9. June 2012 20:08
The takeaway ordered for us by the hospitalero last night arrived earlier than expected and was surprisingly good - a complete dinner kit in a crate. The head count in the albergue increased by 2 noisy cyclists who arrived at 9:30 just as the hospitalero was about to lock up.
A relatively early start in the morning (walking by 06:15) in a light drizzle; this persisted on and off for about half the day causing lots of indecision about waterproof clothing.
With an estimated 32k to do our approach to the day was a little more focused than yesterday's bar crawl (oops, didn't mention that before). The end really did seem to be in sight when, after only 8 km, we paused at a high point for what we believe was our first glimpse of the Torre de Hercules. Not that close though as there were another 6 hours of gentle (?!) hills, gentle rain, chicken farms, eucalyptus woods etc before we crept into A Coruna past a short stretch of industrial estate and then along the pleasantly flat riverside path before a final assault up and down an urban hill to arrive at the Iglesia de Santiagoy. (Photo at front of church, matamoros above, Tony below!).Final sello obtained from a slow but helpful priest - yee ha! We' ve done it!
868 miles and 53 days walking.
8. June 2012 17:04
Another relaxed start with only 24km to do today and, better still, another good breakfast since the bar helpfully opened at 06:30. On the outskirts of Sigueiro we were slightly puzzled by a roundabout which as well as having a sculpture in the middle was fully carpeted in 3 or 4 colours. Que?
After a very brief walk through the industrial estate the rest of the day was almost perfect Galicia - dry, mostly sunny but not too hot, and with tracks across attractive countryside and through eucalyptus plantations. Some of the tracks seemed very ancient, sunken as much as 10 feet below the surrounding land.
We met a total of 13 peregrinos going in the opposite direction and, near one village, quite a few locals out for walks. A large proportion of these kind people were very quick to ask us if we realized that Santiago was NOT the way we were going; one elderly chap who was walking his dog then stopped for a longer
chat, telling us how he had worked in Reading from 1965 - 1969.
3 hoopoes flew past and for the first time in the entire journey we saw 2 peacocks in a garden. (Their distinctive call has been heard frequently).
Many beautiful wildflowers again too, including some very tall purple orchids trying to camouflage themselves amongst foxgloves.
As usual the route passed a selection of stone crosses and also a quite large Santiago statue which was accompanied by a dinosaur, a collection of ancient tractors and some other random statues - a somewhat surreal collection! Even stranger was the statue on the outside of a church which appeared to be having its throat cut.
Our arrival timing at the albergue was perfect, the hospitalero appeared within seconds. He was very insistent on showing us the entry in his book for Tim from 2 nights ago and was friendly and helpful, willing to provide a manta for the peregrina without a sleeping bag, and efficient at taking an order for a takeaway to be delivered at 8 (we hope).
Currently looks like being a very quiet night, we have one other fellow pilgrim in residence, unless of course you include the great-tit who spent siesta trying to break in through the dormitorio window.
7. June 2012 20:30
Our third visit to Santiago has proved most successful with opportunities to do several things we regretted having missed before. The first of these was attending the pilgrim mass in the cathedral shortly after our arrival. The congregation were coached by a singing nun before the service began so that audience participation would be up to standard, and she also led the singing beautifully. The list of arriving peregrinos included "3 English from gibraltar" and, best of all, the magnificent botofumeiro was put through its swinging & smoking routine, passing very closely above our heads. We heard later that a group of elderly lawyers had paid 400 euros to have this ritual on a day it wouldn't normally have been performed. Lucky us.
The following morning we went on the cathedral rooftop tour (which Tim had booked for us the necessary day in advance while we were at the mass). Most impressive, actually wandering around on the sloping roof - great views and plenty of interesting info from our guide. Health and safety - hmm! Apparently there used to be 20 recognized places around the city for the pilgrims to burn their dirty ragged clothing and one of these still exists on the cathedral roof - a small walled enclosure with an interesting mix of Moorish and Christian styles. Although we had been pointed out to a tour group as authentic peregrinos we didn't rise to the occasion and remove and burn our clothes!
Our third achievement was finding the right place to queue for a free meal - at the Santiago Parador hotel. As numbers 8 and 9 in the queue, clutching our compostellas we were entitled to eat at no cost at (probably) the most expensive hotel in the city! The provision of free meals for up to 10 pilgrims 3 times a day is a condition which the Parador chain are required to fulfil for ever to allow them the use of the building. Admittedly the meal was obtained directly from the kitchen and was staff fare, not haute cuisine, but it's definitely on the list of things a pilgrim should try and do. And we were not at all surprised to see that Peregrino Total (aka Fabrizio) was the last person to sign the book before us.
On a more practical note, I managed at last to buy some new waterproof overtrousers - very cheap because the only ones which fitted were children's!
We bumped into Kim the Canadian again and said some more farewells, but were surprised by how few others we recognized during the day.
An earlier night than the previous one, time to pack up again ready to move on in the morning.
Up and out by 7:30 this morning and we found one of my favorite breakfasts - freshly squeezed orange juice, giant croissant and coffee so, suitably fuelled, we set out for a relatively short day - the first of the 3 final days to A Coruna. The first half of the walk was out through suburbs and industrial estates with persistent rain (thank goodness for the new overtrousers!) And the second half we zigzagged through freshly washed Galician countryside in bright sunshine. We were surprised by the number of people we met (going of course in the opposite direction to us), including a chatty American who seemed fairly sure we must be lost, and a friendly couple who assured us that Tim was alive, well, cheerful and striding out rapidly when they met him yesterday.
A good wildlife moment shortly before we arrived in Sigueiro - a very cute red squirrel crossed the track in front of us and then paused to watch us for a few seconds.
Haven't yet managed to try the trout that Tim recommended very highly, but our cheap lunch menu at 8 euros did include an excellent bowl of fabada - Spanish bean stew with some carrots, potatoes and lumps of meat and chorizo.
Sigueiro turns out to have many shops and restaurants but very little else of interest. A plate of the crispy little trout made a tasty evening snack to round off the day.