Thursday, May 18, 2017

17 May

It was drizzling when we left the farm.Jos dropped us at a crossroads that lead to the outskirts of Melide.  We walked through a sleepy Furlong to Meliden.
Showed Gail the octopus at the restaurant Exquisite and then we climbed up to the church and the old Galicia way cross.
Gail went down the steep path to the road below and I took the low road, meeting her on the road.when we reached Radio there was a choice of paths - one through the forest and across a river via large stones in the water (impassable for wheelchairs ) and I took the 'complimtarios ' route through forest and farms we finally met at the Piquena  Oasis food stall.
We stopped in Bone,  passing the new cafe bar to visit Josefina and Marino at the Os Albergue and Cafe Bar where we had lunch.  He is a professional photographer with a large private collection of cameras from minute 'spy' cameras to large box cameras on stands.
Lots of hills to Castaneda where we easily found the gracious, stone Casa Milia on the side of the road about 300 off the Camino. Checked into our rooms in an annexe.  There is no Wifi in the rooms and poor connections in the main building.
We had the pilgrim menu for €15 and after dinner showed Anna and Maria the reviews of their Casa and their meals on TripAdvisor (which they'd  never seen).

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

16 May

It was cloudy to start.  We stopped at San Xulian but was told that Manuel wasn't there.  He, like Gordon, has also had some health issues.
Met Nancy and Sandy from the USA.  Gave them my contact details - they are interested in our 10km a day itinerary.
When we got close to Leboreiro we missed the sign to Coton and continued left on the path, then on the No 476,  until we reached a closed restaurant on the side of the road.
I phoned the Casa Familia number and Heidi answered.  We had walked about 2 km in the wrong direction and needed to backtrack along the highway to O Coto where the farmhouse was.  It was hot and the heat rose from the tar.  We were quite pooped when we finally got to the farm.
When we met Jos he told us that their 4 yeat-old child was in hospital with severe burns from an accident with boiling water.  His wife had poured water into a glass container which exploded over the child.
He introduced us to his other 4 children and 9 year-old Vera adopted us, showing us our room, the bathroom and the kitchen.
Once we had rested Vera sowed us the chickens, sheep and a large tented room in the back garden with a double bed and bunks which could accommodate  pilgrims.  There was one other pilgrim there, a young womank Beatrix from Valencia walking with her little dog Noah.
Jos cooked a vegetarian  stir fry and a mixed salad which we had with wraps.
We brought out the Amarula and shooters and stayed at the table in the kitchen until the children had to go to bed.  They are all home schooled and we think Jos was a bit overwhelmed having to care for them, including a 14 month old baby, while his wife stayed with the 4 year old at the hospital.
Beatriz  wanted a lift to Meliden in the morning so we asked to be dropped off beyond the roadside restaurant we had walked to (and from).

Monday, May 15, 2017

15 May

The cows started their bellows at 4km so neither of us had much sleep.
Iberia phoned. They can't deliver the suitcase because we are in Lug and today the are delivering in Coruna.  We decided to walk to Palas de Rei, check in and get a taxi ti Lavacolla to collect the case ourselves.
I went to get Gail' s coffee but our Casa wasnt open so I walked to the one down the road and got one there for her. It was cloudy and a bit warmer so no gaiters or puff jacket today.
Lovely walk with places to stop at Ligoniel,  Aires and the Ant' place at Porton.  I gave Sussex the message from Gordon. We ordered emanate and drinks and he said the drinks were on Gordon.  Sweet man.
We arrived in Palas and found the hotel opposite Buen Camino.  They ordered a taxi for us and Angela arrived to take us to Santiago some 100 km away.
We were moved from one floor to the next but finally Gail was taken to identify her case,  which had spilt open. All the contents were intact so she completed the necessary forms to claim from Iberia and we returned to Palas.
We had a drink and tapas at the hotel, then to an ATM, a shop to buy straps for the suitcase and a supermecado to buy provisions for the road.we had dinner at the s
Restaurant next to the stairs.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

11th May

 It is my job to take Gail a cup of coffee in bed so that she can get going in the morning.  She packed her travel kettle and coffee in her suitcase but that is missing.  At 7 45 I go down 3 flights of stairs to the bar to get a cup of  coffee.  It's a small cup and I carry it back up to the room.

