Day 15: O Pedrouzo to Santiago

19.7 km / 12.2 miles

As with tradition, I just try to enjoy the arrival into Santiago and wait until the celebration and emotions of it have settled to write my last day of walking post. So much goes on when you arrive – the celebration with Camino friends and family – the Compostela – the celebration beers – checking into the hotel and showering – dinner with those that have become so important to you in a short amount of time. There’s just not time to sit down and write about it because you want to live it in that moment.

So on to the last day. Broes from Belgium, Blair from Texas and I had decided to leave at 7am. We probably left a few minutes earlier than that as the last day comes with lots of anticipation. You’re excited to reach the goal but also dealing with the emotions of reaching that goal and having to say goodbye to people who have made a major impact on your journey.

As we were leaving O Pedrouzo, we saw one of the three Pacos (Francisco) we’d met on the way – specifically the one we referred to as Whiskey Paco. I had dinner with him and Anne-Sophie on my second night. He didn’t speak English and we both didn’t speak Spanish, but we managed to enjoy our meal together. He later became Whiskey Paco when he bought a few of us some rather large shots of whiskey that we enjoyed together after a meal. Anyway, Blair decided to grab Paco so he could walk with us to Santiago. I was really happy to be walking with people who had been there for me since the early days.

As this part of the walk wasn’t new to me scenery wise, it was a new experience based on the company. In this last stretch you walk through beautiful eucalyptus forests and the walk around part of the Santiago airport. Today the path was packed full of pilgrims. We’d heard there was some sort of celebration day in regard to St. James, so I suspect that many of the Spanish pilgrims we passed had planned to finish their Camino on this day. We also learned that because of the day, the Botafumeiro would be swinging filled with its incense at the mass in the cathedral. This isn’t always a guarantee as normally someone or a group has to pay 500 euros to arrange for it to be part of the mass. I’ve gotten to experience it twice before and it’s well worth it to see.

We only took one break on the walk in to Santiago. We were all anxious to get to the zero mark outside the cathedral.

Arriving at the cathedral is always a special moment. You try or don’t try to hold back tears. You know a journey has come to an end and you know you’ve accomplished something special. It was neat to see our friend Tauri when we arrived in the square. We took our pictures and sat on the ground for a few moments to soak it all in.

As I’ve mentioned, this Camino didn’t go without challenges that tested me. It’s not supposed to be easy, but at times I felt lonely and defeated. This was a harder Camino to make connections on with fellow pilgrims – until it wasn’t. I feel like the last two days of walking and now the day and a half I’ve spent in Santiago with my Camino friends/family have been so incredibly special. I think part of what solidified those feelings and the closeness was the transition from us walking the Primitivo to joining the French route. We had a common bond that linked us among the hundreds/thousands of other pilgrims. We experienced the same mountains, the same weather, the same villages and albergues. Sure, I had made friends since day one – but the bonds were real and irreplaceable after the last few days of the walk.

Even with the challenges physically and mentally, I will look back at this experience with fond memories. I may not know the impact right away, but I know this will help define me in a positive way going forward.

I hope that I can cross paths with these folks that have made this journey as special as it has been. Yesterday and today I’ve sat at tables on the end of the Camino path to watch incoming pilgrims or in restaurants and have shared stories and laughs with some amazing people from all over the world. I know our friendship is something that is replicated on a daily basis on every Camino path. Our today’s stories and laughs shared will belong to the next group that arrives in Santiago tomorrow. My story can be every pilgrim’s story. One of courage, growth and friendship.

I leave tomorrow and already I’ve had thoughts of when I can try to be here again.

Day 14: Boente to O Pedrouzo

27.5 km / 17 miles

The day before the last day. The mixed emotions always come out the day before. There’s a sadness that it’s ending and you will have to say goodbyes to folks that helped shape your experience in positive ways. But then there’s a desire by your body to be done being tortured for a bit. 😃

Today started out rough. The cold I’ve had is now in the lingering cough stage and it’s a bad cough. I basically spent all night coughing last night and maybe only got an hour of sleep. Having a tough night after a fairly lonely evening in a town where I seemed to know no pilgrims, it made me sad these were some of the last moments of my Camino – a Camino that’s been full of its challenges.

