Wednesday 12 October 2011

Santiago the Day After

We slept in till about 8.30 this morning and had a very nice breakfast at our hotel. We were on our way by 10.30 to the shops.  Jan & I bought small silver shells on silver chains.  Joanie got a jet bead bracelet with a silver shell dangling from it.  Sandy hasn´t made up her mind yet.  Soon it was time to go to the cathedral for 12 oclock mass.  We meant to get there early as we had heard seats would be scarce if we arrived after 11.30  Of course we werent early.  We did manage to get seats.  The service was in latin, there were 8 - 10 priests each doing a part of the service.  A nun was singing Ave Maria which sounded incredible, her voice reverberating strongly throughout the cathedral.  Hallalujah chorus was also sung with the congragation joining in.  There were pilgrims arriving still with their packs onñ a group of small school children were seated cross legged on the floor right at the front of the cathedral.  THe last thing to happen at the service was the swinging of the botafumeiro.  This is a very large silver incense burner probably about 3 feet around and 5 or 6 feet tall.  It is lowered from the ceiling by ropes by a group of 8 los tibuleiros (men) .  THe lid is removed and the incense is lit and smoking.  It is again raised up and in an intricate coordinated way it is swung back and forth going higher and higher almost reaching the ceiling on each side of its swing.  Smoke and embers escaping - making the cross legged children duck!   It was an incredible experience none of us will forget.  All the priests then offered communion to all who wanted to receive it.  Afterwards we walked behind the statue of Santiago to hug him from the is a tradition, then we filed past the crypt which holds the remains of St. James.

After church we wanted lunch and some shopping.  We finally found a place called El Bocalino which was great...seafood starter on pilgrim shells which they gave us to take away - we gave them all to Jan for her beach house !!
Joanie Jan and I were then ready to shop while Sandy went off to find an english walking tour of the city.
When Sandy returned she told us about her tour.  She discovered a market that she will take us to tomorrow, a nunnery and a monestary and a beautiful garden and some information about the botafumeiro in the catheral.
 It has been in existance since the 13th century.  It weighs 53 kg, swings from north to south´the rope system was built in the 16th century and is operated by 8 men.  In 1 1.5 minutes it reaches a speed of 68 km an hour and almost touches the walls.
At about 8 pm we went out for a final celebratory wine in Santiago - we saw Welsh Jillian and Claudia from Brazil. - making our goodbyes to our camino friends complete.

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Day 32 Santiago !!!!

This morning was our LAST early 6 am wake up!  We have 18 km to freedom from socks, vaseline, bandaids and boots!
We had breakfast at the pensione next door, toasted wonder bread, jam coffee and orange juice.  It was really dark and we were down to one headlight between the 4 of us.  The walk was pleasant but got less so as we got closer - we were very close to the airport which was exciting as Jan and I thought a major airline was going to come through the trees just 50 feet away! Fortunately it was turning at the end of the runway!  We think the route used to go where the airport now is, and it has changed the is a little bit further than the old days.  Eventually we reached the outskirts , there was an amazing monument honouring all pilgrims, it was HUGE. I would say over 50 feet tall and easily 15ft square.
We met many pilgrims along the way - ones we knew and new ones also.  We couldn´t see the cathedral until we were almost upon it. What an incredible sight - more impressive than any I have seen.  As we approached a piper was playing which made it all more emotional.  There were crowds of people, tourists as well as pilgrims.  You could tell who had just arrived off the camino by their feet, limping, and walking sticks of all kinds.  We headed into the church feeling we wanted to complete our walk by entering the cathedral with packs, poles and boots before finding our hotel.
I sat in a pew and in my head said all the names of the people I love and an thankful for in my life.....the other girls did their own special messages also.
Afterwards coming out of the cathedral we met up with Hannika, agreed to meet her for lunch - first we were off to the pilgrims office to receive our compestellas - proof that we had walked the camino!
Next it was showers and a last removal of the bandaids!
Sandy and I then set off to find our boxes that we had posted from France.  This proved to be a very hard task - without the help of our hotel reception I don´t think we would have found them.
We walked out a short way to a small sidewalk cafe and shared a bunch of small plates for dinner and two  very good bottles of Spanish cabernet.  A lovely celebration of our accomplishment.

FYI......Next post will be Santiago the Day after, possibly within a few hours. .  If you would like to keep checking the blog.....Each of the pilgrims, Jan, Sandy and Joanie and Muriel are going to post their own reflections on their camino.  I (Muriel) will also post some photos (with the help of my technologically brilliant children) I expect this all to be completed no later than November 15th.

