Tourists Dressed as Pilgrims

Well yesterday was a tourist day! While we still had the pilgrim shuffle, clothes and packs; we decided to take the day and be tourists.

We didn’t get to see any of Viana de Costa after coming in so late and tired the day prior. Sad thing. We had heard from many pilgrims that it is one of the nicest cities on the Portuguese Coastal Route. So we decided to strap our hiking shoes to our packs and instead venture around the city of Viana in sandals before making our way by bus to Esponsende. Our new home for the night and the start of today’s walk.

Wow are we sure glad we did!

Our day started with breakfast and a reminder of how wonderful the people of Portugal are. We were invited into this tiny cafe by the most sweet little old grandma for breakfast. They really only eat pastries for breakfast here and we were looking for something beyond a sweet. She personally made us coffee and a ham and cheese bun sandwich (so fresh and good) and then also gave us some traditional pastries to try as dessert. Ironically she gave the very pastry we were talking about wanting to try just minutes before. Custard / creek brûlée in a puffy yet chewy pastry shell. Mmm We were the only ones in the cafe and she was so sweet!

Next, we took the cool little elevator trolley car thing up the huge hill in the middle of the city center to see the city from and coast line from a birds eye view and check out this massive church.

Funny as we made our way up in a normal elevator to get to the street that has this trolley elevator an old wee man joined us. He simply rode up with us to ask if we are pilgrims,how far we are walking, where we are from, etc. we assumed he was just in the elevator by chance. Nope when we got off he took it back down and wished is a good journey. He simply wanted to know more about us and say good luck.


The church at the top was a temple and monument to Santa Luzia and it was very impressive! We could see it for a long long time in the distance as we walked into Viana the day prior, so it was neat to check it out!




Before we went into the church, Lana was held up by some wee grandma who was rubbing her arm talking about the Camino and pilgrim and her poor feet. All in Portuguese so only a few words were understood.

Next we ventured though the small, winding, character streets of the city center that have all these little shops and cafes, amazing tiles and iron work, and just feel so different than our streets back home in Canada.

We enjoyed a super yummy lunch sitting at a wee baby table on one of these side streets. We don’t understand all the words on a menu so find something we think we know and get that. Today we got ‘pork meat’ and it came with salad and chips and rice and a bun. I appreciate how seriously these great people take their carbs and starches!

Then made our way to the bus station behind the below gorgeous old train station for a 3pm bus to Esponsende. Prior to boarding the bus, the very nice man who gave us the bus timetable earlier that day came to the platform to confirm for us that we were getting on the right bus!

By 4pm we were in our new city of Esponsende checking into the really great Hostel Eleven.

We dropped our packs, checked in with the family on our arrival then headed out to see what this city has to offer.

Before leaving we asked the hostel guy to help us arrange bag transport for us, from Esponsende to Vila do Conde. It’s been tough every day to get someone to move our extra bag. Yesterday we couldn’t final a single company or person willing which was a big part of our decision not to walk. Well Hostel Elevan was amazing and they worked our a deal with a local transport company to move our pack for us as an exception to the services they provide for just 10 euros. Deal. What was so easy to arrange on the St James Camino is a real struggle here on the Portugal Coastal away, especially walking backwards!

That done and dealt with, we ventured out into the central city of Esponsende.

We wrapped our day up with some red wine and homemade pasta in our hostel kitchen. I hate cooking usually but when you have been eating out all meals on most days it feels so good to prepare what you eat! Also all this for 7 Euros plus an apple and cookies for a trail side snack tomorrow is a price we can’t resist!

By the way – that big plate of cheese and bread and chorizo isn to make sandwiches for it walk today.

Just prior to making this meal, we saw the three pilgrims we crossed the ferry into Caminha with a couple days again show up in a taxi. We weren’t the only ones who suffered the day before and had to skip some or all of yesterday’s walk as a result. Ouch!

We are heading out now to walk 25km to our next home, Vila do Conde.

Buen Camino!
Brande

Finding Viana de Costelo

Yesterday was a tough day on the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route. Perhaps tough is not a strong enough word to be honest. Many challenges for the patience, a happy outlook, desire to keep walking, find the way, and overall for the body!

