Continued from previous post Walking Across Spain (El Camino de Santiago): Week 3
Day 22: Astorga to Rabal
“Easy 24 k day today. Weather was perfect, although it was a bit chilly in the morning. Passed by a dude dressed in medieval garb who had a pet falcon that I had to take a picture with; the highlight of the day since the rest of it was pretty uneventful. It’s getting down to the wire. A little more than a week left. We have the highest point to climb tomorrow; higher than any point so far on this camino. Have I changed since the beginning of the camino? I’m not sure. I don’t think so. If anything, I’m not wowed by much. I have no desire to see the cathedrals or the towns like everyone else. You’ve seen one cathedral, you’ve seen them all.”
What I Honestly Think of The Camino So Far: Random Blurbs
- The first week was great! I really enjoyed that.
- This is becoming a chore now.
- Too many gross, old people.
- A rare sort of them are very cool though. (Toronto Ladies)
- Why am I not getting physically wrecked like everyone else?
- Earplugs are my new best friend.
- I would never do this again.
- The other pilgrims are very odd…or maybe it’s just me.
- The old, run down villages are very interesting to me
- I will remain sober until Santiago (to keep costs down).
- The camino is fine…I just wish there was more variety of scenery
- Lots of Americans and Italians here
Day 23: Rabanal to Colombrianos
“Today was mostly a great day! We reached the highest point of the entire camino, whilst walking through the awesome scenery. And for the first time in days, the three of us (Jon, Ethan, me) stayed together…up until we reached our destination, Ponferrada. Ethan had his lost baggage shipped to a donativo on the outskirts of the big town. I was sure if I followed the seashells, it will lead me to an albergue in the city center (they usually do). Instead, they led me straight out of Ponferrada and a couple of kilometers out into Colombriana, a much smaller village. No turning back now. I stayed the night there and told the others that I would meet them tomorrow in Villafranca. My blister bubble was bigger than ever!”
Day 24: Colombrianos to Villafranca
“I left around 6:10 with my bubble blister slightly paining. The walk today was easy, but I had a slight limp the last half of it. Still, I made it to Villafranca very early before Ethan and Jon arrived almost three hours later. Using Jon’s medical kit, I was able to pop the blister and seal it. Hopefully, it doesn’t cause me any more trouble, as I hear tomorrow is a lot tougher. Not sure why. There’s an old man who looks like Mick Jagger, but with ivory-white hair who always happens to be in my dorm. Problem is, he snores SO LOUD. Also, there is this guy from Texas who is super obnoxious and he’s stuck in our same dorm. He talks just for the sake of talking. My group decided to leave early the next morning. Should be our last hard day tomorrow. I must stick to a 25 euro per day budget to avoid going to the ATM again.”
Today, we met two other pilgrims in our albergue, Wyatt and Kyle, who would soon join our party, unbeknown to all of us. It just happened naturally.
Day 25: Villafranca to O Cebreiro
“Alright, today was on the more difficult side. I attribute that to the continuous inclines and the beating sun. We left around 5am up and down a mountain and along the side of a surprisingly peaceful highway. As usual, I was the first one to arrive at the destination. O Cebreiro is a cool community on top of a mountainous hill, so the efforts made today was worth the rewards. Our hostel was so-so, but it was the only hostel in town. Also, there is no wi-fi here, which may be a good thing. I’ve been keeping under my budget of 25 euro, even staying under 20 euros. No more hard days. Smooth sailing to the end. Also, my blister pain was absent today. Thank goodness or else it would have taken me forever to get up here.”
Yes, today was the first day that I actually absorbed my surroundings and chilled. It helped not to have any wifi and it also helped to be with fresh people, along with my usual crew.
More Random Thoughts
- There is ice cream everywhere, but they’re always all the same.
- The Francis Route is commercialized.
- Red chairs in the distance are great for attracting weary travelers.
- The beat down villages are cooler than the big towns IMO.
- I recognize many people along the route, always saying hi, but I never know their names.
- Northern Spain is super scenic. Most of it anyway.
- The yellow arrows lead you in the right direction, but sometimes Google Maps takes you in a faster direction.
- The one day I was without wi-fi, was the one day I just sat outside and enjoyed my surroundings (O Cebreiro).
