Tag Archives: Santiago

Camino Finisterre Day 13: Walkin’ back to Santiago, whoop-ah, oh yeah, yeah*

Tuesday 14 May 2024 – Whilst we had a reasonably comfortable stay, the Hotel Millan is not a place I would recommend; any better days it might once have seen are many, many days ago. So we weren’t tempted to linger after breakfast, and in any case the weather forecast made a prompt start seem a good idea; cloudy and showers were the order of the morning, with the prospect of rain in the afternoon.

We set off just after 0830 in light rain, retracing our steps to Santiago whence we started on May 2nd.  We passed sights that I don’t remember from that walk, such as this dovecote

and some that I do, such as the impressive gates to the Pazo de Albariña,

which is some kind of a historical landmark.

The weather stayed gloomy, with occasional light showers, so when we walked through Ponte Maceira I was glad that we had seen it at its best on the way out to Finisterre. Nonetheless, I took a couple of photos, because it is a lovely village.

After Ponte Maceira, there is a longish climb up to Carballo, which is the high point of the day’s walk. (Coming the other way, you’ll remember, it’s also the high point after The Steep Bit, a decent example of the sort of mandatory component that makes Day One of any walk a bastard.) On the return leg back to Santiago it’s not so steep, and the ascent not so much, but it still tested my energy levels and, frankly, found them wanting. So I used photography to give me the excuse for some short rests on the way up.  For example, there was a beautifully red horreo to be admired,

and some decent scenery

which held out the tantalising possibility that the rain would stop.

In Trasmonte, we had the courage to walk past the tempting Casa Pancho, as we hadn’t quite done the qualifying distance after which a coffee stop is permissible. I looked in at Trasmonte’s intriguing Fisterra Bovine World, where I got a chance at a better shot at one of their sheds.

This is apparently a two-year project whereby thirteen different bovine breeds from all over the world will be fed and raised under the Galician livestock system, using feed typical of the area based on native corn, to measure the effect of the Galician System on each breed. Crikey.

Trasmonte features some photogenic corners,

and just beyond the village we passed the high point, which is more or less marked by a fonte.

The path then goes down, as is not uncommon after high points, and, in the case of this path, it goes down quite steeply (had I already mentioned this, maybe?).

It’s interesting that Google describes this path as “mainly flat”. I’d hate to take on something that it describes as “a bit of a hill”. Whatever, as the sun was now shining more or less reliably, it made for some attractive scenes on the way down.  It is a damp environment, as can be seen from the vast amounts of moss which adorn, well, pretty much everything.

At the bottom is a café called Bar O km 79, where we stopped for refreshments. I think its name stems from the distance from the bar to Finisterre. Whatever, a coffee was a welcome thing, and it meant that we were under shelter as a small spattering of rain swept through.

We pressed on

and it became clear that we were running into a stream of peregrinos who had set out that morning from Santiago.

It never became crowded with pilgrims, but the oncoming flow was steady and constant for several kilometres.

We passed another unusual horreo as we walked on.

It’s been noticeable that, starting around Negreira, the principal construction of the horreos has gone from entirely stone-built to stone-and-wood. This is a stone-and-wood one, as you can see, but the unusual thing about it is its base; typical horreos are mounted on stone “toadstools”, which serve to keep the rats at bay; this one simply has stone pillars, but of course there’s the ledge in place to make it impossible for rats to get at the riches within.

After a few more kilometres we came to our second stop, a bar called Os Arcos.  Whilst we got ourselves outside beer and pizza, an amusing little cabaret played out before us, involving the delivery of large gas cylinders.  With a huge din, this van pulled up.

Its mission was to deliver two full cylinders and take away two empties.  It would have been cruel and ill-mannered to video the troubles the driver had in unshipping the bars which hold the cylinders in place, but it was funny to watch – and very noisy. It involved a lot of hitting things with spanners and other bits of metal before he could get the cylinders out. He correspondingly had trouble getting the bars back into place as well before he drove off.  This video (if played with sound up) will give you some idea of the cacophony which surrounded this little vignette.

After resuming our journey, we passed a tulip tree in full bloom (something Jane tells me I’ve seen before, but not that I remember)

and the sun came out enough to make the scenery worth taking photos of.

The last of those is taken from the ascending path just a few kilometres from Santiago. Once again, I found it really hard work, even though it wasn’t all that steep; but we were rewarded at the top with our first sight of the iconic towers of Santiago Cathedral.

Slightly further on, one gets an even better view

and I was pleased to be able to see it whilst the sun was shining, something it wasn’t doing on our outbound walk.

The cathedral continued to dominate local streets as we made our way through the outskirts

and soon enough we were in the Plaza del Obradoiro

and shortly thereafter back at our hotel, the massive San Martin Pinero monastery building.

We’d walked the complete final stage today, covered 21km, and arrived in the sunshine, which was a nice way to finish our Camino Finisterre. It’s not been a classic achievement for us like completing the Camino Francés was last year – the weather and my digestive issues had intervened to make it a bit of a disjointed experience – but we still had a quiet sense of satisfaction.

What do I think of this Camino? I think it’s worth doing for anyone who has not visited Muxia and/or Cape Finisterre, which are both attractive, charismatic places, but probably less so for people who have visited these before. We found the endless eucalyptus plantations, and their aftermath (blasted earth and chewed-up trails) a bit tedious and depressing; it’s a shame that people’s livings depend on planting and harvesting this invasive species. The poor weather we had in places took some of the gilt off the gingerbread, for sure, although there’s a case to say that this is our fault for not having industrial-strength waterproofs with us.