We started the day without any idea of how we would get our extra bag forward to Viana de Costelo our new home for the night. Sending ahead our heaviest stuff had turned the days into walks from slogs on the uphill, hard downhill and rough terrain. Further it had made a huge difference in the what could have been a Camino ending blister situation for Lana. So we were keen to keep what was working for us, working for us!

Santiago Backpacker Express advised late the evening prior they couldn’t find anyone at all to move our bag and had been trying all avenues, all day. They suggested we ask reception in our hostel. So we did but the guy was new and didn’t know about transport. He said I could ask the guy that comes on at midnight. Well I haven’t seen midnight for weeks so I though I could just ask in the morning. Oops. In the morning no one spoke any English and we couldn’t communicate effectively in my bare minimum unpracticed Portuguese. So we instead went to Tourist Info when it opened. Turns out they can not help at all with Camino stuff (very different than our experience in Spain) and suggested a travel agency. If we couldn’t get help at the agency, we were staring down the barrel of a 30 Euro taxi for our bag.

Well the Camino provides again! We walked across to the travel agent. Turns out that guy has a friend who could help – he called the friend right then and there, and made arrangements for us for 7 Euros. He actually asked if 7 Euros was ok as if it was too steep – we were like totally ok! We had been paying 15-20 Euros each day since the Portuguese route began. In Spain it was only 3 or 4 Euros so this was requiring some budget adjustment.

With a bounce in our step, we returned to our home Arca Nova to pack and mark the transport bag then get going on our 30km route to Viana. The friend would pick it up from Arca Novel Hostel and deliver it to our new home Zimbrio Guest House. Yahoo!

The day started out great. We had a good idea of where the path was and the guide book we had seemed it might be relatively helpful this morning. This sadly has not really been the case on this Camino, especially following it backwards. We are walking away from Santiago not to it as most pilgrims do and the guidebook and way markers are designed for walking to Santiago.

We had to largely guessing how to make it through the above forest path due to some really confusing way markers and no clear path. The pine needles cover any path that might have been obvious but they are so spongey and nice walk on you forgive them. Well this ‘largely guessing’ concept became the theme of the walk from there on in …. mixed in with very few but welcome moments of path clarity.

Soon, fog rolled in big style and for the following few hours we couldn’t see far enough ahead to know what we were aiming for, see any markers, sometimes see any humans at all. Further they were doing these what will be updates to the waterfront infrastructure – and seems they may have been replacing many of the posts and structures that used to have way markers!

At many points we had to simply walk the beach and search for the next place we could get on solid ground, beach boardwalk, or even some kind of path. What’s the problem, that sounds glorious right? The idea is better than the reality. The sand here is thick, thick, thick. Every step was tough especially in shoes (which you have to keep on as you have blister bandaids on your feet) and with a pack of 15lbs or so. We didn’t have any water fill up opportunities yesterday so we were carrying the max we could – that means heavy.

Add to the fact that you had no idea if you were walking to something or would have to turn back and Retrace those hard earned steps. It was beautiful in an eerie, desolate way to be honest but starting to get on our confidence. You couldn’t see the water most of the time, just hear it crashing.


(I have a short video up on my Instagram account @brandedavison if you want to see the fog and water as we saw it.)

After a couple hours of this pea soup, guessing game intermixed with some weird forest paths which maybe weren’t even paths of the Camino but rather some random dirt roads filled with flies buzzing about and all over our faces – we were done. We headed absolutely perpendicular from the beach inland to just find a damn road to walk on. Done! Done! Done!

Well again the Camino provides. As we were walking away from the coast walk to find a new way, we came across some very old markers and again found our Way. No joke! And the fog started to clear making it possible to see the ocean and find the next marker with a heck of a lot more ease.

Our afternoon ….

Wow what a night and day difference or should I say morning and afternoon difference!

At about the 30km mark we came into Viana waterfront area. We were up against the clock a little now as we needed to meet the reception person at our place to stay at 5pm and it was after 4. We still had 3+ km to cover, hadn’t seen a way marker in ages and again the map in the guidebook was not helpful. We thought we could cover the distance in the time and set out following the coast as best as the book suggested. Well turns out we walked a dead end, break water. There is another 2+km we didn’t need to walk. Doh!

