I was out with some good pilgrim friends last evening and naturally enough, the Camino was brought up during our conversation. One of the many questions was “So how did everyone hear about the Camino?” which is a perfectly fine question. I didn’t get a chance to answer, however, and as my story is not fairly typical, I thought I would post it.
I have written about my first Camino before. It was a hastily planned affair arranged 6 months before I stepped on the plane. It started with a leaflet, given to me. The words “Walk The Camino” were emboldened at the top of the sheet. I said I would give it a try as the cause was worthwhile. The thing is, after raising quite a lot of money, I was spent and the Camino was just an afterthought. The six days was merely a formality and dare I say, a holiday? I had the wrong gear, the wrong attitude, the wrong everything. On arriving into the Praza da Obradoiro, I was already mentally home in Dublin deciding on the week ahead.
But the Camino didn’t want to let go…
Our guide for the 6 days was a pretty outgoing chap from Australia called Garry. He loved Spain but loved Ireland also. He saw I was struggling and wanted to make sure I got to Santiago in one piece.
Job done. And for that, I thank him.
October 2011, I am back to normality at my desk-based job in Dublin. I receive an e-mail from Garry asking how I am. I leave it unanswered for a while, maybe a week, but like an itch unscratched, I feel the need to reply. A quick hello leads to chat and that leads to a plan to return to the Camino the following May.
Without that e-mail, without that scratched itch, I would not be where I am today – writing from the heart on this site or giving my time to the Camino Society. The rest is history.
So while I have the time to write, I may as well post something.
I am 11 days out from yet another Camino and I am as good as ready. These five months since I returned from Santiago have flown by but I have been so busy. These few weeks have come around at just the right time. It will give me the time to slow down and, I suppose, unclutter everything from this head of mine. I have a few decisions to make so I hope the Camino can help me out and I will have a few answers when I return.
I am in zero rush to get to Puente la Reina as my bus to Logrono is 3 hours after the flight arrives. Once I arrive there, I have another bus trip on La Estellesa to Puente la Reina. I don’t know why La Union canceled their service there. I remember it being advertised the last time I was in Bilbao in 2015.
The Camino Frances can be addictive. No, let me rephrase that. It can be difficult to get used to other routes if you are so used to one particular route. I remember last year saying I would not walk the Camino Frances again, and here I am.
I have 6 days in the office before I leave for Spain and sunnier climes (I hope). I have been keeping tabs on the weather and it looks promising. I might ditch the rain trousers!
And I can’t wait…
It has been nearly three months since I returned from Santiago and the Portuguese Camino. I had a great time. It was short. Too short. I arrived back and immediately thought “I need to go back”. So I sat down and looked at flights back to Spain. My trips to Spain typically last 2-3 weeks each year so a 10-day trip left a lot to be desired.
So when I heard that a friend and her husband are walking the Camino around that time, I asked if I could join them for a few days. Luckily enough, the response was yes and I quickly booked my flights. So I fly into Bilbao on September 11th and arrive in Puente la Reina later that day after a short bus journey. I meet up with them in Estella the following day, then I hope to walk with them for a few days after that. Hopefully, I will have enough days to walk to Belorado, a town I have many memories of.
So that’s it. I hope to meet people who have just set off on their journey as opposed to finishing in Santiago. I also hope that I can just switch off and enjoy each step compared to the frenziness of Santiago.
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.
May 13th, 2018 – Day 7
Caldas de Reis to Padrón
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.
24km to go before Santiago.
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!
May 11th, 2018 – Day 5
Redondela to Pontevedra
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.