Day 63- Palas de Rei to Melide

Distance Today                       9.0 mi

  • Distance Camino 2017       458.8 mi

Pilgrims, pilgrims everywhere! The Camino was like a freeway today, populated mostly by tourists and daypackers, but we didn’t see them. We focused on our journey, greeted everyone as if they, like we, had walked over 450 miles to get here, and enjoyed the small villages, the forests, the canopied pathways and the narrow roads winding their way through the picturesque farms in between.

Jim had a nice chat with a Norwegian couple when we stopped for OJ at Mato-Casanova (pop.8) and they continued a conversation about Jim’s thoughts about the Camino for a while when they caught up to us later as we walked past O Coto (and passing from the region of Lugo to A Coruña). He was a writer and asked if he could include his conversation with Jim in a future article to which Jim agreed. Jim also gave him information on our blog.

We stopped in Furelos (pop. 135)

for lunch to avoid the masses and then walked into Melide to our hotel, Pension Orois (36€).

Jim has been nursing a blister on the tip of his toe and his boots are not cooperating. So yesterday he tried walking in his sandals (Ecco) for the first time for the short 3 mile walk with success. So today he tried them again for the 9 mile walk and again, gave the toe a break from rubbing against the inside of the boot. After over 750 miles walking the Camino since 2012, we discovered you can teach an old dog new tricks!

We rested most of the afternoon and then devoted 45 minutes on the phone, mostly on hold, with American Airlines to change our flight home from Oct16 to Oct10, as we are going to arrive in Santiago sooner than our original plan.

We then walked a few blocks to have dinner. On the way we stopped at Iglesia de San Roque which was rebuilt using a 14th century facade and a 14th century stone cross just outside. It was closed, so we couldn’t see the inside.

An older French pilgrim cyclist who had traveled from Le Puy en Velay, France asked Linda to take his photo in front of San Roque, which she did, gladly.

The area around Melide contains Neolithic dolmens and prehistoric castrum, suggesting that the area was well settled in prehistoric times. The town became a transportation and commerce hub in the Middle Ages, with four large pilgrim hospitals.  Also, the northern Camino Primativo joins the Camino Francés route in Melide.

Because Melide is, today, well known for its Pulpo á la Gallega, (boiled octopus served with olive oil & paprika), we then walked to the nearby Pulperia A Garnacha, where we had pulpo (boiled octopus), pimentos (roasted baby pablano peppers) and a tortilla (Spanish omelette)… and Mencía wine.

It was muy bueno! And for dessert, Jim had helado (ice cream) and yes, Linda finally got some delicious homemade RICE PUDDING!

A great finish to a delightful day on the Camino Frances.

Day 62- Lestedo to Palas de Rei

  • Distance Today                        2.5 mi
  • Distance Camino 2017       449.8 mi

Today’s walk was very pleasant, but brief… almost like a day off, but still moving steadily toward Santiago.  It was so short we had barely started when we arrived at our destination of Palas de Rei (pop.3743)

So why such a short walk?  When rooms began to get scarce a few weeks ago, we estimated the days to get to Santiago and booked several nights there in a pencion near the Catedral to make it easy to wrap up the Camino and to use as our base to plan our logistics for thereafter. Our return flight to Greenville as it now stands is ticketed for 16 Oct.

Well, as luck would have it, we started gaining on our average daily miles walked a few weeks ago and rather than try to change our dates in Santiago and the nights we had already reserved in good locations on the way to Santiago, we just decided to have a light day today and to slow down a bit on our final week to arrive in Santiago on the day of our booking. If all goes to plan, we will arrive in Santiago on 5 Oct.

It threatened rain from daybreak but all we got was a light drizzle. When the showers finally came, we were checked-in and in our room, having dodged another rain “bullet”.

Our room is in Pencion Curro (45€) and is in a separate building, up the street from the restaurant and bunkbed section. The room is bland and unimpressive, especially compared to yesterday, but it’s clean, has three beds (extra room to organize our stuff) and other accommodations that will meet our needs just fine. The only negative is a strong wifi signal but no internet. Jim found the modem and router but so far hasn’t been able to get the internet signal to connect as in previous locations.

At 12:40 we walked a few blocks from our room looking for pasta and found a place that was open, but pasta wouldn’t be available until 1:00. Our second choice was pizza so we found a restaurant also open which served pizza but not until 1:30! By now it was 1:00 so we returned to the first place and Linda had spaghetti but Jim had changed his mind and had cod instead.

For dessert, the main reason we went back to the pasta restaurant was because on their menu was a Linda favorite, “homemade” rice pudding. Jim ordered ice cream and Linda ordered rice pudding. The waiter brought Linda ice cream too. Linda said “I ordered rice pudding” to which the waiter apologized and returned with a flan, to which Linda repeated calmly , “I ordered rice pudding” to which the waiter said “we don’t have rice pudding”, so Linda ate flan for dessert… we guess rice pudding will come another day. (After 62 days, we are really getting this Camino thing, down pat!)

