Day 42, A Rua to SANTIAGO!!!!!

Well after a lazy afternoon of laundry and catching up with friends, I had agreed to head over to Morag and Hugh’s hotel for dinner as whilst my room was great my Casa has no atmosphere. However as it reached 7.10pm it was pouring with rain and the idea of heading out in the rain was really not appealing, so I left it later and later. However at 7.25pm the rain slowed to a light shower so I shoved on my tevas and ran. It was not 1 minute along the road I had thought but 5 mins and a hill later I arrived.

They were in an amazing hotel, amazing for a very rural hamlet in Northern Spain anyway. A bit unusual in decor but warm and lots of atmosphere. Dinner was brilliant, one of the best I think I have ever had. I had vegetable soup and then grilled hake but it was delicious. 

I had a great nights sleep at my place too and then breakfast was a surprise, I was offered freshly cooked bacon and eggs, I couldn’t believe it. Not wanting to turn down such a good offer, I accepted. So I now feel suitably prepared for my final walk to Santiago. Good job I think as the rain this morning and forecast all day is ‘biblical’!!! It will be a wet one, so I had a second cup of coffee to defer the inevitable!!

Today was wet. The full rain gear came out but it was still wet! Fairly symbolic perhaps, wet day 1 and wet the day into Santiago.

The walk was surprisingly rural up until 5km from the cathedral. Woodland still and ascents and descents and lots of mud!!

Photos today are a little limited since it was just so wet that I couldn’t dig through all the layers to get the phone out but I do have a few to show the overall wetness!!

About 7km away I passed the monument from the visit of Pope John Paul II and Francis of Assisi, which also shows 2 pilgrims looking towards the cathedral. This is the first point on route in where the spires of the cathedral can be seen. 

….spires anyone??

If you can’t see the spires, don’t worry, nor could I?

It is a good thing that this trip is about the journey not the destination, I have to say that arriving at the cathedral was a bit anticlimactic!!! Not sure what I expected really, but arriving very soggy with no idea of where to go next and no one around to ask was not really what I expected. 

After a quick photo, which felt like it had to be done, I retreated to my hotel to regroup and work out what to do next.

After a shower and dry clothes every looks much better. I headed out, and back to the cathedral armed with information on where the pilgrim office actually is. On route I managed to make a dinner reservation at my first choice of restaurant so things were looking up. Arriving at the office to get my Compostela I found that the queue looked to be less than an hour so I decided that I would wait.

Clearly most people have just stopped straight here on arrival. Consequently everyone is soaking wet and very cold. My decision to go to the hotel first now feels like a very good one.

Hopefully I can get some drier pictures tomorrow with some atmosphere!!

Day 41, Arzúa to A Rua

The dinner in our hotel was great, very popular with lots of locals and other pilgrims joining for dinner. The pilgrim menu looked very much the traditional so we opted to order off menu. I had a salad and a plate of huge langustines, they were amazing, followed by Santiago tart. It was wonderful not to have to head out and find somewhere to eat tonight.

I had a leisurely breakfast this morning. I felt no need to rush since the walk was only 19km. I didn’t want to leave too late as the forecast for the weather in the afternoon was heavy rain but I also thought I would wait for full daylight otherwise I was going to arrive at the next destination very early, and I don’t think there is much going on if anything when I arrive.

The walk today was mainly woodland still, lots of Eucalyptus trees. It was very pretty. The weather though is just still wet. Again I was lucky, most of the rain was overnight so although still very very wet underfoot, it was mainly just drizzle for the walk.

I stopped for my mid morning coffee, great coffee this morning, and took a rest before heading on. As I went to leave it was pouring so for the first time since buying it, I pulled out my camino poncho! I was more impressed that I expected. It is large but it slips over everything, including my rucksack and provides full cover for everything except my feet and lower leg. 

About 5 minutes after putting it on an heading off the rain dried to drizzle again, so after another 10 minutes the poncho was back off. Still, I shouldn’t complain, it meant that it was not raining. 

The spot I am staying at tonight is a tiny hamlet, just a few custom built Casa’s and nothing else, it is about 2km from the next town. It is actually nice to be fully rural before tomorrow’s arrival in Santiago. I have the view of fields from my room which luxury has a double bed!!

