Santiago to Negreira - 22.4 km

June 18
Lat: 42.909444 Lon: -8.736111

I got up at 6:20 a.m. this morning and started to pack before heading down for breakfast at 7:30 a.m. When I went down, the dining Area was already open so I had a large breakfast before meeting Hawk and Christine at 8:00 a.m. on the trail. I finally got on the trail about 8:05 a.m. and didn't see them anywhere, but I didn't worry because I knew that I could catch them sometime during the day. However, I never did. As it turned they were running late and didn't leave until 8:15 a.m. so as I was hurrying along, I was get getting farther ahead with each passing hour.

It was a beautiful hike today because it was back on trails like the kind I hike back home. They are trails through the woods and are dirt. I love those kind of trails. The skies were clear and blue and it stayed around 57 degrees all day. At about noon I could see some clouds starting to come in but no rain. It didn't actually start to drizzle until evening.

I got to the little town of Alto de Ventos and saw a nice little cafe so I decided to stop and get something to eat and drink. After about 30 minutes I came to the conclusion that I was ahead of Hawk so I just pushed on to get to the pension. It wasn't long before I caught up with a woman from Montreal Canada by the name of Sandra. She had a great pace and she was going to the same place so we walked together for about the next hour all the way to the Hospedaja la Mezquita Pension.

All the pensions that I've stayed in have turned out to be very nice and clean and are reasonably priced for a private room with a bathroom. We had dinner in the pension and I must say that meals continue to get better as we travel to the coast. Only a few more days and I'll be eating airplane food, but until then I'm still a Peregrino on The Camino. Buen Camino!

Santiago - Zero Day

June 17
Lat: 42.882778 Lon: -8.544722

I slept in this morning until 7 a.m. I felt like I deserved a treat of not getting up at 6 a.m. It’s my reward for walking 797.4 kilometers. The hotel provides a really nice breakfast for its guest so I went down to eat… nothing like unlimited cafe con leche, toastada, fruit, and fresh orange juice.

After breakfast I decided to take on the town and see what was happening (I found out that before 10 a.m. actually not much does happen). The morning was beautiful with blue skies and in the upper 50s. I did do a fair amount of window shopping. It was interesting watching the people move about doing what they normally do. As the day went on, more and more things opened up. I was going to go to a couple of museums but they are closed on Mondays so I put them off until next week when I get back to Santiago from my walk to Finesterre and Muxia. I'll be back on a Tuesday and catch the train on Wednesday to Madrid.

It was a good day for just relaxing and watching the rain come down by afternoon. Later in the day I met up with Hawk and Christine and we went to dinner at the Vallar Rue Hotel Restaurant where I think that I had the best grilled chicken breast since getting on the trail, and the obligatory French fries. After we finished eating I went back to my hotel, the San Martin Pinairo Hotel, and they did the same. We agreed that we'd see each other on the trail tomorrow.

So tomorrow a new adventure will begin on the Camino de Finisterre. I am looking forward to walking to the coast. I want to see how different this trail is from the Camino de Santiago. I will let you know what it's like, but until then as always...Buen Camino!

Lavacolla to Santiago - 10.4 km

June 16
Lat: 42.882778 Lon: -8.544722

I got up at 6:20 a.m. to meet Hawk and Christine for breakfast and hit the trail by 7:15 a.m. I wanted to make it to Santiago, get my Compostela, and make the noon Mass. The forecast was for rain later in the day so I wanted to get to Santiago before it started. As it turned out I forgot to get a stamp at the hotel this morning so I had no stamp to start. I was concerned that in the 10.4 km I wouldn't find two places to get the stamp. I walked about 3.5 km and came to a cafe so I stopped in and got my first stamp. In about 1.5 km after that, I came to a small chapel where they had a self-stamp table so I stopped again. This completed my two-stamp requirement so that all I had to do was get to the Compostela office and get their stamp and the certificate. I didn't stop until I got into town.

