Monday, November 15, 2010

Day 34: Santiago de Compostela (Thur 28th Oct)

Today was a day of celebration and unity with others who I'd walked with the past few days and hopefully see others who had arrived days earlier but had gone on to Finisterre but were returning on this day.

I went to the 12noon Mass for Pilgrims at the Cathedral - it was for me strangely emotional - despite the fact that I am not Catholic and it was spoken in Spanish. It was packed to the rafters and I chose to stand as sitting at the moment wasn't really an option, especially on hard wooden seats.  During mass I notice 2 girls (Ann and Caroline) on the opposite side of the Cathedral (standing as I was) and was happy to see them and went in search of them after the service.  I find them sitting on the stone wall outside the entrance to where they were standing and we were all very pleased to see each other and decide to go into the square in the sun for coffee (it is now 1.30pm).  Ann decided on wine - oh what the heck lets all have a wine (Caroline is Irish, so needed no further encouragement) hehe.  We have one and decide to move further up to another bar that was still in the sun and find 4 or 5 others that we had met so ended up with a large group of us.....many more wines later I decided I needed to go and book for the rooftop tour of the Cathedral and 7pm was the only spot left so I take it. Then went in search of tshirts and other mini souvenirs and to take photos and generally wander.  I take a small road-train tour but very bumpy on the cobblestones and wished I hadn't....;-/ but was still an interesting journey and in english.

A few of us had made arrangements to meet for dinner and the place at around 8pm'ish.

I arrive at the Cathedral at 7pm for the rooftop tour and to my absolute joy and surprise find Yolette and her sister Yvonne, who I'd met much earlier in the journey and walked many days on and off with them.  They had returned from Finisterre that day - they had been hoping they would find me as they had heard along the "Camino grapevine" that I'd arrived in Santiago. Was amazing and wonderful. The rooftop tour was incredible but difficult to photograph what exactly I could see - I was in awe!

At 8.30pm Yo & Yvonne join me and we go find the others for dinner.  It was a nice way to end my journey and everyone swaps contacts - some people I will remain friends with for my lifetime.

The Camino has settled into my soul and I feel changed and alive with fresh ideas and motivations beyond what I'd imagined.

I am not looking forward to my flight back to London as sitting is painful for my lower back and my knee - but it reminds me constantly of my incredible journey so I smile with the pain ;-)

I will do another the not too distant future - the Camino is in my blood!


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Day33: SANTIAGO....finale! (Wed 27th Oct)

I DID IT...........wooooooooooohooooooooo!!!

An emotional and roller coaster walk this morning - so many things and thoughts and so much to ponder!!

This was a hard 18km as my lower back and knee were very bad from my fall....I had to undo the strap of my backpack and put my hands behind my back and lift the pack up from the bottom and hold it there for the last 6km into Santiago - needless to say how my arms felt....I couldn't sit when I arrived as my back was too painful so I chose to lay in the plaza and felt I'd earned the right...even the Police were happy to walk around me!! hehe

I lay there for nearly an hour - crying and in shock and wonderment - so many thoughts.  Eventually I dragged my weary body up and found the office to get my Compostela - the Certificate written in Latin to say I've completed this arduous journey in its entirety.  Then in search of somewhere to stay for the next 2 nights.

As I was in a lot of pain I decided not to continue looking and checked into the 5* Paradores Hotel on the side of the main plaza where I lay when I arrived....think I had earned it and it was SOOOOO nice to have and use a REAL towel, a shower that was hot and not timed, and had water pressure....not to mention a real bed with fabulous sheets...ahhhhh!!

I check in and scrub up and go in search of a few NON-Pilgrim items of clothing as I had nothing.  A bargin of 35euro for a pair of grey skinny jeans, a pair of red sneakers and a navy cardigan - how fab to wear something different!

I remained back at the Hotel from about 7pm as I was too exhausted and chose not to catch up with others - as we had planned to all catch up tomorrow - I needed time alone with my thoughts and pain.

What an amazing experience and journey - I feel extremely fortunate that I´ve been able to do the complete journey - a special thanks to my boss!

A special thank you to my family and friends who have staunchly supported me throughout the inception of this campaign to the end today in Santiago! I´m honoured.

