Travels - Links to each trip

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Camino 2016: Via de La Plata Day 33 - Ventas de Narón to O Coto

Saturday April 30, 2016
Today was a tough day for me physically. My legs are saying "enough" but my heart draws me nearer and nearer to Santiago. When I set out this morning I had 80km or 50 miles to go and I walked 21 km so now I am down to about 60 km with 5 days to go but I plan to have at least one full day in Santiago so I am planning on 4 more walking days and arriving in Santiago no later than Wednesday.
The albergue was nice but after I had checked in and unpacked etc. that I learned that the wifi was not working. So I started the blog without wifi and went across down the road to another albergue to upload the pictures. It took a while but a beer helped pass the time and it was warm enough to sit outside in the afternoon with the sun, but gets very cold as soon as the sun gets low in the sky.
It was very cold last night in the albergue and I was glad to have an extra blanket on top of my sleeping bag. When I left at about 7:15 the temperature was close to 0°C or 32°F. It had rained a bit during the night and the road was wet except under the trees so I don't think it was much.
As I passed a group of trees in the semi-light it looked like frost on the leaves and my hands certainly felt cold enough. Although we have had several cold mornings I have only used gloves about twice but today I got them out again and was glad to know where they were and not in the bottom of my backpack.

The route today had very little flat ground but went up and down over several hills, not mountains anymore but still strenuous. However it was very pretty. At first we had fog but it cleared in about two hours as the sun rose higher in the sky. Here I pass d a washing station where people from the village could take their washing but I am sure it is not used anymore.
It must have been quite a communal activity with the women doing their washing while they learned all the latest happenings and gossip.
Some of the time the route ra n along the side of a road but it was early on a Saturday morning and there was very little traffic.
Since I was walking from village to village I passed several of these horreos in each village. I think someone are for a Family to store their grain and some are for comunal storage for several families or even the whole village.

After an hour or so I came across a place where I could get some breakfast so I had my usual toast and coffee.
Much of the time the paths were lined with trees and were much lower than the surrounding fields, rather like the country lanes in England..

After about 4 fours of walking I came to another place where I could get some refreshment. Earlier, as I passed through the town of Palas de Rei I noticed a bakery by the side of the road. There was no retail store but I asked if I could buy an empanada. Yes, of course, I was told. What kind do you want and the person rattled off a whole list of different ones. I settled on "carne" and after discussion she cut a big piece from the pie and let me have it for Eur 2.50. I put it in my backpack for later. Now I bought a beer and sat outside in the sun to enjoy it along with the empanada.
Then I passed a grove of trees with the silver looking leaves and recognized them as eucalyptus trees which are often found in Galicia, originally imported during the Franco regime for paper making when propaganda papers were produced in vast quantities. I think the trees I had seen first thing this morning were also a eucalyptus trees and that it was not frost on the leaves but their natural sheen.

The continuous ups and downs finally got my legs to the point where they didn't want to go any further. The next albergue was 6km further but I remembered that when I was here three years ago we stopped for the night at a small hotel in a place called O Coto which was very close so I headed for that and found a nice room there to myself instead of in a dormitory for a change, even with a private bathroom. I remembered that last time we paid Eur 45 for a room with 3 beds for the three of us. now a single room cost Eur 45. Inflation or should I have tried to negotiate?
This is the side with the patio. The inside of the hotel has stone walls and is very comfortable.
It is very nice to enjoy that for an afternoon and a night after 30 days and nights. After I had settled in I went to the outside patio for some lunch and enjoyed a Caldo Gallego (traditional Galician soup)and Pimientos de Padron. Some of them may be spicy but you can't tell which ones, but these were all mild. The beer tasted good too and my legs started to recover a bit.
After I took a nap I worked on today's blog sitting outside. It was very nice.
Later I had some dinner. Chorizo with fried eggs and fried potatoes. All very greasy so perhaps it will lubricate my legs for tomorrow!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Camino 2016: Via de La Plata Day 32 - Ferreiros to Ventas de Narón

Friday April 29, 2016
Not a very good night but I am partly to blame. When I checked in yesterday afternoon I was assigned a lower bed against the wall at one end of the dormitory which I thought would be good. I did not notice til later that there was a radiator along the wall next to the bed.
When I saw it I still did not worry since it was not cold in the room or outside, there were plenty of blankets for people to use and they are usually very reluctant to turn the heating on.
However, last night the heating was running all night and it got very hot, especially near me lying right next to the radiator. There was only one empty bed and it happened to be the one above me so I just took my sleeping bag and moved up there for the rest of the night.
Anyway, woke up at about 6:30 as usual and left at about 7:00. No breakfast available unti later so I set off on a cold morning. Here is the albergue as it was just getting light.
Came past a cemetery. Most seem to be above ground cemeteries. I am not sure if this is because of the rocky ground or because of a high water table.

