Day 32 : The End of The World

Steve : Today we do not walk. Our primary purpose has altered. I’m not entirely clear on the details of the alteration as yet but we’ll see how we do.

We rise late and are the last three out of the albergue. We walk all of 10m to a cafe across the street for a breakfast of toast, orange juice and coffee. Fortified and somewhat zombified we head off to the bus station to get the 12 noon bus to Finisterre, the ‘end of the world’.

We do walk to the bus station.  It isn’t far but it actually feels quite nice to have the pack on and the shoes on and be walking.

The bus driver is a nutcase and should not be driving buses. He throws the bus around and is either on the brake or the accelerator hard the whole time. His primary goal seems to be to make up enough time so he can stop and have cigarette breaks. Two hours of his crazy stupid driving and we all feel sick. If I knew what I was doing I would lodge a formal complaint.

The vomit bus disgorges its contents

But Finisterre is a beautiful little town, full of hippies, and – as luck would have it – a weekend long blues festival.  Good fun.

We find our accomodation, the ‘Albergue do Sol e da Lua’, which is pleasingly hippy. We do the last clothes wash of the trip and settle down for an afternoon of reading and posting these blogs.

Albergue do Sol e da Lua

Jen disappears for an hour and comes back to tell us that she’s been for a swim in the Atlantic. A dare ensues and we all troop off to the beach on the Atlantic side of the peninsula. There are a handful of people on a gorgeous sandy beach. It’s around 6:30 and still warm so we strip off to our undies and in go Hamish and myself.

Bracing! H is complaining about the cold but, hey, I’m (a) from Scotland, and (b) possessed of a layer of lard that’s missing from the youngsters. Rarely are these attributes an advantage. I’ve been swimming in the Atlantic off Argyll. Spain is lovely and warm.

It’s a tradition to burn your clothing when you arrive in Finisterre…

We return to the albergue and get ourselves sorted out for the 3km walk to the lighthouse that officially notes the 0km mark of the Finisterre Camino. We want to get there for sunset at 10:19pm. We stroll through the streets and have veggie sandwiches at a hipster cafe that would work fine in Edinburgh. We sit outside with our backs to the square in which black clad roadies are setting up the stage for the blues festivals events of the evening. Just as the band is getting started we have to leave and head to the lighthouse.

It’s fun to be walking again and it’s more or less all uphill to the lighthouse – all the better!

Steve at 0km
Hamish at 0km
Jen at 0km

We arrive around 10pm and watch the mighty sun slip behind some clouds on the far horizon. The same sun that has both entranced us with jaw droppingly beautiful sunrises over the meseta and tried to kill us on the plains of Leon Y Castillo.

We watch it go down in silence.

We amble back to the albergue. Jen walks alone and has a major CALS moment. She says, next morning, that she just wants to keep walking. Not go back to work but just pick a city, put on your boots,

and

go

As for me, I agree. I shall go home and have a think.

 

Day 31 : Santiago, the end of the road….

The End – outside the Cathedral in Santiago

Steve : We’re here! Sometime after 11am this morning the three of us ran – yes, ran – the last half km into the square outside the Cathedral in Santiago.

Much rejoicing…

But first…

The day started very early. Our plan was to make it to Santiago in time for the noon pilgrim’s mass. We reckoned we had around 20km to go from Pedrouzo so, given our current storming form, we reckoned 5 hours max.  But to be on the safe side we were up just after 5am.

It was wet and very dark.  We headed back into town and picked up the Camino trail again and headed into the woods. Within minutes we hit a new problem.  It was simply too dark to see the trail. The sky was black with rain clouds and we were still an hour before dawn. On previous early starts this hadn’t been a problem as we could see plenty under a starry moonlit sky.

Somewhat disappointed we had an emergency committee meeting during which some jovial Spanish peregrinos who were wearing head torches passed us. So we dissolved our meeting and simply followed them.   They were a little slow but they got us to Breakfast #1…

…after which time the sun had come up enough to be useful.  Off we went. It rained on and off and within a few hours we passed the airport and came upon the ‘Santiago’ marker.

Santiago and Jen
Santiago and Hamish
Santiago and Steve

It always surprises me just how long it takes to  walk through a large town’s suburbs. Santiago is no exception. We cross big roads and pass carpet showrooms and the typical big shed retailers of the modern world. Eventually we reach a pilgrim monument on top of a hill…

…and there it is, Santiago Cathedral. Blimey.