The Hall of Wisdom….

Even better, the Casa has a laundry which guests can use, right next door to the rooms, and a restaurant! I am going to relax and do all my laundry before I arrive in Santiago. Morag and Hugh are in another small place about 1 minute away so we are discussing who might have the best dinner option! 

Andy, Sian, John and Ann have all arrived in Santiago today, very exciting. Sian leaves first thing but everyone else will still be there tomorrow evening, along with Andy and Wendy so I think we are all having dinner which will be great.

Shoe and boot plant pots!

I can’t believe that I arrive tomorrow, it really does not feel like I have walked 780km across Spain, I am not sure where the time has gone. Tomorrow will be a special day!

Day 40, Palais de Rei to Arzúa

This place we are staying in is brilliant, they want to think of everything for you, so unexpected, they insisted that we take umbrellas out to dinner with us. To be honest the umbrella isn’t really much use but it is lovely that they have umbrellas as an option. 

Andy had recommended a place just around the corner for dinner and suggested the lamb, he was here last night. Morag and I followed instructions to the letter with lentil soup followed by the lamb, it was amazing and the wine was brilliant too. Hugh had salmon which also looked good. Very pleased we went with the suggestion, we had tried to get lamb the night before but they only had veal (not quite the same!). I have now passed the recommendation back to George and Kari who arrive today.

I did not realise but I appeared to have caused much hilarity in the hotel reception by going out to dinner in my Teva’s. Open toed sandals this time of the year and in the rain is clearly not normal. I must admit I love taking my trainers off at the end of the day and my teva’s feel amazing. Everyone was brought out of the hotel office to have a look and apparently I am going to come down with a chill tomorrow! 

The walk today was long, it felt very long, 29km of constant climbs and descents, I was very glad to reach my spot for the evening and to see that they have a restaurant so I don’t need to walk any further today. 

I was very lucky with the weather today, it pretty much stayed dry. A mix of dry and drizzle but no really heavy showers and I even saw a hint of the sun. It had been torrential overnight, biblical to use Andy’s description of the day before! Walking today it was evident just how wet it had been, many of the paths resembled small streams. Needless to say it was somewhat damp underfoot. The scenery is surprising me, it is very wooded and I didn’t expect to be walking through woodland so close to Santiago, although I suppose we are still a good way away. 

Despite the length of today, I enjoyed the walk, very rural again, but plenty of spots to stop for coffee. I held off until I had about 14km completed before I allowed myself a coffee. I didn’t pick the best spot though. Most mornings the coffee is great, today it was very small and not very warm, a little disappointing, but having said that it did give me a boost, although that might have been the banana!

I had contemplated stopping for a bit of lunch or another drink before arriving since it was a long day, but the weather kept threatening to rain hard and so I decided that I would just rather arrive and relax than risk an early stop and then rain, so I pushed on arriving about 2.45pm.

Less than 40km to go now, just two short days comparatively, both 19km each which is lovely. I am ready for a couple of days off.

Decided against exploring this afternoon but instead found a vacancy for a massage, it was just perfect, legs and feet feel a whole lot more relaxed now, ready to go again tomorrow.

Time to think about dinner now, I am starving.

Day 39, Portomarín to Palais de Rei

After a brief walk around town, it was small but a stunning location and seeing the water in the dam is a novelty. Most of the rivers have been dried up or just small trickles of water. I walked up to the church, there was an event on so I didn’t get to go inside but the outside was unusual by Spanish standards. 

The church was rebuilt from its original site which was in the reservoir, it was built as both a place of worship and defence.

Statue on the way back from dinner

Having reviewed dinner options they were a little limited so we waited for Restaurante Perez to open at 7.30pm. Morag and Hugh joined me and we headed in dead on 7.30pm. The place really started to fill up, pilgrims in one room but lots of locals too. The food whilst a Pilgrim menu was very good actually, we all enjoyed our dinner and wine for €9!!

