Friday, May 4, 2018

Camino Portuguese - Day 23 - Santiago de Compostela

13 km. Still a few km of nice walking. Arriving at the cathedral before 11 am after second cup of coffee/cake.
Walked most of the way with Beate (Poland) I met yesterday at Teo.
The new pilgrim office I hate, security check outside and an hour queue before getting my compostela. I will forgo the compostela and also the wait if it wasn't that a few years ago they change the design of the compostela. I may as well collect this new design. This is getting too commercial. The compostela is free but if you want to add the route and total km where you start it is 3 extra euros for another certificate. Forget it.
The outside of the cathedral is very clean after the renovation. Preferred  the dirty look. Also the Portico of Glory is closed for renovation.
I get to say hi to Jimmy (St James) and also for all that asked me to hug his statue for them. Not sure if the botafumeiro (the huge incense ball) will be swinging for the mass later. Already seen it so can skipped that.
Of course things are overpriced here at the destination. As I won't be staying overnight I need to leave my backpack (they don't allow pilgrims to carry their backpack into the cathedral anymore). There seems to be more and more restrictions over the years. It's 2.5 euros for backpack storage. Not that I have a choice as I have a overnight bus to Madrid and don't want to carry the backpack everywhere. It's 1.2 km to the bus station to buy the tickets. That will be an additional 3.6 km (to, back and to again) today.
Oliver did an over 40 km yesterday to Santiago and is there to greet me today. He left on the bus to Finisterre so we said our goodbyes. Both mother and child from Denmark and Germany arrives also today. Aurelius from Brazil too. He celebrates his birthday tomorrow, I apologize I won't be there. You bump into people all the time in Santiago, those you met along the way.
Finally it's 23 days and 650 km? Lisbon to Santiago de Compostela on the Camino Portuguese.
Memories and new families that I  may get to see again in the future.
Time to sign off. Pilgrim mode off.....

Not sure if there will be another Camino soon. If so, the blog will be alive again.

Camino Portuguese - Day 22 - Teo (O Faramello)

23 km today. Cold and cloudy but no rain. All three layers the whole day. Right now at the 13 km mark in a private albergue, 12 euros and you pay for all other drinks and food. The next available spot is either the municipal albergue half km further or expensive hotels at the 6 km mark. The German mom and daughter will be there. I think 6 km is too close as it is practically the suburbs of Santiago. The Danish mom and son came in an hour after me. Meanwhile, while resting having a drink outside Olivier passed. He said he was crying (intense joy) earlier. The Camino can sometimes do that to people. He stayed yesterday at Caldas de Reis and hated the rain, his lodging, the town. The rain yesterday was like in Brittany and I joked that he had come to Spain to get the exact weather as back home. The misty sticky kind of rain that gets in everywhere. He said he had to walk fast ahead of the other walkers, poor guy. He wants to be in Santiago today, that will be past 40 km for him. Maybe it is for the best since he is already in an emotional charged state.
For me the first 10 km to Padrón today was absolutely great. Nobody but me along the route. As long as I stayed between yesterday's and today's horde, I don't see any crowd, and just a pilgrim here and there after Padrón. In Galicia the cemetery are always with the church and stacked like multi-layer bunk beds.
Had some food at a weird establishment before Padrón. Hippie style with pressed coffee the owner was very proud of kimd of crappy for me. He said he sourced it from Brazil when he was travelling there. Just eggs, bread with some salsa type sauce and he wanted 6 euros. Too late
It was a wise strategic decision yesterday. Doesn't matter anymore tomorrow with just 13 km to go. Half of that distance will still be nice walking at least according to my map.
Padrón which I passed at noon was allegedly the place where the stone ship carrying St. James landed if you believe the legend. How his body was discovered coincidentally 700 years later in Santiago de Compostela right after Spain was overrun by the Moors and he became the inspiration of reconquest seems mighty suspicious. This is one of the disciple of Jesus we are talking about. Still, the historic, religious, cultural, political and military impact cannot be undermined.
Pretty soon this private albergue was packed (at least in my room with 12 beds) and more in the next level. Mainly Germans speaking pilgrims (they seems to know one another), the Danish mom and son William and Elsbeth and an old Dutch couple in the late afternoon. I am going to have an early dinner (just the lady who runs this place cooking) and retire.
So cold the wind and the stone building albergue, the outside temperature barely rises above 12 degrees.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Camino Portuguese - Day 21 - O Cruceiro

