Friday, November 20, 2009

Santiago to Fisterra 08-the 'Prequel' to our Camino Frances in 09

I did this 'bit' in 2008 but it makes 'geographic sense' to put it here I think.

Walking from Santiago to Fisterra was a teaser for me as I reckoned if I could do 100km in 3 days I might at least have a chance of attempting the Camino Frances next year in 09, and keeping a promise I made over 30 years ago.
With the exception of Joyce, who walked from Sarria to Santiago last Sept, we are all virgin pilgrims. So by default she has become our 'Camino mammy' and provides great reassurance.

Leaving Santiago for Fisterra 2008 Joyce, Catherine, Mary and Nell- 'pilgrims all'.
1 old hand and 3 newbies

Santiago to Negreira-Day one: So exciting to set off this morning but also scary walking across the square and down to the river-scary and wonderful.  Mary and I were paranoid about missing the markers and we kept on course as a result, the other two, being more experienced and relaxed, chattered away and missed the one of the markers so had to loop back.
Its a great walk out of the city up through groves of eucalyptus, and the view back towards the towers of the Cathedral silhouetted against the morning sun is unforgetable. This is the vista that Irish pilgrims, making their way east from the coast, would have seen of the city and its an impressive one.
There was a lovely little private hostal and bar on the river at Puente de Maceira- it must be new as its not mentioned in Brierley. If we'd known we would have elected to stay there rather than the Hotel Tamara .
On the far side of the bridge huge carved family crests dwarf the houses they decorate-with the result that the buildings look like a very posh gingerbread houses- presumably not the effect they were going for.

Catherine catching the rays day one Puenta de Maceira
Further 'nattering' means that Joyce and Catherine miss another turn off so not only do they miss a wonderful walk through lush river meadows into Negreira, they also end up playing 'pilgrim chicken' (not to be recommended) with articulated lorries on the soaring concrete flyovers into the town. As both were wearing shorts they thought the drivers were sounding their horns in appreciation but soon realised that the gestures and 'beep beeps' really meant 'get off the bloody road before you're killed!".
So Mary and I arrive into hotel Tamara, which is 'deeply seventies', expecting 'the gals' to be there with our drinks ready but there's no sign of them. Neither of us can really believe we've arrived first until, having had a shower and rest, we're sitting in the car park (the Hotel Tamara doesn't mess around with decking or arbours!) having a gin and tonic and we actually witness the two 'hares' late arrival via the main road (I have to admit I take a wee bit of pleasure in this!)
Having 'Day One' down without loss of limb or major accident is something to celebrate so the four of us sit in sun with our feet propped on the chairs we've carried out from the bar, sipping G & T''s and sampling the local crisps/nibblets. One could get used to this.......
Head up town to 'scope out' our departure route for the next morning and to grab a bite. Not everywhere is open and we opt to eat in a little bar. Get a great meal, the fact that a key soccer match is being watched ;very loudly; by the locals in the bar at the 'front of house' somehow adds to the charm. Catherine, a vegetarian, orders salad which comes with a pile of unidentifiable slivers, beige on one side and white on the other, having sampled one she thinks they're mushrooms....I taste one and have my doubts- its awfully meaty in texture but I 'keep stumm'
Walk back to the Tamara and I'm asleep as soon my head touches the pillow