This morning I was first down for breakfast but it was surprisingly well organised, good coffee and plenty of continental breakfast. I am very used to this now, bread ham and cheese for breakfast and a yoghurt, it is perfect really.

I set off about 8.15am, it was still dark but only just, the sun was coming up. I wanted to get off early as the forecast was better for the morning than the afternoon. 

The route was varied today, lots of woodland paths and gentle climbs as well as paths alongside roads. Despite the map looking pretty road based, the walk felt rural again. Distance was 26km, it actually went pretty fast.

How many pilgrims!!!

I stopped for a coffee after 12km, it had just started to rain heavily so it made sense to have a break. I enjoyed my coffee and resisted cake today!! It was nice to warm up a little, I am now having my coffee inside rather than outside given it is really autumnal, I may need to but an extra layer.

I received a message from Kari that she has caught up with George which is nice, I need to look out for them arriving in Santiago, they are 1 day behind at the moment but will be 2 days by the time we arrive.

I also received a message from Andy and Wendy, the couple from Melton Mowbray who I met at Stansted on the way out. They have arrived in Santiago, they are the first of the group I travelled out with. They had not booked their trip but were booking as they went, they have clearly powered through with minimal stops. They had a great tip though, get in line for the certificate the next day, they got in line this morning at 8.30am and only had a 30 minute wait. I have heard of others have 7 hours to wait. Since I have a couple of spare days I am certainly going to follow this advice.

Squash season
Could be England!

Andy and Wendy fly out on Sunday so I should see them when I arrive on Saturday which is great. It feels odd to be this close to arriving, only 3 days of walking now!!

Our place this evening is lovely. Very friendly, I was not allowed to carry my bag up to my room, they carried it for me and explained all the spots in town. Very helpful. Dinner is out again tonight but at least I have a description of all the places in town and they are all open from 7pm, which is brilliant.

Just having a beer to celebrate arrival, and the heavens have opened! The forecast was right, the morning whilst drizzling was pretty dry, however now it is pouring. Morag and Hugh are not in yet so they will be damp! I am sure they cannot be far out now.

I am off to find lunch before my shower, for some reason today I am absolutely starving. No chance of waiting until 7pm. I joined a group of 3, two brother one of whom lives in the US and the other in Australia, and the daughter from Australia. They are in the same hotel as me but I joined them for lunch which was lovely.

Day 38, Sàrria to Portomarín

Sàrria has not been my favourite town. It is not beautiful nor is there much to see. The churches are not open until later and overall town just feels run down.

I tried to find a spot for dinner but everywhere looked shut. I am sure that come 8/9pm far more will look open but it is really hard to tell in the afternoon.

I met with George for a pre dinner drink and we saw a couple from the previous day so invited them to join us. They are a young brother and sister from Yorkshire. He is a primary school teacher but has just finished a contract and she is trying to decide what career is right for her. She has tried accounting, retail and most recently being a post woman. None have really felt right so she is hoping that the camino will help her with inspiration! They are a great couple. It is safe to say that Emma looks 15!!

We opted to wait and have dinner in the hotel, the menu was extensive so we could opt for something other than a Pilgrim menu which was great. George has a rest day here in Sàrria so I won’t see him until Santiago but I should see him the night before I head into Finisterre.

Amazing old tree

At breakfast this morning, I bumped into Morag and her husband Hugh. Morag walked the first two weeks with Dawn. The idea was that both their husbands would come out and all 4 of the would finish together. Dawn however left a few days ago after her knee injuries meant that she couldn’t walk. Morag and her husband decided to finish though and arrived last night. It is odd to see someone who you walked with for the first couple of weeks but then they have been back in Scotland for 2 weeks before coming back. 

We started the day together which was fun. Navigating out of Sàrria was easier than I expected, it is often hard out of towns. From now on we need to collect 2 stamps per day to be eligible for the Compostela at the end. I have my two today, but must remember.

Today the weather was damp in the air but dry which was great. Probably because I have now bought myself a poncho!! Still fingers crossed that this logic holds, the forecast for the week is still for rain, but today was dry all day and the walking was lovely.

