My last day of a 550 mile walk across northern Spain on the Way of St. James Pilgrimage.
Going to the Coast of Death, as it is known for the many shipwrecks off this coast. 1987 was the last shipwreck.
Dip in the sea at the first chance I get. Take off boots and socks and jump in in all my clothes. It is warm and feels good. Everything dries after walking another half an hour.
The villages are charming. There are fishermen repairing their nets in their yards.
Check into the last hostel, 3 Euros and receive my certificate for reaching the coast. It is colorful. Wash my clothes, have a beer and a siesta. Pick up cheese and bread and jam at the market.
Stop by the local castle San Carlos, which is now a fishing museum.
Then walk 3 more miles to the cape where the lighthouse is.
Watch the sunset.
Now the walk feels really over.
A Dane passes out wine in little cups.
There is a fire and we burn something. The Dane walked from Denmark and burns his socks. I write something on a piece of paper and it goes in the fire.
My legs turn to lead. It is really over.
The we walk 3 miles back to town, Fisterre, in the dark. I have a very nice dinner of seafood chowder and bread.
12 miles, 850 ft. descent, 1,150 ascent in rolling countryside. 9 am to 1:30 pm
The first three hours are lightly foggy.
Leave Santiago on an ancient footpath through vineyards,
farms woods of holly and eucalyptus, which is fragrant.
The modern suburbs are dimly above and separate from the trail.
Scarecrow in a cornfield.
Black grapes in vineyards.
Stone walls and iron gates of Negreia, a medieval fortress.
The hostel is in an old stone farm house, with additional bunks in the stables, which are clean, but the doors are only gates. Fortunately, a French pilgrim got in early and saved me a bunk inside. There are not nearly enough beds in this village and later pilgrims must continue 6 miles farther. Some are sleeping on the floor of the stable, where it is cold.
I meet Pam, a young Canadian woman I met the first night in France at St. Jean-Pied Pont and we share our stories. Along the way, she has fallen in love with another Canadian, who lives only three hours away by plane. At dinner I meet the two other couples they are friends with, all whom met on the trail for the first time. Some are French, German and Italian. There is another Japanese woman with them. The Italian wants to know what I think of Obama, a question I am often asked on the pilgrimage.
22 miles, 656 ft. ascent, on rolling terrain, with 1,000 ft. descent
15 miles, not much ascent, mostly easy descent on ancient paths lined with chestnut trees.
17 miles, 1, 500 ft. ascent, 8 am to 3 pm
17 miles, 300 feet ascent. Feel good.
“Free Leonese Country” is spray painted on advertising signs.
Yesterday I crossed the border into the Leonese region of Spain.
Fall tint of red and yellow in leaves.
Checked into the Benedictine Convent and was warmly greeted by a nun. Payment is on a donation basis. They separate the women from the men. It doesn’t matter, as I am sure the women snore as much and as loudly as the men. I have only woken myself up once snoring, so I am part of the chorus. The bathrooms are big, clean and have hot water and a washboard type sink for washing clothes, which are hung in the courtyard to dry. The metal bunk beds are all white as are the threadbare sheets on them. It looks like an olden hospital ward or lunatic asylum.
With Jan, the Canadian woman, I explored the cathedral, crypt, and a museum chock full of medieval, leather bound, vellum books. Some were open for display. It was incredible.
We happened upon a massage office and went up for a massage from a handsome Spanish man. He was in his 30’s, stocky, curly black hair and a nice big smile. Jan went first as she was having shoulder problems, thinking her backpack is too heavy, perhaps. After her 30-minute for 30 euro massage, he worked on my feet.
I told him of my blisters and that they ached at night. He said when people walk on the flat, hard surfaces, their feet spread. It is more, and was more, comfortable walking in the mountains. Plus I had walked 84 miles across England before coming to Spain. But the terrain was often soft fields and fewer miles each day. His recommendation was to soak my feet in hot water with two aspirins dissolved in it. Then he put a hand on each foot, bowed his head and God only knows what he was doing for a moment of silence over my feet. Oh well, it did feel better. Upon leaving, I thanked him and extended my hand. He came closer and kissed each cheek. I love Spain!
Dinner with Jan and Wilson in the town square.
Evening prayer with the nuns at 9:30 pm. They lock the doors at 9:30 pm, so you had better be in by then. The chapel, the nuns singing and praying was beautiful. The oldest nun prayed for us, the pilgrims, at the end and it was translated into English. It was very touching and I would never have been able to see the chapel and nuns without staying at this convent.
Irache to Los Arcos
10 miles, 600 ft. ascent
8:30 a.m. to noon
Cloudy, breezy day, pleasant walking through rolling countryside.
Castle on hill. Moorish fountain.
Huge, round bales of golden hay.
Ripe, black grapes in vineyards along path.
Bamboo in ravines.
Pines, olive groves.
Chatted with English couple from Yorkshire again.
Stayed at Pension Mali, 35 Euros.
My feet ache and are blistered!
Wine in the main plaza in the afternoon sun.
Visited the Santa Maria Church.
Attended the Pilgrim mass at 8 pm.
Many people there, mostly older, and several other pilgrims.
The church was then illuminated. One of the most beautiful I have ever seen, with a gold altar piece and spectacular paintings. It is nice to see the works or art where they belong, in a church, instead of a museum.
Dinner with pilgrim Anna, a 30ish Spanish woman I met on the trail. 10Euros
From Villava, through Pampalona, to Puente La Riena
15 miles, 1, 150 ft. ascent. Leave 7ish, arrive at 4:30 pm.
Arrived in Pampalona about 10, though once the Basque capital Iruna. All signs are in both Spanish and Basque.
Walk into Pampalona along the river path, passing pens of horses, cattle and gardens.
Up into the huge fortress, across a moat, drawbridge to the cathedral and old, medieval buildings.
Find the Plaza de Toros, photograph Ernest Hemingway´s statue in front of it.
Stroll down the street where the bulls are run, there are photos of it in the shops.
Meet and walk with a couple from California and a woman from Denmark.
Mail my camping equipment home. It is something I will not use, campgrounds are hard to find, a little ways out of town, it rained one night, sometimes it is cold, it is too heavy, and so on. The accommodations of hostels and hotels are plentiful and that is fine.
Leave Pampalona through the university along the old fortress walls, into the countryside.
Sit on a bench on a hillside, sketching and counting four castles in the little villages.
At the Alto del Perdon pass is a metal sculpture of cutouts of pilgrims passing through the ages, starting with capes, donkeys, with dogs, and onto modern dress. There is also a large cross, as there is almost at every cross roads. Get a bicyclist to take my photo.
Fields of sunflowers, asparagus, beans, potatos and small gardens. Walk through small villages. Every one has a water fountain. The water is good and cold.
Stay in a nice hotel and watch the tributes in Spain and the USA to the September 11 victims. It is sad.
It is a cool, cloudy, breezy day. Perfect for walking. I love it.