Luckily today I still seemed to have energy for walking and got going around 7:15am. I saw very few pilgrims for the first two hours of the walk, which was nice since I was still dealing with the mental frustration from a poor night’s sleep.

The scenery today, while beautiful in its own way, paled highly in comparison to the scenery I’ve seen previously on this walk. I do agree that this path has been quite beautiful much of the way as it was advertised.

Since tomorrow will only be about 19-20 km, and all through the outskirts of Santiago, I may not get to see many more of my cow friends from here on out. But luckily I got treated with a very cute cow being walked through town by their owner.

Once I reached Arzua, the feelings of the Camino changed drastically. I suddenly saw far more pilgrims than I’ve seen anywhere on a Camino before (aside from in the square in front of the cathedral in Santiago). This year has been known to have more pilgrims than likely ever before – likely due to the fact that many had to delay their walk due to Covid in 2020 or 2021. I also suspect that more folks discovering the outdoors and hiking during Covid has had an impact on the numbers this year as well.

Just before leaving town I ran into Camino friends from Australia and Germany to and ended up walking a chunk of the day with them. Having that company was very welcomed and made for a fun day of chatting rather than focusing on any pain from walking.

After a short break I said my goodbyes and headed out on the last few kilometers to O Pedrouzo. Once there I showered, headed to the pharmacy to see what kind relief they could offer for my cough and then grabbed a meal with my friend from Belgium. Our friend from Texas joined and we caught up and made a plan for walking together into Santiago in the morning.

In a not so typical Camino day activity, I tuned in to the livestream of the Grinell College commencement. I did this to watch my brother receive an honorary doctorate and give a really great speech to the graduating class. Congrats and well done, Brother Love!

Now I’m just mainly relaxing in my pension room and may do some exploring around the town in a bit.

Day 13: Ferreira to Boente

26.6 km / 16.5 miles

This morning started out with another beautiful sunrise. Despite staying in a nearly non-existent town, I had a good afternoon chatting with my new friend from Ireland followed by a fun communal dinner at the albergue. Those kinds of afternoons/evenings are what make the Camino the Camino. I only wish that every night of this Camino could have been that way, since meeting new people from all over, sharing stories and laughing together is what keeps me coming back here. The meals and drinks I’ve shared with fellow pilgrims on this journey have been great though.

Every Camino is going to be different though and include its own variety of highs and lows. I have yet to have a day where I feel good walking all day on this Camino. I’ve also been sick with a cold for the last few days (not Covid as I took a test that was negative and I only just had Covid a little over a month ago). The coughing from that has made sleep challenging and just being sick can zap your energy. On the bright side, I’ve met some fun people from all over. Hoping I can stay in touch with some of them and maybe cross paths again

The walk this morning was prettier than I expected it would be. But as the path lead in to the larger town of Melide, it turned far less interesting. Always leading into or out of a bigger can be a bit on the boring side. Once I got through Melide, it turned into more of what I expected – pretty farmland a little off the main highway.

I took a lot of little breaks today for Coke, a geocache and even for a beer when I knew I was within a mile of my pension. At the last stop, there were tons of pilgrims, but I didn’t know any of them. These were likely all folks from the French route. Some you could tell were walking the full 500 miles or more and some were just walking the 100km to Santiago. I’m not expecting to run into too many people I know until Santiago – though a few will be staying in the same town as I am tomorrow evening so hopefully we can meet up.

Only two days of walking left until Santiago. Tomorrow will be the last bigger day of about 27 km and then Tuesday should be right around 20 km to reach the cathedral.

Day 12: Lugo to Ferreira

26.1 km / 16.1 miles

Today was going to be a good start leaving Lugo after a rest day. Until it wasn’t. I loved my little apartment in Lugo, until I realized that I got locked into the building. When checking in, there was no indication that a gate would be going down and staying shut until who knows when in the morning.

I had been shown the key box where I should leave my keys for the apartment, which was around the corner from the door to the apartment. I did what I was told to do and put the keys in the box around 7am. I walked downstairs and outside another locked door to find the security gate down. I looked everywhere for a button or something to open it as well as looked for other ways out. I found I was stuck in this hallway with no access to my apartment anymore and no way out. Perhaps there had been a key on the set of keys I had turned in, but it was never explained to me that something like that would be needed.