Pumpkins again …

The scenery has changed again, it is now really green with lots of fields and rolling hills. Loads of farms and lot of cows. The paths today were through woodland and gravel tracks, with plenty of small villages for coffee. Overall there was 400m ascent and 460m decent so a good mixed day with a few steep sections and plenty of flat for the 24km today.

Today, I passed through the 100km mark, there is now less than 100km to go into Santiago, it really does not feel like I have walked this far, but clearly I have. 

99.6km to go….

The route today was way busier with lots of large groups of pilgrims, some routes were packed with other forms of life too!! I chose to wait to be able to access the path, this is rural Galicia at its best, green and damp with a very strong smell of cow dung.

Portomarín is a town of about 2000 people and is much more attractive than Sàrria in my opinion. On entry into town we crossed a huge bridge over a reservoir. The steep stairs at the entrance of town is part of the original medieval bridge which was removed when the dam and reservoir were built. 

The view from the hotel is stunning back over the reservoir. The main town is back up the top with a Romanesque fortress church which I am going to explore later. 

Day 37, Triacastela to Sarria

Last night the place we were staying did not serve food but they recommended somewhere just down the road. I think it may have been the only place anyone went, there were between 150 and 200 people eating in what from the outside looked like a tiny bar!! Great though, typical Pilgrim menu but very good portions again. I have to say that I don’t know how they make money. I had a huge mixed salad, followed by a large salmon fillet with chips and more salad. George had a seafood soup, full of clams, mussels and prawns and then slow cooked chicken with chips, I then had Santiago cake and George had fruit salad, we had a 2l bottle of water and a bottle of wine and our meal was €10 each!!!

I do love the small albergue or hostels, the radiators were on, all my laundry was done and whilst it was small, after a very wet day I felt very warm and cosy!

Breakfast was leisurely this morning. It is only 18km into Sarria so I think everyone is relaxed this morning. Everyone from last nights hostel seems to be staying in the same spot in Sarria.

Sarria is the last major town before Santiago, 5 days of walking only and 110km. This is the last spot to walk from if you want the certificate of completion so numbers are supposed to swell 4x what they have been tomorrow as so many people walk this last 110km.

The walk today was way drier than yesterday, the first hour was just drizzle rather than rain which was nice and then when the rain picked up it was lighter than yesterday with heavy showers. I tried different trousers today that have not been through the wash as many times. Much better although they didn’t help with the run off from my backpack. Overall though, whilst wet I was not totally drenched. There were no pocket swimming pools not squelchy shoes so it is all good.

Today’s 18km too was beautiful, mixtures of climbs and descents but all quite short, mainly countryside and woodland, so I really enjoyed it.

Arriving into Sarria, I stopped in one of the first walking shops I saw, before the siesta break, and bought a poncho. I had sworn that I would not wear one of these but everyone seems to have one and wear it over their waterproof coat and over their rucksack. The plus is that it is so big that it stops the run off onto your back side and also protects most of your legs. So tomorrow, I might look like A giant walking poncho but at least my bum will be dry!! Happy days.

Pumpkin time

Arriving at the hotel I stopped for a beer and a relax, George joined me shortly after. With a beer you receive a tapas to go with it, very welcome, I received cream cheese on toast and a sausage, both very nice. When George ordered a second beer he received a chicken wing and another unidentifiable tapas. He tried to pass this to me, but after polling for suggestions, some of which were frankly disturbing, and none of which made the tapas any more appetising we decided to leave this uneaten!!

Unidentifiable tapas

Off to explore now!

Day 36, O’Cebreiro to Triacastela

George and I went to mass last night. I assumed being a small town and having an international mass every night that it would be the same as the night before. I could not have been more wrong! Two different priests, which makes me think just how many does this village have, especially since the total population is only 50 for the village? The service was much more of a traditional Spanish mass than the night before. Still good with a Pilgrim blessing but far less translation.

We then had dinner at our hotel. We ordered off the a la carte menu since I had eaten the Pilgrim menu the night before. I just had a burger with a salad, it was really great as a change. George had the speciality which is octopus and salad. It is proper octopus full of tentacles, not really my thing but if you like it I think this was pretty special.