You can see the towers of the cathedral over Hamish’s left shoulder

I am nervous! 31 days of constant walking plus another few months of planning and there’s the target. Visible with our naked eyes through the mist.

We walk on, down the hill.

We nip into a cafe to use the loo and have Breakfast #1.5 and I meet a man who went to school in my village back home in Scotland. He’s come out to Santiago to join his wife, who has walked from Leon, and I can tell he’s simultaneously impressed and baffled.

We walk on into the old town.

Dog and peregrinos share a fashion moment

Jen vaguely recognises where she is from her Camino trip last year and she dares us to run the last half km. I demur but she wins and off we go. 

So we race into the square, to find the last 10m blocked by a group of tourists who can’t seem to move out of the way.

We arrive in front of the scaffolding covering the front of the cathedral. There’s a man with an angle grinder making one heck of a noise half way up that scaffolding. Most of the square is closed off for some military event taking place later. We try and take it all in and collapse..

Jen just sits down. I wander on a few metres and Hamish a few metres more. I don’t know what either of them are thinking and, to be honest, I don’t know what I’m thinking either. My thoughts return to the two people who should be here, Muriel and Ali, and my sadness returns.

But then I think of my legs!  And I get Jen to take a picture…

I ask you, dear reader, are those not particularly fine specimens? Muscles. And muscles on top of those muscles!  Excellent legs in excellent socks in excellent shoes. Excellent.

We round up another peregrino and ask her to take a picture. Thankfully it’s a good one and here it is again. Happy memories already.

Overcome with something or other we retire to a cafe to eat churros dipped in chocolate. Diabetes on a plate. Very tasty.

We queue up for the noon pilgrim mass and find ourselves having to sit on the floor.  The place is packed. The mass is long, in Spanish, and a bit baffling but we are glad to be there.

You may have heard about the swinging incense holder – you can see it in the centre of the above picture. Sadly that wasn’t going to happen at our mass. Apparently, if you pay enough (rumour says 3 or 4 hundred euros) and organise it in advance the church will do the swinging incense thing.  I’m hazy as to what it’s all about but I can imagine that it’s very effective in removing the aroma of filthy pilgrim from the building.

This is a major Catholic cathedral and the quantity of gold around the supposed tomb of James the Apostle (Sant Iago) is considerable.

The mass finishes and we limp out back into the square. The rain has stopped and the sun threatens a return.

Square panorama #1
Square panorama #2
Square panorama #3

We find our albergue, ‘The Last Stamp’ (a reference to the stamps we collect in our ‘Pilgrim Passport’ or ‘Credentials’ at every albergue since St Jean) and go for a wander.

Central Santiago is a lovely old city full of tourist tat and interesting shops.

Hopeful

We stock up on souvenirs (we don’t have to carry it much further now!) and Jen buys two new dresses.

A scuzzy peregrino goes clothes shopping….
…and meets a very very large dog

The albergue is quite pleasant, though the ‘easy’ ways of the rural albergues have gone. This one is very much ‘business’. We make our beds and set out our stuff, then head out to collect our certificate and find some dinner.

The Pilgrim Office below the Cathedral is the final port of call for the peregrino. Here you show your ‘Pilgrim Passport’ and answer a few questions about your trip. Hand over 5 euros and you are given two documents, a ‘Certificate of Distance’ stating how far you have walked, and the all important ‘Compostella’ with your name scribed in Latin (sort-of). We queue up for around an hour and a half to get ours.

One of the hospitaleros tells us that yesterday they did 1400 ‘Compostellas’ and today they were expecting to do 1600.  And the Camino ‘season’ hasn’t really started yet.

We walk out into the square and feel much contentment.

Dinner is at an excellent veggie-friendly restaurant where we blow the budget and eat like kings.

We are back in bed at around 10:30.

Sadly Santiago is a party town and the drinking starts early. Along side the peregrinos who are walking the trail with purpose are the tourigrinos, who are basically here for a party.  Some didn’t even bother walking at all – we saw quite a few folks with boots and backpacks get out of taxis and only walk the last 100m into the square.  Not cool.

