23 June: Outeiro to Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela again. 

1,083km tracked on our phone app.Plus every day a few more steps were taken as we nosied around and went out to buy food. In fact, speaking of steps, we averaged about 33,000 a day and our maximum was just shy of 60,000 (which was crazy for our third day of walking and certainly not planned that way)But this walk was not actually about numbers. (And despite the photo above, it was not just about Camino cookies either)

Quite a few times people have told the kids this experience will stay with them forever. Some have said they probably won’t truly appreciate it until they are older. 

I wondered what the children themselves thought so I asked them. Ella-Rose (10 years) thought young kids might appreciate it more because it’s easier for them – they have better balance than older people who struggle on slippery rocks. Levi (15) suggested you’d appreciate it for different reasons at different ages. Older people might enjoy the break from work and very old people might appreciate even being *able* to do it, whereas young people might enjoy the new experience that they are less likely  to have had before and the freedom that comes with looser boundaries (Guess what he has enjoyed!!) They all agreed everyone, regardless of age, might enjoy meeting new people, although according to Micaiah (13), this could depend on your degree of extroversion or introversion. He also proposed the thought that you might appreciate it later in life in a new way you cannot imagine now if it somehow ends up influencing a decision you might make (for example, about work ….or there was one boy who ended up studying Spanish in South America for a year simply because of being in the university town of Salamanca and falling in love with it)

I also asked the kids if they had learnt anything on the Camino……Patience. Walking is so much slower than any other form of transport and you learn to slow down. Appreciation of what you have. When you are without something (like beds or books or different clothes or a washing machine), you realise how much you usually take those things for granted. When you don’t get a hot shower, you can still appreciate having water to wash with.

Appreciation of what is around you. Like scenery, people and weather.
Confidence. You realise you can do hard things. You appreciate the achievement when you have had to work for something. You could probably transfer this thinking to other areas of life too. (You sure could kiddos!) 
(First glimpse of the cathedral) 

It gives you a sense of how big the world is. When you walk a mere couple of inches on the map and it takes you weeks and weeks, you start to understand the vastness of the globe! 

 The children may not have raised this point, but they have been witness over the past seven weeks to the impermanence of *stuff* and we thought again as we paused on this bridge, a memorial at the  site of the tragic high speed train derailment that claimed 79 lives almost three years ago, that you never know when your time will be up, but that it is important to be ready.

While the adult observations that the kids probably will not fully appreciate this experience until later is most likely accurate, there is still a lot that they have gained already and are aware of doing so.

Distance: 17km to the cathedral Total Distance: 963km + 120km sightseeing on City Visiting Days

22 June: Silleda to Outeiro

 Penultimate walking day, reflective mood. We replayed some conversations we’ve had as we’ve walked. A lot of the time there has been companionable silence, no sounds other than the crunching of stones underfoot and cuckoos in the distance or a truck rumbling by. But there have been chats too.
 These signs prompted a conversation this morning:

“Only 33 to Santiago, we could so do that today. Why are we taking two days?” 

“We were taking our time, remember? Not rushing, being relaxed.”

“But we could be there today!”

“Do you want to push on and do it? Remember that’s 33 on the road, it’s more on the Camino path.”

“Yeah but we’re not on the path.” (True we got lost leaving town – the arrows just petered out to complete nothingness so we headed for the N525 which we knew would take us in the right direction and hoped to pick up the path at some point when it would come close to this road….and indeedy that is exactly what happened. By the way, we were not the only ones who had trouble with the exit from Silleda!)

“I think we should just have our two short days,” Ella-Rose declared. And so it was decided! This was to be a decision regretted by no one when the sun came out and baked us as we tackled the final 4km climb for the day!


The trees disappeared and even our own shadows grew shorter and shorter.

 I don’t know why we even believed the road sign; road sign distances are not to be trusted. The other day we were told A Gudina was 16km away. About an hour later (so theoretically about 5km farther on) the very next road sign declared we were now 15km away. On that same day one of the towns we passed was supposedly 3km away and just round the corner it was a mere 2km! We should have learnt by now.

We’ve had conversations about food (what would you like to eat? What are we likely to be able to eat tonight? Can we have a Camino cookie stop please? Why did we buy so much food yesterday, it’s heavy to carry today!! – see yesterday’s post. Will today be an ice-cream day? Yes, more than 25km!)

