Friday, May 31, 2013


After breakfast we met at the Monte de Gozo reception and started walking. It had been drizzling so everything was wet. After walking for about 45 minutes I called Luis and asked him to fetch the Irish lady.
We stopped at the little café-bar opposite the Porta do Camino to wait for her but she called to say that with the rain coming down she was waiting for us under the arches in the Cervantes square.
Bob went marching into the town on his own. "Every time I've walked into Santiago I have managed to get lost". He told me yesterday.  I just hoped he didn't get lost this morning.

The others walked through the Porta (the old gateway) and we walked together into the old city.  We found the Irish lady waiting for us and 6 of us walked to the cathedral.  When we arrived at the side door of the cathedral, I suggested to Reinette that she take Janet and Pat to the square to see the front of the cathedral.  I sent a message to Johnny Walker, letting him know that we had arrived. He said that he would be with us in 2 minutes.
Just then Bob arrived, 'I managed to get lost again!" He said.  Bob had missed the arrows and shells in the pavements and had walked away from the cathedral. Reinette, Janet and Pat came back and then Johnny Walker arrived. He told us that he had reserved a bench for us in the front row and that the group's name "Camino Caracoles 2013" would be called out before the mass.
We had time to check into the hotel and leave our backpacks with our other luggage which had already been delivered.  Then we all went back to the cathedral which was absolutely packed. Johnny was there to guide us through the crowd and we took our places in the front row.  The botafumeiro was hanging above the altar so we knew that it would swing after the mass. I don't think I've ever seen the cathedral so crowded and the security personal had to constantly move people who were sitting in the aisles, blocking the passages.  There were groups of young children sitting on the floor in front of the benches. The army were sitting in the enclosed area where Reinette and I had sat two weeks earlier with the Pilgrim Office 'Amigos!'

We felt like VIPs sitting in the front row.  A young man read out the names of the countries pilgrims had arrived from the previous day.  He then read out the names of some of the groups that had arrived - including Los Caracoles 2013!  We felt so proud of our little group


The mass lasted about an hour and then Johnny lead us outside, through the gift shop so that we wouldn't have to negotiate the front stairs.  We followed him to the Pilgrim's Office and we were led through the waiting queue to an office downstairs. 
Johnny had arranged for the Compostela certificates to be prepared and one by one, the walkers sat at the desk and answered the questions required to earn the certificate.  It was quite an emotional moment for Pat who had asked for her late brother's name to be included on the document - and for the Irish lady who accepted a memorial Compostela in her late husband's name.
Bob proudly displayed his completely full credencial.
After a group photograph, we all went to the Casino for a celebratory lunch. 


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Day 15: Arca to Monte de Gozo

The same taxi man who brought us back yesterday picked up the group and took them back to Casa de Comida where they started walking to Monte de Gozo.  There were black clouds sweeping across bringing rain every half hour.
The taxi then came back for Irish lady and me.  He dropped us off just past the RTVGE centre on the way to Monte de Gozo and we started walking. Every now and then someone would want to take her photograph.  We stopped for a coffee at the last café bar and then walked the last few m to San Marcos chapel.  We took shelter inside when it started raining again.

When the rain stopped we walked through the complex to the reception which is about 500m from the entrance at the top.  There were army vehicles and tents on the field behind San Marcus. We heard that they had marched from Tui in Portugal to Santiago in less than 24 hours breaking a previous record.
Once we were settled in the rooms I walked back to the top to see the two statues of pilgrims pointing the way to the cathedral.  In the far distance you can see the triple towers of the cathedral about 5km away.
When the others arrived, a bit wet and bedraggled, we decided to visit the pilgrim statues and then have a snack in the cafeteria. When Finn walked with us in 2007 se had the best meal on the whole Camino in the buffet restaurant here.
We met later in the cafeteria for dinner and had a short meeting about our walk to Santiago tomorrow. Johnnie walker had texted me to please let him know when we arrived as he wanted to take us into the cathedral.
The Irish lady would meet us at the Porto do Camino and we would all walk in together. I gave them each a little wire pilgrim with snail made by a homeless man outside San Marcos.

