Travels with Robert and Sue, Gonzo-style

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

2017- Camino- Similar to 2014 but Unique!

This picture captures why I love hiking in general and The Camino in particular!  
Please center the Blog so you'll be able to view the pano pictures in their entirety.  
A bit of a "cartoon map" but shows where we will be walking this particular Camino:  Leon to Santiago de Compostela, 310 kms.   In 2014, I walked several sections from Burgos to Santiago, bypassing the Meseta (120 kms.)   Because of snow in the Leon Mountains, I bypassed the stretch from Astorga to Sarria , taking a memorable train ride.  Time to go back and tackle those mountains!!! 
This stunning bronze map at O Cebreiro shows the vast extent of the Caminos of Europe, stretching well into the UK, the Middle East and even Russia.  I have been to 3 of the main destinations for a pilgrimage: Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago 3 times. 
A word about the MAPS AND ELEVATIONS from MapMyWalk, an app installed on my iPhone5: I turned it on as I left the Albergue each morning and left it on all day, not turning it off when stopping for a break.  Therefore the time is not very accurate for kph.  Generally I walk at 4 kph on the flat and between 2-3 kph going uphill.  The below summary indicates I might have been going closer to 5 kph most of the day as it was relatively flat and we did stop every 2 hours or so for a good break for snacks, drinking water, airing my feet and, of course, a cafe con leche!!  This knowledge is so good for me to have as I can calculate approximately how long it will take me to go from one village to the next. 
I totalled up the elevation gains and it came to 5208 meters!!  Or 15,000 feet!!  Mt Washington is an ascent of 1068 meters reaching the summit of 6288 feet (last September 29, 2016)   Therefore I "climbed Mt Washington" 5 times over 16 days!!!  


Should I add up the descent statistics??!  ;-)  No need, my legs tell the tale.  
Seriously, from all the hiking I did in southern Spain for the previous 2 months, my legs felt fantastic on this Camino.    So good to feel so fit!!   
1- LEON to MAZARIFE- 23 kms.




Contemplating a new way to do the Camino....by Deux Chevaux!  







Leon cathedral as beautiful as ever....this time, nice to see it without the rain as in 2014.
Stunning wooden and stone carvings around the front entrance area.....
Lovely private hostel....Convent Gardens.  A bit pricey at 38 Euros but full breakfast buffet to start off our day and our Camino as well as great bathrooms.  We lucked into a room for ourselves...the joys of being on the Camino in the early season, April.     
And here I am again, with my foot-sore pilgrim buddy as we left Burgos.  Little did I know that in 7 days I would be feeling the same pain as he has.  Hiking boots off and Keene sports sandals on....
Wonderful multi-cultural feeling to the Camino this year....greetings from all walks of life from around the world.  So global....
Beautiful spring blossoms and wild orchids along the road-side...
And here we are.....23 kms. to Mazarife!  Casa Jesus again.....7 euros each, in shared small dorms with 4-6 people per room in bunks. Impressive, nice updates to this hostel from 3 years ago, quite a transformation.   Groceries, wine and beer at the nearby tienda, open only during specific hours of the day which is usual for this area of Spain....6 euros for the stir-fried veggies dinner we cooked up together and enough for next day's lunch.  
Meeting up again with Sophie of Denmark who we first met back in Leon....shared a few stories and tried to share a meal.   Now, there's a story!!   Below is the courtyard for Casa Jesus with the kitchen behind...
We generally stayed in rural albergues and shared in remarkable community meals.  We usually walked through bigger towns bypassing more expensive and congested, noisy albergues.  In larger towns, we made sure to get food  for our picnics as well as water.  Water quality was generally good but I was cautious on this aspect so always bought a 2 liter bottle of water every day. Believe me, this was completely gone at the end of 24 hours!  
IMPORTANT: as you must pay cash at the Albergue check-in, make sure to get cash for Albergue check-in from ATM's.  There are a few parts of the Camino which has NO ATM's for 2-3 days.  One notable area:  Sarria to Portomarin.  Take enough cash for 3 days. 
Each day, we had a huge ensalada mixta, which is a massive plate of veggies and tuna along with a carb, some protein (pork usually) and a very sweet dessert.  The tarte amandine in Galicia made your teeth ache, it was so sweet!   Fruit was readily available, perfect with a yoghurt.  One myth I will believe:  a banana each day delivers the needed potassium and magnesium to prevent muscle cramping. 
2- MAZARIFE TO VILLARES DE ORBIGO- 18.5 KMS.