27 km. It rained the whole day and even into the early evening. The weather for tomorrow is supposed to be clear.
Didn't take many pictures today, also due to the wet weather. Maybe a typical stone bridge crossing a stream which is typical here in Galicia. With so much rain in Galicia they are well versed in engineering their path and crossing to minimize muddy trails.
Today's stop at Caldas de Reis at 22 km is a bit short, and to beat the crowd I decided to go further. It would be best to add another 8 km but the only place is 5 km at O Cruceiro. The rest are either too far or municipal albergue. At Caldas de Reis I went into a phone shop to get a Spanish SIM as my Portuguese one had been dead for the last 2 days (no roaming?). The Spanish one (1 Gb), 5 euros. Nice to be connected even when walking. Took a long time for the lady to register with my passport. In Portugal they didn't even asked for my identification. Even more important job for the new SIM is to make a call ahead to the hostal 5 km further to make sure they have a room. If not, I would have to stay in Caldas. Yes, they have. My plan had work. This way I will also miss the horde of pilgrims walking the standard stage tomorrow. Even the weather helped today as the rain has delayed most of them to start walking this morning. I had encountered few pilgrims this morning.
The 5 km after Caldas de Reis after 1 pm I only crossed path with only 2 ladies from Germany. They ended up in the same hostal as me in O Cruceiro.
This is the first time in the past 3 weeks that I have my very own room with a bathroom. Such luxury that I reserve for today since Olivier is way ahead, didn't see anyone I met before around me, Josie already said yesterday she will get her own room in Caldas today and to stay off the regular stage the main options are basically pension and hostals. No reason not to pamper oneself so close to the end. 😁
In the evening I chatted with the two ladies before the late dinner at 8 pm (ah, Spain). They are mother and daughter walking the camino. I told them about the Danish son and mother walking and in less than 5 minutes William and Elsbeth appeared. Talk about coincidence. They had ended up in the same hostal! The five of us eating our dinner together.
The Danes are staying tomorrow at Teo and the Germans at Milladoiro a few km ahead and 5 km before Santiago. Earlier when I checked in, I was debating on whether to make the last 36.5 km from here in just one day. Now after the encounter maybe I should take it easy and stay another day in either of the place. I'll decide tomorrow....

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Camino Portuguese - Day 20 - Pontevedra

