Friday, 30 September 2011

Camino Inglès – Our journey from Ferrol to Santiago and beyond....

Around the bay at Ferrol
Part one of our RTW adventure finally began (September 5, 2011) with a 5 day hike from Ferrol to Santiago and then 3 days more to reach the end of the world, Finisterre.  This is the first blog entry of our trip, but we’ve also made it a day-by-day account so that if anyone else is thinking of doing the same Camino this blog should give them an idea of the times/distances/accommodation/costs etc.  We promise the rest of the year won’t be a day by day diary!

Day 1 25 km
Ferrol – Pontedeume
Hotel Allegue, 30€ private double room

Very unused fishing boat!We caught the morning bus from à Coruña to Ferrol after having flown into à Coruña the night before.  It was our first introduction into Spanish culture, i.e. no shops open until 10am so we had to settle for bread for breaky (luckily we had jam supplies with us, but unfortunately no vegemite!).  We found the tourism information office in à Coruña and got our Credentials and started off for our 25kms at 11.30am.  I recommend a coffee stop in Neda at the cafe Hermida (about 13km from Ferrol). The patron was a lovely man and he gave us little Camino notebooks to record our journey in, which I am currently referring to writing the blog :).
We arrived at Pontedeume around 7.30pm with 3 other ‘pilgrims’ we met on the way – 2 girls from Nottingham (Alex and Donna) and a 65 year old lady from Stuttgart, Joanna.  Ate fantastic (and cheap!) tapas at Zar Bar and washed it down with the local vino tinto which was really good.

Day 2 20 km
Pontedeume – Betanzos
Hostel Chocoleteria 30€ double room/shared bathroom/kitchen facilities

Cathedral BetanzosWe were up and away early (8am) since neither of us slept well (thanks to a 4.30am garbage collection).  Bought breaky from the supermercado we  passed and stopped 3km later at a nice picnic area to eat.  Unfortunately we didn’t manage a coffee stop until Miño (11km) where we also bought supplies for lunch and continued on about 1km to rest by the estuary and eat. After lunch it was a long afternoon with no towns or cafes (which means no toilets!) and the Spanish really believe in siesta time…. so we slogged onto Betanzos, arriving at around 4pm and had a well earned local cervesa. 

We explored the town and it’s many cathedrals and enjoyed tapas again for dinner.  We also purchased lunch supplies for the following day since the first town was not to be for 16km!

Day 3 29 km
Betanzos - Bruma
Hospitalos de Bruma 5€ pp/dormitory/can order food from restaurant in town or walk in (2km)

Lunch stop in a lovely parkSet out at 8.50am (the snooze button was too tempting!) and met Sandra, a lady from Liechtenstein, but who had spent some time in Colombia and was fluent in Spanish.  She’s been on the Camino for 2 months, but has been doing long sections since 2006!  We also re-found Alex and Donna and walked with them  throughout the morning.  We were all very relieved to finally find ‘Bar Julia’ open at 2pm, our first stop for the day!   Apparently we were lucky as we met others later in the day who had walked passed at 1.45pm and it was completely shut…
Checking out our progress for the day - almost there!!After Bar Julia comes a hard 3km climb, but just afterwards is a lovely park perfect for a late lunch. It has a handy map showing how far you’ve managed to come and makes the days destination look tantalisingly close….  However, this is slightly deceiving as the last 7km are a hard walk with not much on offer.  We were relieved to arrive Bruma and learn they still had spare beds.  We met a fellow Aussie, Adam from Canberra, and after showering we decided to walk the extra 2km into town to have dinner and buy supplies.  We were all starving at 7.30pm but the restaurant strictly enforced their no dinner till 8pm rule so we settled for a beer and watched the clock…it was worth the wait…. but by that stage anything would’ve tasted great! We decided to pay the 4€ for a taxi back to the albergue since it was dark and the albergue enforced a closing time of 10pm.

