Walking The Camino Portuguese
I can’t even remember when I first got excited about walking a Camino. It was probably around 13 years ago when I read The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho. Since then the 800km Camino Frances was firmly lodged in my bucket list. It stayed there for a long time though. I’d only considered doing it as a single trip and taking 6 weeks off work wasn’t something I was keen to do. A Camino remained as something I would do “in the future”.
Much had changed in the following years. I got married and, unlike a lot of post-marriage men, I became even more adventurous. The tipping point was when Timea, my wife, also got the adventure bug. Sometime in 2018 she decided that she definitely wanted to do a Camino too.
We still weren’t in a position to take 6 weeks off so we discussed how to get a 1 week Camino taster. On studying the route of the Camino Frances I worked out that the section from St Jean Pied de Port to Pamplona could be an option. I even researched the dates of the Bull Run in case we could “accidentally” arrive for the start of the event (and it would be rude not to take part). Timea quickly realised what I was up to and vetoed that idea immediately.
Our plan came together when we talked to our friend Adina. She had already done a couple of Caminos and convinced us that 1 week was not enough. A true Pilgrimage experience, whether it’s Religious, Spiritual or simply a personal journey needs at least 2 weeks. The section of the Camino Portuguese from Porto to Santiago would fit nicely into a 2 week window. Throw in the 2 country, 2 time-zone factor and I was completely convinced.
Day 0 - London to Porto
We arrived in Porto on Good Friday. Rather than taking a taxi from the airport as we would have normally done we got the Metro. Just like the Pilgrims of yore. Our destination station, Sao Bento conveniently gave us a walk past the Cathedral on the way to our apartment. We stopped by and got our first stamp for our Camino passport.
Our apartment was 3 minutes from the Cathedral door and in a old renovated building hugging the cliffs by the river. Our apartment had an old part of the stone wall and Cathedral steps exposed in the bedroom. The wall has been built in the 1200s to protect the Cathedral during a war. Over time they had been built over and forgotten about only to be found again when this building was being renovated.
The apartment was a great place to explore the riverside of Old Porto. We’d been here a couple of times before so we could relax knowing that we didn’t need to cram in all the sights. This is a truly beautiful city and one I could spend a week getting lost in. For now a nice evening walk and a Cataplana (fish stew) was enough. There were new adventures to come in the morning.
DAY 1: Porto to Gião
Date: Saturday April 20th 2019
Start: Porto Cathedral
Finish: Casa Mindela, Travessa da Joudina, 265 ou Rua da Joudina, 427 Gião - Vila do Conde Portugal
Rest stops: Jeronymo, Rue das Flores / Cafe Simpatia, Leça do Balio / Café CL5, Vilar de Pinheiro
Distance: 23.9 km / 14.9 miles
Ascent: +444m / -462m / Net -18
Duration: 5 hours 40 minutes
Other Routes Touched: Camino de Fátima
We left the apartment to be back at the Cathedral in time for the 9:00 bells. From here we picked up the first of what would be many thousands of yellow way-mark arrows that pointed to Santiago. Stamp #2 came from a cafe in Rue das Flores where we had a relaxing breakfast before restarting at 10:00 having only travelled 0.5km so far. Pilgrimages need some suffering but we weren’t planning on doing that on the first day.
The rest of the day was quite diverse as we followed the route from the Old Town. We passed through the outskirts of the city, nice villages, motorway crossings and an industrial zone. By the 20km point the city was well behind us and we were in the countryside that would be our host for the next 2 weeks.
We didn’t make it as far as the end of the first stage described in the guidebook. Rather than complete the trip at Vilarinho we stopped in a lovely hotel in the grounds of an old farm near Gaio. The place had been in the same family for generations.
This was a beautiful place with a friendly owner. She even called the local restaurant to bring us some food to have on the patio. Day 1 was long, hot and tiring but we were already loving our Camino adventure.
