July 30th: woke up early after a quiet night in Vega de Vacarce. My feet were slowly recovering and I felt like pushing a little harder again today.
But then of course I was facing my 3rd of the 3 big mountain climbs of the Camino. Almost 700 metres up and down. I had pretty much decided to do the 700 up over the 22 Kms and then maybe stop for the night in Alto de Poyo…
This climb was a lot more gentle under foot than the last two. Some was on the road and some was through some nicely graded foot paths. I actually made pretty good time and felt ok at the top. Travelling alone can be easier sometimes as the pace and ongoing adjustments are completely up to you and it allows you to evenly control your own energy. Of course the odd rest break for fruit or ice-cream can help greatly. ;)
At the top, I just couldn’t face waking up the next day to the 700 metres down, advice mentioned these can be harder than the ups when your feet have suffered a little, so it was time to suck it up and keep moving =D
The result, one very tired but very happy camper arriving at the bottom of the mountain in Triacastela after a solid 35 km hike over 9 hours!
The only down side was the desired refuge I was hoping for was full! No worries, there was a fairly reasonable private one at just 9 Euros a few minutes down the road – yes!
Time for a quick trip to the Supermarkato and the fixings for my preferred consolation sandwich. This consists of a half a loaf of French bread (yes they’ll sell you half, haha), some havarti style cheese, some salami and ham (all sold in 1 Euro packages), a tomato and some green olives that they sell pitted on little plastic bags =D. Mmmm.
Nice day, pretty pleased with myself, haha.
July 31st: on a bit of a roll now, I started out feeling good again and I had a bit of a plan. 21 Kms to Sarria and then check into the Monestary there. I was looking forward to a nice church style Albergue with dinner etc. :)
I made great time to Sarria and hurried up to the Monestary and was happy to hear they had a space left. I was a little surprised that rather than donations it was priced at €10, but I payed and trotted off to find my humble bed.
Oh oh, the room was small dark and new (not the usual for church ones) and it didn’t feel right. I trotted back the desk to inquire about community dinner, etc. Nothing!
Then I surprised myself by doing something I never do, something I usually need Norma for, I asked for my money back and got out of there. Lol
Wow, go me! Now, again, as the Camino often does, this strange random act of fate led to a great chance meeting. As I soldiered on from Sarria, at a fairly nice clip, listening to my iPod, I suddenly became aware of someone about to pass me. I glanced over to find a familiar certain Austrian grinning from ear to ear trudging along with his usual two poles. Berndt!!!!
I couldn’t believe it, once again an early travel companion and I were reconnecting 15 days later.
My bus fast forward had enabled me to overtake the powerful walker who had been routinely putting on about 40 Kms a day. Cool!!!
So like Slava, we finished the days march together sharing a break at my Albergue before he marched on to finish up. I had once again clicked in another 34 Kms, in just 7.5 hours.
What a great day with an old friend. We were able to catch each other up on our journeys and some others we both knew. Just like family. :)
The Albergue was a private one but reasonable at €6 and very nice crew there. One of my bunk mates was later to become my last travelling companion. More on Emilija later.
Aug. 1st: Leaving Ferreiros in the morning on my own was a little sad after my great day with Berndt, so the Kms seemed harder. To be fair, the terrain was a little tougher under foot as well. I was seriously running out of steam by Ventas de Naron after only 21 Kms but then I saw it. A first on the Camino. A sign fe above. A hamburger. What the… I just had to have one. I went for the big one: with cheese, bacon, tomato, lettuce, mustard, mayo, sesame seed bun… A true two fister!!! Mmmmm. I almost needed a cigarette after that burger. Washed down with two cold Tonicas. Perfect.
So, I was able to march on to Ligonde where I found my most favoured kind of Albergue. A church run one on donations with everything included! Awesome. Sure just a 25 km day, but a great spot. The Albergue was an old restored Spanish farm house, great dinning are, cots vs bunk beds (love this), side by side mind you like sardines, but very comfy. The place was run by volunteers, Americans actually, and the day went like this. Laundry in an old outdoor cement wash sink, hung on the line, at 5:00 we all met in the yard to read previous pilgrim thoughts on post it notes, and to write our own for future pilgrims.
