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4th May 2016
Day 30 Santa Irene to Santiago 22k
I chose to walk alone today as I wanted to just enjoy my last day. It was really nice actually. There were lots of people along the way. I saw Zabine about 1/2 way and she was doing well. Then just before I headed down into Santiago, on Monte de Gozo (the hill of joy) I met Jim. We took photos of each other and I said we might catch up in Santiago.

I was pretty emotional when I arrived in Santiago. More because I knew I had done what I set out to do. What was important to me was that I completed it, from start to finish carrying my bag the whole way and that was my goal. There are lots of things that happen along the journey that may prevent the body from being able to achieve what the mind conceives. I saw many people's bodies breaking down over the last 30 days and I just had to hope I could do it. Tears of joy came and went as I walked the last 5k into Santiago. It's not the town itself anymore it's knowing I've done what I set out to do. What I have enjoyed most about being on this Camino? Time. Time to myself, time to think, time to listen, time to communicate, time with others, time to care about others; time to walk, to talk, to do the washing, (yes, I appreciated even this) to find a bed for the night and not have to worry about anything but these basic human needs. Time to give thanks and time to know myself.

Now in Santiago, I want to go to the pilgrims mass in the Santiago Cathedral, but tomorrow as I am spending two nights here. And tomorrow is a feast day, Ascension Thursday. Today, I wanted to collect my Compostela. I met Jim again while at the Pilgrim's office and we agreed to have dinner together tonight at 7:00. It was nice to drink a toast to a job well done. On my way back from dinner, I saw Zabine. She was so happy. She has been to church at 7:00 and was approached by a young girl when she arrived in Santiago and was invited to stay the night with her and her Mum. At €20 for the night Zabine has a private room and breakfast. Then after a quick hello to her I met Simona coming down the street. She was rushing to meet some others so we said we would catch up at the church tomorrow.

It's a special week in Spain. Even though tomorrow is Ascension Thursday, the whole week is celebrated here. There are buskers in the street and music concerts for young people right next to the cathedral. The place is hopping like its a weekend.


Well I'm sitting in the cathedral waiting for 12:00 mass to begin. I have been up and given Saint James a hug, traditional pilgrim behaviour, not losing it. The cathedral is beautiful on the early morning light and before too many tourists begin milling around. There are some maintenance works going on but I think I have managed to get a photo where it doesn't look too bad. Taking a photo of the altar is another story. I might need to try and Google some photos because mine are not working out well. You can see the botafumeiro hanging from the ceiling. It weighs in at about 80kg and puts out incense. Traditionally because of the smell of the many pilgrims attending mass and having walked so far it was unpleasant no doubt. I will try and include a link to a utube video. They told us not to take any photos and I complied, cause it's been only 24 hours since being sin free and I didn't want to blot my copy book yet.
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=FaFqodavn0I&sns=fb

Thank you to everyone who has followed my story.

Footnote: Simona & I didn't catch up the next day but we caught up on the way to Finnisterre. Yep I walked to Finnisterre! I was going to catch a bus there and then I thought, I have perfectly good legs and backpack so why not walk!! I also met up with Jim & walked with him on 3 occasions over the 3 days. But walking to Finnesterre, that's whole other story.

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3rd May 2016
Day 29 Melide to Santa Irene 30k
Today I decided to "change my shoes, change my views". I wore my Tirra Teva hiking sandals.
And today was actually awesome! They say a pound on your feet is like 5 pound on your back. The sandals are only about 200g lighter than my shoes. But I think the change was good for my head. Met Saskia and Paul from Holland again and chatted along the way. I haven't seen them since Bercianos & that was before Leon so it was nice to see them again. Paul said he had a problem with his shin, he said infection but I think he meant inflammation. English is their second language but they speak English really well. So they were walking slow, so I didn't walk with them long.
After walking the first 12k mainly alone I met up with Zabine at a cafe stop again & she told me she had blisters, so I dusted off my angel wings put them back on and put some oxy 5 on her not yet burst blisters. Will see if it works tomorrow.