30-31 km. Long day. Problem with sleeping in a municipal albergue is the number of people in the room . It's bound to have a snorer or two, maybe three (above me). At 6:30 am I couldn't take it anymore and started walking before 7 am. That's the cost of not staying at a private albergue with just a few people in the room. Or a solo room for more (that I will reserve for Santiago and/or the day before). It's not that I have a choice at Mos (the municipal.albergue is the only choice there). I should have walked the extra 9 km to Redondela instead. All is not bad though, as by doing so I missed the crowd of pilgrims today walking the last 100 km, first with the early departure then after Redondela only the back markers. Like Camino Frances the last 100 km has many what I called Tourgrims. Those that walk with little or nothing (all their stuff are send to their end of day hotel). Have to pay for such luxuries, but then it is only 5 days' worth.
So bloody cold in the morning (just a few degrees) when I started walking so early around daybreak. Had my hoody on to keep as much heat in as possible. By 11 am it is warm enough to drop both layers and walk with only one layer, but still needing to be indoor at the cafe stop. Spring is late this year. Sigh.
Breakfast 3 km before Redondela at a cafe/private albergue. If I had known I would have walk just 6 km more yeaterday as the two (German and Dutch) at the cafe having their breakfast said that they were the only two. Too late for me.
The walk in the cold daybreak I saw two interesting animals. A cat that pops out from the village vending machine bottom hold suddenly (could be warm in there). A solo rabbit (reminded me of the horde of rabbits after Valencia on the Camino Levante).
After Redondela and mid-point to Pontevedra is the bridge in Arcade. It's the end of one of the five fingers of land in Galicia, one of them being the Cape Finisterre where some pilgrims walk for another three days after Santiago to visit the end of the road/world (before Columbus).
Finally in Pontevedra after 3 pm. Saw Josie from Canada. She booked herself earlier during lunchtime a hotel and I helped here navigate there from my app. As for myself, I can't see myself booking in advance (also with no cell signal in Spain). I tried the pilgrim hostels/pension from my map overlay. Being late (extra distance today) all the hostels are full except Slow City Hostel (funny name). I got the last bed in their albergue styled room (their private rooms are all taken). 6 beds, 4 russian ladies and an American (here for holiday, but works in Madrid). Funny to be only male in the room. It's not what you think, half of the russian ladies are the type that can pinned you down in a strangle hold in a second.
While looking for dinner bumped into David (Portugal) and Hermione  (or whatever is the equivalent in Lithuanian). Met them first at the albergue in Ponte Lima. They are a couple doing many trips. David is the one well versed in the history in Malacca and Asia. They offered me some of rheir torilla and told me that the municipal albergue is also full. They probably walk another 8 km as there is another municipal albergue there too. It's going to be late for them. As least they are young and more able. Also Olivier showed up. Not sure where he is staying, he got in early as he started from Redondela today. He complained about the hordes of walkers today and will probably do the same tomorrow as he did today (walk fast enough to get ahead of the horde). I won't have the same condition or luck tomorrow as I did today as my pace cannot be fast due to my condition. Maybe I could walk longer than the 22 km stage tomorrow to Caldas de Reis. I still won't be able to avoid them on the road tomorrow but at least I may have a better chance of getting a bed if I go off from the standard stage. We shall see.
The bridge in Pontevedra is relatively new. The ancient one a small excavated section that can be seen before the current bridge. The current bridge has the Santiago claim shell insignia along the side. I will cross it tomorrow.
It's May day (Labor day) today. Day of labor protest here in Europe.
I can even hear the sound of car horns and loudhailers while walking in the woods. Shops are not open as it is a public holiday. Looks like I have to get my Spanish SIM card tomorrow maybe at Caldas de Reis, and not between 2-5 pm. Ah, the restrictive time in Spain.
The hostel has free Nespresso type coffee (the cheaper Nestle variant). And plastic food (Spain has lots of small cheap cakes and bread wrapped up in plastic for breakfast). That should provide me with sufficient fuel tomorrow morning for an early head start (unlike the 6 km today with no coffee and leftover raisins and nuts).
The things you do to have a decent last 100 km walk. I think around here it should be around 60 plus km more? 

Monday, April 30, 2018

Camino Portuguese - Day 19 - Mos

23 km. Cold morning, forecast calls for rain which obviously came later in the morning. Nice walk along the Galician landscape which is similar to northern Portugal but without the cobblestones. Streams and Horreos in some houses to keep their corn dry. They have some in Portugal but the Galician design is unique.
The heel tendon kept at bay with the help of Gida and Ian's (Danish couple) Voltadol cream, got myself a tube at the pharmacy in O Porriño.
The 100 km mark is also before the town.
Also met up with Olivier there eating his lunch. Seems like everyone is pushing for Redondela. Not me (and Josie from Canada). A few km up from is a small hamlet of Mos with a municipal albergue I made my stop. Early meal and off to rest.
All municipal albergue in Galicia are the same. 6 euros and they give you disposable pillow case and mattress sheet. Good enough for today. In any case, unless one is very aggressive, it's still another 4 days to Santiago.
Now I just need to deal with the crowd as the last 100 km has more people, and in the case of this camino tomorrow in Redondela where the Coastal route joins the main route.
Funny how the pilgrim office in Santiago states the minimum is the 100 km of walk to get the compostela, because of that it is the not the best condition. Still, I have try this entry via Padrón.

