Camino Day 38 – Melide to Arzúa: Just another pleasant day

Tuesday 26 September 2023 – Our Cunning Plan for a somewhat later start was, in the end, a sound one, but got off to an unimpressive start. We were assured that Jacotrans, the company which has so effectively and accurately transferred our suitcases from place to place ahead of us, wouldn’t collect until 9am, as opposed to the 8am deadline which other places (and Jacotrans themselves) have specified. So we rose later than usual, but still in time to get our bags down to the hotel lobby at about 8.30. Just in case.

Trouble was, it seemed every other bugger in the hotel decided to take breakfast at the same time. The hotel’s breakfast room is small and was absolutely jammed, making it difficult for punters to navigate the buffet and for staff to keep the buffet properly stocked. It was chaotic and not very satisfactory.

Afterwards, I went out in search of an ATM to replenish our supplies of cash. Conveniently, there was one next door and I returned – triumphant with both cash and the card – at 9am, to see (a) our bags being taken away by a chap with a van and (b) a quiet and peaceful breakfast room.

Ah, well…

As usual, if you’d like to see the summary of the route and pictures, you can watch the Relive video.

The way that has booked our accommodation is actually, according to our friend who walked the Camino last year and who therefore Knows These Things, a fairly standard tactic among Camino walkers to avoid post-Sarria crowds. An author, John Brierley, sadly recently deceased, has written many books about all the Caminos; his detailed description of the Camino Francés breaks it into 33 chunks, the “Brierley Stages”, which many people use as their guide to planning their daily walks and destinations. The result is that every day, waves of pilgrims start out from each of the start points of the Brierley Stages and, equally, arrive at the destinations in waves. This makes for “pulses” of pilgrims along the way and, apparently, can make booking accommodation more difficult due to the popularity of these particular destinations – particularly from Sarria onwards. Neither Lestedo nor Melide are end points of Brierley stages, and this is the main reason that our journeys yesterday and today were so relatively quiet. Our Cunning Plan of leaving a bit later? Probably irrelevant, actually, in comparison to our location.

Another consequence of the “Brierley Stages” is, of course, the “Camino Family” idea. If certain places are popular to stay overnight and people start out at around the same time each day, then one is almost bound to encounter and re-encounter familiar faces over the days; we’ve certainly seen evidence of this. While we haven’t forged any major conversational bonds since we last saw Lara, there are certain familiar faces as we go along and we do the Very British smile and nod thing to show we recognise them.

The Brierley Stages and the Camino’s own 100km rule also combine in a less positive way. Before Sarria, encountering fellow pilgrims was a relatively rare event, and so the various greetings and wishing of “Buen Camino!” were, it seemed, a reflection of genuine fellow feeling and friendliness. After Sarria, not so much. The number of people on the route means that the “Buen Camino” greeting is used so frequently that I think people do it from a sense of duty, rather than because they genuinely give a toss about the other people. I have certainly practically given up using it, but Jane heroically and stoically takes on “Buen Camino!” duty for the pair of us and I am grateful for that.

It’s similar to our experience walking in England. Out in the country, it’s relatively uncommon to encounter other walkers and the exchange of greetings tends to be cordial, unless they’ve unleashed their dog on you or some such. However, when walking in towns, where there are so many more people, it’s much rarer to be acknowledged by others as you pass.

Whatever, we started out at about 0930 in misty conditions, with relatively few pilgrims about.

We didn’t have the same long periods by ourselves as we luxuriated in yesterday, and it wasn’t long before we caught up with a wave of pilgrims.

However, we were never really bothered by the numbers of people around us, and quite often had the trail almost to ourselves.

All in all, it was a pleasant day’s walk amid the pleasant, familiar but unremarkable Galicia farmland scenery. There were a couple of fairly steep ascents which, gratifyingly, we found were not at all difficult, and, once the mist

had cleared there were some nice scenes along the way.

Pleasant and unremarkable the landscape may have been, but the walk was not without interest. We passed a few noteworthy vignettes: some mischievous graffiti;

the 50km distance marker;

a house with some nice models outside it;

Cunningly used for delivery of the post (left) and bread (right)

retail opportunities beyond simply bars and restaurants;

engaging decoration of houses;

and a (an?) hórreo which was open, displaying what it was being used to store.