It was an exciting thought that the Caracoles would make it to Santiago after 16 days of slow walking.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Day 14: Pedrouzo-Arca to San Paio

Doing the extra mileage meant that I had to redo the stages again for the next three days.
We decided to split the 20km into 7.5km today, 7.5km tomorrow and 5km on the last day.
San Paio is 8km from Pedrouza so we planned on walking to there.
The Irish lady thought she might try walking a little later in the day.  I gave her a few options of walking through the forest to the main road and getting a taxi back if necessary or waiting for us to come back so that I could walk with her through the forest and back again.  She thought she might wait until we got back.
We started walking at 9am, through the lovely forests to Amenal where we had our first stop.  Then on to San Paio, past the fence with all the wood crosses on the outskirts of the airport, and the famous Santiago stone marker where we had a group photo taken.  Reinette took a photograph of snails on the ground - Caracoles, just like us - inching across the landscape!

At Casa de Comidas we stopped for a drink and then called a taxi to take us back to the Pension. The first taxi man said we would have to wait 2 hours for him.  I phoned a second number and he said we would have to wait an hour. So I phoned a third man and he was able to come right away. Reinette and Adrian decided to walk back so we only needed one taxi.
When we got back the Irish lady showed us photos she had taken in the forest, and the white house at the end of the forest path. She had bravely walked up the hill and onto the Camino path through the forest. She also walked into town on her own - more than she had done in over a week.  We were all proud of her.   Bob, Adrian, Reinette and I had dinner in town.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Day 13: Calle to Empalme

The taxis picked us up at 9am and took us to Calle. The plan was to walk to Empalme - 7.6km.
We stopped at Empalme for a snack and drink. Everyone felt good so agreed to continue to Pedrouzo-Arca.  The only problem was, we weren't sure exactly how much further it would be.
The Godesalco website, which I used to plan our stages, gave us 3.5km extra to walk to Pedrouza. The CSJ guide book gives 1.5km to Santa Irene, 2km to A Rua and 1.5km to Pedrouzo - a total of 5km.

After taking the forest path Janet's knee started to twinge. She got slower and slower and by the time we saw the first signs for the Pension Maribel she was limping badly. She only just made it to the Pension before collapsing in pain.
The Irish lady was comfortably settled in one of the new rooms downstairs and Maribel showed us the alterations and additions being done on the Pension.
I walked into town and booked a table for 7pm at the Bar Pedrouza which is famous for the local speciality 'Babilla (croca) a Pedra'.
Adrian and Reinette joined me and we had a drink at the bar, chatting to the young woman about some of the idiosyncrasies of the Spanish language.
Maribel offered to drive the Irish lady to the bar and she, Reinette, Adrian, Bob and I had a great meal.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Day 12: Arzua to Calle

The Irish lady would stay behind today and rest her foot so I was able to join the group again.
We crossed the road opposite the hotel, into the woods where the Camino path starts about 30m from the hotel. It was a lovely walk from Arzua to Calle, stopping at a bar in Calzade.

The taxis came to fetch us and dropped us back in the centre of Arzua. We went to lunch at the Meson do Peregrinos which is owned by the same people who own the Suiza.
Adrian got pissed off because they overcharged on the bill and each time they corrected it, they still overcharged. €9 for 2 glasses of wine was a bit much.
When we got back to the hotel a couple of girls from Johannesburg and Pretoria were checking in. They saw my South African flag first  and we had a chat. They had heard about the Slow Camino and were interested how we were going.
The Irish lady was sitting in the sun so we talked about tomorrow. She felt that she could walk if it was flat and smooth but we both knew that the 'Camino' itself was mostly paths, not tarred roads, so she decided that she would go to Pension Maribel while we walked.
I didn't feel like dinner so had the snacks I'd bought in town

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Day 11: Castaneda to Arzua

24 May:
We were moving to Arzua today so decided that the taxis would drop the others at Castaneda and the Irish lady and I would continue to the outskirts of Arzua so that she could walk on flat surfaces into town.  When we went downstairs, Bob told us that Adrian had started walking early and was already on his way to Castaneda.
We dropped the group off where Adrian was and continued to Arzua. The taxi dropped us two off just before Pension Rua and we started walking from there. We found the Froiz supermarket and bought provisions for the next few days and then continued to the centre of town.
 We turned left at the church and followed the yellow arrows out of town, up the hill to the park and across the road to the hotel Suiza.