We start getting ready and Gail needs another cup of coffee.  I go back down and this time I come back with coffee and a hot chocolate.  I then take my wheelie cabin bag down the stairs, one step at a time.  Then up again to collect our back packs and down we go.  I feel warmed up and ready to go. Gail needs to stretch to get going.

We say goodbye to Luis and put on our ALTUS raincoats.  It is uphill through the town then a steep down path to the railway line.  The concrete marker shows 110km to Santiago.  We agree that next year Mark and Emma don't have to start at Sarria to earn a Compostela.   We will photograph the new 100 km marker and that is where we will start.

Just as well we made that decision, it is uphill on muddy, stoney paths through corridors of gnarled mossy chestnuts and stone walls.  We walk slowly, negotiating the mud pools and slush.  We reach Barbadelo at 11 am - 5 km in 2 hours. What a relaxed pace!  While we wait for our room we have a huge slice of pat at a tortilla and hot chocolate.   There'll be no losing weight on this trip!

At 12km the lovely Jenny shows us to our room, a big modern room with 3 single beds. We can spread out our stuff. Gail phoned Sandy her travel agent in Johannesburg about her missing case and I checked on the World Tracer website.  Location of Luggage unknown. Gail feels that it is still in Johannesburg.   This has happened to her before.  I have a feeling that it is in Madrid.  I can register two addresses online where the case should be sent to.  Its too late for Barbadelo so I put Ferreiros.


Getting into a routine. Up at 7 15,  get dressed, get coffee for Gail and a Cola Cao  for me. Pack, breakfast in room, luggage downstairs and start walking at 8 45.  
Cecilia struggled along, 'lento, lento.' 
Drizzly morning and cooler than yesterday. Difficult rocky paths to Mercadoiro. From there to Vilacha was easier. It was quite sad to see the for sale sign on Gordon Bell's albergue, Casa Banderas.  Stopped for a slice of pizza at Restaurant Vegetariano in Vilacha.  
There are 3 options to Portomarin. Right - on a tarred road steeply down to the river and the bridge.  Left is a bit longer with a difficult section near the end but with a detour around the  difficult  section. We opted  to go right, down the steep path.
Instead of climbing the steps into the village we walked along the road to the right and then steeply up a side road to the main street.
Sat outside Arenas and had a drink. A big crowd of people came streaming out of the church. They filed into a municipal hall where they sang and danced, celebrating the feast day of a local saint.
We walked up Rua Deputation to Ultreia. Louisa was there to meet us and she called Luis and Carmen to come and say hello.  It was a great reunion as I haven't stayed there since I was with the Caracoles group in 2013.
Checked in and Gail and Cecilia went back to town.  I had a sower, changed and went to the church. Joined the girls for dinner at Peter.  Back to the albergue where we offered everyone amarula and shooters.
Went to bed at 10pm 

14 May

We had 13 km to walk today so I got coffee and hot chocolate from the vending machine, ate yoghurt and a banana and said a fond farewell to Carmen  and Louis.
Long climb today -almost all the way to Gonzar and beyond.  Cecilia struggled and even though we opted for the shoulder on the road instead of the gravel path alongside the road we slowed down even more - 4 hours to do 8km.
We stopped for a snack and said goodbye before continuing, then 2 hours for 2.5 km.
We were relieved to get to Ventas de Naron.  They only have matrimonial rooms so we each have our own room - with heaters! Showered, washed some clothes, phoned Iberia again about Gail's missing case. They said it will be in Santiago tonight.  Gave them the albergue address in Palas de Rei.
Our rooms are in an outbuilding alongside the cow sheds and the cows were very vocal until late,  mooing,  bellowing and trumpetting like elephant late into the night