Please remember why I undertook this journey, to raise awareness and funds for Cardiac Research.  PLEASE think about this journey I´ve taken and give generously. The donation button is green at the top of the page.

For those who have already donated a huge thank you.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day32: Arzua to Arco do Pino (Tue 26th Oct)

This is my last full day and tonight my last night in an Alburgue!! (shared dorm accomm, shared showers, shared toilets....etc)

Its a great start with brekky in the cafe in the Alburgue - always a bonus - its a little fresh but its not quite gloves or fluffy hat cold....its only 20km today and I feel a second wind blowing through my energy levels...despite when I wake up my body is hurting from my heavy fall yesterday - my knee throbbed all night, my jaw is aching and my lower back feels like a slab of concrete and is screaming at me - I dig deep and ignore all - hump up the backpack and get a frisky move along!

Is about 8km until my first and only coffee stop - and its very welcome when it arrives - I´ve scooted along this morning like a woman possessed and passing everyone in sight! lol people are commenting....i´m on a mission - to finish early and get the blog updated! I´m committed...or is that I should be committed..!! hehe

After my 20min coffee break I´m straight back into my groove - I´m even low flying up the hills - is quite scary and I´m not sure if I´m me or someone else...hehe! The lower back is still screaming, a little louder now - but it´s only another 9km by this time and I´m hell bent on being there by 2pm. The scenery and sunrise is again, breath taking and I still have time to stop and take pictures and look around (amazing traffic in the sky) - laces are safely looped where they can do no harm.

As I´m walking into town I hear the roar of jets - its the Labacolla Airport about 7km away and it reminds me how close Santiago is now - its only 21km to the Cathedral tomorrow and it suddenly hits home - the reality that I´ve almost walking 850km across Spain and completed my commitment and journey - its all a bit overwhelming and find myself extremely emotional and can´t stop the flood gates.

I pull myself together and stroll into Arco and the Alburgue at 1.15pm - its my Camino record - i´ve covered 20km in 4.5hrs! I feel great about that and I´m the first to check into the Alburgue and therefore have preference to where I sleep - love that!

Its a feeling of enormous anticipation that is running through me and tomorrow I think I´ll stroll into the Santiago Cathedral Plaza around 2pm or 2.30pm and I know it´s going to be very very emotional for me.

Ivar - take note when  you see me!! ;-)

I´m on my LAST night in an Alburgue - tomorrow night a Hotel - real towels - real sheets and a hot shower that isn´t timed!!!!


Day31: Palas de Rei to Arzua (Mon 25th Oct - I face slam the road today)

I look out the window as soon as I wake and am pleased that its not raining and looks like a clear sky! All my clothes and boots are dry and its not really that cold - I don´t need fluffy hat or gloves.

A cafe across the road for cafe con leche, fresh orange juice and toast are a familiar start to my days.  Then I realise...."OMG" Woody  has been locked in the bar....I´m finally separated from Woody, he´s been my trusty walking companion (or my 3rd leg as some would say...) for the past 3+ weeks and I can´t wait for the cafe/bar (where I stayed) to open as sometimes they don´t open until 10am or is country Spain! So I regretfully have to leave him behind and ponder my last 3 days without him and am very glad there is no major mountains or hills left!!

As I overcome my sadness about Woody I´m greeted with yet another gorgeous sunrise and this is after the previous days constant drenching. I´m feeling good and want to sing "oh what a beautiful morning....oh what a beautiful day...." my walking pace is good and I´m quite chipper ;-) 6km to a town called Casanova and I look at that being my first mini stop and coffee - so I arrive to find it closed, yep still to early even on a I continue on up the hill when all of a sudden my feet just won´t move....this all happens within I look down with absolute bewilderment as to why they won´t move I find myself falling rapidly and am inches from face slamming the road...throw my hands out and manage to break the fall a little but with an 8kg pack on my back it only helps push me harder and faster into the road and BANG my face also now slams into the bitumen (and bounces) O U C H!!! WTF just happened....SOOO when I look down at my feet I find the funniest thing...the loop of my shoelace on my left boot had looped itself around the metal boot loop on my right boot therefore rendering me instantly "foot tied"!!!! LOL is funny after the fact...but it hurt like (///(&/$%$%% and reach down to unloop, scrape myself up off the road (lucky its a quiet early morn country road) and hobble to a stone bench on the side of the road...pull my hand away from my face and its bleeding...I have no idea how bad and I sit and feel sorry for myself and shed a few tears until I see people walking up the hill and become "Warrior woman" again...a few stop when they see me bleeding and I say oh its ok, its just surface scratches etc and the bleeding has slowed and someone who could speak english says also its just surface scratches but a nice egg on my right cheek, scratched chin and big fat egg and bruise on my left knee cap and bruised and scratched palms...!! I´m ok and laugh at the irony!

