6 Nov – A day in Lisbon

Yesterday we travelled by train from Santiago to Lisbon. An uneventful if rather long day. It seemed a bit odd to wiz by all the places we’d walked through over the past 12 days in just a couple of hours.

Once in Lisbon we walked up through the steep narrow cobbled streets to our quant hostel. It is an odd place on the third and fourth floors of an apartment building of considerable age. Pat and I are in a bunk bed and Jan on a cot in a room smaller than some people’s walk in closets! But it’s our room! No boys! Shared washroom down the hall. A washing machine! Not bad internet…. All the comforts.

Today we rode the metro out to the bus depot to buy tickets for our onward to Algeciras tomorrow. Then after a long lunch – of Nepali food (I know weird but it’s Sunday so lots of places are closed) we rode the hop-on-hop-off bus around one of the loops. Saw lots of the city. This was followed by more food and wine….. All in all a very relaxed day!

So here are a few pictures before I join Pat and Jan in slumberland – ya I know – me awake after others are asleep. Thing is, they drank way more wine than I did!

4 Nov – Santiago

Well here we are. A rainy day off and on, but pleasant – not too warm. Our last 25kms. We got our credential stamp, have had dinner, are staying in a lovely hotel…..life is very good. 

Kinda tired – early morning train to catch so here’s a picture – will try a couple more – but Internet is poor….

Which way?

Following the little yellow arrow and clam shell is usually a straight forward activity. But there are moments when they disappeared and then there was this signage….

We went left. Are arrived at our destination. Had we gone right we would have also arrived at a destination.

A well travelled dime – 4 Nov

My friend Brenda asked me to carry a dime with me on this journey and to leave it at the cathedral. This dime travelled about 900 kms (of walking) in my pack and many more by plane, train, bus, boat and taxi. This is it being laid to rest in the coolest donation box I could find. I hope you approve Brenda!

3 Nov – Padron Spain

Our second to last day of the Camino. So far it’s been the easiest long distance walk I’ve undertaken! Such pleasant soft country side, kind encouraging local people, friendly fellow walkers – two young girls from Italy not yet 20 are a bundle of laughs, a quiet German woman who is gorgeous and gentle, our Joe from Leon Spain, three young people from Barcelona, a delightful young woman from Athens Greece….these are a few we’ve walked with, chatted with, shared wine with. There are many others we’ve said brief hellos to as we’ve passed by. Everyone walks for their own reasons. Some are on spiritual pilgrimages with religious reasons, others are people seeking peace or answers to complex internal questions, others are just walking for the joy of the easy guided adventure. We are all however joined by this one path, and our shared experiences of the pilgrimage. There is tremendous comradery regardless of languages spoken or reasons for being here.

Our days have been sunny and warm. The beers at the end of each day have been cold and refreshing. Most of our meals have been pretty good, although Spanish cuisine seems to be rather lacking in vegetables. They seem to go for a lot of fried food of dubious quality in this part of the country. The other challenge of eating isn Spain is the national habit of dining at 9pm! Who stays up until 9 to eat after walking all day? Really! Beer is available 24 hrs a day though…..

Last night and tonight we are not staying in an Albergue! These places are not always conducive to a remotely comfortable night’s rest. Having said that, some are better than others. So bad experience – mixed gender dorm, single gender washrooms – sounds good yes?  Well here’s the real life scenario. Late arrivals who creat noise and such as they settle into their beds. Then men going into the women’s bathroom, lift seats, leave them up and piss all over everywhere. Sooooo not OK! Good experience – a huge mixed gender dorm with hardly anyone in it and female bathrooms not invaded by men! 

For these places we pay 6euros a night per bed. We go out for dinner. We go out for breakfast.

In the little hotels and pensions we pay a bit more per bed. But last night for instance we had a well equiped kitchen so Jan made a great dinner – with wine – that worked out to 3 euro each. Breakfast was included. Over all expense considerably less than staying in a massive dorm of uncomfortable bunk beds and noisy smelly boys! This evening we are staying in a cute little pension. We’ll have to go out for dinner as there are no cooking facilities but – wait for it – we have our own bathroom and – towels! Oh yes proper towels! 

Funny what things become important! Or are those things important? Don’t worry – no philosophical thoughts on dorms, towels and boys who can’t piss in the bowl…… Just a couple of statements about what I learn about myself when I travel. 

OK these picture managed to load themselves in the middle of that thought…….

 I don’t share my sleeping space nicely! (I like my privacy.)

I like hot water showers! I like a proper towel!

I don’t like dirty pissed on toilet seats!  

Cold beer makes every thing better!

On that note…..here’s a couple more pictures….

31 Oct – A very fine day.

We only walked about 17 kms today. A bit of recovery has been needed after yesterday! It took us ages to walk out of the huge urban sprawl we’d become sort of mired in as of about noon yesterday. Vigo is a large place and city walking really isn’t pleasant. The constant traffic noise. The exhaust. The dodging of people. The unrelenting pounding of feet against hot hard pavement. The constant search for the correct route. The frustrations when a Way Marker is missed because a delivery van was parked in front of it…..

But we finally made it into a more tranquil country-side and enjoyed about 6 kms of off road walking. Bliss!

