Melide to Arzua: Shortest Walk on The Camino

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Camino Francés
Day 32 of our Adventure: WALK!!
CAMINO Day 23
Tuesday October 3, 2017

14km / 8.7 miles / 3.5 hours
Total Ascent: 951 ft.
Total Descent: 1575 ft.
Difficulty Rating: Terrain 3; Waymarking 1
Scenery Rating: 3

Melide to Arzua

Anticipating another sunny and warm afternoon, we left Melide relatively early, even knowing that our walk would be less than 9 miles. The weather was perfect for walking: a little overcast, cool (maybe 60°). We continued to see some of the same traveling companions that we’ve been running into off-and-on since we switched from the northern (del Norte) route to the Camino Primitivo in Oviedo.

We arrived in Arzua ridiculously early, even after stopping for a café con leche at a bar for half an hour. Tripadvisor has been pretty reliable for finding good restaurants, and we went in search of the top 1 or 2 on their list so that we’d know where to go for our mid-day comida later. (We ended up going to Casa Teodora. The salad and Garlic Shrimp were delicious; the “medium” beef was way too rare for me, which is normal for Spain.) And then we schlepped about 2 km away from the Camino to our darling “pazo” (Manor House). Pazo Santa Maria was originally commissioned for the family formed by Maria Micaela de la Rue and Gregorio de Barrio y Figueroa in 1742.

The views from the hillside are beautiful, as are the gardens. Even though we had to walk 4 km round trip into town for lunch (and will need to walk an extra 2 km tomorrow to get back onto the Camino), this is a lovely place to spend the night.

We’ve been talking about our feelings about finishing our journey. We’re kind of sad, and the anticipation of arriving at Santiago de Compostela is very emotional. Our bodies are tired each day, and I am looking forward to walking fewer miles in Italy and when we get back to the States. Meanwhile, Mike is trying to figure out how to keep me in the habit of walking a crazy amount of miles when we return. (Insert eye roll here….)

The Camino Francés is different from the Caminos del Norte and Primitivo. It seems that people have vandalized the waymarkers on this route, removing the beautiful scallop shell tiles, writing on the stone pillars. The messages, most of them written in English, appear to me to be in the “holier than thou” genre that have given some sects of Christianity a bad reputation. Prior to this stage the messages on signs and on billboards were subtle, humble, giving, and forgiving (if that makes sense). More and more the messages are almost nasty. I’ll take some photos of what I mean as I see them.

There are a lot more people on the Camino now than we’ve seen since September 6 when we started our journey. We met a couple from Atlanta, and 3 women from Oakland and Pomona, California this morning. Although we are far from home, our hearts are breaking with the news of yet another mass murder, a domestic terrorist attack, this time in Las Vegas. Two Manhattan Beach residents were killed in that rampage, a civilian employee of the police department, and a special education teacher at our middle school.

Ferreira to Melide – a “Walk in the Park”

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Camino Primitivo
Day 31 of our Adventure: WALK!!
CAMINO Day 22
Monday October 2, 2017

20.6km / 14 miles / 5 hours
Total Ascent: 1216 ft.
Total Descent: 1508 ft.
Difficulty Rating: Terrain 3; Waymarking 2
Scenery: 2

Ferreira to Melide

“Galicia at its finest!” Compared to the past few days, and certainly the past 21 days, this was a walk in the park. We had time for breakfast at Casa da Ponte in Ferreira (I love the Innkeeper, Estelle ~ she was blowing kisses as we were leaving) before starting on our way on a very cool and misty morning. We met up with one of the peregrinos that we’ve seen off and on since we left Oviedo on the Camino Primitivo. Xavier from Lyon, France injured his knee at the very start of his journey with his Mom, sister, and wife. We think of him every time we hit a tough downhill patch. He has figured out that walking backwards is easier. Personally I’d fall on my butt if I tried that, but he’s become pretty proficient. He left 2 hours ahead of his family, and then he takes a rest while they eventually catch up. It was nice to see him again!

