Almost there, but not there… Melide

Today is going to be the longest day of the trip as we cover about 30 miles or close to 50 kilometers.
Portomarin-to-Palas-de-Rei-Elevation-MapPortomarine is a couple of kilometers to the left of the map above.

Palas-de-Rei-to-Arzua-Elevation-Map Randy, Bryon and Liz start walking and their destination is Melide which requires walking the full distance of the top map and half-way into the next stage.   Will the feet survive?

2014Camino-3 Adios,  Italia!!! 

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2014Camino-1070620nrFoggy day in the woods.

2014Camino-1070625crOccasionally a cement picnic table will appear to facilitate a quick break.

2014Camino-1070627dmvThe path is worn down from centuries of pilgrims walking to Santiago.

2014Camino-1070632dmvcrWhy can’t we stay here?   In March of 2013 we did stay here and woke up to fresh snowfall.

Have Joan and Joyce been kidnapped?  Where could they be?  Um-m-m-m… shopping?

2014Camino-But first we go to the Church of San Juan since it is Sunday. This church was reconstructed brick by brick when the dam flooded the town to build a hydroelectric power plant and they were forced to relocate the city of Portomarine.

We say a little prayer for the other three trudging down the 30 mile path today.
IMG_20140824_042957_700dmvNow we hop into a cozy taxi for a joyride to Melide where we check our group into the albergue.   Every Sunday in Melide you will find a fruit, meat and cheese market where farmers bring their produce in to sell. Randy took my camera so I’m stuck with a low-end cell phone camera and Joan’s Ipod to document the day.

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IMG_20140824_043511_793dmvcrPigs feet?  Not sure how I’d cook them so I’ll pass this time.

IMG_20140824_043540_275dmvcrThis little piggy went to market…

IMG_20140824_043601_120dmvcrNorwegian cod caught in Spanish waters. Is this like lutefisk?

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IMG_20140824_043740_452dmvcrThe air is filled with noisy chatter.

IMG_20140824_060430_499dmvcrJoan negotiates our transaction and we will be supplied with delicious cheese straight from the farmer for the next several days.  Delish!

IMG_20140824_060507_631dmvJoan and I have the great plan to walk back on the trail to meet the rest of the gang to show support.  We walk and walk, but don’t see pilgrims.  This can’t be right?  We go back, find the right road out-of-town, and wait for them…and wait…and wait… and wait some more.

Finally, after almost every pilgrim has gone by, we finally make radio contact and walk to meet them. The last 10 miles have been brutal and Randy, Bryon and Liz finally limp into town, too tired to take pictures.

Painful feet, blisters and exhaustion dictate the mood tonight.

How about some cheese with that wine?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.”

~ Title quote by James Michener

Our backpacks are ready to make their last trek of this trip, and we see the ever impressive Aqueduct as we leave the hostal.Spain-1040888rhp  We saunter to the Segovia, Spain bus station, drinking in the sights before we head to Madrid so we can fly back home to cold, wintry Minnesota.

Spain-1050295dmvWe pass by the butcher shop with its unique (to us) featured products.  What is that large white item in the window?  Pig stomachs? Brains appear to be on the lower shelf.

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Last chance for shopping. Spain-1040851 Spain-1040852
We’ve learned that completing challenges in life can be an empowering experience.

Spain-1040845Last chance for a group photo before we go our separate ways.

Spain-1050307I look out the bus window to see this trio sharing a good laugh.

Could it be the sight of Randy and his “harem” of women getting on the bus that is tickling their funny bones?

Spain-1040355dmvWe’ve been living out of backpacks for about 2 1/2 weeks now and the comfortable feeling of home is calling our names.  This whole Camino experience has had a surreal feel to it and I often had to remind myself that it wasn’t a dream.  The Camino has been a unique experience in that we not only visited Spain, but also visited with people from all over the world, joining us in the communal mission of reaching Santiago on the Way of St. James. Gives a United Nations feel to the Camino.  Plus, the side trip to Segovia was just icing on the cake.

Walking the Camino de Santiago may be the hardest thing I’ve ever done ( Even childbirth didn’t take this long).  Would I do it again?

In a heartbeat.

Day 9 ~ It’s all downhill from here.

No matter how long it takes…if you take one step at a time…you will eventually reach the finish line.
Spain-1040292dmvBerlin stops to chat before we start down the hill.

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The name Santiago goes back to the Apostle James (Saint James = Santiago) who went to this most north-western part of Spain, called by the Romans “Finis Terrae “end of the world,” to preach and convert people to Christianity.

