Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I had thought to add to this blog ,many reflections in the post camino days . Like many pilgrims,I have spent much time thinking of the many images and experiences of this journey........
There is a great reflection on on the discussion forum entitled " DID IT!!!!" ( November 2009) It really sums up superbly many camino thoughts by a pilgrim who finished at the same time as us.

However,It is time to move on now from my camino stjames2stjames.... although I will contunue to enjoy the pilgrim blogs and discussion groups.

I have a general blog on which wanders many paths and I am happy for you to join me at any time.

Moving on post Camino ????.....looking at the long Distance, South West Coast Path in Devon and Cornwall.
Something to look forward to..........

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Day 30-31 Pilgrimage stjames2stjames CAMINO COMPLETO Days

Pilgrim mass at noon in the Cathedral
A view outside our pension at Arca...all but day

betty in the rain on the last day

The long long burbs walk into Santiago

The last days slog in the rain

Monte grosso Pilgrim statue oitside Santiago

Tje Pilgrim Noon mass on Friday

poor quality shot secretly of St james Tomb etc

Pilgrim heads and the noon mass

Santago Cathedral with St James prominent

Just a de javu of the camino

Near the gate leading into Santiago Cathedral

betty enjoying a coffee stop on the last day and waiting for the rain to stop

View from our pension window at Arca

At the peregrino Office with the official Compostela

betty with her Compostela


We headed out in the early morning light into dark forest eager to completed the last stage of the camino. It had been torrential rain during the night but it held off as we started. We were joined by many poncho covered pilgrims hunchbacked in the final effort.

The rains came early and we knew we were in for the scattered showers of yesterday. However it seemed to be saving up some extra heavy falls for the last day.

We met up with Ian and Anna early and chattered as we walked but they soon out paced us.

The walk took us through the splendid Galician countryside that we knew we would soon be leaving . The hills seemed higher, the roads longer as we counted down the kilometres cheerfully.
Over Monte Grosso the last big hill and down into the burbs of Santiago as the rain came down.
As we neared the old city following the trusty yellow arrows the rain intensified. We decided to get to a pension first near the cathedral and we headed up to La Salle, a current secondary catholic collefe, where the boarding school has been converted into a lovely hotel. As we passed the school a torrential storm hit and we retreated into thwe school office and floods of water followed us... it was over in ten minutes but quite a spectacle as we waded the streets to our safe, dry and beautiful hotel.
In the afyetrnoon refreshed we completed the journey to the cathedral and visited nthe tomb of St james which was the end of our stjames2stjames journey.
We then took our credentials to the peregrino office and it was a quick and fast COMPOSTELA that we received.
We accidently ran into Canadian Bob who was here the day before us and was a little tired but happy to be flying out tomorrow. There will always be the little yellow arrows in my life to guide me in future he said over a beer.
We had hoped next day at the noon mass to catch up with fellow pilgrims and we did meet Anna and Ian and others. We met some wonderful people on the way, too numerous to mention and we hope they all finished safely. We remembered Canadian Bob,South African Julie, Hannah and friend from Denmark, the two Aussie Wags girls from WA, Magnus from Newcastle UK, Irish John, Ann Marie and partner from early camino, Terry from South Chicago, Irish girl, Louise from Sao Paulo.
At the noon mass it was a special time to remember specially family and also friends. For me it was also a time to specially remember all those who have been associated in the 141 years journey of St James College
To all ...Betty and I leave you with

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Day 29 Do you know the way to Santiago?´s been a long, long way Day

Azura to Arces ( 19km)

With apologies to Burt Bacharach for the ¨Do you know the way to Santiago "because another of his songs might have been more appropriate ¨Raindrops keep falling on my head¨
It was that kind of day as we played hide and seek with the rain. However we walked again through the pretty rural pathways into and out of forests and cuttings and stone walls. It will be a lasting memory of the Camino for me.
The Galician rain treated us kindly until the end of the day. We were rejoicing in a short 19km walk but the 56km of the previous day had taken a toll and we had niggling injuries and were a bit worn out.
It was a slow trudge into Arca where we found a great pension do dry out and regroup.
One thing I would recommend for any prospective distance walkers though are the magnesium tablets we have taken as supplemnent each day. I have had no stiffness in my leg at all. Together with the multi vitamin supplement this has worked for us......bit of trivia

