Celebrating Back in Brodick

We did it! On Day 5 we completed the Arran Coastal Way – all 105km according to the guidebook or 133km according to my FitBit!

We started our morning with … you guessed it! A full Scottish Breakfast again that was absolutely amazing. While eating we commiserated over how our feet were doing, and the weather and if we think it would improve at all. We were keen to finish this trail despite a hard, late finish the day before and most of us still with we gear.

So we made a plan to be out the door for 1015am and on our way – rain and blustery winds or not! We ran a little late cause of me, sorry gals. For some reason the outsides of my feet have developed some pretty impressive and very painful bruises (I think from all the bouldering where your feet are never flat and you push off from the outside of your boot). I had to do some first aid intervention if I was gonna get another 20km outta these dogs. Some foam backed moleskin and duct tape ought to do the trick!

We were out the door at 1045 …

We had stayed at the Burlington House which was just so cool. Shar and I were on the top floor where it was like an attic angled roof – I always wanted a room like that as a kid. We also had a heater in our bathroom so we could crank it up to dry our clothes and boots – a totally stinky hot box! Ick!

Our day started our on a pretty crazy, overgrown trail heading straight up out of town. The lady at the Burlington told Rosa and Cheryl that instead of backtracking a couple km to get back on the trail there is a sneaky-sneak straight up to the trail just down the road. Yahoo! We found it! At first a wide track (gravel road) then a cool wee trail that looked more like a creek bed than a path! At times we had to crouch hike the branches and bramble was so low We loved it!

From here we were on a minor road and had to guess a little at where to go next – assuming we continued with the coast to the right, we turned right. Well oopsy daisy! Sure felt like the right way. We even confirmed it with a fisherman! He told us to go up a wee road (massive, long, steep hill) and we would be back with the Way. Well we did that and ended up back where we had already been – hahaha sure let’s add a couple km to our day!

So, we asked another lady who drove by and she told us to head around and back down to the coast – yahoo we found the right way markers. Too bad we climbed a horrendous hill to find out! Looks like the driving lady knows a bit more about the inland paths than the fisher guy – weird?!

Ok back in action we spent the next couple of hours either rock beach walking or on boardwalks just above the beach. We could not believe the amount of work that went into building these amazing boardwalks. At the end of each there was a small sign that said how many meters to the next boardwalk- so you would know how long you had to suffer on the wet boulders before flat ground again. Brilliant!

The tide was still a little high so we had to walk a few steps in the ocean at one point to get around a headland. Cheryl went ahead to check out what was on the other side – making even soggier feet in the process but what a champ! She found our boardwalk on the other side, so we all followed! If your friends walked around a headland with ankle deep ocean, would you? Yup!

From here we soon found our way to Lamlash our mid way point and where we getting a hot lunch. This time we knew the tea house or a hotel would be open and we could not wait! All of us enjoyed a hot tea with Arran Gold (yummy, better than Bailey’s liquor) to warm up and some sandwiches with chips!

We also reconfirmed that yes we wanted to finish walking – even with basically ponds in our boots, and torrential rain and wind. We were gonna finish this thing! So we geared up and stepped outside to … no rain, no joke! The skies had stopped crying down on us and it was actually feeling like it might warm up a little. (insert the sound of the heavens singing).

We started with a 2km easy road walk which turned into gravel track right along the coast where we saw seals! Finally we saw all the seals the guidebook and locals were talking about! My photo below doesn’t do the seals justice – Rosa got some epic photos on her camera though!

From here we rounded a headland and had a couple of kms walking on the grassy knoll right beside the coast – sometimes precariously on the cliff edge in my scaredy-Cat opinion but no one else seemed to mind. Absolutely beautiful!

After this section if was some easy hill, fields and minor road walking into town. Stopping whenever we wanted in the sunshine for photos!

img_3278img_3311Wow, we made it! Strolled into town (and by that I mean hobbled haha) and took a photo back where we started 5 days ago – at the Arran Coastal Way marker. Wow!

We headed over to the Douglas Hotel across the street where we were presented with our completion certificates and felt some serious pride in our accomplishment! There may have been clapping and some fighting tears. A toast with some local lager and a cider on the sunny terrace completed our epic journey!