Camino Portuguese - Day 18 - Tui

18-19 km yesterday, also about the same today. Difference is no steep climb today but came with rain the whole day. The forecast is for rain again tomorrow... 😥
Yesterday at the Ninho nest, I had never seen a bigger congregation of Danish walkers in all my caminos, including a son who works in a oil tanker ship walking with his mother. So sweet. He said he had spent more time the last few days with his mother than in the last 10 years.
The rain yesterday lasted the whole night. Stopped in the morning for a while then back on again for the whole day.
The trail is from an old Roman road, many cobble stones along the way (though I think they are recently paved).
Helen (from Australia) walking with a unique poncho that looks like a tablecloth.
The city of Valença is a fortress (old town). Very touristy.
The river minho is the border, the city of Tui on the Spanish side across the river and slightly to the right..
I told myself I need my last meal (lunch) in Portugal, and at the last cafe in Valença before the bridge was able to get a special order instead of the standard hamburger. Steak, chips, salad.
Mid-point on the bridge marks the two towns (also the two countries).
Spain is one hour ahead and the moment I crossed over I lost one hour. 2:30 pm instead of 1:30 pm.
Spain's decision to follow the European time may explain why their lunch is so late at 2 pm and dinner 8-9 pm.
Walk along the river (alternate route) before climbing up towards Tui. It feels like a ghost town compared Valença on Sunday (siesta?). The first private albergue is full (don't know who's inside but the next one 200 meters down (San Clemente) is quite vacant. Sophie (from Canada) and me are the ones for the last few hours, although she mentioned when I was in the showers that the Danish couple took the private room upstairs.
So cold in the albergue with 10 beds (tiny heater) in our room (3 rooms in total) with the rain still outside until the evening. Just want to get dinner quickly over with and have a early night's rest. The guy at the albergue recommended a place back in the center with pilgrim menu anytime. In the evening when we left for dinner the rain stopped, people were out in the streets again (much like Spain after their siesta) and we got our pilgrim menu with desserts and coffee for 8 euros. Back in the albergue a Hungarian mother and daughter. Think that's all for the day, the four of us all on flat (not bunk beds).
Now I have jet lag of 1 hour to add to the other problems.... 😂

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Camino Portuguese - Day 17 - Rubiāes

18 km today. Short stage but with a big climb. Not crazy enough to do 38 km to Valença/Tui.
The thing about association or municipal albergue like in Ponte Lima are the number of beds in each room. The bigger they are, the earlier you get awoken by the noise from those early risers.
Didn't want to walk 800 meters back on the bridge just to have breakfast. A German pilgrim said there is a cafe 3 km along today's path. Yeah right. In the end it was more 6 km. Arghhh. That was way too long before I had my first cup of coffee. Two cups and lots of food later it was steep climb up to the top. I was impressed by the few cyclist that attempted the same path. At some of the steep rocky path they even had to carry their bikes up, the only time walking is a little faster than a bike, at least until the downhill part.
Good thing they had a support vehicle waiting for them at the top (no racks or panniers to weigh their bikes down). Still an awesome feat.
It's beginning to look like Galicia (north western Spain).
Gate barrier to keep the sheep on one side. They also harvest pine oil judging by the cuts in the bark of the tree although the scale is much smaller than in Spain.
A nice vista at the top, then it was downhill. My tendons have more issue with downhill than uphill. A few km later there was a cafe built just inside gate of a house along the path. They have a stone grill at the gate for bbq chicken. The smell is already enough for me to have them. Olivier, who was leaving after having the chicken said it was good. Half a small chicken with salad for 5.50 euros. A happy camper with just a few km more to Rubiāes.
There was an albergue there with a modern cafe, shop right before Rubiāes. Even with the added facilities, no more municipal albergue for me today. Ended up with a nice private albergue, Ninho Nest. Nice 200 years old house.
13 euros with breakfast, no need to walk for for breakfast in the morning or to to pay for it. It is indeed like a nest. One of the earlier arrivals I got a nice bed above the kitchen, next to Olivier (again I didn't know he was there, or other private albergue in Rubiāes, or had continued walking to Tui). Lucky for  me the moment I got in it started raining. The rain was not long, an hour or so, but for those attempting the longer distance today will surely regret walking on.
People from Denmark, Netherlands, France.... we all having afternoon tea with ginger, mint picked from the garden and honey.
Pretty soon the place is full. Less than 20 official nests in the multi-layered areas in the house wirh two toilets, it was full pretty fast. Aurelius the Brazilian also came here.
Very cosy here. The three of us share a load at the washer/dryer for 5 euros. (Pilgrims usually only have 3 sets, only 2 sets to wash) to be better for the environment and save money.
A husband and wife runs this private albergue. From some of the photos on the wall, I think he is also a musician.
Now a happy camper, even having  afternoon nap...

