de Carrecedo at Crucerio-Carracedo. There was a mass on at the time and some pilgrims decided to stop off and listen in.
We arrived just short of Padrón and stayed at Albergue-Pension Flavia. It is located beside a football stadium, so we didn’t get a chance to check out Padrón fully. Maybe another time.
May 12th, 2018 – Day 6
Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis
After heavy rains during the night, we feared the worst. But the skies cleared once we left the Slow City Hostel in Pontevedra. It’s a really nice place by the way. We kept our rain gear at hand, just in case. Today we walked over rolling hills, through woods and past small towns. There were lots of chances to rehydrate also.
Leaving Pontevedra, you pass the River Lerez and its ancient bridge. After leaving town we made a gradual climb up to 150 meters above sea level. The walk was a perfect balance of challenge and calm. We saw very few pilgrims our first 2-3 hours, and the path varied from shaded and wooded through small vineyards to hard surfaces. Later on in the day, we met pilgrims from the UK, Poland, Brazil, and Spain. We arrived in Caldas, an old Roman town, early, so we found the nearest pizzeria and had some lunch. I was really impressed by a mural that I saw as I entered the town. Nice! Two more days to Santiago!
The stay in Pension Rua do Medio in Redondela was very pleasant with a great owner. I can’t say anything but good things about it. However, with no washing facilities, the evening before was spent looking for a lavadora…which we found! Ah..you can’t beat being a pilgrim!
This morning was perfect but overcast. In fact, rain was a real threat and we had our rain gear close to hand at all times. Redondela is a beautiful town and I would love to spend more time there, but Santiago bound we are! The arrows and distance markers were becoming more prominent once we left the town. And it wasn’t long before we met our Irish friends from the North. We had met them the day previous but had lost touch. Both are Camino veterans and “just have enough time for a walk from Porto”.
We get to the point where we turn onto the trail there is a big white arrow and “Santiago,” written on the road. I take a photo of Ray beside a distance marker, showing our 81kms remaining. We are flying along!
We pass through Cesantes before entering a wooded area. From here, much of the walking reminds me of the Camino Frances. I loved the shade and there is a stream where you walk along. It’s very easy going. However, there is a brief ascent as you approach Soutoxeste. Upwards we climb – something we are used to at this stage and are greeted with a mural of scallop shells – some with messages or names. It’s nice to stop and read some of the messages before moving on.
We reach the town of Arcade, the rain starts, so we keep moving. A Romanesque bridge lies over the River Verdugo. We are over half way when we come across the lovely Capilla de Santa Marta…apparently it never closes and has a sello for peregrinos. We stop here for a while along with our Irish friends. It’s a nice place for reflection.
We arrive early in Pontevedra and check in at Slow City Hostel. One of the highlights of this Camino was meeting Susi today. She has set up a small stall off the Camino and you can receive scallop shells for a donativo. The Camino is a passion of hers and I hope to see her again. Please say hello to her if you pass her, she is a lovely woman.
Another short day, 16km to be exact, but what a day for it. The sun was out from the off and there was no forecast of rain for the day. We left Hostal Real before 8am after some breakfast and made for the coast. We were sticking to the Senda Littoral but not for long. Today would be the day we would join the main Camino Portuguese. I was looking forward to it.
We said goodbye to the coast for the time being and made way inland. We climb a while and pause to look back with some satisfaction. There is the port of Vigo behind us – ahead of us is Redondela. As we continue we climb a particularly steep hill. I keep my eyes peeled for other pilgrims – this is the main Portuguese Way, isn’t it??
We follow the Camino into the forest where we meet pilgrims from Ireland, from the USA, from Portugal, and from Italy. After 16 kilometres we arrived at the plaza in Redondela and see many pilgrims sitting out in the sun. It is just before midday. It has been an enjoyable day and I look forward to walking into Pontevedra tomorrow.
It was a short day and a day away from the traditional Camino. While many pilgrims stay inland from A Ramallosa, myself and Ray decided to stick to the shore until Vigo. Instead of following yellow arrows, we would be following green arrows and walking along beaches. Not that there was a problem with that!
We left Pension El Retiro in Nigrán and made our way to the coast. That meant consulting Google Maps and searching for signs with “Playa”. It wasn’t too long before we met the sea and walk along Paseo Marítimo. The Paseo has a wealth of cafes open for breakfast. A half an hour people-watching and coffee-sipping later, we were ready for another few kilometres walking. Panxon is a fine town and one that must be buzzing during the summer months. The trail sits along the beach but cuts away from the coast if need be. We walk on pavement for the day, but it is a nice feeling to walk on sand if those green arrows ask us to do so. Various surf clubs share the Camino with pilgrims, we all get along! There is a lack of pilgrims however, it is a quiet route and it is not until Redondela before we meet other souls.
We do encounter our first distance marker, however, in the town of Prada. We have no less than 115 kms left to Santiago and we are getting a little bit excited. But, we have this day to complete yet!
The terrain remained flat save for one or two short climbs but nothing too stressful. It was a very enjoyable day and it was nice to have the sea on my left-hand side walking into Vigo. Walking on the Playa de Samil, a long stretch of beach, we passed a fully open beach park while tiny drops of rain fell from the sky. We were lucky that it didn’t materialise into heavier rain.
We made it to Vigo shortly after midday. Our walk into the city was made through the port, passing dozens of workers unloading items from trucks. Talk about scenic!! I passed the remark to Ray that this Camino is in honour of many medieval pilgrims who sailed into this port centuries ago. While the day was enjoyable, the particular part of Vigo we had stayed in was as Camino unfriendly as you can get. As I had checked into Hostal Real by the port, we spot a large ferry docking. But we try not to get too negative and think of tomorrow.