Well what a difference a day makes!! Proper wet weather testing today, safe to say, if it rains all day, my wet weather gear fails!!

Today, very aptly, the quote for the day In the guidebook is: ‘ if you want the rainbow, you’ve got to put up with the rain’. Well I never saw a rainbow but the book was right about the rain. The first 7km was funny, it was the same route I had walked yesterday, and I am so pleased that I did. Spot the difference in the views!!

George and I had agreed a coffee spot to meet in where I had turned around yesterday, the coffee was good, yesterday the place had been empty, today it was packed as everyone sought a few minutes of warmth. We agreed a next stop another 9km on and I set off again.

The weather, if anything got worse, just driving rain and wind. By 10.30am it is fair to say that I was soaked though and the experience became less fun!

Still, it is interesting, you learn to appreciate different things. Walking along with your hood up creates much more of your own world. Add music and it really does feel like your own world inside your hood with your own music bubble. I almost missed the signs for the route. All pilgrims now have to stop to look at each other as they pass as no one can see out from their hood. Quite entertaining!

As I strolled on I discovered that the rainproof cover for my backpack is great and keeps the pack very dry, the water runs straight off the and down my backside, my trousers and underwear soak up all the runoff water, delightful!!

I reached the next stop after a further 9km and despite the promise of a warm drink and catching up with George I have to say there was no attraction to stop, dry clothes and a shower trumped George I am afraid, I dropped him a note to say I was not stopping and pushed on.

The last 6km of the day were steep downhill, the path dropped 800m and required full concentration, particularly since my feet and socks were squelching properly, I might have prunes at the end of my feet.

As I approached town I removed my headphones and went to pop these in my pocket. To my surprise, I discovered that my waterproof jacket has a unique feature. It allows water in through the seams but not out so I have pockets full of water, little swimming pools in my pockets, such a great gimmick!!

The sight of my accommodation was so welcome, I checked in, very basic tonight, but dry. As I walked to my room with the signora I checked about laundry, to my delight she agreed that she does laundry. So first things first, everything off and all my other dirty clothes plus today’s wet ones were straight into the laundry.

I popped on my remaining dry and clean clothes and went to the bar for a beer. If this weather continues I might need to reconsider my wet weather supplies. However, that will have to wait for tomorrow since there are no shops in this town.

Forecast tomorrow….rain….bring it on!

Day 35, Rest day in O’Cebreiro

Mass last night was pretty full. It was an international mass and they asked for volunteers from 6 countries to read in different languages . The service was very personalised for pilgrims but also a full mass. The focus was on walking the Way and what this means. At the end of mass they did a pilgrim blessing, and the priest personally hugged everyone and gave us all a stone with the Camino arrow. I have to say it was a very special mass. Robin and I had planned to go and I think since we said that mass is usually only 30 minutes, John and Anne also came. It was their first mass of the Camino.

Afterwards we headed back to my hostel for dinner. The Pilgrim menu was OK but I think the trick for tomorrow is to order their specials as there were loads of Spanish in having Pulpo (octopus) and other local dishes.

I had a good chuckle at breakfast this morning. When I checked in for 2 nights with a rest day the owner was delighted and suggested that I would want a lie in this morning so breakfast could be at 8.30am or 9am. Turns out that that is when the kitchen opens, so I suspect she was hoping that I would say 9am, looks like tomorrow will be a lie in too!!!

Before I set of walking though I took a look at the Pallozas. These are circular homes with thatch roofs which are separated into 3 areas, one for living and cooking, one for sleeping and one for the livestock. This kept the livestock safe and the family warm! They are not large for the whole family and animals, very snug and smelly I suspect!

I can’t stand the thought of really just reading and resting today, so I have decided to walk part of tomorrow’s walk today along the top where the views should be good. Today is the last day of sun and the forecast is rain for tomorrow so I may not see the views. I will just walk for a few hours and then view the church and museum.

I really enjoyed the walk today and what might be the last of the sun. As expected the views were stunning. I found the alternative woodland walk to the next village. I walked two villages on which was about 7km and then came back. After a coffee in the second village I left the cafe and almost walked into a cow!! They just happened to be sauntering past the cafe!