Thanks to B. C. M. for his encouragement to take sunrise photos....and we were blessed to have terrific weather and sunrises for almost 3 weeks.  
Morning sunrise and a lovely 12th century bridge to contemplate life.  Note the multiple arches beyond and the dry river bed.  Enjoyed watching a fisherman trying his luck from the river's edge.  This 12th century Roman-style bridge has 19 arches.  Now they host jousting on horses in memory of Don Quizote's story by Cervantes.   The water has dropped dramatically from the original river edge.
So lovely to discover the Albergue Villares Orbigo again....but new owners!  Really missed seeing the young Spanish couple from 2014 who had developed the hostel.  Now, a very welcoming Dutch couple runs the Albergue.....and continued the tradition of pilgrim's meal.  Excellent zucchini soup, endive-apple salad, pasta-chorizo lasagna and apple cake and ice cream prepared by our hosts Christine and Stefaan.  This time we ate in the open-air courtyard.   Great chats with the other guests from various countries.....such a global community.   
The shells are symbolic of the fishermen who were the apostles of Jesus.  We are walking the Camino to Santiago (Saint James, the Greater, one of the 12 apostles).
Spent time on the blister that I had developed walking 7 hard kms. out of Leon on cement and asphalt....and became the talking point for my Camino.   Holly and I compared strategies for dealing with blisters.  To pierce?  To leave a thread in?  To cushion?  We shall see which works best for whoever.....
Valuable advice: take your socks and boots off every couple of hours and let your feet dry out while elevating them to reduce swelling. 
Did some laundry in the stone sink, using a great spin dryer before hanging up the bits...
Nightly pee-break...and spotted this beautiful moon over the open courtyard......
Adieu, hasta luego, Alb. Villares Orbigo.   2 wonderful and memorable stays.   Right, Jeff??.... who leads my retreats to Scotland!!
3- VILLARES DE ORBIGO TO MURIAS RECHIVALDO THROUGH ASTORGA-  21 KMS.
Beautiful Camino road....and the Leon Mountains loom beyond Astorga, the stretch I skipped in 2014.  
David's!!  In 2014, we had pouring rain and only a tarp for protection.  Today, sunshine and a beautiful atmosphere thanks to a mysterious benefactress who bought the area behind the buildings for David.  Snacks, fruit, water all on a donation basis....as well as shelters from the sun...or the rain.  Stayed a wee while and enjoyed chatting with many other pilgrims who stopped here...including Holly who took our picture in the hammock.  
Love the above picture: you can see the far-off snow-capped Leon mountains as well as a concentric circle on the right with bits of money in it for the needier peregrinos.  Below panorama shot shows David lounging on the left, so very happy with his wonderful life.   I could live here.   Click on the pano for a larger view, sliding from left to right. 
Stopped for lunch here, overlooking Astorga from this fantastic picnic viewpoint.  And yes!  that is snow on the far-off mountains to the left.  We will be walking towards them, just to the right-side, as we head for O Ceibrero.  
Above, a good map orienting us to the view to Astorga and to the mountains beyond.  And love the bronze peregrino at the base of the descent towards Astorga....catching a much-needed drink of....water? wine?  Looks all good to me!
ASTORGA
Terrific memories from 2014 as we wound our way through Astorga-
Welcoming bronze peregrino and garden near west entrance to Astorga, site of a Jewish synagogue with a Roman wall nearby.
Next 2 pictures show Roman excavations directly beside church, showing aqueduct system and mosaic floor.
My favourite of all in Astorga: 12 c. Gothic cathedral right beside an 8th century church and a last century Palacio designed by Gaudi for the area's Bishop, open for  tours.  Gaudi is most famous for his Familia Sacrada in Barcelona as well as other unique architectural wonders.   Below is a pano....enlarge it for a great view!  To the left of the Gothic cathedral is Albergue San Javier, run by a tyrant hospitaliero in 2014.  We decided to walk another 10 kms. to Murias Rechivaldo. 
Main entrance to the gothic cathedral, full of wonderful carvings  that Robert so appreciates.
Flat, hot walk (above, the hay houses from last year's grain harvest) to Alb. Los Aquedas in Murias Rechivaldo- 10 Euros for lodging, 10 Euros for great community dinner.   Wonderful courtyard to relax in, spent some time in the orchard beyond talking to one of the volunteers who was gardening there.  A perfect example of the Camino in action.  3 hospitaleros (volunteers) from several countries working at this Albergue. Gardening, greeting, cooking, baking all from different cultures.   We all relaxed in the sunshine, did laundry, quiet chats, enjoying vino tinto and cerveza, getting to know each other. I enjoyed chatting in French with the gardener who was pruning  the orchard: fig, almond, cherry, Apple.  
Butternut-ginger squash soup was fantastic and loved the designs they made for each of us!  
And the company was wonderful..... Fascinating stories shared with everyone....Special pilgrim people! G and M from Latvia as well as P from Singapore.
A word about WiFi:  it is EVERYWHERE!  "Free" in all Albergues, and for the price of a cafe con leche or glass of Spanish red, you will get the password in any bar or restaurant.  
After grabbing a bunk in the Albergue, hook up your gizmo for a long, nourishing drink of electricity! 
Fantastic meal of ginger-squash soup (notice the design?) vegetarian lasagna ( Below is the recipe from Priscilla, the masseuse lady!) followed by Cheesecake and fruit sauce Dessert.

