A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: CharliePepper


The microcosm of my beautiful, loving and protective Camino world is finally gone, and I am surrounded by the first time in four weeks by people who feel like strangers. I watch the world fly by the window of the train and can't believe how fast the train is going. 75Km per hour, the screen reads. This is bizarre. 135Km per hour. That's five days of Camino in an hour. I sleep on the uncomfortable train seats and still feel really sick. I ache all over and feel as though I'm made of tissue paper or really thin membrane.

In just a few hours I'm in Barcelona, the train has covered the entire 800km of the Camino and more in so little time. And I think about the whole thing, the whole big long walk, and it's all just little steps. Each one only 40 cm – 60 cm, about as long as the paper the compostela is printed on. So, really, I can do anything, if I just break it down into little steps. I can learn a language, write a book, cycle through Italy. It's just about working out the right direction, following the arrows, listening an looking, having a goal and enjoying the journey.

Posted by CharliePepper 10:11 Archived in Spain Tagged friends spain fun santiago hike de camino pamplona roncesvalles albergues refugios saint-jean pied-de-port Comments (0)

Day 27 Santiago de Compostela – Negreira 18km

After Santiago there are way markers again, but this time they are to about three decimal places, which is irritating and unnecessary. I end up trying to ignore them, 'I've definitely walked more than .456km!' I think. The 20km is long. The forests are beautiful and wet and green, but be prepared, there aren't many towns. There are heaps of farm houses with oreolles, these look like miniature houses on stilts and are an ancient form of food storage. They were built up high to protect the stored crops from rodents and to allow the food to dry out and be kept for the winter.

In Santiago there is a cheese you have to try called Queso de Tetilla or Tit Cheese. It's called Tit Cheese because once upon a time an artist made a sculpture of a naked lady for the city that was considered to be too racy because her breasts were too large. The sculpture was removed and the local cheese makers started to make cheese shaped like breasts in honour of the sculptor. It's really good creamy cheese.

I make friends with a Spanish man from Barcelona and have some more language lessons. A la izquierda is to the left, a la derecha, is to the right, yo is I, yo tambien is me too, vale is ok, and de acuerdo is ok as well. Rapido is quickly and lento is slowly. He recommends a Spanish restaurant in Negreira; take a right at the supermercado and then right again at the first street you come to – enter the pub (which looks like nothing special) and continue one through the double doors and you'll find a salon packed with Spaniards eating pork ribs, delicious salads, steaks and amazing soups! I can't believe there's only two days to go until Finisterre.

I sit with a bunch of people from the hostel and meet a German girl who has a tattoo of a rocking-horse-fly from Alice in Wonderland. I think this is possibly the coolest tattoo I have ever seen. Then everything starts to go dramatically down hill. I feel really tired, so I go to bed early, and then the stomach cramps start. And before I know it it's all over. I spend the next twelve hours locked in a bathroom with terrible food poisoning, I have never had stomach aches like this. I take back all recommendations of that restaurant, avoid it! After the worst of it is over I feel so weak, I have barely slept and I can't eat anything for 24hrs. And so, my Camino ends. I catch a bus back to Santiago and skip the last two days to Finisterre (I'll save them for next time). I felt as though nothing could stop me! I was so close to the end! But I surprise myself because I'm not that upset. I will see no Finisterre, no lighthouse, no sunset and no ritualistic burning of clothes, but still – I have had such an amazing time on the Camino. I reach the train station in Santiago and catch an overnight train for Barcelona, tears wetting my face as all of the difficulties of the whole walk finally emerge, it's done, finished, over.

Posted by CharliePepper 10:09 Archived in Spain Tagged friends spain fun santiago hike de camino pamplona roncesvalles albergues refugios saint-jean pied-de-port Comments (0)

Day 26 Arzua – Santiago de Compostela 41km

I leave Arzua bright and early, unbelievably excited. The day is pretty much a blur. I see early morning Spaniards breakfasting in the first few towns, drinking beer and wine at 9am. I see road markers every kilometre, which is really helpful: “20km to Santiago”. But, they disappear about 15km out of the city, and I've grown accustomed to them being there so I'm left thinking 'hold on, I'm sure I've walked more than a kilometre.' I hike the whole morning in humid mist and rain. I look out over the valleys to low lying cloud that hovers like a thick cream. The route today is fairly hilly, with more eucalyptus forests which I find out are a relic of Franco's era. They were planted to help reforest damaged areas but ended up killing the natural flora. The highlight of my day is passing a talking billboard that recommends an albergue in Santiago, it's near the cathedral and is apparently “the best place to stay in Santiago.” The talking billboard then translates this message into 10 different languages. Great.

