To get to Ferrol we first had to sadly leave Santiago de Compostela and head north to Ferrol. We had stayed the night at the San Martino Pinario Monastery just near the Cathedral. The rooms were very comfortable with just a bed and bathroom. I really liked staying here , it was so lovely and quiet and plenty of areas to sit and contemplate your journey ahead. It is set up with a communal dining room, where for breakfast you help yourself. Staff are there to ensure that all the trays are full and all your needs were met. They even had gluten free bread for me. It was very crowded in the dinning room as lots of groups had finished the Camino Frances and I also met ladies who were volunteering at the Pilgrims office. There was quite an air of anticipation in the room.
Getting to Ferrol was not difficult . We decided to go to the Bus Terminal by taxi, where we then only had a Bus Trip of around 1.15 hours. The ironic nature of how long the trip would take was not missed by us. The taxi driver was very kind and kept offering to drive us to Ferrol for only €100 . I don’t think so! Cost of the Bus €11. The bus was very comfortable and as I’m not a good Bus passenger it was good to have the front seat. There were 5 other people on the bus that were walking the Camino and after we all disembarked at Ferrol we were only to see 3 of them again, but not until the second last day of the Camino where we all stayed at the same place in Siqueiro. The weather had changed and there was light raining falling when we were on the bus but luckily when we arrived it stopped. We walked down the wide promenade street of Rua Real to our little treat for the night the Parador Turisimo. Susan and I had just finished walking the Portuguese Caminho from Porto to Santiago de Compostela and this Camino was a little add on.
We were very warmly welcomed at the Parador , Marta the receptionist was very impressed that we had come all the way from Australia. We took no time in settling in as you can imagine and after our late lunch we took a stroll down to the Harbour to the official start to the Camino. Very dark clouds were looming and we hoped that this was not a start of things to come.
As the Parador is on the Camino route we decided to start the route from the beginning this afternoon and walk back to the Parador. Tomorrow we can just go out the door and continue on to Neda, which will be our first stop. The Harbour of this fishing port is lovely. It also has a military presence. But, not all plans go to plan and as the Tourist Office was closed for our first stamp we would have to return in the morning .
The official 0.00 kilometer to the start of the Camino is the The Bastion, Pier of Curuxeiras.
So the journey begins-
The only impossible journey is the one you never begin – Anthony Robbins.
We had a lovely dinner last night at the Parador and a great night sleep and we were rearing to start the next journey. We went back down to the tourist office to get our official first stamp and also to have our photos taken at the start of the English Way. It had rained last night which we were hoping would help the fire fighters who are trying to put bush fires out or at least under control which have been raging in Spain and in Portugal. When we were in Santiago de Compostella the night sky was red and eerie with soft white ash floating to the ground. We are safe as they are away from us. We could still smell the smoke in the air and looking out our window we could see the grey haze in the distances.
We set out following the route past the extensive military barracks and the boat yards with their Robots reaching to the sky. This went on for about 5 k’s and then we were walking along the edge of the Ria Ferrol.
Every now and then we would turn inland , past small hamlets also through bush tracks. The weather today turned out to be perfect weather for walking. Great walking paths even though earlier the paths were right next to the roads. With the previous nights rain the stone pavers on the paths were extremely slippery. Little fishing boats dotted the coastline on a low tide. Even one gentleman bucketing water out of his.
Passing under one of the major bridges connecting North to South we came across a small farm. There was the biggest pig I’ve ever seen in my life.He was to far down the hill for me to get a clear photo of him. He was having a gay old time lying in the mud. The farm also had sheep, goats a different type of pig and in another paddock and a very large sheep dog guarding a donkey. We chose not to disturb him.
The scenery was lovely and the wind gently rustling through the trees making a lovely sound.
Deciding to stop and have a coffee at a bar/cafe which had a sign ‘ welcome pilgrims’ sign , the waitress was so excited to hear we spoke English and asked could she practice English with us. It was very funny. We gave her one of our Aussie pins to wear on her apron, we intend to hand them out along the way and she was thrilled. We left with her practicing the word Kangaroo. We walked out of there with smiles on our faces.
Dropping down closer to the water we did an option of walking around an inlet and crossed over a Double Hoop bridge. It was so peaceful , the water was so still and little boats sleepily lay still. There was a man starting up his little boat , as smoke poured out we thought it was on fire. But no, next minute he came chugging past and gave us a wave.
As we rounded a corner we saw the Bridge that we crossed under to walk around this little inlet only we were on the other side and perhaps had walked a couple of extra kilometers. It was worth it though. A couple of kilometers further and turned another corner and laying in front of us was a welcome sight of Neda. Lovely colorful buildings and a very modern bridge to crossover to reach where we were staying. We had booked all our accommodation before leaving Australia. I have stayed in many Alberque’s over the years and I do love them but the one in Neda over the walking bridge I’m sorry to say certainly didn’t look appealing.