She told me that her ankle was aching from the rocky path and we sat outside in the sun until our rooms were ready. The others arrived and we all had lunch at the hotel.
In the afternoon Janet asked me if I would like to go back to town to find something she had seen in a window on the way into town. we walked almost out of town and still hadn't found the right shop. So we walked back on the other side of the road. Close to the plaza she found the shop with the necklace she wanted to buy for Pat but it was closed for siesta.  We had dinner in the hotel.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Day 10: Melide to Castaneda

Adrian suggested that we start walking a little later in the morning when it would be warmer. It was very cold until about 10am - sometimes just 5°C.  So, today they set off at 10am to walk to Castaneda.
The arrangement was that he would phone me about half an hour before they arrived in Castaneda so that the Irish lady and I could join them and walk the last km or so with them.
When we got the call they had already arrived at Castaneda which was at the top of a very steep and difficult hill and 4 of them were on their way back to the hotel in a taxi.
Our taxi took us to Castaneda and we found Adrian at a café-bar on the roadside.  There was no way she would have managed that hill so I just followed her as she walked the few dozen meters down the road as far the incline and back again.  It wasn't as much as she had wanted to walk but there were no other flat, even sections to walk so I called a taxi which dropped Adrian and me off in the town city. 
Reinette and I walked to the parish church and then I searched for an electronic shop that might have an adapter with a USB port for my tablet - but no luck.  We sat with the Irish lady and had a drink and then I followed her back to the hotel, stopping at a sport shop and a small supermecado on the way.
I was sitting updating the blog when 2 peregrinas walked in. One was hobbling. They asked for rooms for 2 nights but the hotel could only give them one night as they were full for the weekend.
Bob, Adrian, the Irish lady, Reinette and I had dinner at the hotel. The 2 Canadian girls were there and I chatted to them.  One had a really sore foot and the other aching shoulders.  I offered to give them a massage after supper.
Barbara is an emergency nurse in a hospital in Calgary and said that she has helped many pilgrims on the Camino. I massaged both feet and then did Linda's shoulders. We shared emails and hope to keep in touch.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Day 9: Rest day - Melide

22 May:
Patricia had suggested a rest day, and with the few extra km they have walked, and a bit of tweaking the mileages from now on, we chose today as our free day.
We would leave Bolboreta to go to Melide so we got Angela to organise two taxis for to take us to Pambre Castle after breakfast. Built in the 14th c it is one of the few military castles that survived the Irmandinos uprising of 15th century.  The Irish lady decided to come along after all so we had a full complement in the two taxis.

The castle gates were closed when we got there but at 11am a car arrived and a woman opened the gates so that we could go inside. One can only imagine the power of the nobility over the peasants and the hold they had over agriculture in Galicia from these castles, built on high bluffs looking over hills and valleys for miles around.
An interesting finding for me was a mason sign in a stone right next to the entrance that I have also seen in Santiago cathedral. Was it the same mason?  Was it his son? The registered signs were passed down from father to son and were unique to each mason.  This was Bob's favourite outing on the walk and he said afterward that it was a highlight for him.
After exploring the castle we dropped Adrian back at the albergue together with Malcolm from Australia who we had invited to join our outing. Then we were taken to Melide and the Hotel Carlos which is run by a friendly family who have been there since 1996. Our rooms weren't ready so we sat outside in the sun and ordered a snack for lunch.

Pat and Janet like to have their main meals at lunchtime. (Pat says that they have their dinner at about 4h30pm at home in Texas.)  So they don't usually have an evening meal.  Reinette doesn't like to eat at night either but she will join the group and once she sees what they eating, she will relent and have something to eat. Bob needs to fill his tall frame so he can have breakfast, lunch and dinner. He says he used to eat twice as much as he does now and that as he has gotten older he has become about 3" shorter.  Adrian likes to have breakfast and will have dinner most nights. The Irish lady often eats in her room and does a lot of grocery shopping but she enjoys having lunch and/or dinner with the group when possible.  I rarely have the Spanish breakfast which is mostly bread and coffee but I like to have dinner with the group at night.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Day 8: Campanilla to Melide

I spent most of yesterday working out a new walking schedule that would include another rest day. I decided that the day after staying at Albergue Bolboeta in Casanova could be the best day.
On Tuesday morning Xacotrans came for our luggage and the taxis came for the group to take them to Campanilla/Coto. 
After a few days rest the Irish lady thought she might be able to walk if the road was flat and even.  I got the taxi to drop us within 100m of Bolboreta and we walked down the road to the albergue. She wanted to keep going so she turned and walked back along the flat part of the road.