We are now 20km from Santiago and it is a bit hard to keep in perspective that we have walked over 600km so far .
When we talk to other pilgrims most are excited about finishing the pilgrimage. It is quite a challenging walk. many pilgrims choose variations of the camino to walk and bus ansd this is a good way to go. We have been tagging an American Tourist group who have day packs and are followed by a seater van and can walk and ride as they choose. Earlier when I saw this I respectfully referred to such groups as ¨Limo Pilgrims¨. I really don´t think it matters how anyone does it really as the ways of doing it are as varied as the motives people have for doing it.
mmm sounding like a bit of an authority on this...and I´m not.

One guy was doing the Camino for the 8th time...he said that each time has been a different experience for him. Yeah, strangers are just friends we haven´t met yet....

I am running out of Buen Caminos to each passing pilgrim at this stage but it will be interesting to walk into Santiago tomorrow.
I am grateful that we are finishing but more grateful that we have been able to do it without any major health or other worries.
Buen Camino

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Day 28 We ordered sausages and got octupus Day

An old photo from back a few days but this is how I felt at the 100km marker
A bit messy but its our mess and its the privacy of a pension

Self photos of a man prepared for the elements

Green fields outside Azuria

Crossing a Rio

Had to get a St James photo in here

Rain Ready

Betty, Ian and Anna Thompson ready for the rain outside Palas de reis

Beautiful tree lined paths through forest

Palas de reis to Azrua ( 30km)

Ah the unpredictable Gallician Rain!!! But someone was smiling on us today on this long walk which puts us 35 km from Santiago.

It was pouring rain when we got up and we said we are not walking in the dark and in the rain. We had coffee and toast with Anna and Ian and at dawn we looked out and the rain had gone.

We headed off into the great pathways and through lush green fields still soaking from the torrential rain of the previous night.

our aim was to get as far as the rain allowed us and we did hope we might make Azuria which would give us two days to Santiago.

We made good time and made Melide a big town by lunch and the rain held off. At the bar we decided to order what was at the top of the menu, poultos, or somesthing like that, but they looked like sausages. I had forgotten in my reading that Melide was noted for its serving of octopus and this is exactly what we got. However, it was all cut up into delightful and delicious pieces and so this made a change from the boccadillo sandwich which usually happens to us.

We decided to aim for the 30km as Ian and Anna had sped off with that purpose. Again we slowed a bit in pace and the weather seemed to clear...coats off...sunshine...dark clouds..coats on....clearing again...coats skies...dark skies..coats on and a real deluge...clear weather.....

We passed a country church at one stage and the priest was at the door beckoning pilgrims in so that he could stamp their credentials. I thought it might be bad to just rush by so we had a look at his church which was called Inglesia Santiago and he was happy with the donation we made and I thought that we were pretty blessed by the weather so had to be grateful. .

We passed magnus who tried to entice us into an Albergue at one here he said....not yet we replied as they will all be in towards the end of the day. Thge Wags told us today that there was a snorer in their Albergue a couple of nights ago whose snoring sounded like he was in death throes. Again I do not want to bag Albergues as they are the life line of the Camino .

However, We had a vision of a pension in Azuria and walked on.

"Do you think we will have any more hills ?"asked betty " No I think this road will go down the valley," I answered with a strong feeling we would go up again.

We did...... but it was quick step into Azuria.

The first pension we came to we said this will do. It is the pension Rua and is very nice. It has a nice Rua Albergue next door which is empty. Ian and Anna are also staying here and did the same as us and just fell into the first pension they came to.

It is raining heavily again so we might have the rain with us for the next two days. however we are only 35km away and it seems to be nearer and nearer all the time.

We hope to get in on Thursday and get the Compostella Certificate and go to Mass at noon in the Cathedral the next day. We are hoping to catch up with a few of the people who have shared the camino with us. The Camino kind of unites all people and it seems that people that you have never met before and will probably never see again, do begin to share stories and goals in completing this pilgrimmage
Buen Camino

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Day 27 Walking and Talking Day

portomarin where they saved this church from the waters of the reservoir and rebuilt it in the town
Rural scene on the way

Portomarin to Palas do Reis ( 26km)

We set out in the morning dark and navigated back through the town by torch. Fortunately, pilgrims came from everywhere and it was a bit of a procession.
There seems to be more and more pilgrims. One lady said she had walked the same time last year and there were not many at all. It may have something to do with the Holy Year next year( The feast of St James falls on a Sunday) and they are expecting masses of pilgrims.

The path was steep as it climbed and skirted mountains, but again quite beautiful.
About half way we were overtaken by Ian and Anna from the Gold Coast Queensland. They have walked the whole Camino. They have taken a year off to vist their working sons in London and family in Ireland. Ian knew a mutual aquaintance, Jeff Kemp, who is a schooll counsellor I know from St Michaels on the coast.
So we spent all the time in ¨shooting the breeze¨ while Betty talked to Anna who is finishing a counselling course. The kilometres sped by and we did not stop for a break for 4 hours when we suddenly rolled into Palas do Reis.
They are a bit albergued out like us so we both booked into a really nice pension.
So it is 65km..about 3 days to go.. It is all good going but the Gallacian rain is upon us and we will probaly doing a rain dance for the next 3 days.
We can´t complain as we have had great weather. Ian and Anna were caught out in the open Meseta in driving rain and hail. I hope the Gallician rain is soft and sweet.
We have lost track of Canadian Bob and it would be nice to catch up in Santiago. We ran into magnus last night( re chhristened Magnum by Ian) He did camp out for a night in a field near our Farm stay. he lit a small fire he said but he must have been very cold as he is travelling very light.
The WAGS we saw today and after two terrible Albergue stays they booked into a private albergue in Portomarin and the owner went off to church and didn´t open for anyone so they had the place to themselves...fully deserved.
Hoping that tomorrow won´t be too bad walking as we are so close now that I could jump in a taxi and be there in an hour....
If you have stayed with the end of day tired commentaries on this blog( plus all the typo errors) much thanks.
I can feel a Santiago coming on!!!!!!!

Monday, October 19, 2009

day 26 Down to double digits to Santiago Day

We had a hearty breakfast from the wonderful lady who ran the whole farm.
Sorry all this is becoming a bit droll as I am writing to catch up three days without internet access!!!!!

Today we walked through woodland with our path flanked by age old stone walls. The mist lay scattered throughout the valley in layers and was very picture perfect.
We have started to see milestones to Santiago and we passed the 100km to go stone which was a psychological lift.
The weather changed very foggy as we descended into Portomarin and colder and colder.
We were going OK but decided to look for a pension here as the path ahead was pretty uncertain and accomodation even more uncertain.
We have a great room.
this has been a couple of days catch up .
We are going OK and it has been fascinating not only the travel but the stories that we have shared with others on the way. Betty is telling me to keep it short ......... gotta go

Day 25 A Farm Stay Day

Samos to Casa Nova de Rente 19km

Easy coffee with bob at Samos and away in the morning light.
We followed the Camino through undulating countryside alonside a beautiful stream. The scenery was magic.
At one stage we had a gathering of pilgrims at a road junction all talking in their own dialect and debating the right way. Eventually a united nations approach found a consensus.
We soon reached a major town Sarria and after lunch at a bar with bob we said farewell as he was pushing on.
He ahs been on the Camino 5 weeks and wants to finish as soon as possible and he is hinting at rain ahead which seems to be right.
We reached an Albergue about 2pm and there was a sudden rush of pilgrims. I phoned ahead to a rural casa and they had room so we headed off.
The two West Australian Girls told us they had a terrible night there and even had to move their mattress downstairs...communal living gets a bit intolerant at this time of the trip.

