Day Twentyfour-six: Santiago de Compostela October 5-7, 2016
The century-old Botafumeiro ceremony is exceptional.
The Botafumeiro ceremony is guaranteed to take place every Friday evening unless someone “requests” it = pays approximately 200 dollars to the Church. Especially tour groups pay for it and in high season, as well as when I was there, the Botafumeiro was on every day.
On October 6th, 1800 pilgrims received the Compostela Certificate and the queues at the Pilgrim´s Office to receive the Compostela are 2+ hours and extend into the garden
As I lost my Pilgrim´s Pass in Santo Domingo and thus received a new one in Burgos, the office would not accept that I had walked from Saint Jean Pied de Port “because there was no proof of it”. Actually my iPhone GPS as well as my watch would be accepted as proof in a courtroom, but not in the Pilgrim´s office..
Another old tradition: The Parador in Santiago donates a free meal to 10 pilgrims each day. Not in the restaurant but in the hotels kitchen and an adjacent dining room. Normally people queue for more than an hour, but on Friday night we were only five people.
Day Twentyone: Fonfria-Barbadelo, 30,84 km, asc/desc 482/1254m, 10:29h October 2nd, 2016
The walk above the clouds down from Fonfria to Triacastela is wonderful.
A little before Furela a group of people have established a ecologic community including a Donativo with several foods for pilgrims.
Just before Sarría in the forest a man suddenly appeared in front of me, naked and masturbating. My first experience with indecent exposure. I had my iphone in my hand and briefly considered taking a photo, but finally thought it better just to get out of the forest as it was late afternoon and I was alone on the trail.
I visited the Monastery in Sarría, mainly to get a stamp to my Pilgrim´s Passport. From Sarría to Santiago, two stamps per day are required to get the Compostela – proof of pilgrimage.
Day Twentyfour: Arzua-Santiago de Compostela 37,95 km, asc/desc 693/777m, 11:09h October 5th, 2016
Quite frankly, this days walk is quite uninspiring: Flat, close to roads, an less than charming finish into Santiago de Compostela.
I thought I might have had a couple of rest days in some of the cities but it turned out I did not need the rest and quite frankly for me it makes more sense to keep walking on towards Santiago than to visit tourist attractions.
Day Seventeen: Hospital de Orbigo-Rabanal del Camino, 38,0 km, asc/desc 501/201m, 10.54h September 28th, 2016
The name Hospital de Orbigo refers to one of the many hospitals build on the way to Santiago to accommodate ill pilgrims. Fascinating to think that very ill pilgrims used to drag themselves from one hospital to another to arrive at Santiago to (hopefully) be cured.
This is the last day of the flat Meseta. It ends at Astorga. Honestly, my feet hurt from the monotonous flat surface. Ascent, preferably on small paths will be good!
Astorga has a well-known Cathedral. I will mainly remember the huge lunch of steak, french fries and fried eggs I had at a small backstreet joint.
Santa Catalina is a wonderful village: I had a drink there at 4 pm, wishing I could stay, however the thought an upper bunk bed in a 20+ bedroom with a lot of snoring made the last few kilometers to Rabanal an easy choice.
I received an email from my hostel in Rabanal at 7 pm asking when I would arrive? I try to make reservations ahead aiming to walk 30-35 km a day. Today, nothing was available for booking in Santa Catalina so I went on to Rabanal del Camino.
Day Nineteen: Ponferrada-Trabadelo, 32,90 km, asc/desc 353/318m, 9:38h September 30th, 2016
As usual I leave relatively late at 9. I am then passed by hordes of faster-walking people who have left at 7-8am from a village before mine, before passing them again as I walk in late afternoon.
On flat stretches my walking speed is 4,5 km/h – on average over a day on the Camino I do 4,0 km/h. Meaning that walking much more than 40 km a day is a physical impossibility as I do not appreciate walking in the dark. 30-35 km is an appropriate distance.
Had this been a mountain hike, I would never dare to drink a beer before having completed the days walk. Here I do it almost every day!
I stayed at the great pension “El Puente Peregrino” in Trabadelo. Impressively this is a one-woman business: Apart from catering for 3-4 rooms on the first floor, she provides full meal service in the (full) restaurant downstairs! She told me she had been alone for three years now and things were going well.
Again a stage with a lot of traffic noise as I pass under a major highway several times.
Day Twenty: Trabadelo-Fonfria,
31,08 km, asc/desc 1094/365m, 9:46h October 1st, 2016
In Valcarce I had the best croissant I have ever tasted.
Many find the hike up to O´Cebreiro the toughest day of the Camino, though in hiking-terms it is quite moderate. with a gradual ascent.
Horses may be rented for the ascent to O´Cebreiro, otherwise there are plenty of villages on the way up to shorten the walk
I thought O´Cebreiro was a small mountain village – in fact I don´t think any locals not involved in albergue/restaurant business live there.
I had booked a hotel in Padornelo, but as the hotel owner asked for extra money for himself and claimed my credit card transaction did not go though, though it clearly did, I left. He then ran after me offering me my money back, claiming he was not a dishonest man!
Day Thirteen: Villarmentero de Campos-Ledigos, 32,82 km, asc/desc 106/81m, 8:40h September 24th, 2016
The longest flat stretch of the Camino :17 km, with no villages or supplies apart from a mobile refreshment place.
For hiking trips I find hiking poles to be essential. Not for the camino as it is generally very flat.
About 90% of the people on the trail use hiking poles. However, of on the hundreds of people I have seen with poles, only two used them correctly, which means they put their force on the stick.
My main physical problem was pain in the feet as the surface is so hard with very little variation, no matter which stage of the walk. Only the walks up to O´Cebreiro and the Iron Cross saw variations in the surface.
I had no blisters at any time, probably because I just returned from a month hiking in Norway before embarking on the Camino and my hiking boots are well worn in.
Day Fourteen: Ledigos-El Burgo Ranero 33,52 km, asc/desc 174/202m, 9:07h September 25th, 2016
At this point I thought I may complete the Camino in about 25 days.
When people on the trail heard this they would ask why I rushed? However, I do not rush. I like walking. I walk at a steady pace all day. Hundreds of pilgrims rush by me every morning and I pass them at lunchtime when they queue exhausted outside the next auberge.
I had not succeeded booking anything for El Burgo Ranero, so I was lucky to get a bed in a four-person bedroom in a private albergue upon arrival.
At the albergue I met a man who brought an anti-snoring device. It worked. Perhaps an idea for the obscure amount of people snoring in the refuges and ruining others sleep?
I passed the halfway point in Sahagun.
There are many remnants of the knights templar around this region.
I got bed bugs in the the albergue in El Burgo Ranero. Until now I slept in three refuges and got bitten by bed bugs in two of them despite using my own sleeping bag..
The approach to Léon has a bad reputation: However it is not worse than the approach to the other big cities.
I did not bring at tent, but if I were to walk again I would: There are places to discreetly pitch a tent everywhere and it alleviates all the logistic stress of booking accommodation. I did meet a handful of people camping.