The noise outside the albergue is incredible.  I sleep fitfully until the last drunken idiot staggers into bed in the room above ours around 4:30am. In the morning I take great delight in not being quiet and revel in the ‘shhhh’s from the hangover brigade. Sorry, mate, you should have thought of that earlier…

Tomorrow we are no longer peregrinos. We will not walk. We’ll be on a bus to Finisterre, ‘The End of the World’, and we’ll watch the sun set over the Atlantic.

Day 30 : Ribadiso de Baixo to Pedrouzo

Steve : A reasonable night’s sleep, in spite of the snoring. We get up and ready ourselves for departure. Everything we own got a good soaking yesterday. All our gear has more or less dried out, apart from, sadly, our shoes. We stuffed them with newspaper last night, which does a good job of sucking out the moisture, but my left shoe still squelches when I walk. It’ll be fine in a few kms.

Roughly 30km to do today, so we look for a cafe for breakfast #1 and find a nice one in Arzua…

The cafe is attached to an upmarket albergue. Well dressed and sleek middle aged peregrinos in starched and pressed hiking gear are getting ready.

We consume toast, orange juice and coffee and we’re off…

I haven’t taken too many photos over the last few days, mainly due to the lashing rain, but above is a panorama of Galicia.

We walk through forested paths and stumble upon another cafe near A Calle, perfect for breakfast #2. Here we see the huge increase in peregrinos since Sarria.  They are on Day 4 of their short 100km walk and they are, probably, wet and miserable.

We try and book ourselves an albergue for the night but everywhere in Pedrouzo seems to be full. Hamish gets on booking.com and we find ourselves a Pension, a small cheap hotel and book a triple room for 60 euros. A little expensive but better than tramping the streets looking for three empty beds.

The cafe is very busy…

Peregrinos everywhere…

Later, we determine that it’s round about now that we reach our one millionth step. But we don’t know that just yet…

We power on up the trail, passing through some ancient trees…

Tall trees #1
Tall trees #2

J and H are having a surreal conversation about how they would survive a zombie apocalypse, and H wonders if vampires would be able to survive on other planets with a different sun.

I follow along, as we race through the crowds, and I marvel at my legs ability to carry me at this pace, and I have a major CALS* moment.

We arrive in Pedrouzo and find our pension. Our host is a star – super enthusiastic and helpful. He tells us that this small town has a population of some 400, almost all of whom are involved in the peregrino business. He reckons there are 2000 beds in Pedrouzo and they are all full tonight. Looking at the hordes on the trail, I can believe it.

We go to our room, unpack, and arrange for some laundry to be done. The room is splendid…

TOWELS!!! SHEETS!!! DUVETS!!!

Jen falls asleep whilst H and I do techie things. We emerge around 3pm to try and find some lunch and we find a terrific cafe called ‘Taste The Way’…

‘Taste The Way’

…that does a Peregrino Menu with veggie options. We eat ravenously.

We are in seafood country here, specifically octopus. You see them in big tanks in the windows of restaurants awaiting execution. Yuck.

Back to the hotel. Our TV has a USB port so we plug in my stick and watch ‘The Lady In The Van’. Ideal pilgrim entertainment. Then a trip to the vending machine for some junk food and we set up ‘Margin Call’ as movie #2. The antithesis of a peregrino movie!

We were going to attend the pilgrim mass at the local church but the movie is too interesting. Oh well.  Like I said, we walk through the country and experience almost none of it….

Dinner time arrives and we go out to try ‘Taste the Way’ again to discover that it’s closed for a private event. We find a horrible cafe, eat horrible salads and go to bed early.

Sleep is hard to come by, in spite of the comfy beds and duvets. Tomorrow we will be there.  We will have reached the end of our trail.

I check my watch and it reads 03:16.  I wonder if it’s a message…

*CALS, Camino adjusted lachrymosity syndrome

1,000,000 steps

Well, it looks like we did it. Sometime around when this picture was taken at this morning’s second breakfast…

Cafe dog gets lots of attention

… we walked our one millionth step on the Camino.

I’m wearing a Fitbit and have been recording steps, amongst other things, since we left St Jean.  When we started this morning the cumulative step count was 989,060. The cumulative count right now, as I type this in Pedrouzo, is 1,019,088. By our calcs the 1,000,000 mark was passed around Cafe Lino, near A Calle, where the photo was taken.