Bolboreta is a lovely stone Casa about 2km from the Camino path at Casanova and is in a gorgeous, rural setting with forests, fields and a tiny village close by.
Our rooms weren't ready so we sat outside in the sun and the owner brought us coffee and little cakes.  I was telling her about our small group that stayed there in Sept 2011 and my phone beeped. It was a message from Bell Russell, one of the pilgrims who had stayed there with me on that trip. I haven't heard from Bell in a year so it was serendipitous to get a message from her at that moment!

The rest of the group arrived and we checked into our rooms. Adrian wanted to check out an alternate route to Coto so he, Reinette and I did a long walk through the village, up along a tarred toad, all the way back to Casanova and the albergue.  We had a lovely communal meal at the albergue and made plans for the next day.  Pambre Castle, one of the best preserved military castles in Spain, is just 4km away so we decided to get two taxis to take us to the Castle and then to Melide.

The Irish lady wasn't interested in the castle so she would have a lie in and we would come back for her afterward and drop Adrian off so that he could do an extra walk.
When we finally put the light out in our room Reinette and I just laughed because it didn't make any difference with the sun still shining outside.  Eventually the sun set and we had a lovely glow in the room with a rising moon  over the forest.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Day 7: Palas de Rei to Campanilla

We didn't need taxis this morning as we started from our pension and followed the yellow arrows out of town. The Irish lady had decided to rest another day before venturing out on the Camino and I must admit that it was great to be back walking with the group and especially with Isa who would walk 2 days with us before travelling to Lugo to get a bus to El Ferrol where she would start walking the Camino Ingles.
We reached San Xulian, a picturesque village about 3.5km away, Pat went on ahead and Janet kept looking ahead down the trail where you could see pilgrims emerge from the village onto the path. When Pat didn't appear, I walked to then end, and out of the village, to find her sitting on a wall waiting for us.

It isn't easy to get lost on the Camino,  but Pat never knows where she is going,  or where she has come from,  doesn't carry any money, hasn't got a cell phone and can't speak the language. So, Janet doesn't let her get too far ahead or out of sight!
We continued on to Campanilla and after a rest stop phoned Angela, our lovely taxi owner, to collect us and take us back to Palas de Rei.  The Irish lady was sitting in the Plaza when we got back so we joined her and I ordered some tapas for us to share.

Everyone who sees theVeloped is always most curious about it as it is quite large (but very light) and looks as though it could be motorised.  I'm not sure how one could walk with it if it was motorised - it would be like pushing a lawn mower and could run away with you!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Day 6: Eirexe to Palas de Rei

When the group walks1 km or 2km more than planned I have to redo the daily walking schedule.  My master copy, taken from the Godesalco website, had so many scribbles and crossing out lines that I had to ask Reinette to give me hers.
Today, we should have started from A Previsa but having walked an extra 2.1km the taxis took the group to Eirexe where they had finished off yesterday.
The Irish lady couldn't walk again today but she had to get to Palas de Rei so I stayed behind and we got taxis to the Pension Ignacio in Palas de Rei. I went down to the main street to the Pension Bar Plaza to let Antia know that we had arrived. As I was settling in the Xacotrans van arrived with the luggage so I put the bags in their respective rooms.

I always choose Reinette and my room close to the Irish lady in case she needs us.  (The following night she had such severe sweats that she nearly called me at 3am). She said that being so ill she wondered if she was going to die on the Camino and that was the reason for her strong urge to be here. In the middle-ages people believed that if you died on the Camino you would go straight to heaven and bypass purgatory.  So far, travelling all this way and being so ill, and the freezing cold, has been like purgatory for her!  She has only been able to venture out a couple of days and hasn't been able to get any real walking done but she also hasn't been well enough to travel back home.  It's been a bit of a conundrum. 
We went down to the Bar Plaza and had a lovely toasted sandwich made with square bread - not a bocadillo - and waited for the others to arrive.  It was still cold but we found a place in the square which was quite sheltered and in the sun.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Day 5: Gonzar to A Pevisa (and Eirexe)

The group (sans the Irish lady and I - she wasn't feeling up to walking) had taken the taxis to Gonzar to continue walking to A Pevisa 7.1km away. They had felt strong and continued after Previsa to Eirexe another 2 km down the trail.  When they returned, they decided to go to the O Mirador so that Janet could have the delicious fruit platter I'd had the day before.

I waited in all day for Isa to arrive and when the owner showed her where I was sitting we had a happy, hugging, reunion! The albergue was full but they allowed her to share my room with the double bunk. 
I waited for Isa to change and shower and then joined the group at O Mirador for a drink.  It started pouring with rain and we made our way back to the albergue.

