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We finally arrived in Santiago.

Concluding  this epic adventure felt  bitter/sweet as  our buddy John was not with us following his early flight back to the UK. It seems somewhat ironic that so called ‘plastic pilgrims’ only have to complete the last 100Km to receive a formal Compostella (certificate) whilst John had been with us every step of the way for 800Km but has been denied the same.

We first started our Pilgrimage from Sevilla back in September 2015. What an amazing experience this has been – over 1000 Km covered on foot.

The cold  and misty start to our day felt quite eerie, our  muffled footsteps led us on the Camino trail out of the small village over the main road and back onto the wooded paths once more.

This , our penultimate day on the Camino was another short day , much appreciate as weary legs were quite evident having walked day after day for over a week now. Our pace had slowed – even Tony the Whippet dropped back for a while today .

We stopped 2Km short of our planned destination, the newly built Albergue was a real Gem…probably the best so far.

With beds carefully allocated to us by our welcoming  host, Richard decided he would prefer a window view and completely ignored these instructions, later he was gently reminded  by the owner that this was not Pilgrim like behaviour ….the rest of us nodded sagely as we had become used to this by now of course.

Dinner in the local restaurant was quite good, although the Pulpo was a little chewy and Mark left his rice (who needs rice with sausage egg and chips ?)

After over 40 days of walking, tomorrow we arrive in Santiago. 

With much less distance to cover and fewer hills to climb, today felt like a gentle stroll compared to the previous  two days . 

A rather uneventful day all in all, most enjoyable none the less.

Our Albergue was adequate with all the facilities needed, apart from kitchen utensils that is, so no delicious  Spanish chicken cooked by Richard sadly,

Arriving back after dinner 10 minutes before the Albegue lock up time , Richard realised he had left his sun glasses on the bar table so sprinted back with Mark to fetch them.

Returning a few minutes later, feeling pleased with themselves that they were back 2 minutes to the 10pm deadline , the perimeter gate was  locked shut …. Early !!

After shouting for a few minutes to attract attention , Davin heard us and after much arm twisting finally agreed to bring a chair so that we could climb over the fence. As we began to do so a much smarter fellow pilgrim walked up and gently pushed the gate open – muchas gracias.

Just two more days now and we will be in Santiago .

Graffiti we found in Baneira
Tony attempting to eat sunflower seeds
Richard helping a passing cyclist
A friendly Spanish pilgrim we met ali the way

Leaving the Monastery in the dark, we found navigating our way back to the Camino trail very difficult – this along with wrongly positioned way makers made our first hours trekking rather frustrating to say the he least.

The paths today varied enormously – steep narrow rocky tracks, grassy wood land  sections and towards the end a steep downhill path covered with shale where Mark slipped and rather elegantly did the splits , skinned his Knee cap and landed on his Bum. Ironically this happened moments after he instructed everyone to take care as one false move could result in a problem for us all.

After yesterdays shenanigans with breakfast we were pleased to find a cafe after an hour or so – it was completely deserted as we arrived so thought we would be served quickly. How wrong could we be ….we were greeted with  “Please wait 5 minutes” as a car with 4 Lycra clad cyclists  pulled up outside “they are before you”….she said – a minute later 2 more arrived … then a group of 6 until the cafe was full with what appeared to be the regional Cycling squad. 

Serving her regular customers first  we were relegated to a table outside and after a 20 minute wait we decided to walk back to the petrol station and make a DIY breakfast with Petrol station cheese and croissants, washed down with Orange Juice .

In fact Petrol stations turned out to be quite significant factor for us today …I will come back to this later .

All feeling rather weary after our long hot days trekking  yesterday, our pace slowed somewhat for the last 10Km. Mark fell behind following a short resting stop, he had to retrace his steps – Initially to go back for his walking staff and then a second time to fetch his neck scarf left carelessly on the floor.

We finally  arrived in A Laxe, Tony half an hour ahead found the Albergue and was promptly informed by the host that as it was Sunday everything was closed so the only option was a Pizza takeaway and  apparently only our host could order this for us . Suspicions raised and Tony being a canny Yorkshireman , he didn’t fall for that old trick and with a bit of Googling found a restaurant nearby. 

We quickly showered and changed and almost ran up the hill to secure a table at Tonys restaurant – Richard had phoned ahead and confidently told us it was open until 7pm so we had to get going – when we arrived we discovered it opened AT 7pm  in 2 hours time !

Fortunately a little further up the hill  there was a petrol station with  a rather comfortable air conditioned Bar inside.

The next couple of hours proved to be quite entertaining. Just like the sketch from Faulty Towers where  Basil Faulty kept  popping up playing different roles first at reception, carrying bags , then as a waiter..etc etc.

