The last few days of walking have been fatiguing for me but there has been a huge sensation of our destination being within reach. Today is a joyous occasion because we scurried into the town of Santiago just in time to attend the famous Pilgrim Mass in the Cathedral with the Botafumeiro swinging at 70 kms per hour.
Comments on the last five days
Day Thirteen: Xunqueira de Ambia to Ourense
This was a tough 33km walk with a lot of uphill which I dislike. The walk was very pretty with lots of streams and flowers and views from up high. In fact, some of the best panoramas we have seen. We were taken by surprise with the town of Ourense. A beautiful tiny city as interesting as Salamanca or Toledo. Lots of historical buildings in the old town, historical and modern bridges over a lovely river and sophisticated eateries. We even happened on a free concert in one of the plazas at night.
Day Fourteen: Ourense to Cea
A pleasant 22 kms along country pathways with increasingly prosperous looking large homes and fine gardens. The flowers throughout the walk have been spectacular, poppies dominating in Castilla-Leon and roses so very bright in Galicia. And the yellow escoba bushes all along the walking tracks.
At Cea we were soon to change from peregrinos to tourists for the second time during our Camino. Giulio’s friend Alfonso lives nearby so he picked us up in his car at a Bar in Cea, took us back to luxurious sleeping quarters for two nights. Luisa cooked us a wonderful Galician meal and we were plunged into a different world.
Day Fifteen : Cea to Xesta
Lucky us, we were driven back to Cea by Alfonso to walk 25 kms onto the next town of Xesta. Since we were spending a second night with Alfonso and Luisa we were only walking with day packs. This should have been easy but we felt that we were missing something like an arm. A weird feeling. We had started a bit later so we didn’t have the company of other peregrinos. But we finally settled into a rhythm and it was another gorgeous walk through green countryside. On completion of that walking day we were again picked up by Alfonso and returned for more wonderful meals and hospitality. How lucky were we to have such generosity from two wonderful Spaniards.
Day Sixteen: Xesta to Ponte de Ulla
This was a special walking day because Alfonso and Luisa walked the 31 kms to Ponte Ulla with us. We came across an old Roman bridge from 2000 years ago and spotted the chariot wheel marks on our walking path of Roman stones. Walking with Luisa was special- not only did I have a female walking companion for the first time but I was able to learn a few words of Spanish. Our picnic lunch of hot chocolate, home made chorizo, salchichon and bizcocho. We said farewell to Alfonso and Luisa at Ponte Ulla where we spent our last night before arriving in Santiago.
Day Seventeen : Ponte de Ulla to Santiago de Compostela
An early 6am start for our last leg of 21 kms was difficult. Very hard to get going and we made the mistake of losing the signs and the track as we chased after a coffee in a bar at about 8am. We never learn our lesson. We could see Santiago up high in the distance about 7 kms before arriving. Again we lost our way, failing to see an old, faded yellow arrow and back tracking several times.
Time was against us. We wanted to arrive in time to attend the pilgrim mass at 12pm. We finally arrived but we couldn’t find the Cathedral. Then we couldn’t find the entrance. And of course we had to off load our back packs which we did at a luggage place requiring passports etc. Finally, we could go into the Cathedral and attend the Mass – standing room only at this stage. It was a fantastic experience. I will write more in the next blog post, this is already too long.