We found a delightful rural farm stay and settled in with a late meal that night

Day 24 Down to the Monastery Day

Alto Poio to Samos 24km
After a great Smiley breakfast we headed down the road with Bob. We made good ime on the road and went through many small dairy farms. Gallicia countryside is full of wafting " barnyard smells " and the country is rich in agriculture. After a while the non farming pilgrims must get used to the farmyard offerings and sights. There are tractors and farmers busy everywhere in this rich region.
Cattle are kept in barns and also the lower parts of houses as I think it would get very cold here.
We reached Tricastle at noon and witnessed a very stricken young lady pilgrim who came by taxi with torn leg muscles.

The camino could be renamed the COMPEED CAMINO. Compeed is a type of blister band aid and if put on to hot spots on the feet can prevent blistering. Betty has been using them all the way and it has been a real saver.
We loaded up here with cheese, buns, muesli bars and fruit. betty was reprimanded by a lady fruiter for touching the bananas " no tocar" It is not the Aussie way of testing fruit and threy must think it is ripe or it wouldn´t be there... just a spanish way warned
We ushed on a long 11km to the monastery at Samos.
It was claimed to one of the oldest Benedictine Monasteries in the world and it is an enormous building set into a valley.
We stayed at the rather austere Monastery albergue and caught up with Bob and newcastle Magnus.... the late afternoon beer is a highlight of the day...
Guess what? Irish John ( remember from weeks back) turned up in full kilt. He has said he has walked all the way but given we bussed 180km he must be a fast walker.... maybe something about a flying kilt
We went to dinner with Bob and magnus( Magnus said he is camping under the stars tomorrow night...well its freezing so hope he is OK) and then to the monks Vespers and Mass which was officiated by the abbot. It was entirely sung by the monks, who were small in number but strong in voice. It was a religious and quite spiritual ceremony.

Day 23 The Duracell bears went over the mountain and what do you think they saw?

A helping hand at O my Goodness
Our stay with Smiley at Alto Poio

The rolling valleys of Gallicia

mmm same photo same hill climb

The stone which marks Gallicia Region

This was the biggest climb of the Camino up to O´Cebreiro (1330m) rechristened by me " o my goodness" The climb was through the beautiful green valleys and mountains as we passed into Gallicia. These vistas opened up to us as we grunted up surely but slowly and it really wasn´t as hard as we had imagined.

We reached O My Goodness at noon and had a coffee. There was quite a hysterical canadian pilgrim lady in the bar. She had lost her friend for the past 24 hours and the police were there. All ended well as at the end of the day we witnessed from our Albergue a tearful reunion. Her friend, who seemed geographically embarrassed, had wandered off into another vvalley...easy done and had no way to communicate.

It was ironic actually because O my goodness was where the former parish priest was the initator of the Camino upgrade and had come up with the yellow arrows which now line the whole camino.

He had built a beautiful albergue there but it was too early and we had to move on.
We at last reached Alto Poio which I think means high chicken and don´t ask me why , We had a very bad night at the Albergue last night ( Could I just mention an Arriba Aribba spanish tour group which was playing hard and came in at 10.30pm and turned on all the lights and spoke loudly to each other, turned off all the lights, had a long conversation about a chain saw snorer, one big guy walking up and down and i thought he might kill the snorer. Meanwhile in the next room the Danish ladies told us of a Frenchman who was poking snoreres with his walking pole.....snorers beware... well actually I can forgive snorers but really not bad behaviour.