Sunday 9 October 2011

Day 31 Sunday Oct. 9, 2011

This morning Joanie decided she was going to walk with us !!  We were also sending a bag by taxi.  I was finding it much easier on my feet to carry less weight.  Ideally your pack should be not more than 10% of your body weight. 
The temperature was cool, we left at 7 am stopping for coffee at 9Ñ30, bought some nuts and water and we were off again.  The walking was easy, small hills, leafy woods, lots of chestnuts, acorns and oak leaves under our feet.  More and more pilgrims as we get closer to Santiago, all three routes converged at Arzue so the numbers are much greater.  wE ARE SEEING MORE PEOPLE THAT WE HAVEN´T SEEN FOR DAYS.  aT ONE POINT WE COULD HEAR GUN SHOTS AND THE BARKING OF HOUND DOGS AS IT IS HUNTING SEASON.
wE HAD SENT OUR PACK AHEAD TO sTE iRENE SO HAD TO STOP AND COLLECT IT AS WE HAD DECIDED TO GO 3 KM FURTHER.  oN ARRIVAL WE FOUND THE PICK UP SPOT WAS CLOSED BECAUSE IT IS sUNDAY -- WE (sorry, just discovered I was on capitals...whoops) - we eventually tracked it down it had been sent l.5 km closer to where we had now decided to go, which was a good thing that it hadn´t been sent back!! 
We shouldered the extra weight and soldiered on!  We had no reservations today and as we came down the hill we spotted Derek and Gayle - hollered at them and luckily we got into the place next door to them.  After disposing of our boots and packs, washing out a few socks (for the last time>!!) we headed into the village for a beer and early dinner.
We ran into Auzzie Barry who was just arriving in town. 
After our beer we realized if we didn´t have dinner soon we would have to wait till 8pm.  So we wandered up the street and settled on a restaurant that served octapus.  We decided to try it - now it is a case of been there done that!  I think some of us will forgo the dish in Santiago!
Leaving the restaurant we saw Helen, Mary, Georgina, 3 Korean kids - from our first week.  Little chat and we moved on - more laundry and showers at our pensione.  Phone calls home for thanksgiving for Sandy and some internet for the rest of us. 
Can´t believe it!!!!
Will post again tomorrow......happy thanksgiving all. xxxxxxxxxxx pilgrims l, 2, 3 and 4 

Saturday 8 October 2011

Day 30 October 8th.....Terry´s Birthday !!!

We were up and packed ready for breakfast at 8am.  Only think is we hadn´t made it clear to the senora that we were styaing for breakfast - apparently that should be arranged the night before - right down to what you will have.  We were first in the dining room and sat ourselves down along with Gayle and Derek at a lovely set table.  There was yogurt at each place - the four of us started and helped ourselves to bananas.  The cook came out from the kitchen with fresh squeezed orange juice - THEN the senora arrived!  Mama Mia!  she was excited - rapid fire Spanish with the cook, setting a new table for 5 who HAD made arrangements!  We realized our faux paux but it was too late to remedy it, we´d also eaten the croissants.  >Eventually it all worked out and she charged us 5 Euros each. She was wishing us a good camino as we left ´skies threatening rain.  Joanie was again taking a taxi to our next destination.  We had 57 km to go!  The wind was cold but it was preferable to the hot sun.  It actually rained a tiny bit and I donned the voluminous poncho - but not for long.  There were many stone markers counting down each kilometer.  We came into Melide, which is a town known for its exceptional octapus - but at 10am we weren´t keen on octapus. 
On the trail we met a friendly couple with broad Scottish accents - Sheena and Bill from near Sterling - we shared a few laughs with them for a few cms then we moved on.  Everyone must walk at their own pace.
We stopped in Boente for a sandwich, an omelet on bread - no condiments...a tomato would have been nice.  For the main part - don´t come to Spain for the food - at least on the pilgrim route.
Soon we made a stop about 3 km from our destination so I could tend to a developing blister.  Who should be there but Barry from Australia...we hadn´t seen him since Burgos.  We had a chat, said we´d likely see him in Santiago and we were off - last 3km uphill into Arzue where Joanie was awaiting us.

