Travels - Links to each trip

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Camino Postlude - Vacation Days

After reaching Finisterre and Muxia we had completed everything we had planned and it was time to adjust back our normal life. Werner decided to leave on Friday and we took him to Finisterre to catch the bus to Santiago and from there to Barcelona to spend the weekend with his son Sebastian who lives there and then continue on his flight home on Monday. I was also able to retrieve my poncho which I had inadvertently left in the albergue the day before. This all worked out well and then Christa and I returned to Cormé for a few days of rest and relaxation. On our way back to Cormé we stopped in Vimianzo for Christa to get some lace supplies at the crafts center in the castle and while we were waiting for it to open we found a donkey and three dogs tied to the fence in front of the church waiting patiently for their owner to return.
It took me a while to adjust and on Friday I walked the 7 km round trip from the apartment to the lighthouse to get some exercise. The weather on Saturday was cold and rainy most of the day and I never made it out again except to get some supplies at the local shops and to go out with Christa and Ute for a meal.
Since the weather was not pleasant we decided to leave on Sunday and head towards Madrid a day early, hoping we would find warmer weather.
On Sunday morning we loaded the car and set off, reluctantly leaving the beautiful, but cold, Costa del Morte. We found that part of the road to Madrid would pass close to the Camino in several places, one of which was near O Cebreiro, the mountain where we had experienced the snow and fog. The weather had cleared and Christa and Ute immediately agreed when I suggested we make a detour to the mountain. It was only about 5 miles out of our way.
We arrived there with no problems (this time) and it was beautiful. The views from the top were stunning.
It was so different and I didn't recognize anything.
I looked in the little church which I didn't even know was there since it was so foggy and snowy last time.
There is a baptismal font from the 9th century there.
Then I wanted to see where I had been before in the snow but since I didn't recognize anything I had to ask one of the pilgrims there enjoying the sunshine where the trail arrived. She showed me and I followed it back a few hundred yards to where I remembered I had taken a photo last time I was there. It certainly looks different now!
What a difference.
I also took a picture of pilgrim statue which I found again
What a difference the sun makes. But if the weather had been like this when we were there before what would we have to talk about?
Soon we were back on the freeway. Later we stopped in Astorga for lunch and then continued on to Avila, an old walled city for the night. This is also the city at the highest altitude in Spain at 1,100 meters above sea level. It was very interesting and Christa has written about it in her blog. The city is completely surrounded by the city walls and has a very impressive cathedral which also makes up part of the old city wall.
The city is alive with several churches, restaurants, shops and houses and apartments all on the narrow streets.
Lots is storks nests on roofs and church bell towers and even construction cranes.
We took a walk along the wall, it was a beautiful day. Finally sun after the clouds and rain of the past few days in Galicia.
We spent two nights here and then we headed on to Madrid for the final night, staying near the airport before flying home on Wednesday June 5 after an incredible experience.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Camino Finisterre - Day 3 Finisterre

After our final night in an albergue, we hoped for a day with better weather so we could truly walk the last few kilometers from the little fishing town of Finisterre to the lighthouse on the Cape.
Breakfast was included at the albergue and the weather looked better but there were still threatening clouds. We were on our way at about 7:30 and we set off through the town and up the hill on the road heading southwest. It only took is about 45 minutes with views over the ocean on our left before we reached the few buildings and the lighthouse on the rock that people in earlier times believed to be the end of the earth. It was only 4 km but was the final few steps of our more than 800 km (500 mile) journey from France and across Spain.
There were very few people around and it is certainly a lonely place. I still had the stone I had brought with me, selected from the James River in Richmond, Virginia. Pilgrims have traditionally taken a stone from their home with them on their journey to leave at a significant place on their journey. Many chose to leave it at the Cruzo de Ferro, Iron Cross. However although I remembered having it when I packed my backpack before leaving home, I had not been able to find it until a few days before the end of the journey. I came across it in the first aid kit which I, thankfully, had not had a reason to go to until I needed a band aid to clean and cover a scratch on my arm from a fall a few days earlier. When I tipped out the contents of the bag, the stone appeared with the antiseptic cream, blister covers and the other contents.
For many the stone represents the burdens of life that they wish to leave behind before returning home, but I could not think of any burdens that I carry with me so I had not felt bad about not finding the stone earlier. When it appeared I decided that I would leave it at the end of the earth so now I was there I took the opportunity of throwing it off the cliff and down to the waves crashing on the rocks below.
Soon after, Christa and Ute arrived. We took more photos showing we had reached the end of our journey with 0.00 km left to go. A significant moment. The rain had held off and our journey was truly ended. The sun broke through at that moment and made amazing patterns on the ocean.
We returned to the car together and set off for a final stop in Muxia. This is a small town at the northern end of the same peninsular and is a site where a tradition says The Virgin Mary appeared to St. James after traveling there in a stone ship. There is a church of Nuestra Señora de la Barca on a headland just north of the little town which contains pieces of the stone boat but when we got there the church was closed so we were not able to visit it but only to take a photo through the little window in the door.
Soon after we had left the church and climbed to the top of the headland it started to rain so we hurried back to the car and set off for the apartment in Cormé. Christa and Ute wanted to stop in Camariñas on the way for some special items and Werner and I did some grocery (beer, wine, bread and tea) shopping in the local supermarket there. Then back to the apartment for a light lunch and showers for Werner and me before a relaxing afternoon. The pilgrimage, journey, adventure, were finally completed. An incredible experience of a lifetime.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Camino Finisterre - Day 2 Oliveiroa to Finisterre