So back to where we first came into Viana, a quick call to the reception lady to say we would be a little late, and we literally followed Apple Map Directions to find our home for the night. Still a couple of kilometers away but that’s nothing compared to the 30+ we clocked already. Also, who cares if I was eating our international data plan up to use Maps – we needed to get there before the smiles on our faces were totally gone for the day!

We got close. I ended up having to ask a wee grandpa for help. Now here is amazing …instead of giving us directions, he closed his shop (literally locked the front door) and walked us the block to the Zimborio Guest House. Wow! He did make a comment about it taking more time to explain the directions than to walk us. Ha ha. Maybe it was my Portuguese or maybe he sensed we had been directionally challenged all day!?

Finally in our new home for the night, we were greeted by the most lovely lady and shown around. There were other rooms for rent but no one else had rented – so we had this amazing little home to ourselves for the night! It was across from cafes and a plaza and more. Also within 20mins of arriving the ‘friend of the travel agent’ dropped off or bag so we got to thank him personally for the favour.

We took a couple hours to have showers, put our aching feet up, enjoy not having to walk or be lost, and overall recover from a tough day physically and mentally.

We then headed out to grab some much needed eats (we didn’t have lunch today – just an apple and some candy as we walked). Directly across the wee skinny European style street from us we found Caffe Liz which had amazing wine and sangria and these so tasty open toasted sandwiches and fries. Wow!!

An awesome finish to a hard won day! We talked though the challenges of the day with some laughs and the start of being able to laugh at what a gong show it was.

Now what do we do today after yesterday’s challenges? So we walk the 24km that is all inland and not on the coast at all to Esponsende our next destination? Or give these feet and our brains a break and enjoy this amazing Viana city we didn’t even get to see yesterday and then bus to Esponsende? Hmmm

Buen Camino!
Brande

Portuguese Camino now in Portugal

We are officially, for real, finally, super excited to now be in Portugal! We walked from Villadesuso to A Guarda and then we hopped a ferry to Caminha, the port city of Portugal.

We arrived yesterday after a 20km walk on mostly amazing trails or forest tracks along the coast line. Only a few kms on the highway path overall, an awesome change from the day prior. Here are some highlights:

We powered through the day in hours – likely because of our lazy, more than one coffee, amazing breakfast that was included in our hotel room cost the night prior.

We have been at this ‘walking / pilgrimage’ thing now for a while and 20km is peanuts to these legs and feet! So much so our pilgrimage spirt animal the snail may now just be an ironic mascot. Nonetheless, he was out cheering us on big time yesterday!

We hit A Guarda in about 3hours. Once there, we decided to head straight for the ferry port to meet our water taxi when he arrived in a couple hours. We were sure there was a pub or cafe at the port and we had pre-made some yummy cheese sandwiches (mine where cheese and jam) for our lunch. While walking though town we snapped a few pics of the good stuff. The first pic below is their public library – wow!

Our plan to go to Caminha, Portugal on a Monday was rather not well timed. Turns out the only day the ferry between A Guarda in Spain and Caminha in Portugal does NOT run is Mondays. Come on! What are the chances!

So the night prior I had posted a plea on a Camino de Santiago form I belong to on Facebook called Camigas. Basically women helping other women plan, pack, walk, and reminisce about their pilgrimages. Within minutes of posting ‘help’, I had a host of replies from these awesome ladies. One even had a picture of a poster from an Albergue that advertised who you could call if the ferry was not running to get a water taxi of sorts.

So I called some guy named Mario in Caminha who had a boat and arranged for a 4pm pick up by his brother, in a red boat, from the dock A Guarda where the ferry usually is. I think I did anyway. He spoke Portuguese. I have learned only the most basic Portuguese which does not include arranging nautical transport to another country. We both spoke only some Spanish. Disaster! Well turns out the plan with Mario was doomed from the get go – Portugal is an hour earlier than we were in Spain. Oops, who knew! So did we arrange for his 4pm or my 4pm?

Down at the dock hoping for the best and that Mario would show up – especially after we came across three other pilgrims who also didn’t know the ferry does not run on Monday’s and needed to cross and invited them with us and Mario’s brother. A troop of cyclists (pedal bike) from a tourist group showed up. A whole host of them, like 25-30 bikes. Turns out they rented the ferry to cross and we could join them if the ferry people agreed. What!? Yahoo!