Most of the pilgrims were all up at 6:00, out by 7:00! The fellow from Brazil was at our Albergue the next night.
4- MURIAS DE RECHIVALDO TO FONCEBADON- 23 KMS.

Beautiful entrance to  Murias de Pedredo, then shock to see commercialism.By far, this was one of my most wonderful serendipitous experiences on any of my 3 Caminos.  This falconer in full costume was greeting the peregrinos as we crossed over the nearby river.  I was so drawn to talk with him (my Spanish is getting quite good....well, not great but very functional!) and to see his falcon up close.  Suddenly, he offered his gauntlet and the bird hopped on to my hand.  Heavy little thing, it was!  The bird was looking very intently at his master, who then came and showed me how to stroke its chest to calm it.  
This was just beyond amazing.....!  And this fellow is fund-raising for children who have survived cancer.  At the end of our time together, he slipped off his hat and showed me his scalp.  He had had brain surgery and the scars were profound and deep.  I was so touched by his openness and generosity to share his falcon skills with me and so many other pilgrims.  
After a rough ascent through a forest beside fencing full of wooden hand-made crosses, we came out into the open....and these beautiful horses!  
Spectacular view from top of climb to Foncebadon...yes, that is Robert coming up to join me and yes, we are now beside the snow-capped mountains, now at 1400 meters. 
Foncebadon (below) is one of many ruined villages brought back to life by the Camino and its pilgrims.   There are literally only 6 rebuilt buildings in this village, each Albergue and bar chock full of pilgrims who had worked very hard to ascend the 700 meters.  We are now at 1428 meters.
Stayed at the newly-renovated Alb. Cruz de Ferro, great dinner and interesting pilgrims.  Lovely balcony to watch the sunset looking eastwards from where we came. 
8 Euros for nice dorm and excellent bathrooms as well as 12 Euros for a dinner/breakfast meal combo.  Food terrific and the hospitalero was so welcoming.  He had recently bought this albergue and had completely renovated it.  
Map showing today's climb to Foncebadon, then tomorrow on to the Crux de Ferro and finishing in Riego de Ambros.  