DAY 2: Gião to Rates
Date: Sunday April 21st 2019
Start: Casa Mindela, Travessa da Joudina, 265 ou Rua da Joudina, 427 Gião - Vila do Conde Portugal
Finish: Albergue de Peregrinos, São Pedro de Rates, Rua de Santo António 138, 4570-503 Rates, Portugal
Rest stops: Companhia Do Pão, Largo de Vilarinho / Restaurante Regional O Peregrino, Póvoa de Varzim
Distance: 15.7 km / 9.8 miles
Ascent: +236m / -243m / Net -7
Duration: 3 hours 40 minutes
Other Routes Touched: Camino de Fátima, Camino Costa / Camino Central link at Arcos, Ecopista do Ramal da Famalaciao
After a nice breakfast we left the farmhouse over an hour earlier than the previous day. At 40 minutes in we reached the monastery in Vairão, a popular 1st night stop for many pilgrims. Another 30 mins and we were in Vilharinho, the end of stage 1 in the guidebook. Having already had a long day yesterday, a single day trip from Porto to Vilharinho seemed inconceivable. There was also no need for us to keep up with the pace set by the book. We only needed to average 18 km per day so we had an extra 3 days to play with.
We had planned to stop in Sao Manede for lunch after 11km. The town was a lot smaller than we expected and passed right through it without noticing. We even popped into the cafe to pick up water thinking we had another 2km to go. By the time we realised it was too late to turn back so we headed on another 2 km to Arcos. We were tired and hungry when we got there but nothing was open. We sat in the shade outside one of the closed restaurants to contemplate our options.
We phoned ahead to a hotel 10km out but it was fully booked. Our best option now was to head to Rates, 5km away, and spend the night in the albergue there. As we closed in on the albergue we met a nice mother-and-son team from the Netherlands. He was a Camino convert and had brought his mum on his second Portuguese trek. This week was a warm-up for him as he was 6 weeks away from starting a 7 month Camino from The Netherlands to Santiago.
We also bumped into a guy and his dog who we’d seen a couple of times before. He tried to book into the farmhouse the previous night but it was fully booked so he pressed on until the Monastery at Vairão. We also met him halfway today when he overtook us. Bringing a dog on a Camino adds extra adventure as most places won’t take dogs. He went for the fully unplanned version of the Camino and didn’t even have a guidebook or a phone. Pretty impressive.
We ended the day watching the sunset over the hills between the town and the coast sharing a bottle of Port with our new Dutch friends.
DAY 3: Rates to Barcelos
Date: Monday April 22nd 2019
Start: Albergue de Peregrinos, São Pedro de Rates, Rua de Santo António 138, 4570-503 Rates, Portugal
Finish: Art'otel Barcelos, Rua de Santo António 138, 4570-503 Rates, Portugal
Rest stops: Café/Restaurante Noémia, Góios
Distance: 16.6 km / 10.3 miles
Ascent: +257m / -283m / Net -26
Duration: 3 hours 54 minutes
Other Routes Touched: Camino de Fátima,
Our first night in a public albergue wasn’t a resounding success. It all started well with a very friendly Hospitaliero, a welcome cake and first pick of the beds. The trouble started when the lights went out and we found ourselves in the Finals of the European Snoring Championships. I’m a bit of a snorer myself so I’m often concerned about keeping others awake in a public dorm. I didn’t need to worry that night as our new Dutch friend was making a great impression of a Harley Davidson all night. I managed to get some sleep but Timea (a light sleeper at the best of times) had to move to the sofa in the common room. At 05:30 Timea shook me awake and announced that we were leaving. I think that was the first time ever that she had been awake at that time.
The early departure gave us a quiet road to ourselves after a social and noisy evening. It was a nice cool temperature and the mist gave the fields a magical quality.
We ended this day in Barcelos, a town famous for its many rooster statues. The town's story concerns a rich man that threw a big party. When the party was over, the man noticed that his cutlery had been stolen by a guest. He accused a pilgrim of the theft and let him go to court. He protested his innocence, but the judge didn't believe him. The judge was about to eat rooster when the pilgrim said: "If I am innocent, this rooster will crow three times." When the pilgrim was about to be lynched, the rooster crowed and the judge released the pilgrim. Since then the rooster has been the symbol of the town and can also be found across Portugal.