It was funny on the way back as I passed a couple of people who I have previously walked with and so found that I was greeted with, ‘Kate from London you are going the wrong way’.  Quite funny!!

Fab statue

Before I got back George messaged to say that he had arrived and was having a drink. I responded to say that I had gone for a walk and was still about 20 minutes away. George was horrified that on my day off I would choose to go for a walk. I really enjoyed it though. I think it would have felt odd not to walk and 14km is a relaxed and short day so it still feels like a rest day but I have made the most of the weather.

I joined George for a drink when I arrived and then went to visit the church properly whilst he went for a rest. I think since mass was so good last night we are going to go again tonight, I have obviously sold it to George who feels that he might miss out if he doesn’t attend!

Day 34, Herrerias to O’Cebreiro

I headed downstairs for a pre dinner glass of wine, and met John and Anne again. They were sitting with Al and his wife from the US who I had not met before, but they invited me to join them. 

John and Anne I have met a number of times and I have joined them for drinks previously and they have joined us for dinner before so it was lovely to catch up with them again. Al’s wife works with drug users in the US which must be incredibly tough, and Al is building a sustainable house. They now live in New Mexico and it sounds like the middle of nowhere.

The 5 of us had dinner together in a dining room looking out over the hills and cows as the sun set! My morning alarm call was cow bells and mooing!

Leaving the village

I decided to have a leisurely start to my morning since I only have a short day distance wise. It might be short but is is 9km and 800m so pretty much 1 in 10 for the whole walk. The views will be worth it I am sure and I am staying at the village on the top of the mountain at 1300m which should be lovely. I am still sitting at breakfast and it is almost 8.30am so I should move!!

As I set off I met a group of three women, one of whom, Joan I had met coming out of Pontaferada. I ended up walking with one of them for the first 5km. She is a recently retired primary school teacher. She husband has his own business financing farms and agricultural equipment. She is walking the camino as a transition from working life to retirement and to decide what she wants to commit to in the next stage of her life. 

The first 5km passed very fast, it was a steep uphill but very beautiful, through a wonderful woodland and then views over the hills and mountains. We then reached a small village and since we were in no rush we both decided to stop for a coffee. There were a number of other people I recognised having coffee so it was good to catch up and find out how the last few days have been.

I decided to head on after my coffee, it was nice to have a quiet few km. The woodland had finished and the views were stunning, I have taken an excessive number of pictures again. I reflected that I am very grateful that I did not finish yesterday with this climb since I would not have appreciated it being too tired at the end of the day. This morning, the climb felt really pretty easy and I just loved watching the scenery change. If I get bored tomorrow I might pop down and back just to see it again.

Arriving in O’Cebreiro, it is a small village with a lovely church, a few hotels and albergue‘s and homes but overall it is very small, but the views, are just stunning. I wandered through town since my hotel was not yet open and up a hill on the outskirts of town, the views back over the town show a small but very pretty village.

I then headed back to have lunch and 3 Swedish ladies joined me. They are walking on a further 3km to the next village for the night but were having a large glass of wine before heading on. I felt a little slack with my lemonade!

Casa Carolo is on the right

After finding my room in a very cute little hostal I went to look round one of the shops before it shut and to get some water. Heading back I found John and Anne having lunch outside my hostal. We ended up having a couple of beers and chatting. Then Robin joined us and so we had another beer, good job I didn’t have wine at lunch!! 

View from my bedroom window!

I have headed to my room for a quick shower and rest before mass at 7pm. It is the first mass I have seen in a while so I plan to attend. Dinner is served at my place until 8.30pm, which is most unusual, usually the kitchen only opens at 8pm!! Still, I should have time to get back and eat after mass.

View of the village

The Church, Inglesia de Santa Maria Real dates from the 9th century and is the oldest church associated directly with the Pilgrim way. The church also marks the final resting place of Don Elias Valina Sampedro who was a Spanish Priest who worked to preserve the integrity of the camino and whose idea it was to mark the route with yellow arrows. I have just bought a little badge of the yellow arrow for my pack.

John and Vivian sent me a message today, they are back and feeling healthier and are off to look after their grandson today, it was lovely to hear from them.