5- FONCEBADON TO RIEGO DE AMBROS- 19 KMS. 
I gently offered my memories of Mom and Dad at the base of the Cruz de Ferro.  
A project in the making!  A living sundial....stand on the month you are there and raise your arms which will then tell the time using the numbers on the sundial.  We would be standing on Abril (Abr).   ENE is Enero or January. 
Lovely Camino magic at work all the time.....fruit, water and heather on offer here, for a donation, as well as a chance to rest our weary feet for a moment. 
A bit whimsical ( an eyesore??!)  but showing people's origins and destinations home.  
Breath-taking views for a few days now....literally walking on the "ridge of the world" in this area of Spain as the pink heather and white snowfields contrast beautifully.  
Young hippy couple toiling up the mountain with their burro laden with their supplies....for a week?  Idyllic, minimalist life.....Way below you can see the valley floor and our destination of  Riego de Ambros.
Very tough descent to the valley, full of shale and twisted rocks as seen above.  Really being very hard on my poor feet, first blisters, now stubborn toenails that are biting.   Number 1 lesson:  take care of your feet EVERY NIGHT!!
Beautiful fixer-upper, handyman special....wish I could take on a project like this!   Love the stone work in this area.  
Check out the languages on this bag of Cheetos!!  PepsiCo, Espagna y Portugal.
Our first rest day in Riego de Ambros....
Posters along the Way, encouraging people to contact the Guardia Civil if there were any problems.
Climbed up to the church steeple and checked out this bronze bell. 
View from the church steeple, enjoying a lovely sunset over the mountain ridges....cemetery below.
Always, beautifully decorated cafe con leches!  
Typical pilgrim's meal, with the huge ensalada mixta. 
On top of the steeple.....! 
Narrow little streets so nice to explore....
6- RIEGO DE AMBROS TO CAMPONARAYA- 25 KMS. 
Leaving Riego de Ambros....reassuring yellow arrows everywhere.  Can you see 3?
Love the ancient wooden lintels that formed and supported the stone walls......
Spectacular 200 meters descent as Molinesca comes into view.
 Molinaseca Gothic bridge, with many arches again - Robert waving!
Love the masseuse signs....the below one is a classic... right, Lynn?
Moving turntable fruit- 33 and a 1/3 € each!  Really, it was turning and caught our eye. Good advertising! 
Next Camino....on a bicycle?!  Saw so many more cyclists this Camino, compared to 2015 and 2014.
Above, beautiful coat of arms coming into Ponferrado- halfway to today's destination.  Below, Templar castle in Ponferrado....many tourists lining up to tour in here, we walked proudly past.   We are peregrinos!! 
7- CAMPONARAYA TO TRABEDELO- 27 KMS.
Albergue Nayara in Camponaraya- 9 Euros each, bought groceries (cheese, bread, yoghurts, fruit) for next day at 8 Euros each

Note our hiking clothes....tuques, mitts and full layering....it is 1 C !!  Roses in bloom and grapevines developing well. Love these ancient vines, probably close to 200 years old.   Like the Rioja region, these rolling hills of  El Bierzo were cultivated by the Romans thousands of years ago....for the wine for their troops!!  
Even some frost on the fields near the grape vines.  Crisp and clean, lovely.  
Stopped at the wine museum of the Del Bierzo region....check out how many vineyards there are in this region!  The Camino goes right through here, originally a Roman area 2000 years ago....
You can see the Camino on this map, marked in red dots:  yesterday, we started just to the right off the map, went through Ponferrada and stopped for the night in Camponaraya.  Today we are walking through Villafranca del Bierzo to Trabadelo.
Above, Robert checking out a lovely church.  Below, wine-making info board.....and below the remnants of the real thing.
Beautiful-looking albergue...next time! 
Another fixer-upper, just love the stone-work which endures the test of time. 
Stunning picture, I think.  Reminded me a bit of the Tuscany region in Italy. 
The absolute strangest-effort....painting all these bushes a bright blue!!  Still don't know why....
Excruciatingly boring and tedious stretch of 6 kms. from here to Trabedelo.   We were on asphalt the whole way, right beside a very busy highway, though protected by a concrete barrier.  Could not WAIT to see the end of this stretch.  Nice couple of kms. into the village of Trabedelo which had some interesting features.  
Approaching O Ceibreiro!!
8- TRABEDELO TO LA LAGUNA- 19 KMS