For dinner we returned to restaurant number 2 for pizza, and hoped they continued serving from 1:30, which thankfully they did. We shared a large margarita pizza and a glass of Rioja wine, returned to our room and called it a day.

Day 61- Gonzar to Lestedo

  • Distance Today                        9.0 mi
  • Distance Camino 2017        447.3 mi

At 8:10 we began walking in heavy fog and an hour later almost missed the “Castro” (fort) of Castomaior, the remains of a Roman fort occupied from the 4th century BC to the 1st century AD.

Standing on highest mound of the fort and building ruins below on right

What remains are several concentric circular mounds up to 20 feet high with ruins/foundations of stone buildings protected in the center. It was difficult to photograph due to the fog but fascinating to see… over 2000 years old.

Our walk today was very pleasant with gentle ups and downs and even some level places. We passed thru no less than 8 small villages and hamlets ranging in population from 2 to 120. Each had at least one place to stop for refreshment. Small farms with sheep and cattle and chickens filled the area in between.

We saw almost no pilgrims during our 9 mile walk! We’re guessing that the sunami of yesterday moved on ahead of us at least 5 miles before stopping last night. And because we had a 5 mile lead on today’s wave from Portomarin, they didn’t have time to catch us before we reached our destination of Lestedo (pop.7) at 12:30. Actually we could see them coming as we walked into Hosteria Calixtino (60€).

Here they come just as we got to Lestedo.

Our Hotel is only 6 months old and very nice. The staff has been very helpful and the food and wifi were good. Jim even tried their hamburguesa (Spanish version of hamburger) and was very pleasantly surprised. At lunch we chatted with Jill and Dennis, a nice couple from Brisbane, Australia who had a reservation in the next town.

Another great day on the Camino has come to an end as we upload today’s blog entry and retire for the evening.

Day 60- Portomarin to Gonzar

  1. Distance Today                         4.9 mi
  2. Distance Camino 2017          438.3 mi

In just three days the atmosphere of the Camino has dramatically changed, and in our opinion, not for the better. We especially noticed it this morning when we walked out of Portomarin at 8:45.

Literally hoards of people of all ages, neatly dressed in new, unblemished shoes, brand new, unstained small daypacks and particularly, women adorned with designer blouses and slacks, earrings, heavy makeup and not a wrinkled garment in sight.

We counted over 50 “pilgrims” in front of us walking down the hill from Portomarin and an endless stream behind them unloading from tour busses. For the first 400 miles of the Camino we might have walked for two days without seeing 50 pilgrims.

As we began the steep climb out of Portomarin passing a few older folks but having most pilgrims pass us, we didn’t hear one unsolicited “buen Camino” from a passing pilgrim. Our “buen Camino’s” were mostly not responded to in wonderment while others looked blankly at us or just smiled.

At one point along the way on a narrow section of path, a group of four well dressed middle aged Spanish adult “pilgrims” stopped and began chatting as one member of the group placed their pack in the path and decided to remove a jacket. They completely blocked the path until a couple “holas” from this particular pilgrim caused them to slowly make way for us and other pilgrims to pass, the four seemingly unaware that they were not the only people on the Camino this morning.

We’re sure that many of these pilgrims are here for a meaningful experience either spiritual, religious, educational or otherwise. It’s obviously not appropriate to judge other people’s motives or actions, especially with little or no facts about their life or situation. It is, nonetheless, troubling to see such a change in atmosphere for what has been a truly sobering, meditative, energizing, tranquil and otherwise wonderful experience. Maybe these last few miles to Santiago will be the ultimate challenge to not allow the external environment to diminish the personally satisfying and enriching life experience that is the Camino Frances.

We are staying in Gonzar (pop.43) at Casa García (35€) with nice accommodations, tasty food and a good environment for a restful afternoon and evening.

Day 59- Rente to Portomarin

  • Distance Today                      10.4 mi
  • Distance Camino 2017         433.4 mi

The most significant part of today’s walk was not the terrain or walking surfaces, which were very tame,

but instead the number of pilgrims. For the first day since we began the Camino 2017 there were always one or more pilgrims visibly in front or behind us. Further, the demographics also shifted to much younger and more Spanish pilgrims.

We expected an increase in the number of pilgrims after passing Sarria, but today when ever we reached a bar along the way there were typically 20-30 pilgrims present. Waiting in line to use the bathroom or to order breakfast or a drink was common. And when we reached the 100 km to Santiago marker,

    100 km (62 miles) to Santiago

halfway through our 10 mile walk, a dozen or so pilgrims were lined up to have their photo taken.

We stopped several times today to rest, pacing ourselves for the longer than average walking distance,

including stopping for both breakfast and lunch breaks and didn’t reach Portomarin (pop. 1737) our destination until 1:30. But the cool morning air, late rising fog and shady walking areas made the walk quite pleasant.

Portomarín has been around for a while with a bridge from at least the late 10th century, but the current city is a relocation of the historic city including buildings transferred stone by stone.

This was all due to a dam constructed in 1956, which flooded the former city that was located on both sides of the river. Today the water is normally low enough to see the remnants of the former city including the Roman bridge. Many bridges have spanned the river at this strategic point. Al-Mansur destroyed an early bridge in his campaign of devastation in 997. After being rebuilt, the bridge was taken out again by the 1112 war between Queen Urraca and her husband. Later, Urraca had the bridge rebuilt along with a pilgrim hospital. The strategic town needed to be protected, and this role fell first to the Order of Santiago, then to the Order of San Juan de Jerusalén. The town became an important pilgrim stopping point, including for royal pilgrims such as King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Domenico Laffi described it as, “an excellent place that has plenty of everything.” The city declined in the 19th century as the nearby city of Lugo rose to prominence.

The only difficult part of the walk today was the last mile going into Portomarin which was a long, steep stretch of downhill pavement resulting in an atypical blister for Jim.

We checked in to Pencion El Caminante when we arrived (45€) and tended to our chores.

Then, we struggled with wifi both in our room, the hotel common areas and nearby bars and restaurants. The hotel had a weak signal, but elsewhere was due to the high number of users as tonight this town with a huge number of places to stay was completely booked (or “completo”).

We had a delicious margarita pizza for dinner overlooking the picturesque town square and then retired to our room for the day.


Day 58- Pintin to Rente

  • Distance Today                       7.4 mi
  • Distance Camino 2017      423.0 mi

This morning was foggy when we left and stayed that way all the way through Sarria, a major starting point for those wishing to do the minimum 100km to receive a Compostela.

The Camino experience can change dramatically here as groups enter the Camino who may be less familiar with pilgrim etiquette. While Sarria is a convenient and well-equipped pilgrim town, many guidebooks suggest to continue on to Barbadelo, the next hamlet for a more rural and relaxed setting.

We hurried through Sarria as suggested as it is not an attractive town, doesn’t project a very cordial Camino atmosphere and we had a reservation in Rente, a village about 3 miles beyond.

The most difficult part of our walk today was the 300 ft hill we had to climb between Sarria and Barbadelo. 300 ft doesn’t seem like that much, but we did it in less than a 0.2 mile stretch. Otherwise the ups and downs were not significant.

We stopped at an albergue in Barbadelo to rest and to order bocadillas for lunch to take with us. Our home for the afternoon and evening, Casa Nova (31€) only provides an evening meal and breakfast.

We arrived at Casa Nova in Rente just before noon and were given a nice room in a lovely B&B which is a converted farmhouse and is run by a family who still works the farm and lives onsite.

We spent the afternoon resting and Jim caught up on blogging as our wifi was fast and we had a good signal in common areas as well as our room.

Our dinner (10€) was a typical pilgrim offering of farmhouse soup (collards, potatoes, white beans and broth), delicious marinated and roasted lamp shanks over vegetables and Santiago cake for dessert, red local wine included.

We ate with two French ladies that have been hopscotching with us the past several days and followed Jim’s recommendation staying at Casa Nova (we stayed here in 2015) and they and we were not disappointed.

Day57- Triacastela to Pintin

  • Distance Today                       7.6 mi
  • Distance Camino 2017       415.6 mi

Our hostess fed us a desayuno (breakfast) at Casa da Veiga and then drove us along with two other pilgrims to where we stopped yesterday in Triacastela. We thanked her for her hospitality and were on our way to San Xil, the main Camino route toward Sarria. There is an alternate route from Triacastela which goes through Samos and adds 6.5 km to the walk, which we wanted no part of, so we were careful not to miss the turn.

We walked for a while with a nice young man from Switzerland who had started a very successful business in the event planning field, which created an instant basis for continued conversation. He was walking 15 miles/day versus our 7.5 miles/day rate, so after a mile or so he had to pick up his pace.

After a short distance on a small country paved road, we took a path up the side of the mountain for about 1.5 miles climbing about 900 feet, walked another mile or so on a relatively level paved road (probably the same one we started on) and then, in typical Camino fashion, proceeded to walk down 900 feet in elevation on a very steep dirt path to compensate for the earlier climb!

As the path/pavement leveled out again, we chatted and walked with a father (now 68 and a Georgia Tech ’72 grad) and son from Monterey, Mexico. They both spoke impeccable English. The son was in the process of making a job change and moving to Boston.

The remaining walk was much more humane through farms and rolling hills but with no stopping places so when we strolled into Pintin and checked in to pension Casa Cines (40€) we were pooped.

We stayed in Casa Cines on our first Camino in 2015, so we feel right at home. Some upgrades to the bar and restaurant have been made recently and it is a popular rest stop about half way between Triacastela and Sarria. We farmed out washing and drying our clothes to the staff and rested most of the afternoon.

There is not much else to see in Pintin so we had lunch and dinner at Casa Cines.

We had dinner tonight with Mike from Toronto, a recently retired school teacher.  Our meal was enriched with shared Camino experiences and we retired for the evening after another great Camino day.