We are staying at a place called Margoto’s and at €35 a double with private bathroom it’s not a bad deal. We will have our usual rest, wash our clothes and then investigate the town before having dinner in the cafe downstairs. We had a lovely meal of ‘Menu of the day’ and over dinner met a lovely girl from San Francisco who is taking 2 years off to travel. When she finishes the walk here she is volunteering at an Albergue on the Camino Frances for 2 weeks. It’s such a small world as she had met a friend of mine Nancy Reynolds of Camino Ways from San Fancisco and Lilda Smith from the documentary Camino Six Ways who I had met while walking the Via Francegina. Lovely to have a chat at the bar with a Pacharan and talk Caminos.
End of Day 1.
When we went down to breakfast this morning we didn’t have the same lady but we think her Mother who didn’t speak English and my Spanish I hate to admit is appalling. But its amazing what you can achieve with the universal language of hand signals. The Spanish are very generous with there serving sizes and I was trying to explain that I wanted no bread, one egg and a coffee. After much laughing she agreed. But what came was I’m sure. three eggs scrambled and bacon and coffee. It was all terrific and after bidding farewell to the whole bar who had now gathered for their morning coffee and paper read, we were off.
As we walked around the river following the yellow arrows the sun was shining, a beautiful rainbow greeted us among soft fluffy clouds. The tide was out and the river gave us different impression as to what it looked like yesterday.
Once again we passed some extremely old buildings some dating back to 1792. I have a great interest in old doors and have taken many photos in all states of repair.
We were watching the clouds today as rain was expected .
We were so lucky to avoid the rain altogether today . A lot of the homes have some sort of reference to the Camino and today we found one that had made an arrow out of shells. Even though we haven’t spoken to any locals about the Camino you still get the feeling that it is quite highly thought of as many homes have some sort of reference to it. Very nice to see the references and also the odd wave that we get from the farmers.
We entered into a woodlands area which was very pleasant walking. Lots of pine needles to walk on and also our beloved gum trees ever present. Coming from Australia we felt right at home
Soon we were heading steeply down hill and we have our first glimpse of the bridge into Pontedeume and the city beyond. It looked so beautiful and here are a few pictures as we walked into town.
I loved this town . It had a great feeling to it, even as you walked over the bridge with the traffic next to you. We had a great stay at Restaurant Luis extremely friendly host. It was only a very small restaurant and our room was above. Once again very comfortable with a bed and a bathroom. When we arrived we were given the key and told pay later. The aroma of the Restaurant was so yummy I couldn’t wait to have dinner there later. After a little wander and re stocking our supplies at the supermarket we sat in a square up near the market and had a glass of wine and watched the world go. Seems it is a very popular pastime. I must admit I love watching all the families come out, the children running and playing with each other, the parents catching up on the local gossip . All in the most relaxing atmosphere. There certainly is a plus to the European cities and their Squares. As evening shadows of the buildings started to cover the square and a chill was in the air we reluctantly returned to our accommodation and our dinner. The food was terrific and the whole stay was very inexpensive.
We left Pontedeume up through town underneath the covered archways to the top end of town. When we reached the Church which was unfortunately closed we thought we had climbed enough. But a friendly wave from an elderly gentleman and a wave with his cane, he pointed up.
If we thought we had climbed enough we were wrong . Steps up to the Church and then more step onto a minor road leading up and up. Once at the top we had amazing views over the town and around the estuary that we had walked the previous day’s.
It was a grey day today with a chance of a shower or two. It is so green in this area, the flowers and soil very lush. One of my favourite flowers is the Hydrangea and the flower heads were huge. It’s amazing something that I nurture at home with fertilizer and loving care grows beautifully wild and unruly and excels in these conditions.
Once again walking along side gum trees, makes you feel like you are walking back home. Along a stretch of trail lovely seating areas had been placed. We also were walking through private homes, a golf course which was very green and lush. Like golf estate back home there were houses built to the side of the course .
As we walked along we crossed over little stone bridges, crunched on acorns and kicked along the furry outsides of Chestnuts . Also looking out for apples that may be leaning in our direction. For some reason always just out of reach. Passing through small villages you get a chance to have a peak into the farmers sheds and on one occasion we saw buckets of freshly dug potatoes. The greens growing in the fields, the colors were so bright, not sure if they are what they cook in their soups or use in salads. We were on the look out for Turnip Greens. We think that was what was in the soup we were having.