Saturday, May 13, 2017

12 May

Our alarm is set for 7 45. When I went to get coffee there was blue sky and sunshine. By 8.30am the clouds had rolled in bringing drizzle.
This will be a great place to use as a base for a few days for the Nilsen-Leaver family Camino next year in July.  It has accessible rooms and a large swimming pool which Emily will love.
We walked with a German couple for a while.  She carried a backpack  and he had nothing to carry. He said she didn't trust sending her stuff ahead and prefered carrying it herself.  I told them that they looked like a typical rural African couple.  The man striding ahead and the women trudging behind  carrying the load!
We stopped  for a while and shortly after saw a young woman taking short stiff steps on the side of the path. "Are you alright?" We asked. "Yes.  No.  Not really," she said.  Cecilia from Los Angeles told us that she'd  had a knee op a year ago and was OK to walk the Camino. She started in St Jean with a friend but some time on the meseta the knee 'Blew ' and she couldn't bend it or walk on it properly.  She took a train from Leon to Sarria and was planning on walking 5 km per day so that she could earn the Compostela and meet up with her walking friend at Monte de Gozo.
We offered to walk with her. She said she was walking 5 km to Ferreiros.  She was upset when we told her that we were also going to Ferreiros which was 9 km away. She had missed calculated the mileages between villages.  We offered to stay with her and walked the rest of the way at a snail's pace.
Met a couple from Vredendaal at Morgade.  I rembered sitting there in 2011 waiting for Christine  and Judith to arrive.  Zuretha  and Theresa  walked back about 3 km down the road to meet them and carry their packs for them.
It was another 3 km to Ferreiros and we walked slower and slower.  She had booked a room in the albergue and we in a private room.  This new albergue y Casa Cruceiro wasn't here in 2007 when Finn walked the Camino.  I had planned that when he met Marion, Analise  and me, we would only walk 14 km from Sarria  to Ferreiros on his first day.  We planned to stay in the albergue so we stopped at the cafe-bar, Finn and Analise for a beer and Marion and I for an ice cream.  Then we saw that there was a sign on the albergue door that said if you had only walked from Sarria you should continue to the next albergue as this on was for pilgrims who had started further back or at least 20 km.  There was a list of taxi numbers in case you were injured and couldn't walk any further.  Finn was devastated as he'd had 2 beers and an  ice cream by then.  We had no option but to walk another 12km to Portomarin,
We had dinner in the cafe bar and afterwards I helped Cecilia book rooms a few days ahead.  Her phone doesn't allow for phone calls only data.  I can't believe that people with smart phones don't buy airtime so that they can make calls in times of need,
I went to bed at 9:30km.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

I arrived at King Shaka airport at 2.15 and checked in after having my small suitcase plastic wrapped. "You must collect it in Johannesburg " said Finn.  I disagreed. I didn't want to have to go through to baggage claim and then to departures when the case could be checkted straight through to Santiago. He was worried thst the case would go missing snd never make it to Spain but I checked it through.  My Camino clothing and paperwork was in my backpack which I took as carry-on luggage. Odile was on the same flight. She said that Robyn was on an SAA flight.

I phoned Gail after landing at Oliver Tambo airport and we met at Capello's where she was having lunch.  We checked in together, asking the ground crew to seat us together even though we both already hsd seats assigned. They were very accommodating and found us seats at the back of the plane. We were told that we must collect our luggage in Madrid and check it in for the onward flight to Santiago.

Whilst waiting at boarding we met Hillary, Gwen, and Odile. Robyn arrived and then I saw Sandra and we exchanged gifts - hers to go to Angela in Logrono and mine to San Anton.  Nice new aircraft - we had a three seater to ourselves so Gail was able to lie down and sleep across 2 seats most of the night.

When we arrived in Madrid at 7.30am we went to baggage claims but none of our stuff was on the carrasol.  The Iberia desk told me that in Europe one collects luggage at the final destination so it had gone to Santiago.

We parted ways with the amaWalkers ladies and got our flight to Santiago while they all flew to Pamplona.  When we landed at Lavacolla  airport only my pink case arrived. Gail's wasn't  there.  I took mine through customs and found Sonia (Santiago taxi driver) waiting for us as arranged.   I told her that Gail's case hadn't arrived and after reporting it to Iberia we left the airport at 11 am together with Nick from Connecticut who had also reported a piece of luggage missing.