I had met up with Zabine originally in Villavante and we walked together for part of the way to Astorga on Day 20 then again last night at Melide. Zabine told me that she really hadn't enjoyed doing the Camino. I told her to wait till she is finished as she may be surprised how she feels when she's completed it. She has done the whole thing since St Jean Pied de Port and she told me that many times in her life she has quit doing things because she got sick of it or bored with it. So she said that she had decided that she was going to do this one thing properly. We had a couple of pints before dinner and had dinner together at the bar. It was a good night. When we went back to the hostel they had the fire roaring so I did what any good pilgrim does & ordered another vino tinto.
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2nd May 2016
Day 28 Vendas de Naron to Melide 24k (only 52k to Santiago)
I had dinner with Jan from the US & Jim from the US last night in Vendas de Naron. It was a great night getting to know each other and we all enjoyed a red wine or two. Jan has just retired, she was a teacher at the same school for all her teaching life. When she returns home she has to get used to not working she said. Her husband passed away from an asbestos related illness. She said he was a potter and used it in his kiln. He was diagnosed only 3 months before he died. Jan is about the same age as me. It was a really nice evening.

Ok it's official I have 700k (limit) legs, to borrow a phrase from a friend of mine, Sue. She does 24hr rogaine and always says she has 18 hour feet. This last 100k is a killer, so I know exactly what she means. I was promising myself for every metre of the last 15k today, just get to Melide and you can check into the hostel then have a rest. So I'm having a rest. And so far there hasn't been anyone else check in here. I'm the only one in a 12 bed room. I'm sure that will change soon enough.

I don't think I can even share anything interesting about today. I think I had my head down, task focused all day. I stopped at Palas de Rei for a cuppa and the guy at the cafe reiterated I should try pulpo (octopus) in Melide. Talking to Jim last night we said if we ran into each other in Melide we would try the octopus. Well I like squid but umm well octopus will be a challenge for me. I met an Aussie couple from Sydney at one of the stops along the way. I bought a beer. When beer is €1 for a schooner who would pay €1.50 for an orange juice?! I'm sure it would have been better for me but I'd had orange juice already today and I needed something to drink other than water.

These are some of the paths from yesterday & today. 1st on was the entry into Portomarin yesterday. The next two were some of the nicer pathways today. I loved this 3D shield of County of Palas de Rei & the statue of Saint James (Santiago). The other two statues were of ancient pilgrims also taken at Palas de Rei. I think they're arguing about which way to go, lol.
Well I tried the octopus. I didn't see Jim in Melide but I ran into Marcel, Italian from Navarette and joined him for octopus dinner. I tried his first to see if i thought I'd like it and decided to have my own. It's nice as long as you can't see the tentacles. I left half of it behind though. Well we did have potatoes and bread and wine with it and it was a huge plateful. No photo cause I'd left my phone behind, charging.
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1st May 2016
Day 27 Morgade (12k past Sarria) to Vendas de Naron 23k (another 76k only :-)

I decided I'd had enough today and decided to check in here. Wanted to get to Logonde but figured 3k short and it was already 3:30. Who should come up and say hello to me while sitting in the sunshine (having a beer of course) but 73yo Jim, from Morgade last night! I was pretty surprised he walked that far, cause it was pretty tough, however, he probably arrived a couple of hours after me. But not a bad effort! I was pleased to see him actually as he had a couple of issues with his iPhone, and while I was walking I came up with a solution. Walked through Portomarin. It looks very pretty with the Belares dam built in 1963. Apparently most of the old town was relocated from its original location (now under water) and brick by brick moved to the new town. Wow, that's pretty amazing!
I did think, as I was walking across the bridge, that the castle/church did look a bit out of place. You will see it in the photos. And that is why, because it is out of place, literally. However, the town is quite a pretty sight with all the water around it.

Where I'm staying tonight is not showing on the attached elevation map but is 3k before Logonde, so it's pretty much the peak anyway so I'm owning that.

It's funny, really, once I recover from the day's walk, after an hour or so, I wonder why I didn't just keep going. The constant consent while walking is that you'll miss out on a bed for the night. Particularly now that I am into the last 100k because many (Spanish) people choose to walk the last 100k. You see you receive the same "Compostella" as those of us who have done 800k. I was talking to a couple of Aussie ladies when I checked in here, they are doing the last 100k here then heading to England to do the Coast to Coast. They were older and not particularly fit so were quite taken with what I've done so far. One was from Perth & one from Melbourne, they were friends travelling /walking together.