After the lack of sleep in Rates we were more than happy to spend a night in a nice boutique hotel. Just us, no bunks, no snoring and a very good shower. Ending the night Timea proclaimed that she was broken and didn’t want to move for at least 2 days. In the next sentence she asked what would happen if we arrived in Santiago early. Would the hotel give us an extra couple of nights? I told her not to worry about that for at least a week and a half.
DAY 4: Barcelos to Lugar do Corgo
Date: Tuesday April 23rd 2019
Start: Art'otel Barcelos, Rua de Santo António 138, 4570-503 Rates, Portugal
Finish: Albergue De Peregrinos Casa Da Fernanda, N204 2, 4990-680 Vitorino dos Piães, Portugal
Rest stops: Café Arantes, Lijó / Restaurante 2000, Senhora da Portela / Pastelaria Sra. Lapa, Aborim
Distance: 20 km / 12.4 miles
Ascent: +372m / -313m / Net +59
Duration: 2 hours 44 minutes
Other Routes Touched: Camino de Fátima
We left Barcelos at 08:30 after making the most of breakfast at the Art hotel. We had used up our luck with the dry weather and left the hotel in light drizzel after a full night of heavy rain. The rain turned out to be fine and it was nice to feel a bit cooler after a few hot days.
We were also feeling lighter. Maybe it was because we were getting used to the trekking and we were more rested. Maybe it was just the combination of all the toothpaste, deodorant and plasters we’d used up the days before. It also reminded us of something the Hospitaliero at the Rates Albergue said to us. He said that his rucksack represented his sins but every time he removed stuff from it it still felt just as heavy. Maybe we didn’t have as many sins as him to start with as we were getting lighter.
Today we made some Camino friends. Mark and Sienna were a father-and-daughter from the UK who we’d briefly met when leaving the Rates hostel and Kati from Germany was walking alone. We all found ourselves on roughly the same pace and would walk together for the next few days.
Evening accommodation was at a private albergue called Casa Fernanda. We were hesitant about staying there as we’d already been put off the albergue experience. There were few other options that day so we took what we could. As it happened, this was our best night and probably the one we’ll most remember from the whole experience. The place started small. It used to be a private house on the Camino where one night a Pilgrim knocked on the door asking for a place to stay. Not wanting to turn anyone away, Fernanda gave her a bed in her home. From here it grew and became a popular place for Pilgrims to visit. Fernanda is a lovely caring person who does everything to make a Pilgrim feel at home. She has 12 beds in a cabin and hosts everyone for dinner in her kitchen. That night there was 25 for dinner, including several Pilgrims who she found rooms for amongst her neighbours.
It was a late night with lots of Port, conversation and some outstanding singing and guitar playing from our new friend Sienna. This was the first time we really felt that we were experiencing a true, special, pilgrimage experience.
DAY 5: Lugar do Corgo to Ponte de lima
Date: Wednesday April 24th 2019
Start: Albergue De Peregrinos Casa Da Fernanda, N204 2, 4990-680 Vitorino dos Piães, Portugal
Finish: Mercearia da Vila, R. Cardeal Saraiva 34, 4990-076 Pte. de Lima, Portugal
Rest stops: O Farinheiro - Padaria E Pastelaria, Correlha / Sabores do Lima, Largo António de Magalhães, Pte. de Lima
Distance: 14.5 km / 9 miles
Ascent: +182m / -263m / Net -81
Duration: 3 hours 21 minutes
Other Routes Touched: Camino de Fátima, Camino de Santiago Braga
Today started with breakfast with all the people at the albergue and a few big hangovers. Timea found some painkillers and decided that she was never going to drink Port again.
The day was short at 15km and, despite being mostly raining, it went fast. We got to know our new Camino friends better and shared stories of our various adventures.