I power on in a sombre mood and look forward to the next cafe about 4km away. They don´t have ice - super!! SO thats just how it is and so I forget about it and power on to Boente where I will stop for lunch - I take my boots off and rest my feet on the chair opposite me (something everyone does) and the man in the cafe see´s and goes ballistic at me yabbering loudly in Spanish and I´m in NO mood for this and so I eyeball him and shrug my shoulders then funnily he can speak some english..."FOOTS IN BOOT" he I mumble FFS and slowly put my "foots in boots" and bang and clang the chairs and make as much noise as possible and leave without a word....!!

I´m hopeful my day gets better....LOL and arrive in Azura without realising - my head was so busy recycling my days events I had been following the yellow arrows without even realising and my destination had crept up on me: Azura I love you ;-)

Find a nice Alburgue, see some friendly and familiar faces all perplexed when they see my face...I relay my funny stories and then go shower and come back for plenty Vino Tinto....and head off for dinner and laugh about it.

1 and half days to go....

Day30: Portomarin to Palas de Rei (Sun 24th Oct)

A much better start to the day after a few more hours sleep than I´ve had the past week. I still wake during the night with an aching right leg and aching feet. Sunday is always a bit "dodgy" for cafes-brekky and I´m so in luck this morning!

After a warming brekky and feeling in a brighter mood (I thought) off down the steps (Our Lady of the Snows) is what they´re called....and there is going to be a few hills today and the ascent begins almost immediately I cross the footbridge over the river and too early for my body to be happy about this and it tells me sets my mood back as I once again find more "faux" pilgrims and they´re all flooding the track this morning - they take over and have no manners, they don´t even carry their packs, they just have ditzy little day packs (the real packs get sent ahead on transport), they´re way too chipper, they wear fancy white runners, pressed pants, one even wears a blue/grey velour (velvet) tracksuit and COLOGNE....PUHleez!! So as you can tell I´m letting it crawl under my skin and I skulk along the path with my Camino horns sticking out of my cap willing fresh cow pats to turn up and wanting to poke them with Woody or trip them as they pass - LUCKILY for all of them I manage to hold the urges as I arrive in Gonzar and decide its a very good time to stop and sip on a cafe con leche and munch on a chocolate croissant and hope it chases the demons that have possessed me away! It has started a fine misty rain....

The raincover for my pack comes out as do the plastic pants....I am trying to walk my way out of the dark mood and the rain gets heavier and I strangely like it...within the next hour I finally get my Camino legs....and I feel the rythm and get a stroll on - the rain has clearly settled in and by now I´m drenched on the outside (so far) and find a nice little cafe in the middle of nowhere and have an omelette with tuna for lunch - its perfecto!

The demons have finally left....and I continue in the constant rain - this is what the Galicia region is known for - days and days of constant rain like this and I wonder if I´m not going to have this until Santiago - I´ve been waiting for it and had exceptional weather so far for my entire Camino.  I don´t stop again, pass quite a few "drowned rats" and power on through the rain. Its impossible to take pics, I did try....!

I dont get my book out either so have no idea how far away I am to Palas de Rei and its actually great and before I know it the sign for the town pops up...I´ve already decided to stay at an Alburgue called "Buen Camino" and I find it easily and its so nice to get inside the warm and no rain...I´ve walked 6.5hrs in the rain and a total of 8hrs for the day - 27km.

My so called waterproof boots are not quite so and my socks are damp as are the bandages on my feet and the tape underneath the bandages....lucky the radiators are all on and I line up all my bits N pieces everywhere as Im the first in my dorm and get the bed by the window with its own radiator - bonus!!

