50 • Santiago

It rained all night, I woke early, breakfast at 07:30. The rain was still falling but there was enough light not to have to use my flashlight. Stepped out “ponchoed”, light rain falling and cold. It was 12 km to Santiago however they seem to have changed the route for it took me easily three hours hard walking to reach the city. The walk had an ethereal and mystical feel to it, apart from the usual ups and downs, some quite extreme, a mist hung over the countryside and the rain lessened to an, on and off, drizzle. The path led through little villages, suburbs of Santiago, farmlands and the last of the forests with their rain-induced fragrance.  The chapel of Santa Lucia as well as a section of the ancient road and places for washing in preparation for arriving at Santiago were familiar from last time.

The king of Spain is in Santiago today and there is high security, I was not allowed into the plaza with my backpack. So I went to the place where I am staying, left my backpack returned to the plaza to find someone who would take my photograph of arrival.

After coffee I joined the line to enter the Cathedral for the Pilgrims midday Mass, high security there too. I settled down towards the front of the Cathedral which was already filling when, in front of me, I recognized two people from California. I knew both of them were walking the Camino but was not sure on the day they were arriving, as they were walking the Camino Frances. I went up and touch them on the shoulder and there followed a great reunion.

Sharing each day with you has been an important dimension of the Camino for me, it added to the experience and gave life to these 48 days, so thank you for your support and accompaniment. Thanks also to Patrick and Laura for their diligent uploading. After siesta, when the crowds have dispersed I’ll go and hug Santiago and visit the crypt, remembering you especially.

My sister, sent this quote a few days ago, fitting advice for us all as we continue our respective Caminos.


49 • Casal Rural

For every step down yesterday afternoon, this morning demanded a step up eventually the Camino returned to her old self of oak, pine, and eucalyptus forests. The mist cleared the sun came out but was very little warmth, the walk had a ‘post storm’ quietness to it, fragrant with pine and eucalyptus.

I decided not to rush to Santiago but to take it easy

Not a long walk today but slow due to the climb and muddy path after the rain. Just arrived, need to do washing in accordance with the tradition of clean clothes for the arrival in Santiago and then off to find lunch.

48 • Ponte Ulla

Rainbows, enchanted forests, and descents like you can’t believe. What made today’s walk so spectacular was the play of light due to the clouds and rising sun and rain showers.

47 • Silleda

A day of extreme beauty. I had breakfast at 08:00. The temperature, 4°C and overcast and with the wind blowing. Certainly the coldest day on this Camino. I had planned to walk 18 km to the town of Lalin and spend the night there, giving my shins a chance to recover. After an initial section on the road, the Camino veered off again through enchanting oak forests and farm fields.

The Camino alternated between the paths, crossing different roads and highways, then veering up and down through little villages.

I kept looking for the sign and turn off to Lalin but never found it, so continued walking, keeping an eye on the clouds and enjoying the beauty. I eventually came to a Bar and asked the woman how far to Lalin, she looked at me blankly and said Lalin is 6 or 7 km behind you, you’ve passed it. My next question was how far is Silleda and she said 9 km exactly.

The path continued through “Lord of the Rings” forests, Tolkien would’ve had a ball.

I arrived at Silleda around 15:30,

46 • San Cristovo de Cea

I headed out about 08:30, it had just stopped raining, was cold and misty. I made my way through the town, across the beautiful Roman bridge and began a long climb up and out of Ourense. I didn’t realize Ourense, because it is 100 km  from Santiago, is a popular place to begin walking the Camino as it enables people to qualify for Compostela. This morning,  pilgrims were coming out, I passed six and then a couple pulling a cart and then another couple and along the way met another four all of whom I’ve never seen before. Once I crested the long climb out of Ourense, the path leveled out and had moments of exquisite beauty, walking through forests, patches of Roman Road which I tried to convince my shins was an honor to be walking on, but they wouldn’t buy it, the Roman roads ended up more like boulder-hopping than walking. Crossed another beautiful Roman bridge and took a few moments to try and get a good photograph as it is surrounded by trees and forest.

45 • Ourese II

Yesterday afternoon I packed a bag with shorts, slipslops and went off to the local Roman Baths still in existence in the old part of the town. I enjoyed my visit there four years ago and was determined to repeat the experience. Once again it was wonderful, full of old dears and a few young locals soaking in the water and catching the last of the afternoon sun.

I had a wonderful sleep in, a cup of tea in my room before going to look for a cafe Americano and a tostada and marmalade. The temperatures have dropped drastically overnight, everyone wrapped up in winter jackets, giving a completely different feel to the town from yesterday.

I went looking for KT tape for my shins and eventually found a Spanish equivalent in a pharmacy. By chance I arrived at the beautiful church of San Francisco just as Mass was beginning at midday.