George also messaged to say that he had dinner with Dawn and Jim last night before they headed off. He will arrive here tomorrow evening.

I have a rest day here tomorrow. It is a stunning location, just views, sunsets and rest! It will be a test for me, am I bored and end up walking or do I mange to relax, tour the church just chill out! We will see.

Day 33, Villafranca del Bierzo to Las Herrerias

Our spot to stay last night was really cute, we were treated with a bottle of lemon water on arrival, which was so refreshing and unusual. The only disappointment was that the kitchen was shut and the food at this place was supposed to be great. Still the 5 of us headed to the Plaza Mayor and shared a load of Raciones (sharing platters) which made a good change. It is clear that we are also into Galicia as the seafood is increasing which is great.

We have the 3 rooms at the top of the house which is fun although a little snug. There is a separate door and then our 3 rooms, so we can leaves our doors open. We might as well as I can hear everything Andy and Clive are saying through the wall anyway!! This place is another of these places with the bathroom light on a sensor so I had another shower with the light going out every 30 seconds. Have I mentioned how irritating this is!

After dinner I had to say goodbye to Dawn and Jim, they have another night in Villafranca before heading to Bilbao for a couple of nights and then home to Scotland. They have already planned to return next year and to walk from Burgos where Dawn started to have trouble. Jim only had one day of walking but caught the bug and now wants to join Dawn next year so that is great.

Breakfast today was not served until 8am which meant a lovely lie in. I decided to walk with Andy and Clive today since we all want to do the alternative route which is up and down a mountain rather than along the road and I don’t want to miss the turning or get lost and today is also the last time I will see them as I am stopping before the final hill climb of the day and they are going on. Clive goes home on Saturday and Andy carries on but will be a day ahead of me by then.

Andy and Clive striding up the hill

The walk started as expected with a huge hill climb. It was a good solid hour of climbing up 500m then back down again! The scenery was once again absolutely stunning. Taking the scenic route also meant that we pretty much had the mountain to ourselves only seeing 2 other people. 

We found a great spot for a coffee after 10km and then pushed on with the downhill, it was very steep, and I am very glad that my knee seems to be holding up, I felt totally able to head straight downhill again and I need to go at almost a run to keep up with Andy and Clive, good job I have a shorter day! We passed a shepherd with his dog moving a few sheep today, always fun to watch.

Once back down the next 10km was pretty much flat at the bottom of the valley. I am staying in the last village before another climb of 800m over 9km. We stopped for lunch in the village just before where I am staying after we spotted John and Anne, who had just stopped there for coffee. Turns out they are staying in the same spot as me.

…and the way down

After lunch Andy and Clive dropped me at my hotel for the night. It is stunning, right under the hills with cows outside the windows and a lovely veranda and patio area. I think the guys were regretting not stopping here. After 24km already and the ascent and decent to have another 9km and 800m to go I don’t think was that appealing.

After dropping off my things I went for a wander round the rest of town since I am staying just outside. It is a very small town, not even a church! Just a few albergue and bars. There is however a stable for horses. It is possible for pilgrims to book horses and ride up the hill to O’Cebreiro tomorrow. I won’t be doing that!!

I now have a nice short day tomorrow and then a rest day before the final push into Santiago. I am getting closer every day. Instead of feeling excited though, I am disappointed!! Very pleased that I am booked to walk onto Finesterre and then Muxia, so I have a few more weeks to enjoy before I have to think about returning to the real world. I will be returning with a 2 coffees, morning cake, 2 beers and 3 glasses of wine a day habit, that is going to require some work!!

I am still loving the weather, but I am a bit concerned that this is about to change and I might have to pull out my raincoat on Sunday. That will be the first time since day 1. I have been totally spoilt with the weather, but I am not ready for this to change either, never mind, hopefully it will just be short showers!

The one downside of this hotel is the bath. My joy at seeing a bath was reduced when I realised that it is one of the half baths. I have only ever seen these on the Camino, essentially it is half the length of a normal bath so you have to sit with year knees up around your ears, it might as well be a big bidet, never mind!!