We booked into a pension hostel which had a very user unfriendly manager who I called smiley. He was OK really but at one stage I was lying by myself in the room and he knocked on the door and then went into the bathroom and turned the light off." consumere". I was a bit scared of him after that and turned off every light around.,, must be a energy saving..
So ended our entry into Gallicia

We had Bob with us for tea which was good company and also two Danish ladies who told Betty their husbands would never cope with the Camino.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Day 22 Along the road day

Cacabelas to Vega de Valcarce 23 km
I thought that this would be a horrible day and had nightmares about it....but strangely it turned out well.
We had a quick feed of our own yoghurt and again out in the dark. The sun came up over all the vineyards and the undulating walk into Villfranca del Bierzo ( 8km) was very pretty....but long without a coffee fix. Over coffee with Canadian Bob we decided to take an option to going over the mountain( there´s the big one tomorrow) and decided to walk along the highway. We ere told it had some danger but the whole way we were able to wallk inside a concrete barrier which protected us from the spanish speedsters and giant lorry trucks.
It was a suprising walk along beside the rio Valcares and this very pretty river gave off cooling draughts of air as it flowed swiftly through the polar lined banks. We looked high into the constant hills and imagined Magnus climbing in the mid day sun...
We were able to get right through to vega de Valcarce which puts us under the mountain for the climb tomorrow.

Betty is walking more freely with a re strapped leg and I had an extra zing to my hop..
We are at the Municipal Albergue in the little town which sits under a giant overpass set into the sky.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Day 21 Hoppy and Skippy Day

Molinaseca to Cacabelas 22km
I had a hop in my step today as my knee had enough after yesterdays vertical challenge. Betty had a skip in her step as her shins were hurting from the same downward spiral.
A fine breakfast at the Santa Marina Albergue of Molinaseca and we set out in the dark of the early morning with Canadian Bob to Ponsferrada ( 8km) a small city. He had many tales of the camino from St Jean.
We said good bye to Julie in Ponsferrada as she was to return to South Africa and had to organise details. She was very good company and we crossed paths and albergues over the past week.
We had a cafeteria stop and moved quickly out into the vineyards of the countryside.
"Quickly" is probably not the right word as we found that many pilgrims like us suffered from the day after of the descent and progress was pretty suspect.
Fortunately it was probably the flattest day walking but we still staggered into Cacabelas at about 3pm
The Municipal Albergue was quite different and it had a series of two bed rooms arranged in a semi circle around the church. It was good for privacy.
We caught up again with Newcastle Magnus and Kate from Brisbane and had dinner after raiding the mercado.
I am physically tired and also getting mentally tired. There is a big climb coming up and it is hard not to think of Santiago, 8 days and 200km away.
One day at a time!!!!!!!

We walked for a while with a young Californian , Justin . he was having some knee problems but was determined to make it all the way.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

day 20 What goes up must come down Day

Foncebadon to Molinaseca 17km
Sunrise over le Cruz de ferro the highest point on the camino. A golden halo seemed to surround the iron cross above its very simple wooden upright. Pilgrims stood in silent meditation in a very moving experience as the suns rays crept over the mountains. The cross is built on a large mound of stones and during these silent moments , pilgrims placed stones or other objects which they had carried here from their home.
It was a special moment on the pilgrimmage.
The mountains were magical in the morning sun as we made the sharp descent from the 1500m height.
What we thought would be a quick descent turned into an unsteady stepping over the crumbling stones and rough pathway. Most injuries are caused in descents and we already had seen some pilgrims in pain.
My knee held up well but Betty developed a few leg pains which were very painful. She seems OK now.
There was an alternative to walk the road, but it is a Spanish National holiday and there was a lot of traffic and speed... we were thinking..mmm temporary pilgrims on that road.
Molinaseca seemed an eternity away deep in the valley but we struggled in and found the really nice Santa Marina Albergue in this beautiful village..
After my ramblings yesterday I was just going to post photos today but I cant again get access but will post some photos of the mountains which were a highlight of the day.
A Norwegian lady who has already walked 1000km said that we were lucky to see the mountains in such beauty.
here at the Albergue Betty is talking to a brisbane, Loretto college past student.... small world.
one guy passed us today and said the usual Hola and then saw our little Aussie flag tag on the backpack and said " G´day" ....sounded funny hearing an Aussie voice amongst the many German , French and Spanish dialects.
Tomorrow we hit a big city and flatter terrain...
Only 225km to go but still not thinking too much about Santiago yet.