The sky was pretty with the clouds tinged with pink and frost on the ground. I had difficulty keeping my fingers warm.
There are a lot of these trees that look very old.

This is called a "Horreo" and almost every farm or home has one outside their house. They are used for storing grain and other foods and stop them from being accessed by birds or rodents. They always are on a stand with a lip that the mice cannot get around.
The path today is across a river that was dammed in the 60's to form a reservoir. In the process a town was lost under the water and a new one built above the water line of the residents. This picture is a view of the fog that has formed above the reservoir
Down at water level a bridge crosses into the town, but this morning it is in the fog even though it is a bright sunny day up above.
Steep steps lead up into the town. I needed to find a bank so I had to climb up here. But first I found a place for breakfast since I was hungry having left the albergue and walked for about two hours already. They had good wifi so I was able to upload yesterday's blog while I had breakfast and then go further up the hill to the bank to refill my wallet.
After my success with breakfast and at the bank I headed back onto the Camino. The first part of the next stretch was 30 mins up a fairly steep hill, and then through the familiar farming areas.
Nice colors on the sides of the paths and a different kind of undergrowth
Finally about 7 hours after I left the albergue this morning and 24km I stopped at an albergue that looked good in the guide book. Except for the wifi not working, it is very nice. It is small with just 12 beds in the room I am in. I chose a bed that is not a bunk so I can sit up in it without hitting my head and get out without having to climb down a ladder.
So far all my equipment is holding up well. My Merrell Moab boots are very comfortable and with my Marino wool socks and silk liner socks, so far no blisters. The hiking poles are absolutely invaluable, especially on the steep ascents and descents and the "rock hopping" to get around and through water and muddy stretches. My backpack is the same one I used on the other Caminos and has held up well.
I have developed a packing routine that works well with things put into the pack each evening based on putting the things I may need during the day or soon after arriving last so they are near the top. Other things are buried near the bottom and I have to hope I won't need get at them while walking. Generally it works well and I can now find items by feel without looking into the pack.
Tonight I had a nice dinner with three others who are also walking the Camino. Two from Germany and one from France.
We ate in the albergue where it is rather cold. I think we have all the beds in our room occupied tonight so that should help warm it up a bit except that the stone walls are two feet thick and will probably take all summer to warm up. The forecast for tomorrow morning is 0°C so I will have to make sure I can find my gloves, but overall the weather for the next few days is cool but sunny with no rain
Trank you For the comments to the Blogs. I read and enjoy every one
The wifi is now working here which makes writing the blog easier.