For the most part we walked on well-trodden dirt paths that passed through aromatic eucalyptus groves. We also saw lots of chestnut trees. The chestnuts are in these fuzzy round balls which are everywhere. Yesterday we saw 3 women gathering them in their aprons. We walked on pathways that were filled with acorns. I found out the hard way that acorns are very slippery when you walk on them. I fell as we were chatting with a nice man, Nizar, who is from Lebanon and now lives in Ottawa, Canada. I was not hurt, and the pile of acorns provided a soft landing.

We passed through small villages filled with stone houses. Many of them had the horreos (granaries) that are common, especially in Galicia. These are much smaller and shaped differently than the horreos that we saw in Asturias; many have been restored.

We happened to be right in front of a farmer who was herding his cows into the barn, probably for milking. It was about that time, based on what we’ve observed… who knew that we’d learn so much about cows’ schedules on this trip?

After finding the Pension Berenguela and dropping off our backpacks, we headed to what would turn out to be one of the top 3 meals that we’ve had on our Camino. O Tobo do Lobo is a guest house and a restaurant, and when we walked in we found that our fellow traveler Nizar was about to have his mid-day meal. We joined him and had a wonderful conversation (without falling into a pile of acorns!) and a wonderful meal and bottle of wine as well.

This is where the Camino Primitivo joins the Camino Francés. Major changes that we expect starting tomorrow: there will be bars and cafés in nearly every village, and waymarking difficulties will become a thing of the past. We will have a very short walk tomorrow, less than 9 miles to Arzua. Really looking forward to that!!

Lugo to Ferreira

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Camino Primitivo
Day 30 of our Adventure: WALK!!
CAMINO Day 21
Sunday October 1, 2017

28km / 18 miles / 7 hours
Total Ascent: 1476 ft.
Total Descent: 1017 ft.
Difficulty Rating: Terrain 2; Waymarking 2
Scenery: 2

Lugo to Ferreira

Another really long walk….. a long day following peaceful country roads, and then ~ lest we become too comfortable ~ what seemed like never-ending hills, and then once again through generally flat, wooded terrain. After yesterday’s long walk, everybody we met was dragging their butts. It was slightly cloudy, which kept the temperatures a little lower.

The terrain has definitely gotten less dramatic. Still really pretty rolling hills. Still plenty of cows (phew!), and churches. We were very happy to reach Casa da Ponte! Before we even took our showers we had some jamon, queso, and vino tinto. This is a darling place in the middle of nowhere. The only place to eat dinner is here at the “Casa”. We are looking forward to it!

Our walk tomorrow will only be about 13 miles, so we’ll sleep in for a change!

O Cadavo Baleira to Lugo: Long Walk / Worth It!

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Camino Primitivo
Day 29 of our Adventure: WALK!!
CAMINO Day 20
Saturday September 30, 2017

31km / 19 miles / 8 hours
Total Ascent: 1017 ft.
Total Descent: 2034 ft.
Difficulty Rating: Terrain 3; Waymarking 2
Scenery Rating: 3

O Cadavo Baleira to Lugo

Longest walk of the entire trip…. The guidebook says that it’s “all downhill, including a very steep 300m [985-ft.] drop in less than 3km [1.8 miles]”. There was only 1 place to stop en route, and it was a seating area with vending machines. We did stop there to rub our tired feet and have a soda and the peanuts that we packed for today’s journey. This is what one mapping app looked like (a little different from our walk, but you get the gist.)

Camino Day 25 O Cadavo Baleira

We were starving when we arrived in Lugo ~ had a wonderful meal at Restaurante Campos. There was this group of men playing instruments and singing all through the mid-day meal time. They cleared out at about 4 PM, and then the same group reappeared at 8:00 at the bars in the Plaza.