Day two Joyce demonstrating some of her 'moves'
Negreira to Oleviroa-day two.
So much for planning: Mary and I had arranged to leave the Hotel at 6.00am and crept down like mice to the front door only to find it firmly locked. There was no way out of the building and, though we were as cross as a wet cat, neither of us was quite ready to set an alarm off by using the emergency exit (well I was but Mary's good sense prevailed).
We tried calling the hotel on our mobiles to see if some sort of 'night staff' were hidden away in the depths-but the only phone that sounded was in the Marie Celeste like reception area. All dressed up with no where to go! Today's walk was over 30 km so we tortoises had both wanted to a good head start.
The 'Negreira two' were only 'let out' at 7.10- and as it turned out this was a good thing as we were still walking in the dark- Mary leading as she had a head torch on (they are such handy little yokes) Every time she turned to talk to me though I felt as startled as a torched deer.
It's cool,damp and dark with lots of muddy climbs gaining ascent. The two Spanish guys we first met heading up the hill out of Santiago kindly waited for us to make sure we made the right turning for Xas-nice little place with a lovely chapel.
Fairly hard muddy going to A Pena but through wonderful woods (mixture of Eucalyptus and oak) so it doesn't seem a 'slog'. There was a great bar at 'the top' of the town and, in view of the walking distance, we had a good breakfast. Meet up with swiss party so perfectly kitted out we feel more than a little scruffy.I made a mistake and told Mary we only had 13km to go but it was closer to 20km.... mea culpa mea maxima culpa!
Passed by a group of Irish women and when we asked if they had seen Joyce and Catherine the leader said "oh yes they're real walkers" I guess we've been written off and by one of our own to which is hard! Down in Santa Marina we saw that our compatriots had 'gone astray' so they ended up walking behind us, but being good pilgrims said nothing (we were smiling on the inside though-well I was).
Everyone congregated in the bar Casa Victoriano and I was quite surprised when half of the group ended up taking taxis from there to Oleviroa as if that were the norm- maybe it is?
Mary felt pretty tired but wanted to soldier on to Monte Alto. There was a lot of road walking and a 'diverseo' meant even more road -so hard on Mary who has award winning blisters. I feel every stinging step she takes but my goodness she is one tough cookie.
JJ and CM press ahead while we make snails pace....... it may be 13 hours after leaving Negreira but Mary and I arrive into Oleviroa under our own steam.
Joyce and Catherine have the largest gin and tonics I've ever seen waiting for us-I thought they had set them up as a joke-one could bath a small child in the bucket sized glass I'm given-but apparently these are the 'regular' size. Mary made the walk today but at a cost -her feet are so bad that her G & T qualifies as medicinal.
All the pilgrims seem to eat at the little hotel here and there's a great 'pilgrim centered' vibe about the place. Once I showered and ate the thought of the long walk tomorrow is not as scary as I thought it would be, and if Mary needs a break I'm fine with the idea of walking on my own.

Day two A Pena The first coffee break of the day-nothing tops it
Open country en route to Oleviroa day two

