After 44 days (which includes 5 rest days), we concluded our Camino journey today by reaching Santiago. As you may recall our journey began in St. Jean Pied-de-Port on August 14th. After traveling for almost 500 miles (790 km), we arrived this afternoon at the Cathedral in Santiago. We took the most popular route of the many Camino paths, the Camino Frances. Along the way we traveled through 4 major cities (Pamplona, Burgos, Logrono, and Leon). We traveled through various regions beginning with the Basque region of France and Spain and ending in the fertile and moist region of Galicia. We were able to enjoy the grueling climb of the Pyrenees, the flat and heat of the Meseta, and the rain of Galicia.
We went through falls, sprains, blisters, pains, bug bites, cold and sniffles along the way. In the end the Camino made us stronger than we thought we were. Every time any one of us had doubts, the other members gave him strength. If this rag tag team can do it, any one can do it!
Since we had 20 km to make it to Santiago, we left later than usual after 8 am. While all of us were excited about completing this journey, no one wanted this wonderful journey to end. Our steps were deliberate and slow as if we were trying to relish every moment, every last step.
Stay tuned for the conclusion… I am unable to upload any pictures so will need to post the rest next time. I guess I am not ready to stop blogging, also!
Our travel today to Pedrouza brings us 20 km from Santiago. Our plan for today was 20km. All this translates into a simple fact. The end is near. Today was a day of relishing all the rituals, joys, pains, and ecstasy that we have enjoyed for last 6 weeks. We started this journey in France exactly 6 weeks ago. Today would be the last full day of travel and the last night in an Albergue. Tomorrow, God willing, we will be in Santiago de Compostela completing a 500 mile journey that has been in the planning for 2 years. So many of you have given us encouragement, good wishes, courage, and prayers. We could not have undertaken a journey of this magnitude without that support. Thank you all.
We started this morning just like many mornings, in the dark. We were out and walking by 6:30 am.
This was the coldest morning yet. We started by climbing out of the city in mist and fog.
The route once again was lush and green but this time full of eucalyptus tree and it’s fragrance.
After a nice breakfast and later a break we continued on, making great progress.
We gathered again for a relaxing lunch before finishing our walk for the day.
View of our last Albergue as we settle in.
Team Camino sends our best birthday wishes to our family and friends. This week we have 4 birthdays. Sanam, Taimour, Irfan, and David Rovner are celebrating their birthday this week. Here is a montage of flowers from today’s hike in their honor.
Next stop Santiago!!!
We changed our plans for today so we could meet my brothers in a larger city (our original goal was Boneta, an additional 5km). Also, everyone was tired from the grind yesterday. We don’t know if the brothers will make it here today or tomorrow (the train is arriving in Santiago at 8 pm).
Since we only had plans to go 15 km, we started late, around 8 am after a light breakfast.
Most of the walking today felt like country side walking with nice views.
I should introduce you to my “tomato” team!
After breakfast or breaks when we are ready to go, I make sure my senior team has started walking (as I am responsible for bringing up the rear). Then I look at my young team and say to my tomatoes, “We are leaving.” They in unison respond, “We will ketchup!” Drum roll please!
Melide is famous for Pulpo (octopus). Some of the team are hungry for it. The rest of us just want a good dinner. We will find out later if my brothers can join us tonight, otherwise we will see them tomorrow.
After the long and scenic walk yesterday, today our plan was to simply hike down the mountain and keep the day short and sweet. There was forecast for more rain and everyone was in the mood for a short day.
We decided to sleep in an extra hour and leave around 8. It was raining when we got up so we decided to have the breakfast at the Albergue and left at 8:30 with slight rain.
Team was excited at the prospect of a short and beautiful day. We thought we may have to walk on the road due to the rain, but the trail looked nice and beautiful.
Rain was intermittent and turned in to mist. Every one was enjoying the panoramic view of the valley.
We are all settled in for the night in Tricastella. Tomorrow we head past Saria to Barbedelo which means by end of tomorrow, God willing, we will be less than 100 km (60 miles) from Santiago.
Today we were planning to officially enter Galicia by climbing through the most strenuous climb of Camino. Our hike was supposed to be flat for first 5 and last 8 km and the rest was supposed to be a climb.
We left Vega de Valcarce at 6:30. It was an overcast day with slightly warm breeze.
I have attempted to load pictures with no success so far, so this post will have to be narrative with pictures to be added when I have a better connection.
We went through the first two towns fairly quickly as it was still dark. We made out first stop in La Faba after a slight climb at around 7 km. From there we walked up steadily for 5 km for our major climb of the day. At around 10:30 it started to rain and the the wind picked up, and at the time of this writing, neither has stopped.
The view was gorgeous with lush green valleys all around us. Rain and climbing were a constant but those did not dampen our spirits. It was almost a repeat of the ecstasy and agony (previous post).
On the way to the top we were greeted by the welcome sign for Galicia, welcoming us to our 3rd and final phase of the Camino. One awareness I had, as we were climbing in the rain and wind, is that I used to think linearly about these phases. The reality is, we constantly evolve and these phases are more circular.
The town of Ocebrero sits at the top. The next 10 km was supposed to be flat, but the books were misleading! The whole day turned out to be hilly. By afternoon we were dodging puddles and cows along our path having a grand time with pain and pleasure. We have met so many folks who have done Camino multiple times. They all cherish the razor’s edge of beauty coupled with rigorous workout along with the camaraderie as the reason they keep coming back.
After 22.5 km and 343 ( a new record) floors of climbing we are in an Albergue at the alto de poio where there is not much to do but mingle with strangers. We are chatting with an Irish student on one side and a couple from Denmark on the other. Lunch and dinner menus were the same but after the hard day still tasted delicious.
It’s time to sign out for tonight! I will post the pictures from today as soon as I get access to a better connection.
After a long day yesterday every one was in the mood for a shorter day but the best we could do in terms of towns and Albergue was to plan for Villafranca. It added up to 25 km, another long day but mostly flat day.
We left at 6:40 in the morning along the scenic path of town. Ponfarada turned out to be much larger than we imagined taking almost 3 km to get out of town.
It was nice to get into smaller and more frequent towns. One thing we noticed is how prosperous these towns are compared to the ones in Meseta. The most special thing was the wonderful sweet breeze that was blowing all day.
After breakfast we were back again in the wine country with tons of fruit trees. We decided to pick few fruits like peaches and pears.
As you can see in the above picture, we have less than 200 km to Santiago. We are 3/4 of the way done and are feeling it our feet. Since we had a reservation for a good Albergue, we decided to have a nice sit down lunch before continuing on.
Here is an old fashion grape juicer.
We ended up walking 25 km. our plan for tomorrow is 18 km so we can enjoy our next climb coming day after tomorrow.
Today is our second rest day. Although we keep walking for sightseeing (almost 1/2 the distance of a typical walk day), it is nice to not have a backpack for that walk.
We did not have a set agenda for today. I decided to use the hotel spa in the morning. At ten we met for breakfast. After that we all went our separate ways to explore the city. Some to the museum and guided walks and other to explore the back alleys.
I discovered the farmers market and shopping near plaza mayor.
Pat and Vandana ran into our German friends during their cathedral tour. We all met for lunch and enjoyed some donner kebabs.
Two of Sitara’s friend Emily and Stephanie joined us. Stephanie also brought her friend Noah. Going forward now there will be 8 of us.
A warm welcome to our 3 new companions.
From my right to left, Sitara with Emily, Stephanie, and Noah.
We had our last opportunity to listen to the organ and singing at the cathedral. Here is our goodbye to Leon as we leave early in the morning.