This was the point where we understood the advice that we were given by our friend that one week of Camino is not enough. The first few days were a nice walking holiday but it was only now that it was becoming an experience. If we only had 1 week we’ be heading home soon. With 2 weeks the experience could get deeper day by day.
DAY 6: Ponte de lima to Pecene-Cossourado
Date: Thursday April 25th 2019
Start: Mercearia da Vila, R. Cardeal Saraiva 34, 4990-076 Pte. de Lima, Portugal
Finish: Casa da Capela, N303 116, 4940-132, Portugal
Rest stops: Pescaria, Mouro / Cafe Cunha Nunes, Labruja / Café São Sebastião, Rubiães
Distance: 22.3 km / 13.9 miles
Ascent: +616m / -388m / Net +228
Duration: 5 hours 37 minutes
Other Routes Touched: Camino de Fátima, Camino de Santiago Braga
We left Ponte de Lima under a cloud. Our friends from yesterday were already slightly ahead of us as they were staying in the albergue in the other side of the bridge. They were already up and out as we sat down for breakfast giving them an hour's head start
This day includes a climb up to Alto da Portela Grande, the highest point on the Camino at 405m. The weather gradually improved during the morning and we made the most of rest stops at the 2 cafes before the ascent.
Views from the top are fine but not spectacular so we didn’t hang around long. Within 5 minutes of starting the descent we got caught in short but fierce downpour. This was our first real test of whether we’d brought the right waterproofs. We didn’t. I was fine as my jacket kept out the rain and I never wear waterproof trousers anyway. Timea’s didn’t keep out much damp at all and she soon became soaked and cold.
By the time we got to Rubiães we were soaked. Timea popped into the albergue to change her trousers as we still had another 45 minutes to walk. As much as we were not keen on more walking it was much better than dealing with the lack of heating in the albergue. The final push to the guesthouse was more than worth it. It was lovely and, more importantly, gave us a chance to get completely warm and dry again.
DAY 7: Pecene-Cossourado to Valença
Date: Friday April 26th 2019
Start: Casa da Capela, N303 116, 4940-132, Portugal
Finish: Pousada Valença, Baluarte do Socorro, 4930-735 Valença, Portugal
Rest stops: Cafe A Toca, Rua da Viega, Valenca
Distance: 13.6 km / 8.5 miles
Ascent: +153m / -353m / Net -200
Duration: 3 hours 12 minutes
Other Routes Touched: Camino de Fátima, Camino Portuguese Coastal, Grand Rota Travessia da Ribeira do Minho
The previous day’s soaking had taken its toll on Timea. She woke up ill and was caught in a dilemma about whether to walk for the day. In the end, she made the right choice and took a rest day while I continued on my own.
The silver lining on Timea’s rest day was that she met another lady at the guesthouse who was in a similar position. She had hurt her leg and was resting up while her husband continued. This couple would soon be added to our collection of Camino friends that we would see over the next few days.
For me this was a short day and mostly downhill. I soon caught up with the 3 friends from Day 4 and we walked together to Valença. The rest of the walk was nice but unspectacular. The route was pleasant but had little to distinguish itself from other days. We arrived in Valença at midday to meet Timea and her new friend in a cafe in the main square.
To celebrate the end of the first half of our Camino we stayed in the Poussada Valença. This is a very nice hotel high up on the hill overlooking the Minho River that marks the border between Portugal and Spain. Yes, its expensive, but if you’re not into the albergue-only type of Camino it's a great way to reward yourself for a big milestone in the trip.
Timea’s Facebook post for the day is a great summary of how we were feeling:
So, today we are celebrating many things:
- We are half-way through our journey both here and metaphorically / spiritually speaking.
- We have come to the end of the Portuguese section: we walked 129 kms so far.
- I decided to be mindful of my body and didn’t walk today. I didn’t feel too well after yesterday’s hike and took a taxi instead. It was a hard decision but the right one! #MyCaminoMyWay
- I’m 43 and as one wise man said yesterday, this is age is the spring of the Summer of our lives. I will start fresh as of tomorrow, so watch those spring flowers grow and help to feed them when needed.