I finally got to the office about 9:30 a.m. and there was already a line for certificates. It was an organized deal. There were about six volunteers taking information and filling out certificates. There must have been about 25 people in front of me and I was in and out in about 20 minutes. They charge 1 euro for the tube to put your Compostela in to protect it. It was well worth it. After that Hawk, Christine and I headed to the cathedral to get there early for Mass. They say it fills up fast and you should get there at least an hour early. They were right… we got there at 11 a.m. and the place was starting to fill up. By the time it mass began, the ushers were closing the doors and not letting anymore people come in.

The mass started and about 10 priests came in and went up to the altar. I thought that they just had a lot of priests at this church, but I found out as the mass proceeded that a lot of these priests came from all over the world and were allowed to take part in the service because they had just hiked the Camino. There were two that spoke English, but most spoke Spanish and German. It was interesting. Just before the close they brought out five or six guys dressed in red and they prepared to lower the big silver incense burner. It was so big it took all of them to get it going. Finally they had it swinging and smoking from one end of the church to the other. They must have swung it a hundred feet high by the time they finished.

After mass let out we all parted company. They went to check in to their hotel and meet up with some friends that they met on the trail that were from Williamsburg, Virginia and I went to try to find some place to stay for the night. I thought that I was going to get into an albergue but there were no more Peregrino spaces available and I ended up at a nice hotel, the San Martin Pinario Hotel, which was reasonably priced. So I booked it for two nights as I'm taking a zero day (a day where you don't hike and you just stay put and rest).

After getting cleaned up I went back out to look the town over. We all agreed to meet at 4 p.m. to do something but when we met it had started to rain so they wanted to show me where their hotel was so I walked to their place to see the building, then I went back to my place. It rained even harder so I planned dinner in the hotel at 8 p.m. tonight.

It has been a good day and with tomorrow off to rest up for the walk to the coast it will be even better. At this point, my total mileage walked is 797.4 km. My time in Spain is getting short, but until I fly out I'm still a Camino Peregrino so...Buen Camino.

Salceda to Lavacolla - 17.6 km

June 15
Lat: 42.900278 Lon: -8.447778

I got up at 6 a.m. and was packed and on the trail by 6:30 a.m. It was great… there was no one else out there yet and I was all alone. I didn't have to worry about the bicycle people slipping up behind me and possibly running me down. It was a little over an hour before I saw anyone, and then it was a pair of bicycle people off in the distance.

I had been hiking for about an hour when I stopped in for a breakfast break at a little cafe in O Pine. The coffee was great but the breakfast roll left a lot to be desired (no chocolate crescents). After that disappointing breakfast, I hadn't gone more than 5 km and I came to a pension with a restaurant, so I stopped again and they had exactly what I was looking for. There still weren't many Peregrinos on the trail yet. I guess it is because we're so close to Santiago that everyone is starting later and figure they will get there in the mid-afternoon, whereas I'm not going into Santiago today. I’ve checked into the San Paio Hotel for the night.

Tomorrow I'm planning on leaving about 7 in the morning and getting to Santiago about 9 a.m. and finding the Oficina del Peregrino (Pilgrim Office) and then heading up to the Cathedral for the noon Mass, after which I'll head over to the Municipal Albergue and get a bunk for the night. I'm planning on staying in Santiago for two nights and pulling out on Tuesday for Muxia and then on to Finisterre and will return to Santiago in about six days to catch a train back to Madrid to fly home.

Tomorrow brings more adventure so...Buen Camino!

Melide to Salceda - 25.0 km

June 14
Lat: 42.921944 Lon: -8.275556

After a really bad night’s sleep last night, I was up at 6 a.m. and packed. The Pension was upstairs over the bar/restaurant like a lot of the pensions but this one stayed open late. As a matter of fact it didn't close until 3:30 a.m. this morning. Now usually this wouldn't be a bad thing except that it filled up with a group of Spanish people and they liked to drink and sing. Now I'm not talking about just a tune or two, I'm talking about continual songs one right after another and at the top of their lungs so that it can be heard down the street without even trying. Well it finally stopped and I was able to get to sleep, but then the alarm went off at 6 a.m. I didn't feel like getting up but knew that I had kilometers to make so I did.