We’ve had conversations about wildlife. Oh, the things we’ve seen…deer (twice), eagles, storks, moles, butterflies, ginormous geckos, snakes, frogs, fish (in rivers and staring up at us from our plates), a fox, kites and numerous other birds we do not know, rabbits…and the farm animals – black pigs, goats, cows, chickens, sheep and horses.

We’ve had conversations about wild flowers. The kids got thoroughly sick of me making sure they hadn’t missed the beauty we were walking through! But they came up with some pretty good descriptors at times: like a Monet watercolour painting…..like a hazy mist of colour…..colours blending together so much that you can’t tell which colours are actually there…..dots of delight….banks of Impressionism…..

We’ve had conversations about politics. To be honest, they didn’t last long!

We’ve had conversations about architecture….ancient Roman roads and bridges, Visigothic churches, the Moorish influences, medieval cathedrals, ugly modern concrete monstrosities, amazing modern bridges, the properties of stone and timber, guttering systems, internal courtyards, effects of climate, personal preferences…..

We’ve had conversations about gender roles. The best prompt for this one was Sunday morning. We were walking along a road (surprise), when who should come towards us but a middle-aged man? He was twiddling a stick in one hand. Trailing behind him by quite a few paces was a woman who we took to be his wife. She was not carrying a stick. Over her shoulder was a tree. A whole tree complete with root ball attached and wrapped in hessian. It was twice as long as she was tall! There is a fine line between not judging how others live and noticing things that may be a bit inequitable; when the boys commented on the ungentlemanliness I encouraged them to hold that thought for the rest of their lives and always be ready to serve (at the same time we talked about how we cannot know the whole story and it’s possible he had a bad back or something we didn’t know about!)

We’ve also had conversations about home ownership and mortgages and rates and derelict buildings and community and aged care and disabilities and rally car driving and urban design and research projects for when we get home (which cars and phones are produced ethically and the effects  of sugar – truly no prompting from me, all Micaiah-initiated!!) and future plans and bar design and faith and generosity and travel and refugees and cold showers and consideration of others and freedom and friendship.

And we’ve walked along together, Ella-Rose and I, and I’ve asked her, “What are you thinking?” on numerous occasions and every time she has replied, “Nothing”. But I’m sure something is going on inside that wee head of hers!

Distance: 26km Total Distance: 946km

21 June: Castro Dozon to Silleda

“That’ll give you something to blog about, Mum,” Ella-Rose told me. 

“I already had something, but do you think I should write about that?”

“Well, I’m sure going to write about it in my journal!”

So I WILL put it on the blog. We had done 20km by 10:15 and were mighty pleased about it as the sun was starting to blaze fiercely. The jury is split on whether it is better to walk in the rain or the heat! As a bit of a mental diversion for the last 10km I asked, “How would you like it if I gave you each five euros and you had to buy all your food for the rest of the day?” Four kilometers sped by as plans and menus and schemes were discussed. The all-important question “Can we spend it any way we want?” was answered with,”Yes, and you can eat whatever you want whenever you want, but remember it has to last all day.”

These two decided to pool their money to get more bang for their buck….and were very proud to spend EXACTLY 10 euros! 

These two also went in together – you should have seen them all racing round the supermarket trying to decide how best to spend their money. This pair was not quite so successful and overspent by 80 cents so they had to forfeit something to that value!

Maybe I ought to have put a limit on the amount of sugar allowed to be consumed!! To be fair to the kids, they had much more healthy plans in place, but we ended up staying somewhere supposedly without a kitchen (I although when we got here it turned out to have one!) and so they stuck with bread, cheese and meat as their fill-me-up-staples and had a lot of money left to buy junk food!

—————————

What had I been planning on writing about? Today felt like the beginning of the end. 

When Santiago appears on the road signs, it really feels like we are near the end. And we are. Just one longish day (which turned out to be a bit over 30km and is now done) and then two more comfortable distances and we’ll be there. The Italian Snorer Pavrotti, who we spent last night with, will arrive tomorrow, but we are enjoying a slower pace now. Others who we walked with earlier – Digger and the two Italians – arrived today. On other caminos we have really savoured the last few days, not wanting the walking and the simplicity to end. This time we are all eager to finish. We are keen to get home. Sheets on beds and fluffy towels and non-communal showers and books and family and friends and fresh vegetables – we’re looking forward to all of these (and butter chicken and lasagne and curry). There are things we will miss – the adventure, speaking Spanish, walking with a backpack, cheap food, kids eager to get up at 5:30 and the sunrises…..like today’s. It was a treasure. We were up on top of a hill and a band of colour blending from pink to purple to blue and orange ringed the whole horizon. I have never seen anything like it.