We woke up to rain and as we had breakfast we decided that walking the 7 hours to Finisterre in the rain was not going to be part of our plans for today. The only transport out of Oliveiroa is by taxi. We had 4 people who wanted to share and we ordered a taxi that would arrive at 8:45. It actually showed up at 9:00 and one of the people said they were going to go later in another taxi so now we were 3 people. Werner, myself and another Werner from Austria.
The taxi took the three of us the 18 miles to a town called Cee. It cost €20 so only about €7 each. From there there would be a bus to Finisterre. The bus would not be for at least an hour so we found a café for a cup of coffee while we waited.
In the meantime the rain had stopped and the weather looked better so we decided to walk the 12 miles to Finisterre and hope the rain would hold off.
It was a nice walk, first out of the town, then over a hill and finally along the coast.
Through some little villages on the coast
Views across the inlet but the clouds were too low to see much
Then our first view of the town of Finisterre and the Cape with the lighthouse behind
It was a pretty walk and the rain held off for most of the way but as we were just approaching Finisterre it started and it was poncho time for about the last 20 minutes of the 2.5 hour walk. Not bad but it meant we were wet when we arrived since there was nowhere good to shelter on the way.
We found an Albergue quite quickly and there seem to be plenty of them here. We settled in and tried to decide what to do. It continued to rain on and off and we decided not to try and walk the 7 mile round trip to the lighthouse today that is truly "at the end of the earth". It is just too wet and cold and no visibility. If it had been before Santiago or if the weather had been reasonable we would have walked the whole way but there is no incentive for us to endure the weather here now. Our goal of completing the Camino de Santiago is achieved and this is now bonus time.
After settling in Werner and I went and found a warm café down by the harbor for a snack and a beer. It was full of people from Germany and it seems that most of the people who continue on by bus or on foot to Finisterre are from Germany.
Then back to the Albergue and time to write about our day.
Later in the afternoon I went to find a supermarket for a bottle of wine since it was so cold everywhere. Who can believe it is May 29 and still so cold. I don't think the temperature has got much out of the 40's today (<10°C). On my way I ran into Freddy from Belgium who we had met in our Albergue on our first day, April 24, more than a month ago and often met on the way in between. He said, buy a second bottle for me and we then sat together, Werner, Freddie and I and had a great time together for a final time. He leaves tomorrow to go back home in Belgium.
Werner and I then went to look for a place for dinner. A restaurant was recommended and we found it. They offered a menu for €10 and we ordered it. The first course was a very good and tasty chicken soup followed by a plate of fish and potatoes. There were not many bones in the fish and I enjoyed it too. Dessert was Torte de Santiago and coffee. Of course there was also a bottle of wine included so we were happy, especially after the two bottles we had shared with Freddy.
After dinner Werner and I went for a walk around the harbor but it was just too cold and windy so we soon went back to the Albergue. The weather seems to be clearing. It it would be nice if it were a lot warmer. If it is dry tomorrow morning we will start walking to the Capo de Finisterre before Christa and Ute arrive and meet them on the road but I am not very hopeful.
Now to bed to get warm!
Today we only walked 12 km, 7.5 miles, but we are pleased that we have finally arrived at "The end of the Earth". It is not very friendly!