Vino tinto was well received and I then go back upstairs and enjoy an hour of siesta snooze ;-)  When I wake the rain has finally stopped so I venture out to find dinner...I find some familiar faces in a bar and enjoy nibbles and more vino tinto!!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Day29: Sarria to Portomarin (Sat 23rd Oct)

The day started with yet another restless night and am unhappy and very tired and struggle out to get on the road by 9am....its misty rain and very very foggy - bit like how I feel really!! ;-)

My body aches and takes me ages to find my walking rythm this morning...but at first stop Barbadelo its too early, of course as its Saturday, so I carry on and am irritated by a bus load of "faux" pilgrims with their mini day packs and spritely energy and grumble to myself as I trudge on without my coffee!!!

Sarria is the last major point in which you can commence the Camino to obtain a Compostela - you must do a minimum of 100km to obtain the "sacred Compostela" and you must get 2 stamps per day....Sarria therefore becomes a hub of craziness and I´m not used to it nor do I like I continue to grumble I wish ùpon a star that they get fresh cow poo all over their clean pressed pants and jeans....and their fancy white running shoes ;-) hehe

Ferrerios is about 13.6km and I´ve walked in a grumbled stupor and arrived sooner than I anticipated - always a pleasant thing and stop for 30mins to inhale coffee and wait for it to sink into my depleted veins!  Next stop is Portomarin which is my destination.  Its quite a bit more rocky than I want, just something!!!, and a final and steep descent down into the town - and my feet have started to be painful again and it bothers me - I´m exhausted physically and mentally and I wonder if its not to do with the fact that the end is now close and the journey coming to an end....I ponder that for a while.

Crossing the river into town is spectacular and jolts me out of my walking daze and I have to stop on the bridge, both sides, and just stare and wonder! My feet soon remind me to "move on" and I eventually find a small Alburgue and I´m lucky its off the normal beaten main street and its a small room with only 4 beds (2 bunks) and by the time I go to bed....I´m the only one in here...its fantastic!!!

Day28: Triacastela to Sarria (Fri 22nd Oct)

OK so this is my 2nd try - this computer is driving me nuts - so no one complain....!!!! The internet service has been way below par for what I was expecting and been horrendously difficult to find a) one that works b) one that works and doesnt drop out c) one that has the option to use my camera cards! ;-) even then to upload about 5 or 6 pics takes about 45mins!!!!

SO, here we go again, my peaceful nights sleep was so NOT! I woke, or rather my legs woke me at about 2am - my right leg is really not happy about life and neither are both my feet - despite having them elevated at night.  By not getting much sleep is seriously taking its toll on my physical and mental and im tired and cranky and feel like I´m losing my "Camino mojo"!!!!

A late start at the Alburgue is fantastic and I drag my feet.....the walk to Samos is only 6.5km but I feel every single step and I want to go here to see the historical Benedictine Monastery - and am rewarded by the spectacular view as you come into town!  The mandatory pics take place but I don´t take the time to go inside - I´m not in the mood or want to spend the extra energy or time so I find a cafe for COFFEE and a supermercardo for yoghurt and fruita and get moving....the walk is enjoyable along a river but feels like the 8.5ikm is going on and on and on and becoming a mirage - those who pass me and those whom I pass also make the same comments!

Eventually Sarria does come into play and I´m very happy except for the walk UPHILL to where all the Alburgues are....being a large town of 13,000 people I have a choice of Alburgues and one I can put my memory card into is going to be the winner....I find it...of course, its the last one!! lol

Its a nice place and then find myself in a room with 7 other blokes....its Friday night and therefore not going to bode well for sleeping....true is that fact!!!! BUT the blog is updated again after 3hrs online that night ;-)

Day27: OĆebreiro to Triacastela (Thur 21st Oct)

SOOOO after my crazy day yesterday I take it easy this morning and have a late start...9.30am! Its cold and windy up here on top of the world but invigorating!!

I had a shite night - the Alburgue is huge with 50 beds and 24 were being used and they had the heaters on - so it was like a sauna and I woke at 2am with aching painful legs and feet (which is becoming a usual thing!!) and I take my earplugs out as theyŕe very annoying whilst youŕe awake and listen to the joyful strains of the "Snoring Symphony".