Day 29 October 7th

Today Joanies ankle was too sore to walk, so she was cabbing it and carrying our heavy stuff.  It was dark, windy and cold.  The terrain was quite easy though, which was nice.  We saw a big white turkey this morning....wonder if he is long for this world!  When we were approaching >Palas de Rei we saw a group of school kids out for gym class running up the hill - the boys way ahead of the girls - I called out to the girls that they couldn´t let the boys beat them - arriba arriba!!!!  They were amused!  We came into town and ran into a food market..bought a bag of figs and a few apples.  Next we wanted a place for lunch - the place we chose was full of pilgrims, Helen, the Canadians from Price George, Mary and Georgiana. Best of all they had wifi and I was able to download  9 messages!!!  Thanks friends and family.  We had a lovely french omelet and salads for lunch. 
On the outskirts of town we passed two ladies shucking corn - sitting in the sun with piles of corn all around them.  They were a picture in their kitchen dresses and head scarves, calling out buenas dias to us.  We arrived in O Coto to find Joanie having drinks with Derek & Gayle from Victoria.  We were all staying at the same place.  We had a very nice room with a loft and our own beds and bathroom.  Wifi but no computers so I had to post the blog on my ipod...mos6t tiresome!
Dinner in the dining room was more upscale in decor and table linen that we have seen in awhile.  Food was served family styple - a humungous plate of french fries, delicious! chicken, sort of scallopini style and melt in your mouth beef in a bit of gravy...great for the fries as I don´t think Spain has heard of ketchup yet!.  We chose white wine instead of the usual red.  One of our best dinners and of course loads of fresh, fresh bread that we poured olive oil and salt on!  Oh....first course was  a really good homemade chicken noodle soup or melon with jambon!  After dinner we had ice cream and a strong liquor that is a specialty of the area...Santiago Orujo.  All this is for a set menu price.....13 Euros this evening.  We all were in a jolly frame of mind after all that and it was soon off to bed. 

Friday 7 October 2011

Day 28 Thursday oct 6

This morning Joanie and I packed a whack of heavy stuff from our packs into a large plastic bag so we could send it ahead in a taxi. It only cost 3 euros! We put ournow light packs on and the 4 of us hit the trail. It was nice & coolfor awhile --til noon. The walk was very pleasant through farms and woods. We saw pretty blue butterflies- too fast for photos. Joanie saw a rabbit. Not much wildlife on the camino. We hear lots of roosters & smell far too many cows. We came through Portomarin- 2 bridges - one very high and an old one far below. The river was low so we were able to see the old bridge below- sometimes it is completely covered by water. The town of Portomarin was moved further upntjr hill after the river was dammed in the 50's.
The afternoon was a little warmer but the breeze was cool - heaven.
We arrived at casa Garcia in Gonzar- very nice nut no wifi.
Helen from our albergue last night in Morgade is also here and Irish Mary& her friend. Today is jan's anniversary so we will toast her and Chris tonight . We met some friendly canadiens fromPrince George. jan finally got phone service and had an emotional conversation re their anniversary and then there was a 2nd call from 1st grandson 18 mo old Nolan! A happy end to our day...... Coming to you from the iPod .

Day 26 & 27 Tuesday & Wednesday

This morning Joanie decided to give her ankle a rest and take a taxi to Sarria. Jan & I sent our packs with her and walked with Sandy. I carried only my small passport purse & camera. We had 28 Km to go and it was very warm again. The landscape was beautiful & it felt so good to be free of the pack weight. Sandy was carrying her pack but we had lightened it up quite a bit; she had sunscreen first aid & snacks . We got into Sarria at almost 4 pm happy to see Joanie & waiting beer. It wasn't too long before I (Muriel ) started feeling ill, chills& headache - likely heat exhaustion & dehydration. I went to bed ...later we all went out for dinner close to our hotel, I managed soup & water and left the girls to their pizza salads & wine. I stayed in bed till 6 am wake-up to start our 27th day- 15km short walk due to our various conditions. It was a long walk out of Sarria, many old cobbled steps taking us up up up only to come down again on the other side of the city. I was feeling quite tired and Joanie was hobbling. After 5 Km I gave up and took a taxi taking Joanie's pack with me. I managed to sleep in the albergue living room till our room was ready. Joanie, Sandy & Jan arrived about 1/2 hr later. Soon we had lunch showers naps! Hiking takes a lot out of a person!! Quite a few of our pilgrim friends arrived Hannicka, Gayle& Derek, welsh Jilly. All were stopping for the night except welsh Jilly. She is 64yrs old and we found it amazing that she was continuing on in 30' heat.
We are in a very rural area-cows mooing right outside our window in the field. Very peaceful and quiet. Hannica and I were outside watching the farmer herd the cows. She is a teacher from Holland - teachers there can save up holidays and take them all at once - she has been saving for 3 yes and is off till January. She speaks Spanish fairly well and the farmer told her all his cows were "mothers" worth about 3000 euros each, but their calves at 12 weeks old got btw 800& 1200 at market.
More resting in our rooms, that's what pilgrims Dias we are all so tiredfrom walking .
The purpose of the walking is still not abundantly clear! I think there're more pleasant ways to reflect on life. But it is interesting to spend an extended period Ina foreign country. We are picking up a little more Spanish each day. If only the locals would speak at something less than Mach speed we could learn a little more.
Pilgrim dinner was fun & there was lots of chatting with pilgrims. Helen from Maine was next to me, she is nice. Hanke from southAfrica. We had a lively discussion on conditions & aid in s. Africa . After the meal we all leave fairly abruptly for bed!
Apologies for errors ....this is again done on a teeny iPod!