Eventually we arrive at a Church on a hill and we sit under an Elm tree with beautiful Crocus flowers all around us. Hundreds of them. We looked down the hill and Bethanzos was spread out before us. After sitting in the Church yards for quite sometime we started the very steep descent down to the old town and our accommodation. The day had turned out very warm and we were looking for shade as we walked.
The town was lovely with a huge square in the middle, full of lots of activity. After finding our accommodation and having a scrub up we headed into the main part of town. Wasn’t long before we settled in for a Gin and Tonic in a lovely old bar. After sourcing out where the locals eat we then went out for dinner. We had a very surprising yummy meal of Seaweed and Seafood at a little restaurant . It pays to ask “What is your speciality ? “. It is amazing after being on the road for some time and being in mainly small villages it is a bit of a cultural shock to be in the larger cities.
Leaving Bethanzos this morning with a bit of apprehension as all the talk in the guidebooks is about the dreaded hill at the end. The sun was just starting to peek through the clouds and it was a beautiful morning for walking. Crisp morning , lots of cars and people going about their normal morning business in the city center as we passed through.
Straight up was the order of the day. A lovely old man came out of his house and talked to us about the Camino. Unfortunately there was a language barrier but I think we understood each other with lots of hand movements and smiles. I believe he had walked several Camino’s and he asked would we pray for him in Santiago. As we wound our way up the road and before one last turn of the road I looked back and he was still watching us. I gave him a wave which was quickly returned. At this moment I felt why didn’t I study Spanish harder, what a wonderful conversation we could have had. We kept climbing and the trees were glowing with the early morning sunlight. A rustling of the leaves made by the gently wind encouraged us on.
The scenery was delightful today through gum tree plantations, Pine Forrest , Elm trees, Oak & Walnut trees. Also lots of vegetable gardens , Fig trees and Apple trees. We also came across an area that had Kiwi fruit growing
The way today has been recently changed so we were very cautious about the yellow arrows, the ones that had a big yellow cross’s through them and also the new signs. We were hesitating at one stage and this gorgeous old lady came out and called out to us the way to go. Further up the road we went and happily stumbled onto this tiny Bar/Cafe. Coffee !!!. As we walked in it was all quiet and a little dark. I pulled the shoulders back and called out” Hola”. It was so funny there was a group of men sitting at a table playing cards and all looked up in shock as we walked in put our backpacks down and gave them all a big smile. Soon we were all taking , hand signals , laughs and everything else in between.
We gave the lady who served us at the Bar an Australian pin for her apron , she was so thrilled. After that she came out with plates of biscuits and cakes for us. The men were very friendly and were once again astonished that we had come all the way from Australia to walk the Camino. It was all smiles and farewells as we packed up our bag and headed out.
The rain was threatening today. We could see it in the valley looking more like mist than rain. It soon caught up with us , so out came the rain gear. We had just managed to have lunch in an under cover area in a small town which maybe is also a market place. The rest of the day at least the last 2 hours we walked in the misty rain. Sometimes quiet heavy. Another cafe/bar was on the horizon so a last espresso to get us through the next stretch of trail. Once again we walked into 2 lots of men playing cards. I was intrigued by the game as they were all picture cards. The lady at the bar took one look at us and grabbed paper towel and showed us where to hang out coats. She even gave us plastic bags for our phones. We didn’t have the heart to tell her we did have everything covered. After our coffee and chocolate she sat down with us and showed us every keepsake that other Pilgrims had given her. She holds these very dear to her and is very pleased that Pilgrims come to her Bar. We gave her a pin of Australia that she immediately put in her special momento box . She gave us two pray cards with a picture of San Rocque on the front. My favourite Saint . I gave her a shell I was carry from home which she very quickly put in her special box. I asked her about the playing cards that the men were playing and she very swiftly gathered up a pack and gave them to me. It’s the people on these Walks, Camino’s, Pilgrimages whatever you choose to call it, is what brightens your heart after a hard slog on the trail.
Today’s walk was drawing to a close and so we headed out back up the highway in the rain towards our Hotel for tonight. We chose not to stay at the Alberque as we hadn’t brought sleeping bags with us an so continued up the busy highway. It was a bit scary walking along the edge of the main road with trucks whizzing past , several occasions we stepped or should I say jumped to the side only to get wet from the passing trucks. But we made it and glad to be out of the rain and off the highway drying off our gear. We had dinner in the bar downstairs. Amazing how better you can feel after dinner , glass of wine and a rest by an open fire can make you feel ready for the next days adventure. The accommodation at Meson do Vento is clean and basic. I would say more like a truck stop. The people were lovely and the food sufficient.