Probably five days before Santiago and already I can feel that mix of sadness and relief, a kind of nostalgia. Rest days are important but they bring with them a pointlessness and frustration at not being back walking, I’m actually looking forward to tomorrow morning, getting back to the road. Fingers crossed for as soon as I cross the Roman bridge out of Ourense there is a sharp climb and the rest of the Camino to Santiago consists of ups and downs. A little parable of life itself I expect.

44 • Ourense

I immediately recognized and remembered the city as one I enjoyed 4 years ago. It has a quiet, feel about it. I had a light lunch and asked for more ice. I have continued the regimen of ice and arnica and remembering there is a hot thermal bath in the middle of the town, free for locals, (hot springs going back to Roman times). It opens at 17:00. I hope to be in line for an hour’s soak.

I’ll see how I go but my gut feeling is to spend two days here resting and then set out for the final few days to Santiago.

43 • Laza

Three words describe today, “elevation, road, panoramic vistas”. I had to pay for the third as 2/3 of the walk was elevation and climbing and 80% of today’s walk on the road. The combination of the climbing and road has left me with what I think is the beginning of a shin splint as I have a pain in the front of my leg which made the last third of the journey, which was all decent, slow and painful.

In spite of the challenges the views were fantastic and I pushed through to a new boundary for myself of walking 34.4 km although Brother Body is not impressed!

42 • Gudina

You will see from the photos it was an exceptional walk of amazing beauty and a warm sunny day as well. The route was a climb up over a pass into the province of Galacia about 23 km, the beauty was a distraction from the effort of the climb.

I had a wonderful breakfast this morning. The late beginning meant I was walking until 15:30 this afternoon. I arrived in A Gudina and staying in the Albergue tonight with six or seven other people. Tomorrow also will be a new experience for me, because four years ago I took the alternative path, so starting tomorrow the next four days will all be new for me.

A day of many memories from four years ago, amazing beauty, peaceful broken only by sheep, cow bells and the Angelus.

41 • Puebla de Sanabria

It was cool and overcast but had a distinctive Sunday feel to it. Very little traffic and the path crisscrossed the highways a number of times. In between, walked through oak forests in autumn colors, on patches of Roman road and through five quaint little villages. The terrain and soil has changed dramatically, so too has the architecture of the houses in the villages, everything is made of stone and even the roofs are slated. The path, bordering walls and houses are all made from gray rock, certainly a change from the red or white stone earlier on in the Camino.

I caught up with Hannes at the second village where we had a coffee in a Bar full of friendly locals and a vivacious woman bartender. We then walked the rest of the way together chatting which made the time go pleasantly.

Wishing everyone a happy Sunday.

40 • Rionegro del Puente

The walk this morning was as beautiful as the last two days, probably even more so.

At the first village I enquired about coffee and was told there was nothing and to continue onto the second village. En route, due to a confusion of signs pointing in different directions, I ended up on an alternative route and missed my coffee. So it was a long morning with no breakfast, eventually I  made Villa de Farfon where a South African couple run an Albergue and offer tea and coffee to passing pilgrims. This was my breakfast at 12:45.

39 • Santa Corya de Tera

A most interesting and intriguing day. I set out early, it was extra dark, being overcast and threatening rain. The sun struggled to break through at sunrise, whether it was because of the cold or last night’s rain or a mixture of both, but as I walked it was as if every bush or tree emitted a fragrance. It was like walking through the perfumery, an aromatic experience, almost intoxicating. I found out the name of the bush that seem to be most fragrant, it’s called “Jara”, it has a white blossoms in the spring and the whole area is full of its powerful fragrance in the month of May. There were also pines and wild rosemary.

It was still cold but the air was thick with this mixture of perfume and incense, it was a sensory extravaganza.

I made good time, arrived at the first village, Bercianos de Valverde, and bumped into two woman, mother and a daughter, I asked if there was any coffee Bar open, they had a conversation between themselves and eventually offered to open the communal bar and make me a cup of coffee. So while they went to get the key and switched on the coffee machine I changed my socks and de-layered as it was warming up. Sillo, the young girl, made an excellent café Americano.

As the temperature warmed the fragrances decreased but not fully. The second section on the walk was dominated by forests of poplar trees all turning in color. Perhaps the most beautiful day of the Camino. I had hoped to stay in Santa Corya de Tera where there was a private Albergue but it was closed, so I moved onto the next village, Santa Marta and checked into the only available accommodation which was the Albergue. I was the second person there but within an hour and a half it was packed, even people sleeping on the floor.

I went for a sandwich in the Bar, then a siesta. In the afternoon I went to visit the church next door which is all that is left of 11th 12th century Monastery. It was also a Pilgrim House and on the side of the church is the oldest representation of Santiago known in Europe. While I was looking at the church I bumped into a woman who I had seen a number of times in the last few days and pilgrims said was also from South Africa. So when I saw her I greeted her and we had the most amazing conversation and connection.