Wednesday 5 October 2011

Day 25 Monday Oct. 3-11

7 am start, cold, dark and hilly!!!  Does it sound like fun????  NOT !  We hiked till 10 amñ it took us from an elevation of 660 m to 1337 m.  over a distance of 8.5 km.   Very taxing but fortunately it was relatively col except for the last couple of kms.  As we had only eaten fruit before our hike we stopped in O Cebreiro and had a very nice sandwish - warm friend egg with ham.  O Cebreiro is famous for its cheese so Sandy bought a round and we added that to our sandwich.  Cheese was excellent. We never did find out if it was goat or sheep cheese.  We had a couple of nice coffees, broke out our biscuits and had more cheese.  O Cebeiro is famous for the cheese, celtic huts called pollozas , and a miracle, but we never did find out what the miracle was!  We thought we had finished climbing but we had ot.  All 20 k  was climbing.  We had lemonade in Alto da Poio and then walked a further 2 km to our destination Fonfria.  We have a private room for 4 with shower for 13 euros each.  We threw our packs in the room and before showers hit the bar for beer.  Who should we meet checking in but Gayle and Derek from Victoria who joined us for beer and potato chips.  Soon Irish Hilly arrived to join us. The it was laundry and showers.  :..It was a pilgrims dinner a huge long table in the alberque.  After dinner we again went to the bar for some conversation with pilgrims we knew.
All in all it was a good day, people to talk to relieved the bordem of the evening. 

Day 24 Sunday

Today we started in the dark at 7am wanting to avoid the heat of yesterday (temps of upwards to 30 degrees is not pleasant with a 15 lbs pack and hills!)  There were a lot of little villages - almost every few km it seemed.  A lot of the trail was beside a roadway.  We stopped for coffee and also to pick up fruit, chocolate milk, cookies.  We need to keep nibbles on hand as it is possible to be stuck without food at times.  We are staying at Las Herridas Hospital.  Funny name....quite a few towns called Hospital. 
Joanie was having a nap so Jan, Sandy and I set off to find out if there was any internet available. It was still blazing hot - we stopped in the first bar - we KNEW they had wifi but they said no they did not!  We walked on and ran into Welsh Hilly and Hannicka.  We checked the alberque for luck.  They directed us down the road to another bar....full of bar girl.  They were all very rude!!! They had their dogs in small locked carts - poor thinghs were stuffed in- very inhumane - in fact we thought one of them was actually dead!  It was awful . quite disturbing. We gave up on wifi and returned to our hotel.  Went to our bar and had a couple of glasses of wine to kill time till bed.  Wine here can´t be very strong as we drink a lot of it and beer and it has no effect.
The trouble with these tiny villages is there is nothing to do but eat.  We are all wishing we had brought a book along, but of course we didn´t because of the weight issue.,  At the bar we met 2 girls from the USA - they had done a different camino last year which they enjoyed much more than the Frances route.  Primitiveo was more northern and more rural.  We didn´t have dinner - just wine, an appy and peanuts! 

Dat 23

We left Ponferrado this morning after coffee and chocolate croissants. We stopped at a Farmacia (for supplies) which took a long time. A very helpful clerk.  We were not on the road till 8.45 am!  We went through a nice neighbourhood - like the Shaunessey of Spain.  We stopped for a very nice empanada, walked through vineyards, saw lots of pickers and then small carts taking their gaper to cooperatives.  Wine tasting for a euro before we hit the payment.  It was a steady walk for a couple of km uphill in rising temperatures till we crossed the road into the vineyard territory - should hae been pleasant but with many hills, dust and blazing sun we didn´t arrive in Villadranca del Obrizo till 4pm.  It was a very steep decline into the town - in the Plaza Mayor we checked into Hotel San Francisco and bargained a cheaper rate for our rooms.  50 euros per room.....saved 5 euros each!!  hey we have to economize where we can!  Internet was free in the lobby.  We downed 4 beers and peanuts before heading to our rooms.  The hotel girl was very sweet, gave Jan ice for her foot.  We had dinner in the square, gazpacho, salad and pizza and vino tinto.  Lots of activity in the square - loands of young people lined up waiting to get into a theatre. We had a very short walk around then we were off to bed.  All had a decent sleep, although paper thin walls - we heard others in the halls.
Today we walked 24 km.