Tag Archives: Tourism

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.

Camino Finisterre Day 12: Flamin’ Rain In Spain – Again!

Monday 13 May 2024 – We looked out of our Mazaricos hotel window this morning to a drearily familiar scene.

In a moment of madness which we’ll surely regret, we decided we would brave the conditions, despite the track record of this kind of weather in this area. After all, the last time we came here, we were forced into a taxi by weather that was the subject of a Yellow Alert for rain. No such alert was in place today, so surely it wouldn’t be that bad? Anyway, I’d be wearing special waterproof socks, so at least I should be OK, surely? [Hah! What about me? Ed]

As you’ll remember from your reading of my description of how we got here way back on Day 2, the Mazaricos hotel, Casa Jurjo (#3 below), is quite some way off the official Camino path, and it has a deal for peregrinos whereby it will collect them from, or deliver them to, the Camino (at #2) as part of an overnight stay.

On the way out, we’d only managed from #1 to #1a before getting waterlogged. Today, the idea was to walk all the way from #2 to #1, even though we knew it would rain.

Accordingly, after breakfast, a lad called Jorje dropped us off outside #2 (a bar called Casa Pepe), and we started along the Camino towards Negreira.

At first it was raining, but OK. We walked through the village of As Maroñas

and out into the countryside.

As we went, there was the usual fairly attenuated flow of peregrinos coming in the opposite direction, and rueful smiles were the order of the day accompanying the “Buen Camino” greetings (through increasingly gritted teeth) as we passed each other.

In the distance in the photo above, you can just made out a digger by the roadside.  Its job was clearly to maintain the roadside drains that were obviously well-needed with so much flamin’ rain falling from the sky.

We pressed on,

and the rain pressed down. It was also bloody windy, which made things a lot more unpleasant. As I said, there wasn’t a Yellow Alert for Rain in force, but there might just as well have been, as I’m buggered if I could distinguish between the user experience today and that of ten days ago.  We simply got wetter and wetter, and our resolve to continue walking fell lower and lower…

…until we passed #1a (Casa Vella) again

at which point we decided, exactly as before, that Enough Was Enough. The claims to waterprooficity of my vaunted waterproof socks turned out to be overblown and my feet were as sodden as the rest of us.  We called in again

and the delightful señora there once again made us coffee and whistled up a taxi for us.

This means that we have completed the Negreira – Mazaricos stage of this Camino, albeit not in one go and, indeed, not even in one direction. This leaves unwalked the 13km from #2 to #4, which is a shame. But this Camino hasn’t been about proving we can do mileage, which the Camino Francés was, partly, and did.  This was supposed to be enjoyable and having to walk in the pissing rain is not that.

A small vignette played out whilst we had coffee at Casa Vella, as a couple of other people were there, one of whom was evidently (a) English and (b) slightly embarrassed to have no euro cash with him in order to complete paying his dues.  He asked if we could spare €20, which he would send us online.  While I suspect he was legit, I was reluctant to start handing out bank details to a complete stranger in The Foreign, even if he was an English Gentleman.  As it turned out he had sterling cash (does this make him more of a gentleman or less, these days?), and so I gained a bit on the deal – he gave me £20 and I gave him my last €20 note, retaining the €50 I judged would be needed for the taxi.  We never caught his name, but he was a pleasant chap, despite the fact that he runs a podcast, and hails from Newcastle, not that you could tell from his accent.

Anyway, the taxi was warm and, importantly, dry and ferried us swiftly and cheaply (for just €15) to our hotel, the Hotel Millan in Negreira.  We were supposed originally to have returned to the Mesquita, but there had apparently been a cock-up and so we were in a different place for tonight.  Luckily, our room was available for us to move straight into, and so we dripped our way upstairs and started the process of drying ourselves out.  We have a lovely view over the hotel’s pool

but it’s not really the weather for a swim, somehow.

The hotel offered a lunch, which was decent enough and very good V for M. Afterwards, we hopped across the road to buy some newspapers, which are almost as good at telling one the news as tablets are, but infinitely better at sopping up moisture from the inside of sopping wet shoes.

The rest of the day was spent drying out, both by us and the weather, which was dry by the evening. According to Accuweather, we should expect a couple of showers tomorrow, but, assuming that our various tactics for wringing the moisture out of our gear work, it looks like we should be able to walk the remaining leg.  We’ll take another look at the weather tomorrow morning, obvs.