Before heading up 702 meters, we stopped for a full picnic lunch surrounded by a gaggle of chickens.  Had great fun lining up the above picture.....giant chicken and teeny Robert.  
This climb up to the base of O Ceibrero was a major effort but always with nice surprises along the Way!  
Holly and I spelled each other during this big ascent....then Robert, bless his soul,  ran ahead up to La Laguna to secure bunks for us!!  And by the way, both of our blisters are doing quite well.  Gives new meaning to the saying "Misery loves company" ?!! 
Albergue Escuela in La Laguna- 9 Euros each, great dinner 10 Euros each, in a lovely dining room with a fantastic view down to the valley.  
This herd of cows was paraded back and forth through this little village at least 3 times.  The dog was quite skilled at controlling these huge beasts.  You can see the communication towers on top of O Ceibrero beyond this village.   Galicia is within view!! 
Looking back to the valley we climbed up from, 700 meters below.   Holly and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring this little village of La Laguna with a 360 degree view, taking sunset and sunrise pictures.
Morning is breaking over the mountains we walked from the last few days. 
Holly and I got up early to witness the sunrise on O Ceibrero.  Below, last year's broccoli plants, some 5 feet high! 
9- LA LAGUNA TO FONFRIA- 19 KMS.


And into Galicia!!!   You can see the boundary between Leon Province and Galicia on the above map.  
Enjoyed O Cebreiro village with its bronze map greeting us on the approach(below). Lovely village but quite a shock at how touristy it is....the busses stop here.....and just a little souvenir shopping. Finally found my Camino earrings to match my wrist-band which I bought in 2015 during my SJPP to Burgos Camino.
Above bronze map really shows the extent of the Caminos in Europe and how it reaches into the Middle East and Russia.   I have now been to 3 major destinations for pilgrims:  Santiago, Jerusalem and Rome.  Canterbury and Paris are 2 other memorable stops along the Way.
Below picture looks east back to the Cruz de Ferro mountain range.
Scenery is almost too much to take in....pictures don't do it justice.

In the O Ceibrero church, Robert and I lit candles for our 4 parents and loved ones who have left us far too soon.
Holly was an inspiration...always climbing up every steeple and mountain peak!!  Can you spot her in the steeple??!
19 kms of relatively flat and rolling terrain, walking through gorgeous forests and past small villages on excellent trails. Birdsong and blossoms sensational.
Amazing view from here, picked up enough cheese, bread, fruit and snacks for the next few days.....heading into a remote area.  Holly laughing so hard at the huge wedge of cheese I bought, then she ran up the nearby mountain peak....she is a goat!!  Now at 1270 meters, with another 100 meters up to Fonfria. 
Fonfria- Alb. Ribeiro- 9€, had a picnic dinner from our supplies. 
Below, love the accumulation of boots!!  
 Above, relaxed in a beautiful lounge library, mother/daughter enjoying each other, serenaded by 2 guitarists, singing along to 60's songs and traditional Spanish songs, watching Dark clouds coming towards us, ominous weather predictions. Winds rattling the mountain Albergue as we snuggled into a sound sleep.
Highest elevation at 1347 meters  just before Fonfria. 

10- FONFRIA TO SAMOS (10 KMS. BY TAXI)  THEN TO SARRIA- 16 KMS.