These structures all around Galicia are called Horreos (pronounced Oreos like the biscuits). Apparently used to store grain where it is protected from rodents and other pests. They always have crosses on top. I'm not sure if they are still used but they are an interesting site and talking point along the way. This one was quite large and right next to the house.
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30th April
Day 26 Tricastela to Morgade 34k (99.5k to Santiago)
I walked alone today. It was nice, there's plenty of time to think on the Camino but I can't remember what I was thinking so I was either meditating or I'm getting forgetful. I could see a group of pilgrims stopped at this spot ahead, just after leaving Triacastela & there are normally only two things they stop for along the way a water fountain or a monument. This time it was both, the shell reflecting in the water photo.

The track today was up and down maximum elevation 900m so that was comfortable enough. Some of the trails are original trails from years gone by, they were deep rutted overgrown with moss pathways.

Coming into Sarria once again, I could see it from about 8ks. However, I had no real interest in looking at the town but as it takes about an hour & 1/2 to cross, with a coffee break thrown in there, here are some pickies from Sarria. The street art depicts modern pilgrims and shows how the Spanish people appreciate having the pilgrims visit their towns and cities. Sarria is just before the 100k mark to Santiago and in order to receive the coveted "Compostella" certificate, pilgrims must walk the last 100k to Santiago. Hence the Camino is a big sideline industry for this agricultural market town with a population of around 13,500.

As I was walking on looking for the perfect place to sleep for the night, I suddenly began to panic, "what if I can't get a bed and I have to keep walking beyond my comfort/pain threshold level? Suddenly the competitive spirit inside me began to take charge and I was seeing every pilgrim ahead of me as a potential "rival for the last bed". I picked up the pace and passed a group of 3 who were resting along the track only to be passed by a younger fitter young man who was very pleasant but quicker than me so I looked beyond his pleasantry, I know a rival when I see one. I bet he gets the last bed at the next albergue!!

Ahh finally a lovely bar and an oasis in the name of Casa Morgade. Please let me be saved from walking another 10k today.

Well it seems I was to experience my first "the Camino provides" kinda moment. I was feeling pretty stuffed by the time I arrived at Morgade (12k past Sarria) so I had to stop at Casa Morgade to check in. I was a little concerned I would get in too late and miss out on a room as it was nearing 4pm.

Well, the lady was checking if they had a bed and then informed me it would be €30 if I took a room with a bathroom outside or €50 with a bathroom inside. This was a little outside my budget as I was used to a max of €12 for accom trying to limit my expenses each day to just €30. Ok, beggars can't be choosers, I will take the cheaper option. As there was a lady standing beside me, she thought we were checking in together so she was quoting private room prices. When I realised she thought we were together, I said, no only 1, so she said "we have albergues for €10". I said, perfect! Ahh! Later, I was taking to a group of 3 Canadians who had stopped here for a feed and they said that they had to walk another 1.5k as they only had private rooms here. Seems they were not aware that this is also an albergue.

I have been led to believe that the Xunta (Galacian government) may subsidise the private casa (b & bs) so that they can provide hostel accom for pilgrims.

The bathroom was lovely and as I was only one here so far, private! (I forgot to mention that at the albergue at O'Cebreiro there were no hooks to hang your clothes near the shower and no shower curtains on the showers, so it was worse than boarding school. Naked bodies everywhere). At least there were separate male & female bathrooms. Here is pretty good for €10! They even have the central heating turned on. On the con side, the wifi only works halfway down the staircase so I guess I won't be using it much.

Later on...I have just had dinner and before dinner discovered we have a fireplace! Wow! And it was even stoke up with firewood. (And yes, it is cold again)! We sat around here after dinner me and 4 Americans Marcella, Suzanne & Kate, cousin & 2 sisters, and Jim not related. Very nice & warm, just like the company. I can totally recommend this place! It is a 12k walk past Sarria though so you would have to plan for it. (Turned out Jim and I were to meet on many more occasions over the next few days).

Lesson learnt? Don't stress, there are lots of beds, just have to ask the right questions.
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29th April 2016
Day 25 O'Cebreiro to Triacastela 21k (133.8k to Santiago
Another glorious day today, weather wise. It was a bit cool when stopped but while walking it was perfect tshirt weather. Mostly downhill, as I guess you would expect based on yesterday's report. I had great intentions of walking a bit further but while I'd like to say I decided to take time to smell the roses, it was because walking down hill is actually pretty tough on the knees and I thought I would be better resting, once I finally arrived in Triacastela. I walked with the Aussie crowd today but when I hit the major decent about 500m drop over the last 5ks, I took it slow. I didn't know where they were staying, But I really didn't care cause I discovered that the albergue I booked into has a bath! Wow what a luxury! I was the first to check in here too so I felt like the cat that got the cream. I went for a walk around town, not much here and it was siesta time so nothing open, except for bars, so I had a €2.50 pint & a chat with a pommy couple, then came back for a lie down. Here is a photo of some of the views along the walk. The view before I left, so pretty, but the iPhone can't pick up the right exposure so doesn't really show the depth of colour I could see.

