Day 27 – 33: Fisterra & Muxia (… and time to go home)

Time in Santiago was pretty relaxed after arriving. Much sleeping, catching up with some fellow pilgrims (mainly Team Belgium 2, Lisa from Austria) and not much walking. Mass was a must though I didn’t have the luck to catch another view of the Botafumeiro. I aslo enjoyed a German guide tour around the cathedral and (less so) an open air screening of some Spanish movie.

After two days of waiting, Guelane arrived in Santiago on Thursday morning about 10am. Both legs swollen and now using the once so despised hiking pole, but in good spirits overall having completed a 500km journey (460km to be exact from Hontanas).

We had another breakfast egg together (which we came to love on the camino instead of any power bar type food!) and after a coffee I left him at the hotel. He would go on to celebrate with his Italian friends before flying to Paris the next day.

I instead got back into walking mode towards fisterra. The name originates from the Romans that considered the spot the end of the world (‘finis terrae’). The distance of 86km wasn’t much considering 755km lay behind me and additionally offered the prospect of a less crowded pilgrimage. indeed, right as you left the cathedral and walk past the parador you are essentially leaving santiago and soon find yourself in a forest type environment. real fun to walk. only issue is the large distance between hostels / bars (usually 10km). unusual and no doubt a direct function of fewer pilgrims (you can’t have it all i guess!).

My flight back to london (in time to pick up Alex after school on wednesday as usual) was only scheduled for the 9th of September. So there was no rush and a full six days of walking ahead (to cover 86km to Fisterra & another 28km to Muxia … so 20km per day). i took 4 days to fisterra where an amazing seaside was waiting. the atlantic. the end of the world. a highlight for me was to meet frederic (france) one lat time. we hadn’t seen each other since a few glasses of wine in Logrono. He was already on his way back from fisterra having been walking for two month now. and it wasn’t to end here. his plan  is to walk back to a small town near marseille and on my estimate (well, google maps really) will take him another two month. since he has been mainly sleeping outdoor I wish him warm nights on his way. great pleasure to meet him.

the sunset in fisterra, which I enjoyed alongside mathias & jorre, was pretty breathtaking. I also abandoned my 12 day alcohol break. well, good to know one can still do without ;o). on the sad side, as i would learn a day later, my arrival at the end of the world also coincided with my grandma’s passing away. amazing coincidence. my she be blessed.
the next day started pretty slow and it took me until 9.30am to get going. on the way out of fisterra I bumped into Nedele (as I keep calling her in this blog). she will finish in fsiterra, but looked overall pretty happy about her achievement. may things go well for her back in Luebeck! the way to muxia is easily doable in one day, but I have been recommended to stay in the seaside village right in the middle called Lires. the standout feature is a pretty sand beach and a hillside bar with great views of the ocean and sunsets. the hostel was also pretty nice considering food, accommodation and service.
on day 32 the final day of walking had finally arrived. a brisk 3 hour walk to muxia, visit at the seafront church, the next certificate (no three after the composted & certificate from fisterra) & a long lunch. I also met my taiwanese friend one last time. then for the first time in more than a month … public transport! the bus to Santiago took about two hours and got me there in time for the evening mass. a fitting goodbye from my camino.

what do i take back, what has changed? many will probably ask me this question in some form or shape. does the camino deliver what it promises? lets start here. many of my issues I had addressed before I came here to clear the head. a few issues required some thinking as to what to do next and i have gotten my answers, ambitions or whatever you want call it. its nice to see you are not the only in life with troubles. many of the (non-student, adventure type) pilgrims carry their own burden and listening to them helped to put things in context. what was most inspiring was to be off the grid for a month (yes my data usage was huge due to blog, but you know what I mean). apart from cash withdrawals I paid in cash for four weeks, meet so many new people, never know what exactly will happen next, being free to take a rest, sleep, walk at night … being free!

am I more religious now? I still struggle with some of the church concepts & wonders. probably i am still too much a scientist for that and always have value the church for its basic principles that organised life (somewhat) when laws were still absent in the past. but I do cherish the concept of love more. if love is god, as the bible has it and a very good friend of mine tried to explain to me at a camping trip earlier in the year, then god is around us and in us. often hard to fins in a capitalistic tiger cage like london, but its there. juan antonio from malaga is the best example. what a great guy. caring, helpful, fun and enthusiastic about life.

 

so, that was it for now. five days in london await me and I am really looking forward to seeing Alex (since both of us have been travelling a lot since we were on holidays in France). On sunday night i will embark on my second pilgrimage of the summer taking me from Lucca to Rome as well as the wedding of an old friend (well, not that old really). Cant wait to get back into the hiking boots!
BUEN CAMINO!

 

Advertisements

Day 26: Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostella (Guelane only 5km to go …)

After a rather large dinner (plenty of lentil soup, fruit & cacau milk) I slept relatively well. The alarm was set for 5:30am so that I will reach Santiago in time for pilgrims mass.