 6am (that’s the moon, in case you’re wondering – above our albergue)

 6:15am

 6:38am

 6:51am

 6:55am

 7:01am

 7:01am facing the other way

 7:02am

 7:03am

 7:04am

 7:05am

 7:09am

 7:09am

And then the flies came out…

And Sophie and Vincent caught us up because we were taking so many photos!


And we kept walking, mostly through forests and fields and sometimes wet paths…

Distance: 33km Total Distance: 920km

This post is dedicated to Duarte from Portugal, who honoured me by chuckling when he read a few previous posts, and also mentioned there should be more photos!

20 June: Oseira to Castro Dozon

“Do you have five minutes?” 

“We have all day, ” I replied to the Hospitalero, who had just escorted us through the wide stone corridors of the monastery to and from early morning mass. On the way to mass he had shown us the room the British novelist Graham Greene had stayed in. What other treasure did he have?

 The library! The official tour of the monastery does not include the library; we felt privileged.

 I have lots of questions about the purpose of this library and the contents and whether there is any way of making the books accessible to people and would anyone even want to read them (but now they can’t even if they wanted to)… Take note that Mary is wearing shoes, because the monastery is so cold – so we were told. It could well be the truth!

 We will miss fresh cool spring water! It tastes so clear.

 We had planned a short day for today – to reduce our mileage each day and be in Santiago on Thursday, one day needed to be a little one and this seemed a good day to do it as the albergue is right next to the Municipal Swimming Pool. Too bad the pool turned out to be green!!!!  

At least there is a supermarket in town. Two words in that sentence are a bit of an exaggeration. Town would be best replaced by “village” or “row of houses along the road” and supermarket….let me tell you about the supermarket!

There was a big supermarket sign, but all we could find (apart from a lady killing chickens in her yard behind the bar) was the bar. Inside there was a stand with potato chips, but that seemed a bit of an understatement for the term “supermarket”. So I asked.

“Yes, go through that door.” Do you mean that low skinny door that looks like it leads to a broom cupboard? No harm in trying, and if I’ve misunderstood, I’m sure she’ll tell me.

Well, what do you know! The wooden door led to marble stairs and down the stairs was a veritable Aladdin’s Cave. You could buy a mop or chocolate bar or pickled gherkins or round of cheese or air freshener or bottle of vodka (or any one of about twenty other types of alcohol for that matter) or cupcakes by the kilo or yoghurt by the dozen or a box of rennet or a whole salami. But I still think “supermarket” was a bit big of a word to describe this small room stuffed full of goodies. We chose butter and ham to go with our bread from Cea. 

  As we were leaving the supermarket, Sophie came down the road. She had already been to the albergue and could confirm there was a great kitchen complete with pots and pans and plates to feed fifty people so we squeezed back into the store and chose some food for dinner. Pasta, chicken, corn, peas, tomatoes, pickles, pimientos, eggs and mayonnaise…sounds like a salad in the making!

  Distance: 11.5km Total Distance: 887km

19 June: Ourense to Oseira

“What shall we blog about today?” I asked the monkeys as we ate our fried eggs, cured ham, chorizo, cheese, salad and bread (salad that great-grandma went down to the garden to pick for us!)

The bread! Leaving town! The hill! The monastery!

That picture explains the hill! The first one was steep enough that we started talking about not making it to Oseira, but stopping 10km shy of it instead. However, once things evened out a bit we decided we could press on easily,  although we retracted the “easily” when the temperature rose! 12 degree start, 29 by late afternoon.

Leaving town. We should have just gone the way we knew! But we decided to do the shortcut and see something different and somehow we got lost! The general idea was simple: head for the Roman bridge, so we asked directions. Finding someone to ask was no trouble at all. It was 6:30am and the streets were humming with people who had not yet gone home from their Saturday night out. We spoke with four different groups, all of them drunk! Some sent us in completely the wrong direction, others got us back on track. Take a look at this bar and be amazed at the noise coming out of it. Half past six in the morning, remember!