Bob, Adrian, Isa and I went to dinner at a little place run by an Italian who had walked the Via Francigena.  The pizzas Bob and I had were great but Isa and Adrian's pasta was not good and they both had problems during the night with upset stomachs.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Day 4: Portomarin to Gonzar

Day 4:
The Irish lady had a fever and hot sweats and there was no way she could walk in the cold today so I got to walk with the group again, which was lovely.   

It was a long climb up from the bridge, through the forest to where the path joins the road at a brick factory. There is nowhere to stop between Portomarin and Gonzar (8km) so we enjoyed the scenery and the path  which followed the road for most of the way. The heavy rains of the last few days (months?) had made the path very muddy in parts and we did some road walking as well.
Reinette was feeling a little shaky today and could feel a migraine coming.  Janet's knee had started to hurt on the down hills: Pat felt the cold terribly but by dressing in layers she was able to brave walking with the group.

We arrived at Gonzar and all ordered hot drinks and food. David, our taxi-man came to collect us and take us back to Portomarin.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Day 3: Mercadoiro to Portomarin

Day 3
The Irish lady decided that she might try a couple of km today.  The group was taken back to Mercadoiro and she and I were dropped a few km along the path.  It was cold and windy. We walked a bit and then stopped.  The road was fairly flat so she sat and I pushed her on the walker.  Then she tried walking with her sticks but tired soon after.
We found a patch of sunshine and sat in the sun for a while. After an hour she was feeling sweaty and weak.  I called Reinette and asked her to phone David (our trusty Portomarin taxi owner) and tell him where we were, about a km from where we had started.  We waited at a cross-road at the taxi came to take us to Portomarin.

The others arrived after lunch.  I got an email from Isa to say that she would arrive in Sarria the next day and would walk to Portomarin.  Reinette and I walked around the square, visited the supermarket and a couple of little shops.  That night we ate out at the O Mirador. Pat and Janet don't like evening meals so Pat joined us for a while but Janet and the other lady didn't venture out.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Day 2: Morgade to Mercadoiro

Day 2
The morning was cold and grey. The Irish lady was in two minds about walking. She had sweated throughout the night and her head was pounding. "I feel as though I have done a few rounds with Mike Tyson" she said.  The taxis came for us at 9am and dropped us off at Morgade.  Belin would take our baggage to Portomarin.
She and I would try a km or two whilst the others walked on. We walked a few steps, stopped, walked a few more, stopped.  She sat on the walker and I pushed her where it was flat but even a slight incline exhausted her and she was too heavy for me to push uphill.  After an hour or so, and probably not more than a km, she was feeling weak so I called a taxi.

We arrived at the Pension but the room wasn't ready so we went to a café-bar in the square and had a hot drink.  They advertised that they had rooms and while we were there a German couple arrived and asked for a room but the young man told them they were full - completo. He offered to find them a room elsewhere and started phoning around.
Albergue Ultreia is uphill from the square and Pension Caminante (where she and Reinettte shared a room) is in a side street before the Albergue. When her room was ready I took her back to the Pension. The bathroom was a wet-room, especially designed for people with disabilities.  The toilet was so high that she could barely get onto it.  The shower area had no curtain and the water went all over the floor making it slippery and dangerous.  Understandably she wasn't very happy with it.
Jose arrived with the baggage from Sarria and I was able to check into our rooms.
I took the room with a double bunk and the others had double rooms.  The owners are a lovely family.  Warm and kind they made us feel welcome and their two charming daughters made a point of introducing themselves and welcoming us to their albergue.
By lunch time the albergue was full as was the one across the road. Pilgrims spoke of full albergues in most small and large towns and of having to walk long distances to find beds.  "More pilgrims are booking rooms ahead," said one pilgrim, "and this means there are no beds left for us".  Another pilgrim defended his right to book beds at private albergues or pensiones.  "Who is 'us'? He asked. "Am I and  my wife not part of the pelgrims? We knew that the Camino is going to be busy in May so I booked my beds" he said.  "We are all pelgrims - we are all 'us'. when you go on holiday you cant expect special treatment when you arrive and the hotel is full."  I left the dining room as others joined in and the discussion became heated.
The others arrived back from their walk and settled into their rooms. It started raining and we spent most of the day in the albergue.

