Driving South – M1 or A1(M) – you’d better know the difference

Leaving the George Hotel where Baden Powell stayed when he set up the first Scout camp, we thought that driving in the UK would be OK if we steered clear of major cities and kept to the motorways when travelling long distances. Not so. Our plan was to go to the South via four highways. WELL – for starters, the M1 splits into two – one bit skirts Bradford and Leeds and the other apparent shortcut (A1-M) goes directly south and rejoins the main drag South of Doncaster. You need to hop onto another motorway, the M18, for a bit. Somehow we took a turn too soon on a roundabout which meant we had lunch at a town called Worksop. This had an interesting priory from the twelfth century, a library which served coffee and a sandwich shop. Hmmm. We headed back towards the fabled M1, only to find that the entry point we’d aimed for only took us North! Yikes! This meant another interesting (?) detour to Chester before we finally entered the Motorway with rather frazzled nerves. So here we are at Leicester….

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Hadrian built a good wall, but no wonder the Romans went home!

We felt a bit like going home too when as we trudged through the rain and wet grass around Walltown Crags and Housesteads Fort. We felt sorry for the blackface sheep who had to spend the night in soggy wool. Luckily for us, we found a great pub where we dried our soggy clothes and ate a hearty meal, including Cumberland Sausage.

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We’ve competed the Camino de Santiago and gained the Compostela!

As usual it rained, as we walked from Lavacolla, alone except for a friendly dog, a camping ground and the occasional pilgrim UNTIL we climbed to Monte del Gozo, which has TV aerials and huge pilgrim hostels. Young people poured out from several directions, charging ahead of us down the hill towards the city. We were due for a break and took shelter in a coffee shop with upholstered seats – clearly they weren’t targeting soggy pilgrims! We realised that the passing parade wore suits, mini skirts and handbags. Hurriedly we downed our coffee and proceeded through the Pilgrim Gate into the medieval city, following the arrows and ponchos. We mistook one plaza, but finally arrived in the Praza Obradoiro and the Cathedral rose up behind us to our left. My lens had raindrops on it but I managed to snap celebrating pilgrims performing a dance before we searched for the Pilgrims Office, a few streets away but not obvious to us. It was 11am and we wanted to get our Compostela then attend the Pilgrim Mass at noon. No such luck! We queued in the rain for an hour and it was 12:15pm when we got through. We climbed up the hill to our accommodation, where we disrobed into dry clothes and headed out to lunch, visit the cathedral, meeting two fellow pilgrims who we had got to know on the way and arranging to meet them after the service this evening. We’re pleased that we have accomplished our goal without mishap, but a little sad that this part of our holiday has come to an end.

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Progressing towards Santiago

The day started grey but fine as we tramped through eucalyptus forest behind a farmer with his pitchfork. Snapdragons sprouted from the verge and candle-like plants from the rock walls. Our break was at popular cafe Casa Calzada where I mastered the art of drinking coffee while queuing for the bano (loo). Then it started to drizzle, and pilgrims struggled into overpants and ponchos. We chatted to some Canadians from Yellowknife as we strolled past barn doors with enormous stone lintels. Lunch was chorizo bocadillos under a shared market umbrella outside a bar called Meson La Equipa. After trudging past a wet rabbit and some memorials to pilgrims and a young priest we reached our destination, where we are listening to the rain – but snug and dry!

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Camino types: Melide to Arzua

Some ride bikes, including this unusual tandem. It is also OK to do the Camino on horseback. Although we haven’t seen any riders. We found a new, modern cafe not yet in the guide book, called El Alamen (the German) an hour from Melide, with good coffee, bocadillos and clean banos with paper – perfect. A eucalyptus tree was a welcome reminder of home, while the rain gave a chance to test our wet weather gear. Some pretty streams, stone churches and fountains completed the walk. Oh, and a tiny bird smaller than a sparrow – does anyone know what it’s called?20140520-163955-59995450.jpg

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These pilgrims are taking their time

Today it rained on our parade, but luckily our schedule involved a walk of a mere 15km. We met fellow pilgrims from Queensland and kept each other company, sharing Camino experiences and tips. We passed a statue of St James – I wonder what he would have made of our chatter about wi-fi connections and the value of downloading maps to get GPS on the Way. Two men crossed an ancient stone bridge under an umbrella, one bearing a small floral cross. Why? There is so much to learn. We arrived at Melide around lunchtime and after checking in, found a restaurant and treated ourselves to “Pulpo Gallego”, the local octopus speciality. It’s good to be finally using the raincoat and warm gear we carried all the way from Oz.20140519-160609-57969389.jpg

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