As we sat comfortably sipping our beers watching events unfold , eating olives and crisps from the petrol station shop we were all captivated by  the rather overweight and very stressed attendant running her self ragged, single handedly serving all and sundry. 

One minute she was the hand pump attendant serving fuel stuffing the cash into her pocket , then she ran back inside to serve a bearded local who was drinking red wine shots at the bar …then back out to help an equally overweight gentleman who’s Mercedes had a flat tyre. A group of bikers turned up all wanting fuel at once then to top it all a coach pulled in but fortunately all the driver wanted was a quick leak .

The attendant worked her socks off whilst getting hotter and sweatier as the afternoon went on.   Being such a large lady we all had to avert our gaze more than once….as she sprinted across the forecourt it was quite clear she had not discovered the under wired bra.

All in all this was quite an education for us ..  we felt almost as exhausted as her by the time we left.

We made our way back to the Albergue for another early night, in just a few days time  having covered over 1000km of the Via de la plata we would be in Santiago. 

Away by 7:30am and passing over the Romanesque bridge, the first hour or so  was an extremely taxing climb as we left the bustling town of Ourense. In fact the whole day was going to be very challenging; In 30 degrees of heat covering a distance of 30Km and a total assent of almost 3,000 feet in 8 hours –  it was our toughest day yet.

Mark had earlier spotted a coupe of rather delightful morning cafe options for a welcome strength building  breakfast of tostados and cafe con leche , but Richard quickly dismissed his suggestion saying he much preferred to walk a little way before eating and that we would find somewhere else in an hour or so. Tony also tentatively  pointed out a rather appealing road side cafe on the edge of town, he too was given short shrift by Richard – Clearly , after three days as Marks (temporary) stand in blogger the power had gone to his head !

…this would never have happened if Dr John was here. 

Some five hours later, all hungry and still in desperate need of our morning coffee, we finally came to the only bar en route in the middle of nowhere , serving any dish we cared for as long as it was omelet sandwich – beggars can’t be choosers !

The familiar Camino gravel path transitioned into a soft carpet of fresh pine needles covering ancient granite boulders. It is incredible to imagine many hundreds of years ago our fellow pilgrims picking their way through the same undulating terrain as they journeyed to our common sacred destination – Santiago de Compestala – the final resting  place of St James.

The cool, sun dappled woodland glade was a most  welcome break from the midday sun as our gradual decent drew us closer to Oserio. After almost 8 hours walking we reached our destination , the Monastery which had a superbly well appointed  dormitory   and excellent shower  facilities. Mark went ahead to secure bunk beds whilst Davin, Richard and Tony rested their weary legs in the local bar.

After so many disappointing pilgrims suppers so far this year the highlight of our day was an incredible gastronomic evening supper prepared by a very charismatic Galician Chef de patron. (See photos)

Chef  approached our  table and explained the classic Galician menu, taking great pride  in describing the food he was about to prepare for us …Cheese with creamy balsamic vinegar, apricots, pecan nuts and salty Anchovies followed by Rice cooked in black squid ink, baby squid and cured ham – delicious .  Only a Yorkshireman with the appetite of  Tony could some how manage a desert after that – when his beautifully prepared  ensemble of fresh berry fruits and ice cream arrived  we all wished we had ordered the same.

All tucked up in bed by 9pm – Tomorrow would be an earlier 6:30 am start as another hot 30Km day beckons.

Buen Camino !

Apart from two friendly British cycling pilgrims upstairs, we were the only pilgrims in the scallop grotto albergue. As a result we weren’t disturbed by the “bag rustlers” who normally wake you at 6.30 and overslept waking at 7.30. 
This would never have happened with Mark in charge!
We were on the road in record time at 7.55 and passed the younger guy from the bar who we later found out from the cyclists was on his way to make us coffee! 

Another beautifully sunny day with a chilly start, we soon began shedding layers. Today’s walk was quite different to yesterday’s being far flatter, and through lovely woodland paths with our by now familiar cuckoo serenade.
Breakfast was in a small town about 90 minutes into our walk. Richard enquired in his best Spanish “ tiene tostada con tomate?”  Met by a blank stare he repeated his question and the waitress said “ aah Sí, tostada con tomate” so we sat in the sunshine and waited. Minutes later she produced a plate with four pieces of toast ( there are three of us!) butter and strawberry jam! We didn’t have the energy to argue! 

The walk continued nonstop for the rest of the day at one point along a perfectly straight track that went on, seemingly forever. Arriving in Xunqueira we passed the albergue about half a mile out of town and decided we would rather stay in town even if it meant “splashing out” on a more expensive Hostal. 