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Ladies! Wowza! Now shall we really celebrate by climbing a mountain, Goat Fell Mountain to be exact? I think so! Brande

Giggling in Lochranza

Today was quite the Arran Coastal Way kick off … perhaps a little trial of fire really with such high temperatures, 27km distance, bouldering, beach walking, hill climbing and wardrobe malfunctions. Amazing every step of it, wow what an experience. We began our day with a yummy continental breakfast at our B&B, The Broomage, after a decent night’s sleep. Most of us were up a few times in the night – our brains refusing to adjust too quickly to Scots time from west coast Canada time but we felt rested and ready all the same. Breaky in, water bladders full, and packs on we headed out the door to start our walk – there may have even been some high 5s! We headed to the start of the trail which is marked with a really cool map of Arran on this big stone slab thing – I am not doing it justice with that description haha! The day started with a walk along the path, boardwalk and across the beach around the Brodick Harbour. Easy walking makes for such nice start to the day – lots of good conversation and a good way to get the muscles warmed up.From there we progressed from beach to forested path. Now we are talking! This is the kind of walking I love – in the trees, shaded from the sun, lots of up and down and stepping over roots and across little streams. We were still feeling amazing! Once through the forested section, we arrived in Corrie & Sannox a string of small villages along the coast. This had us walking on the road for a few kms and gave us a chance to stop for a wee spot of tea and some cookies! From there we were off for a bit more road walking and then refreshingly back to coast line. About an hour or so later we stopped for a sea side picnic, boots off to give the toes a break and some air, some more sunscreen and we were off again. The afternoon was much tougher that the morning but wow was it amazing. We were back on the coast but now this was a rough coastline with loads of scrambling or bouldering – the views were amazing and the terrain fun to walk but this is the type of trail that’s hard on the body and oh I love it. But wow those random moments of flat terrain were such a welcome break for the tired ankles!Wow – after 10 hours of hiking, a total of 53,640 steps and 4,939 calories we finally arrived in the cutest little coastal town of Lochranza. This town could not have come sooner – we were tired! Some of us switched from boots to shoes to give the feet a break and all of us enjoyed a few Haribo chewy candies (coke bottles, fried eggs and such) for a boost for the last couple of kms. Mmm Once in Lochranza, we headed straight to the Lochranza Hotel. The only place you can get food in town and only until 830pm (and it was already 7pm). The gulp of that cold pint was a dream! Oh like you have no idea – too good. We had a yummy dinner out on the hotel lawn at a picnic table with with views of the old Lochranza Castle across the harbour. You could tell we were tired, loads of giggles and laughing till we cry moments! Best finish ever to an awesome day!BrandePS for the Outlander fans out there … despite multiple attempts, Rosa has not yet heard the buzzing of bees. No worries though, our scientific endeavour to find Jamie Fraser will continue!

8 Weeks to Isle of Arran – Feet

Well with 8 weeks to go till departure I have a big decision to make – boots or no boots?

Seems crazy to even consider hiking 100+km in soggy Scotland without my beloved, make me happy, bring me joy as soon as I slip into them boots. But I have a love / hate relationship with my Asolo boots and that makes this a big decision.

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Weight: My boots are a mid-backpacking boot  – which means they are heavier than a hiking boot or shoe but lighter than a heavy backpacking boot. Together they weigh just under 3lbs and while that may seem like not much right now when you add that to the bottom of your feet for 25,000 steps or more every day it definitely adds to the workout. Not to mention my pack weight when they are not on my feet. I have strong enough legs, knees and ankles that I could most likely go with a light hiker or even a cross trainer like my also very loved purple running shoes from Nike. hmmm

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Waterproof: My boots are totally waterproof – lovely, amazing Gortex that has kept up its waterproof-ness now for over a decade. I can tell you that dry feet are happy feet. While some hikers may be all like “I don’t mind if my feet get wet”  – I am not one of those. I know from experience that wet feet become swollen, the skin becomes weak and soft and that means blisters, blisters, blisters. Also, I wear SmartWool socks and wet and wool means stretching, which means bunching, which means (yup you guess it) blisters, blisters, blisters. If there is one thing Scotland is famous for (maybe almost as famous as Ireland for) its rain. Hey they named that misty, hang in the air rain Scotch Mist for a reason! So if the weather is perfect every day of hiking, I wont need my boots but .. well it is Scotland.

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Underfoot: I love the weightlessness of my running shoes for sure but a rocky or shale path is havoc on feet in running shoes. The bits of sand and grit gets kicked up and settles into your socks and shoes – making blisters, unless you annoyingly stop every 100 yards to clear em out. The rocks under the soft tread of sneakers feels like a few bumps at the start of a 25km day but those same rocks starts to feel like broken glass and upturned nails as the dogs bark louder and louder by the end of the day. My boots have a Vibram sole – hard equals heavy, but hard also means you do not feel rock edges or the bumps and clumps underfoot. In fact, the bottom of my boots are so good that I can balance on a pointed rock as if its flat (assuming I am doing spirit fingers for balance and posing for a photo of course).  Now I could find the perfect balance and get me some trail runners which feature a much harder sole than regular cross trainers, and I could where gaiters to keep the dust and rocks out of my shoes and socks. But hmm 9 weeks out I do not want to be breaking in anything new and gaiters assuming good weather make the feet sweat and we are back to the wet feet issue above.