Leaving Meson do Vento and heading for Siqueiro today we were greeted again this morning with a beautiful misty sunrise. Just enough to leave a chill in the air and give us a sprint in our step. There was no one else around us and it was just beautiful. As we walked watching the world wake up as we strolled past. I didn’t want to hurry this morning as everywhere you looked was amazing. The suns rays stretching out over the sleepy countryside.
I was loving the Suns rays flickering in the trees as we walked along the track. The tracks were great today , we have come a long way from complaining about cobblestones to now loving the dirt tracks.
Lots of interesting farm life happening as we walked past little villages.
We haven’t meet a lot of Pilgrims on this Camino and we were surprised when to Spanish men from Seville came up and walked and talked with us for awhile.
As I have mentioned before the amount of fruit that has been ripening before our eyes along this route has been amazing. Susan decided that the apples that were on the side of the road were free and so we took it upon ourselves to test them out. Yum. We still can’t understand why so many are left to rot.
We were getting closer to our destination and once again the clouds darkened and we had a little rain. The undergrowth on the trail today as so lovely to walk on.
The last 5 or so kilometers into Siqueiro is very undulating and a long straight stretch between forests. Some may even say boring. I love these times, as it gives me time to reflect on where I’m coming from and where I’m about to go. To hear the sounds around me or the silence around me. This time is precious and so enjoyable to engulf the simplciity of life with just yourself and your backpack. It is a time to treasure. We arrived in Siqueiro and it was time for our usual coke cola, but this time Susan suggested we have a little whiskey to go in it. It certainly did help us as we made our way on the last couple of kilometers after a 30 k day to our accommodation. Up the hill to our fabulous accommodation. Mind you I think it may have been the whiskey that made me turn right instead of left out of the Cafe for an extra kilometer. Well I’m blaming that anyway. I might add here if you are staying at Villa Nova walk on the left hand-side of the road until you arrive opposite the Villa. As we found it’s not much fun crossing over a very busy highway and straddling the barriers to get from one side of the highway to the other.
Great fun night was had at our accommodation, there were 6 other Pilgrims , so sitting around the fire and chatting was the order of the night. The English, German and Spanish google was going crazy, but fun all round. The couple here who have opened this house to Pilgrims are so caring and welcoming. It was such a fitting night rejoined by the 3 other Pilgrims we met on the Bus earlier and One other Pilgrim who we hadn’t seen the whole time. I highly recommend staying here. Terrific sleep in a wonderful room in readiness for our last day walking to Santiago de Compostela Cathederal .
It’s here, our last day of walking. The morning mist greeted us again as we put our backpacks on, collected our walking poles and clicked on down the street.
We were walking on minor roads most of the morning, there was not much activity in the odd homes as we walked by. In fact a lazy Sunday morning just like anywhere else in the world.
It also was a morning of contrasts for me, as we said hello to an elderly couple out for a stroll we could also hear gunshots and hunting dogs barking in the distance . It was a little unsettling as we eventually walked past a man with dogs and a gun. One of the dogs was covered in blood and had obviously had a kill. I must also be reminded that this is Country life and the food that people bring and hunt may be there only source.
The fog stayed around for most of the day as we walked to Santiago. It was only going to be around 20 k’s today. We weren’t in a hurry and wanted to enjoy the final day.
It is hard to believe that it is nearly over, after over 400 k’s (I’m including the Portuguese Caminho in this figure) I’m one of the lucky ones , no blisters. As we reached the outer suburbs it got more exciting and after an unexpected little climb towards the end there it was, the Cathedral in the distance.
Closer and closer we get to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela . Everything normal is going on around me, buses going by, people walking by, tourist , lots and lots of activity but my head is in a quietness and it’s like I am in a bubble. I can hear my feet thump thump as I walk the ancient stones to this sacred place. I feel the tears coming to my eyes. I can feel the emotional rise in me, my heart thumping as I hear the drumming and bagpipes of the street musicians echoing among the streets. Down the stairs and under the tunnel and one turn left and there I am . (To view a video of this go to my Instagram page of Helen Wallis thewalkingtraveller ) In front of the Cathedral surrounded by other pilgrims who have made their own journey here and own Camino, they come from all around the world is a sight to see in itself. This is now my third time I have walked into Santiago de Compostela , my first being the Camino Frances. Even though now the Camino seems to be getting busier and busier the look on people’s faces , the smile that cannot be removed, the tears in their eyes as they walk into the square and look to the heavens and towers of the Cathedral, some kissing the ground they have walked on is still as strong as ever. It is an amazing wonderful journey.
I have especially enjoyed the Camino Ingles, all that is left now is to received my Compostela and celebrate with Susan and be thankful for the opportunity to be able to walk this journey. Special thanks to my family and friends always for their love and support . So, until myself, backpack and boots become one again- Happy Trails