WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 4 - SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 7
So Kirsten and I left with BA on Wednesday night and arrived in Heathrow on Thursday morning. We had a few hours to wait till we could check in with Iberia Airlines and then had supper.
The flight from Heathrow to Madrid was an adventure – first the plane sounded like they had left someone outside or had a strap hanging off a door, then when they finally came around with drinks they charged me 2.20E for it – no free drinks apparently.
We overnighted in Madrid and then headed off again to Santiago Compestello. That flight was even more adventurous, with extra fees at the gate, etc – still for 40E each to fly, even with the extra airport fees, it was way cheaper than the next airline.
We arrived in Santiago on-time and were taken by a very upset lady taxi driver to our starting point of Ourense. From what we gathered, the taxi driver’s hubby kept calling while she was working and she was getting pretty ticked at him based on her voice and expression.
We arrived at our hotel and had a few days before we headed off on our first leg of the Cameno, so we toured the city by foot – drank lots of coffee, ate very little (could not find a lot of restaurants for the life of us) and we shopped.
SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 8 (Ourense to Cea) (23k)
On Sunday we started our walk from Ourense to Cea. It’s only about 23k, but took about 6 hours to walk it. The first 11k were up a very steep hill and the next 12k were up moderate hills – yes, uphill all the way on day one – I only complained when I couldn’t breath . The walk was pleasant though, meandering through villages, meadows and forests – the big excitement came when two dogs decided we had entered their territory and were intent on letting us know. I had bread, so I threw chunks of bread along the side of the road and just like in class with Karma, the dogs forgot about us for a bit and we had a chance to keep walking. One of the dogs became my best friend and continued to ask for bread while we walked. The biggest disappointment on Sunday was the locked churches – every church we stopped by was locked and we couldn’t see inside any of them (turns out churches are locked up in Spain, unless there is a planned service - so I think we're out of luck just popping in to see them)
When we finally arrived in Cea, we were exhausted and were happy to be picked up by the place we were staying at. We arrived at this manner home which is a cross between a B&B and a hotel. Family run, no English except for a young girl and guests stay in guest houses – pool, beautiful property in the middle of nowhere – it was wonderful. We had dinner and then toddled off to bed, because we had planned an early start for Monday.
MONDAY SEPTEMBER 9 (Cea to Dozen) (16k)
So, either the Spanish eat a lot more than we do, or our hosts just fed us tons! The food - I hope all that we left on the serving plates went to good use. There was so much food!
On our hike today, we learned a few things: (1) always go around the bend, before you decide you are on the wrong path (2) bullet point the directions from the tour company so you don’t miss anything (3) believe you will eventually see that the hill really does go back down and does not continue up in the sky (4) team work is key when there are no markers, the damn GPS is telling you, you are in the middle of the field and you have no idea how to get to a road and your instructions are bare (5) sometimes you need to ignore your tour guide papers and just follow the Camino path.
We had asked for breakfast at 7am and at 7:40 were told we had 5 min to finish up and get our stuff as our ride was leaving – well that pretty much set the tone for the day. Everything went sideways and took longer than it should have. We left from Cea (we got dropped off at the point where we were picked up) and headed out after we got our stamp. We had hoped to be able to stop at churches today, but only one was actually unlocked. We did stop by, but since there was a service being held, we didn’t end up taking any pictures.
The directions today were sketchy to be kind – markers that were supposed to be on the road weren’t, places and forks weren’t there, and essentially we got lost several times. We kept following the shells and arrows though (they are the markers to get you to Santiago) and did eventually find our way to Dozen (which is also called Castro) after 4+ hours (total walk today was only about 16k).
Almost all of todays walk was up this friggin mountain – 10k out of the 16k and an elevation of over 700ft. You were supposed to see these beautiful views – we only saw farmland and I cannot for the life of me figure out why a pilgrim would want to go up this mountain. Going down at the end was very steep – they meander you up the mountain for 2 hours and then you manage to hit the bottom in a half hour – it’s very steep and loose gravel.
Needless to say, I was a much better companion on Sunday than Monday – but Kirsten put up with me anyhow.
We called for pickup and spent the rest of the afternoon by the pool, relaxing and getting ourselves tanned. We had one more night at the manner and then we have hotels for the rest of the trip.
TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 10 (Dozen to Lalin) (18k)
Lalin - pig processing capital of Spain (well that's what they say anyhow). It was 11k if you go highway, it was 18k meandering through villages, forests and fields. Very pleasant walk today, with a stop on the bridge above the train tracks for lunch and then getting some chestnuts off a tree to see what they were (had to stomp on them to figure out they were chestnuts - they were all prickly and green - not what I have seen as a chestnut before).
We made it to Lalin in about 12k and then it was another 6k to the hotel through the town. Too much city walking today. What we can't figure out is why do the cities smell of manure, while the countryside smells so fresh?
Anyways - made it to the hotel and now are in search of snacks.