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Change of pace: now I have to say one of my favourite things to do is to switch it up. If the path is rocky or scrambling is involved; my boots are fabulous for grip, kicking in a toe hold, keeping the grit out, and generally keeping the feet happy. But when the path is maybe on a flat surface or through the wee Scottish villages; then my sneakers are light and bouncy and I feel like I can really kick the pace up a notch with 1.5lbs less on each foot holding me to the earth. I also love switching to my sneakers from my boots when the sun starts shining, as a kind of celebration of Vitamin D. Not to mention throwing on my sneakers and compression socks (of a lovely lime green variety cause I am sure the bright the colour the better the compression) for an awesome pick me up – both in blood flow and in hiking attire appeal.

Hmmmm decisions, decisions -well, no not really. I have decided – I am taking both.

This will surprise very few people I suspect; its kinda my thing to have both. I just cant imagine how lonely my Asolo’s would feel being left out of the fun and I love a good mid-day change up! I also like that when I have my boots or my sneakers secure to Missy Morado (my Osprey backpack’s name) she sits upright and proud in her purple goodness.  Really its Missy confirming my choice to bring both really! Yup.

Brande

Camino-a-pooloza wraps up in Porto

Yesterday we completed our final and fourth Camino in our Camino Mash Up Adventure!

The Camino de Santiago (St. James Way, 285kms of the total distance) the Camino Finisterre, the Camino Muxia and now the Camino Portuguese Coastal Way (Fisherman’s Route). A sort of Camino-a-pooloza! We walked the sections, or stages as pilgrims and guidebooks like to call them, that we thought we would get the most joy from step by step. Overall, despite some sore feet and muscles and a few detours and lost moments, our mission of joyful walking has been accomplished.

Here is how we wrapped up our final day …

We started the day earlier than usual at around 6am. As you have probably read, we have had some issues getting our extra bag with all the heaviest stuff transported to the next place we are staying. It seems there are very few companies who do this for the Portuguese Way compared to St. James Way and even less who are willing to help a couple of pilgrims walking ‘backwards’ away from Santiago in Portugal. But the company Top Santiago did us a favour the last two nights and made it happen – what a crew! However, we did have to have our bag ready for 7am which was early for us. The sun is not even close to being up at that time, let alone the other peeps in the hostel.

At 7am, after saying best of luck to our roomie from France, we were waiting in the lobby of the Erva Doce Guest House for Top Santiago to pick up our bag. Here is our Guest House. So pretty and feminine, but as Lana is demonstrating below also a veritable death trap for top-bunkers!



At 720am the Top Santiago guy came screeching quite literally to a halt in front of our home, grabbed the bag and gave a quick Bom Dia (good morning or good day) and was outta there to assist other pilgrims!

Bag sorted, we got to walking right away – we did have breakfast included in the Guest House cost but it didn’t start till 830 and we had 33km to Porto to cover to best to not set out so late. We determined we could catch a cafe on our way for breakfast instead.

Some of the views on our way out of Vila do Conde:

For the path, we knew right away there was bridge to cross into the next town called Azurara. Then we could sort of see on the guidebook map (which is way too high level to follow with any confidence and it rarely has street names) that we needed to then take a left for the Way that was all inland to Porto or a right for the Way that was all Coastal to Porto. Well I am sure you know where this is going – we went the Coastal Route and there were absolutely no Way markers to help us find our way. Now what?

Well when in doubt, go with your gut! A few times over the course of this trip Lana has said ‘let’s turn right’ – so that’s what we did! It hasn’t let us down so far and didn’t this time either. In about 40mins we found a marker or two. The markers were few and far between but we had the ocean directly to our right all day so that gave us all the compass we needed!

We soon started to see pilgrims coming the opposite / usual direction. Another welcome confirmation we are on the right route.

Some morning highlights:

At about 845am we walked through a tiny little village – the smell of coffee and cafe sounds brought us into this tiny, local cafe. We had wished for real breakfast but the cafe, in Portuguese fashion, only had sweets. So we shared this puff pastry, chocolate covered, custard filled cone of goodness. Wow and yum and wow! The place was full of mom’s and kids – we assume the mom’s getting their coffee fix before dropping the kids at school, and seems the kids were getting their morning candy fix. (I wish I had a pic of that pastry to show you – clearly I was too excited to eat it to pause for a photo opp.)

About 20mins later we were back on the Way. The sun was fully up now and it was hot. I was already considering when and how many times I would be putting on sunscreen – the pilgrim tan lines I have developed are not hot!

At about 1130 we stopped for lunch. As much as we loved our pasty it does not fuel the pace and distance we were walking. We found an awesome little place right on there beach:

We ordered a Somsersby (they have them everywhere here, like everywhere – Portugal has a Somersby addiction) and a famous Portuguese sandwich called the Francesinha. Basically a delicious combo of multi meats and cheese and special beer sauce on a bun. Wow! This one was a Francesinha Especial and included an egg. Brunch it is! (And yes that is the baggy of pepper I have been carrying around and using anytime we get eggs.)