After close to an hour and chats across the streets with inhibitionless youths (“Look, there are some pilgrims. Are you walking to Santiago? Where did you start? Really? No!”), we saw “the Dutch couple”, Tamara and Mr Toe Shoes. We met them for the first time outside the shell cafe – they had just been leaving. We met them later that day at a bar. A trend was emerging! Of everyone we have met on the Camino, they look like they are enjoying themselves the most! They walk a comfortable distance, stop in lots of bars, occasionally stay in private  accommodation…..today we crossed the Roman bridge with them and left them at the first bar on the other side of the river!


We still were not out of town. Just up the road we had to choose between two routes; road (shorter) or official Camino (maybe muddy but more beautiful). We tossed a coin and headed for the Camino.

 
 So that’s leaving town and climbing the hill covered. How about the bread?

The town of Cea is famous for its artisan wood-fired oven sourdough bread. Being fond of both baking sourdough bread and using a wood-fired oven, I had to try some. But it was Sunday. I asked at a bar and was directed to a particular bakery which we found easily. Opening the door, we saw this: 

 And this: 

No-one came when we called so we backed out and rang the doorbell. A head appeared at a second-storey window. In my most polite Spanish I asked if I could buy some bread from Cea. “No. No lo tengo. Es domingo.” (No. I don’t have any. It’s Sunday.)    Poor lady, she must get sick of peregrinos bugging her during siesta, and on a Sunday to boot. I admitted defeat and added Cea to my Mental List of Places to Return To.  

 Up the road we went and then suddenly we heard a voice. “I found it! I got a loaf of bread. It’s solid,” Sophie, the Irish archaeologist, observed as she banged it against a wall. Just like our bread we make at home! We went and bought ourselves a loaf. Bagged and numbered, it’s the real deal. Breakfast sorted….and possibly lunch as well;-) Micki lugged it the final 10km to the monastery, and I refrained from telling him two other pilgrims bought loaves here in the village where we ended our walk!

The monastery. Initially it seemed deliciously cool. After three minutes it was perishingly cold. Just what you’d expect. It’s been this way for a thousand years! We went to vespers and will attend early morning mass with the Cistercian monks. Eight of them in this enormous outfit. I don’t know why a couple of hundred refugees couldn’t be given a home here. They could do the gardens, look after the cows, make other products to add to the monk-made honey, cheese, chocolate and alcohol that are for sale. This place is begging for more life.











Distance: 34.6km Total Distance: 875km

19 June: Xunqueira to Ourense

Xunqueira: must return to visit the church. Everyone who went in last night raved about it. We missed it and left the albergue (above) about dawn. Church would not open until 4.

Ourense: must return to visit the cathedral. It was my one must-do item, but a Series of Unfortunate Events prevented that happening. 

LFirst unfortunate event….we had to walk through this:

 (Actually that had nothing to do with missing the cathedral, but it sure was an unfortunate sight after mountains and forests and wild flowers!) But the good news heralded by that picture is that we were entering a city and cities have good food options:

 Still warm, not long out of the oven! Nothing unfortunate about that.

Second unfortunate event….someone dropped their jacket. No big deal, right? Pick it up again. Not so simple. Child who had insisted on draping said jacket over pack instead of attaching it securely as instructed by mother  on numerous occasions had to walk back up a hill or two to find it. The rest of us waited almost an hour – just long enough to not have time to visit the cathedral before signing in at the albergue! Then by the time we had completed essential chores (like buying food for tomorrow because it’s Sunday and nothing opens) the cathedral had closed, not to open again until 4:30pm.

Third unfortunate event…..this little train

 was supposed to leave the Praza Maior at 4pm. We were going to be on it. We were in the Praza with so much time to spare that we did some sketching

 Just before four a dozen or so Spaniards gathered over by those arches to the left and we joined them. By 4:06 some of them were agitated, by 4:15 some left, just after 4:30 I showed the phone number for the train to one of the ladies who tried calling it -unsuccessful, at 4:35 one couple went for beers and peanuts and I went to see if those little trains that we had photographed earlier were still just round the corner. One was gone. Some people were sitting in the other. I went back and collected the kids (and, incidentally, the rest of the queue including the beer drinkers) and we made ourselves comfy on the train which we hoped would leave at 5pm. It did. But there was no way we were going to get back in time to visit the cathedral! The train did a nice circuit around town and to the boys’ delight went over a bridge they had done a bit of research on:

 Not an unfortunate event…the train took us thermal pools that are right on the edge of the river. The kids thought this was much better than a cathedral! 

