It was a friend’s idea to walk the Camino, and I decided to tag along. Mainly because of the simplicity of the nature of this walk, available resources during the walk and not much extra preparation were required on my part. Of course, Walking The Way was on my `one of these days’ bucket list but it was not marked `urgent’.
I didn’t get a chance to do much research on my trip as I usually do, as my friend was taking care of the planning, which was a bit unusual for me, and made me a bit nervous at times but I survived. We planned for the most popular route, the last 100 (117 actually) km of the Frech Way. Denis from Camino Your Way helped us with planning and logistics.
I was able to convince both of my sisters-in-law and also my bestie to join me, and five of us flew to Madrid.
Part of my excitement was also to be able to meet my best friend’s sister, who I grew up with, lived in Madrid. She invited us to stay with her. After reaching Madrid mid-morning, we decided to head out to the city center for some sightseeing and for dinner.
We took a train to Sarria the next day. The five-hour train ride was fun, we made the best of our ride.
Sarria was a small town, the weather was beautiful that evening, we checked in to our hotel and walked around looking for an outdoor place to have dinner.
The weather called for rain for the next few days, we knew that our walk was going to be the wet one. We packed and prepared for the worst.
Walking Camino was a different experience for me as compared to my past hiking and mountain climbing trips, where most fellow trekkers were in for a challenge and their love for nature and adventure travel. Walking Camino is a pilgrimage journey for the many and spiritual one for many others. Here were my reasons:
*Trying a new Challange- the challenge of taking it easy
*Unplug and connect with nature and self
*Health and Fitness
Sarria to Portomarin: 23 km
What I liked about this walk: All the small villages and chapels
We decided on an early start on the first day. We started walking at 7, the day was still breaking. It started getting brighter by the time we left the town. It was drizzling on and off in the morning. There was gentle uphill for the first half, followed by a downhill walk till we reached the bridge over the Mino river welcoming us to the town of Portomarin. I didn’t expect Portomarin to be such a large town.
Our tonight’s accommodation was in Pousada de Portomarin– a 3-star hotel which offered apartment-style rooms, with spacious balcony.
Rain showers had started again, we decided to chill in our balcony for a while before heading out for dinner, and this amazingly beautiful double rainbow made a surprise appearance. What a rewarding end of the perfect day!
Day2: Portomarin to Lestedo, 20 kms
My favorite part of the day: Some unique Horreo structures we encountered.
We kept seeing these interesting structures along the way every day, today I noticed a few that were pretty unique. They’re called Horreo. These structures were built to store farm crops, mainly corn. They were built above the ground for protection from floods and creatures like rodents. Although people do not need to store crops anymore, locals would still build horreos in front of their homes for decoration and to keep the tradition. Ripal took many photos of all the interesting structures, here is a link to more photos.
Today, we stayed at Hotel Rectoral de Lestedo, this was one of the best accommodations of our trip. Small rural home converted into a modern facility with peaceful surroundings and exceptional hosts. They had a relaxing sunroom with a great collection of books. My favorite book was Returning from Camino by Alexander John Shaia. The food was prepared fresh and it delicious.
We met a couple from Danville, Ca, at our hotel, which literally is a neighboring town, it felt really awesome to meet someone from hometown!
Day 3: Lestedo to Melide, 22 km
My favorite part of the day: More cafes, fresh-pressed juice and shopping at local street shops. Today was another beautiful day to walk. We encountered fewer rain showers today. The local villages, shops and cafes got busier as we get closer to Santiago. It was gentle slopes, no significant climb, but just a long walk.
Today we randomly grabbed a bottle of wine from the local store, which became our favorite. Palella we got today at Melide were the best so far and Shishito peppers (Padron) were to die for.
Our accommodation today was a basic hotel, Posuda Chiquitin– it was clean and comfortable, located in the old part of town. We chilled in the lobby area after getting back from dinner. Today I got blisters, I figured it was time to change shoes tomorrow.
Day 4: Melide to Arzua, 14 kms
Today’s walk was going to be a short one, 14 kilometers felt like it was going to be almost nothing. The rain was in the forecast in the afternoon, so we decided on an early start.
The path had some slopes but it wasn’t bad, the chapel we visited was nice. We took a short coffee break along the way, and we made it to our destination by 11am.
Today’s accommodation was at Rosende Apartments, a boutique modern 3 bedroom property. We were a bit too early for check-in time, so we dropped our packs and headed out for lunch. The location of the apartment was right on the main street, and it was easily accessible to everything. We hit some stores and bought small stuff, and had a lovely lunch at a restaurant overlooking the hills.
After checking-in and taking a shower, we made use of washer and dryer which was located in the balcony. 3 bedroom apartment was nice, the kitchen had all the utensils needed for cooking. The hosts also left pastries, and fruit for snacks and breakfast.