That said, we’ve stayed in some great places – As Pias in Olveiroa, Casa de Balea in Corcubión and the excellent Hotel Semaforo at Cape Finisterre come immediately to mind – and the trip has got us walking again after a period where it was too difficult to get out and about. Assuming that Vueling don’t cock things up and ruin our journey home, we’ve had a pleasant couple of weeks, which of course included visiting A Coruña and Lugo; and We Will Be Back – our plans include taking on the Camino Portugues. As and when we undertake this journey – and all the others, of course – you can rest assured that I’ll be writing about our travels in these pages.

Hasta la próxima!


* Sorry about the title. Anyone younger than me will probably never have heard of Helen Shapiro, a teen star in the early 60s with a big voice and a big hit called “Walkin’ Back To Happiness”, which I, of course, had on my brain for the whole of today’s walk.

Santiago, Chile – cue queues

11th March 2018

We arrived in Santiago on schedule, after a relatively crash-free flight. BA acquitted themselves pretty well on punctuality, food and service, and they didn’t even mind that we were very nearly late because we forgot to get our foreign currency until absolutely the last moment.

During the flight I became concerned about potential problems clearing customs because the customs form instructs one to declare anything other than “normal baggage”, by which they mean (agricultural produce aside):

  1. One video camera
  2. One other camera
  3. One tablet or PC
  4. One “sound and image recorder and reproducer”, by which I assume they mean “iPod”

Since I had four cameras with me, I was worried that I might not emerge into the arrivals hall with all of them still in my possession. (By the way, I had deliberately and reluctantly decided to leave the drone at home exactly because of this possibility.)

So, we landed and queued:

  • to be able to leave the aeroplane (swanky sods in first class go first);
  • at passport control;
  • at the baggage carousel to collect bags;
  • and then, surprisingly, to clear customs, for which the queue was probably longer than for passport control, because every bag was X-rayed.

However, there were many people on hand to speed the queue and……the contents of my bags were completely ignored and we were free to go.

It actually took just an hour from landing to walking out into the arrivals area to find a complete absence of drivers waving a card with our name on it. But José turned up shortly and so we were smoothly transferred to our hotel, the Cumbres Lastarria, which, this being 11am, didn’t have a room ready for us. So, with four hours to kill, the obvious thing to do was to blunder about Santiago. The weather was conducive to this idea, being sunny, blue skies and mid-twenties. Tourism has its own rewards, sometimes.

This enabled us to find our final set of queues for the day, as we decided to visit Cerro San Cristóbal (a nearby and substantial hill recommended by a neighbour). It turned out that we were not the only people to have this idea, and so barely an hour later we were on a funicular railway creaking and clanking our way to the top. As we went up, it became increasingly clear that we would have a pretty spectacular view over the city:

And, while the view from the top was pretty spectacular

Santiago Panorama

being British, we had to hasten to join the next queue, for the gondola ride across and down the far side. To be honest, although the view from this cable car was pretty nice, I’m not entirely sure that it is worth the extra money. But you do get a view of Chile’s highest building, the Costanera centre (also, we’re told, worth a visit, as the view from the top is good – it’s 74 stories tall)

View over Santiago from the Teleferique San Cristobal

Whilst up the hill, the searing Chilean heat persuaded us that we should try a traditional drink, called Mote. Since this is nearer a meal than a drink, I can only hope that people don’t give me too much stick for publishing a photo of one. I suffer for my art:

Mote - traditional Chilean summer drink

On the subject of food, we indulged ourselves in some local dishes at El Galeón, a restaurant near the central market in Santiago. Reineta a la plancha is a grilled offering of Chilean sea bream, and Pastel de Choclo is not a chocolate tart, but a very nourishing (i.e. substantial) offering based on sweetcorn (which is called choclo around these parts) and chicken.

Our final set of queues came about the next day, as we endured the torturous city traffic with a very nice guide called Ronald Aylwin Lyon (Chilean, but of British heritage five generations before, and an occasional guide, since he has an alternate life as a pianist, composer, teacher and jazz musician). However, the day before had seen a new President, Sebastián Piñera, taking office, and the official celebrations meant the closing of several key roads in the city, and the ramifications mainly took the form of huge traffic jams. Eventually we abandoned motorised transport and walked about on foot, which enabled us to see the lovely architecture in the city’s Concha y Toro neighbourhood (yes, it’s named after the family who make the wine).

(I love the anachronism between the 18th-century Italian architecture and the cabling under the balconies)

Santiago - Colonial Architecture

although it’s clear that the local tendency for earthquakes means that those buildings which survive need bracing.
Santiago architecture
Uniquely, among all the various places we’re visiting on this junket (stay tuned, now), Santiago is the home of the brother of a neighbour. We went to visit him and had a very pleasant evening drinking wine (Chilean, of course) and talking about the country; this also afforded us the chance to explore how to use the local metro, which is very cheap and quite easy to use. The best thing to do is to get a “bip” card, a smart card which you can charge with money so that it allows you through the barriers with a cheerful “bip”.

As you walk about the city, among the humdrum graffiti (of which there is plenty, some of it with artistic merit), you can stumble across hugely colourful murals and other striking wall paintings.


And we also walked around the downtown area where there was palpable excitement about the possibility of the new President passing a parade of many military bands, who had gathered for the occasion.

Miltary Bandsmen gather on Presidential Inauguration Day 2018

Miltary Bandsmen gather on Presidential Inauguration Day 2018
Troops assembled for Presidential Inauguration Day 2018
Around our hotel, in the Lastarria neighbourhood, there is some lovely mural art and architecture.
Santiago Murals
And that’s about it for the first instalment of our holiday adventure. I hope it gives you a flavour of how much we’ve enjoyed our short stay here, and stay tuned as we plunge south to Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego.