Day 41: Sarria to Portamarin

I have had the best day ever…..

Sarria is the last place one can begin the Camino, so there were lots of new Pilgrims, I met Cathy and Frances at breakfast, and it was so lovely to share some of their enthusiasm. I went out with a new spring to my step…..

Sarria is a really nice town …..

A mix of ancient and modern……

As usual the first part of the journey was up hill with lovely views over the town…..

And lovely colourful homemade signs…..

At a crossroads I met these guys….. lovely, lovely, Irishmen and each one a “gentle” man…..

And we walked and talked together, thus making it the ‘best of days’ it was such fun…… with a variety of both serious and silly conversations…. I do know that I laughed a lot, and felt happy and relaxed, thank you Irish Pilgrims, you gave me the best day ever x……

We puzzled over these strange buildings, some very plain, some extremely ornate, what were they……

Every body had one, well at least all the farms and small holdings did…..

I’ll no longer keep you in suspense… they are used for storing sweet corn 🌽. That’s as much information as I have, I have no idea what the corn is used for or why such a fancy building is needed. Some were so fancy that I thought they might have some sort of religious meaning, in fact some of the fanciest were set in quite humble farmyards…..

We tracked uphill and downhill over some of the most beautiful countryside I have seen on the Camino, of course the sun shining and the lack of need for thermal underwear helped quite a bit, it was a heady summer’s day and one I shall never forget……

There were interesting stream crossings, and boy did I feel safe with my big strong Pilgrims…..

There was a sweet lady selling her homemade cakes a crepes in exchange for a donation……

And then the thrill of reaching the 100 km to Santiago way-marker….

And before I knew it we were in Portamarin which over looks a beautiful reservoir, reminding my fellow travellers of their native Ireland……..

And then it was time to say goodbye, I hope we meet up tomorrow…..

And now I am sitting on the patio of my hotel waiting for Charlie to arrive and drinking cold beer, it just doesn’t get better…

This is the view……

Love Susan x

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Day 40: Triacastela to Sarria

An important day today. Sarria is about 115 km from Santiago, one has to have walked the last 100 km to qualify for a Compostela, so this is the last point that one can begin the Camino, without these 100 km the other 685 km just don’t count……. I also have to get two stamps a day on my Pilgrims passport from now on; so a few more coffee breaks will be needed…….

Today was an early start as breakfast began at 7am and, as hot weather was forecast, shall I say that again? As hot weather was forecast! I decided to get an early start…

Oh what to wear? Swop the woollen hat for the Tilly hat that has languished at the bottom of my pack for 40 days, but then what? Reduce by one layer? Two? Take a coat as it’s always chilly first thing. Don’t take a coat and trust the forecast? In the end I wore two under layers and fished my unused blouse out for a third layer. Okay, fine, but what if the forecast was wrong, I quite unnecessarily put my fleece on the top. Which I wore to the top of the first hill then carried it around my waist for the rest of the day…. It’s just not easy being a pilgrim……..

Sorry to inflict this on you, but another selfie, note the colour of the sky…..

The sky was pink when I set off….

The brooks were babbling……

The sun shining on the distant hills……

Up, and up, and up…..

A pilgrims resting place halfway up the hill….

I met these young fellows at Samos, there didn’t have much to say for themselves……

There was a bit of a tricky stream to negotiate narrow paths above water are just not my thing…..

And more pretty cows…

And here the rape is out, how could I have been fighting the snow just a few days ago? ….

But then again the fir trees do look all set for Christmas…….

I have heard from the Pilgrim’s forum that there is quite bad flooding behind me and at this set of stepping stones the water was so high that it washed one Pilgrim into the river and were it not for three strong Pilgrims one chap would certainly have been swept away. I apologise for the picture quality…..

So although the weather hasn’t been so good on many days, at least I didn’t have this to contend with……

Today I walked for a while with a dear Spanish couple, perhaps just a little younger than me, they obviously had a good marriage. The downhill was very steep and we were all having some problems with creaky knees. I was slower uphill so they were ahead, they were slower downhill so I was in front of them, we met and criss-crossed all the time, no verbal communication was possible, but that matters little when hearts are all of one accord. They were going on to the next place so we parted with hugs and “Buen Camino” life just doesn’t get better than that…

Last night, I once again met up with Janet and Robert, the Dutch couple who had got a little lost in the morning; they were staying at the same Pension as me. They have both been married before, he with four children she with three. They have decided to move in together and have bought a house and are busy converting it to accommodate all the children. Before they begin their new life they decided they would walk the Camino, as a foundation for their future lives together. I can’t think of a better one…..

Charlie is flying to Santiago tomorrow and then joining me at Portomarin. It’s again forecast to be a good sunny day with highs of 24 degrees. Thursday’s forecast is for thunder storms, that’s one I haven’t tried yet!….

Reflections on my journey to date…. have I changed? It’s said that the Camino changes everyone, in some ways it’s a glimpse of a perfect existence. A moving community that has only each other’s interests at heart. And although the body is taxed to its limit and there is certainly some physical pain, the mind can focus; I have had to choose what to carry forward with me into the future and choose what to leave behind. At first I didn’t understand why Pilgrims placed stones in little heaps by the side of the road and at the foot of crosses, but very soon I was doing it too. The little stones that I leave behind represent the burdens that I have been carrying with me, some burdens so heavy that going forward has at times seemed almost impossible…. I place stones there for friends that I know who are also grieving, hoping that by doing so their burdens might be lighter, they don’t know about it, it’s called faith…. yes, I have changed and I still have more changing to do in the next six days and beyond that, we all have the capacity to change, to become better more loving, more caring people……..

I wish you all peace, joy, courage, hope, and confidence…..

Love Susan x

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Day 39: O’ Cebreiro to Triacastel

MY FEET HURT

which is a bit of a shock to me, which it maybe shouldn’t, after using and abusing them for 550 km. but why now?

I left O’Cebreiro at a few minutes past nine. My “rest” day being quite “restless” . The heating in my digs went off at 8:30am and came on again at 3pm so that left a whole cold hunk of the day to deal with. After perusing the tourist tack shops and having coffee, I seemed to have covered the whole hamlet, it could not be called a village. I decided to go to Church, as the service is entirely in Spanish, I have to confess that I went there to mainly to keep warm! Not that the Church was very warm but it was much warmer than the elements that assaulted me outside.

The little Church was packed, I took a seat at the very back, and very soon realised that one could easily follow the service just by the general flow of things. I soon realised that this was a special service with a very elderly couple renewing their marriage vows, it was special for me too, I felt totally at peace there, and was so pleased I had gone. I took a Pilgrims lunch at the place I was staying at, a large plate of spaghetti followed by chicken and chips, and the usual large quantity of Tinto. As I still hadn’t used up the time until 3pm (heating) I went back to my room, got into bed fully clothed a slept well until the heating came on and the heat disturbed my slumbers.

This morning breakfast was scheduled for 8:30, I arrived at the bar which was next door to my digs, and waited in the cold until the proprietor decided it was time to open up, breakfast consisted of carton orange juice, toast and olive oil and coffee. There were other pilgrims staying, but as soon as we all left the bar after breakfast the doors were locked and bared. It was the first time I have not felt welcomed since I began my journey.

I left O’Cebreiro with no regrets and, as the upper part of The Way was closed due to a heavy snowfall, had to walk down the road for a few kilometres before picking up the way again……

The first part of the journey was uphill, at times quite steep, and eventually I came to

With this amazing bronze overlooking the valley….

His view was spectacular…….

Soon I was on the downhill ‘run’ and although the heart stoped complaining the knees feet and hips got really “cross”, going down, through farmyards (and mud) through pretty villages with tiny Churches….

And views that made my heart ache…..

And sudden drifts of snow to be waded through….

And this, no idea what it is, but perhaps one of you know?

And from there I walked straight into summer, still very much down hill, but the complaining ankles, hips and knees were ignored when I reached a pretty lane with friendly curious cows….

And a beautiful calf…..

And this pretty lane that to me seemed so very English……..

With Violets…….

And Periwinkles…..

And wild strawberries…

And fresh drinking fountains………

And the most photographed tree on the whole Camino……

This hundred year old Chestnut tree has a trunk the diameter of which is more than 8 meters and some of the trunks interwoven here are more than 800 years old. It’s ancient nooks and crannies have provided Pilgrims with shelter, but more especially one thinks about the enormous amount of things this wonderful tree must have bore witness to over so many years ……..

Love Susan x

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Days 37 and 38: Herrerias to O’ Cebreiro

Well I was warned that it was an upward and onward day and certainly the going was tough, not just for a little old lady like me but even the young were having to take it all extremely slowly, with frequent stops along the way to catch ones breath and to admire the amazing views….

Leaving Herrerias was fine, just a gentle uphill, which then became a manageable hill, which then turned unto a “panting how can I get one foot in front of the other” mountain, and yet on it went relentless…….

To begin with it was a morning of animals….

The put you off your breakfast sort……

And the “I’m really pleased to see you sort…..

And the “will you be my friend” sort….

And the “can I come with you?”……. “I’m such a nice dog”……

And the just plain curios…..

The flowers are now everywhere and would gladden anyone’s heart….

And rushing, gushing water everywhere……

It was a reasonable day weather wise, I met a Pilgrim walking in shorts (I didn’t think it was that reasonable). He told me that he is on his ninth Pilgrimage, and once he had started in Paris, he went ahead of me and coped with the terrain like a mountain goat!

Sorry no photo of his knees…..

The higher I went the worse the path became, with stretches of drifted snow which I had to negotiate around, not on the sheer drop side but the mountain side, melting in the sunshine and making water course down the mountainside…..

Then I came across this… which told me I was in Galatia……

This was followed by a series of bright new signs showing the way…..

And from here on both sides of the track are thick with the tiniest wild daffodils I have ever seen….

A close up…..

The views were spectacular, but advisable not to go too near the edge of the path….

About an hour earlier I had walked through the farm shown here, when I say walked it was more like wading though mud and cow pats, good job I’m a country girl! ….. and here the haystacks wear little hats to keep themselves dry…..

The final push and I am welcomed by a sign that tells me I have made it to O’Cebreiro……

Around a corner and suddenly I am hit full in the face with commercialism at it finest. There are coaches parked up there, and dozens of cars. There are shops selling tourist tack, there are several bars, and so many people milling about…

On the plus side there is a beautiful church…….

And many of these Celtic round houses…..

O’Cebreiro is a tiny place, you can walk through it in 5 minutes. It is here that I am spending my ‘rest day’. The heating in my hostel goes off at 8:30 and doesn’t come on again until they open at three, obviously catering for the one night Pilgrim trade…

There are no warm welcomes here, and barely a smile except from Pilgrims that I have met along the way.

I asked my Landlady for WiFi, she told me she had none even though her laptop was there for all to see. I have found a bar and have tucked myself here to write this.

Today the weather is appalling. It’s raining and there is thick

fog. Pilgrims are advised not to use the Camino trail but to walk today on the hazardous road with its hairpin bends….

Here is a photo overlooking the valley from yesterday…

And here is the same view today……

I realise that my body is now getting extremely tired and it was high time that I had a rest day. Yesterday I went to my room at 3pm after an “okay” pilgrims lunch. I took off my shoes and lay down on my bed, fully clothed. I woke at one this morning, got changed into my night things and slept again. Today I do feel much better, the aches and pains are manageable. I’m just wondering what to do with myself in this little village in the rain and the fog. The Pilgrims have all left for todays walk, and I wonder if there are more Pilgrims right now making their way up the mountain in these miserable conditions. It so resembles life, one day there is sunshine and flowers the next day one can’t even begin to see the way ahead, maybe on those days one should just take a rest day and not even try to negotiate the fog of like. It won’t always be foggy, the sun will eventually come out and bless us with its warmth.

Love Susan x

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Day 36: Villafranca del Bierzo to Herrerias

I had such a touching moment this morning when I left my ‘digs’…..

But maybe I sound tell you about the really lovely placed I stayed at – and, once more the really lovely people I stayed with, it was a small hostel, right opposite the castle at Villafranca del Bierzo and my room was, well, quirky, here’s a picture

And there was even an English novel there for me to read – I didn’t! But what a nice touch, and my meal was excellent, ravioli followed by Veal stew (and chips!). When I left this morning I said to the signora that I loved her hostel and she replied “we love you too” and gave me the most loving and sincere hug. I was so touched by her loving attitude, the kindness of strangers….. this, my friends, is The Camino….

My travels today took me close to main roads, via a little path that runs along the verge, but then veering off to lush pastures and babbling books, and cows with calves, and sheep with lambs. Then into a village for cafe con leche, and on and on, an easy path, but always veering close to the road. It was a walk of contrasts, two women working in an orchard, with a huge viaduct above them….

The constant ringing of bells from around the goats necks….

And flowers peeping through everywhere and gladdening my heart….

And lots of “ripe for conversion” properties…..

And over all this, massive viaducts high up in the air with, it would seem, “normal” Spanish life going on hundreds of metres below…

I wonder how a project like this is ever started, does the Forman turn up with the plans and the measurements and “stuff” and say right chaps, dig a hole here? Is there lots of head scratching? There is certainly lots of concrete, invented I believe by the Romans….. the whole concept fascinates me from beginning to end…..

Babbling brooks and roaring rivers, and now we have thunder and lightening, and I am safely in my Pension, warm and dry, aching, and happy….

Love Susan x

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Day 35: Reigo de Ambros to Villafranca del Bierzo

First things first. Feet… yesterday with all the rain and snow, my feet were very wet indeed, either the Gore or the Tex in the Gortex has gone west! In one of the mountain villages I spotted a ‘super market’ which in this neck of the woods means a bar with a shelf of bits and pieces, including in this case a tin of Vaseline.

After I’d dried my boots I rubbed Vaseline in the Goretex and in all the seams and today my feet have kept warm and dry. On the other hand, there has been no rain or snow today, so I don’t know if my ploy has worked or not watch this space…….

Last night there was only one other pilgrim in my Pension, a German chap who spoke excellent English, he and our host were chatting away ten to the dozen, after she had left I complimented him on his Spanish, he then told me that he was actually speaking French! Shame on you Susan…..

He wanted an early breakfast so that he could get off, as I didn’t want to inconvenience our lovely lady, I agreed to have an early breakfast too. This was the compensation for getting up early…….

Sunrise…….

The first part of my journey today was much the same as the last part yesterday, with slippery areas of shale interspersed with huge rocks that were difficult to clamber over…..

On reaching Molinasca, with aching ankles and knees, I stopped for coffee, it was like entering another land, so many of the spring flowers were out…..

Lawns were being mown, guttering cleaned, leaves collected, and it’s so much warmer down here in the valley….

And this tree surely must be inspiration for a cabled sweater…..

Molinasca has two very pretty churches………

It’s full of narrow streets with overhanging windows…….

And has a good selection of bread…… No EU rules about wrapping here, this is in the street exposed to all the elements…..

And on to Ponferrada, where this rotund Pilgrim was making his way forward with his eyes shut…….

Any ideas what this bronze is? Can anyone read Spanish?

The castle is spectacular I could have spent a day just looking around…….

Then to Rio Sil, where this little Church has the brilliant paintings, that look as if they were painted yesterday, perhaps they were……

And on to Villafranca del Bierzo……

Another lovely place, my Hostel is right opposite the castle, and this is the view from my window…..

I am very tired, my body is beginning to complain! I having a rest day in Ocebreiro, which I am much looking forward to I guessed this is the way I go…

Love Susan x

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Day 33: Astoria to Rabanal del Camino

Part two

Despite a dismal wet beginning to the day, by the time I left my lodgings the rain had almost gone and weak sunshine was beginning to break through, looking behind reminded me of the poem The Highwayman, which my mother used to read to me when I was small….

“And the road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor”. In this case it was sunlight, and okay, no moor in sight……

Only one storks nest in Brazuelo, is that lucky or unlucky, I wonder…..

I met up with my Irish friend from yesterday, the one that is completing the second half of her second Camino having walked the first half last year and having walked the whole lot the year before. She had started in Leon which a lot of pilgrims choose to do. After two days of walking she was in considerable pain from her hamstrings and her Achilles’ tendons, and was walking with some difficulty, we walked together for about an hour, then I left her at a bar to have a reviving cup of coffee and went on alone. The forecast this morning was for heavy snow, but as I walked along the sun was shining, the wind was quite cold. When I reached El Ganda, I sat in the porch of the little church, checked my maps and had some water, before continuing my journey with a lovely girl from Stuttgart. After a while she too stopped at a bar, and I decided that there might just be some truth in the snow forecast. The cars coming from the west had quite a layer of snow on their roofs….. By the time I got to the little cross at Brazuela, I could see the clouds laden with snow thundering toward me…..

And before long…..

And before much longer …. what a flattering selfies least I could have smiled…….

Despite, the snow, this beautiful little flower braved the cold and put a smile on my face……

This fence of crosses runs all the way to Rabanal del Camino……

And now I am in my little hostel. I’m in a tiny but comfortable room. With a half bath, which I stuffed myself into, knees each side of my ears, desperate to get warm and get dry clothes on. Then off for my Pilgrims lunch, which was really, really good, a big salad, which is almost unheard of in Spain, followed by roast lamb – and chips – well you can’t have it all, the price also included bread, water and wine. But the Pilgrims menus prices have been going up over the past few weeks. The price was 10€ when I began my journey, then 15€, then 18€ and today a whopping 22€. I’m wondering if this will be the case all the way to Santiago, or if this particular hostel is expensive. Bed and breakfast here is only 25€. Please note this is by no means a complaint. I can always shop at the local supermarket and buy a meal very cheaply, it just wouldn’t be a hot meal as I completely forgot to pack my micro-wave……. silly me….

A sad moment, this just wouldn’t be a truthful blog if I didn’t include the rough with the smooth. As I left the square this morning and turned the corner into quite a narrow street, I spotted a man coming toward me, he had a walking stick and was walking with an all too familiar gait, even from a distance I could see that he had Parkinson’s. As we neared each other his face pulled those, again all too familiar, exaggerated movements, his mouth twisting trying to get some words out. I am pretty sure he was trying to say “Buen Camino” but his words were running into each other. I really wanted to put my arms around him, but instead I stroked his shaking arm and said “Muchas Gracias. His word were pretty unintelligible, but I think he was asking me if I was going all the way to Santiago. I just said “Si Gracias, and he smiled the Parkinson’s smile which is almost a grimace. There is another truth to be had. If Bernard hadn’t had Parkinson’s I would never have recognised what was wrong with him. I might have thought him drunk, or even been afraid of him, how tragic would that have been both for me and the stranger……

Love Susan xx

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