We see Santiago in the distance. So close.

The population of the city in 2012 was 95,671 inhabitants.

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Cars speed down the busy highway as our path blends with the city.

Spain-1040309dmv I think any day the sun shines must be wash day.

Follow the arrow…follow the seashell.

Santiago, Spain is the most popular catholic pilgrimage in the world after Rome, which was founded after the discovery of the remains of the Apostle Santiago also known as Saint James of Compostela in the 9th century.

Santiago, Spain is the capital of the autonomous community of Galicia, in the northwest region of Spain in the Province of A Coruna. ~Wikipedia

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Randy is operating a Lost & Found on the Camino service. He found a nice glove on the trail and is trying to track down its owner. No success so we may be bringing a lone glove home. It would be a shame to throw away a perfectly good glove.

Spain-1040321dmvThis deluxe seashell is pointing to the real deal. Look closely and you can see the cathedral. Whoo-hoo! Excitement mounts as we envision the thrilling crowd ready to welcome us to the end.

Spain-1040324dmvShould we stop and get tattoos? We did keep our minds busy on the long days of walking the Camino by planning our tattoo design. I don’t think I would spend the money, so I’m merely dreamer.  Randy, on the other hand…

Spain-1040330dmvAren‘t you excited that we’ve finally arrived?  We don’t get much reaction from the locals as we stroll into the city center near the cathedral.

Spain-1040332dmvIs this the cathedral?  Nope.

Spain-1040335dmvThis looks like a church.  Could this be it?  Not very large, though. Hmmm…

Spain-1040336dmvThis must be the cathedral, but nobody is here. Where is the welcoming committee?   Where are the crowds of people ready to congratulate us on our feat? Why don’t we hear cheers of weary pilgrims, ecstatic that they’ve reached their final destination.

Blip…. Joan makes contact with the 2 way radio.  Where are you?

We describe our location and decide we must have come in on the back side of the church.  Sure not much action going on back here.

Spain-1040342popdmvThe sun continues to drop behind the steeples as we make our way to the front.

Spain-1040355dmvWe finally make our way to the front and meet up with Joan. We are thrilled that she is here to greet us and will forever appreciate sharing this moment with her. It would have been disappointing to stand there by ourselves and say, “Huh…there it is.”

But where is the rest of the gang?

Spain-1040359Next stop: turn in our stamped Pilgrim passports for our official certificate. On completion of your pilgrimage at Santiago de Compostela you can present your credential at the Pilgrim Office beside the Cathedral. You will then be given your Compostela certificate, the traditional document, in Latin, confirming your completion of the pilgrimage.
It is required that walkers and pilgrims on horseback must have completed at least the last 100km and cyclists the last 200 km in order to qualify for the Compostela.

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…and we STILL follow the yellow arrow. This time we go upstairs to look for the office.

Spain-1040362dmv50Randy uses the elevation map to show the official where we started. Randy has become quite adept at getting his point across with a vocabulary that includes, hola, adios, and vino.

Spain-1040365dmvWe sign in the distance traveled, and that we are from the U.S.A.  for their records.

Spain-1040368dmvThe final stamp.

Spain-1040369dmvThe official Compostela certificate in Latin.  Now we are legit.

Spain-1040363dmvWe put some money into the container and we head back downstairs.
We drag our weary, sweaty bodies to the nicest hotel of the trip and, low and behold, who should we find as we enter?

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We find the rest of the group is in the hotel bar with the Camino Celebration phase in progress. Excuse the noisy image since my flash didn’t fire, but you get the drift.

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Buen Camino!   El fin.

The following link is an interesting video of the Camino de Santiago from France to Finesterre.  The last half covers areas that we walked.

Video of a truly legit Pilgrim

Hmmm…Finnestere.  Maybe we should check that out, too?

Day 9… It’s what you CAN do…

…not what you can’t.

A man on a bicycle approaches us speaking Spanish and, through his photos, we understand his purpose.

Spain-1040239dmvRandy is signing the guest book of sales. This gentleman, on the bike, pedals the Camino selling t-shirts to fund trips to Para Olympic athletic events. His binder is full of news articles and photos of his participation to help prove that he is legit. Scam or not, we purchase a 10 Euro t-shirt and don’t regret it. You just have to trust once in a while.

