Monday, June 29, 2015

Day 12 Padron to Santiago - Finished! June 29

The Albergue at Pedron was a nice stone and wood stucture. The dorm room was a loft on the 2nd floor and it was a very hot day, so I was glad to see big windows on all sides, The bunk beds were pushed together tight, but they were built in such a way that there was a separation between the bunks so it didn't feel as close. Given that we were 1 or at most 2 days from Santiago and a mere 25 kilometres, there was an excitement in the air.

I woke at 5:00 to the sound of the morning rustling from the very early risers. Since I had gone to sleep fairly early last night I felt rested and ready to get up and get going. By 6:00 I was on the road, but it was still dark and I could't see the arrows so I decided to go into the cafe where I saw some other pilgrims, have a coffee and perhaps follow the others out of town. With my recent experience of missing arrows and getting lost I was reluctant to go through with that again.

None the less, somehow I did manage to leave on my own and take a wrong turn. This time I turned around and back tracked as soon as I saw there were no arrows, and then found another pilgrim who seemed to know the way. So I was good.

After that I was in good walking form, the early morning was nice and cool and I made good time. I stopped for coffee at the village of Teo, which is where I may have otherwise decided to stay the night - but it was only 10:30 when I got there and certainly enough time to go to Santiago.

The sun was just coming up

Anyway, I am not going to bore you with a bunch of pictures that could have been taken anywhere along the camino. The route was pretty ordinary, rural with small villages for the most part even until we were almost into Santiago. It was pretty much uphill, mostly gently sloping upward hills, not bad at all.

There was a family group who were walking the route. There were 3 adults and 6 children - a sweet looking girl who looked to be about 6 years old, a couple others who were certainly under 10 and one or two who were teen or pre teens. What an adventure for the kids but what a lot of work for the adults. I saw them later in Santiago at the Pilgrim's Office collecting their Compostela, so they must have walked at least from Tui.

I was a approaching Santiago from a different direction than when I was last there and it surprised me how rural it was even 4 km from the end point. It is a nice alternative to the usual urban or worse yet industrial area that one can have to go through to get to the core of a larger city.

I took my time getting into the core of the City. It was 36 degrees Celsius in the shade so it was important not to push it, I stopped for a beer at a cafe and found the very first place with air conditioning I have encountered. I have gotten used to the heat, but today the A/C was welcome.

I made my grand entrance and walked through the old city to the Cathedral and then it was on to the Pilgrim's Office to collect my reward, a certificate known as a Compostela. It is inscribed with my name, in Latin and attests to my having travelled at least 100 km of Pilgrimage to Santiago. It has been redesigned from the last I came, now the design is more artistic and colourful. I also opted to also purchase a "Certificate of Distance for 3 EURs which documents the starting point, route taken and distance travelled (360 km from Porto).

I didn't bother taking a lot of pictures of Santiago or wandering about the town, as I have lots of pictures from my last trip when I spent quite a few days here sightseeing. I was happy to collect my compostela and head on to Madrid to see the sights.

I had booked a room in the "Roots and Boots Hostel, at 16.50 EUR for a bed in a dorm room for 4" and when I arrived, I discovered that it was the same room that Barb and I shared when in Santiago in 2013. This time though I had 2 young (20s) German boys as roomies, not perigrinos and not too friendly. My transition to the real world has begun.

Next I had to collect my parcel of stuff from the post office. I mailed my touristy stuff to Santiago so as to lighten my carrying load (still I think I was carrying about 10 or 12 kilos when water and food was added to my pack). Easy peasy, post office pickup complete then it was on to the train station to get my ticket to Madrid.

On the way I met a pilgrim from Scotland who told me about the "Tarjeta Dorado". You need one of the tickets to access the over 60 seniors discounts. The discount is significant, usually about 30% for train fares. As it happened the tourist class for the next morning's high speed train to Madrid was full so I did have to go 1st class if I wanted to maximize my time there. The regular price of 1st Class was 73 EUR but I was able to get it for 43 EUR with the discount. I was much happier going by train than plane anyway and if I had counted the cost of an airport transfers it would have cost me way more than even the Ryan Air bargain price. I think with the discount a tourist class train ticket would have been just under 20 EUR. Travel is quite a bargain in Spain.

Ticket secured, I wandered back to the hostel to change into some touristy clothes and set out to shop for souvenirs and find some dinner. Who did I run into but my Japanese Pilgrim friend Aoki, who I last saw at Viana do Castilo. He was booking a reservation for the next night when he would get back from a day trip to Muxia. If I had 3 days left I may have done something similar instead of heading to Madrid. Oh well, next time. We caught up with each other and traded stories of our different routes. Aoki was going to also take a 2 day trip to Zamora, based on my telling him about the town. I hope he enjoys it. He was flying back to Japan on the 7th.

I managed to find some small gifts for those at home and a meal of bacon and eggs. The Spanish don't eat a big meal at breakfast and you can often find fried eggs offered in the evening. I must admit, I will enjoy going back to my Canadian food, particularly breakfast. I am just going to have to remember to keep my portions small because I don't want to gain back all the weight I have lost on this trip.

So it was early to bed and early to rise to catch my 9 a.m. train. Not too early, fortunately, but I don't like to rush on a travel morning and planned to get up at 6:30 and wander over to the train station to find breakfast at about 7:30ish. I was exhausted from my long hot walk and while I started this blog before bed, I was too tired to finish it. No matter, I have 5.5 hours on the train tomorrow so can finish it then and upload it when I get to my Hostal.

I was going to cheap out, and could have found a pension (private room, shared bath), for about 20 EUR a night, instead I decided to spend a bit more (32.50 EUR) and get a single room with a private bath. It is located in the centre of Madrid, near all the sights, so I am quite looking forward to it. Particularly when I had a night last night with inconsiderate dorm mates. I woke up at 1:30 am quite disoriented. The guys were rustling around the room and I hadn't a clue what time it was and was thrown off by the bright street light which was blaring into the open window. For a moment I thought it was morning. I found my sleep mask and eventually the guys left the room and joined the party I heard going on upstairs (I guess) and I went back to sleep. I had no guilt in the morning as I rustled my things when packing.

Calle Arenal where my hostal is located

I am on Madrid now and settled into my hotel, quite near the Plaza de Sol and Plaza Mayor - in the centre of all the action. I will write my next and final trip blog tomorrow night after I have done my tour of Madrid and am getting ready for my flight on Thursday.

In the meantime I am going to get out and enjoy the heat and some sangria and the sights of the city, in that order. I understand that Ontario has a cool spell going, so I should enjoy the heat while I have it.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Day 11 Vilanova de Arousa to Padron - June 28

Today started with a real treat - a sleep in and slow start! Since I was not walking this morning and I had a late night last night, it was great that I didn't have to get up and get at 'em at 6:30 am!

Last night as I was starting to think about winding it down for the night my Albergue mates invited me to join them for dinner. They had decided to cook dinner at the Albergue, and as these Europeans are late diners at 9:00 they were in the middle of a cooking frenzie. Not to be impolite, I abandoned my plans for an early night and spent the evening with these folks. The group consisted of 5 Portugese (a brother and sister and three other women) who lived in Vilanova do Castelo and one Italian who was a new friend they "picked up along the way". They started at Pontevedra on the Friday and only 2 of them are taking the boat tomorrow. The others are heading by train to Santiago today and then heading home to Portugal at the wnd of the day. They have to be back at work on Monday! We had a great evening of good food (fried padron peppers, fresh tomatoes and pasta) and good conversation, albeit with my broken Spanish and their broken English. Fortunately, two of the women spoke reasonably good English. I have one word of Portuguese: obrigado (thank you) it is a good word to have, but doesn't further the conversation much. We ended up with a sing song and Roberto, the Italian man sang opera and quite beautifully! When it came time for some Canadian songs we sang some Leonard Cohen tunes. It was nearly midnight when I got to bed. The latest I have been up in a very long while.