So we boarded the ferry with the tour group and paid just 1 Euro to cross each. Mario’s brother was charging us 5 Euros each. We were not the only ones to hitch a ride either – the other three pilgrim’s did and a few cars drove on as well. Hilarious! How do you even go about renting a ferry in the first place!? One of the phrases you hear a lot on the Camino is ‘the Camino provides’ … it sure does!

I called Mario once onboard and let him know (I think) that we don’t need him, don’t need boat, have boat, but thank you. Hopefully he got the message and didn’t come across for us. I had talked to the women who works at the bar by the ferry station and she knew Mario. She would have seen us board and maybe called him too. What a place!

Good bye Spain, we had fun:

Hello Portugal, so excited to meet you:

Once docked and we had walked the few short blocks into the old city center we were in love with Portugal! The houses were that classic European style all close together with amazing doors and instead of paint, most homes were tiled on the outside. Amazing. We went crazy photographing the houses, the tile, the doors!

We settled into our new home for the night Arca Nova, did some laundry (you do this a lot when you only have a few items each) and then ventured the town for the evening! We enjoyed those sandwiches we had made for lunch for dinner instead.

We now say goodbye to Arca Nova and Caminha and make our way the 28km to Viana de Costelo.

Buen Camino!
Brande

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

Loncho, No Poncho

Yesterday was a ‘get out of jail for free’ day on our Camino to Finisterre / Muxia, Spain …

What is that? Well, before leaving Canada, Lana and I agreed we each get one ‘get out of jail for free’ day. Basically we each get one day where we can say “neither of us walks tomorrow, we get to our planned destination together but not solely by our feet”. Lana played her card yesterday and so today instead of walking the 33km from Negreria to Oliveroa, we bussed from Negreria to Baines and walked just 8km to Oliveroa.

As of tomorrow we are on the coast when we walk which is something we are both super excited about. The most excited about of all things in the pilgrimage. So to give Lana’s feet the best chance at being able to walk the costal days, skipping one last and very long land lubber walk was in order. I am sad not to walk but my body is not complaining about the break and we made the day a great one in usual Lana and Brande fashion.

Truth be told, I have been plagued with bug bites every day that are swollen, sore and itchy and heat rash on my feet and some kind of blistering rash on my ankle. So perhaps everything happens just as it should on the Camino and this ‘get out of jail free’ card could have also been mine to play.

So here was our yesterday …

At 9am this morning we left our humble little home in Negreria, Albergue Alcerin. The owner was just the most helpful fellow ever with directions and bags and everything. He saw Lana shiver and immediately showed her where the extra blankets were and turned on the heat – the rest of us suffered but Lana was finally warm! This morning we woke to find all the power out, he was quickly on top of it and so apologetic. Definitely a great hostel in Negs.

We made our way to the bus stop just a couple blocks away and waiting for the bus that comes ‘about 9,930 or 10’ to spirit us to Baines. We were not the only pilgrims waiting – a 33km day is a tough one especially with a full pack and he forecast of rain, rain and rain.

About 30mins later we were dropped off in a baby road side village of Baines. We were pleasantly surprised to find a pharmacy (more blister bandaids for Lana, more bug stuff for me) and a little supermarket (a litre of wine in a Tetra pack – lighter than a bottle – and some tomato sauce for our pasta dinner). We also found a little cafe and accidentally had a yummy cafe con leche before heading out of town.

While walking we giggled at the weird prices here in Spain. An amazing coffee is 1.50 euros each (and came with free breakfast tapas), our 30 bus ride was 2.95 euros each but somehow a litre of wine and a container of pasta sauce was only 1.95 euros. We don’t have to understand to appreciate the approx 2 euros it would cost each of us for our homemade dinner tonight at the hostel when you add up all the ingredients. Yahoo deals!

The 8km walk was uneventful and unexciting – well the only 8km part was exciting for our bodies! It was along a secondary highway so we had to step into the ditch area a few times when big trucks and tractors passed but other than that just walk till yah get there.

We arrived at Casa Loncho around 1pm and of course carried on our tradition of toasting the day with a yummy cervaza con limon (beer with lemon cordial in it – a Spanish Radler of sorts) and some patatas fritas!