At 5pm we got taxis to take us to Vilacha where we had a lovely meal with Gordon Bell in Casa Banderas. We met Johan from Cape Town and two German girls who arrived as we were leaving. It was raining again and the forecast was for much of the same the next day.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Day 1: Barbadelo to Morgade

Day 1
It is 4.5km from Sarria to Barbadelo.  Miguel Angel, the taxi driver we had used from the bus station to the pension, came with 2 other taxis to take us to a point 49m from the last Casa in Barbadelo where the 106km to Santiago waymark is.

The Irish lady was exhilarated to be walking with her Trionic Veloped walker. The path started off flat and not too difficult to negotiate.  Pilgrims walking past clapped, called her 'valiant' and most took photos.

We thought she might manage a couple of km but we kept going after the 2km mark, even when the path became difficult with stone slabs up a torrent course.  Adrian and I carried the Veloped while she walked up the path using her sticks. After about 2 km of partly walking, partly pushing we came to a very basic stop with a table bearing a thermos flask of tea and coffee and a few packets of cake.
We stopped for a lukewarm and then she sat on the walker's seat while Adrian pushed her along the road.

We stopped again a bit further on for a hot cup of Cola Cao and then after another difficult section, Negotiating stone blocks alongside a river, she started to flag.  Pushing, walking and being pused we had covered about 4km.  She had never walked 2km in her life and was exhausted by the effort of walking, pushing and being pushed.  I called a taxi and she and I went back to Sarria while the others continued to Morgade.
Although it was only 6.2km today to Morgade, the others returned quite tired from their walk. Adrian was still feeling the effects of his long flight. Bob was proud that he had taken the first day in his stride (quite a long stride too with his long legs), Pat and Janet were happy that their feet had held up and Reinette was euphoric having loved every moment of walk.
Besides the weather not being very kind with almost freezing temperatures and cold winds we hadn't had any rain and our Caracoles had done well and were looking forward to the next stage on this slow Camino.

Lugo and Sarria

I waited for Ivar Revke outside the Hospederia. He brought the box with the 20 copies of Camino Lingo which Paul had sent to Santiago for Reinette. We had a chat and then I called my friend Luis Angel (a Santiago taxi owner) to collect us at 10am to take us to the bus station.  He organised two taxis to take  the 4 of us.
The bus left at 11am and all the way to Lugo we could see pilgrims hiking on the Camino paths. It looks like the Camino is going to be very busy. When we arrived in Lugo we found the taxi rank, loaded our stuff into two taxis and told them to take us to the Hotel Puerta de San Pedro.  The taxi driver looked at us in surprise and pointed to a building about 250m away!  We told one driver to drive the Irish lady and our bags to the hotel across the road and the rest of us walked.

After checking in we walked to the 'gate' in the wall and entered the old city. The Lugo walls are the best preserved complete Roman walls in Spain and one can walk on the top, around the circumference of the walls for about 2.5km.  I got a message from Adrian. His Iberia flight was delayed by 9 hours and he wouldn't be able to meet us in Lugo after all.  He would catch up with us in Sarria instead.

We had a few tapas and drinks then walked to the church and had a look at the Roman baths where hot springs once bubbled up.  We returned to our hotel and decided to order dinner in.  The receptionist, a lovely, accommodating young woman, set a table for us and we phoned a nearby Italian take-away restaurant for dinner. Bob kept us in awe of his stories about his previous Camino walks and in stitches with his lovely sense of humour. After dinner we returned to our rooms and resorted our baggage.
In the morning we dragged our bags across the road to the bus station, bought tickets to Sarria and found the lifts to go downstairs to the platforms.  Our bus left at 12h45 and we arrived in Sarria half an hour later.

We found two taxis to take us to Pension Escalinata.  I had a small daypack with 4 bottles of Amarula and Mrs Balls chutney for Gordon Bell.  I gave one Amarula to Jose and when Gordon arrived, gave him the other bottles. Someone called my name - it was Janet who was sitting with her mother Pat at an outside table.  Not long after, that Adrian arrived. Our Camino Caracoles were all there.
 Belin arrived to take us to the apartments where we would stay for two nights.  Once we were all settled into our rooms - the guys in a room with an en suite shower - Reinette and I went down to the river and found a nice sidewalk café-bar called 'Santiago' where we ordered different tapa dishes for lunch.
That night we went back to the Restaurant Santiago for dinner.  I gave each one a South African beaded badge and a pin as well as the little name magnets I had found in Santiago.  I then started the 'Breaking the Ice' discussion where each one in turn told us their name, what they liked to be called, where they lived, a place they might have lived before and when they had first heard about the Camino.  When it came to Adrian`s turn we listened enthralled as he told us about his extensive experience in the hotel world, living in many different countries around the world where he learned to speak about 8 different languages.  He and his Manchester born wife live in Costa Rica.
I told them that the taxis would pick us up at 8:30am to take us to Barbadelo where we would start walking.  we walked back to the pension, to our respective rooms, all excited about the start of our Slow Camino the next day.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Santiago 11th May