Completely stuffed and relaxed an hour later, we got up to enjoy (aka wrangle and ramble instead of power walk) our last 18km into Porto. We were full but the weather was beauty, the coastline was magnificent and it was easy walking. We decided it was a good time for some headphone and tunes (audio book for me) to get going.

A few highlights of our afternoon:

At around 4pm we were really into Porto proper now. Our feet started to bark quite a bit louder from the cement boardwalks and cobble stones, and the number of people (insert not-paying-attention-cut-you-off-as-you-walk tourists here) were increasing quickly.

We were ready to hoof it to make the meet and greet with our Porto Air BnB contact, and then we saw this wee, old tram …

Well why wouldn’t ya?! We hopped the rickety tram and caught a ride the last 6km or so into old city centre in style. Well truth be told it was a very bumpy and jarring ride and as we were standing was not really a break on our feet, but it was an old fashioned tram in Porto and that’s awesome!



The tram conductor (I think that’s what he would be called) literally moved the big cable from one end of the tram to the other and flipped the seats to face the other direction at each end of the tram line – which went from the old Fort to the bottom of hill up into old city. So we got to stand at the back but in the other direction would be the front of the tram, and stage a little photo shoot of sorts!

We got off at the bottom of the massive hill into the old city centre, hoofed our way up to pick our bag up at the Hostel Invictus (were are not staying here just needed a place to send our bag forward to) then enjoyed a ‘cheers Camino complete’ glass of wine before meeting our Air BnB.

Wow here is our Air BnB in the middle, dead centre of the old city – we are so lucky! Here in Porto Lana gets the room and I get the futon – it’s this amazing studio and we love it.

We are here in Porto till Monday before making our way to Lagos by train. Expect a Porto blog post on Monday with a summary of what we already can feel will be an awesome city!

Porto look out, we are here!

Brande

Camino Portugal Coastal Route Begins

Yesterday was a horrible, no good, very bad day … we had to walk along beach after beautiful beach and enjoy endless sunshine here on the west coast of Spain. Tough, right?

We started what could be considered our fourth Camino yesterday, the Portuguese Way. We are not doing to full route which is from Lisbon to Santiago. But rather the costal portion only and in reverse. Walking from Vigo to Porto. As we get closer to Porto the weather will get warmer making our post Camino tourists days in Portugal that much better. We will be celebrating our Camino adventures with some days in Porto, Lagos and Lisbon before heading home to reality at the end of the month. Again, tough right?

The morning starting as usual – up around 7 and out the door of our home, Hotel Aquila, around 8. Leaving our extra duffel of the heavy stuff for transport. On this Camino we will be using Santiago Backpack Express and so far the owner of the company has just been so great helping is out!

Our Hotel was a real gem – super old but clean and had all the amazing original features. Check it out:

For breakfast we stopped at the Hotel Bafia Cafe right on the waterfront where the Camino begins. They didn’t really offer a hot breakfast but the waiter asked what we would want and said he could try and make it happen. He did! Cafe con leche; bacon and eggs and bread; and for breakfast dessert (yes that is a thing) chocolate and churros. This has been on my list to try while here in Spain – it’s a pretty standard breakfast here and I can see why. Delicious! Too much chocolate and not enough sugar and cinnamon, if you can believe that! I was pumped with sugar and ready to walk!

Oddly, once we did start out at around 10am, we couldn’t find any way markers for the route We decided we will just keep the water to our right side and stay as close to it as possible and eventually we will find the Camino arrows. We knew the little towns and milestones we needed to hit as per our very high level guide book, so that helped give us something to aim for. We are walking in reverse so do have to look back to find arrows and then do the opposite thing – but there was not an arrow to be found in The city of Vigo.

Our first hour was spent walking through the industrial, port area of Vigo which left much to be desired really. We powered through it as quick as we could to get it over with. Thumbs down for this section.

At about the 6th kilometer we came out of Vigo and into a little town called Bouzas and that is where the beauty of the Coastal route started to really show it self. Thumbs up!

Here are some highlights of our amazing, sunny, beachside or directly on the beach walk yesterday. I would say 15 of the 22kms was basically a dream!

We took a brief break mid-afternoon for some fruit and nuts from our pack. But by about 3pm a craving for a sea side cold one overcame us. You can only walk by that much beauty on your right and amazing cafes on your left before you give in to a ‘sit and sip by the sea’ moment.

That out of our system (for the day anyway), we made our way the final 4-5km into Nigran our new village for the night.

We are staying at the Albergue Pazo Pias which is an 1600s monastery of sorts refurbished into a type of hostel. Wow, amazing, maybe it’s haunted, how awesome, and cool! Check out the hallway and all me the first two words that come to mind? Starts with a colour and ends with an alcohol. Ha ha

We did our usual feet up for a bit and check in with the family on our safe arrival. Then out for a couple of drinks and some eats. Here in Spain during certain hours of the day, you get a wee tapa when you order a drink. Yesterday’s were super yummy!