Ellen is from Johannesburg from Craighall Park, she went to Rosebank Mercy Convent, she knows many of the Mercy sisters I know and also most of the priests in Johannesburg I knew. I told her a little bit of my history, of the Redemptorists and the Camaldolese, we continued to compare notes and it turns out we both worked as volunteers in the Joburg General Hospital in the 70s. So a strange meeting in a village in Spain and having so much in common. Camino never stops with her magic.

38 • Tabara

I set out just before 8.00 this morning, the temperature was 43°F and said to fall to 38° F at sunrise. I stepped out into a fog or mist I thought was only localized in the low-lying village, but climbing above the village the mist persisted. At sunrise there was an feeble attempt by the sun to breakthrough but it failed and the remainder of the walk was in and out of the fog/mist with the temperature remaining at low to mid 40°F.

It was a pity as this is one of the most beautiful legs of the journey, crossing over the lake and even walking alongside it for a while, unfortunately I saw very little. The 18 km to the first village seemed long because of it being so cold and it was with great joy, suddenly, the mist lifted to reveal the outskirts of the village of Faramontanos de Tábara. I found the coffee bar I had stopped at with Jesus and Jose in 2014, full of memories. Four years ago the three of us sat outside in the sun, this morning I was very happy to sit in the bar sipping coffee and having tostada and marmalada.

The huge church at the center of the village has been turned into a museum of monastic life featuring manuscripts  preserved from the Monastery of San Salvador which was here in the 9C. All that exists is the scriptorium 12C which became a church and now a museum, the books are from the 10C, unbelievably detailed.

A pleasant day full of memories, surprises moving in and out of mystery of light and mist.

37 • Granja de Moreruela

I waited until 08:30 this morning before setting out so as to give the group in the Albergue a chance to get ahead. It was 48°F, overcast and cold. The sun was able to make a brief appearance at sunrise, otherwise it was gray and cold the whole day until 15:30.

I had inspiration to ask Patrick, my brother, to see if he could find my entries for the Via de la Plata in 2014. I spent time last night re-reading my comments on this very section. What was amazing was that four years ago, yesterday, I was on the same road and also caught in a storm and soaking wet.

36 • Montamarta

Blue, gray, wet Monday if ever there was one. Even though the hostel where I was staying, was right on the Camino it still took a half an hour or so to get through Zamora and then another hour through the industrial area. From the moment I stepped outside it began to drizzle and then by the time I had cleared the industrial area it was raining steadily. At the first village, where I had  a coffee, who should be there but Alberto, the only pilgrim I have met over the last month, together with another Spanish pilgrim. After coffee we set out in the rain just as another pilgrim arrived. Once back on the road I was surprised to see another four or five pilgrims already ahead of us. A new phenomena.

I feel the benefit of the rest day and am determined to pace myself much more gently for the remainder of the Camino.

35 • Zamora III

34 • Zamora II

Tomorrow marks the end of the Camino Lavente.  I now have the choice of either linking with the Camino Frances, which was my first Camino and is very busy or with the Camino de la Plata which I walked two years ago. I decided to take today and tomorrow as rest days and decide what the last leg of this Camino will look like.  

After about 11 hours of sleep, I feel somewhat regenerated and had an easy day. Zamora is a beautiful town with 12 Romanesque Churches open to the public, it is on the same River Duero as Toro yesterday and also, like yesterday, a steep climb up to the town. I am amazed at the number of Spanish visitors to the town from early, doing the round of the churches, not tourist style, but reading up about the art and then sitting quietly in silence. One of these churches is right in front of the hostel where I’m staying, I went to mass there at 11:00 this morning, stark, simple lines makes for inner and outer harmony. After the breakfast went to the tourist office and with a map began my own to Camino of 12 churches.

I hope to take tomorrow as a day of rest as well, and then set out on Monday, the feast of St Teresa, on the final section of this Camino. As I walked around today I was struck by the quality of Spanish life, there is elegance in their pace of life, the way they dress, eat and relax, each plaza is perpetually fully of people sipping coffee, beer, wine, taking their time, until the early hours of morning, perhaps one of the lessons of this Camino for me.

33 • Zamora

32 • Siete Iglesia de Trabancos

A bit weather battered. It didn’t take long to leave Medina del Campo this morning and I was soon on a country road. What made today’s walk different was most of the 25.5 km was on stony, country road battling a strong wind from the South West. One of these obstacles would be enough, the two together became quite challenging.

31 • Medina del Campo

I set the alarm for 07:00 but woke up earlier and decided to get going. Last night’s storm, even though it didn’t rain, still lingered, yet it was warmer than the two previous mornings. After leaving the city through the ancient gate and then crossing a medieval bridge, I passed through an industrial zone both active and abandoned, taking well over an hour. The Camino then alternated between paved road and sand track. As usual the morning light was magical, together with the return of the wide open vistas, all the more dramatic due to the clouds and muted lightning.