Sonia dropped us off close to Pension Escalinata and we checked in, warmly greeted by Jose and Be lin the owners. Gail needed clothes so after a hot drink and toast, we went to Pregrinoteca to look at hiking pants, shirts etc. She couldn't find anything there but the Chino shop across the road had black tights a cheap t-shirt, socks and panties. We got Spanish Sim Cards at Moister and bought salad, cheese, chips, rolls, yoghurt and cold drinks at a Froize supermarket and cherries and peaches at a fruit and veg shop.

After a rest in our room we went back to the river and had a couple of drinks. We went  back to the pension and had chips and guacamole and drinks.  Jose had phoned the Iberia help desk to enquire about Gail's missing case but it was one of those automated reply numbers where you didn't speak to a person.  I sent a whatsapp  to Jon and he said everyone had collected their luggage in Pamplona.  So, only Gail, who had checked hers in at Johnnesburg, didn't have her luggage. At 9.30 we showered  and went to bed. The door to our room had glass panels and the light from the passage shone in.  We were too tired to care.

Gails  suitcase with her special stash!

Saturday, May 06, 2017


Last year my younger brother and his wife Gail were supposed to fly to Rome with Finn in July to meet me after I'd lead my group on the Via Francigena. (Gail walked with my Caracoles group on a Slow Walk from El Ferrol to Santiago in 2014). The plan was to spend a night in Rome and get a train to Viterbo the following day.  We would then do a slow walk back to Rome on the last 100km.

My brother was unexpectedly diagnosed with an illness in May that required surgery and months of post-operative treatment, so he and Gail had to cancel their walk at the last minute. Finn, Jenny, John and I did the walk without them.  I promised them that I wouldn't book myself to lead any groups in 2017 so that I'd be available to walk with them on any route in Spain, France or Italy.  

Due to a heavy workload my brother has decided to wait until next year to walk the Camino but Gail, desperate to get away and walk the Camino again, decided that she would like to do a short walk before the end of May.    We leave South Africa on 9th May and arrive in Sarria the following day.  We will take 12 days to reach Santiago where we will spend 2 nights. We have booked train tickets to Ponferrada, Burgos and Logroño.  From there we fly to Madrid on 27th May for our flights home
This will be the 10th time I walk to Santiago.  I walked to Santiago in 2002, 2004, 2007, 2009, 2011 (twice) 2013 (twice) and 2014.  (In 2015 I walked the meseta with an amaWalkers Group, served at an albergue for 2 weeks then flew into Santiago.) 

This is the first time I'm not walking for me, or leading a group.   This is a special walk, for a number of reasons.  I am walking in memory of a wonderful woman who was, and still is, well-known on the Camino, who passed away at the age of 92 in 2002.  I will request a memorial Compostela for Felisa when we arrive in Santiago and will take it to Maria and her daughter Feli in Logroño.
Felisa used to sit under a sprawling fig tree outside her modest home on a sandy path leading to the outskirts of Logroño.  She offered passing pilgrims figs, love and water and her special stamp was much sought after.  Since she passed away her daughter Maria continued serving passing pilgrims and although not in good health and 83 years-old, she still sits under the fig tree offering pilgrims figs, love and water

I will also be carrying the photograph of Wayne - son of a friend killed by a hit-and-run driver a few weeks ago.  His mother, a Camino pilgrim, always hoped to walk the Camino with her son.  I will light a candle for Wayne at all the churches we visit including the cathedral in Santiago.

Gail and I will also be doing a recce walk in preparation for a family Camino next year.  Mark and Tammy want to walk the Camino with Emily in July.  Mark is in a wheelchair, Emily has fragile bones, so this is going to be a challenge!  Gail and I are going to write lots of notes about the route and where the difficult sections are for someone in a wheelchair.

Besides the fact that I am walking with Felisa and Wayne close to my heart, and doing a trial walk for Mark and Emily, this is primarily Gail's Camino. She has had a tough year and needs this time-out with nothing to do but walk, sleep, eat, drink and walk again!  We know that the Camino in busy, especially from Sarria, but we are going to embrace the crowds of pilgrims and if we get the opportunity to sing, or dance with groups of pilgrims, we will join in!

Counting the sleeps - 3 to go and we are off!