Sunday, April 30- woke to a blizzard, snow accumulating quickly, high winds sleeting some into  ice.  2 hikers staggered into our Albergue and convinced us all to phone for taxis!
We bypassed a 600 meter descent of a steep, rocky trail to Triancastela, now doubly hazardous with snow and ice.   40 Albergue pilgrims decided to leave immediately. The Albergue staff were great, phoning various taxi companies. The salt truck came roaring by,  then Robert and I shared a wild taxi ride down the mountain with 2 peregrinos from France (split the cost, 13€ for the 2 of us) Snow and hail all the way to Samos, got out for a cafe con leche in the driving rain.  Met up with French ladies 2 days later in a Portomarin restaurant.
Walked to Sarria from Samos through rolling countryside- Robert enjoying good chats with a fellow from Hungary, Jon. Ate lunch in the hail.
Amazed to see a 4-wheeled recumbent bike, complete with a 6-person support team.
Going up a long, steep, rocky trail, 2 people ran beside the recumbent and switched in when one of the 4 pushing it up tired.  Fundraising, perhaps?
The person driving the recumbent wished us "Buen Camino"!   Nice moment....
Below picture shows relieved and weary but elated peregrinos in Sarria who survived the descent from Fonfria.  What stories we shared!!!   We encountered the Swedish couple (seen on the right) several times over the next few days.  It is TRUE!  You will meet other peregrinos at least 3 times on your pilgrimage.  
 Such a relief to walk into Sarria, hail and rain pounding us,  stopping at just a great Albergue, Al Pedra. (above)  (10 Euros, nice dorm but had to go down stairs to go to the bathroom) Sat in front of a roaring fire, drinking vino tinto and massaging tense muscles, helped set up the long dinner table.  Excellent hospitaleros, mucho fun. Community dinner for 10 Euros (tortilla,  lentil soup, almond  cake) was amazing, socializing with a Spanish father and son (talking world politics, particularly the Basque situation), as well as a Swedish couple who know the Swedish Camino. (see above picture)


 11- SARRIA TO PORTOMARIN- 27 KMS. 

After getting money from an ATM, past a cemetery, then over a bridge (above picture) and seeing an assortment of sweet chestnuts, gigantic twisted trees (below picture)  as well as watching a team of post-hole diggers, walked up a hill through beautiful countryside. We had seen a police car racing up the hill. Rounding a corner we saw an ambulance.  Nothing prepared us for what we saw: a fallen peregrino lain on a stretcher, covered with a white sheet, his hiking boots poignantly showing.  His widow stood beside him, with a group of other pilgrims including a kilted fellow.
He and his wife were fundraising for a charity back in Germany. Tragic but he was doing what he loved to do.
They will have a special Mass for him in Santiago. I wrote a poem/ a eulogy .....prayers would be appreciated.
Whilst walking west from Sarria
On 2000 years old Roman roads,
Streams gurgling from yesterday's snowfall, still seen on far-off mountain ridges
Aromatic apple blossoms perfuming the air, bird song sweetening our ears
And ancient sweet chestnut trees bowing over us
We came upon a fallen fellow pilgrim, fundraising for his charity
Whose Camino tragically ended 108 kms from his Santiago destination
Buen Camino, dear peregrino

Rest of our walk was very thoughtful: beautiful sunny Galician countryside, with views back to the snow-capped O Cebreiro ridge. Very contemplative.
100 kms. to go!!  Gorgeous countryside, with Robert wending his way past fruit trees in bloom. 
Broccoli from last year waving its yellow flowers....
Panorama of sweet chestnut trees in a grove.
12- PORTOMARIN TO EIREXE- 21 KMS.

 I remember the steep climb from the river out of Portomarin!  Above, with fellow hiker Jasmine in 2014.  Since the Spanish government decided to build a dam upstream, they had to move the whole village up to the top of the cliff!  
Heavy fog early in the morning as heat meets overnight cold at the top of the climb out of Portomarin. Can you see the cobweb?
Bizarre collection of discarded clothing as well as momentos.   Symbolic of people shedding the baggage from their life.  
Below a lovely hotel in Eirexe- our  break from 2 weeks in albergues- Robert had a bubble bath and we had dinner overlooking spectacular scenery.
Dinner was definitely below par (and far too expensive) except for the excellent seafood soup!
There's an expression on the Camino: you see everyone at least 3 times.  Today we seemed to see so many people from the past week, especially from the Fonfria blizzard. As well,  many of these people had witnessed the peregrino who passed so tragically just west of Sarria. I am trying to find out when the Mass in Santiago will be held.
13- EIREXE TO PONTECAMPANA- 11 KMS.