The rest of the day was quite literally spent, soaking up the sun, relaxing, journaling, laughing at our pics and adventure to date – sitting outside the pub at our hostel. We were told rain but heck no – it was 20C and awesome!

Around 5pm we ventured to the ‘kitchen’ the hostel makes available for pilgrims … aka mouse house. Oh yes, a wee mouse kept poking his head out at us wondering when we would leave so he could eat up our crumbs. Cute and gross haha

We made ourselves a penne, tomato sauce, fried garlic and chorizo sausage dinner with some baguette and white wine – all for a well spent 5euros (hey Shar that is the best 5bucks I ever spent!)

After dinner we took a little walk to take some pics of the local area.

Then it was showers, get our stuff ready for our 21km walk to Cee this morning – and for me catching up on some journaling and sketching.

We are now stepping out the door on a very rainy day. Check in from Cee!

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

Pedrouzo Please

Yesterday was our easiest day yet on the trail, from Arzua to Pedrouzo in about 20km and just under 30,000 FitBit steps.

We had all day and not much trail to cover so we took our time and just enjoyed every bit of the Way.

Up at 630am when our hostel roomies started packing up their gear. How they got up so early after going to bed (aka turning out the light) at midnight in our room, will never know. I am a pumpkin by 9am and dog tired when I wake these days. These other pilgrims have figured something out I haven’t yet – was there a memo? Regardless I was up and excited to say goodbye to our hostel and hello to the trail!

We were on the path by a few mins after 8am and pleasantly surprised to see we had clear skies and a beautiful full moon still in view before the sun broke the horizon. Wow!


We couldn’t resist a village side stand selling bananas and other fresh fruit first thing in the morning to tide us over to our first coffee. Sometimes things are just too cute and perfect to pass up!

As the path climbed up those clear skies turned into either fog or maybe we were actually walking in a cloud – not sure which. In any case the fogginess made it hard to see much beyond the next 20-30 steps on the trail and dropped the temp from the expected 17C in the morning to 8C. We were freezing but it was beautiful so we loved it.


Around 1015am At the first awesome cafe we saw Casa Calzada in A Calzada (approx 9.4 km into the day) we popped in for our breakfast. It was only outside seating so we were super cold but a hot cafe con leche and breakfast tastes delicious no matter where and how! Mmmm



We didn’t daly to long. We were up and on the trail as soon as we finished, but wow it was cold. Now our fingers were cold and we were talking about how we will want this temp back when the cloud and fog does clear and we are roasting all afternoon.

Still chilled and in no rush, we decided another coffee was in order to chase the chills away. At Lino Cafe and just 1.5km later we had another coffee. Both of us cradling the cup like a heating pad for our fingers. We found it particularly amusing that the napkins in this second cafe featured a snail cartoon – perfect, today was a snail day for us for sure!


Finally warmer inside and more alert with 2 coffees in us, we were strolling with a spring in our step. In fact, we walked right though the fog lifting and the sun coming out and right into Pedrouzo arriving at about 130pm.

Before heading to the hostel to check in we stopped to toast a great day with our first Sangria this region boasts. We found an amazing cafe called Taste the Way! What a place, offers food and drink from all the regions of the Camino – we loved it. Oh and wow Sangria here is like sweet grape juice – doesn’t taste a thing like wine like it does at home. But we both know it is and some Brandy so we kept it to one glass or these wobbly legs would be eve wobblier.

We also added the Cheeses of the Way to our celebration and ate cheese, apples, nuts, rustic bread and Sangria for the afternoon. Delicious!


The rest of the day was spent sitting in the sun relaxing, journaling, and just enjoying not walking. Here are a few highlights from our afternoon and evening …

We went back to The Taste of the Way for dinner and enjoyed an awesome pilgrim’s meal with some local food choices. I could not resist trying the backed Scallop the Camino Way – the scallop shell is the symbol of the Camino. Delicious! Bread crumbs, cheese, ham and scallop.

Well that was yesterday and now we are off to begin today’s walk to Santiago, another pleasant 20km. For many people this is the end, for us it’s the end of this Camino St Frances and the start of our Camino Finisterre/Muxia!

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