3 July: Santiago

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Four children wearing new tourist t-shirts. A welcome change after wearing the same two sets of clothes for over two months – one for walking, one for after.
But we didn’t engage in tourist behaviour. No museums, no art galleries, no guided tours, no guidebooks, no photos even (we staged the above one on the way to the playground so that there would be something for the blog.) We *did* go into souvenir shops, but the kids didn’t really want anything much on offer. Then we spied something for the peeps at home…..something that, when it is used, will remind us all of how on this trip we all discovered how much we appreciate each other’s company.
“What is it?” you ask.
A surprise!!
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Also some tshirts – coz kids who buy their own clothes from their own money appreciate being given things they won’t have to buy! And a special little something that we know the Daddy likes.

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We weren’t tourists, but we weren’t pilgrims either. We didn’t follow any arrows – especially not this one I spied on the road a few days ago. (OK, so it just looks like a piece of orange peel to you, but you follow arrows for two months and see what it does to you!!) We did, however, discuss favourite memories and significant moments from the walk over dinner:
* powerlines disappearing into the mist
* our voices echoing across the valley up in the mountains
* enormous hailstones
* aniseed balls
* standing in the thick mist at the top of the hill, seeing nothing, and then suddenly hearing the church bell toll right next to us
* spiders’ webs covered in bobbles of dew
* Robbie’s huge grin of delight as the train pulled into Pamplona station
* pompom flowers on lollipop sticks
* snakes
* the night we all sat round talking and laughing and crying after dinner and it was just so special
* seeing that some people can walk over 50km in a day
* snow on the mountains
* watching rain fall in horizontal sheets
* saying good-bye to Daddy
* churros and chocolate…..chocolate croissants…..endless cheeses……excellent bread (even if we did get a bit sick of it)
* shadows
* making 1,000km – and then some
* the absolutely stunning views, especially in the mountains
* the sense of accomplishment, the feeling of satisfaction when you don’t want to walk any more, but you do keep going on
* cuckoos calling
* icecreams when we walked over 25km in a day (in other words, almost every day!!!!)
* the people
* water to drink – especially each time we ran out

With that, this 1,000km-walk-for-water is over. Adios amigos!

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2 July: Negreira to Santiago

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20140702-215117-78677468.jpg We made it to Santiago, having walked 400km more than we had anticipated.
Last night the kids were really excited to be almost finished. We have had lots of endings on this walk – the end of the Voie de la Nive, the end of the Camino Baztan, the end of Daddy walking with us, the end of the Meseta, the end of the San Salvador, the end of the Primitivo, the end of the world….but this was to be the real end. The End.
“Could we get up at 5, Mum? Could we sleep in our walking clothes seeing as we’ve just washed them and they’re dry, then we wouldn’t have to spend time changing and we can have our packs all ready to go.”
I set the alarm and spent all night waking to check that I hadn’t slept through the chiming.

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20140702-220332-79412100.jpgWe walked for one last time.
My mind wandered to the journal entry I made last night:

I will miss the crunching stones undefoot, the steady rhythm of a gentle uphill climb, the exhilaration of achievement. I will miss the identity and the simplicity.
I wonder how long it will be before I no longer feel fit, strong and healthy. How can I maintain this state of being?
I have heard people talking about how this walk has changed their lives, how they go home different people. I don’t feel this way. The walk was a part of who I already am. It is (almost) completed and that is enough.
I guess if there’s anything I’d like to preserve, it’s this: for the past few weeks Ella-Rose has been my Morning Shadow, walking alongside me, usually in slience, but willingly, her own choice. How do I encourage that kind of companionship at home?

I told the children about the life-changing nature of the Camino for some people and they stared back blankly and kept walking. Then Micki piped up, “Well, it hasn’t changed our lives, but it sure will change the lives of people who get water.”
“And even their children’s and maybe children’s children’s lives,` Levi added.

Our walk was over.

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Destination: Santiago de Compostela
Distance: 21km
Cumulative Distance: 1,400km/1,101km
Now we head home (after a few days in Santiago and just over a week in Madrid)

1 July: thank you

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To everyone who has given, written, encouraged, prayed, messaged and urged us on….a big thank you.
Even this photo was a joint effort – the kids were collecting shells and arranging them in the sand when a little tot of about three or four joined them and helped make the “o”. From beginning to end we have worked together with others. Thanks for the part you played.
Together we raised USS$8,001, which means changed lives for about 400 people.
It has been suggested to us that we should tell our story when we get home. I’m not sure how or where or to whom – but if anything comes of the idea, we’ll set up another campaign and be delighted to help some more people.
Muchas gracias a todos!

1 July: Ponte Olveira to Negreira

20140701-183919-67159023.jpg Wet shoes smell like vomit! But we had to put them on anyway. We were so grateful that this penultimate day of walking was the first one that began with wet feet. And you will be too when you see the pictures of a few hours later 😉 But first, the day….

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20140701-184723-67643392.jpgYes, another rainy day…..well, we were walking for water, weren’t we?

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20140701-185537-68137719.jpgLook who came striding towards us! A couple from the Netherlands who were like surrogate grandparents whenever we stayed together. We slept together first in the same room in Oviedo, where the beds were so close together you had to turn sideways to get between them. You get close quickly under those circumstances! Then they were our heroes when we turned up at Borres and there were not enough beds for us. And they covered Tessa, who was sleeping on a mattress on the floor, with a blanket and made sure the front door was locked so that she would be safe. Such a gentleman, he even tipped his hat back “for the lady” when I asked to take their photo. Special people.