- I’ve decided to change how I work in the future and to anchor that I will throw a stone into the river half-way on the bridge tomorrow.
- I have bought a new pair of hiking shoes to continue the journey in. They are so comfy and dry.. just what the doctors ordered!
- We have the sun back and there is an amazing view over to Tui in Spain from our window. That alone would be enough to celebrate!
DAY 8: Valença to Porriño
Date: Saturday April 27th 2019
Start: Pousada Valença, Baluarte do Socorro, 4930-735 Valença, Portugal
Finish: Hotel Internacional, Rúa Antonio Palacios, 99, 36400 O Porriño, Pontevedra, Spain
Rest stops: Cafe/Snackbar Ultreia, Magdalena 19, Ribadelouro / San Campio, Rua Centeans, O Porriño
Distance: 20.3 km / 12.7 miles
Ascent: +305m / -302m / Net +3
Duration: 4 hours 44 minutes
Other Routes Touched: Camino de Fátima, Paseo de Louro
We left Valença early and crossed the bridge from Portugal into Spain. A new day, new section, new country, new timezone. We were now completely immersed in the Camino experience and everything was becoming a “metaphor for life”. The crossing of the bridge into Spain is a great example as many Pilgrims mark this as a metaphorical end to their past life and the start of a new one. For Timea it was significant as it marked her fully letting go of her old corporate life and her readiness to start up her own business. I was just excited about being able to tick off another border on my travel spreadsheet.
We’d heard this was going to be a tough day through grim industrial roads but the new diversion made it one of my favourite days. We followed a Roman Road through lovely woodland along the Rio Louro and took a diversion that avoided the main industrial areas.
Timea did her good deed for the day when she found a lost phone and found a way to contact the owner. It belonged to an Italian/Spanish couple who were an hour of 2 ahead of us. After a few confused calls in simple English we arranged to leave it at a Petrol Station at the edge of the next big town. Later that day we discovered that we were actually staying at the same hotel as them.
DAY 9: Porriño to Redondela
Date: Sunday April 28th 2019
Start: Hotel Internacional, Rúa Antonio Palacios, 99, 36400 O Porriño, Pontevedra, Spain
Finish: Convento de Vilavella, Praza de Ponteareas, 15, 36800 Redondela, Pontevedra, Spain
Rest stops: Tapería Flora, Mos
Distance: 16.6 km / 10.4 miles
Ascent: +299m / -359m / Net -60
Duration: 3 hours 58 minutes
Other Routes Touched: Camino de Fátima, Senda del Agua
We had a slow start out of Porrino today. I had developed an unexplained limp and the the 17km of mostly concrete didn’t help.
Our morning coffee stop was at Mos, 6km in. Kati, our German friend, was now walking on her own and was powering through each day. She had stayed here the previous night and was nearly 2 days ahead of us already. It was Sunday and not much was open but we found a small cafe for our morning coffee, cake and passport stamp.
By now we could also spot the nationalities of Pilgrims by the guidebooks they were carrying. A long lilac-coloured book meant they were English and using the John Brierley guide. A square orange book meant they were German. Our big life-hack that we’d picked up from Kati was to take photos of the guidebook pages each day. This means you can keep the book in the bag and just have your phone out for navigation.
We had left the rain well behind us in Portugal and the Spanish section was pleasant and sunny. The rest of today was a steady descent into Redondela where we had a private apartment in an old Convent.
DAY 10: REDONDELA to Pontevedra
Date: Monday April 29th 2019
Start: Convento de Vilavella, Praza de Ponteareas, 15, 36800 Redondela, Pontevedra, Spain
Finish: Hotel Ruas, Rúa Sarmiento, 20, 36002 Pontevedra, Spain
Rest stops: Cafe Bar Jumboli, Estrada Cesantes, Redondela/ Cafetería Pastelería Acuña, Calle Rosalía De Castro, 16 Bajo, Arcade /
Distance: 22.2 km / 13.9 miles
Ascent: +525m / -535m / Net -10
Duration: 5 hours 31 minutes
Other Routes Touched: Camino de Fátima
We woke up full of energy after a peaceful night in the convent. Over breakfast we chatted to the only other guest in the convent, a Mexican guy walking on his own. He explained that has an annual solo walk while his wife goes to see Ricky Martin in Vegas. We loved the quote he told us: “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”. I also loved how the Camino can get you into a deep philosophical conversation with a Mexican at 07:30 on the morning in an old Spanish convent.