We were back at the room for 900 to journal, social media and wind down for the night. Oh and full disclosure – this is a bit of a confessional. We were (ok I was) too hungry for the kitchens to open to get dinner. Here in Spain you cannot get a cooked meal between usually 3 and 8 sometimes even 9pm. The kitchen staff are off on siesta. So you either eat early or wait, which after walking all day can be tough to do. So we, no joke, had a pizza from Pizza Hut – yup Pizza Hut in Spain, first one we ever saw. It was so good! The crust and sauce are very different than home and way yummier (more fluffy and way more oregano and the cheese is so good). If it makes it any better, I did wash it down with a a Spanish red wine!?

Well that was yesterday and we loved it. Today we are up and at it for a 20km day walking from Nigran to Villadesuso. It is not as sunny today but this blondie is secretly happy for a little cloud cover once in a while (don’t tell Lana – she loves all out, hot hot hot sun).

Buen Camino!
Brande

PS We finally found some way marker arrows about 15km into our 22km day – let’s see if today is a little better!

Mucho Gusta Muxia

Yesterday Lana and I completed another one of the Camino trails with our waltz (ok maybe not quite that graceful) into Muxia, Spain! The other end of the death coast (Spain’s name for it, not mine) and the Camino.

The day was a long one at 30kms that ended up feeling much longer, likely due to the kilometres and kilometres of just barren forest track we walked through the whole afternoon. Beautiful for sure but you start to wonder if you are getting anywhere at all if there are no milestones to pass.

We started the day with a hot breakfast at the cutest little hippy breakfast place run by some nice Germans right in the centre of Finisterre near the water. Once filled up on coffee and eggs, at around 10am, we started walking.

Now getting out of Finisterre to walk to Muxia is not as well marked as these two pilgrims are used to. We had our bearings mostly correct and the help of a pilgrim who completed the journey in reverse just the day before to get us started. We were pretty happy to see the first ‘a Muxia’ shell way marker though to confirm we were heading in the right direction. With 30km to cover, you don’t want to waste energy and distance getting lost.

Some highlights from our morning walk – which did I mention was warm and beautiful and full of sunshine! A welcome change from the past few days of sogginess. Even when we kinda sorta lost then found our way, we didn’t mind it was sunny!

At about 12km into our day and around 12noon we came into a village called Lires. Here we stopped at a cafe called As Eiras for a cafe con leche to get us going for the last 18km. This would be the last village, cafe, water opportunity until we reached Muxia in another 18km. So we really, really enjoyed that coffee! I also particularly enjoyed it cause of the heart in my creamy foam!

After our pit stop, we walked /slogged that 18km on some pretty neat woodland paths featuring stone walls, some asphalt local roads but mostly spent our time on a forest track (think logging road). It was this barren track that had us feeling the miles on our feet. It was just never ending and most of it up. Also the wind was so strong up along the top of the hills that you were working twice as hard as usual against it to get anywhere!

Finally about 3pm we both felt like we should have been there already and we were starving. We stopped and sat on top of a stone wall and ate the sandwiches we had made the day prior and shared a tetra, individual to go box of wine in our Canada cups. Mmmm

Lunch in our bellies and our feet ‘rested’ we figured we had to have only a few km left in the day … or the guide book was wrong (for the first time ever) and this day was way more than 30km it said it was.

We had been sure for the last hour or more that the coast was just around the corner or just over the next hill. It wasn’t! But now for sure it had to be, had to be – my feet hurt lol. Well it was! Within minutes of leaving our lunch time wall, we could see the coast! Yahoo!

In just a couple kms we were checked into the lovely Albergue Da Costa with the above view, had our feet up and were checking in with family on our safe arrival. Wow what a place.

Later that evening we ventured down to the water’s edge to see the church, Camino milestone maker, and lighthouse. Below are some pics showing you just how beautiful it really all was. If you follow me on Instagram (@brandedavison) I also put up a 360video.

We wrapped up the evening with some eats … we thought we ordered pork chops with chips and we got pork n chips of sorts. Weird but so yummy! Like meat poutine without cheese and gravy – ok so not really like poutine at all. But yummers all the same.

Today we are off to bus and train to Vigo, Spain where we begin our Camino de Portuguese, Coastal Route tomorrow.

Buen Camino!
Brande

We See the Sea in Cee

Yesterday, Lana and I were back at it – moving along the Camino by our own two (well four) tired but happy to be on the trail feet.

We walked from Oliveroa to Cee. A go of 19kms or 30,465 Fitbit steps in a little less than 4hours. We had the pleasure (tongue in cheek) of either mist, rain or just plain old sogginess all day. It was our first day on the Camino where we had to wear waterproofs for the full walk. We have been at this Camino thing now for a couple weeks so that’s not too bad! No complaints.