Today's lesson (yes I was still learning!) If I did this again, I would bring less clothes & my good camera.
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28th April 2016
Day 24 Villafranca to O'Cebreiro 29k (now 154.5k to Santiago)
There is something very special about leaving these places in the early morning. You kinda feel a little like a thief in the night stealing the very best the town has to offer, the peaceful beauty of an early morning photo. The early morning light photos were taken while Villafranca sleeps. A magical looking place.

I'm still feeling it! Today's effort was equivalent to walking from Gracemere to Frenchville (Rockyites) followed by a walk up the turkey chase or for Brisvegas people, Dayboro to Samford, then several times up Mt Cootha. Well, I haven't done the math but I walked about 20k on the flat then hit the climb to O'Cebreiro for the next 9k. The climb was from 600 to 1300m, so 700m elevation. Found the best Panaderia (bakery) in Spain today in Vega de Valcarce. Strawberry shortcake at its best! I went there to buy bread, but Rhonda (Aussie) told me I should try the cake, so I did. Good suggestion.

I was glad I'd had this by the time I walked the next 9k uphill!!

As I was walking through las Herrerias (I call it Hairy arse, close enough pronunciation) I thought I heard someone calling my name. I turned around and Martina was calling out to me from one of the shops. She said that they (the italian girls) stayed the night there in las Herrerias and were planning to head off later today & walk beyond O'Cebreiro another 10k or so. I had a quick catch up & said I hoped to see them again soon.

I'm not sure if you can make them out from the photo but I walked every one of those tracks in the photo, and more. On arrival at O'Cebreiro, I caught up with Rhonda & Monique from Perth, Dave & Alison from Tassie, Sarah from Toowoomba & Mark from England. We had a few drinks and it really is true what they say about how much Australians drink! I managed a pint then a vino Tinto then another wine with dinner. But they had a head start! I'm pretty sure 4 pints each of cider, before our wine with dinner! Was a great night and I think I may have found a new fold. If I want one! Great people and had an awesome night.
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27th April 2016
Day 23 Ponferrada to Villafranca del Bierzo 24k
Getting going each day is really easy. I sleep in a silk liner & sleeping bag, and I wear the clothes I'm going to wear tomorrow, to bed. The only exception being my running shorts. I wear them to bed & change them to long pants when I wake. I have 3 dry sacks. One is a compression sack which I put all my clothes in. The other is small but fits my sleeping bag perfectly, the other is very small and fits my wallet, passport, change purse, mobile & back up battery. I carry these either on me or in an easy to access part of my pack. I also have a first aid kit (small wet pack), tool bag & toilet bag. Each morning I pack my running shorts into my compression bag, put on my long pants back on, put my sleeping bag in its stuff sack then put it in the dry bag, then stuff sleep liner in its lil bag, then clean my teeth etc & put my toilet bag in my pack, first aid kit in once I've taken drugs & tool bag in, once I've charged everything. And I'm packed! Takes 5-10mins tops from when I get up. When I arrive in my new home each day, I take out my liner & sleeping bag if required. Change my shoes to sandals. Check out the town first, to grab food, if I need to. Then go "home" take a shower, changed into clothes for tomorrow, check my feet for blisters and hot spots. Treat them as required, not much needed sometimes some cream or the odd bit of compede. Anyway, today was an amazing walk. First 10k was interesting as I felt like I was still leaving Ponferrada as it was suburban all the way. Some really pretty homes and sites. I stopped for a cuppa after an hour or so, my usual thing. I bought a cafe con leche (milk coffee) and the lady gave me two mini muffins & a lolly. So that was breakfast. It cost €1! Then walked to the prettiest town I have seen so far Cacabelos. If there was a tidy town award in Spain this place would win by a country mile. Note the picture of the 18th century wine press. The photos are all from there. I stopped for the best feed I have had while over here. It was pumpkin & tomato soup with just the right amount of chilli for me. At €4 it was perfect. Such a beautiful little spot. It was only another 6k from here to Villafranca and my stop for the night.
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26th April 2016
Day 22 el Acebo to Ponferrada 16k

