Walking "The Way"
Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time.
It is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.
With this quote on my mind, I set off on an adventure which is unlike anything I have ever done. I pushed myself to new limits and discovered the freedom of walking your day away, just focusing on putting one foot in front of the other.
The El Camino de Santiago or the Way of St. James is a 500 miles journey through northwestern Spain. One can start at different places and chose numerous routes, but the end goal is reaching Santiago de Compostela's cathedral, which is where it is believed the remains of apostle St. James are buried. It is here you receive your certification of completion.
People travel these trails all year around searching for something; some religious; some for personal reasons and some just for the adventure. Many walk alone while others walk in groups. One can walk, ride a bike and even ride a horse to complete this journey.
As unpredictable as life can be, some unforeseen events arose and my friend and I weren't able to walk the whole journey, so we decided to walk the last 100 km. We start in Sarria, Spain and walk to Santiago de Compostela which is about 115km or 72 miles in about a week to receive our certification of completion.
I have been slowly preparing myself for this adventure for months by exploring the trails and purchasing the gear I would need. My only flaw was I didn't train with my filled backpack so the first few days were a little uncomfortable. I got my backpack to 12 pounds, but water would need to be add, so it would become a littler heavier. It is said you aren't suppose to carry anymore than 10% of your body weight, so I was super proud I got it to 12 pounds and realized during my trip I could have packed less.
Our adventure started early Sunday morning with a 6am flight. Since we decided to check our backpacks we got to the airport around 4:30am. I have never seen the airport so crazy! People were everywhere trying to check in. The airline we were flying had 6 flights all leaving before ours, which makes sense for the crazy amount of people. Lucky for us we had our boarding passed and just needed to do our luggage. We found self baggage kiosks and within a few minutes our bags were checked and we were through security. We boarded our flight to Bilbao, Spain which is on the northern coast of Spain. We landed around 8:30am. We had booked a 9:42am train to Leon, Spain, so we decided to take a taxi to train station. I forget taxis are more on weekends, so 25.10 euro later, we arrived at the train station. We had about 45 minutes to explore.
We boarded our train to León but had to switch trains at Miranda de Erne. We later learned our small one coach train would connected to a bigger train and we stay on the same train number but switch the coach we sat in. After that game of musical chairs we headed towards León arriving around 2:30pm. Bad part of the train was our seats were facing the opposite direction the train was going so we rode backwards the whole time. Our B & B was about 15 minutes walk from the train station.
From there we headed to the grocery store to get some food since we had another early morning. Then walked towards the cathedral and had dinner at a restaurant facing the cathedral. Then walked around a bit more before heading back to the room to open all the windows. We had a corner room in hope of catching a breeze. Still 81 at 8 pm, but our room did have a fan, which is rare here in Europe! Bonus!!
Day 1: 8.7 miles
We left on an 5am morning train and headed towards Sarria, which is where we will start our walk. Our train seats were super nice with reclining seats, free water and a blanket with a little sack of toiletries. We arrive a little after 9am and looked for the yellow arrow which would guide us along the way to Santiago. After getting a little turned around, we found a place to stamp our passport. The minimum amount you can walk to get the certificate is 100 km. The way to prove you walk is getting two stamps a day from hostels, churches and cafes along the way in your credential of the pilgrim or pilgrim passport.
Today's walk was full of rolling hills through farmlands and forests. We saw others along the way today. For lunch we found a stone bench under a tree and enjoy a PB & J sandwich with some chips while airing our feet. Then walked for a few more hours to Fisterrre. We got a bed in a mixed 12 beds (all bunk beds) with 2 toilets and 4 shower. Our bed cost 10 euros. We took a quick shower and washed a few things and put them on the line to dry. Then headed to the Casa Cruceiro Cafe right by the room serving food till 9pm. We ordered a pilgrim meal which is 2 courses/plates, a dessert and drink for 10 euro. I got salad, chicken, fries, an apple and water for 10 euro. Then just hung around until it was time for bed. The day was hot and sunny but it cool down with a little breeze at night.
Day 2: 12 miles
Another day of rolling hills along farmland and roadways with some shade. We got an early start and left around 5:40am. It was foggy in the am but warmed up into a sunny warm day. Today had limited facilities but we made the best of it. Today we walked with more walkers than yesterday. Along the way you share the greeting of "Buen Camino" to those walk by and hopes their walk is a good one. We walked till we found a bar open in Gonzar and did brunch of plate of fries and fried eggs and fresh orange juice.
We arrived at our guest house called Casa Perdigueira which we booked the previous night. It was located in a little hamlet which are cluster of houses, farm, maybe a hostel or cafe. We checked in around 2pm and then took a quick shower and then did laundry. We got a room with two twin beds with a shared bath. The place is super modern and clean, which makes it nice after a long day of walking. Our host had an FYI sheet already translated for us. Then we walked next door to the cafe and made dinner reservations for 6pm and got some snacks for the next day. She had the menu written in a little notebook in English and had it already started when we walked in at 6pm. Then we relaxed and enjoyed the beautiful weather in garden. For dinner, we ordered off the pilgrim menu again I got mixed salad and steak with fries and pineapple. My friend got the vegetable soup and chicken and Santiago cake. All the food was amazing and delicious! The owner was super sweet and nice, even through she didn’t speak English we managed. Using google translate she told us about 15 min up the road was Celtic ruins. So we went to explore after dinner.