The first 10k out of Redondela and into Arcade was smooth sailing. It was bright, warm and full of Pilgrims all in high spirits. We stopped at a cafe in Arcade and met our 2nd Mexican for the day. This one was a world traveller with a backpack full of sewn-on patches to prove it and a randomly Dutch accent.
Timea’s unlimited energy in the morning disappeared by mid-afternoon and we slowed down significantly. The final 5km were particularly tough for her and it took me all of my emergency Haribos to coax her out from under a tree to finish the section.
The reward once we made it to the end was the town of Pontevedra. It’s one of the largest on the trip and the capital of its region. A must-see is the Santuario da Peregrina, a Pilgrim chapel built in the shape of a scallop shell.
DAY 11: Pontevedra To Caldas de Reis
Date: Tuesday April 30th 2019
Start: Hotel Ruas, Rúa Sarmiento, 20, 36002 Pontevedra, Spain
Finish: Alojamiento Caldas de Reis, Calle Laureano Salgado, 5, 36650 Caldas de Reis, Pontevedra, Spain
Rest stops: A Pousada do Peregrino (Cafe) San Mauro, Portela
Distance: 21.1 km / 13.2 miles
Ascent: +289m / -293m / Net -4
Duration: 4 hours 46 minutes
Other Routes Touched: Camino de Fátima
Another solo day for me as Timea took a rest day having overdone it on the previous day. I left by 08:00 on a faster 5k per hour pace. Today was pleasant and far easier than yesterday for a similar distance. My little toe blister has either gone away or I just don’t notice it now but the shin splints on my left leg feel worse. I ploughed on anyway.
Timea spent the morning in Pontevedra and took a taxi around lunchtime. By coincidence we arrived at exactly the same time to the bridge into Caldas de Reis. Timea was now feeling much better but I was knackered so I hid away in our apartment for a long afternoon nap. I would have stayed there all afternoon but Timea coaxed me out with the promise of meeting San Roque in the nearby church.
The town’s church, Ingexa de San Tomé Becket is named for Archbishop of Canterbury who passed through the town on his own pilgrimage to Santiago. The town’s patron Saint, San Roque, is also the saint of pilgrims and dogs. Legend has it that he become ill whilst on pilgrimage to Rome during the time of plague. His life was saved by a dog who licked his wounds and healed him.
DAY 12: Caldas de Reis to Padrón
Date: Wednesday May 1st 2019
Start: Alojamiento Caldas de Reis, Calle Laureano Salgado, 5, 36650 Caldas de Reis, Pontevedra, Spain
Finish: Private apartment near Xardín Botánico de Padrón, Rúa Franco Salgado Araujo, 13, 15900 Padrón, A Coruña, Spain
Rest stops: Café-Bar Esperon, O Cruceiro / Autoservicio San Miguel, Lugar San Miguel / Mesa de Pedra, Lugar San Miguel
Distance: 19.2 km / 12.0 miles
Ascent: +326m / -352m / Net -26
Duration: 4 hours 28 minutes
Other Routes Touched: Camino de Fátima
Timea was feeling much better to day and the lack of a rucksack helped enormously. We decided in Pontevedra to reduce our load to 1 backpack and send the other ahead to Santiago. Now that we were only staying in hotels, we didn’t need sleeping bags and various other non-essentials.
Today was spent deep in thoughts or just giggling and playing with dogs whilst walking among wonderful trees in a gentle wind. I had decided that I had now embodied the spirit of San Roque and was on a new mission to get a selfie with every dog that I could find on the route.