Oh what a beautiful place. I was so taken with the views and on a blue sky day it was awesome. I had dinner with Elle & Wal last night & said goodbye to them as I think we will have different plans from here. I have chosen today as a rest day walking only 16k, pretty much all down hill and some steep and difficult bits. Surprise surprise just as I was walking across the road at Riego de Ambros, who should be walking down the road but Simona, I told her I was having a rest day & we walked and talked all the way to Ponferrada together.

We stopped at Molinaseca & had a cuppa together & who should walk in but Elle & Wal again. They knew Simona too so we had a great catch up.

I got to Ponferrada pretty early so waited till 1pm to check in. Then walked into the old city & had a great vegetable paella for lunch & of course a couple of beers.

After lunch, I went back & had a sleep cause the castle wasn't open until 16:30. Mainly photos today. Ponferrada was a lovely place to take a rest as it is a lovely place & the next stop is another 5k (outskirts of Ponferrada). Despite the snow on the mountains, Ponferrada is the warmest place so far. It was a bit chilly that night though but only from time to time. A good sleep though, hit the sack at 8pm and woke around 6:30. Was on the road at 7:30.
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25th April 2016 (Anzac Day)
Day 21 Murias de Rechivaldo (via Rabanal & Foncebaden and Cruz de Ferro) to El Acebo
Ok last night's dinner (at Murias de Rechivaldo) was interesting, well gross actually. Noodle soup was supposedly vegetarian but tasted like pork. Couldn't eat it. Main meal was fish with a heavy coating of paprika or some such so couldn't eat that. The chips were ok but couldn't eat them. I asked for a glass of wine and got a bottle so needless to say couldn't drink it all. The cook came out to see me, I think I may have offended her. She offered me salad or something else. I told her, just not hungry. I thought I was but apparently not. Maybe it was the 20 olives and 4 slabs of cheese?! I choose a couple of mandarins for dessert thought perhaps a cooked option not a good idea, based on the other options so far. There was a birthday party in action for the Bar owner's 10 year old son. I was the only one in the restaurant who was not part of the celebrations. There was a table of mothers and a table of about 20 kids. The kids were all lovely and well behaved. The owner told me he was very proud of his son.

Left Rechivaldo at around 7:30am. Stopped at el Ganso for brekky & picked up some supplies for the day ahead. Soon met Janz & Cartia from Frankfurt, who I'd met yesterday. Walked with them into Rabanal then Foncebaden, where they stopped the night. When Janz introduced himself I asked him "and your wife?" He says, no, no she's not my wife. They had been walking together since Leon and I had seen them several times along the way and we had share a few moments. I just assumed they were a couple. Youngish maybe 30s. They both flew from Frankfurt to Santiago & caught the train from Santiago to Leon & were walking from Leon to Santiago. They met each other at the train station in Santiago & began travelling together from there, they didn't know each other before. Nice story, seem to be a good couple. Janz was lovely, kept asking me over the last few days "is everything ok?" when walking through some of the tougher sections of the track. And there were a few.
Leaving them at Foncebaden I met up again with Elle & Wal, from Holland, last time I saw them was when we were walking into Leon together. They enjoyed a good laugh when I ordered a beer at the bar and proceeded to drink it from the bottle. We walked on to Cruz de Ferro, separately at first but then ended up walking together to Cruz de Ferro & for the last 7k into el Acebo. It was the most beautiful walk, visually, with the snow capped mountains all around. It was hard to get the perfect photo with an iPhone but I think I managed to capture the mountain. I stopped at the Cruz de Ferro (iron cross) where I delivered my stone that I had been carrying for almost 500k.

Had a rest at the rest stop a few Ks in between Rabanal & Foncebaden. Foncebaden owes its revival to the Camino. For many years there were nothing but ruins in the village but it is now thriving thanks to the many pilgrims who stay there overnight before the final ascent to the Cruz de Ferro.

If you are considering doing this section of the Camino walk, I recommend the roads rather than the path on the hills from Rabanal where the track is impassable in places. It is rough and when wet, flooded.

Today's lesson "Walking is so good, the more I walk the more I meet friends, catching up with old and finding new friends.
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