Lunch had been an opportunity for us to discuss our philosophical approach to completing this Camino. It would, of course, be infinitely more satisfying to arrive into Santiago on foot than to skulk in by taxi. But the course of the last couple of weeks has taught us a lot about the limitations of our waterproofs (fairly considerable) and our courage (easily swayed by the lure of practicalities and comfort). So we’ll see.  And so will you, should you come back to these pages to find out.

 

Camino Finisterre Day 11: Dumbria to Mazaricos – revisiting earlier scenes

Sunday 12 May 2024 – As we could have expected, breakfast at Casa A Pinchonas was very agreeable – mugs for the tea, good bread, some decent fruit, agreeable service, that sort of thing – and it was a nice coda to our stay at a very pleasant guest house. We were careful to get our bags out before 8am because we’d had a snotty note put on them yesterday, but no-one came to pick them up before we’d left for our day’s walking. Of course.

Anyhoo…

We had to go a few hundred metres to rejoin the Camino path, and it led us past a place which had a reminder about the terrible possibilities of being taken by the fearsome Vákner,

particularly as we were once again heading into the deep, dark woods.

We were apprehensive.  Yes, we were.

I had taken a look at the profile of today’s walk, and realised that the first section was a longish uphill pull. It didn’t however, appear to be as steep as some of our previous hills, so I had decided to eschew the use of my walking poles, partly to see whether I had the energy to cope and partly because having to carry the things afterwards is a bit of a nuisance. Yes, I could take the backpack off, fold the poles and store them, but it ruins the continuity.

The gradient of the path made that decision, frankly, marginal; but I made it through the day without needing the sticks.  There were stretches which I felt were a bit tough, but my Garmin activity monitor didn’t credit me with having to work any harder than previous days, and actually I felt that I had reasonable reserves of energy for the day’s walking. At one stage, later in the day, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the simple exercise of walking and reflected that the weather and my digestive ferment had made this trip feel somewhat disjointed, which, though inevitable, gave us the thought that the longer walks, such as the Francés, had merit because a couple of days off here and there represented, proportionately, a smaller disruption to the overall wosname.

So, we were going up.

and the weather, which had started cool, was improving, so the increasing altitude brought some nice views, as one might expect.

It also took us through the apparently inevitable Eucalyptus plantations and the occasional ravaged landscape caused by the extraction process.

Gorse and broom had taken over the landscape in places

and we wondered if these expanses once held Eucalyptus trees.

Jane, having spent the whole trip looking out for one, was delighted to spot wild orchids

which she thinks are Stately Marsh Orchids. I just thought how nice it was to be taken with something that, frankly, my eye had skittered over without noticing. If it weren’t for Jane’s observant eye and horticultural knowledge, I would have missed many of the plants we saw as we went along. Particularly in evidence on our walk today were foxgloves and white asphodels, which were doing their sparkler thing.

At this point, we had completed the Hospital – Finisterre – Muxia – Hospital loop and started  walking back along paths that we’d covered eight days earlier on our way out from Santiago.  There was our scenic ferrosilicon plant (made somewhat more scenic by a couple of foreground horses)

and the “parting of the ways” markers, as seen from the other direction.

As we carried on, I was struck by another point to muse, which is the difference between the scenery as you walk one way as opposed to what you see on the journey back.  Philosophically, at home when Going For A Walk I prefer to do a circular route, rather than simply going out-and-back. Jane holds that the view on the way back is always different from the way out, and our experience today definitely supports that view. (Mind you, the weather on the way out was, how shall I put it, shit, whereas today it was ideal for walking. The general views today were lovelier than under the lowering skies and/or pissing rain of eight days previously. Frankly, we’d never bothered to look around, and it was likely we couldn’t have made anything out anyway.)

We looked in at a coffee stop that we’d used on the way out, and it emphasised something else that we’d gradually begun noticing over the preceding kilometres: the pilgrim season had started to ramp up. I suppose it was because of our timing, and possibly the nice weather, but the place was really busy

to the point where it was actually a pleasure to get away from the hubbub and back to walking. But we noticed a considerable increase in the frequency of peregrinos (and bicigrinos) heading in the opposite direction to us.