20140701-191025-69025030.jpg Maybe the last puddle reflection??.

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20140701-191328-69208588.jpg Cold, wet and hungry….and with the prospect of still having another 20+km to go! After that plate, she was no longer hungry, had dried out and warmed up. She would go on to walk a trouble-free day.

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20140701-192434-69874816.jpgThere is a reason this part of the countryside is so green! You don’t get green without rain. And when you walk all day in wet shoes and forget to take them off at lunchtime to dry out your feet, even your feet turn green! No, they actually turn white….as we discovered when we stopped during a break in the drizzle to air them out.

20140701-193005-70205942.jpgDestination: Negreira
Distance: 32.6km
Cumulative Distance: 1,380/1,080km
20km to go to Santiago!
Weather: wet
Dinner: watermelon starter, then a plate of curry and rice from another pilgrim, HUGE pasta salad, icecream, flan or rice pudding (yes, we were hungry despite the lunch)

20140701-193027-70227901.jpg my best ever sock line – good enough to be proud of (for someone who doesn’t tan)

30 June: Fisterra to Ponte Olveira

20140630-180354-65034138.jpg You’d never think that a day that started so perfectly would sink to such misery.
We always knew it would be a challenging day. Anything over 35km has the potential to feel a long way. And when children have mucked about the previous evening instead of going to sleep as instructed, odds are high that tiredness will factor at some point during the day. They also get smart tongues when tired, which never assists in the promotion of peace. Add to all that the fact that I had forgetten to purchase breakfast supplies on Saturday (thinking shops in a tourist town would be open on Sunday – wrong!)….and bars were closed when we set out, so we did the first 13km on a muesli bar. Having to wait quarter of an hour until police came and rounded up some runaway horses from the lane we were walking up gave time for tummies to start rumbling and imaginations to fire up. The decision was made that when we got to Cee, we would go to a particular bar we had seen and order bacon and eggs. But it seemed we’d never get to Cee. The walk which had taken only a couple of hours the day before took over three today, and not because of the hill we had been dreading – we actually flew up it with no trouble at all – in fact, it was easier to go up than down! The problem was that we kept seeing people coming the other way and they wanted to talk. Some were people we knew, and an embarrassing number were others who had heard about us and were happy to finally meet us. The chit-chatting was delightful and gave the return journey its own flavour, distinct from any of our other caminos, but it also made us hungry!!
However, we eventually got to Cee….only to discover the bar was closed. My determination to fill tummies with protein was dispensed with and we chomped our way through 28 sugar-coated churros and downed hot chocolates.
Supermarket stop next – bread and cheese and apricots to consume before taking off. Lunch and snacks to pack away for later.

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Lots more meeting people – including a sweet chat with a stall holder on the path, who knew that these must be the kids who could cook – word had got back to him that there were kids cooking in the albergue a couple of nights ago (which, for the record, seems to be totally unheard of here – whenever the kids have tried to help with communal dinner cooking they have been shooed out of the kitchen, and people hover over them presumably to prevent the inevitable disaster that is just about to happen whenever they are preparing food!)
Unfortunately during most of the pleasantries there were un-aniseed-able attitudes that turned to tears after a battle of wills – I’ll leave the details to your imagination; just make sure you include an unbelievable dose of contrariness!
And then the rain started. And got heavier and heavier and heavier. For about three hours.
A child interrupted me for the gazillionth time and I retorted that I wouldn’t bother saying anything else. “OK,” he cheerfully replied. I thought of all sorts of equally immature responses, but just ended up deciding I was having the most miserable wedding anniversary ever – even as I thought it, I knew this was not true! We were wet, cold, hungry, homesick, tired, anxious – but we were blessed.
Just when we thought we couldn’t get any wetter we were forced by oncoming traffic to dive into an ankle-deep puddle in a ditch. Unusually for Spain, the truck driver made no effort to move over and our shower increased in intensity! Good thing, because we wouldn’t get one that night;-)
In fact, judging by the number of pilgrims still continuing on towards Fisterra and not stopping, we wondered if we would even get a bed. We started checking albergues before the one we were hoping for – but all were completo. When we pulled in to the one we had been hoping to stay at, it was already 5pm and our hopes were not too high; donativo albergues tend to fill up early any day and anything fills up quickly in bad weather.
There were four beds left – and a couch!
But not only that, the couple running the place turned on a heater and rigged up some broom-handle lines between tables and chairs so we could get our sopping clothes dry. Not wanting to stand outside in the still-pouring rain to wash our clothes, we simply wrung out as much mud as we could and figured we could wash them another day. Shower water was cold, so we figured we’d already had a long one! We can wash ourselves another day!

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Chicken wings, croquettes, fries, five bacon and egg rolls…..they appeared on the table and the host looked a little dubious. When we finished he commented, “You were hungry. I didn’t think you could eat it all!” We then had icecreams;-) (and won three free ones!)
As we were eating, a lone drenched pilgrim came in. Someone helpfully told him the place was completo – but this is the same place that let us top-n-tail for our Spanish friends two nights ago, and we knew how overjoyed we were to find free beds tonight, so we jumped up and explained there was one spare bed – we would share beds again!

And THAT is the actual story of today – the post that went up earlier was written two days ago in anticipation of it being our wedding anniversary. The photos were staged yesterday! Today we didn’t take many photos, but decided to tell the real story anyway.

Destination: Ponte Olveira
Distance: 36.1km
Cumulative Distance: 1,348/1,048km
54km to Santiago
Weather: cloudy to abysmal
Dinner: a lot!

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