One million steps. Hmmm.

We all skipped the 70 km from Santo Domingo to Burgos. Jen has taken a few buses and taxis due to her foot issues. I jumped from Leon to Hospital de Orbigo and accompanied Jen on her bus and taxi trip to Herrerias. But Hamish has walked everything bar the Burgos jump. So he’s probably walked another 60,000 steps on top of the one million.

Jen says, hopefully (and possibly, accurately), that she’s walked more steps because her legs are shorter. When we get back home we’ll do some experiments to see if she’s right.

But, as of right now, we lie on our comfy beds in a Pension in Pedrouzo and feel the satisfaction of the righteous.

Everywhere is indeed walking distance, if you have the time….

Day 29 : Palas de Rei to Ribadiso de Baixo

Steve : There is great delight at having a private room for the three of us, with a private bathroom. Our alarm goes at 5:30am and is ignored. I crawl out of bed at six and take advantage of the TOWELS!!!! to have a pre-walk shower, the first of the trip. Normally you slide out of bed, pull on a shirt and some trousers and are out getting your boots on in 5 minutes. Today is very slow in comparison. Jen has a major I-want-a-lie-in grump but eventually we’re up and out the door at 8am.

The new peregrinos are milling around, looking lost and tired. These are the newbies who joined the trail at Sarria. You must walk 100km of the Camino in order to get your ‘compostella’ certificate, so the last 100km from Sarria onwards brings a whole batch of new, clean, fashionable pilgrims. Today will be day three of five for them and they all look exhausted. The make-up is bedraggled and the hair is lank. Good, we think.

We find a cafe to sell us croissant, toast and coffee for breakfast and we’re off…

The weather forecast for the day says 100% chance of rain so we’re ready for it. I have my luminous visible-from-space rain jacket, Jen has her Very Hungry Caterpillar thing and Hamish has his huge clear plastic bag that he blagged from a bakery way back on the rainy Estella day. We’re set, 26km to do today.

A man in a bag and The Very Hungry Caterpillar

It does, indeed, rain. And rain quite a lot. Because we’re up so late we are in the pilgrim rush hour. There seem to be hundreds of hunchbacked peregrinos wearing the huge all-in-one rain covers. It’s actually a little difficult to maintain a walking pace. We are quite fast, especially up hills, and the trail is narrow in places. Overtaking is difficult. A new peregrino with a huge rucksack in an all-in-one rain cover is quite an ungainly object. It lumbers around like a rhinoceros or an articulated lorry. Our 700km of race-tested familiarity with ourselves and our kit makes us Ferraris, in comparison. We confess to feeling more than slightly smug.

Crossing the highway, looking at the sign…

But the rain falleth on the new and the old peregrino in equal measure and soon we are all very very wet. It’s warm so we don’t really care and when the rain stops it’s still quite windy so we dry fairly quickly. Note to prospective peregrinos – ‘technical’ clothing is well worth the extra money. My Rab top and Montane trousers will dry in minutes in a good breeze.

We have a second breakfast around San Xulian and eat huge bocadillos whilst listening to a Spanish gent of consequence conduct business very loudly on his phone. I would guess him to be 60ish, with an ample belly, and he’s dressed head to toe in the latest Lycra cycling gear. ‘Tis a thing of wonder. He eventually mounts his bike, an incredibly expensive Trek electrically assisted mountain bike and waddles off, uncertainly, up the road.

The day is uneventful and quite long. It’s too wet to take photos and too wet to wear headphones. We discuss the best parts of the trip, our favourite gear, and what we’re going to do in Santiago. Jen wants us to run into the square. I’m not so sure. If we’re doing this properly we’re supposed to go in on our knees but that definitely isn’t going to happen.

Clouds over Melide

Melide brings lunch and we hide out in a cafe whilst the heavens open. My luminous jacket does a good job of minimising the rain soaking but it does, for reasons unknown, make me smell like a chicken farm. I decide I don’t care, but I do feel sorrow for any non-peregrinos who are too close by.

The terrain is up and down and we walk through the greenest of tunnels made by the old growth forest. If the weather had been better I would have some excellent pictures.