  A Little Inconvenience…..this albergue (in an old monastery) has a lovely kitchen, but no pots. Obviously we couldn’t cook anything. So we bought a whole lot of fresh stuff (including a new favourite cheese which we’ll bring home for the rest of you to sample) and had a lovely picnic at the baths after our therapeutic soak.

 As I say, we’ll have to return to Ourense!

Distance: 24km Total Distance: 840km

17 June: Laza to Xunqueira de Ambia

 If you look really carefully at the left side of the picture you might see a whole lot of bee hives cascading down the hillside. If you look to the right you’ll see Micaiah just about to stung by one of the monsters and pursued by more. He got such a fright he panicked and almost knocked his sister off the rock in his effort to get away. Over the other side are big rocks, not a nice gravelly path like in the picture and he was in grave danger of breaking a leg or killing a sibling as he made his escape. Hearing the commotion, I hoofed it over and was just in time to see their near demise. I did what any sensible mother who is trying to calm the situation would do – screamed in my loudest voice one word: STOP! Thankfully, they all listened and acted immediately. Tessa added her scream to mine as the “swarm” (poetic license but it was how it felt to them!) turned its attention to her. “Stand still,” I advised and they did. Presumably because they no longer felt threatened, the buzzing balls of sting retreated. 

Suddenly everyone really just wanted to arrive. We had already been feeling a bit like that earlier and when we’d come to a little hamlet with a bar full of noisy men I had poked my nose in. (Sidetrack: according to what we’ve seen it’s good to be a man in Spain. You spend a lot of time sitting in bars, playing cards or dominoes and your wife cooks you meals and toils in the garden. Sidetrack over). They all stopped talking and looked at me as I asked,  “Where are we?” They replied with a place name I did not recognise and then added the answer to my unasked question, “Xunqueira is 5km away, just 5!” That was the information we wanted. And a very pretty five it was too:

It’s just there was a bee drama and the path went on and on and we had really had enough. (That’s the downside of walking a long day – you don’t fully appreciate the wonder you might be in)

But truth be known, I might have found it hard to appreciate *anything* today! The sunrise was pretty, but then I had to drag an unwilling body along a perfectly flat path for the first seven kilometers. 

Streams roared after all the rain we’ve had (and were continuing to have), but my energy levels did not match them.

Then we had to go uphill. My legs refused like a donkey at a bridge it doesn’t want to cross!

 You might not feel like it, but you simply have to put one foot in front of the other. You might be slow, you might be dawdling, you might be barely moving, but so long as you are going forward, you will eventually arrive! We climbed up.

And up. And up.
And looked back.And then up some more.
 Last night I had said I would not mind if it rained all day as we had such good views yesterday. I’m sure there was something spectacular behind this cloud:

 We soon forgot the lack of vista when the road led us to a little bar where everyone who has visited in the last dozen years has written their name on a shell and it has been placed on the walls and ceiling. We added our own and warmed up by the roaring fire.

There was still some climbing to be done, up to the cross

 Then the downhill started. The uphill had been a battle (for me – not for the kids, they were fine!), but the downhill was just painful. A few days ago a little gnome climbed inside my leg and attached a rubber band to something below my calf and twisted it tighter and tighter. Some people would take drugs to mask the pain, but I preferred to use the pain to gauge what I could safely without causing injury. After a couple of days the rubber band was released. And my calf tightened instead.  It has felt like a ball of concrete ever since and the kids have been making noises about “old lady”. Except this little girl: She stayed by my side all day. When I staggered up the hill, I encouraged her to go and walk with her siblings who were fast disappearing into the mist, but she insisted on staying close and looking back every few meters. If I stopped, she did too. She was a faithful companion.And down we went….down, down, down….

We were grateful the rain held off and we grabbed a spot to sit while we had a bite to eat. (That’s the bread from yesterday’s post – the pictures are up now, if you want to take a look) On through the town…

 ….and onto a dead straight completely flat road….. We never managed to pick up our pace – apart from the bee incident, that is – but eventually we arrived. After a long day the kids were keen to eat out, but they prepared a pretty good dinner while I did the work of blogging!