It actually turned out pretty well as I was in a good hiking zone and the distance just clicked off. The sky was clear with just a little fog but no sign of rain. It looked like it could be a great hiking day with temps around 57 degrees. In no time I had hiked to a wide spot in the trail by the name of “Boente” and there was a great cafe. It looked like cafe con leche and chocolate crescent time, so I stopped and spent about 20 minutes there.

After I finished eating my breakfast I headed out for Arzua to see if I could find a church to get my Sellos (stamp) because it’s about halfway for my daily distance. Well luck would have it I found the church and slipped in the front door and the mass was just beginning so I took my pack off and sat down for the mass. The one thing that intrigued me was that the complete mass was in English. At the end of the mass after the final blessing, the priest said let’s all sing "God Bless America." This blew me away as I've been to two other "Pilgrims Masses" since I've been here and not only were they not in English, but they surely didn't sing "God Bless America" at the end. I then got my stamp and left. A little while up the trail I ran into some folks and found out that they are with a church group doing the Camino and are from America. This started to make sense of the English Mass. I found out that this group was organized by a priest in New Mexico.

Later, I was walking with Rich and his wife Joan from Connecticut and found out that he is a member of the "High Toppers." This is an organization that climbs the highest peaks in every state in the U.S.; he had done all 50 states. We walked along until we got to Calzada where we all were stopping to get something to drink and eat. I looked at my maps and saw that I only had 5.1 km. left to do for the day and yet it was only 11:30 a.m.; I was going to be at my destination by noon.

After we ate, we said our goodbyes and that we probably see each other in Santiago at the Cathedral and they headed up the trail. Not long after I did the same thing and got to my destination for the night. This is a really nice pension, the Pousada de Salceda (an albergue with rooms. I have a room) and frankly it looks more like a little resort than a pension. It is complete with a restaurant, a fish pond with gold fish, and a swimming pool, which isn't filled yet as it is too cold. It was great just sitting in the lounge chair all afternoon.

It was around 3 p.m. when Hawk and Christine came in. Everybody just sat around relaxing and making plans for getting to Santiago. For me, I'll get to Santiago on early Sunday morning. I should be able to find a place to stay Sunday night without too much difficulty but time will tell as I hear that there are a lot of Peregrinos in town so it might be a little difficult… we'll see. Until tomorrow...Buen Camino!

Eirexe to Melide - 22.7 km

June 13
Lat: 42.807222 Lon: -8.015833

I woke up at 6 a.m. before the alarm went off so I just got up and started packing to leave by 7 a.m. after a cafe con leche. I thought I heard someone taking a shower, but after about 10 minutes I realized that it was water on the roof. I went outside and then I knew it was really raining hard. I prepared to wear my rain pants and had them on when I looked back out and saw that it had completely stopped. The weather here changes rapidly so I left with the rain jacket on and no rain pants. Within 10 minutes I was out of the jacket.

At 7 a.m. the cafe opened. I was supposed to meet Hawk and Christine there for breakfast so I took off to get there on time. I finished my coffee and chocolate roll and was on the trail by 7:20 a.m. And with the rain over for the time, I got to walk without any rain gear for about 45 minutes or so until it came back for a while. It finally stopped by the time I got to Palaz de REI where I noticed that the church was open and I got to go in and get my Sellos (stamp). It was the first one of the day so I was off to a good start. Now I only needed one more for the day and I had about three churches to go for the day. I might just get lucky.

I was walking a long and came up on five high school boys and one of them asked me where I was from and when I said America, he wanted to know all about where I came from and what it was like and what was there. These people really do want to know about how we live too. It was pretty nice being able to share the way we live with them.

At some point they were going to take a break and I pushed on my own. I didn't walk too long before I walked up on a woman, who turned out to be from Memphis, Tennessee. She was with a church group hiking the Camino. We started talking and after about an hour we caught up with four members of her party taking a coffee break at the local bar/cafe so we decided to stop and I got some tea and a sweet roll. I ran into Joanie, the woman that I hiked with about a week ago. We talked for a little bit while I took a break and then she took off. Shortly after, I got started again and soon caught up to Linda, the woman in the church group. She and I walked all the way into Melide, which was my destination for the day. She was really interesting. She and her husband do a lot of traveling and she had been to a lot of different places including up the Me Cong River.