Camino 2016: Via de La Plata Day 31 - San Mamede to Ferreiros

Thursday April 28, 2016
After the strenuous day yesterday I decided to take a much shortter day today. I am not in a hurry since I have plenty of time before I have to be in Santiago. I plan to leave Santiago for Madrid on April 6 to catch my plane back to USA on April 7. That means that after today I have seven walking days left, but with 100 km to go that would normally take me no more than 4-5 days.
So I set out a bit later, stopped more often and stopped earlier for the rest of the day, only covering a little over 17km. It is a beautiful day and I found a nice albergue.
As I was getting ready this morning I realized that I only had about 40 Euros left so I need to find an ATM. I knew there would be some in the next town of Sarria. As I walked through I looked for a bank but didn't see one. I arrived at the edge of the town which is at the top of a very steep hill and asked someone where I could find a bank. She said they were all at the bottom of the hill! I was not going to go back down and calculated that with a bed for 10 Eur, dinner for 10 Eur and the remaining 10Eur for snacks, beer, wine etc. I would be fine until the next town tomorrow morning. The next town with banks is Portomarin, about 10km away so I will be fine.
Anyway, it was a beautiful morning, cold (4°C) but clear and when the sun came up it warmed nicely. Since Sarria is the last town where people who walk to Santiago can qualify for the certificate (Compostela) as a pilgrim, many people, especially Spanish people start from here. So the whole atmosphere of the Camino changes and the number of people on the road each day increases to about four times the number before Sarria. Some people are in big groups, many carry only light backpacks and stay in hotels or send their backpacks with a special transport to the place they plan to stop next. It becomes much busier and noisier than before.
Last time I walked the Camino I was disturbed by this sudden change, especially as this is the time where we are getting close to the shrine of St James in the cathedral in Santiago. This time I was better prepared for it and it doesn't bother me anymore. It is a lesson in not being upset by things you have no control over.
Anyway, the way was familiar to me as I left Sarria, along the river on a fairly narrow path with this sign that I remembered from last time warning drivers to slow down before crossing the railroad tracks.
The path is too narrow for most vehicles so I am not sure why the speed limit warning is necessary!
Then across a series of streams, each nicely arranged with a way of crossing with dry feet. Very luxurious compared to the Via de La Plata.
Then through some trees which look very old. Sorry for the finger in the photo.
Then a nice dry path beside a stream.
Out across the fields with their stone walls separating them with pretty clouds above.
Small farms with cows or sheep in the fields around them
Along narrow lanes leading from one small village to another. Often the farming smells were a stronger sensation than the visual.
Once more stepping stones
And again, this time with water running alongside.
This little fellow was siting on the side of one of the rock walls beside the path.
On again with the trees lining the path. Then I reached a small bar and it was time for a snack. I had a bowl of soup which always comes with crusty bread along with a beer, sat for a while in the sun and watched the steady procession of people go by.
The albergue I am staying at today is very nice and up the hill from a restaurant. Unfortunately the wifi is only in the restaurant and it is so slow that I couldn't upload any pictures today so blog will have to wait until tomorrow to be uploaded.
Dinner tonight in the restaurant. Not organized but I sat with a man from Utah who turned out to be a permanent deacon in the Catholic Church. We had a very interesting discussion. I told him I planned to take back scallop shells from Santiago for the baptism of the twins and he wondered why he had not thought of that for the churches he supports, especially a school with a big mural on the wall depicting John the Baptist baptizing Jesus in the river Jordan - with a scallop shell.
Well I paid for a bed, had a beer and soup for lunch, a beer in the afternoon and a three course dinner with a bottle of wine and I still have 15Eur left for tomorrow so I will have breakfast too before I find a bank. How did that happen? Life is good on the Camino.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

TCamino 2016: Via de La Plata Day 30 - Fonfría to San Mamede

Wednesday April 27, 2016
Having spent the night in a very nice albergue along the ridge at about the same height as O'Cebreiro, today was the descent. It was a long way up for my leg muscles and my knees were very unhappy on the way down.
The day started with a very pretty sky, with tinges of red, perhaps to foreshadow the possibility of showers which the weather forecast said were a possibility.
The valley I was about to head down into was still covered by low clouds, I hoped the sun would clear them soon.
The path down not too steep to start with but it very steep and rocky further down. No photos of that I am afraid to say.
As I got further down I was soon at cloud level. An interesting experience.
More flowers by the spring. They seem to like the wet soil.
I know I am tall, but this is ridiculous. When I was a plant manager my nickname on the factory floor was "Long Legs". The sun is still low in the sky.
Soon I was down in a small forest of chestnut trees. Many of them looked very old.
One in particular was said to be 800 years old
By now I was down in the little villages with small farms. Here the cows are lying down. My grandmother used to say that meant that it would rain. I think it is just because they are tired, at least I hope so.
After we were down from O'Cebreiro in Triacastela there were two routes to choose from. Last time I walked the Camino we chose the route through Samos where there is a Benedictine monastery that can trace its roots back to the 5th/6th century, one of the oldest in the western world. This time I decided to take the other route which is slightly shorter but goes first up hill again to the little village of San Xil and then along a stretch with views over the surrounding mountains before descending again to the town of Sarria.
I found the day very strenuous, especially my knees on the long descent and then the up and down and was glad to sit in the sun and take a rest while I had a snack from my backpack. It is now 125km (77 miles) to Santiago according to the distance marker beside me.
The views across the valleys were very pretty but it looks as if the clouds are moving in.
Finally, after stopping for a bowl of soup and a beer at a little local bar I arrived at the albergue I had chosen after about 24 tough km today. It was later than usual but no problem with getting a bed in a room with 4 bunks (8 beds) but although at 5:30pm when I wrote the first draft of the blog all the other beds in my room were empty, by dinner time they were all filled when a Spanish group arrived
The albergue is very nice with a garden, and a nice common room/ dining room with a wood burning fireplace,where we we will eat dinner together tonight. The sleeping rooms also have heating- very seldom in albergues. Usually when it is cold they just offer heavy blanks to use with the sleeping bags we all carry