The Complete Diary
THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO TO FINISTERRE
Day1 (Getting there)!
Heading off on a new adventure which begins Saturday afternoon at 1430 from Redruth to Paddington; with excursions later to Liverpool Station and Stanstead Airport, I finally reach Santiago de Compostella at 1530pm on Sunday. Santiago is an iconic world pilgrimage centre and final resting place of St James. Attracting travellers from all cultures the place has inspired many great journeys usually finishing at the Cathedral. The bus ride into town evokes a hint of nostalgia as part of it revives fond memories of walking there in a previous decade, (once from the French Alps, and a year later Portugal). However the experience failed to recall all the vital geographical layout of the city itself, and I made hard work of finding my pre-booked accommodation. Also the new Pilgrim Administration Centre beyond the Cathedral Praza proved allusive amid a spectacular hub enjoying the late afternoon sunshine. At least I manage to find my favourite Tapas location at Bar Charra nearby, and Hotel Monte (previously a Pension owned by a friend called Maria). Better still, I have my credentials for the journey tomorrow, which unlike all other caminos, will start at the Cathedral. From here I will be walking to the ‘The World’s End’ at Finisterre, the rock-bound peninsula on the west coast of Galicia.
Day 2 Santiago to Negreira
As predicted for the time of year, it is a wet start to the day at the Cathedral which is an altogether quieter scene compared to yesterday’s furore. Begining my Camino to Finisterre at Rua Das Hortas I set out along the last remaining commercial outposts as far as a small park where a trail is formed through the woods.
The transition from city to countryside takes only 2km and before long I cut a solitary figure traversing muddy terrain along wooded lanes and escarpments.
Passing an orchard I see two female pilgrims accompanied by dogs; they pause momentarily as one of the animals takes a drink from a nearby stream. We exchange greetings in Spanish though they look more Scandanavian than of native origin, and a moment later I begin a sharp ascent by road to the next mile stone. Feeling hot and thirsty I am fortunate to find a cafe, Caso de Xantar amid the wild unspoilt countryside. With a sense of relief I sit for a while enjoying some tapas kindly provided by the barman.
After refreshment, I continue my camino along the thoroughfare of what appears to be a small community.
Passing through the village I am joined by a young Italian female who is also walking to Finisterre; she completed the St James Way last August, and is presently on a travelling holiday after working in London and Ireland – a stark transition that must have been!
We walk for an hour, managing to get lost twice but enjoying the ambience of woodlands that have so far shaped the journey. We part company on a steep section where the young maid decides to have a break. Beyond here I endure a wet climb through another forest pass; as monotonous as it may sound it is at least more palatable than the diet of dual carriageway served up on my last tour of Europe. Emerging at the little community of Pontemaceira I cross the magnificent 15th-century bridge spanning the Tambre River. There is a hotel nearby, but although under the siege of wet weather, I choose to continue my quest enjoying the exuberance of running water below that adds vitality to the walk.
By 2pm I am entering the Province of Negreira, the busiest place since leaving Santiago and a natural pilgrim sanctuary too.
Finishing at the Albergue La Mezquita in the centre of town, I pay 30euros for B&B and promptly enjoy a glass of beer with some more tapas before winding down for my evening meal.
Day 3 Negreira to O Logoso
It is barely light when I set off, leaving via the medieval-looking arches of Pazo do Coton (actually 18th Century) which is possibly the most characterful site within this modern-looking place.
The route is taken up first by road until devoid of urban life; then I follow a woodland path with some steep ascents which help to clear out the winter sinuses. In the course of the morning I hear wood-cutters toiling in the forest, and later when joining a link road, I see other walkers ahead making their way to Finisterre. In the distance on the highest points are windmills providing energy to the smaller isolated communities that still exist in these obscure parts.
The Camino interacts occasionally with the road bringing with it the solace of a cafe allowing a chance for rest and refreshment. At Vilaserio I meet a Portuguese Pilgrim called Diogo Friases Coelho who is looking to reach his destination by Wednesday; that’s do-able I feel, and I need to aim for that too in order to obtain transport back to Santiago once the walk is completed.
But this seems an age away with more exacting terrain ahead as I make off to meet the challenges of a long afternoon. The wind blows fiercely here and I can picture the Atlantic swell that lays in wait; the pilgrims who made this journey in ancient times would have been in awe of Finisterre.
I notice there are more sections of road since leaving Vilaserio and yet the places en route are diminutive compared to Negreira. Out here it seems to be the responsibility of the farmers to run the Pensions/Albergues which ensure pilgrims obtain a night’s shelter.
On descent into Lago, a great lake dominates the scenery to the right; it occupies my gaze for several kilometres finally giving way to a lovely ornated cemetery near to Olveiroa and yet more beautifully built corn granaries and stone houses.
There are good amenities in this quiet little corner of the world’s end, and although tempted to stay, the trail beckons me towards another forest ascent.