Day 4 24 km
Bruma - Sigüero
Hotel Miras 35€ double room/shared bathroom  

Setting of in the early morning fogUp and on the road, in the dense fog which alternated with light rain, at 8.30am.    We stopped 5km in for a morning coffee (the lady was nice enough to open the bar up for us).  Met up with Adam and walked to the 13km mark where we crossed paths again with Sandra so we all decided to have lunch together.  Dave and I set off to tackle the next 11km while the others rested a bit more.  We did the whole lot non-stop (mainly since there was nowhere to stop) but we were sure that the distances were incorrect as for one section the guide book said 4km of straight road and it took us 1½ hours – and even in the arvo we don’t walk that slow! Everyone we talked to that evening agreed that it was much longer then the book stated.

Had a beer (or two) with everyone (Alex, Donna, Joanna and Adam) while waiting for the later 8.30pm dinner time. I braved the fried whole little fish (eating head, tail and all!) , it’s amazing what you’ll eat when you’re starving!

Day 5 16 km + 10 km 

Sigüero – Santiago than Santiago - Lonbao 
Casa Riamonte 50€ private double room/breakfast included

Almost there!!Up early-ish and on our way to finish the last 16km into Santiago.  As we walked in we slowly re-collected the people we’d been crossing paths with over the last 5 days, and by the time we arrived at the 1.6km waymarker we were a group of 8 people and we all entered the Cathedral square together and after the many warranted photos we had a celebratory late lunch together before everyone went their separate ways.  Most people went to shower and rest, but Dave and I reshouldered our backpacks and headed out of Santiago as we still had a couple of hours ahead of us before we could rest for the night…
Santiago Cathedral
The hike out of Santiago was probably some of the most picturesque scenery we’d hiked through and it made for a very pleasant afternoon walking.  However, the last 3km did drag out a bit, but this was mainly because we had headed out so late. By the time we arrived at our lovely B&B it was too late for dinner so we finished off the last of our emergency supplies and went to bed.

Day 6 26 km
Lonbao  - Vilaserio
Albergue O Rueiro 12€/pp dormitory (very new albergue, laundry facilities (3€), internet)

Woke up after one of the best sleeps yet and went downstairs to have breaky – it turned out that Sandra had arrived later on in the evening so it was great as we were able to catch up with Castle and waterfallher again.  We were hoping to see her at the end at Finisterre but we never did cross paths again.  We walked all morning through quite pleasant surroundings and stopped at the 12km mark in Nireara for a coffee and to buy lunch supplies as there is a big supermarket there.  We ate lunch just around the corner in a nice park with a fountain (into which my underwear was blown as I tried to dry it out while we were eating…)
The afternoon was through some very nice terrain and the weather stayed fine, nevertheless we were quite tired when we arrived around 6pm at the Albergue.  After checking in we discovered there was a washing machine and quickly decided that 90% of our clothes could do with a proper wash (Dave hasn’t quite managed to learn the technique of washing clothes well in a sink, but I’m sure after a year of travelling he’ll be an expert!).  We had dinner in the bar next door with two Germans who were also staying in the Albergue (as well as all the locals who were there for a soccer match since the bar was the only thing in the town).

Day 7 25 km
Vilaserio – O Logoso

’A Pedra’ Pension 30€ double room/shared bathroom with washing machine (very new). There is a bar underneath for dinner and free tapas with drinks :)

One of the many Horreos (used to store corn)We woke up to discover that none of our clothes had really dried overnight, so not only did we have to don damp clothing we also had to start out into a steady drizzle which we were hoping would let up, but it didn’t and it set in for the morning.

  After 9km in the rain we stopped to dry in the first bar we found open. I discovered that my cheap raincoat was essentially useless as I wrung the water out of all my clothing.  Two coffees later, drunk just to try to increase the core body temperature a bit, we decided that the rain really wasn’t going anywhere so we re-donned our wet gear and started again.

At 2pm we reached 19km and an open Albergue that also served food.  By now nothing was dry, we were both completely sodden and rather cold.  We tried our best to dry some clothing under the hand dryer in the bathrooms, but it was a lost cause.  We decided since we couldn’t really get much wetter that we might as well continue to our planned destination so we started out again to tackle the last 6km.  Fortunately the rain became sporadic and the afternoon proved to be through a  lovely mountainside with many wind turbines to keep us company. 