Spain-1040242dmvcrPlus, he shares a cell phone photo of his baby AFTER the sale (Or, maybe he thought we’d buy more shirts).  I mention to Randy that it could be anyone’s cute little baby, but Randy chooses to trust that the story is all truth.

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I’m happy to discover that he is legit and our t-shirt purchase is going toward an honest endevour. Check it out at this website:  http://ionutpreda.com/

Spain-1040247dmvThe path is along the side of a tar road and the old wall has a sturdy appearance.
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The origin of the horreo is the horreum from the Roman Empire, and is an old technology that has nearly disappeared in the rest of the empire regions.

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A horreo is for storing grain off the ground to keep rodents out and the design dates back to the Celtic era. Some are quite substantial and made all of stone.

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Hmmm… So many signs to read. Oh, look left!! Oh, my goodness!!!

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This photo doesn’t really imply the height of this monument built to recognize the pilgrimage and a papal visit. We estimate it to be around 50 feet high.

Spain-1040262dmvMonte do Gozo (Hill of Joy) is a hill in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain. It is known for being the place where Christian pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James) get their first views of the three spires of their destination, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. At 370 meters (1,210 ft), it is the pilgrims’ last hill and last stop before reaching the cathedral, with about an hour’s walk still to go, and by tradition is where they cry out in rapture at finally seeing the end of their path.  ~Wikipedia

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Another pilgrim tells me that I should be able to see the cathedral from the monument hilltop area, but I can’t seem to make anything out.
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This modern sculpture utilizes all four sides in its design.

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The Capilla de San Marcos looks rustic, but isn’t all that old compared to what we’ve already seen.  Follow another path and it takes you to an albergue that has 500 hostel beds in rooms of 4 to 8 beds.

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We are not stopping here so I guess we’d better follow the arrow to the right and head down the hill.

One more hour of walking…

Day 9 ~ Close encounters of the urban kind

Life is what you make of it, always has been, always will be. ~ Grandma Moses

Spain-1040176dmvThe sun continues to shine and we still find rocks left on side markers and monuments. If the size of rock matches the sin…

Spain-1040170dmvThe path leads us on, just as it may have done when the apostle, James,  walked on this earth and preached in this region following the old Roman roads.  Kind of mind-boggling when you think of it.

Spain-1040180dmvI’d like to introduce you to Michigan. This husband and wife are walking the Camino with their son (Doctorate in music with a trombone emphasis) and his wife (Professional opera singer). We visit with the parents while we walk and later meet up with their son and his wife having lunch as we strolled by. Of course, we had to stop and visit. Gee, I wonder why we are so much slower than the rest of the Camino walkers?

Spain-1040179dmvThanks, Michigan, for taking our photo. Life IS what you make of it and our Camino experience is richer thanks to the people who took the time to meet us and share a moment in time.

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Evidence that we are getting closer to Santiago.

This Camino monument is at the entrance to the what is considered the Santiago metro area, even though is is still about 7 miles to the cathedral. It  depicts the traditional symbol of the Camino de Santiago, the carnet shell. The symbolic shell dates back to a  2,000 year-old legend. The apostle, James, returned to Jerusalum, but was decapitated and was said to have had his remains put on a boat and shipped off to Spain (where he had previously spent 12 years as a missionary). The boat is said to have arrived on the northwestern coast of Spain in Galicia, where carnet shells from the sea surrounded it.

In medieval times, the resourceful pilgrims walking to Santiago de Compostela were said to have used the shells to ladle out soup and coffee from pilgrim supporters along the way with their carnet shells. In modern times it is customary for pilgrims to hang carnet shells on their backpacks.

~ www.thebestwaycamino.com

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Crosses on the fence, placed by pilgrims, line our path.

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Is everybody happy? H-A-P-P-Y!

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Randy adds his cross to the display.

Spain-1040202dmvIf you linger too long at this spot a security official stops to survey your activity, so there must be something top-secret or hazardous along the path.    Spanish Area 51?  We must have appeared suspicious since we were being watched. Was there a sign that said No Photos that I missed?

Actually, it is the Santiago Airport that borders the Camino path so I doubt that we’ll see aliens or spies.

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We enter the town of Lavacola, Spain which is also near the Santiago Airport. This devout woman is arranging fresh cut flowers by the tomb in an old mausoleum.  Her spouse, child, parents…?

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That is quite the flower power display by the nearest tomb.

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Randy waits on the steps outside since his blisters are causing great discomfort todaySpain-1040377dmvblisters.
Ouch!  A member of our Camino group, Lori, was a nurse in a previous career and was brave enough to pop blisters for anyone needing this procedure. The blisters looked much worse a couple of days before this photo was taken.