Suddenly, I'm here. I'm in Santiago. The feeling is unreal, I don't really know what to think. I'm walking along choosing an albergue and it's all about to end. I shower, nap, and find a cute bar for a vino tinto with free tapas. I meet a friend in front of the Cathedral at 8pm and we smile and laugh and take photographs. I swing by the pilgrim office and pick up my compostela, which is a little piece of paper that says I've just completed the Camino. Wow. What a day, 40km, I'm exhausted and happy and so proud. Santiago is a really cool city, with Galecian music blazing from the buskers and bars – it sounds really Irish and was heavily influenced by the Celtic people. Don't stay in the same albergue I'm in. It's 12 Euros and the man running it has far too many rules about shoes and bedspreads and showers and lights! There is a much better one across the road and down the steps called Aquarius. Oh my god, I'm here! I'm in Santiago.

I spend the next few hours at Aquarius getting drunk with friends. It's a super cool hippie-ish albergue with a friendly atmosphere and good showers. There are a lot of steps leading down to it, which puts everybody off staying here, but it's worth it. It's a great place to chill and talk to pilgrims. We end up drinking wine from plastic soda bottles pre-mixed with lemonade. Stylish. We celebrate by covering each other with a bottle of children's sunscreen, which is fun and I leave for Finisterre the next day smelling fantastic.

Posted by CharliePepper 10:06 Archived in Spain Tagged friends spain fun santiago hike de camino pamplona roncesvalles albergues refugios saint-jean pied-de-port Comments (0)

Day 25 Palas de Rei – Arzua 29km

Spanish people have a very interesting grasp of the concept impulse shopping. In Australia or the UK you find Mars Bars and Chupa-Chups lining the checkouts; sweet things are piled up high and enticing for last-minute lapses of reason. But in Spain last-minute-buys include shampoo and beauty products. Their checkouts are lined with perfumes, foundation and diet pills. This is fantastic; here is a culture that thinks long and hard about the chocolate they are going to eat, but diet on impulse. Brits and Aussies are far more likely to have the diet strictly in place, but then to accidentally splurge on lollies and chocolate.

So, my Spanish is slowly improving after these three weeks in Spain. My dismal little dictionary and phrase book have been pretty useless and I just do my best to remember a little bit each day. So far I have mastered the following words: buenos, buenos tardes, buenos dias, buenos noches, una cerveza, un cafe con leche, un cola cao, por favor, perdon, uno, dos, tres, quatro, cinco, si, non, and gracia. All of the 'c's in Spanish are pronounced “th” so that gracia becomes “grathia” which is, as Robin pointed out, highly amusing in Spanish males of the macho variety.

As you pass through Melide be sure to stop in one of the fantastic cafes. This town is surprisingly busy, with a great market on weekends and excellent pulpo. I continue on past Melide and find myself in a huge forest with a really familiar smell, it's beautiful and it takes me a few minutes to realise these trees are eucalypts! It reminds me of home, and I walk along breathing deeply until I stop in Arzuo – racing in to get the last bed. I fall asleep almost immediately (after nipping a bit of Voltaren gel for my knees from the kindly pilgrim in the bed next to me.) Arzuo is tiny, and there isn't much here, but it's the last rest stop for the next 18km. The albergue is new but made to look old, with stone walls and cute décor.

Posted by CharliePepper 10:04 Archived in Spain Tagged friends spain fun santiago hike de camino pamplona roncesvalles albergues refugios saint-jean pied-de-port Comments (0)

Day 24 Moimentos – Palas de Rei 30km

All afternoon I see little notes scribbled and left on the Camino, notes in plastic pockets, wedged underneath rocks or written in chalk on walls and path markers. They continue to appear all the way to Santiago, lots of them are love notes to amorous pellegrinos who have lost each other; “to Anna from Sweden, meet me in Santiago on the 16th of June, I'm not sure if you are in front or behind.” Yes, some of them are pretty funny. It's cute though, I hope they meet again!

As I'm walking along I dream up a computer game. It's a Santiago game, old fashioned dos with really bad graphics. It's a role play, where your health is measured in bocadillos and Compeed. You battle on different terrains and you can gain points for avoiding blisters and being able to speak simple sentences in Spanish. There is a boss at the end of each level, this might be a chicken or a cow, or even Santiago himself. You fight with your hiking sticks and get bonus points for finding hidden yellow arrows and Camino shells...

There is no end to the towns today, plenty of places to stop and have a coffee. The biggest temptation is to stop every five kilometres. I stopped for lunch in a cute little bar where they were showing a cooking video preparing pulpo, but they didn't serve pulpo. Disappointing! The waitress (who is about 72) was wearing a miniskirt so short I could see her grandma undies. Bad combination! Note to self; only wear miniskirts with nice underwear. I wander in to Palas del Rei and stay in the municipal albergue. There are unisex showers here with no doors... ???

Posted by CharliePepper 10:03 Archived in Spain Tagged friends spain fun santiago hike de camino pamplona roncesvalles albergues refugios saint-jean pied-de-port Comments (0)

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