Across from the Albergue, low tide

The morning was overcast, but the weather forecast (yes, this Albergue has Wifi!) was a promise of sun and a high of 28 today. I spent the first part of the morning sitting in a cafe with my cup of Joe, watching the folks wander by and the beautiful view of the sea.

This odd statue was on the route to the Albergue

After I was adequately fuelled with coffee I set out to find a nearby beach to work on my suntan. It seems the back of my legs are tanned but not so much the front and of course I have a bit of a farmer's tan going on my arms. My top front is white as are my leg tops and of course I have a tan only to the top of my hiking boots. I have an odd look.

At 12:30 I headed back to the Albergue and found that my 2 Albergue mates, who were to join me on the boat, had made lunch and invited me to join. It seems I am doing well as far as mooching food is concerned. After eating we started getting ready to head off to catch the boat for 2:00. At 1:30 a man arrived to tell us the boat was leaving early and we should rush. Off we went to catch the boat.

All set to sail
The captain gave us a great amount of information about the area and things of interest - in Spanish.
We viewed the mussel farming platforms on the estuary.

The boat ride was wonderful. The weather was hot enough that the wind was cooling rather than cold and I enjoyed the hour ride in the open boat a lot. The boat crosses the Arousa Estuary and then heads upstream on the Rio Ulla. The significance of this route is that according to legend the remains of St John the Apostle was carried upstream in a stone boat before being taken overland to present day Santiago where the remains were buried.

Roman bridge at Pontecesures

Once I got to Pontecesures it was a short 3 km walk to Padron where I secured one of the last spots at the Albergue. Having said goodbye to my Portuguese friends I did a tour of the town and found a place to eat. Sadly, wifi was not very available. So I have written this blog offline and will post when I am able. Postscript: I found a bar with wifi where I finished the blog over a glass of vino. :)

My two Portuguese Friends - saying goodbye

I have also found out that I cannot buy a train ticket at the Pradron train station and will need to get my ticket in Santiago. Now I am a bit concerned about getting a ticket for the next day, if I arrive on the 30th as planned. I may push forward tomorrow all the way to Santiago - 24 km. We shall see.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Day 10 Monasterio de Armenteira June 27

Today's walk was very nice. No big climbs today and no getting lost. It was quite warm and bright sun with not a cloud in the sky, but I have had warmer days, and with only 24 kms to walk, all in all it was a good day. I arrived at the Albergue just before it opened at 4:00, long enough to take off my boots and stretch my feet and rest in the shade.

The route was in 4 parts, with only a very short bit on road.

The first 8.2 km was along the Ruta de la Piedra y del Agua. The route was a recreational trail along the Rio Armenteira, which was actually more of a fast flowing stream than a river.


We had climbed a fair height the day before and so the stream and the trail plunged downward On the opposite side of the mountain we climbed in a small ravine in which the stream flowed. It was nice to walk in the shade of the treed ravine listening to the fast flowing water. Perhaps it was more of a river in it's day as it was clearly the key to industry in the area in times gone by. There were about 20 or more stone mill buildings in various states of ruin or reconstruction and information displays along the way. Previously this river was a hive of activity.

About half way there was a recreation area which also contained a small statue garden. It was nice just to sit and listen to the water and the birds singing.

The next section was a 5.5 km river walk along the Rio Umia - a wide and stately river. Again, it was a recreational trail and there were benches and picnic tables every so often. I was quite happy to walk the quiet trail. of course I had to stop and dangle my feet on the river. It was very cold.

I had left my Albergue mates behind - they were still waking up when I left at 8:00 and I did not see any other pilgrims all day. Apparently there are two others, who walked with the group of 6 for a while, but they stayed at the Monestary and they had not checked into the Albergue today, so not sure if we will be 9 on the boat tomorrow or not. In any event, this is a much quieter route than the main one.