Waymarker for Finisterre or MuxiaIt turns out that the A Pedra Pension is actually a detour off the Camino, but it’s not too far off track (500m) and worth it to stay in the brand new apartments that have been built above the bar/restaurant.  We ate dinner in the bar and received our first free tapas of the trip! In fact I think the lady took pity on us as we had 4 free servings of tapas while we waited for 8pm to arrive so we could order our food….

Day 8 29 km + 7 km O Logoso – Faro Finisterre then Faro – Finisterre – Faro

Cross in the fogAlbergue Municipal 5€/pp dormitory (We DO NOT recommend this Albergue!) 

It was still grey and bleak the following morning, with most of our clothing still being damp.  We questioned our sanity at continuing on as we didn’t want to get sick before starting our RTW trip, but after a slow, deliberating coffee (and after deciphering the Spanish newspaper to discover I’d missed Sam Stosur’s epic defeat of Williams at the US Open) we decided we’d come this far and that we should finish what we started.

As we walked out the door the rain stopped and after an hour we decided to tempt fate and packed away our wet weather gear and decorated our backpacks with all our clothing that still needed to dry.  We ascended up a mountain into the densest fog I have experienced, visibility was down to 10m at some stages which made spotting the waymarkers a challenge sometimes! It was pretty cool though, and very quiet, although

Dave looked rather amusing with all the water droplets that condensed in his beard (and it wasn’t particularly helpful with drying our clothes…)
Hiking through the dense fogAfter a couple of hours we started to descend and then we broke through the fog and saw before us the ocean and also the town of Cee, which was quite exciting as that was our lunch stop (we had pretty much done 14lkm straight with only the obligatory chocolate breaks).  After resting in Cee we continued on and up, the view of the ocean was a constant on our left and it was a nice change of scenery from the last 8 days, as well as being a constant reminder that the end was not too far away.

Pilgrim statueThe afternoon was some of the most beautiful of the whole Camino and we arrived at Faro-Finisterre (the town closest to Finisterre) around 6pm.  We met another pilgrim who was headed to the Albergue Municipal where she said we could get a Compostella (something we had neglected to do yet in Santiago since the queue was too long, we were able to get it when we returned there after Finisterre). 

We received our Finisterre Compostella, which is much more colourful and also hand-written unlike the one in Santiago, and then decided that for 5€/pp we would stay there. After claiming our bunks in a very full Albergue we headed out to finish the Camino by walking the last 3.5km to Finisterre and watch the sunset over the ocean. 
Hiking along the ocean at Cee

It was a long walk. but made easier since we didn’t have our backpacks.  We were very excited to finally see the 0.0km waymarker, and even more excited to discover that no-one had stolen the plaque since the majority now have no distance indicators left on them as they must be a popular souvenir.  We found a spot and sat to watch the sunset which was a little bit hindered by the fog that was constantly rolling in (but which we thought added quite nicely to the atmosphere).

Sarah at the 0km waymarkerIn lieu of burning something (which is the tradition) we threw our walking sticks that had served us well off the cliff into the ocean and then headed back to town to celebrate our achievement with the local speciality ‘pulpo galaga' and some ‘orujo’ as a digestive (essentially the local version of Bailey’s). 

Sunset at FinisterreWe were hoping for a shower when we returned to the Albergue but discovered that this was not possible as it is quiet time after 10pm, so we had to forgo our showers until the morning and make do with a rinse in the sink. (I wasn’t too keen to shower anyway as there were no doors on the showers!)  At this point I’ll just send out a warning that this Albergue has the most basic facilities and that there were many bedbugs, so if you have the money we highly recommend finding an alternative….        

Cross at the end of the world!So as to not end on a negative note – we both has a fantastic time doing these two sections of the Camino and we would highly recommend others to do the same route.  You do not need a high level of fitness as it is relatively flat and the ascents/descents are not very steep.  It can be easily broken up into smaller stages as there are many small towns along the way.  The Camino experience is always greatly enhanced by the other people that you meet along the way so we’d like to thank those that we met and walked with as you guys made our experience the wonderful time that is was. 

This adventure has been a great start for our RTW trip, I’m pretty sure that it has strengthened not only our backs in preparation for backpacking for a year, but also our relationship as being tired, hungry, wet and in need of a bathroom after 20+ km really brings out the best in somebody!!

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