This evening we are back in an Albergue. 14 beds in our room. A few other pilgrims. We are hoping for a few more as there is a group of Boy Scouts waiting to get in if there is room. We hope there will not be room! The building we are staying in is a reworked 16th century mansion in a beautiful old part of Redondela. There is a washing machine here – omg so wonderful! Here’s Pat under our laundry – happy days, and Pat in our dorm – so far all women – here’s hoping because Jan’s doing a great job sending the stinky guys into the room next door! 

27, 28 and 29 Oct – On being a Pilgrim…

We’ve enjoyed another three days of wonderful walking. Some ups and downs and into the coastal hills from the dunes of the shoreline. Through farm land, forests and charming old villages. This part of Portugal and today into Spain seems quite affluent and some of the homes we’ve passed by are palatial. Swimming pools built into rocky outcrops by the ocean, lush manicured gardens, high walls. Farm fields are well kept and prolifically producing vast quantities of fall veggies. We’ve walked along quite a few cobble stone lanes between high stone walls interspersed with intricate wrought iron gateways between stone pillars and archways. We’ve crossed ancient stone bridges over burbling brooks. We’ve popped into tiny smoky cafes for water breaks. We’ve enjoyed delicious bakery concoctions and coffee for breakfasts. (Well Pat and I succumb to the sweet baked delights – Jan shows restraint and eats a dry bread roll with her coffee. I know – the model of dietary decorum.) We’ve enjoyed balmy breezes off the Atlantic and walked to the sound of waves crashing upon the beach. The churches are numerous and all quite ornate – both large and small. There are numerous stone crosses along the route as well. “Our” yellow waypoint arrows and shell markers – guide us along this diverse winding route of the Compostela seeking pilgrim. This walk is a much easier endeavour than the Via Egnatia! It is also rather more friendly. Here people we pass wish us well on our pilgrimage. It’s friendly and our quest understood.

We have also continued to stay in Albergues – some of dubious comfort. Yesterday evening we were in a damp basement room that could accommodate 64 pilgrims in bunk beds. All in one room. Not my idea of pleasant but – we three have the place almost to ourselves so despite the dampness it was marginally acceptable. The other two occupants were a pair of fellows from Hungary. The showers were hot and that makes up for a lot of other comforts that at lacking. The mattresses are often thin and plastic as are the pillows. There are sometimes no towels. Now the previous night we had flannel sheets on the equally thin mattresses, towels and sheets but the shower was fairly dismal and mixed gender so one never knows. The night before there was a tap – just like Nepal for a shower. 
Tonight our albergue is outstanding! There are comfortable mattresses with sheets, a blanket and pillow with case. All clean and dry! We had a delicious dinner served to us because there’s no where around that’s open…. Really the best place so far. But also the most expensive – 10 euros each! And the water was hot. And there is a place to hang our clothes. Life is good. Internet is generally abysmal. Mostly non existent. With luck this will eventually be sent from an Internet enabled Cafe……
It is our custom to wash our clothes in the evening. This entails a scrubbing and rinse while we shower or in a sink afterwards. We hang them somewhere to sort of dry then in the morning we pin the still wet items around our packs so they finish drying as we walk. A usual scenario is to have a pair of socks, a pair of knickers and a shirt plus a towel draped on our packs as we walk. As the day progresses and things dry they get tucked inside. This evening when Pat went for her shower she had a terrible fright. Her clean knickers that had been drying on her pack were gone. Vanished. Somewhere back on the 25 km trail presumably. We each have two pairs of this essential item. One to wear and one to have drying. So this left Pat in a rather desperate situation. This story ends well. She did eventually find the missing garment hiding and dry at the bottom of her pack! The pilgim’s trials and tribulations know no bounds! 

Back to the scenery – it is lovely here and this is why I walk. Pictures are worth 1000s of words so here are a few….

27 Oct – a beautiful day by the beach

We had a glorious sunny warm walk today. Much of it on board walk along the Atlantic coast. So very nice to walk on the springy surface of a wood rather than the cobbles. Although we had a fair bit of the dreaded cobble too. We are now about 25 kms further north than we were this morning in a small town called Marinhas. Once again we are in a “by donation” Albergue. This one a nice old stone building. There’s  a large mixed gender bed dorm but only occupied by the three of us, a family of four on a year long trip from Belgium and “our” young Spanish man who was at last night’s hostel. All of us are Camino pilgrims as only pilgrims are permitted to stay in these places. As pilgims we have special credentials which we must get stamped along the route. It’s really quite a fun experience. The local people we meet are very keen to point the way and wish us a good pilgrimage. The way is also well marked with various yellow arrows and shell tiles as signs. Some are obvious, some are in funny partly hidden places but they are always there to guide us on our way. 

Here in Albergue S Miguel there is a kitchen, not well equiped like last night, but we have Jan and she works miricals in ill equiped kitchens. Here too is a washing machine! Oh wow. Pat and I have only had our clothes machine laundered once since we left home so this was an amazing luxury. We now have a rather frightening amount of laundry hanging on a drying rack. Hoping it’s dry by the morning. Back to the kitchen and Jan –  We’ve had a dinner of salad and chicken and a litre of wine for euros 4.00 each! Food here is so much less expensive than Greece or Turkey! And these albergues to stay in are also quite handy! So life is good. Here’s a few pictures from today.