A major crossroads in ancient times, Lugo was founded by the Romans and built upon a Celtic castro, or fortified hilltop. The Roman walls (nearly 2000 years old!) completely encircle Old Lugo and are an amazing sight. They extend 2 km, are 30-45-feet high, 15 feet thick, and have 10 entry gates. Unique in Spain is the sentry path that runs around the top of the walls. It’s great for a stroll (unless you’ve just walked for 8 hours straight) and contemplating the city, the Ancares Mountains, and the Río Miño. We did walk part of the wall, took a few pictures (the one with the balcony is our room at Hotel Monumento Pazo de Orban  ~ note the hiking shoes), visited the Cathedral, and then we stopped for a glass of wine in the Plaza.

The Cathedral is amazing. The Rosary was being said; we didn’t stay for very long, as we didn’t want to be disrespectful. Also, the Blessed Sacrament is perpetually exposed in the Cathedral, and there are some strict rules. Not sure about taking pictures during the Rosary, so we didn’t take many.

The hotel is located right next to the ancient wall, and people were out partying ALL NIGHT LONG. It is now 7:00 in the morning, and they are still talking very loudly outside of our bedroom window. Needless to say, we didn’t get much sleep last night. We’ll definitely come back to this beautiful city But we’ll find a quieter place to stay).

A Fonsagrada to O Cadavo Baleira

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Camino Primitivo

Day 28 of our Adventure: WALK!!
CAMINO Day 19
Friday September 29, 2017

24km / 15 miles / 7 hours
Total Ascent: 1476 ft.
Total Descent: 1903 ft.
Difficulty Rating: Terrain 4; Waymarking 2
Scenery Rating: 4

A Fonsagrada to O Cadavo Baleira

When we checked into our “Pensión” yesterday, we forgot to ask about breakfast. We assumed that we’d have to either find someplace in town that is open at 7:00, or we’d have to wait until we arrived at our first stop on our walk (usually about 3-4 hours into it). We were surprised and delighted to find that not only was there food (and coffee!), but it was probably the best breakfast that we’ve had since arriving in Spain on September 3rd. We had the lightest, fluffiest scrambled eggs, thinly sliced jamon, freshly-squeezed orange juice, café con leche, toast, and pound cake. My friend Grace, who did the Camino Francés in April & May, said that “the Camino will provide”. This was one of those times.

We had a variety of walking conditions today, including a few surprisingly steep sections, rain off-and-on, and some brutal descents. We saw some wonderful examples of rural Galician mountain villages. The Hospital de Montuoto, a former pilgrim hospital, was founded in 1360 by Pedro I ‘El Cruel’, and remained open until the early 20th Century.

We continued to track the mystery of the waymarking signs. The signs on the left all face outward, with the “sunbeams” pointing toward Santiago. The signs on the right all face the opposite way. The km markers show the number of kilometers, followed by meters. So, the marker that says 149,558 indicates that we are 149 km + 558m from Santiago de Compostela. We are currently 129 km (just over 80 miles) away!

We arrived at Hotel Moneda and ran into a few of the pilgrims that we’ve been seeing on our journey. We will need a good night’s rest, as tomorrow we will have our longest walk (19 miles) of our entire Camino.

Windmills and Galicia: Grandas de Salime to A Fonsagrada

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Camino Primitivo
Day 27 of our Adventure: WALK!!
CAMINO Day 18
Thursday September 28, 2017

26km / 16.2 miles / 7 hours
(We did it in 6 hours)
Total Ascent: 1706 ft.
Total Descent: 853 ft.
Difficulty Rating: Terrain 3; Waymarking 2
Scenery Rating: 3

Grandas de Salime to A Fonsagrada

After walking in the dark for an hour, and in the fog for about 2 hours, we experienced another ascent to hill-top windmills, “an excellent climb” (according to the guide book) to more sweeping panoramas and rewarding walking. Meaning that the effort was well-rewarded. The walking itself felt more difficult, and we’re not sure why. (18 days of walking, perhaps?)

We walked through Castro, where the Chao de San Martín, a well-preserved prehistoric settlement [founded in 800 BC] was recently excavated. It was too early to explore, so we continued our climb up to the windmills.