Next I spent about an hour looking for my pension, Xaneiro 1. I'm starting to get pretty good at asking directions of the locals and then reading their faces that are blank because they don't know where the place is that I'm looking for. Sometimes I wind up following the directions that they give me even if it's wrong because they want to help so badly. They really are a kind and caring people. They are never in a hurry to brush you off. I've even asked someone for directions and they didn't know so they went and asked someone else who then in turn asked a third person to make sure they told me correctly. I finally found my Pension after going to a hotel with the same name and the lady that worked there gave me wrong directions on how to get there. In fact they were the exact opposite direction of where I wanted to go, but I figured it out.

About two hours later I got an e-mail from Hawk that they were staying at another place. It was a hotel, but we'd meet for dinner. At this point I wandered around town to get a feel of the town. Later I met Hawk and Christine for dinner and then they went back to their place and went to bed. Tomorrow is a big day. I'm going to do a 25 km so I guess I'll see them on down the trail. Tomorrow will tell. Santiago is getting closer with each day so as always... Buen Camino!

Portomarin to Eirexe - 17.1 km

June 12

I got up at 6 a.m. and packed to leave, then to go and get breakfast. Again it was provided with the cost of the room. The breakfast room opened at 7 a.m. so I wandered down at 6:55 a.m. and they were already open. Hawk and Christine came down and we sat together for a quick cup of coffee and a piece of toast and a glass of really good orange juice (Zomo de Naranja). After that I was out of there. Today was really a short day and easy as well.

I started by backtracking my steps to the trail as after I crossed the bridge to get into the city the trail made a left turn and it followed the river for about 200 feet before it went back up into the woods. It was a pleasant walk uphill. Once the trail reached the summit, it traveled parallel to the road all the way to the village of Gonzar. This is where I got my first of the two stamps (Sellos) for the day. I decided that since I wasn't going to pass but one church and that was just before the place where I would be staying for the night that I might be better off getting my stamp there. Like I said in yesterday's blog getting a stamp in a church might prove a little more difficult than I had planned. Anyway the stamp looks pretty good and if I passed the church and it was open then I'd get my second one there. As it turned out when I got to the church it was not only closed, but it looked like an old cemetery. But at any rate I had one and would be able to get my second when I checked into the Pension Eirexe.

After leaving Gonzar the trail pretty much walked the road for the rest of the day. I came to several more bar/cafes, but none of them proved to be any prettier. I got to the Pension around noon and it was across the road from a nice little bar. I checked in and got to my room only to find no TV or WiFi so it was back to the book for studying my Spanish. It turned out to be a good thing as I sat outside at a table reading and trying to memorize vocabulary when the owner's daughter came walking by and saw me trying to pronounce a word and stopped to tell me how to say it. She came back a little later and went over all the words that I had been working on and helped me to put together phrases and sentences. As it turned out, no Internet was a good thing.

This is a quiet place… it's truly in the middle of nowhere. It's all farm and cattle country. Right outside my bedroom there are chickens scratching and in the field to the right of the building there are about six free ranging cows. Around 7 p.m. the farmer that owned the cows came walking up the street with his walking stick and dog. He went into the field and the dog did something causing the cows to turn and walk single file out of the field, down the road to the water trough, and line up. They got water before turning and walking further on down the road and turning up a path to head toward the barn. I guess they had done this a hundred times before, but it was really fun to see. There are some crops in the field farther back from the pension.

Around 6:30 p.m., Hawk, Christine, and myself went across the road and had a Peregrino dinner for 10 euros. It was actually very good. I had a boneless pork chop/loin and other than being fried it was really good. Of course I had the obligatory French fries and the mixed salad (ensalada mixta), and as always a bottle of vino and a basket of fresh bread.

After dinner they went back to their room and I took a short walk about a kilometer away to a little bar/cafe to get an ice cream. All in all it was a perfect way to end a day... Buen Camino!

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