Then at 6:00, popcorn and the movie “Jesus” in English. Dinner at 8:00, another delicious stead of assorted salads, bread, water/wine, pork chops and Risotto (all you could eat), and local grown pears for dessert. Awesome. Of course, breakfast in the am. Oh, and Emilija arrived before dinner also. This time we chatted for a bit, but no plans to travel.
Side story about the Camino: it always seems to provide what you need. Whether it’s a water fountain, or a shade tree, or an Alberge just when you need it, etc. So the day before I had somehow misplaced my pen! Yikes, anyone that knows me knows I always have a pen-and I panic when I don’t. So all day I was like, I need a pen, I need a pen… So when I go up to my bed at this great place, first time ever, there’s a gift bag on the bed; a copy DVD of the Jesus movie, some literature, and a PEN!!!
Devine intervention??? You can decide.
Aug. 2nd: feeling awesome this morning, full belly, a pen, life is good! Plan on pounding it today, times a blaring, early start, end in sight, I’m on a mission. Only hitch: Rain! First real rain since the Pyrenees. Well I’m not made of sugar, got ready, raincoat, plastic over the pack, go!
Awesome! 37 Kms made it all the way from Ligonde to Ribadiso, found a nice 6 Euro hostel and who’s there also: Emilija. 3rd independent hike 3rd night at the same hostel, fate I guess, so dinner at the local pub was a joint one. From Lithuania also, 23, a nurse currently working as a bar tender (intensive care rotation was very hard emotionally), and we decided to finish this thing together =D.
We are so close now. We could actually walk all the way to Santiago tomorrow, but we compare notes and agree that arriving late on a Sunday would be a disaster. May not get near the church, may not get a bed…
So the plan is set, time to sleep.
Aug. 3rd: the Way was soooo crowded today. All the 100 km people are on the trail, so frustrating to have this multitude of rookies walking in crowds, blocking the way, littering, blah, blah, blah.
On the bright side Emilija and I are having some good laughs as we motor by everyone. Setting a wicked pace we cover 37 Kms in just 8 hours, minimal stops, and we arrive as planned just 4 Kms from Santiago. Monte do Gozo is built to hold up to 400 pilgrims, and we arrive in good time to get a great 6 bed room and as we chat up the volunteer, he offers to drive us to an awesome non-pilgrim restaurant and hook is up with a great meal for just 11 Euros. He was right! Best dinner!
Fried Octopus for an appi (fantastic), pork chops and fries for the main, ice-cream for dessert and water/bread. Very tasty. Great way to end the long days of hiking. I had averaged 32+ Kms per day the last 8 days straight. :)
The last night… Santiago in the am.
Aug. 4th: slept in till 8:00, no hurry, just 4 Kms and the Pilgrim mass was not to happen till noon.
Walked casually this morning, drinking it all in. As planned, we headed straight for the Seminario Menor to secure one of the 150 beds and drop off our packs. (Good plan as we later noticed that packs are not allowed in the Cathedral. Booked for two nights (me because I booked the one day bus trip to Finesterre the next day and Arnold was tied up till Wed), Emilija because her flight to Malta was on Wed night.
Once all tucked away, we walked to the church. Old Santiago is spectacular, so cool. Little hitch at the church, the main entrance is being redone so the statue was off limits, but it was beautiful. Still had lots of time, sober headed off to get our stamp and official completion papers. Perfect!!! Later, the mass was surreal, the place was packed with pilgrims, and while they didn’t do the incense/smoke part it was nonetheless spectacular. Happy man!
The rest of the day was spent snooping around the old town and church, and we even found the front entrance was partially opened later, so we went in and I climbed on the fence and placed my hand were the indent is on the statue anyway – Rebel!!! Sweet.
Wish I could sum up how it felt to finish, not sure I can though. Some things just have to be experienced on your own, you all should do this. Seriously, it’s life changing. The whole journey, not the ending that is!
It truly was a Buen Camino!!!
I will try to add my thoughts to this at a later time when I’m back home in the fall.