Fellow pilgrims from the nearby hostel passed by and some tried to help me lift the gate, with no luck. A street sweeper person drove by and I flagged him down for help and he said I’d have to wait 30 minutes for it to open. But being that it was Saturday, I didn’t know if 8am was the magic time. 8am was also about 40 minutes away.

I kept calling every number on where I made the reservation and called the number of the person who checked me in – no answer after several tries. I tried calling the other apartments in the building, with no luck. Meanwhile my friend from Belgium had seen my Facebook post and showed up to see if he could help. A little before 8, I finally got through to a lady managing the apartment complex. Another pilgrim spoke to her for me in Spanish. She said to wait 10 minutes. Right after she hung up, the gate opened.

I don’t know if the timer for the gate was set to 7:50am or if the manager had opened it for me remotely. Either way, after 45 minutes of feeling frantic, I was free! Definitely not the kind of challenge I expected to have on the Camino. I also wonder what one would do in an emergency situation being stuck behind the gate.

The walk today was quick and mostly painless. My feet are getting sore when walking on pavement or rocks for a better day part of the day and today was often on a paved roadway.

Leaving Lugo was really pretty along the river, then the path stayed in rural farmland the rest of the day. No more big mountains, just rolling foothills and lots of green scenery.

Today I started walking with my friend from Belgium. Later I walked a bit with another from Czechia. Then I finished the day with the friend from Texas. Definitely helps having people to talk to while on the way.

Tomorrow the path will join with the French Way and the number of pilgrims will likely quadruple or grow by even more. Many more walk the most popular French route. And those that can’t take several weeks off will walk just the last 100km to earn their compostela. So the feeling of the Camino will change drastically by the end of tomorrow.

The town I’m in tonight consists of about three albergues and almost nothing else. While I’ll appreciate the location in the morning, my albergue is a .3 mile walk passed the rest of the “town.” So other people I know are close, but not that close. I may venture up to the other albergues as I think one has a bit more of a store than mine does.

Day 11: Rest Day in Lugo

Today is a much needed rest day. In the spirit of resting, I didn’t leave the couch of my apartment until about 11:30. Once I left, I got my stamp at the cathedral and then another one at the tourist office. I then walked the 3rd century wall around the main part of the city. It’s a 2km walk so not quite on par with a full Camino day.

Once finished I joined my friend from Belgium for pizza. So nice to have something other than the pilgrim’s menu. I then heard our Irish friend was at a bar right outside my apartment so we headed there and are having some drinks with him. I do love that I ended up with an accommodation so close to where all the pilgrims have been meeting.

Anyway mostly just pictures from around Lugo today. Mostly enjoying time with pilgrims this afternoon and evening.

Tomorrow shouldn’t be too hard of a day. It’ll be my last night in an albergue for this Camino. After that I’ve booked hotels or pensions since it’ll be so busy when our route joins the French Way.

Day 10: O’Cadavo to Lugo

30.2 km / 18.9 miles

I hit the 100km mark! As I got into Lugo, I had taken a break to put my flip flops on and while I had, my friends from Texas and Ireland had caught up to me. We celebrated with selfies at the 100km marker.

After nearly 19 miles of walking I was very happy to reach Lugo. I’ll have a rest day here tomorrow where I’m excited to explore this walled city. Apparently you can walk the top of the wall for a 2km journey. I can never seem to sit still on my Camino rest days so I’m looking forward to doing that and other exploring on my day off.

Today started out with another beautiful morning. The sunrise made for a good start to leaving O’Cadavo. Today was mostly “flat” so even though it was the longest day yet, it didn’t have the elevation gain and loss that we’ve been used to.

I only stopped at one bar on the way for a coke, which was almost at the halfway mark. After that I just stayed on the course. I talked to a German pilgrim for a little bit after getting stuck in a traffic jam of cows with him. But other than that, I didn’t chat with many folks until getting to Lugo.

