23/05/12. Day 34. Arzua – Vilamaior. 28 Km

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Heavy fog and cold this morning but we knew it would be hot when it burned off. We had a nice breakfast at a café in town this morning, the young waitresses were a bit sullen so our mission was to get them to smile. We had a fifty percent success ratio.

The fog burned off early and the temperature rose steadily.

We ended up having a long hot walk today, about 28Kms. This will mean a short walk into Santiago tomorrow so we should arrive early. We plan to be in about 10.30 and meet Jane, who flew into Santiago yesterday, at the Cathedral.

We arrived at the hostal at about 16.30 hot and tired. We had taken a wrong turn at Labacolla and this added some time and distance to our walk. We followed a yellow arrow that someone had put up pointing to a café or hotel and had to backtrack to find the correct route.

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We followed this arrow to the left instead of going straight on.

The climb out of Labacolla  was heavy going in the heat but we eventually reached our Hostal. The Norwegian ladies and the Australian lady arrived shortly after us.

The accommodation and food here is excellent. It’s a family run Hostal and I would recommend it to anyone, Casa de Amancio. The young waiter who served us had very good English and looked after us very well so he was well tipped.


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Casa de Amancio

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Happy to be so near the finish but sad that it is coming to an end.

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22/05/12. Day 33. St Julien – Arzua. 25 Km

We had a great breakfast at the albergue. We said goodbye to all and headed out. The morning was warm but raining lightly. Our next planned stop is Arzua.

We met the three Irish girls again today and a few new people. The weather cleared up as the morning went on and it got hot.

As we were walking we met an Irish woman who was part of a tour group but had decided to walk on her own. She looked familiar and after a while chatting it turned out she had worked in one of the offices at work and had been married to a work colleague of mine who had passed away a few years before. Small world. We parted company, but met up again later as we were staying at the same hotel as her group.

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Hostal O’Retiro, outskirts of Arzua.

We were well ready for a stop by the time we reached Arzua as it was really hot by then. We stopped at the first hotel on the way into town, the room was lovely, the staff and food were ok.

We met a few more groups from Ireland here, this is obviously one of their stops.

Had the pilgrim meal here which was ok, had a few beers and hit the sack early.

 

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21/05/12. Day 32. Portomarin – St Julien. 28 Km

We left Portomarin at 07.30 after a quick breakfast in a little café across the Plaza from our hotel. A cool morning but great for walking as it is a long steady climb out of Portomarin.

Loads of new pilgrims on the trail again today, all plugged in and rushing to the next place to stay. The end of stage for them today is Palas de Rei so we decided to walk a bit further to avoid the rush for beds.

We ended up in the little hamlet of San Julien. The albergue/café/bar is run by a very interesting man and his wife. He told us that he once lived in a cave in Majorca for a few years when he was young. He lived off the land and sea hunting and fishing. They decided to leave when his now wife became pregnant.

 

 

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San Julian.

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Photos from his days in Majorca.

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   camino1  Regaling us with stories.

The food here is really good and plenty of it. We had a great sing song here after the meal. We met up with Kevin from Korea again, he is an accountant, four ladies from Norway and an Australian who all work for the same company in Norway, MJ and Dewey from San Diego, who we had met a few times before, and Nel from the UK who was new to us but had walked from St. Jean at a very fast pace. We didn’t meet Nel again until Santiago and again in Muxia.

We had a great night but we felt it next morning.

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Kevin from Korea.

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MJ

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Nel.

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Sigred, Jeanette, Sissel, Grethe and Christine.

The four ladies from Norway and the Australian.

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20/05/12. Day 31. Sarria – Portomarin. 22 Km

We awoke at 06.30 and decided to head off. As we left Sarria we met loads of Irish pilgrims heading out of town. Some didn’t know about the yellow arrows.

We met three girls from Limerick, Kerry and Cork who had taken a week off work to walk the Camino as they had heard about it from someone at work.

As veterans now we gave them some tips on how best to carry their rucksacks and use their walking poles. We also met two brothers from Belfast and walked with them for a while.

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We passed the 100km marker today, this is the minimum amount one has to walk to get their Compostela in the pilgrim office in Santiago.

We had the best breakfast about eight kms or so outside Sarria this morning, bacon, eggs, fresh bread, orange juice and an extra large café con leche and all for about €4.50. We met the three Irish girls here again and when they saw what we were having they ordered the same.

We met Ana again today after several days absence, when we asked her where she disappeared to the last day, she told us she felt so guilty about swearing about the church that morning so she popped into one to say a prayer and apologise to God. As usual she is in high spirits. She walked with us into Portomarin.

The trail was busy today with new pilgrims but there was a difference in many of these, they were all plugged in to their iPhones/MP3 Players, head down, no Buen Camino, just walking on at a fast pace. Some only walked a few Kms then got picked up by bus.

When we arrived in Portomarin all the albergues were full so we booked a double room in a small hotel/restaurant in the town Plaza. Ana booked in here as well.

The rooms were very nice but the staff and food less so. As we were having a beer after checking in we saw some pilgrims being picked up by golf cart in the Plaza and being whisked off to their hotels, each to their own I suppose.

Our pilgrim meal was a bit of a disaster, the food was lousy and poor Ana got an email after checking in telling her she had been sacked from her job as a carer back in England. She was very upset and we did our best to cheer her up. We were also joined at the meal by a French Canadian called Danielle, he had walked with Ana for a few days. A nice guy, with a droll sense of humour.