We checked into Albergue Tomas in the main square of this very pleasant town and enjoyed lunch in the sunshine before showering and doing laundry.

Importantly we have been in touch with John and Mark throughout the day and John is recovering well and booked on a homeward flight on Friday. Mark and he seem to be enjoying life as “simple tourists” in Verin.

We spent a pleasant evening sipping beer and cider in the evening sun  outside our hostal/bar and were joined by Joaquin a German pilgrim who agreed to eat with us at 8. However he got a better offer when a bunch of German and Swiss arrived! 
Standard pilgrim fare for dinner and  poor Tony gave in when they got his order wrong for the second time – it really is remarkable how indifferent most of the Spanish are to providing service and hospitality. 

After the dramas of yesterday evening the three remaining pilgrims; Tony, Davin and Richard were quite pleased to leave Campobecerros, a tiny village with only two bars, each competing for “The worst bar in the world award “.

We set off on a bright but chilly morning and walked for two hours before stopping for a welcome breakfast. 

Richard had the dubious responsibility of carrying Mark’s staff and at one point stopped to take a photograph of a large cross covered in Spanish moss and of course left it behind – luckily he only had to return a short distance to recover it.

Today’s walk found us high in the Galician hills walking along woodland paths with spectacular views. At one point the view was dominated by the brand new high speed railway line crossing a bridge and entering a tunnel. One could argue that this spoilt the view but we actually agreed there was a beauty to this modern feat of engineering in an ancient landscape.

The afternoon clouded over which was lucky because we were challenged by one of the toughest hills we have had to climb. Several kilometres of a steep rocky path which would have been murder in hot sun. As it was, Davin ran out of steam about 75% of the way up and even considered turning back. Tony was ahead like a “whippet up a drainpipe” so Richard heroically carried two rucksacks up the rest of the way in relay and force fed Davin Polo mints to give him energy. We all made it and trudged into our destination village.

The village had only one bar and an albergue opposite, both run by the same guy. Both establishments were festooned with scallop shells signed by passing pilgrims,  so much so you couldn’t see walls or ceiling- over 14,000 apparently!

Despite the decor, scallops weren’t on the menu that evening, in fact there was precious little food. We made do with beer, cider, olives and tortilla.

Our morning began with the familiar sound of Dr John securing his feet with protective gaffer tape – little did he know what this day had in store for him .

After the obligatory 2022 Band of Brothers team photo, we set of towards Campobecerros   around  20 Km away .

Mark, Richard, Tony and Davin arrived about 4.5 hours later – but then Mark had a worrying call from John (an hour behind us) who had become quite unwell on route.

After 9 years of walking the Camino covering well over 1000 miles of trekking we had our first emergency…today our Camino buddy John was in trouble and needed an ambulance.

Mark ran back the 4Km to find John with Tony close behind carrying water. Spanish speakers Richard and Davin tried to find a local taxi and arranged for the ambulance to collect John.

To cut a long story short , John is currently in hospital having tests, nothing life threatening but quite worrying for us all as you might imagine.

Whilst John is in hospital , Mark is staying in a Hotel  nearby in Verin – the current plan is to get John on a plane back to England in 5 or 6 days .

Mean while , the remaining three Band of brother Pilgrims Richard , Tony and Davin will continue their trek to Santiago.

Hopefully Pilgrim Richard will pick up the baton and write a short blog for the next 9 days whilst Mark stays with John.

(Update – 04.05.22 John is out of hospital now and hopes to be home in a few days)

After our 2 day journey involving Trains , Planes , Buses and taxis , we  reached Lubian , the town we left back in 2019.

An early breakfast of Tostada and cafe con leche  and we were on our way once again,

 – It feels so good to be back on the Camino after our three year absence.

Our first days trekking began with a  5km or so climb up a winding tarmac road, then onto more traditional paths through woodland glades often crossed with streams of crystal clear water. Well away from civilization now, the familiar calls of cuckoo and woodpecker were all that broke the woodland  silence. 

Entering into the region of Galicia  , home of our destination town Santiago,   we noticed a significant improvement in both way side route markings and well maintained paths .

With no real opportunities to stop for lunch, we walked for 6 hours… more or less none stop – sustained only by sips of water,  half a biscuit snatched from breakfast and an old packet of of fluffy Polos Richard found in his rucksack pocket .

Finally reaching A Gudina, the five of us were  re united once again. Our first Albergue, a new municipal building was probably one of the best we had ever stayed in – hot showers and our own separate bunk-bedded room with  fabulous views across the heathland.

After a delicious  pilgrims supper and a bottle or three of Estrella (Gluten free for Tony) we went back for an early night. All tucked up in bed before 9pm we soon fell into our Camino bedtime routine followed by rhythmic snores and gentle snuffling .