Spain-1040211dmvcrWe no longer see the old, stone kilometer markers and our signs are now more contemporary. We see and hear the sounds of traffic nearby, jets landing and taking off, and I’m starting to miss the natural surroundings that take you back in time, and give you a mythical type of experience. The sounds and signs of the city are interrupting my bliss.

Oh, well.  It’s all part of the Camino experience and required in order to make it to the finish line.

Camino Day 8 ~ Meet South Korea, poultry and more.

It’s the afternoon of Camino day eight and we continue down the path.

Spain-1030952dmvOur new friends this afternoon are from South Korea. (From now on referred to as Korea) One is a software engineer for Samsung (My tablet is a Samsung) and the other works at the Seoul airport. They requested a photo with us so we reciprocated.  They started the Camino at the border of France and have been walking for 37 days.  I don’t know how they did the Pyrenees during the winter let alone O Cebreiro.  Tough cookies!

Spain-1030964dmvGrapevines are found on many of the fences. Homemade wine, perhaps?

Spain-1030968dmvSmall, elevated buildings appear in this region. A horreo holds grain and some are quite elaborate with crosses on the top.

Spain-1030973dmvFamiliar scene for those of us from the farm.

Spain-1030977dmvSomehow this character trying to entice me into the bar creeps me out.  Looks like something out of a horror movie!

Spain-1030980dmvYep, still creepy.

Spain-1030983dmvAre you sure this is the way?

Spain-1030988dmvLeft or right?  Hmmm…

Spain-1030989dmvA quick shower of rain, but the temps aren’t too bad. The path winds through old, old buildings in a small hamlet.

Spain-1030993dmvI’m surprised to find so many trees and flowers blooming this early in the spring.

Spain-1030996dmvI tried to find information on Outeiro, Spain but all the pilgrims must be too tired, at this point, to care.

Spain-1030999dmvIt may not be raining right now, but creeks are still running at full speed.

Spain-1040004dmvcrPretty poultry brighten our Camino experience.

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My grandma would say that the Bontons live here. Must be an affluent resident to have a palm tree growing in the yard, landscaping, security fencing and a nicer house than the neighbors.

Randy and I are lagging behind the rest of the group, as usual.  Randy checks in with the 2-way radio.

Randy to Hot Cross Buns… bleep!  Nothing

Again he tries to make contact:

Randy to Hot Cross Buns…bleep! 

Contact is made:  Garble, mumble, rumble, waa-waa-waa…boom,boom-boom, boom… RANDY!!!!

Randy looks at me with a puzzled look,  It sounds like a bar…

Camino Day 4 ~ Every rock has a story

It is  Camino day four and we are just leaving the hilly vineyard region past Cacabelos and discover a touching memorial along the side of the path.

Spain-1030606dmv Another pilgrim must have passed away near the vineyards.

Spain-1030606-2dmvI hope his daughter was able to finish the Camino and fulfilled his dream, as well as her own.

Spain-1030628dmvI don’t have many photos in Villafranca del Bierzo due to the constant rain, but I just can’t resist strolling ladies.

In the Middle Ages, the town of Villafranca del Bierzo is first mentioned in 791. The origin of the modern town is connected to the Way of St. James as a rest place for the pilgrims which started to reach  Santiago de Compostela from the 9th century.  ~Wikipedia

Spain-1030630dmvcrIf you want clean clothes you need to do the laundry, rain or shine. It is going to take some time to dry if the weather stays like this in Trabadelo, Spain.  The village is in the region of El Bierzo and Galician is spoken here.  It is still the province of Leon but we are getting closer to Galicia.

Spain-1030641Our Spanish is limited and her English is, too.  We still managed to have a wonderful conversation.

Spain-1030639She has to be one of the cutest ladies I’ve seen.  Her twinkling eyes and warm smile can sure brighten up a dreary day.  “Buen camino!”  are her parting words.

Spain-1030642dmvThe 17th century Parish Church of San Nicolas is in the background. This simple church contains a small seated image of the Virgin with Child dating from the Middle Ages.

Our gang is now traveling in three groups.  Kathy, Lori and Jane are together;  Randy and Joyce are bringing up the rear; but where are Joan and Diane?  Are they pursuing an alternative camino experience?  Are they sitting in a bar somewhere, too exhausted to go another step?  Have they been abducted?

Hmmm…