The traffic in Spain wasn’t moooving that fast. 😃

When I arrived at my apartment, I had to wait for someone to show up to check me in. Luckily a Camino friend from Australia was sitting at a restaurant near the front door of my apartment so I got to have company for the wait. At least a few of the folks I know will be taking a rest day here in Lugo so I should know some pilgrims in the city while I’m here and already have dinner plans for tomorrow night.

View from my apartment.

My apartment here is fantastic. It even has a washing machine! I also look out over one of the popular restaurant and bar areas near the cathedral and main square. Really happy with finding this place!

Day 9: A Fonsagrada to O’Cadavo

24.3 km / 15.2 miles

I keep thinking the walks are longer than what the guidebook actually says. I also keep thinking that the Camino decides to take the steepest route possible to a destination. Today included what felt like summiting two mountains and then endless up and downs – some very steep. Why go the easy way when you can go the hardest way possible?

It was a beautiful morning leaving A Fonsagrada this morning. I could tell the weather would be nice and the day would end up being a bit warmer. I didn’t see any other pilgrims until I ran into the Brazilian father and son leaving their albergue a few kilometers up the path. Shortly after, a new Camino friend from Australia caught up with and passed me. He has a much longer day than I do so I figured I wouldn’t see him much again, but I did catch up to him on a couple of his breaks. Other than that, I didn’t see any pilgrims that I knew until reaching the town I’d be staying in.

Not a lot of cows or otherwise today, but I did say hello to a few and also hello to a couple baby horses. Today was beautiful with great views again. It’s our last day in the “mountains” for this Camino. While tomorrow will be a long day of 30 km, it should be more flat with rolling hills.

The nice thing about today was that there were actually bars and cafes open in few places. It felt more like a typical Camino day with being able to take breaks at local businesses. I think that should get better from here on out as we get closer to Santiago.

Tomorrow, after the longest walk yet, I’ll arrive in Lugo where I’ll stay for two nights. I’m definitely feeling ready for a rest day and am looking forward to discovering a new city.

Once I got a shower in and my laundry done, my new friend from Belgium and I headed to the local bar/restaurant for food. We ended up sitting with a mom and son from Montana. Always fun to meet new people from all over. Not much else to do in town today so I’ll check on my laundry and who knows what after that. Most businesses in this tiny town are closed today for Galician Literature Day – a public holiday to celebrate local Galician authors. Perhaps the US could adopt something like that?!

Day 8: Grandas de Salime to A Fonsagrada

28 km / 17.3 miles

My feet felt today. It didn’t help that I had a terrible night’s sleep in the creepy hostel room I stayed in last night. Not only was the place very dated and not very clean, but the floors and the bed creaked far more than they should. The person living across the hall from my room was who I shared the bathroom with and they used that bathroom quite often throughout the night. Turns out when they didn’t remember to close the door, everything could be heard from my room. 😳 Oh well, I survived. Just didn’t have a lot of energy for today after that.

I left town around 6:45, as I didn’t want to spend an extra minute at the hostel. It was a perfect morning to start the walk. I could tell from the moment I left that it would be a warmer day. Luckily it never got too terribly hot. As the day went on my injury from soccer started to come back. Not quite as excruciating as it has been, but enough to be an annoyance. I took my time today though as I knew it was a longer day.

Despite it feeling like a more boring day, my pictures seem to recall a beautiful walk. With a hurting foot and being tired, I was just focused on getting to the next town. Today offered no services of any kind between where I started and where I finished. The two that might sometimes be available were both closed. So that meant no coke to help energize me and no bathrooms outside of “nature toilets.”

Today we left Asturias and entered Galicia. This meant the markers changed to Galician markers on the way. The fun (and sometimes not so fun thing) about these markers is they count down to Santiago. They’re not fun when the number goes down slowly. But they’re useful when you’re wondering how much farther until the next town. And they’re fun when you see the number go down, meaning you’re closer to Santiago. I’m now less than 160 km to Santiago. I know as I get closer, I’ll start to get sad that this journey is almost done – even if my body feels otherwise.

Tonight I have a nice albergue with so far very nice people. Some of the folks I know already are staying there and I’ve just met some new to me pilgrims from Germany, Austria and Poland.

First order of business after showering and starting my laundry was to get the fixings for a bocadillo for my lunch. I call this meal in the picture the lunch of champions on the Camino.