I walked into Santiago at about 2pm on Saturday 11th May.  As I arrived at the reception in the Hospederia San Martin, I saw a woman with a walker coming out of the lounge.  It was our peregrina from Ireland. 
Shortly after, Reinette arrived and we sat together for a while  chatting about Reinette's adventures in Galicia and my walk from Sarria. While we were talking Christine hobbled in.  She thought she might only arrive after 6pm but was 2 hours early snd relieved to have made it with her painful shin splints.

I checked in and took my pack to the room. As I came down the lift I recognized Bob amongst the people waiting to go upstairs.   I told him that we would have dinner in the hotel at 7pm.
The Irish lady still wasnt feeling well so went to her room.  I invited Tom and Nancy to join us for dinner at the Hospederia.  Christine had hobbled in by then so  I suggested she join us too.  Pat from the pilgrims office also joined us so we were a happy group with Reinette, Ann, Christine, Tom and Nancy, Pat, Bob and me.

The waiter wasnt the friendliest person in the place and I suggested that he might have drawn the short straw and had to work instead of being outside for the Galicia day fiesta.
After dinner we said goodbye to Tom and Nancy, Christine and Pat.  Reinette and I sat with Bob in the lounge for a while and then we went to our room to sort out what we would take with us on the walk and what to leave in the cases at San Martin.
Our big adventure would start with a trip to Lugo and one night in Lugo before taking the bus to Sarria.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Slow Camino reconnaissance walk

5th May - Checking out the paths and trails
After two nights in Santiago I caught the bus to Lugo and then  a taxi to Sarria.  Gordon Bell was at the Pension Escalinata to meet me.  Gordon took me to the Casa Nova rente in Barbadelo where I was to spend the night. I had dinner with a delightful French couple.  They couldn't speak any English and my French is abysmal so we used sign language and drew pictures and maps on the paper tablecloth during conversation.

6th May  (Barbadelo to Vilacha)
I had breakfast the next morning and started walking, turning my pedometer to 0.00km
The apple trees are all in blossom but there are not many other wildflowers out yet.   I decided that we should start our group walk 49m beyond the Casa at the small road crossing where the 106km marker to Santiago is.

The path was mainly gravel, with some rocks until the large water fountain with the 2004 Holy Year logo that looks like Mickey Mouse.  At the 1.5 km mark the path went steeply downhill to the river which had a concrete path on the side for pilgrims to cross.

The path then joined a tar road again after 2km and 1km further on, one has to step on large blocks in the torrent course.  I realised that this could be difficult for the walkers, especially the lady using her Veloped walker.

After walking for two hours I reached Morgade and the end of our first stage.
For the next 4km the path undulated steeply uphill and downhill on tar and gravel with a few muddy places in between.  After 10.2km the path became difficult with deep mud and shale slopes. I reached Mercadoiro which would be the end of our 2nd stage and stopped for lunch.

At the 13.35km mark I started on stage 3 of our walk.  It went downhill on a gravel and sand path and then steep downhill on a concrete path into the forest.  It was a fairly easy stage on tar, concrete, and a forest path all the way to Vilacha where I spent the night with Gordon Bell.
There was a lady from Holland who was planning on walking to Portomarin but it was raining hard and when she saw the sign STADIG (slowly) on the road just before Casa Banderas, she took it as a sign from above and stopped for the night.  A German pilgrim arrived, then a couple from the US who I shared my overnight stops with so that we met up each evening from then on.

7 May (Vilacha to Ventas de Naron)
The path from Vilacha was being resurfaced so was closed.   I walked on the road into Portomarin.  I climbed the hill to  the Albergue Ultreia to check out the rooms which were all upstairs - no good for the lady with the walker.  We decided that she and Reinette could share a room in the Pension Caminante around the corner.