Lush Galician landscape (over a 100 mms of rain most years) including bright yellow lupins!  Love the greenery found in the stone walls.
Above, lovely church at Ventas de Naron, near the Albergue I stayed at 3 years ago.  This is where we met Kate and Liz, lovely Irish ladies who were so MUCH fun and I am still in touch with.... Robert and I enjoyed a great lunch at the picnic area nearby.  
Above, a wonderful jewelry shop, Castello del Lobo Artesania.  After admiring her hand-made jewelry, this lovely lady gave me a multi-hued polished stone which I carry in my change purse wherever I go.   Camino magic is always with me.   Below, the sweet Dutch couple we had dinner with in Sarria after the hail and lightning storm....a pleasure to relax in the sunshine with them.  
Very best Albergue Casa Domingo near Campanara- 10 Euros each, dinner and bar, 12 Euros
Above, one of the grain-storage constructions which predominate in Galicia.  Can you see the cement barrier which prevents the pests from climbing up into the storage area? 
  Hammocks, picnic tables, friendly peregrinos, dinner being cooked for you, laundry area, clotheslines....what more could anyone want?!  Minimalist living at its best.  
Cast-off hiking boots along the way....love this one in a bird-cage!!!
Approaching Melide!! 
14- PONTECAMPANA TO BOENTE- 21 KMS.
Blessed again with a beautiful sunrise and a long-shadow picture.Fireweed standing 6 feet tall in the fields, beautiful view down the Way to the next set of pilgrims. 
From 2014.....was I really just 64??!   
Love this bridge as we approach Melida.....not much further until the taste-treat happens!!  My mouth is watering! 
MELIDA!  PULPO!
Love these pictures....especially the look on Robert's face!!!  He thinks he is in a horror show with a bunch of crazies!!  
Albergue Boente- 10 Euros each, dinner and bar- snacks and a glass of wine.   The pulpo and salad we had in Melida will do us just fine! 
15- BOENTE TO SANTA IRESE- 26 KMS. 

Coming out of Arzua (yes, bought food for the next day and grabbed some cash from the ATM) we encountered a lovely church with excellent, enthusiastic  tour guides.  Above is a 12th century baptismal font and below a gorgeous altar front.  The rounded ceiling was exquisite.
Cartas and pan, doing double-duty for this house.  (mail and bread)
You now know you are in Galicia with many bridges and stone-works going over a multitude of rivers and streams.
Remnants of the old Roman road from almost 2000 years ago, appearing and disappearing in the Galicia stretch.  Parts of this road would've been used to build new buildings over the centuries....and would've been submerged by soil and water with the changing seasons. 
Above picture is one of my favorites from 2014....thanks to Kate who took it.  For me, this symbolizes the beauty of the Camino.  Restful, contemplative, transformative even though one is working hard accumulating the mileages.  Such a minimalist life: up at 6:00 or so, banana and yoghurt, walk for 2 hours and enjoy a super cafe con leche, walk another 2 hours and enjoy veggies with a chorizo and baguette, walk another 2 hours and find a welcoming albergue. Get a bunk, plug in your device, take a shower, put your feet up and examine them (!!), chat with people as they come and go, check out the options for dinner (community meal?  go out to a nearby bar? make your own meal with food bought at the nearby tienda-shop?) and relax after writing in your journal or sending pictures by email.  Into your bunk by 9:00, read a bit and lights out at 10:00. 
Above and below, my birth year!  You can see the difference in signage very clearly here.  I prefer the below one which was replaced by the above one. Unfortunately, the above design encouraged unscrupulous people to take the bronze plaques which could be pried off easily.  Many had been vandalized (stolen plaques) in the 3 years since the new ones were installed.   The old design used carving into the cement which could not be taken, of course.  
More vistas as we walked up and down gently rolling hills.  Galicia is a beautiful area, a favorite of mine on the Camino.  Spring blossoms and bird song sweetened the views.  
 Picnic near Arzua- aged cheese, chorizo, bread, lots of fruit! That is my 30 liter Osprey Tempest pack beside Robert with my hiking boots tied on.  I did most of this Camino in my Keene sport sandals! Lots more on equipment if you'd be interested.  A most valued bit of footwear were my pink flip-flops for Albergue use, especially in the showers.  
Below, another example of the interfaith spirit which has blossomed on the Camino: Jewish, Christian and Islam as well as various eastern religions. 
Well-signed for most of the Camino, particularly in Galicia.  Below, modern highway beside an ancient water fountain.
This is where Robert intercepted me in 2014 after his HelpX stint in Sarria.....nice bar with local cerveza! 
Gorgeous flowers....
Santa Irese- Albergue Daina- 10 Euros each, Dinner and Bar- 9 Euros each.  We had picked up groceries in Arzua to supplement our little food pack for snacks along the Way.
16- SANTA IRESE TO SANTIAGO- 26 KMS.