Camino Portuguese - Day 16 - Ponte de Lima

35 km (feels like 37 km). Why do I always do that on the Camino and with a less than perfect left foot I will never understand. Maybe it's because the place to stay at mid-point today (Casa Fernando, more like an albergue, donarion based) is a little short on distance, too many older folks who find it hard to do Ponte Lima distance, etc. Also the weather was really nice in the afternoon, sun/cloud with cold wind, perfect for walking.
The day didn't start well, with rain in the morning which stop around mid-morning.
Aurelius the Brazilian really woke us up too early and left the hostel at 6 am! (without breakfast). Breakfast was excellent at 7:30 am, the full course with hot eggs/bacon and cold cuts/cheese, etc. With Olivier smoking outside 15 mins before breakfast was ready. We both said Ponte Lima is too far,  but later he was opposite my bunk bed at the albergue there. Haha. Some pilgrims think alike.
Lots of bicycles starting from Porto 230+ km to.Santiago (cyclist needs minimum 200 km while walkers 100 km to get a compostela in Santiago). Interesting setup, some of their mountain bikes have smaller 24 inch wheels, and today I even saw a couple of electric assist mountain bikes. Not sure if that is allowed, but then again who is going to check it at the pilgrim office in Santiago?
Banana trees here? Is that possible?
Such a nice walking day after the rain. Some residents in a village even put out a stone bench surrounded by flowers as rest point for pilgrims. Still, by 2 pm the body start to wear down. Luckily there was a cafe just off the path where I order a burger and fries. The young woman and her sister at the bar wanted to learn a few basic words in Chinese for the few Chinese pilgrims that comes into her cafe. Really? Wrote just hello, thank you and goodbye (the best I could, added  ā for part of hello as a better approximation for Portuguese speakers).
Arriving in Ponte Lima almost 6 pm. It is a touristy place with the old ponte (bridge) after a more modern one. Turns out the old bridge is for pedestrian only. Lost the piece of paper today I scribbled from Jim's guide on the lodging from Porto to Redondela (my lodgings map overlay on the phone assumes the coastal route), seems like I may need a get an expensive hotel. Saw a guy that looks like a pilgrim at the cafe and ask him about lodgings. He said there is an albergue de peregrinos at the end of the bridge. Yes! 5 euros for just bed, hot shower and kitchen which I would not use. Big albergue. Don't know how many beds but my number is 51 (top bunk! Argh!). Made a bet after seeing Olivier that if no one claims the bottom bed I will buy him a beer. It is already after 6 pm but one never know..
No shower... yet. Seems like there is nothing much after crossing the bridge except the albergue. Crossed the bridge back with Olivier for dinner. He said he has a craving for Pizza for the whole day. That statement also made me crave for pizza. Asked around and got a cafeteria that serves Pizza (probably the packaged type but the dough was still quite good, or maybe it was just the hunger speaking).
Back across the bridge and shower. Oh, so good. It's one of those button pressed and released type showers. I lterally just put both hands on the wall and button and stand under the hot water for like 5 minutes before doing any showering. 

No way I can do the crazy 38 km to Valença (with much higher climb) tomorrow. Not in my condition and I think the majority in this albergue today will also end their walk after 18.9 km tomorrow in Rubiāes. I hope there is enough space there.

At 8 pm Leon (the young man from Germany from yesterday shows up in the room). He had the bottom bed but was happy to go to the top bunk (ah, young man) for me. Phrew! That means I still owe Olivier a beer....