The time sped by and soon I was walking along roads and back streets through vineyards. This section was probably no more than 5 Kim and was quite pleasant as there were few cars and lots of flowers to enhance the view of the houses which sided the vineyards.

The last section was along the beach. We arrived at the beach maybe 5 km south of Vilanova de Arousa and I quite enjoyed the ocean breeze cooling down an otherwise hot pilgrim. I found a quiet spot and enjoyed a bit of beach time. The toes appreciated the cold, salt water, but I resisted getting more than my toes wet as there really was no where to change and I was worried about getting beach sand all through my pack. Perhaps tomorrow I might actually get to go swimming - I have my bathing suit!

It turns out that the boat to Padron (actually Pontecesures) is at 2 in the afternoon tomorrow, so I will have some beach time in the morning! The Hospitalera at the Albergue said I could leave my backpack at the Albergue and collect it before I go to the boat. The times does though present me a bit of a challenge. If I arrive at Padron at 3:00 ish then I really can't walk on another 14 km to Teo as I was planning. Good thing I have an extra day in my schedule. I can stop in Padron and also in Tui, for 2 short days and arrive in Santiago the morning of June 30th. I guess I could also walk straight through to Santiago from Padron - it is only 24 km. Something to think about.

I was scheduled to fly from Santiago to Madrid on the 1st but I received an email advising me that due to strike they will not be able to handle checked luggage - and of course I have checked luggage. So I have canceled that flight and will need to book a train instead. There is a high speed train leaving at 9:00 am and arriving in Madrid at 2:30 pm, which would work just fine. I tried to book the ticket on two different web sites and didn't get anywhere so will need to buy it at the train station. There seem to be 2 high speed trains a day, so should be fine if I leave the booking until I get to Santiago - or maybe I can go to the train station in Padron. Perhaps if I get to Santiago on the 29th, I could have 2 days in Madrid, we shall see.

The building you see above is a Horreos, which is a kind of granary found in Galicia. I have seen many of these, but never seen one as used. The one below was being filled with corn.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Day 9 Pontevedra to Monasterio de Armenteira - June 26

Today was a hard but very scenic walk. It was cloudy in the morning and not so hot, but it turned into a scorcher by mid day.

Plaza at the centre of the city. I stopped for morning coffee.

Last night's Albergue was at the entrance to the city, so this morning we got to walk through it from end to end

My route was to break off from the main one a few kilometres out of Pontevedra and true enough the path well marked with a sign caught my eye and I left the pack on what was going to be a solitary walk. I didn't see a single pilgrim until several hours after I got to the Albergue when a group of 8 arrived and broke the quiet.

The route deserves a bit of explanation. The area is mountainous (Monte de Castrove) as well there is an inlet from the sea to consider when plotting out a route. So the path meandered to say the least - as you can see from the route I painted on the map (in black) above very rough but gives you an idea. It didn't help that I must have missed an arrow and walked maybe 5 km in the wrong direction until I saw a sign which pointed back to where I came and that sign was pointing to my destination for the night.

I spent the first 4 hours winding my way around the coast, up and down until I reached the town of Combarro, on Pontevedra Bay opposite my starting point. The distance by car was 6.5 km but I think I had done maybe 10 by that time.

Then the real climb began. Winding upward and over the mountain.

The height of Monte de Castrove is around 600 mt judging by the colouring on the map I have. So it was a bit of a climb - not the Pyrenees, but a good climb for a half day anyway.

Stopped for a snack of oranges at a road side picnic stop

Here is the sign that sent me walking back the way I came.

The rest was downhill fortunately. I arrived at the Albergue about 4:30 and settled in as the first and only pilgrim to arrive. As I was walking to the bar to find wifi I passed a group of 8 pilgrims who would be my Albergue mates tonight.

Tomorrow is a flat walk of 24 km to the coastal village of Vilanova de Arousa. Should be a peice of cake after today.