All skies lead to Santiago?  Interesting contrails....
Amazing Homage to a Peregrino on Monte de Gozo bringing chills to me... new a few years ago and now looking well-aged. 
Stunning carvings on 4 sides, depicting James' journeys throughout the Iberian Peninsula around 40 AD to spread the word.  
From this monument you had been able to see the Catedral Santiago.  Now, modern buildings block the view which the peregrinos had walked so far to see. They have constructed a side-path to another hill which allows you to see the Catedral.  
Walked in from Mont Gozo, so familiar but with some new twists and turns....thrilled with anticipation but quickly tiring of the cement sidewalks, crossings and traffic.   Suddenly you are in the Old Town with the spires of the Catedral in sight.  Bagpipes pipe you in, Celtic style, then you lie down in front of the Catedral with your head on your faithful knapsack looking up at the magnificent facade.  On either side of you there are hundreds of other peregrinos who have walked the same route you just finished.  It is an emotional moment, never to be forgotten.   Here I am with my second credencial in front of the Catedral!  The Pilgrim's Office has moved from 2 years ago and was very busy, even for early May.   If you can, try to have a "free" pilgrim's meal at the nearby Parador.   There are 10 free breakfasts, lunches and dinners each day.  
If you have a chance, make sure to see this great movie "6 Ways to Santiago"  
Above, a panorama of the altar area of the Catedral.  The swinging incense burner is in the middle behind the fencing and the organ ( and TV screen!!) is to the left.  The inner sanctum for the bones of St James is in the area to the right, behind the altar.  
A lovely side-chapel in the Catedral, with the cross seen on everyone's shell at each of the 4 corners. 
Stayed at Hotel Naveiro but it was over a bar run by a surly manager.  Room was adequate but the atmosphere wasn't great.  Ah well, we were out and about for a day of exploring Santiago, soaking in the feeling of being a peregrino who had experienced a wonderful pilgrimage.  You could tell instantly who was a pilgrim and who was a tourist!   How?  Limping, favoring a foot or a knee or a shoulder.  
Below, police had a great "show and tell" day just outside our Hotel.  This little fellow is so proud to be on a Policia Moped!
Wandered about the area adjoining the Catedral gathering places and gazed to the west where Finisterra is....and where the remains of St James came ashore with his supporters....apparently, according to legend and myth.
Useful information!  
Sooooo.....what do you think this is above?  
And below, we didn't realize that we actually did 310 kms.  Well done!!!
Buen Camino, peregrinos!!   Mahou cerveza y vino tinto to celebrate!   As the monk said to me in 2014, just think of this as the start of the Camino for the rest of your life.