Friday, April 27, 2018

Camino Portuguese - Day 15 - Barcelos

Dinner last night with Olivier and, another French couple and a Brazilian guy Aurelius (Olivier's room mate). When I return to my room I discovered I too had room mates, two backpacks besides the other double bed. Two blonde ladies came in later after I had just fallen asleep. Hard to know where they are from judging from their whispers. Good thing non of them took showers (maybe they plan to do it in the morning).
27 km today, much like yesterday.
It was hard to keep track of the new people walking today as there are many starting from Porto and they kept coming and going, some slowed down to my pace to chat for a while. Yup, I don't think it's the heel now but the tendons around there. 😣
Darn, it might like that all the way to Santiago.
Yay! The lady at the cafe this morning understood my coffee order (cafe galāo), probably because of my stuck nose early in the morning. Portuguese is hard for me to enunciate especially those nasal sounding vowels.
The bridge in the morning is the reason why I chose the central route. 13th century, comes with everything, ducks, mist above the water, etc...
With the heel issue and slight pain, my engine is only at 70 percent. The 200 km marker 12 km before Barcelos. 
I had lunch at a place with no pilgrims (only local) next to the gas station with around 8 km to go, the cafe/restaurant at the end of town. Most of them stopped at the fancier first cafe in town. Saw a local young man eating breaded pork cutlet. I want the same! Normally lunch is a small sandwich and/or nut/raisins/muesli-bar for me so when the opportunity and timing presents itself, another heaven. For my cutlet I chose veg and rice, plus coke and coffee after that. I got slightly more than 4 euros change when I pay with a 10 euros. Is that even possible? 
For the last few km I was chatting/walking with a young German Leon? (still in university). Decided to try the association's albergue together with him (probably like 6-8 euros). It was full. He checked his phone guide and said there is municipal one another km or so into the city of Barcelos. Not me (especially with the heel), when told there was a hostel 30 meters away I jumped at it. 15 euros including breakfast, 3 beds a room, out of Leon's budget. He moved on. Our conversation will have to continue another time, provided we see each other again.
One backpack was already there in the room. Some washing on the sink (a patio to hang our clothes to dry) and heavenly hot shower later, when I got out, there is Olivier on the 3rd bed. Later, we see who took the first bed, Aurelius from Brazil. We never saw each other at all walking today. Such is the camino.
Since I had lunch, it will be a simple dinner for me before bed. I will cross the bridge to the north side of Barcelos tomorrow. It's 34 km or 37 km tomorrow to Ponte Lima depending on which guide is used. No way many here including myself (my situation) will do the stretch. That could be situation for lodging vacancy on the small places before Ponte Lima. Let's see then, tomorrow is another day....

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Camino Portuguese - Day 14 - Vilarinho

27 km plus extra (will explain later). This morning the sandwich shop downstairs was not opened at 7:10 am. The lady was not truthful...😣
Further down the road there was a bread shop that served coffee with lots of locals eating and taking out the bread (good sign). Tourists normally take their breakfast where they stay so at this hour it's only the locals outside. In Porto, it could mean either 60 cents or 1.80 euro for a coffee depending on which cafe you choose, thanks to the tourist. Besides the normal bread with coffee I needed something more (last night was just a sandwich due to the late lunch with Carolina). They have a Pāo de deus special (Bread of God?), 4 for 1.90 euros. Ate one and the rest were gone before noon. Darn they are good. A simple bread topped with coconut and sprinkle with fine sugar.
I felt guilty for not walking yesterday so decided to walked out of Porto. Bad move. Left heel still not recovered. On top of that I didn't see anyone walking at all in this morning! 😵
So either...
1. They were all on the coastal route.
2. They took the metro/train to the outskirts of the city saving 12 km (which I should have done).
Turns out it was the latter. In any case the first pilgrim I saw was a Dutch couple Wilhelm and Ona? (Or Anna).
Only before noon did I see some semblance of the countryside. The road is hard and cobblestone in many places.
Really need to rest the heel and was and so happy to be in Vilarinho around 3 pm at a slower than normal pace. Lodgings here are basically homes. Casa Laura another 150 meters down from the town or Casa Vidal 250 meters before.
Casa Laura was full! The guy called Casa Vidal for me and thankfully they have vacancy. Have to backtrack 400 meters. 😬
Food and drinks are back in town although Casa Laura has a cafe next door, so it's more walking later for dinner. Mr. Vidal has a nice pool (too tired to jump in), he gave me a room with 2 big beds (a bit excessive). Wanted 15 euros for it instead of the usual 10-12 euros. It's not for me to argue, just want to stop and rest after walking all the way with a bad heel (no subway).
It's a washing day, which should be dry pretty fast in this sunny weather despite the colder wind. Meanwhile there is a French guy in the next room, Oliver from Brittany and two French ladies I heard on the first floor.
Had a drink at the cafe in town with Olivier. Waiting for 7 pm to eat at the restaurant nearby.
I missed my other family already... 😭
They should be in Porto today...