Camino Finisterre Day 1: It Begins: Santiago to Negreira

Thursday May 2 2024 – From the relatively relaxed schedules of the previous days, we suddenly snapped into Camino Time: alarm call at 0630, breakfast around 0730, bags ready to be collected for transfer at 0800, on the road as soon as may be after breakfast. It wasn’t too brutal and we seemed to swing quite smoothly into what will likely be the daily rhythm that governs the next fortnight or so.

The breakfast room at the monastery was pretty much as you might imagine a monastic refectory to look.

Breakfast was served from 0730. We got there shortly after that time to find that it was very crowded and borderline chaotic, and we thought: “why?”  Surely these were people who had largely arrived in Santiago; why were they up and doing so early when one would think there was no need?  Surely they can’t all be continuing a Camino hike somewhere? Who knows?

Anyway, we had what is likely to be a typical breakfast for our time here, based around fruit and yoghurt with whatever extras that we fancied from the buffet, and then departed starting our Day 1 trek at around 0830 under clear skies.

We had sunshine for about the first 90 minutes, and passed some nice scenes, such as this old mill by, unsurprisingly, a stream

on sun-dappled pathways.

At the top of a gentle climb, we caught our last glimpse of Santiago

(until, that is, we catch sight of it on our way back from the coast in a couple of weeks). The sun continued to shine on the attractive Galician countryside

but it was becoming clear that clouds were gathering and before long

it started raining, occasionally quite hard.  What we really needed at this point was, of course, a café, and we’d actually formulated a plan for a coffee stop around this point. This meant that we only had to withstand about half an hour of the rain before we could take shelter and sustenance. (Actually, we were quite fortunate for the whole of the day, in that our planned coffee stops matched quite well with periods of rain, so we managed to avoid getting too badly soaked.)

This first stop involved, as it turned out, a couple of coffees as we waited a while for the rain to pass. But pass it did, and we carried on past some more attractive countryside.

Horreos – originally grain stores – are a common feature of the Galician scenery, and thus normally unremarkable. This one, though, was unusual,

in that it was a double-decker, something we’d not seen before.  Close examination of that photo will reveal that the sunshine had been replaced by dark clouds and, inevitably, the rains came again.  We were pleased, therefore, to be near our next planned café stop to wait out the rain, in Augapesado.  Emerging eventually from there took us past an ancient Roman bridge,

which was interesting to look at, as you could see the details of its construction clearly; but it had somewhat the look of a bridge to nowhere about it.

There was another imperative at work in our visit to the café; we wanted to rest before The Steep Bit which seems to be an unavoidable part of day one of your standard multi-day hike.  This, as far as we could glean from maps and other data sources, wasn’t anything like the brutal day one of the Camino Francés, whose first 8km were up a really stiff gradient; but it was a couple of kilometres up a reasonable incline.

I had got my walking poles out by this stage, and was very glad to have the use of them; Jane was more macho (macha?) about the whole thing and took the slope on unaided; and I’m glad to be able to report that neither of us found it to be that tough. Indeed, my Garmin activity monitor only allowed me three minutes of “vigorous” activity during the half-hour it took us to walk a couple of kilometres and climb the 230m vertical.  It’s nice to know that the bout of flu which had laid us low for about a month before we set out on this trip hadn’t dented our overall fitness too badly.

Because we’d waited for the rains to pass before we started the climb, we completed it in decent weather, which while great, didn’t last much beyond the top of it.

and once again we took refuge in our next planned stop, a café in Trasmonte, whilst the next pulse of rains came through. The stop wasn’t just about the rain, though; there was also an element of celebration of completion of the climb.

Just before we did so, though, we passed the very quaint parish church of Santa María.

It is entirely surrounded by a cemetery

and has a distinctive baroque tower.

From Trasmonte it was only a couple of kilometres, in gathering sunshine, to what was the high point of the day, emotionally if not topologically: having sunshine as we walked through Ponte Maceira.

I’m sure the name will be familiar to you, the dedicated reader of these pages. But just in case you were distracted at the time, let me refresh your memory.  We had visited Ponte Maceira once before, as part of the coach trip we took from Santiago to Finisterre after we completed our previous Camino; and while the weather generally that day was lovely, for our visit to Ponte Maceira it was not.

Today, though, our visit coincided wonderfully with sunshine.

(You’ll notice that the rapids were much more rapid today than last September; then I was even able to walk across part of the waterfall, something I would not have tried today!)

It looked lovely today.

and it was excellent being able to wander round this most photogenic hamlet and get some great scenes.

To the left in the picture above are a couple of mill buildings, and it’s possible to look inside them,

and doing so gives a good idea of the power of the river rushing through below.

The (reconstructed) bridge has an unusual feature on its arches.

I’ve not seen that style of construction anywhere else that I remember.

As we left Ponte Maceira the rain started again (hah!) but its heart wasn’t really in it, and we completed the remaining four kilometres or so to Negreira, our destination for the day, without further incident.

We fell a little foul of the Spanish dietary circadian rhythms, as we arrived just as all the restaurants were closing after lunch.  We had to make do with cheese and ham baguettes in the bar of our hotel, the hostal La Mezquita. But the room is comfortable  and the bar serves gin, so we’ll be OK.

Today, we’ve been astonishingly lucky in that our planned coffee stops largely coincided with rain showers. Tomorrow, however, may be a different story.  The Accuweather forecast for today was alternating cloudy intervals and showers, and it was about right.  Tomorrow, as we depart from Negreira, the forecast simply says “rain”.  As we approach our destination, Mazaricos, there’s a Yellow Warning for rain. So the day looks set to start out wet and turn torrential, which is not an alluring prospect.  It’ll maybe give me an opportunity for me to grumble about it and you to laugh at our discomfiture, so tune in soon and find out how bad it was.

5 thoughts on “Camino Finisterre Day 1: It Begins: Santiago to Negreira

  1. Kathleen Freeman

    Good to know your energies have recovered well after the flu bouts. I think the photos of dappled sunlight in the woods are enchanting! What is it like to be resuming the simplicity of walking days again?

  2. Karin Wennås

    I’m a bit behind in reading but will “read up” – and oh, like Kathleen says above, the simplicity of walking … I long for it. Will be exciting to follow your (wet?) camino Finisterre!


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