Camino Frances 2018 – Viana to Ventosa

September 15th, 2018 – Day 4
Viana to Ventosa, 28km

Today I said goodbye to Navarra and hello to La Rioja as I ventured westward. It was due to be a hot day so I decided on an early start, just to be safe. I was pretty sure I made the right choice as the last few kilometres without shade made it harder.

I set off alone after 6am. The hospitaleros had set out a breakfast that I took advantage of. It’s essential that you have something to eat before you leave in the morning, and then you can have 2nd breakfast at your first stop, and so on! It was pitch black outside so I took it nice and slow. The next few kilometres to Logrono is far from attractive so I suppose early morning is the ideal time to walk it. I left with a full battery and with a full tank’s worth of coffee. The next town will top me up! I said goodbye to Viana and walked under its archway leading back on to the Camino.

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Instant darkness. I put the music away and turned the flashlight on full. I was urging the sun to rear her head over the horizon. I would have to wait another hour for that however. After the Camino brings you through some back roads, you are lead on to the main road. Here you can see the “Communidad de La Rioja” sign. I knew where I was now. But there is a good bit of industrial area to walk through before arriving at Logrono proper.

The sun rises in the background.  I stop for a moment or two. I say goodbye to Navarra and silently thank everyone whom I have met since I have been here. It’s this time of the day I cherish the most. Always happy to see another day.

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I arrive in the city close to an hour later. The party from the night before was just ending, the Fiesta de San Matteo. I spotted an Irish bar – Dublin Bar on Avenida Zaragoza. I know for next time. After the long walk up Calle Marqués de Murrieta, the Camino leads you to a number of parks and to the La Grajera where swans and other small animals are known to dwell. I have passed through here twice before so I look forward to seeing the swans. It is also the first time I see the Scottish pilgrim, Andrew. What strikes me is how fast he walks. He was out of sight in no time. I got to meet the Irish couple who were on the same flight as me. We agreed to meet up and talk again in Santo Domingo de la Calzada a few days later.

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Leaving the La Grajera park, you will pass a long-bearded man by the name of Marcellino who will offer you a sello. Be sure to take one, he is quite a famous peregrino! He was there that morning and was offering everyone a “Buen Camino”.  Once you leave Logrono, you arrive at the side of the main road and you are following that until you stop for the day. The sun was out and I could feel the heat on my neck already. But I had another 10 kilometres to go.

Navarrete was in the distance. Placed on a hill with many vineyards surrounding it, this town is a favourite for pilgrims. I stopped for a little while to soak up the atmosphere. All the cafes were full however so I declined a cafe con leche and had some fruit that I bought the day before, taking advantage of what little shade there was.

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Navarrete

This day was bringing back great memories of my Camino in 2013 when I walked from Logrono to Leon. I met so many good people that year, most I am in contact with to this day. I hoped this year would be just like 2013 but I didn’t want to compare. I wasn’t here to make friends, I was here for the experience.

The final 8kms to Ventosa were the toughest I have walked in a long time. The heat seemed to be increasing with each hour and this pale Irishman became this pink Irishman very quickly. There were pilgrims taking rests under trees and haystacks just to avoid the worst of the heat. I arrived at Ventosa at 1pm. It wasn’t opened yet but there was a queue. Patricia from Logrono had just walked her first day on her Camino and decided to finish here. She had good English but she was looking forward to her siesta!

After washing my clothes, I checked out the local restaurant and had the pilgrim meal. Not bad for €11. I met Madalina from Canada, the French part. She had walked from Logrono so I bought her a glass of wine for her efforts. I noticed she had a patch on her arm and asked: “Is this for Type 1, Diabetes?”. She said it was and I explained that I needed to carry a large supply of medication with me on Camino also. So it was nice to open up about our respective conditions. She said that she was aiming for Santo Domingo tomorrow, but there was no guarantee. After a few hours talking, we walked back to the albergue and prepared for the next day.

I met Karsten in the albergue that evening and myself, Patricia and Karsten arranged to walk tomorrow. Adelante!