We were up this morning at our usual time of about 7am with the rest of the hostel crew in our room of 12 near full bunk beds.

I was feeling more rested than the days prior thanks to my headphones that play literally the sound of a big electric fan running on repeat. White noise magic! Lana was a little less rested. A pilgrim in the bunk next to us was sawing logs like no one’s business. I turned up my white noise volume and Lana tuned him out – snoring not the problem. Turns out another pilgrim could not tune out the snoring and proceeded to snap loudly or clap from across the room trying to get the snorer to wake. But instead of waking the snorer actually just woke everyone else up. Not sure where they read that the snap/clap technique was a thing – cause it sure was not. You can tune out a consistent snore but not someone snapping and clapping loudly in small room at midnight. Too funny (well it is now, it was not late last night).

Any who, we were up and ready for our soggy day by 8 or so and enjoying breakfast (coffee, toast and bananas) in the cafe of our albergue. By 920 we had done our good morning social media stuff and we hit the trail. See ya later Casa Loncho of Oliveroa.

Boots on, packs covered, and waterproof jackets on we set out. We had pre-made some sandwiches for lunch but it looked like the sogginess of the day was going to prevent the vision of a picnic we had in mind. We threw them in my pack anyway of course and hoped for the best!

We were quickly out of our village and walking on a forest gravel road of sorts – up, down, across and up another river valley. The rain prevented much of a view and the fog hid the row of massive wind turbines that dot the ridge of the hills.

At the 4 or 5km mark we walked through the last couple of villages we would see before starting a barren stretch of approximately 12kms into Cee.

At one of these villages we learned about the ferocious Vakner said to haunt the woods we would be walking through – that’s great to know!? Where is my bear/Vakner spray? Do you act big with a Vakner like you would with a cougar? Or make loud noise and back away like a Bear? There was no Vakner tips in the guidebook.

With no reason to delay (besides being mangled by a Vakner) we got right to the barren stretch – it was foggy, humid, raining or misting (similar to a Scottish like mist) the whole time. We had our hoods up which makes it really difficult to have a conversation. So we just got up business!

While I couldn’t have my camera (aka iPhone) out much due to the rain, I was able to snap a few pics. The landscape was just awesome even in the rain. I can’t imagine how great it would look on a sunny day!

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Before long we were at the ‘distinct decent’ section that was described in our guide book. A long, big toe punishing hill that when over means you are in Cee.

Lana and I did an assortment of jogging, switchback, long stride and short stride hiking techniques to get down the hill while keeping our toes intact. Lana felt the jogging was her best bet and would often be 20-30 feet in front of me jogging almost out of sight in the thick fog. If she didn’t have her lime green cover on her backpack I am not sure I would have seen her at all. Seems the Vakner does not like jogging, so we not only got down the hill in great time and we also kept the beast at bay. Win, win!

All of a sudden we saw a road, some houses m, and if you squinted hard enough you could also see the sea in the distance. We had made it to Cee on the Sea!

We found our humble new home, Albergue Tequeron at the beginning of town and just a couple blocks from the harbour and a bunch of great cafes and checked in. The hostel lady greeted us with tea and cookies! Perfect after such a soggy day!

We were finally in a dry place. So decided to have that pre-made sandwich picnic we had planned for a sunny afternoon instead in our rain roof hostel terrace!

After that there wasn’t too much to do besides hang our stuff to dry, shower of the muddy mess that was on our legs (clearly kicked up by our amazing speed and agility on the muddy trail) and check our Cee from under the hoods of our rain jackets!

Well that ended up being a sit in a great pub and journaling, playing Camino-grams (a travelling version of Scrabble / Bananagrams of sorts that I made with paper and stamps before leaving home – too keep the weight down) and seeing what is happening in the world on iPad and iPhone. We love evenings like this!

We are up and at it again this morning with a walk to what is called Mile 0 of the Camino in Finisterre about 20km away. The forecast is 30% rain and 97% humidity… aka soggy but smiling!

Buen Camino!
Brande

Camino Numero 2 Begins

Yesterday we started our second Camino!

Now that we have our pilgrim’s certificate for the Camino Frances into Santiago – what better way to celebrate than doing another Camino out of Santiago.

So we started the Camino Finisterre / Muxia with our first day walking from the Santiago Cathedral to Negreria about 22km away yesterday. This Camino will finish on the coast instead of a cathedral. It is much shorter at just 116km or about 5 days walking than the Camino Frances which must be 100km by foot but can be as much as 800km (we did 235km).

Full disclosure – we look super tired in this photo! We had an awful sleep. Our fellow hostel peeps were up at all hours and the sound from the plaza outside was loud well into the night too – many people were done their Camino’s and on they way home the next day, so there were in full celebration mode. Very few are as outlandish (like less than 10%) as us and decide to keep on keeping on out to the coast another 100+km.