Im taking a relatively easy day to Triacastela - its 21km! But a lot of hills and steep descents which play havoc on the knees. The first struggle was a really sharp and sudden ascent with rocks (of course) up to Padornelo and I feel blown out and rest for about 40mins.

I go past an Alburgue in Fonfria which is quite large and seems to be in the middle of nowhere but strategically placed a short time after departing Cebreiro - a lot of people are exhausted after that day and sometimes stop for an early day-rest day. I decide not to and about 10mins later get a sharp pain up my right shin (Murphys Law) but just slow my pace and stop for 2mins to stretch it out but am not happy.

The worst is the last 6.5km into Triacastela is rocks and step down. Leaving me flattened and exhausted when I arrive. There are several Alburgues to choose from in this town and push myself up the hill to the furthest point in town to stay as it means I dont have to crawl up the hill in the morning! The Alburgue guy seems a bit dodgy, but after my initial trepidation it turns out great and get a room with 3 other girls and thats it - so a peaceful night!

Ive been truly lucky with the weather and yet another stunning clear sky and sunny - Iḿ thrilled I got to cross Cebreiro with clear sky - its not often you get that up there.

Dinner (Pilgrim menu) is slightly different now Iḿ in the Galicia region and enjoy the change - fabulous soups and paella!!! And always plenty of "vino tinto" and bread! I dont think Ive ever eaten so much white bread in my life!! AND still lose weight...hehe!!

Day26: Cacabelos to OĆebreiro (Wed 20th Oct)

My crazy crazy day....oh what fun to be so crazy!! I do 40km (12.5hrs) to the top of the world....climbed to the top of "The Cebreiro" as we affectionately call her!! She is demanding and tough as old boots and sinks her teeth in hard and long....sunrise to sunset!!

Yep Iḿ officially a maniac but I was on fire...

Another early start and beautiful sunrise...iḿ off to Villafranca which is 7km through the vineyards. I find a very clever retiree who has turned his garage into a makeshift cafe to capitalise on the early Pilgrims walking past his house - when no other cafes are open...very clever and heś got it all sussed and loves it!! Bless.

Villafranca, another beautiful village and I finally find a camera shop to buy another memory card for my camera!! Important! I take a break for 45mins in a busy & warm cafe and enjoy the people watching.  Iḿ feeling fantastic and the best Ive felt all the Camino.  After leaving Villafranca I work my way towards my next break at Perje and find the crazy Italian, Simone and heś tucking into a huge lunch! We chat and he is on fire, antibiotics for his infected blisters have kicked in and strong pain killers and he feels like he can walk all the way to Santiago today....LOL!

He says heś going to take on "The Cebreiro" today with gusto - I laugh and heś Iḿ feeling great and tell him I come with him - making it a 40km day!

Even though we walk together we walk our own pace and we decide to stop at the villages at the 6km mark and reaccess the plan...then the next town he thinks we can do "The Cebreiro" I say "YES WE CAN"! So he says OK OK OK we can and yells very loudly telling "The Cebreiro" we are coming....! LMAO! The next 2 stops are all good and heś all about conquering the mountain...then we finally arrive at La Faba (last place to stop for sleeping before committing to the pinnacle) and it was a really tough 3km up a steep steep rocky stretch and heś hmmm I think we cant take "The Cebreiro" I say ok...but I will....heś like OK OK OK then if you go I go and we take on "The Cebreiro" everyone in La Faba think weŕe crazy, and we are - its already 7pm...and we have more than an hour ahead (he has a torch). So we go and the view is breath taking and we yell and scream when we get to the top - then the sun is starting to set in and its a long stretch, like a mirage, when it the village going to show....finally it is dark and the torch comes out and we arrive 5mins later at the rear of the Cebreiro village!! ELATION - WE BEAT "The Cebreiro"! Weŕe on a high and find the Alburgue and shower and go find FOOD...weŕe starving....he meets up with some other of his friends who are totally amazed that he has made it - he was in bad shape with his infected blisters...they call him superman! hehe

It was an exceptional day - 40km up a mountain 1500m and took 12.5hrs with only 2hrs of stops all up!