Oleviroa to Fisterra-Day three. Mary took a bit of a well earned break today and met us in Fisterra, so for the first time I really walked solo. Settled into my pace and could stop and savour the scenery, which was gorgeous. Outside Olverioa the turquoise and gold water of the stream was so enticing-if the day had been shorter one I would have gone for a dip for sure.
The walk from Olveiroa to Cee is spectacular and, once past Hospital, the walking is truly amazing across high open country on trackway with just a minor road or two to cross. To the south is a range of steep, black serrated mountains very different from the gently rounded tops the Camino itself crosses and it makes me wonder about the geography-I'll have lots of reading up to do back home.
Once beyond Hospital I only saw (and on this high ground you can see far ahead and far behind you) two other pilgrims, the two Spanish teachers. I met them at a beautiful little chapel sunk in a valley and one of them said to me "ah now you're walking your camino".
There was a Marian shrine attached to the chapel with a statue was so worn and weathered it seemed more xoanon than Madonna.
We'd heard these guys singing on the previous two days but always when they were apart never when together, and today I asked them why? They explained that as they walk together a lot they have developed a 'diplomatic' system so when one wants a bit of 'space' he starts to sing - that's a signal for the other to slow down or speed up- giving the singer 'space'- when the singing stops (and these guy had very big voices and a large repertoire of Galician folk songs) that's a sign for them to walk together. Well its worked for them for over 20 years so there must be something in it.
Steep climb out of the valley up and up. Long lone distances -high sun, silence and, far far away, the indistinguishable blue of sea and sky
It was very hot and I had used all my water by the time I passed the 'summer only' Albergue-the guide said there was a fountain off track up by a little chapel of San Pedro de Martir so I went up to fill my bottles. Presuming the chapel would be closed I was surprised to hear noises inside. I pushed the door open a little and the next moment hundreds (well at least 20 or 30) "baaing" lambs streamed out past me-what on earth were they doing in there? and who had put them in the first place? Was this an improvised fold for some local shepherd? Fearing I had just undone his hard work I bolted out of there it as fast as I could- but the lambs seemed happy.
At a marker for Nercia I took my last look back over the high ground before descending into Cee the track was completely deserted-slight thrill of being the 'last pilgrim down'. I don't know whats happened to all the other walkers today perhaps they took the Muxia route? At this point there's a tantalising view of the lighthouse at Fisterra-gosh it seemed a long way off but that view drew me forward.
The final descent into Cee is tricky (a complete bugger actually)- a compacted and steep surface which, even with walking poles and heavy duty knee braces, is punishing. I know my knees will be knackered tomorrow The combination of steep descent, rock hard surface and blisters is something I wouldn't like to repeat.
Find myself sounding like the old ladies at home doing 'the rounds' in bare feet, but in their case every expletive they utter of "Jesus Christ" or "Holy Mother" is turned into the start of a prayer-I'm afraid with me it was just the expletives.
Arriving into Cee I was fairly stunned to see Joyce and Catherine sitting in the sun at a cafe on the square in- just finishing off some tortilla. Couldn't believe I was so close behind them -we reckoned only about 25 minutes in the difference- as they said they had 'legged it' to get in as much time as possible on the coast. It was great to by be the sea at Cee and turn right to head up the coast to Fisterra.
Met up with a rested looking Mary at Fisterra and treated ourselves by staying at a wonderful little hotel just over the road from the beach.
Staggered into the sea decrepit knackered pilgrims and staggered out merely happy pilgrims- I have never experienced such a an immediate therapeutic result in my life-bliss I could walk with a gait that was vaguely humanoid.

V for victory-we made it day three
Put on clean clothes and light shoes/sandals for the walk up to the lighthouse and made it up in good time for the sunset- though the girls say I did swear (under my breath but I was breathing heavily) every step of the way. Fantastic feeling to have made it and I'm really feeling so much more positive about walking from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago next year with Frances. I keep telling myself "that's only what we've done in the last 3 days X 8.... no problem!

Joyce & Nell letting 'those at home' know our news

Sunset at Fisterra May 2008
The rewards of pilgrimage-enjoying the beach at Fisterra day three & four

Mary and I stay on for a few days and enjoying the beach, which is glorious the hotel which is wonderful and walking barefoot which is blissful.
We get a taxi back to Santiago the journey takes an good hour and a half in a fast taxi on a good road. We both look at the landscape we walked through whizzing past calling out "we walked over those hills", "did we pass that village?" etc ;
At the airport I do a bit of window shopping and spot jars of the mysterious beige and white slivers of 'mushroom' that vegetarian Catherine had in her salad in Negreira.... turns out they're elvers-baby eels! I'll bet there's some sort of  formal dispensation for any innocent vegetarians becoming 'inadvertent carnivores' on the Camino? Anyway I'm pretty sure Santiago will forgive, not only Catherine, but all of us for any en route errors (mea culpa!).


Anonymous said...

Just read your Shell Shocked blog today .It was very amusing.I really enjoyed it.

Christina said...

Nell ,just found your blog today and really enjoyed reading it.It was very entertaining and funny.

Kris said...

Nell, thank you for sharing your experiences. Loved reading about your camino and the pictures were beautiful. I only learned about the Camino de Santiago a few weeks ago (thanks to watching "The Way"), and am already obsessed with taking on this camino myself.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Congratulations. I was in 2013th It was nice and exciting, especially the last night in Finisterra. I burned my:) (+16) …:) .

Anonymous said...

Congratulations. I was in 2013th It was