Padron, our destination for the evening, was where St James preached and where his body was returned to before being moved to Santiago de Compostela. Padron is also famous for its hot peppers but we’d arrived before the start of the season so nowhere was serving them. We did manage to get the Padronia, a special pilgrim certificate for anyone walking to the town via the main sites.
DAY 13: Padrón to Parada de Francos
Date: Thursday May 2nd 2019
Start: Private apartment near Xardín Botánico de Padrón, Rúa Franco Salgado Araujo, 13, 15900 Padrón, A Coruña, Spain
Finish: Casa Rural Restaurante Parada de Francos, Rúa de Francos, 43, 15886 Rúa de Francos, La Coruña, Spain
Rest stops: O Lagar de Jesus, Vilar, Escravitude / Bar Restaurante La Milagrosa, 15980 A Picaraña
Distance: 13.2 km / 8.3 miles
Ascent: +214m / -131m / Net +81
Duration: 3 hours 02 minutes
Other Routes Touched: Camino de Fátima
The Padrón to Santiago section is normally done in a single 26 km section. We were in no rush though so we split it in 2 and stayed overnight in a lovely small hotel in a tiny village.
Part of us was dreading the end of our trip. We had adopted a very simple way of life: get up around 07:00, have breakfast, leave at 08:00 walk a bit, have a coffee and a rest, walk a bit more, another rest, walk to wherever we were staying, have dinner and then sleep. Along the way we would talk about important things that we don’t normally get to as work and other stuff gets in the way. We also made new friends, saw some beautiful countryside, took photos of dogs and granary houses. Gradually this felt more like “real life” and home life was something we did as a distraction.
The old cliché of “it’s the journey, not the destination” is especially relevant to a pilgrimage. Whatever the reason you do it, whatever the thing you’re looking for happens on the route, not at the end. There’s no single moment of revelation, just a gradual realisation of whatever you needed to find.
A lot of people say that arriving at Santiago is an anti-climax and a major disappointment. We were close to finding out whether that was true.
DAY 14: Parada de Francos to Santiago de Compostela
Date: Friday May 3rd 2019
Start: Casa Rural Restaurante Parada de Francos, Rúa de Francos, 43, 15886 Rúa de Francos, La Coruña, Spain
Finish: Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, Praza do Obradoiro, s/n, 15704 Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña, Spain
Rest stops: Cafeteria Casa da Cultura Do Milladoiro, 15895 O Milladoiro
Distance: 13.3 km / 8.3 miles
Ascent: +386m / -246m / Net +140
Duration: 3 hours 19 minutes
Other Routes Touched: Camino de Fátima, All other Caminos de Santiagos converge at the Cathedral.
They were wrong. There was no anti-climax on reaching Santiago. We took the morning slowly and made the most of the final few hours on the road. Countryside turned into suburbs which gave way to a large city, then eventually the Old Town. We got to the Praza do Obradoiro shortly before mid-day. The sun was out and the square was full of pilgrims celebrating whatever long journey they’d just completed. It was a magical moment and we only felt happiness to be there. We took our time there, took photos, observed the other Pilgrims and I fell asleep in the sun for a while.
Later that day we joined the long queue to get our certificates at the Pilgrims’ Post Office. We still had the rest of the weekend to explore the city, meet up with some of the friends that we had along the way and reflect on our adventure.
For Timea the journey represented her much needed career change from working for Corporates to working for herself. If there was a breakthrough moment it was on the bridge on the Portuguse border. More importantly, she’d walked significantly further than she’d ever done before, survived a night in an albergue and officially became a Pilgrim.
For me it was different. It was just as amazing an adventure but I didn’t start with a particular thing that I needed to achieve or solve. The most important thing was doing the journey with Timea and supporting her in whatever came up on the trip. You can’t not have a deep experience though. I still got into deep thoughts and discussions, still worked through problems that were bugging me and got inspired along the way. Most of all, I had an amazing couple of weeks in a beautiful place and in the company of some really special people.
It won’t be long before we’re back on the trail. There’s another 7 Caminos to do ....