We stopped for breaky before even leaving Santiago and I will admit I didn’t stop at one cafe con leche yesterday morning. I had to have 2 right out of the gate … to get out of the gate! We also enjoyed some eggs and bacon which were especially tasty now that we had a secret stash of pepper in my back pack. Spaniards use salt only, maybe paprika it seems. Pepper is hard to find and when we did find it, it became a worthy enough item for carrying in my pack everyday!

After breakfast around 11am we started the Camino, here are some sights from our walk out of Santiago and before our afternoon break ….

The pre-break morning ended with a 2.8km climb up and out of one village and into another on first gravel or forest track then asphalt road. We did a little experiment to see how we would come out of from such a hill with a little pre and post hill selfie photo shoot. In the following order check out our pre-hill selfie, pics of the hill which does not do justice to just how steep this sucker really was, and post-hill selfie.

Why yes that post-hill selfie includes a vino blanco! After a hill like that we deserved a break and stopped in at a cafe called Poncho in the village of Transmonte. A wee, totally cute little cafe just 8km from our destination!

After a great rest of wine and chocolate (we read in a guidebook you should eat high energy food like chocolate on breaks – we take the guide books very seriously!), we headed out to finish our day and spend the evening in Negreria. I transition from socks to compressions again for this last stage. Helps the feet and looks quite fashionable!

Our final 8km into our town for the night was a great walk. We passed through a small village Ponte Maceira with a medieval bridge that was very cool.

We saw a few other interesting sights as we completed our walk for the day.

We arrived our next home Alcerin Albergue at around 400 ready for a nice evening of journaling, wine and pizza!

Off to Oliveroa now, just 33km away!

Brande

In Line for Santiago

Yesterday we made it to Santiago and were given these awesome bits of paper that prove we are pilgrims! Pilgrim!! Ok we already knew by the dust, sweat and blisters we had that status but something ‘official’ made it much more real somehow!

Our day began around 830am yesterday after alone, last morning – we had the hostel room all to our selves and that is such a novelty we couldn’t resist enjoying it. Most of the the pilgrims left before 6am to get to Santiago for the noon Mass in English, but walking 2 hours in the pitch back is not my idea of a good time. We also needed a bit of time on wifi so before we left we chilled in the hostel living room sipping instant coffee (well sugar, fake cream and only some coffee from the taste of it) for a vending machine. We would need a real coffee room to replace this taste from memory.

On our way we were pleasantly surprised that it had poured rain most of the night – everything was fresh and the chances it was going to rain on us decreased. We expected a lot of pilgrims this final day but there was a lot fewer than most days. It’s funny how we hate too many pilgrims on ‘our path’ but also want just enough to confirm we are going the right direction.

Our way out of town was delayed by a brief photo shoot with our pilgrimages’s spirit animal – the snail.

Before stopping for our first coffee (real coffee made by humans not machine), we had some great path to cover.

Just before 10am and at about 3.4km we were ready for our coffee and a little warm up – while not as cold as the day before, the air had a bit of a bite and the clouds were keeping us pretty mindful that it could rain or mist, at least, any time. We had our shells and pack covers at the ready.

Leaving Cafe Amenal, we continued forward with some caffeine in our shuffle and started to feel like we were getting close now. The path started to provide lots of little photo opportunities for pilgrims and people were asking other people and groups to snap their pics, which wasn’t the case on the trail till today. Some people say the Camino should not include technology, but I say let’s all remember it’s ‘the Way, your Way’. And as a scrapbooker there is no way I could leave my camera (aka phone) at home!

We stopped again around lunch (at about 9.5km into our 22km day) for a glass of wine and to eat the amazing sandwiches we had prepared the night prior. We had found a salad (quite literally) of the local Arzua cheese which is amazing creamy goodness – so added some meat and baguette for an awesome lunch!

Our timing was impeccable – while we were inside at Casa de Amancio it poured rain hard, like I mean buckets of rain, for about 20mins and then didn’t rain again for the rest of the day. Not sure how but my wine and sandwich tasted even better watching the rain cascade off the glass roof that I was under!

We continued on our way that afternoon, again seeing many more pilgrim associated monuments and structures than noticed in prior days.

Coming into Santiago on sore feet and walking through a regular, old city with the cathedral almost completely hidden by scaffolding and sheets was a bit anticlimactic. We knew this would be what to expect but you secretly wish for maybe a parade or a banner or a marching band least?

We snapped a few pics and then went and got on the 2hours + line up to get our pilgrim’s certificate. It was cold and our feet were sore and wow that line barely moved and no one got the ‘personal space is important’ memo but we happy to be there.

Finally with our pilgrim certificate in hand, and a need to get off here barking dogs we paused for a quick photo shoot and heading to our albergue for the night.

While relaxing in our room we enjoyed an awesome view of the cathedral from our window and some refreshments and snacks. It feels so good to arrive at your next home for the night – so we never rush the getting our bags sorted and beds set up process.