I continued down to the bridge and decided to walk on the road instead of climbing through the forest.  The Camino path continues over the bridge but one can turn right onto the road which re-joins the Camino path at the Brick Factory and from there on it was pretty much alongside the road for the next few km. I stayed on the road until I reached Gonzar which is the end of stage 3 for the Slow Camino.  I arrived at Ventas de Naron and booked into Casa Molar

8 May
The path from there to Pevisa was easy walking and one could do most of the route on the road which shadows the path for most of the way. I caught up to Tom and Nancy, the American couple from Vilacha, at the cafe bar after Ligonde.  (We walked together on and off from there to San Xulian)

9th May
The next day to Rua was my longest day at 24km.
At Palas de Rei the yellow arrows lead down a flight of stairs from the Bar Crucero but one can stay on the road to avoid the steps. Closer to the main road is another short flight of stairs or an impossibly steep ramp.  There is another way around the side where one can reach the main road. (Our Pension was on that side road.)

I popped into the Pension Bar Plaza to check on our rooms only to find that our rooms were up a steep flight of stairs. They called, Antia, the woman who runs the pension and she took me to a Pension Ignacio around the corner where all the rooms are on the ground floor.
When I got to San Xulian I found that I would be sharing a room with Tom and Nancy.  We were given a 3-bedded room at the albergue. We had a wonderful meal with other pilgrims and then sat outside the albergues chatting to pilgrims and the local women.)
9 May
From San Xulian the path disintegrated and I resolved to phone San Xulian and ask whether there was a road route for our lady with the walker as she would not be able to negotiate the path between here and Casanova.
At Casanova I did a 2km detour to O Bolboreta to confirm our rooms and a 2km walk back to the path. At Campanilla I stoped for a Cola Cao and bumped into Tom and Nancy. They had phoned the Pazo de Sedor and had booked a room so I knew I would see them again at Castaneda. 

On the way to Melide the path became a road of crazy paving, also not easy for those that are unsteady or for a Veloped.


I saw that the Hotel Carlos was quite far from the main centre.  I thought of cancelling the rooms there and finding something closer to the centre of town but so many places are full, I decided to leave things as they  are .  It started to rain and I stopped to take out my raincoat.   All the tape covering the seams was hanging like streamers so I stopped at a sports shop and bought a poncho type raincoat.  It is bright orange and all my clothes are pink and purple so I'm not going to get lost on this Camino!

I walked up to the church and down to the road following the Camino arrows and realised that the group wouldn't be able to walk down that steep path.  We will walk on the road rather.
The next Slow Camino stage is from Melide to Boente on an undulating path through the forest. ± 2km further there are large stepping stones across a small river. The terrain going up from the river will be impassable with a walker so the lady with the walker will have to stay on the road.  From here the path joins the road with a short break back into the forest.

At Boente I stopped at Os albergue for lunch. I spent the night at a fabulous Pazo de Sedor at Castaneda.  Tom and Nancy also stayed there and we had dinner with a group of American ladies walking the Camino.
From here it was very steep down hill and under the road, then a very steep uphill: the group could stay on the road and join where the ramp goes up to the bridge. There is quite a steep downhill to Ribadiso. 
Coming out of Ribadiso, I will suggest to the lady with the walker that she gets a taxi to Ribadiso Carretera higher up.

The walk into the town of Arzua is long and dreary. I found that the Suiza is not in town but way out on the other side. However, it is 30m from the Camino the next day.
It was uphill for about 500m then onto a small road on tar to a road.   After passing under the road there was a flattish section then lots of rocks and mostly up hill. To the 32.5km mark.  There was a place selling fruit and cakes on an honesty system  where I bought a banana for €1 -over R12.

Two years ago a large section of the forest here was felled to make way for a new road between Santiago and Lugo.   They ran out of money and the construction site was left as it is now.
From Calzada there was an easy path -a little rocky through the village and with large stepping stones across the river.  It will be better for the lady with the walker to stay on the road.  The walk from  then on is fairly easy.

From Salceda the path mirrors the road and it appeared that one could take a side path down to the road every 500m or so. You pass Empalme and St Irene. When you reach Rua there is a recorded greeting that is activated when you walk by.  The info kiosk for Santiago is on the right.

From here you pass the turn into Pedrouza-Arca and can continue into the forest on an easy path.

You go up hill and over the road . One could stay on the road for most of the way around Lavacolla.  I thought it would be best for the lady with the walker to be taken to Neiro where the Tv Galicia centre is and to walk from there to Monte de Gozo.

After  visiting the Monte de Gozo reception to confirm our rooms I walked on the road to avoid the flight of steps down to the main road.  It was then the long, dreary walk through the outskirts of the city into Santiago.