Day 7: Berducedo to Grandas de Salime

20.7 km / 12.9 miles

So I’ll start by saying that every time I see the name for the town I’m staying in tonight, I can’t help but want to call it Grand Salami. Seattle Mariners fans will likely get my reference here. The original announcer for the Mariners, former Seattle icon Dave Niehaus, used to use the line “Get out the rye bread and mustard, Grandma, it is grand salami time!” when a grand slam home run was hit by a Mariners player.

Luckily no peregrinos decided to correct me when I said I’d be walking to “Grand Salami” today. I even told a few of them the reference as to why why I call it that.

I started out in the nearly dark today. It was such a peaceful morning and I had gotten a good night’s sleep so I couldn’t not get going early. I knew today would be another short day, but still with some hills. I also knew today might be another beautiful day on The Way scenery wise.

Today there were less cows and more people. Today was also the first day that really felt like I was on the Camino I know and love. I come do these walks for the walk, for the beauty of Spain or Portugal (depending on the route), but a big part of it is also for the people. The locals are great, but the people I meet walking the Camino can really make the full experience worth remembering for a lifetime.

Today was a short climb up to a beautiful viewpoint, descent into a small village, then another climb and descent to a dam and reservoir. The views today were stunning. I only wish the weather had held out to provide clearer views of the reservoir. After one final break, we climbed again to Grandas de Salime.

The cutest perro I’ve seen in Spain so far. Don’t tell the other perros I said that..
First geocache of this Camino! I told a couple pilgrim friends that I wanted to find this cache as we entered town and they joined me.

While I don’t have a Camino family (yet), I’m starting to get my regular Camino friends/acquaintances that I see nearly daily. They’re from Spain, France, Belgium, the US, Slovakia, Czechia, Brazil, Australia, etc. Before I came here, I saw a post on a Camino Facebook group about someone who said they were shy and said they were afraid they wouldn’t meet people. I, along with many others in the group, assured them that they would meet people and that everyone else would be in the same boat. Like staying in hostels when I traveled around New Zealand and Australia, people want and hope to meet others. They want to connect and find new friends on adventures like these.

Today I walked with my friends from the US and Belgium. Then when seeking out lunch, I ended up at a restaurant with those two along with two guys from Spain. I had probably the best meal of my Camino so far, and despite knowing the least amount of Spanish of the table, I had a fantastic time with the group. Somehow you make the communication work. Today was a needed day of this Camino. It’s been harder to find the groove, both physically and socially on this walk than my three others. But the pieces are connecting for that groove.

The best lentil soup I’ve ever had!
The beef was tender post roast. So good! Three course meal with endless lentil soup and a dessert including wine and beer – 12 euros. That’s a typical pilgrim’s meal.

So one thing I didn’t want to have to do, but am finding I have to do is make reservations for future nights. Normally on the Camino you want to walk until you decide you’re done for the day and then ask at an albergue for a bed. Perhaps the post Covid crowd, and maybe also the crowd of folks that have learned about the Camino are all converging at once. That along with the fact that some albergues have closed all together, means there just aren’t enough beds in each of the small villages to cover the demand. I talked to people that were walking to this town and then taking a taxi to a town nearby to stay for the night. And that’s definitely something I don’t want to have to do. So I’ve gone ahead and booked for the next three stays, which includes a rest day (so two nights accommodation) in Lugo.

While it’s not what I want to do, I feel good having the stress off of worrying about finding a bed. My own example was spending about an hour last night emailing and calling albergues, hostels and even hotels until I found a bed for tonight. I’m staying a bar/hostel…and I have to say, I’m slightly creeped out by the room I ended up with, but it’s the last one they had. Turns out, it is the bartender’s house part of the hostel that he sometimes rents out an extra room in for overflow pilgrims. It’s extremely cold in the room, the bed is very old and creaky and the floor definitely isn’t that clean.

I’m not sure what all is going on with the walls and ceiling of my room for tonight. I also don’t have an option to do laundry here so I’ll be in desperate need of doing laundry at tomorrow night’s albergue. Being able to go with the flow is definitely needed sometimes on the Camino.