At around 730 we headed out to see the old city that surrounds the famous Santiago cathedral – what a beautiful place. To give our feet a break we decided to take a total tourist trap train around the city. Some good info and we were totally laughing at ourselves the whole time.



After our Chu-Chu ride about the city, it was after 9pm and we were starving for supper – oddly this is the time everyone eats supper in Spain so the restaurants were fun and busy. We found a great place without too long of a wait and enjoyed an amazing pilgrim’s meal!

So full and so tired, we heading back to our albergue, The Last Stamp, for a good night’s sleep.

Well the good night’ sleep didn’t exactly pan out, but we are up and at em again this morning anyway – this gal is drinking two coffees before we even hit the road! So tired but still so happy to be here.

Today we start our next Camino – 5 days to Fisterre and Muxia (the Spanish coast)!

Buen Camino!
Brande

Santiago Shuffle

Boom baby! Longest day yet on the Camino complete with smiles and jokes still in play! We walked from Palas de Rei to Arzua yesterday – a mere 29.4km or 44,635 Fitbit steps over 8hours that may or may not have included a beer / wine and French fries stop!

The day began at about 7am as our hostel came to life with all the pilgrims excited or nervous perhaps to get their day started! We are close to Santiago now with most finishing within the day and you can feel a difference in the energy.

After leaving our extra duffel with the heavy stuff in the designated mochilla (backpack) pick up spot we hit the path. It was get it a ride to Arzua – we were walking it.

There was a local restaurant that bragged of their churros and chocolate (a Spanish breakfast treat) that I was keen to give a try. Well turns out they didn’t have any yesterday morning. Boo! So we moved on to another cafe – but my churro hunt continues!

We ended up in La Pulperia Cafe / Bar just blocks away and loved it. The bartender and waiter were high energy and they had the most amazing and massive Croissant Napoletana (aka chocolate croissant) and steaming hot cafe con leche for us! We added a banana to make it healthy of course.

With a coffee and chocolate spring in our step we headed out of town and towards our destination of Arzua!

The path was great today – easy under foot as the guidebook said with lots of short ups and downs to keep the muscles limber. It was a bit cloudy in the morning but warm when the wind was down, so pretty perfect walking weather. Here are some highlights pre-afternoon break:

We were delayed slightly by a wee farmer moving his cow crew from one pasture to another … seems a regular occurrence based on this happening two days in a row and the vast amount of dried ‘stuff’ on the path!

Oh and again delayed by an impromptu and of course very important photo shoot …

Finally at about 1230pm and 20km in we hit an awesome cafe called El Aleman in Boente. It was a great little place with lots of pilgrims and energy and the coldest, best tasting beer and vino blanco (white wine) we ever had – not to mention the fries!

After some proactive foot care and some much needed sunscreen for me (wow the sun is baking hot here), the afternoon continued with some great sights and a few tough slogs as the kms started to add up and the temp kicked it up a notch!


By 430 we were at our great hostel Via Lactea in Arzua and getting freshened up for dinner out. We threw some laundry in so had to chill at a bar across the street while we waited for the washer to complete (hard life I know!) and couldn’t resist another photo shoot and to try the local Arzua cheese!


One of my favourite things to watch during our post walk pint is the Santiago Shuffle as we have named it … the way pilgrims walk, shuffle, limp, drag their bodies about for an evening meal after they have showered and start to feel just how sore they and their feet are from the say’s walk. Makes my Santiago Shuffle a little less noticeable or at least normal! Haha

Once the laundry was hung to dry, we headed out to find some supper. Lead astray by the tourist information guy, we added a couple extra kms to our day before finding Le Churreria for our interesting pilgrim’s supper!

We started with bread and white wine, then you pick a first plate or starter. I chose Arroz de Cubana (which we now know means rice with tomato sauce, 2 fried eggs and some miniature hotdogs) and the dried ribs and chips for plate 2 or the main course. Lana started with lasagna and then finished with spicy pork and chips. We both got cheesecake and coffee too, and a bottle of wine (to share). The food was interesting if not good and way too after such a hot and long day – we were both tired and looking forward to our beds truth be told.

Back at our humble abode we discovered this hostel was not as good as we hoped. There are only half walls between each of the rooms and the hallway – do any pilgrim going to the bathroom, talking, snoring, laughing or even rolling over in the squeaky wooden bunk beds was in stereo. Yikes. We we both up till 11 which was a couple hours later than usual for us pilgrims and up early this morning due to the cacophony of alarms and backpack sounds that prevented sleep beyond 5am-ish.

The life of a pilgrim is an interesting one – you go with the flow mostly but do create your own when you can. So this morning we are up with the flow but will take our steps, our Way today and that hopefully includes chocolate and churros!

We will check in from Pedrouzo in 20km!

Buen Camino!

Brande