The way to Santiago isn’t all that special though full with happy pilgrims looking forward to arriving! Most of the way I spent buy myself with and without music, looking back & ahead and doing what I am now very much used to … walking!

It’s done!

 

Santiago old town

about 6km before Santiago I started walking with Christoph. I had overtaken him twice today, but seemingly I take more breaks than him. He lives near Karlsruhe (hence was fluent in German), but was born in Salisia, Poland (not far from my grandma’s birthplace).

He had done the camino primitivo (shorter, but harder and less people/albergos) and was a complete camino enthusiast. this was his fourth’s trip and he bought another 10 (!) credential documents for trips next year and the year after as I would find out later.

the camino takes you right into Santiago old town and to the square in front of the cathedral. first, however, I made my way to the pilgrims office and collected my well earned compostella (free of charge) and a separate document for the 775km distance I covered (eur3 a piece).
Tomb of Santiago or
St. James

 


the arrival at the square in front of santiago cathedral was pretty underwhelming I have to say. i expected a bit more jubilant atmosphere than was the case. maybe i was too early?  in any case … it just proves the point that the camino is about the way to santiago and not the arrival (even though the unesco protected old town is pretty stunning). and the way was great. so many emotions, people, discussions and the never ending rhythm of your feet and pilgrim staff hitting the ground. unforgettable!

before mass I visited the tomb of St James and climbed the stairs to his figure (the traditional end of the pilgrimage) to rub his nose for a good wish. unfortunately I mixed that one up, as I am mean to hug him. so will try tomorrow again ;o)

mass at noon was nice with all the singing as well as meeting cyril again who was attending mass together with Juan (from Burgos, met him first in Hontanas). highlight is the traditional swinging of the famous botafumeiro of the Santiago cathedral. Later in the evening I would also meet team Belgium 2 again.


Guelane update: a true fighter. despite ongoing leg issues the dude has made it within 5km of Santiago at the time of writing. Will meet him in style tomorrow at the cathedral square! dont stop walking!


so where from here? i will rest in santiago for two nights, enjoy the city and attend several masses. I reckon many faces I met on the camino will show up over time. should be fun. on Thursday, after receiving guelane, the walk will continue towards the atlantic ocean and the city of finisterre (‘the worlds end’; c90km) and then on to Muxia (c30km). so not quite there yet after all. blogging will pause for a few days, but will be back!

 

 

Day 25: Casanova to Pedrouzo (… 20km to go to Santiago)

Another pretty boring walk. After some healthy conversation last night with a German and a Slovenian fellow pilgrim I was restless all night. Cause was clearly a pretty oversized French man I believe that pretty much looked and sounded like a pig. Concerto a la Pavarotti all night long. The only time to sleep was from 6.30 to 7.30 or so when he was silent / awake. Both fellow pilgrims from last night made use of the same window of opportunity it seemed.

Figure of St James

At 7.45 or so I got going. The initial trek continued through forest and wasn’t too bad. It started drizzling and light rain gear was in order. I covered a good amount of ground (c10km) come breakfast time in Melide at 9.30 or so.

Not a pretty city really apart from the little bit of old town as you arrive on the Camino. However, I could finally buy some tablets for my toothache and a new toothbrush (these are not related to each other ;o).

After a little more walking I bumped into Julia from Germany at a bar. We briefly spoke yesterday when I bought ice cream for team Belgium 2 and myself. She is from Bochum and just decided to change from studying law to doing a degree in teaching German & English.

She hasn’t been hiking much before, but seemed to like travelling with rucksack (waking aside ;o) and plans to backpack Thailand next. She started in Leon. We walked together until lunchtime (chicken & salad! Hurrah!) where her German friend caught up with her and I left them there to walk to their hostel not too far away.


I continued in the rain and pretty unspectacular scenery by Camino standards to pedrouzo. another 42km in the bag. On the way I met another German couple that just joined the Camino Franco today having been walking the Camino Norte (North aide along the sea side) before. The sheer amount of people was very unusual for them (usually no more than one or two other pilgrims per day), but likewise the Albergo infrastructure is much denser. They stay in a tent anyway (so everyone prey it doesn’t rain in the morning … really sucks when you have to put together your tent etc!).

todays journey

The Albergo is pretty nice be it that the location is 1km off the Camino. Now I am only 20km from Santiago. HArd to believe really! Most fellow pilgrims feel the same judging by what they chat about and how their faces look. More than 760km and so many memories lie behind me. Next stop Santiago de Compostella! At noon is pilgrims mass and I don’t want to miss it! So let get up early.