Since the kitchen was fully furnished and we still had so much time in our hands, we decided to walk to the grocery store. We cooked Pakoras, Khichdi and Potato Subzi, and made some Lassi. Homecooked Indian food hit the spot!
We ended our day with some wine and chitchat in our living room.
Day 5: Arzua to Pedrouzo, 19 km
This was going to be another long day, but we were ready for it because we had a good break-day yesterday.
I really was looking forward to this stretch, as we entered the famous Eucalyptus forests of Galicia. Walking through the tall fragrant trees was my favorite part of the day. The walk didn’t seem to be much as we progressed admiring all the unique touches in front of homes and restaurants, small gardens and fresh blooming flowers.
Tonight’s stay was at Pension Maribel, it was deceiving from outside, but surprisingly clean and quiet from inside. I found the town of O Pedrouzo a bit bland as compared to other towns we have been visiting, but we did find some shops for small things and a great place to have a cheesecake on the main street.
Day 6: Pedrouzo to Santiago De Compostela, 21 kms
We were super excited to finish our journey today, we planned for an early start so we would have enough time to spend quality time at the church. We left before sunrise. We passed through some more eucalyptus trees today, these were imported from Australia to help with the paper industry. Another interesting part today was this abandoned town with overgrown trees and vines inside broken homes.
We kept taking many pictures today as this was going to be our last day on the trail. We wore the same shirts that we bought a few days ago to wear on the last day. This, complete with customized waterbottles Ripal made with our initials were some of the small things that made us happy.
We started seeing more and more pilgrims as we got closer to our final destination. We reached this one art with huge sculpture and from where we got the first glimpse of Santiago De Compostela.
This was an exciting moment, it was so exciting that we got a bit distracted and lost our trail. We realized this after 30 minutes or so when we started seeing fewer people. Now what? Our Motion X Gps was not working properly this entire way, we opened google walking map and started walking with it. It didn’t work. The trail we were walking on was closed as it got to the railroad crossing. We just used common sense at this point and started walking next to the road leading to Compostela. We lost about an hour with all of this but we finally got connected to the original way in the town. What a relief!
We finally made it to the cathedral. It was spectacular! I am not even going to try to describe the feelings, we just sat there in front of the cathedral, for a long time! We couldn’t see much inside as most parts were closed for a major renovation. There was only one section of the cathedral open which lead us towards the backside. I wish we could’ve seen the entire place.
We were really hungry at this point, a glass of wine and a late lunch at a local cafe was one of the most satisfying meals of the trip.
We checked into Hotel Altair which looked like a historic home converted into a modern hotel. It was located in the quieter part of the town. We were greeted with Champagne and a personalized note in our rooms arranged by Denis from Camino Ways, which I thought was a nice gesture.
We took a shower and walked to the cathedral again, for another glimpse and to the pilgrims’ office to claim our certificates.
Our Cheerful hostess suggested a few restaurants for dinner, out of which we decided to splurge with some more paella at this Michelin starred place, a perfect dinner to celebrate the end of the perfect journey!
Day 7: Finisterre Day Trip
A journey to St James couldn’t be completed until we visited the final destination. Cape Finisterre is the westernmost point of the Iberian Peninsula. The word Finisterre in Latin means the End of the Earth. Some pilgrims finish the pilgrimage to this point, the current tradition is that they burn their clothes and shoes that are used for the pilgrimage at Cape Finisterre.
We had reserved an extra day to visit this point. We took a guided tour bus, which drove along the Costa da Morte (Coast of Death) passing the breathtaking landscapes and villages.
Cape Finisterre was a rocky peninsula at the end of the ancient world with a local lighthouse and beautiful views of the water.
The old fishing town of Muros had authentic charm from the past.
We also visited Ézaro, located in the extreme south. The waterfall there was unique, as it emptied into the ocean.
After lunch, we stopped at Muxía, another beautiful village known for rocks, water, and oil spill disaster from 2002.
We kept seeing these windmills everywhere during our Camino De Santiago walking- trip in Spain. Later we learned that over 40% of energy in Spain comes from renewable sources, mostly from wind power. Although behind some other countries, I still thought it was pretty impressive!
We ended our day with drinks and another delicious cheesecake at this local bar which was located right across from our hotel. The place had a beautiful garden with outdoor seating, a perfect setting for a relaxing evening.
Day 8: More of Madrid
We took a train back to Madrid and had a delicious lunch of freshly made Spanish Omelets at Ikoo’s home along with vegetarian Casserole.
The last evening was spent exploring more of the city. Plaza Mayor, the Royal Palace, the bull-fight stadium were some of the highlights. We grabbed dinner near Mercado de San Miguel and bought some famous Turron, a Spanish delicacy made of honey and nuts to take home.