Back on higher ground, the camino offers stunning river views as fast-flowing water occupies the chasm below. Rolling through the woodlands, the stone track eventually runs into an Albergue at the small hamlet of O Logoso. I can’t stop as there is no receptionist nor guarantee of a meal, and by chance I see a sign to a restaurant uphill from here where I feel there is a better prospect of a replenishing stay. A farmer stops by in his tractor and tries to persuade me to backtrack to the Albergue, but it is too late as I have ‘the bit between the teeth’ and need to reach this destination.
It turns out to be a good decision and on reaching the road, I locate the Restaurante Bar Pension A Pedra where two Spanish Ladies take care of my needs. Then after supper I am invited for a walk with them to their most famous landmark, Pedra Cabalgada. I have been dry all day, but the excursion back along the camino is met with prevailing wet weather as we struggle beneath wind-swept umbrellas. The site is an iconic natural beauty forged from rocks which has become a well-known landmark for the travelling pilgrim. So popular in fact that the local Albergues provide mini tours for those staying at their premises. It transpired to be an interesting end to a long day which left only the prospect of a glass or two of ‘Vino Tinto’.
Day 4 O Logoso to Finisterre
Today serves up a dull, wet start to accompany tired legs induced from yesterday’s effort, and I am in fact the last to leave the premises. Another pilgrim left half an hour before me and after joining the path beyond Hospital I saw a cyclist and 3 other walkers. Stopping to take in the many religious monuments along the way helps break up the monotony of walking and severity of the early morning tempest which is thankfully short-lived. The route is comprised of country lanes and woodland cuts which are substantially solid and well-demarcated. It holds water a bit in some places but the diversity it offers up makes it a natural catalyst for adventure.
Eventually the Camino begins its decent towards the coast affording panoramic views of the Atlantic ports that lie ahead. As the path continues to tumble into Cee and Corcubion one can begin to marvel at scenes of historic medieval architecture of white windowed balconies and terracotta rooftops. These are lively market towns steeped in modern amenities and it is hard to imagine that they are almost in reach of the world’s end. Life goes on and so must I; with less than 20km to walk I grab a coffee, gather some water and continue along slim lanes and alley ways above these thriving communities, capturing unspoilt views of the stunning coastline. On leaving Corcubion a steep path begins at a huge large arrow which takes me away from the coast for a while, testing the legs in much the same way as the North Coast of Cornwall does. It soon flattens out and later joins the road again as the journey takes in Sardineiro, the last built-up outpost before reaching Finisterre.
Beyond here a mix of coast road and path provide further descents finally settling by the beach where the fierce wind stings my nostrils with the scent of the sea as it wafts across the Camino. The path is slated in places interchanging with a board walk near to the shore to break it up a bit. And soon I am closing in on the built-up suburbs of Finisterre where hotels promise paradise at a small price; generally speaking it is very cheap to stay any where along the way which is a big hurrah for athletic tourists who combine their fitness hobbies with travel. We all need a worthwhile challenge in life to recreate ourselves and this experience takes one away from the wider world that continually chases the ‘mighty dollar’.
The walk to ‘the end of the world’ seems eternal for a while and then realise I have actually passed the finishing line a few kilometers ago! Only do I gain this knowledge at the lighthouse, Faro de Cabo Fisterra which really is conclusive! The ancient pilgrims would have loved this – well up until Christopher Columbus came along and quelled many of their aspirations of where the world ends. So, I end up feeling a bit more tired than expected, but have gained at least an extra few miles and stamp on my pilgrim passport. Despite the presence of many visitors I still find a place to stay and into the bargain am awarded a free certificate for my effort – I think I’ll come again!
SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELLA
Pilgrimages are made here from France, Portugal and different parts of Spain; it can be walked from Italy and Switzerland too. In fact many pilgrimages exist throughout Europe (Fatima is a good example), usually linking up to reach the ultimate destination of Santiago.
This imbibing city attracts many visitors throughout the year who enjoy the elaborately carved stone buildings and grand plazas opening up from the Cathedral. Here the joy of life is celebrated throughout the streets in tapas bars, mini arcades and souvenir shops where the flavour of different cultures adds its own special recipe for fun.
‘A Delightful Stay’
HOSPEDAJE SANTA CRUZ
C/ Rua do Villarreal, 42
Having finished my Camino I needed a place to stay on Friday night as my hotel was fully booked and could not accommodate me. By chance whilst perusing the lovely Rua do Villa I stumbled across a delightful little Pension with beautiful wooden floor and stairwell. On reaching the top I was cheerfully greeted by Maria who offered me a room for 21euros; it had a double bed, sink, wifi, heating and good light with tall Windows opening out onto one of my favourite alleyways. It had everything I needed for a comfortable stay and boy do I love the imbibing hub of Santiago with its endless rows of tapas bars and restaurants.
To me it is one of Santiago’s best-kept secrets though guilt has got the better of me so I feel it only fair to share my find with other pilgrims who I hope will benefit from this lovely, clean and authentic acommodation. Enjoy your stay!
For those seeking hotel accommodation and not too fussy about Windows, I would highly recommend this one for 24euros (lowest booking rate); an extra 5 for breakfast. It is clean with good amenities and breakfast bar.