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19/05/12. Day 30. Fonfria – Sarria. 30 Km

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Today is Daire’s Birthday and I’m sorry to miss it but I text him.

We started down the mountain after breakfast at about 07.30. Lots of cow dung this morning. We plan to stay in an albergue about 20 km from Fonfria, a little hamlet called Teugun,  but we must have missed it. All the hamlets in this area consist of only three to four houses so somewhere along the line we passed it by.

 

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Not a bad day for walking, cool and a little overcast. We met up with a South African lad today who was sat near us at a café in Leon, he came across as a bit of a loudmouth then. He walked with us for a while and chatted. Turns out he was OK, he just talked very loudly.

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Before we knew we were in the outskirts of Sarria, short day my butt. We checked into a small hotel/restaurant at the first junction we came to in Sarria, right on the Camino.

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We had a really nice dinner just up the road from the hotel and we finished up with a large glass of Jameson which was on the house.

We are only 110 Kms from Santiago now, four to five days more walking. Maybe a sleep in tomorrow. I won’t mention any more short days.

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18/05/12. Day 29. Las Herrerias – Fonfria. 20 Km

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Looking back towards Las Herrerias.

 

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Views when the mist cleared.

After a very nice breakfast we headed up the mountain towards O’Cebriero at 1347 mts. It was tougher going than our first day from St. Jean to Roncevalles but we had definitely got fitter along the way. The day was cool and misty and we stopped at a little hamlet, La Laguna, at 08.00 for second breakfast. We met a young Korean having a glass of vino tinto with his breakfast. He told us his Irish name was Kevin and we met him several times again on the way to Santiago.

We reached O’Cebriero in the early afternoon and stopped for a look around, bought some post cards and little gifts for our grandkids. After a snack we headed down the mountain towards Tricastle.

 

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Gift shop in O’Cebriero.

 

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Alto do Poio. 1337 mts.

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Going down the mountain was not really going just down but up and down pretty much all day. This area has a lot of small dairy farms so the roads and tracks were covered in cow dung.

We reached Fonfria mid afternoon and decided to stay. Fonfria has only a few houses and the albergue, which is also the café/pub/restaurant. It is run by a Brazilian family and is clean and spacious. It was the only albergue where we had to pay for wifi along the whole Camino. Iggys small toes are very painful today with all the downhill walking.

The pilgrim meal this evening was really very good, they kept bringing us extra portions until we were so full we could just about move. I had a game of “close the widow, open the window” with a Dutch guy on the top bunk all night. I would wake up and find the window against my bunk open and the light rain and cold coming in on me, I would close it, after a while the cold would wake me again and I would find the window open again. The window I might add was slightly below his bunk so he might have got the fresh air but not the rain. This went on all night and I was well peeved by morning but in the interests of peace and tranquillity I said nothing.

We plan a short day tomorrow to give Iggys toes a chance to recover.

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Preparing Tarte de Santiago for the pilgrim meal.

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17/05/12. Day 28. Villafranca del Bierzo – Las Herrerias. 21.7 Km

We slept a little late this morning but after breakfast we were away by 08.55. Its much cooler and windy this morning so the jackets and rain pants went on.

Todays walk is mostly beside the main road for about 20 Kms to Vega de Valcarce, not the most pleasant walking but it is what it is. The day warmed up as we walked so we could take the rain gear off again.

When we reached La Portala de Valcarce I knew I had been here before in the camper with Jane. We had stopped here for a meal on our way back from Santiago a few years before.

We arrived in Vega at about 11.30 but decided to keep walking as it was still early. We would walk another 6 Km to Las Herrerias, this would take us to the base of O’Cebrerio and shorten the climb for tomorrow.

As we left Vega we saw Analise sitting at a café with her boots off, she was having a problem with blisters, we told her our plans and she asked me to try and keep a bed for her in the albergue in Las Herrerias, which I did, she never showed and this was the last time we saw her, she had a great sense of humour and was a great laugh.

We got into Las Herrerias early afternoon and waited at the albergue, which did not open until 14.00. The place is run by a guy from Chicago and his Spanish partner. It is pretty basic but clean.

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We did our usual shower and laundry and hung the washing out to try on the albergue clothes line, it was sunny and windy so they should be dry in no time. We went for a walk up through the village and had lunch and a few beers at a local bar.

When we returned I found that my clothes had been moved from the line to a bad position and were not dry so I moved the other clothes and moved mine back, after a few minutes a German woman came out of the albergue and went to move them again but I told her to leave them, she was not happy and went off and obviously told her husband and the other couple that they travelled with so they all came out to have a look at the grumpy pilgrim and give me the stink eye but the clothes stayed put.

The albergue only served a vegetarian meal in the evening so Iggy any I decided to eat out further up the village in a café recommended by the albergue as we needed meat. The meal was home cooked by the lady who owned the café and most of the ingredients except for the trout were probably from her own garden.

There were only three of us at the meal, the other guy was from St. Emilion, near Bordeaux, and he told us he had his own vineyard.  It was an excellent meal.

We met an Irish pilgrim from Kerry in the albergue who started walking from St. Jean a good week after us, he walked long distances every day. He also did hill running in Kerry. Needless to say we didn’t meet him again after that …….

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