Distance: 34km Total distance: 816km

16 June: finding bread in Laza

We arrived about quarter past two. Shops shut at 2 and open again at 5, and we were not carrying any extra food and the kids were not impressed that lunch would be so late!

Showers, washing, foot care, making beds…that all took a bit of time and then we headed into the village. We needed to buy dinner food (no point calling it lunch any more!) and breakfast and some snacks for walking tomorrow. I even thought it might be an idea to get something for lunch seeing as we have another long day and may not make it before 2!

We scoped out the food shops and generally wandered around. HONK!! We heard the bread van and so we changed direction and headed for the honking. Everyone was hungry enough to chomp on some bread, especially if it was fresh. As we approached the square I got a distinct waft of fish. Rounding the corner, we discovered the bread van was the fish van in this instance. And we were not *that* hungry.

Half an hour later the supermarket provided our usual staples – a jar of lentils, a can of corn, tinned tomatoes, chorizo, onion, garlic…..a soup was coming together. There were salami and cheese, peaches and bananas, and chocolate and peanuts for tomorrow as well as yoghurt and cereal for breakfast. We just needed some bread. You don’t buy bread at a supermarket. You need a bakery. 

“Go down to the main road, turn right and it’s at the far end of the village. There’s a sign outside.”

Well, that should be easy enough. Ella-Rose and I took off, leaving the others holding our bags of goodies and eating their we-walked-at-least-25km-today icecreams. We got all the way to the end of the village and found the bakery and it was closed. I have been here long enough now to know that a closed door does not mean you cannot get bread. I went to the little stationer’s shop next door and asked if the bakery was open (OK, so a bit obvious when the shutters are all pulled closed, but I have linguistic limitations that prevent me saying what I really want to!). Anyway, the two little ladies who were sitting there doing their mending and having a good ol’ chinwag understood me well enough and (I thought) told me I had to go right round the building to the other side. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, so we trotted off. “The building” was actually a whole block of buildings backing onto each other with a garden thrown in for good measure, but we kept looking. And sure enough, right round the other side and up an alley was the bakery. We looked inside. There was bread. A lot of bread. But the door was locked and there were no people. We rang the doorbell of the house next door. We knocked on the next door. All to no avail. I remembered having seen a man under one of the houses we had just passed so I went back to ask my obvious question again. He sent me up the street to knock on yet another door. Just as I raised my hand, a young guy with a dog came round the corner and asked, “Do you want some bread?” Yes please! We returned to the bakery and he showed me what was on offer. We took two large loaves to share with everyone for dinner tonight and five cute little baguettes for lunch tomorrow. The baker threw in a chocolate croissant that Ella-Rose was eyeing up;-) There will be no grumpy hungry kids tomorrow!

 The chefs

 The dinner and the eaters

16 June: A Gudina to Laza

Yesterday afternoon was cold. It was also long. Eating lunch in a warm bar and journaling there for as long as it was polite without buying more food helped. So did the lovely lady who gave us icecreams for free (they didn’t help the cold, but I have never known my kids to turn down an ice cream!) It was raining out. There was nothing to do. The albergue did not have any common area for sitting – just one big dormitory absolutely full of people and packs and wet socks on heaters and raincoats and sodden clothes draped everywhere. We lay on beds, cold and waiting for nothing!  Actually we talked and laughed and had a generally good time too, but there was a real sense of nothingness. A lot of people spent as long as they could manage revising their plans. We were among them. We were meant to be taking it easy through this mountain section, walking short distances, enjoying the views, allowing plenty of time for watercolour painting. But the water from the sky changed all that. The kids started dreaming of getting to Santiago a day earlier. In  Santiago you can buy churros for breakfast and salad for dinner and there’s a lady who sells home-cooked three course meals for under 3 euros. The kids are getting a bit sick of bread and cheese for breakfast, bread as a snack on the path, bread and salami for lunch, and for dinner – soup made from jars of lentils or chickpeas and tins of peas and corn and tomatoes, served, of course with more bread. We reached the consensus that if it was going to rain all day (as per the forecast), it would actually be better to be walking. So we abandoned thoughts of short days in favour of a holiday at the end. That meant today would be 35km, tomorrow will be similar. Amazingly, the kids RAN into the village at the end of the day in an attempt to outrun a shower of rain. It was definitely not too strenuous for them, despite being uphill most of the day with a steep stony downhill in the middle.We had an elevation gain of 876m and maintained an average speed of 5km/hr. Not a bad effort.
Near the beginning of the day the rain cleared for a moment and I grabbed a photo, thinking there should be at least one for the blog!

