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Camino de Santiago in 24 days

Camino Francés, September 2016, 24 days, 780 km, from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela, chronicled in the following posts with a photogallery from each day:

Day 1-4: St Jean Pied de Port to Estella
Day 5-8: Estella to Santo Domingo de la Calzada
Day 9-12: Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Villarmentero de Campos
Day 13-16: Villarmentero de Campos to Hospital de Orbigo
Day 17-20: Hospital de Orbigo to Fonfria
Day 21-24: Fonfria to Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela

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.

    Queuing for the Compostela
    Queuing for the Compostela
  • 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..

    A free meal inside the Parador
    A free meal inside the Parador
  • 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.
    The Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela
    The Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela

    The complete photogallery of this day is available on flickr.
    This post is part of the Camino de Santiago in 24 days series.

Camino de Santiago day 21-24

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.

    Community near Furela
    Community near Furela

The complete photogallery of this day is available on flickr.

Day Twentytwo: Barbadelo-Palas de Rei,
43,58 km, asc/desc 882/857m, 11:35h
October 3rd, 2016

  • One of the beautiful moments of the Camino: The morning mist on the way up from Barbadelo.
  • I walked 43,58 km – longer than I have ever walked, and probably will ever walk, in one day.
  • Curiously, there is a rather steep and rocky section just  before Portomarin, very unlike the rest of the Camino resulting in a queue of people having difficulty with the descent.
  • I got into Palas de Rei just after 8 pm and too late for the Pilgrim´s Mass.

    Short and steep descent to Portomarin
    Short and steep descent into Portomarin

The complete photogallery of this day is available on flickr.

Day Twentythree: Palas de Rei-Arzua,
28,14 km, asc/desc 542/715m, 9:15h
October 4th, 2016

  • The start of the day was a nightmare as hundreds of people crowded on the trail out of Palas de Rei. I though I beat the crowd by starting at 9:30, apparently not.
  • After Sarria, the number of people on the road is staggering. Since I doubled the stage to Palas de Rei I did not really notice the crowd, but now I am in the middle of it.
  • Due to all these people, it is very difficult to find accommodation after Sarria. I only needed two nights: In Palas de Rei (I booked hotel) and Arzua, where I booked a room via AirBnB.
  • After Sarría I met several groups of school children and quite a few families with children aiming to complete the 100 km pilgrimage.
  • In several places along the roads people have written texts such as  Tourists take up the places in the auberges from the real pilgrims or Jesus did not only walk 100 km!
  • Indeed the tourist industry has hit the Camino with plenty of souvenir stalls along the road.

    Shells: The symbol of the Camino
    Shells: The symbol of the Camino

The complete photogallery of this day is available on flickr.

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.

    Graffiti close to Santiago
    Graffiti close to Santiago

The complete photogallery of this day is available on flickr.
This post is part of the Camino de Santiago in 24 days series.

Camino de Santiago day 17-20

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.

    Santa Catalina
    Santa Catalina

The complete photogallery of this day is available on flickr.

Day Eighteen: Rabanal del Camino-Ponferrada,
32,40 km, asc/desc 555/1152m, 11:11h
September 29th, 2016

  • The passing of the Iron Cross: Some have carried a stone symbolizing their burdens or sins in their backpack and now leave it here.
  • Curiously I saw a guy steeling a string of Nepalese prayer flags from a watermelon Donativo, despite there being five people around him telling him not to.
  • Molinaseca is a very atmospheric village with a great café right next to the river.
  • For lunch I had a great “sandwich” of pastry, pastry cream and chocolate.
  • The moment I  crossed into Ponferrada and the mightly castle suddenly appeared on my left in the sunset around 8 pm was one of the great moments of the Camino.
  • All along the trail, there are posters advertising for taxi companies. I wondered why but it turned out quite a few people take a taxi from Acebo and down to Ponferrada. It is a rather long ascent.

    Watermelon donativo
    Watermelon donativo

The complete photogallery of this day is available on flickr.

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.

    On the way to Padornelo
    On the way to Padornelo

The complete photogallery of this day is available on flickr.

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!


The complete photogallery of this day is available on flickr.
This post is part of the Camino de Santiago in 24 days series.

Camino de Santiago day 13-16

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.
  • The Monasterio San Zoilo in Carrion de los Condes is now a luxury hotel and looks wonderful.

    On the road again
    On the road again

The complete photogallery of this day is available on flickr.

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.

    Knights Templar
    Knights Templar

The complete photogallery of this day is available on flickr.

Day Fifteen: El Burgo Ranero-Léon
37,48 km, asc/desc 164/175m, 10:25h
September 26th, 2016

  • Woke up at 7:30 to find the alberuge already completely empty.
  • I finished the last episode (no 47) of the podcast “Kongerækken” – a List of the Danish Kings and Queens.
  • 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.

    On the way to Léon
    On the way to Léon

The complete photogallery of this day is available on flickr.

Day 16: Léon-Hospital de Orbigo
32,49 km, asc/desc 180/164m, 9:46h
September 27th, 2016

  • I spend the entire morning in Léon visiting the Cathedral and walking around in the old city.
  • After Léon there are more people on the Camino, however I still don´t meet anyone after 3 pm.
  • I walked right next to major road all day – so much noise that it was impossible to listen to podcasts. I´d recommend taking the slighter longer alternative road to Hospital de Orbigo.
  • While resting I was approached by another “Camino Police” walker who lectured me about the wrong shoes I was wearing.

    The Parador in Léon
    The Parador in Léon

The complete photogallery of this day is available on flickr.
This post is part of the Camino de Santiago in 24 days series.