Probably the most interesting thing we passed was early on in the walk – a lavadoiro: a public clothes washing place.

You can see that it’s well-organised, with a reservoir of water being refreshed and overflowing into a nearby stream, and a passage around it so people could gain access to the washing stones. We had seen mention of these in descriptions of previous villages and thought of them as relics of a bygone age; so we were amazed when a lady came up with a trug full of clothes and started drubbing away at them.

(She was quite happy to be photographed, by the way, just in case you wondered.)

Just over half-way along our journey, we passed the village of Castañeda,

which – you’ll remember, because you were paying attention, weren’t you? – was the place where pilgrims were enjoined to drop off the limestone they’d picked up in the Triacastela area to be fired to make the lime used in the building of the Santiago Cathedral.

The final village on our route was Ribadiso,

proud owner of a medieval bridge

and an interesting back story.

The Ribadiso da Ponte Hospital, or Santo Antón de Ribadiso Hospital, was built here, beside the bridge, to receive and serve pilgrims, and run by the Franciscan monks before passing into the ownership of Santiago ‘s brotherhood of silversmiths, known as St Eligius. In 1523, the Brotherhood rented the house to Rodrigo Sanchez de Boado, a native of nearby Rendal, for one half silver real a year, with the condition that he keep the buildings in good condition. There are other historical references to the hospital buildings and they were all restored by the Xunta de Galicia in 1992-1993 for use as a pilgrim hostel.

At a guess, this is why Ribadiso is the destination of one of the Brierley stages, but our journey took us on a couple of kilometres further, to the town of Arzúa. The town itself is not particularly prepossessing

but it does have one of the Estrella Holy Year posters

and a few other cute corners.

It also has the very lovely 1930 Boutique Hotel,

which we were lucky enough to be staying in – another excellent choice by the crew at It’s delightful inside

and out

with very charming hosts, Adrian and Andrea, who, apart from welcoming us very, erm, welcomingly, mentioned that they also owned a nearby restaurant, Casa Nené, which was still open for lunch!

After a quick refresh in our room, we hied ourselves thither and had a Nice Lunch, which was a pleasant appendix to a pleasant walk.

Our stats for the day: we covered a modest 14.6km, and so now our total distance stands at 769.3km, or 478 miles. Given that the official mileage of the Camino Francés is 480 miles, one is permitted to wonder why our actual is going to exceed the official version. We have taken a few diversionary routes – still official Camino trails but maybe not the exact ones that give this official figure. We should hit the 500 mile mark a couple of miles outside Santiago, which is an invigorating thought.

However, let’s not celebrate until we actually achieve, eh? We still have two stages to go. Tomorrow takes us about 20km to Arca, which is actually one of the Brierley Stage destinations, implying that our last day, Thursday, will be spent elbowing our way through mobs of pilgrims all, erm, hell-bent on reaching Santiago for the prized Compostela. The tension mounts (yes, it does), so tune in again a couple more times to this channel to witness the exciting denouement!

8 thoughts on “Camino Day 38 – Melide to Arzúa: Just another pleasant day

  1. Caroline critchley

    Nearing the end the search for the ‘Holy Grail’ only you two can accredit doing it your way! Well done, my friends.xx

  2. Ian Burley

    Is it true that the first pilgrims to arrive in Santiago each day with the required number of stamps get put up for free at the parador near the cathedral? Maybe it’s just a legend, but if it’s true expect a free-for-all on your last day.

    1. Steve Walker Post author

      I’d not heard that one before! I suspect it’s a myth, because I can’t imagine how one could possibly administer or police it. I’m expecting a free-for-all anyway when we get to Santiago, as people queue to get their Compostelas. Apparently, there’s a pilgrims mass at midday, so I suspect a lot of people will try to get there for that; maybe we can plan around or, as we wouldn’t want to go to the mass.

    2. Karin Wennås

      The first ten or so is given a free lunch at the parador hotel’s restaurant (at least it was like that last year).

  3. Jules

    Hola Peregrinos, Teño moitas ganas de que nos acompañes para descansar os teus pés cansos e degustar unha exquisita gastronomía e viño galego, a diferenza dos Albergues! disfruta do teu último quilómetro e envía un saúdo a Santiago. vémonos o doming Jules xxxx


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