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.
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!
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?
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.
The mist made my hair dewy and we needed warm tops as we joined the other pilgrims tramping across the Portomarin bridge, leaving the 89.5km stone marker behind. The dew glistened on miraculously designed spiderwebs, an architect’s inspiration. At first we walked in silence, drinking in the morning, but as the sun came out we started the usual “Buen Camino” greetings as we overtook and were overtaken by strangers and new friends from yesterday. The first refreshment break was a gathering of the clans, as there were few options and we congregated round the same bar. Then onward and upward, with great views of countryside, an ancient wayside cross, and close range delights of hedgerow flowers and farm animals, including a beautiful, friendly palomino pony, who appreciated the extra grass I gave him. As this is our longest and steepest day, we treated ourselves to two mini lunches! We staggered into our lodging and got down to the daily routine of clothes washing.
After a simple breakfast, we had our passport stamped by the hotel and set off over the old stone bridge. At a photo stop, we met a group of friendly pilgrims from Germany and babbled in a hybrid language with them for most of the trip. We bought a pilgrim’s shell at the 100km post (that’s 100 to Santiago and had a coffee break a bit later. The day was heavenly, with wildflowers. Stopped for a bread roll (bocadillo) for lunch at Morgade, where dairy cattle were being driven down Main Street. Then down across a stream on ancient stepping stones. We walked down stone lanes where the perfume of newly mown hay was exhilarating and finally cross a dam wall to Portomarin, a relocated town on a very pretty dam. We are hungry and our legs are sore, but hey, we’ve survived day one and walked 25km.
Arriving at Santiago di Compostella airport, we couldn’t find the transfer that had been arranged, so were forced to get a taxi to Sarria, where we start the Pilgrim’s Way. We passed many pilgrims walking. Sarria a nice little town with a river, ancient churches, a sports stadium and accommodation for pilgrims. We have brought a pilgrim’s passport and found the pathway and followed it for a few kilometres. I hope we are fit enough for 25km a day!
Well, we started towards the old Cathedral of San Isidro, and in a few minutes, three women walked in front of us wearing beautifully embroidered shawls and carrying silver staffs. They were soon joined by men in identical suits carrying a standard for their brotherhood “hermanidad”. We kept following them until they went into a door, together with members of a band, carrying brass instruments. Round the corner, crowds were starting to build up and police were mobilising. We managed to position ourselves across the road from the church, behind some shorter people, thus securing a great viewpoint. The band struck up and clergy and officials in bright robes processed out of the church, followed by an effigy of the saint’s wife and then Saint Isidoro himself. We joined the crowd who dispersed in Plaza Mayor, before heading to a smaller plaza, Santa Anna for dinner. This has been a highlight of the trip.
We walked for a couple of hours in the Retiro Park this morning, minus camera. The Queen Sofia art centre, was shut for the St Isidro city holiday. Then we went round the famous Prado art gallery, which we weren’t allowed to take photos inside, so I have exterior photos of the ticket queue and front. I’ve also added some photos of David’s of the reference point zero (from which references are taken) outside the former post office in Plaza del Sol, and a traditional shop from early last century. We’re heading to the San Isidro church this evening hoping to see people in traditional dress celebrating the saint day.
This morning we walked round Madrid and came across a model doing a photo shoot, then had coffee and goats cheese and smoked salmon “pinchos” at a stylish cafe near the Royal Palace. We went across to admire the horse guards and arrived just in time for the ceremonial changing of the guard. They didn’t allow photos of the treasures in the palace, but I managed one interior shot before I read the sign. We returned via the “Ronda” circular roadway which follows one of the old city walls. There are some cute little buses. First shot is the external elevator of the newly opened Queen Sofia Art Museum.