Walked Today: 8.7 mi / Camino2022: 312 mi
Our taxi driver from yesterday met us at 8:30 and took us back to Lestedo to begin our walk today.
The pilgrim traffic was very light as we left Lestedo at 8:55 and it stayed that way for the entire morning. So why was the traffic less compared to previous days?
Most pilgrims, especially the younger ones, stay in Albergues and typically have to vacate by 8:00 am. Pilgrim groups are usually staying where there are more beds available, like Portomarín or Palas de Rei or Melide. So, by leaving Lestedo at nearly 9:00 a.m., all the groups were ahead of us and the ones behind us were too far behind to catch us.
After 3 miles we walked through a small group of stone houses and spotted a very old Horreo in a back yard. A few hundred yards further we walked through a sports camp complex with on-site housing for participants and impressive futbol fields with artificial turf, a indoor swimming pool, a large basketball gym, etc.
Next, we entered the town of Palas de Rei and stopped at St Mark’s church for a sello (stamp for our credential).
A minimum of two sellos a day are needed on a pilgrim’s credential for the final 100 km walked into Santiago to qualify for a Compostela.
Leaving Palas de Rei, we got back on the dirt path again and spent the next several miles alternating between dirt paths and sections of narrow local roads. We stopped for hot chocolate in the charming hamlet of San Julian (Xúlian, in Galícian).
We contined for another 2 hours through farmland and forests and made one final stop in Campanilla for lunch… tired from an 8 mile plus walk.
Our tummies full and bodies somewhat recovered, we walked another quarter-mile to a new albergue/bar/beer garden in Coto and arranged for a taxi to take us to Melide.
So, yesterday we reported that we had lunch and spent the night in Melide, even though we stopped walking in Lestedo. Let us explain:
Over a week ago, while waiting to get into our room in Villafranca del Bierzo, everything we had heard indicated the Camino was gonna be full for the last 100km. This is typically true, but especially true in this “Holy Year”. We were monitoring the number of Compostelas being given out to pilgrims in Santiago daily. The number has been 2500-3000 per day. When we walked the Camino in 2019, we had to wait 5 hours in line to get our Compostela the first week in October and only about 2000 compostelas were given out that day. Our fears were confirmed yesterday, when the pención manager said she was getting many calls every day from pilgrims who were frantic because they couldn’t find a place to stay for the night.
So, back to Villafranca, while we waited for our room, we emailed, called, used Booking.com to reserve available places to stay all the way to Santiago. We were missing two or three locations, so we did some calculations and decided we needed to employ “taxi hopping” to manage our lodging selections. This resulted in booking Casa Cines in Pintin and Pención Orois in Melide for three consecutive nights each to use as a base to walk the sections of the Camino where lodging was not available.
We’ve successfully completed the Casa Cines plan and are now implementing the Melide plan.
We walked from Gonzar to Lestedo yesterday, taxied to Melide for the night, taxied back to Lestedo this morning and walked to Coto today. Tomorrow morning a taxi will take us back to our stop point in Coto and we’ll walk through Melide to Boente and taxi back to Melide to spend the night. The following morning, we’ll check out of Pención Orois, taxi to Boente and began our walk, continuing on normally from there on through the remaining villages/towns for the remaining days to Santiago.
Some purists might suggest we should just take our chances as I’m sure many pilgrims do. We believe the Camino presents many challenges that a pilgrim need overcome to earn the Compostela. Having personally dealt with arriving at a town and finding you have no place to stay or having to spend hours at the end of a long walk, walking more miles to find a place to stay or having to stay in a place that does not meet personal standards of cleanliness, safety, etc. have taught these two pilgrims to do some extra planning and be a little creative, in order to avoid unnecessary occurrences that can detract from an otherwise enjoyable Camino.
We believe as a pilgrim, you can and should do the Camino in a way that works for you and not necessarily adhering strictly to a guide or anyone else. In the end, your Camino is personal and is what you make it.
6 MORE DAYS TO SANTIAGO