This route took us into Galicia, the final region of our journey. Some (not all) of the signs for Santiago face the opposite direction when you enter Galicia. When you have two information technologists walking, you can expect an analysis of the signage. It seems to us that when the waymarking signs are on the left of the trail, they face “outward”, meaning that the outer part of the scallop shells (and what looks to me like sunbeams) face Santiago. When the waymarking signs are on the right side of the trail, the “inner” (or hinge) part of the scallop shell faces Santiago. We’ll keep an eye on it and report back. (And searching for answers online doesn’t clear it up.)

After walking without a break for 5 hours we were happy to find an open bar where we had a cheese bocadillo and some caffeine. The ascent into A Fonsagrada was extremely challenging, even with the break. We groaned when we were at the bottom of a very long uphill trail, because we could see how high up the town was. As always, we were very happy to reach our destination!

According to legend, St. James was attended in A Fonsagrada by a poor widow and, struck by her poverty, turned the village fountain’s water into milk. It thus became the fons sacrata (“sacred fountain”).

We are staying at Pensión Cantabrico, and we have a HUGE room. Always nice to have some extra space to sprawl. Tomorrow we will walk to O Cadavo Baleira, a similar walk to today’s.

Mike Benson’s Observations on the Camino

Version 3

Camino Primitivo
Day 26 of our Adventure: Stay in Grandas de Salime
Wednesday September 27, 2017

Grandas de Salime ~ no walking today!                                                     We have a guest blogger today! Mike always has great insights, and he decided to give me a break! Thanks, Mike!!

My Contribution to Our Camino De Santiago Blog

By Mike Benson

Lisa has done an amazing job with her Camino De Santiago blog. She spends at least an hour every night posting the pictures we took that day and providing you with descriptions of our journey and some wonderful history of the Camino. So today I thought I would provide you with my views of our Camino.

First off I want to say how proud I am of Lisa, and how very impressed I am with her determination and stamina, as well as being a GREAT partner. As most of you know, the Camino was my idea; it took me quite a bit of prodding Lisa to do the journey. I said yes to all of her “demands”, which included 15 days in Italy as well as her choice of which Pilgrim Route to take: the Camino del Norte (the Northern Way).  She chose the northern route so that we could see her family in the Basque region.

The Camino, and in particular the Northern route, is very beautiful, and when we meet folks on the Camino they always ask us how many Caminos we have done. When we tell them this is our first they say that we are very brave to do the northern route because it is one of –  if not THE -hardest routes to do (thank God LISA chose the route and not me).

Our adventure has been extremely challenging as this is our first time we have truly been hiking.  We met a man who has done several Camino routes; he asked us how much hiking we’ve done in the past, and we told him about our hikes in the U.S. National Parks that were around 5 miles long. He told us that those are walks, not hikes, and I would have to agree with him. Each day we start our daily journey at around 7:30am and walk on average 7 hours with one 15-minute stop (for café con leche), with elevation gains on average of 2,000 feet and descents of 1,000 feet.

You know in the States when you come to a town or some village that isn’t very nice you might say that town stinks? Well, in Spain when you come to a small town or village it too might stink ~ but for a different reason than what you would think. Every place we come to, just before entering the town, we pass by at least two farms and smell the sweet aroma of the farm animals. We’re getting pretty good at determining the type of farm life based on that “sweet aroma”.

The people on the Camino are very friendly whether they are pilgrims doing the Camino or the people living on or near the route. We have not met a single person who has not offered us assistance or given us encouragement. Spain is a wonderful place.

Lastly, here are some observations so far on our Camino journey:

  1. Lisa can wake up and without a single cup of coffee walk at least six miles; and no, she is not sleep-walking.
  2. Lisa has thoroughly enjoyed being able to eat bread in Spain. The words “I am gluten-free” have not come out of her mouth.  I am a little concerned about how she will react without bread when see gets back to the US.
  3. Lisa is able to sit down for a mid-day meal without knowing what the actual meal is; all she knows is it’s the daily special. This is an unbelievable sight to see.
  4. Lisa is an amazing woman who I truly adore.