We approach the hill before Ribadiso and all of us are firing on all cylinders. We power up it. I think of the quote from the film ‘Gallipoli’:

Jack: What are your legs?

Archy Hamilton: Springs. Steel springs.

Jack: What are they going to do?

Archy Hamilton: Hurl me down the track.

Jack: How fast can you run?

Archy Hamilton: As fast as a leopard.

Jack: How fast are you going to run?

Archy Hamilton: As fast as a leopard!

Jack: Then let’s see you do it!

We overtake everyone and steam, literally, into town.

We’ve booked ahead and are staying in Los Caminantes. We arrive around 3:30pm and find some beds. The albergue is pleasant enough, if a little cramped.

We unpack and I discover that my Platypus water system in my backpack has sprung a leak. My sleeping sheet is now ever so slightly damp. In the grand scheme of things, given what’s been falling from the sky all day, it’s not a problem. The Platypus goes in the bin, after 10+ years of good service. I shall replace it on our return.

H looks like he’s got bed bugs, so we shove everything in a washing machine and do a full debug. Let’s hope it does the trick.

Bed bugs to peregrinos is the equivalent of shouting ‘Fire’ in a crowded theatre. They are absolutely the last thing you want. A fellow traveller, Zoe, from Australia, is wrapped up in an albergue blanket waiting for her clothes to dry. She spots a bed bug in her blanket and drops it with force. She informs the hospitalero, who seems indifferent and asks Zoe to put the blanket back on the shelf and get another one.  Oh dear. Not impressed. Perhaps best avoid this albergue….

Zoe takes the blanket and dumps it outside, in the rain.  And another few blankets for good measure.

We adjourn to the local cafe and eat a highly unhealthy dinner of yet more spaghetti, fried eggs and chips.  We are all crawling.  Hopefully from imaginary bed bugs and not actual ones. We return to our albergue and spray everyone and everything with anti-bed bug spray. And we wash H’s clothes again, just in case.

Bed is early, at 8:30, as we’ve run out of things to do.

We have a friendly room but a number of snorers. It takes two episodes of Jon Finnimore’s Souvenir Programme to pass the time until sleep.

Surreal graffiti

Day 28 : Gonzar to Palas de Rei

Steve :

Before dawn in Gonzar

I’m unclear as to why we got up to early but up early we were. And out around dawn.

We find a cafe for breakfast but are really struggling to wake up.

Today it is wet.

My luminous yellow jacket gets its first outing, as does Jen’s red thing she bought a long time back in Logrono.  We dub her ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’…

The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
Jen in her raincoat.

We walk on through the rain.

Hamish has a plastic bag that he got from a bakery weeks ago that is a surprising effective raincoat.

Caterpillar and man-in-a-bag head off to heaven, apparently

Our plan is to get to Palas de Rei, a walk of around 17km. We arrive in the non-descript town to find the main albergues are full of tourigrinos. We panic somewhat until the San Marcos hospitalero tells us we can have a room for just the three of us for 20 euros each.  A quick conference later and we accept, and head to a secondary albergue.

The room is great! We have a private shower, towels, sheets, duvets.  Marvellous!

Drying out the caterpillar
A soggy day in Palas de Rei

We find a grim restaurant for tea and decide we’ve had enough. Hamish and I go on a junk food expedition and we return to the room with chocolate, Cola Cao and dodgy Spanish crisps.

We have a TV with a USB port so we plug in my stick and settle down to eat rubbish and watch ‘Saving Mr Banks’.

Highly un-Camino but we loved it.

Day 27 : Molino de Marzan to Gonzar

Steve : Up and out at a reasonable hour and on our way…

First requirement of the day was breakfast at A Pena and it was here that we experience our first peregrino traffic jam.  The new influx of peregrinos at Sarria has overwhelmed the local bakery.  We loiter for nearly an hour here.  But the bread is very fresh and very good…

Bakery at A Pena, Jen with new walking poles
Cloudy day

And then – glory be! – we reach the 100km marker!

699km down, 100km to go…
A moment of reflection…

It’s a pleasant walk on a cool day.  We meet up with an American couple who are quick to apologize for Donald Trump (a common theme with Americans on the Camino)…

…and we stroll into Portomarin.

We eat spag bol (veggie version) at a cafe and carry on out the other side.

This is good farmland…

We come across a number of impromptu roadside ‘shrines’, the reasons for which are never clear.

We arrive in Gonzar just before 3pm. We are lucky to find the last three spaces in the albergue and so we do the rinse, repeat thing and wile away the afternoon reading.

Early to bed.

We’re getting close!

Day 26 : A Balsa to Molino de Marzan

Steve : Today we are back to normal and intend to walk around 6km beyond Sarria to Molino de Marzan, some 23km in total.

Sarria is a largish town some 110km from Santiago.  According the the ‘rules’ of the Camino a pilgrim must walk at least 100km to be granted the ‘Compostella’ certificate.  And so Sarria sees many new pilgrims arriving, with shiny white shoes and hairdryers, to spend a week or so walking that last 100k.  As a result the town is busy with school groups and tourigrinos (a derogatory term – “tourist peregrinos”) and probably best avoided.

Sad to leave El Beso, we are up and out around 8am.

Leaving El Beso

It’s an uneventful walk to Sarria, taking in a second breakfast at Pintin, and we cover the 17km or so in good time.

Sarria – we are now in the final stretch…

We pass quickly through the town, stopping off at a hiking shop to buy Jen some walking poles and me a waterproof jacket – a shockingly luminous thing that comes to be known as the-jacket-you-can-see-from-space.

Sarria

We stop off for a huge pizza and head off early afternoon to cover the last few km.

Wildlife spotted
Decisions…

After some uncertainty as the where we were actually headed we arrived at Molino de Marzan in the early afternoon.

This is rather a grand albergue.  It’s a recent conversion of an old water mill.  The dorm is a single large room and we’re amongst the first in.

The frogs in the pond are loud!

Dinner is rather simple and a little disappointing.  This albergue is listed on the ‘Vegetarian Way’ and so we were expecting something a little more interesting than yet-another-tortilla.

However it truly is a beautiful peaceful place.  Not even the extremely loud snorer at the other end of the dorm could damage the mood.

Day 25 : Foneria to A Balsa

Steve : As explained yesterday A Reboleira is a big albergue in the middle of nowhere. There are two dorm rooms, each with 20+ bunks.  We managed to get ourselves right into a corner, which was nice and quiet even if it meant a long trip to the loo in the middle of the night…

Our corner…
… of a much bigger room.

Today we are facing up to the horrors of Jen’s foot and we’re only walking a short 10km or so. Which, happily, will bring us to A Balsa, in which we find Albergue El Beso (‘the Kiss’) – where Jen worked for month last summer.  She is very much looking forward to catching up with her albergue colleagues.  They don’t know she’s coming and she wants to surprise them.  So we phone up and book under a false name.

But, first things first. We need surgery.  For Jen’s toe and for her boots.

Hamish gets to play Doctor and apply some antibiotic cream. I play Engineer and take a pair of scissors to her boot insole. The idea is to remove enough of the insole from the little toe region such that there’s no pressure coming from either the boot or the sole.

The (un)willing patient…
Now, tell me where it hurts… Check out that body language.
This’ll work, he says, confidently….

Outside the main entrance of the Albergue is a vending machine….

In a normal world this would contain bottles of sugar water and other unhealthy delights.  But not on the Camino.  Oh no, this machine dispenses Compeed, blister plasters, antibiotic cream and all sorts of medication for the weary traveller.

After our surgical endeavours are complete we finally get out on the trail and are the last to leave at around 9am.  We’re a day or so from Sarria, well into Galicia, and the weather has completely changed from the furnace of last week.

We set off into a pleasant misty morning.

The clouds roll over the hills as we amble towards Triacastela.

Sub 150km!

Panoramas left…
… and right
Hamish interacts with the recurring penguin grafitti

We have a second breakfast at a very splendid albergue in Filloval.  Possibly the nicest breakfast thus far.

We walk on through small villages and farms…

..and amble into Triacastela around noon.

Jen’s feet are holding up, much to the relief of us all.  The antibiotic cream and mechanical adjustments to her shoe seem to be working. We stock up at a chemist and, as it’s too early to check into El Beso, we eat chips and fried egg and delight in the short day – only 9km so far.

Junk food and preening.