 

Camino Frances 2018 – Day 0 – Dublin to Puente la Reina

September 11th, 2018 – Day 0
Dublin to Puente la Reina via Bilbao

Another Camino in 2018…another chance to walk with others in Spain. I made the decision to return once I stepped into the Praza da Obradoiro in Santiago in May.  It just made sense. I booked flights to and from Bilbao, Spain, packed my pack and set out.

 

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The road to Puente la Reina is long and I didn’t arrive until late in the evening. The flight with Aer Lingus was fine and it left me in Bilbao at 3pm with still much travel to do. From the airport, one must catch the A3247 Biskaibus shuttlebus to Termibus in the city centre, which costs just €3.00. From there, I traveled on a Cuadrabus to Logroño, which took the bones of 90 minutes. On arrival in Logroño, I didn’t have long for a connecting La Estellesa which left me in the centre of Puente la Reina.

I wasn’t alone, mind you. A couple from Clare made the trip from Dublin and were traveling to Estella to start their Camino. They had walked from St. Jean to Estella last year. I enjoyed their company until we said our goodbyes at Estella. There were many others on the Logroño bus. The scenery from Bilbao to Logroño is beyond amazing. The bus chugs through valleys, giving you a first-hand view of the spectacular mountain scenery. The second trip was a little bit longer but it was fun to be driving alongside the Camino – passing towns I will meet in the next few days. Siesta had kicked in but we did pass the odd town with the next Lionel Messi working out how to score the winning goal in the 2028 World Cup.

Just after 8pm, I arrived in the Calle Mayor of Puente la Mayor. The streets were bustling with Spanish conversation and wine. Spanish dinner time. I took a walk to the Puente Románico before doubling back to my booked hostel, “Hostal la Plaza”. I had my first pilgrim meal while watching Spain play some football on TV. Sleep was in order, the next day (although short) had a number of steep climbs. Adelante!

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Camino 2018 – Day 6 – Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis

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.

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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!

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Camino 2018 – Day 5 – Redondela to Pontevedra

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”.

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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.

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Camino 2018 – Day 4 – Vigo to Redondela

May 10th, 2018 – Day 4
Vigo to Redondela

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.

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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.

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Camino 2018 – Day 3 – Nigrán to Vigo

May 9th, 2018 – Day 3
Nigrán to Vigo

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!

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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!

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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.

To Redondela..

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An Exciting Few Months…

It may as well be April. The clocks have gone forward and already the first sign of summer is in the air. Friends have reached Santiago already (Buen Camino L!) which only increases my urgency to return to Spain and search for the yellow arrows. But the next few months are busy. You could say I have started my Camino…but I have not yet left my home.

As mentioned previously, the first annual Celtic Camino Festival kicks off in Westport in Co. Mayo from April 13th. I will be attending for the weekend. I have the train booked, the hotel arranged and all events booked. April 13th sees the screening of excellent “The Camino Voyage” directed by Donal O Ceallachair – A crew including a Writer, two Musicians, an Artist and a Stonemason embark on the Camino not on land, but by sea, in a traditional boat that they built themselves on an inspiring, and often time’s dangerous, 2,500 km modern-day Celtic Odyssey. April 14th will see presentations, discussions & workshops by internationally renowned Camino experts. A Gala Dinner will follow with Spanish music and dance. And April 15th, there will be a Celtic Camino Pilgrim Walk of up to 25km along the Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail & Tochar Padraig, including Mass in Ballintubber Abbey. It promises to be a fantastic weekend and we hope to see you there!

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If this interests you and you wish to attend, Camino Society Ireland along with Irish Rail are offering you the chance to win free travel and tickets to all events for two. Just go to this link to enter http://www.irishrail.ie/fare-and-tickets/camino-festival.

Following the weekend, it is just a matter of weeks until I set off to A Guarda in Southern Galicia on the Portuguese Camino. From there I walk to Santiago with my brother and it will be his first time on any Camino. What a trip for him?! Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog if you want to be kept updated while I am on my Camino in Spain as I will be updating the blog.

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