A while later we noticed it had stopped raining, clouds parted to reveal more hills and there was even blue sky appearing. No one was complaining about the faulty weather forecasting! 

We had set off with Vivika, the German girl who had been our pacesetter all yesterday, and after a few hours Irishman Brian caught us up and fell into step with us. The rain stayed away. 

After five and a half hours of pretty steady uphill we reached what we hoped was the top! 
Indeed, it was all downhill from there. Occasionally villages came into view in the distance and we tried to guess which one we might be going to (no googlemaps allowed). 


None of the photos capture the bitingly cold wind that hounded us all day, but we will remember it! However, we were just so grateful to be able to witness the spectacular views. We were grateful for the sunshine and brilliant blue skies. We were so aware how fortunate we are to be here. We didn’t even mind that it started drizzling on the last stretch into the village!

Distance: 35.9km Total Distance: 782km

15 June: Lubian to A Gudina

It’s much more fun being miserable together! Last night as we all compared notes and information from guidebooks and text messages we’d just received from people who were a day ahead, a general consensus was reached that the only sensible way to walk today would be on the road. With rain forecast for the whole day (and actually it had set in yesterday afternoon) the warnings about flash floods and visions of struggling through mud put even the stalwarts off the thought of taking the official path. It was also decided there would be safety in numbers and so a general invitation was extended to everyone to set off together soon after 6. We breakfasted – some on leftover chicken rice, some on orange juice and cupcakes, some on dry bread, some on bread and butter, some on rice pudding, some on biscuits. No bacon and eggs or muesli or even toast with marmalade!

 The first group set out – we made up half of it….. ….out into the low cloud.  No-one knew the rules about pedestrians in tunnels in Spain, but we decided the worst that could happen is that we get picked up and given a ride somewhere warm and dry. Being sodden, this was not a disincentive for any of us. In fact, I suspect some were clinging to the hope that the police car which passed us would soon return with lights and sirens signaling success for us! We had thought the tunnel would offer reprieve from the rain, and it did, but it also funneled a cold head wind from one side of the mountain to the other. We were relieved to step back out into the rain! For a brief moment, just after crossing into the province of Galicia, we glimpsed the beauty that was surely out there, hidden somewhere in the clouds. 

Someone – I forget who, and maybe I couldn’t even tell at the time as we were somewhat unidentifiable in our flapping rain gear – either Duarte, a Portuguese guy or Thomas the German, strode up beside me and observed, “Well it’s not as bad as it could be.”

“It’s fine,” I agreed, but he quickly corrected me….”No, not at all. This is not my standard of summer vacationing weather in Spain!” Who’s going to argue with that? It’s warmer at home in the New Zealand winter right now!

We proceeded, mostly in silence, becoming ever colder. Noses, hands and feet were numb. Once again I wished I had packed a fleece vest – but it had seemed an overkill idea in the comfort of home. It’s not like we aren’t prepared – we have thermal long johns and long-sleeved tops as well as a merino shirt and fleece jacket. It’s just we like to keep them snug and dry for wearing after walking. A fleece vest would have been welcome under our rain jackets, a cosy companion to our gloves and scarves. 

When we sighted a bar our hearts rejoiced. But the proprietor waved us away. Sigh. And walk on. Thankfully this was not the last one and we stumbled in to a haven of warmth, which our group of ten completely took over for twenty minutes. Slipping back into wet rain gear and out into the steady rain took a resolve we might not have exercised if we had been alone. It really is more fun to be miserable in company!

 

How does one capture the general misery of walking for five hours in a constant rain without resorting to whinging? I’m trying really hard!

As we approached A Gudina we started thinking about the online reports we had been reading. Bedbugs. Bedbugs. Bedbugs. Our intention was to scope out the place, and if it looked dodgy, to walk on. It would be another 20km, but we’d all decided that would be preferable to bedbugs. However, on the way into the town  we all noticed a sign to a train station and a bus station. I wonder if the others were wavering as much as I was! We’ll never know, because when we arrived at the albergue it was closed for fumigation! An alternative was set up nearby. My cynical mind wondered if the bedbugs had simply been transported to this cold concrete building on mattresses from the first one, but we decided to take the risk!


Distance: 24.8km Total Distance: 746km