Day 3: 12.5 miles
Today started with a few hills in the morning but leveled out for a comfortable walk. Many more facilities along the way today, so we stopped often for toilet breaks. We stop for a late breakfast, I ordered a Spanish omelette which was an omelette with potatoes and cheese and fresh squeezed orange juice The weather was cool and breezy staying around low 60, perfect for walking!
Right out of Palais de Rei we stop at a cafe and got some lunch. We walked for another hour and came across a jewelry shop called Castillo de Lobo and the owner was coming down from her garden as we were looking in the window since it was closed. She opened her shop so we can look. Her stuff was pretty, so I got a bracelet. She gave us some feedback on some places in the next few kilometers to stay and eat. A little down the road we came across La Pallota del Peregrino, a guest house and bar, so we decided to book ourself a private room with twin bed and private bathroom. We made dinner reservations for 6:30pm, then did some laundry and relaxed.
Day 4: 14.5 miles
Today's walk was walking up and down many hills, but got to enjoy the opportunity to walk in the shade of groves of eucalyptus tree. Yes, eucalyptus tree in Spain! They were brought over by a monk in the early 19th century and planted like a plantation crop and are used for paper and their oils but are a fire risk since they grow new bark yearly.
Today was a hot and sunny day so shade was a welcoming site. We stopped in Melide for a quick brunch of fries and fired egg with fresh squeezed orange juice. While there we watched a guy cook octopus and he gave us sample to try. I wasn't too sure about it, but it was surprisingly yummy. This part of Spain is known for their octopus. Along the way ran into as American couple from Georgia who we walked with for a few miles. She is currently walking to collect information for her current sabbatical, she is an English teacher at a university. We parted in Ridadiso and found a very modern private room and 2 twin beds. It is located right next a bridge and stream. We did wash in a machine instead of by hand and had dinner at the restaurant across from the inn. I had the typical pilgrim menu of lentil soup, chicken and fries and chocolate ice cream and water. Then enjoy the view and the weather.
Day 5: 11.6 miles
A day of hills and high humidity with the sun coming out later in the morning, so we took a shorter day. The path was both shady and sunny. We did breakfast in Azura of toast and fried eggs. Then stopped for lunch along the way and then found an inn a few meters off the path. We did some laundry and relaxed in the shade waiting for dinner to start. I had another pilgrim meal of Galicia soup, pork ribs, Santiago cake and water. Then headed to bed. It was a little noisy, we had a farm next door, but did get some sleep.
Day 6: 11 miles
Another day of hot, sunny and humid weather! When we started walking at 6am the humid was already at 98%, yuck! Today had many hills which were steep, but we stopped along the way for snacks and potty break. For lunch, I thought I ordered just an egg omelette but it was an egg omelette sandwich and the biggest sandwich I have ever seen! See below! From there, we walked a little further and came across a place we decided to stay at. It was called Casa de Amancio which we saw earlier advertised on a napkin where we had some breakfast. We did some laundry and relaxed as we waited for dinner to start.
Day 7 : 6 miles
Today was our last day of walking. We started walking around 6am and headed towards Santiago de Compostela's cathedral. We stopped at Monte de Gonzo along the way and then continue onto Santiago.
We arrive around 9am and then headed towards the pilgrim office, which is where we would get our certificates. The office has been moved to a new location due to the work being done on the cathedral. Only waited in line for a few minutes and then it was my turn. I handed my passport full of stamps over and fill out an information sheet. I got my final stamp which states I finished the Camino. I also got my certificate in Latin with my Latin name on it and then got another certificate for the distance I walked. The distance certificate was optional and was 3 euro. I also got the tube to protect them. Officially did 115 km about 72 miles. From there we checked into the hotel and dropped our backpacks off.
We headed to San Francisco for their noon pilgrim mass, which we didn't realize it would all be in Spanish, but still a great experience.
After lunch, we went inside the cathedral which is currently under renovation but still pretty inside. We waited in line to see the altar up close. We were able to climb into the main altar and see the statue of St. James. Then walked around exploring the shops and sites. On July 24, the festival of St. James starts, so every night this week they have music.
Exploring Santiago: Take 1
After sleep in, we were ready for another hot and sunny day! We ate breakfast at a coffee shop near the hotel and then walked to the Parque da Alameda (park). We saw the cathedral from afar and then saw Adro de Santa Susana Church. Then explore the courtyard of Paza of Fonseca.
We walked the streets and window shop for bit, then headed to explore the Monastery of San Martiño Pinario, which was gorgeous! Then pizza for dinner and then headed to the cathedral square to relax in the evening breeze and people watch for bit.
Exploring Santiago: Take 2
We ate breakfast with a view of the cathedral. Then explored the Parador hotel. It was built in 1499.
After dinner we headed out to the cathedral square and got the opportunity to watch the rehearsal of the light/ music/ video show which was on the city hall building in preparation for tomorrow which is the opening of the St James festivals which is on July 25. It was one of the coolest shows I have ever seen!
We enjoyed one last view of the cathedral, then took a taxi to the airport to start our journey home.
Leave a Reply.
A teacher who loves traveling the world.