At around 2pm we head off to walk the last 2 km to El Beso.  Jen is much excited…

El Beso is a serious attempt at a ‘green’ albergue.  The hosts and owners, an Italian/Dutch couple, are intent on recycling and making as much as possible themselves, be it food or furniture.

View over the albergue into the valley below

We check in with this year’s hospitaleros and Jen gives us a tour.  The dorm room is dark and cool and very comfy. The owners are out for the afternoon so Jen can’t introduce us just yet.

Rinse and wash…

Jen takes us to her favourite place, a collection of hammocks up on the hill side.

This place is beautiful and peaceful. I settle down in a hammock to read and am asleep in minutes.

The owners come back around 5pm and are very surprised and pleased to see Jen in their dining room.  Many hugs are given and much catching up is done.

Dinner is served around 7:30. The green ethos continues into the food served at dinner. Everything is local and most of it grown by the albergue staff.  Nettle soup is their speciality.  It tastes like brocolli…

Dinner table and view

We’ve had a very leisurely day. I do believe that the feet issues are finally behind us and we’re ready to make good progress.

We are very sad to leave…

Day 24 : La Faba to Fonfria

Steve : We liked La Faba but it was time to move on. We awoke from our Hobbit slumbers and were underway around 6am.

Hamish reboots

As suspected Jen’s toe and foot were giving her grief.  It was beginning to look like an actual infection as opposed to merely a blister gone pop. She struggled up the hills anyway…

A poor wayfaring stranger

… and after around 3km of hobbling we make it to Galicia.

Each region through which we have passed has dealt with the Camino slightly differently. The yellow arrows are common to all, but each has a unique way of indicating distance.  Galicia has concrete markers and we soon come across the first one:

160km/100 miles to go…

We soon discover that the brass plates giving the distance to go are highly prized by peregrinos and are more often than not missing.  But it is nice to be reminded of our rapid progress.

The morning is very misty…

…as we round the hilltop and arrive in O Cebreiro, a splendid old town at the top of the pass.

An ancient church in O Cebreiro

We are unsure of how fast we can go today so we slow right down and have a second breakfast in the town. J and H go shopping in the many tourist shops (the first real tourist traps we’ve seen) and buy some Galician jewellery.  The designs are very similar to Scots, as you’d expect giving the Celtic influence in Galicia.  The background music in the shop is of bagpipes. We’re are back in the land of the Celts.

We visit the church and take things very slowly.

The mist is lifting…

…as we walk up the hill behind O Cebreiro. The panoramas are superb.

On top of the hill is another pilgrim landmark…

A large wooden cross sits right at the top of the hill.  It’s a short detour and we climb up in the damp air.

Jen inserts a small stone into the wood of the cross, alongside many other stones, coins, and other pilgrim ephemera.

The mist is coming in again from the north.

We walk on, down into the valley. The trail is very up-and-down and Jen’s feet issues are becoming a problem. Around noon we get into Linares and buy junk food in the supermercado and make a plan.

Twenty euros later and Jen is in a cab to Fonfria, another veggie friendly albergue. We need to take the infected toe more seriously.  We get antibiotic cream and various bits and pieces. DIY surgery, here we come…

Hamish and I continue on, headphones in our ears, and we walk the remaining 10km to Fonfria through a green and pleasant land.

Suzanne Vega provides the soundtrack as we crest a high point on the trail and come upon another pilgrim monument.

Another 6km along winding trails and through disused farms…

…with occasional huge vistas…

…we are arrive at Fonfria. We are out in the middle of nowhere here and, of necessity (as there are no other options close-by), Fonfria is one of the larger albergues in which we have stayed.

Jen makes friends with the albergue cat, one of many:

We make our way down to the restaurant for the communal dinner, observing another rural traffic jam as we go…

Fonfria restaurant

Our dinner companions are a Frenchman who has been walking for 60+ days, from his home in Brittany, and a Russian from St Petersburg, the first Russian we have met.

The Frenchman is very mellow and has a first rate moustache. The Russian is young and competitive and seems dismissive of those of us not covering at least 30km per day. Jen gets slightly exasperated.

Later we sit in the albergue looking at the approaching rain…

…and discuss the notion of a ‘slow Camino’, 15km a day maximum, whilst we patch up Jen’s foot with the assistance of several other peregrinos and their medical kits. The camaraderie of the road…