We retraced our outbound steps with considerably greater pleasure than we had on the original journey.  The fields possibly had had life in them then, but we weren’t disposed to notice, whereas now it was nice to see a donkey

and to note the horns of the cows in the same field against the sky.

As in previous days, the cloud and cool gave way to warmth and sunshine,

although today’s wasn’t intense and the temperature remained pleasant for walking. The decent weather also allowed us to take a detour to something Jane had spotted on the way out but we decided that conditions were too grim to actually make it worth doing anything other than simply plodding grimly by. A few hundred metres off the path, Google tells us, is a Balancing Stone.  Our energy levels and the nice conditions made it seem worthwhile now to explore, and so off we went.  It was just as well that we had some extra energy, as it was quite a pull up, but the views were nice anyway.  At first, it wasn’t clear which stone Google was highlighting.  There was one candidate, for example,

which seemed pretty impressive, but I popped over and gave it a gentle push and

oops, it was gone*.  A bit further on was another

which also looked like it was balanced.  Jane wanted to try the nudge thing

but it was actually too high.

Of course, this was the Official Balancing Stone.

I took one look and thought, “wow, you should be able to get some great drone footage of this!”  Fortunately, I had the drone with me, so Jane possessed her soul in patience while I whizzed it up and…actually it looks best from ground level; I couldn’t find an angle with the drone that was worth using. Some minutes wasted, then, but an interesting experiment from my point of view.

You’ll remember, of course you will, that when we were on the outward part of this Camino it had been utterly pissing down with rain, which had been ceaseless for 36 hours in the area, centred around our overnight in Mazaricos (today’s destination). I had been astonished, as we walked, by the sheer volume of water gushing off the hillsides. This was how it looked then.

Today? Not so much.

I had been particularly taken with the surging current threatening to overwhelm a bridge on this path, the Puente Vao de Ripas. I have some comparative video:

Today, we just had the pleasure of scenery that we could actually appreciate, rather than scuttle past in the rain.

Our passing through Olveiroa enabled a couple of pleasant vignettes.  To get there, we crossed the river.

Having crossed it, we looked back

and were reminded of the scene which had greeted us on our outbound journey.

We stopped for beer at the delightful As Pias, where we’d stayed overnight on our way out, and then walked back towards Mazaricos, where once again we would be staying at Casa Jurjo. The direct route involves some fairly dull walking on the road, but there’s actually an alternative route for some of it, on a side track.  Eight days ago, such a route would probably have only been a serious proposition had one been in wellies; but today it seemed a good idea, and indeed it was.

On the road, we noticed, as before, an increased peregrino traffic

and so were glad to turn off onto the side track, which had its own marker posts.

It was just nice to get away from the road, but, as well as that, we saw a “modern” (1933) horreo;

evidence that the popularity of eucalyptus planting hasn’t disappeared;

some clear demarcations in ploughing and planting;

and – nicest of all – we heard a veritable cacophony of bee activity as they harvested from the trackside plants.

The side track debouched back on to the main road into Mazaricos, which looked a lot less drab in the sunshine than when we’d last seen it

and arrived at Casa Jurjo around 1430 to find that food would only be avilable at 7pm. Ah well.

I’m writing this in the bar. There’s football on the telly, and I wondered if it might be bloody Watford again (yellow strip, etc).

It’s not. But it might have been.**

We have reasonable weather outside at the moment.  Sadly, it would appear that the nice weather may come to an abrupt end tomorrow. What is it about Mazaricos and rain, eh? I’m not sure how we’ll deal with the morrow, but it will almost certainly involve waterproofs (both of us) and grumpiness (me).  Our target is Negreira, but we’re off the main Camino track here. The current plan is to take a lift to As Maroñas, whence it is but 21 (possibly soggy) kilometres to Negreira. When we attempted the journey on the way out, the weather defeated us and we completed the journey in a taxi and a state of sousedness. You’ll have to come back and find out how the return leg went.

 

 

* Of course I’m joking, but it shows what photographic trickery can be done with built-in image processing software on today’s tablets.

** On our first evening in Santiago (the one in Chile, that is), we were greeted by a Watford-Everton football match on the TV in the bar. This also happened on Canada some years later. We’re feeling slightly haunted by this. Watford (“The Hornets”: yellow strip) is my home town, not that I give a shit about football, but there are some workings of fate to which we mere mortals are clearly not privy.