Approximate journey so far … at 100 calories per km = 72,000 total by now
Eucalyptus forest

















Update Guelane: unfortunately not as much progress as I had hoped having seen his Facebook check in at the 100km mark yesterday midday or earlier. He is still 73km away and the leg got worse again. Apparently he will get a professional massage tonight. Fingers crossed it will help! Get well soon mate!

Day 24: Portomarin to Casanova

After the long day yesterday and a surprisingly good sleep aided by the large window (that no idiot decided to close!), we slept well and long. We hit eventually hit the road at around 8.15am.

Team Belgium 2 had breakfast immediately, which consisted of two slices of pizza leftovers each. I saved mine for later ;o)

Already now one issue because very apparent – tourigrinos! That name applies to people only walking the last 100km to get a compostella / certificate. It really made me angry to see these wannabe pilgrims clocking up the camino and basically destroying the atmosphere on the final stretch to Santiago.

also important!
no one likes TOURIGRINOS!

Overcrowded bars that by now are just pure money collecting units in exchange for the same old food (spanish kitchen lacks depth a lot!). Some guys walking with iPads, some carrying their stuff in plastic bags, people in cotton shirts & office trousers, most don’t carry bags (using delivery service even for such short distance). Really ruins the camino feeling. Arghhhh ..

great present this snake
Mathias. Bedankt!

 

Belgian interpretation of ’69 km’ marker

Aside from the strange crowd, the trek itself was boring. Mostly alongside roads, sometimes with little shade and short bits in the forest. But overall one of the worst bits of the camino.

Positive highlights of the day include another 30km done (team Belgium 2 even went on to do 38km), meeting the first pilgrim with a donkey (2month on the road from Bordeaux, France) and plenty of fun chat again with Mathias & Jorre.

A toothache led me to look for a pharmacy (unsuccessfully on a Domingo in Spain!) and so I parted with team Belgium. While I technically wanted to push on melide (9km further) as well, my legs told me to take it easy and I checked into the Alberto in Casanova – a ten people village. Not much more o do than to relax really, but at least the facilities are great and if no further pilgrims drop in I will enjoy a double bunk bed experience (upper level) tonight.

So there are some 60km left to Santiago. Lets do it! Guelane also passed the 100km mark today and should have about 85km left roughly. Buen Camino!

siesta!

Day 23: Fonfria to Portomarin (a new record)

My night was little restless again and not helped by rubber coated mattresses that made me sweat. Well, at least no bed bugs or so. As team Belgium 2 (Jorge & Matthias) got ready to go around 5ish, I decided to get up too. So stuff packed up, refreshed & go.

When I left the hostel, the guys were still outside having breakfast and playing with a white cat. Their mission today was a 52km march to portomarin. Mine was a much less ambitious 40km – enough to get me to Santiago by about Tuesday.

 

800 year old sweet chestnut

The hike started rather mysterious. It was still dark and One had to look carefully to stay on the right path. Nonetheless it was beautiful to walk under a blazing full moon and above the fog that covered the entire valley (remember our starting point was 1300m altitude). Really amazing.

At 7.30 it was time for the first breakfast. Coffee and an as usual supersized pain-o-chocolate! They are really monstrous over here (same for croissants). As we continued to walk downhill we got an extra wake up call as a dog decided to chase us. Good I have my gandalf walking stick!

Daylight revealed the full beauty of Galicia once more. Green landscape everywhere, forests and romantic (and mostly tiny) villages. By lunchtime we arrived in Sarria. This is the usual starting point for compostella tourists (mostly spanish) that only hike the last 100km just to obtain a certificate (and stick it as key achievement into their CV ;o). I got some cash (finally a bank), said bye go team Belgium 2 and had lunch. Pasta & caprese salad (though of poor quality as so often with foreign good in Spain).

After lunch the heat picked up. No clouds to cover this time. Thanks god the walk still took me through shaded areas, but there was a distinct lack of fountains. Some stage I actually run out of water and no fountain or bar was to be found … Until that tiny bar where two Belgians were relaxing over two beers to celebrate having less than 100km to go to Santiago.

We had some food and I joined them on their way to portomarin. Didn’t feel too tired and legs still working. So I got my first (and probably only) 52km march done too.

To get to portomarin one has to cross a long bridge. Nice views from there, but given we approached 8.30pm it was rather time to find a hostel. 14hours was enough walking for a day.

The hostel was nice, we had some great food together and my best night sleep yet on the whole camino. Only 93km left to Santiago. Should be there Tuesday morning!

Physical update: no doubt I have been losing down weight. Some from beer belly, but also muscles. You just can’t eat as much as you burn (100 calories per 1km walking). Otherwise feeling pretty good.

View from Portomarin bridge

Guelane update: stayed c4km before sarria and is hence about 25km behind me. Best guess is he will arrive a day after me on Wednesday. I shall be waiting with a cold drink for him! His leg has improved.

111km (+3km) to go ;o)

 

Message board near ‘donativo’

 

 

Mathias likes animals