Day 26: O Cebreiro to Triacastela
“Today was a great day. The weather was foggy, so we were never hot. We also joined groups with a few pilgrims we met a couple of days ago in Villafranca (Wyatt, Kyle, Zanny, and then Izzy). We got a nice albergue in Triacastela and enjoyed the relaxing day. Zanny made dinner for all of us at the albergue’s kitchen. Jonathan made plans to get an Airbnb for the seven of us at the end for Santiago. Might be a better option because then we will have no curfew and can celebrate freely. Sounds like a good idea.”
Me, Ethan, Jon, Wyatt, Kyle, Zanny, Izzy
Day 27: Triacastela to Sarria
“Today, another easy, yet foggy day. Our group of seven marched at their own pace as the sun came up to our early approach to Sarria. This town would be the starting point for many new pilgrims who start here to do the last 100 km of walking to Santiago. Sarria is a bigger town with plenty of amenities to pick up. The receptionist at out albergue suggested we reserve from now on. But a man who is on his fifth camino said that we should have no problems without reserving. I think we’ll just roll with it for now. It’s still relatively early in the season. I bought three bottles of vino tinto for 3 euros total and shared it with the others. Had a great night with shots supplied by the albergue, but I went to bed early.”
Day 28: Sarria to Portomarin
“I woke up a lil later because my earplugs work so darn well. I didn’t hear the others, sans Ethan, get up and leave. When I caught up with them, they thought I had planned to sleep in because normally I’m the first one up. It began to thunderstorm as we walked. I used my poncho for only the second time on this whole camino. We arrived easily to Portomarin and plopped into the coziest beds we’ve had thus far on this camino. There weren’t as many new pilgrims in sight, probably because we were still so early in the trek. The end is near and man am I looking forward to it. The others in our group, except for Ethan and Jon, don’t want it to end because they will have to go back home to real life. Me on the other-hand, I’m ready to be done because I have so many more countries to explore, new and old!”
Day 29: Portomarin to Palas de Rei
“Wyatt, Kyle, and I left early in the morning, with the others trickling in later on. We made it to our destination at eleven on the dot. Wyatt and Jon both suspect they have bed bugs, so proceeded to clean everything they have. I gave a passerby my walking stick earlier today. She needed it more than me and I was glad to get rid of it. I missed it for a few minutes, but I’m glad that my right hand is now free.”
Day 30: Palas de Rei to Arzua
“Today we meant to go to Rivadiso, but the albergues were full, so we went onwards about 2 km more to Arzua. It’s exciting knowing we only have two more days of walking! Frankly, I’m over getting up at 5:30 am every morning and walking miles upon miles. Another easy day checked off. We decided as a group that we really don’t care for the food on the camino. It’s all the same! Boccadillos, pilgrim’s menu, salad, raciones. All day. Everyday. We are all looking forward to some other international cuisine! Almost done with this shit!”
Day 31: Arzua to O Podrouza
“Quite possibly, the easier day on the whole camino. Kyle, Jon, and I were ahead of the pack. I walked fast again and ended up splitting off the camino way, but I ended up taking a faster route along with a stray dog that followed me all the way to O Podrouza. Eventually, the others caught up, sans Zanny and Izzy, who went further ahead. We stayed in the IKEA of albergues. How am I feeling now? Great because this thing is over tomorrow! Spain’s great, but I’m over the crap food, the walking, and the commercialized camino. Bye Spain bye.”
Day 32: O Podrouza to Santiago!
I didn’t write anything this day.
I didn’t write anything that day. I think we were too busy celebrating and I was mentally checked out. From what I recall, it went something like this. We all went our own pace and one by one arrived in Santiago! We got our final stamps in our passport and received our Compostella, a certificate indicating that we successfully walked 799 km and completed our pilgrimage. We spent a couple more days in the city, reuniting with other pilgrims we came across along the way. It felt almost like a high school reunion and we all just graduated. One by one, I said my goodbyes to Jon, Wyatt, Kyle, Izzy, Zanny, a few of the other pilgrims including Christina and of course to Ethan as we all went our separate ways. Some were going back home, and like me, some were continuing their trip.
As I’m writing this, it’s already October. So I had plenty of time to reflect on my experience on the camino. And while typing up what I wrote in my journal, I realized “Wow, I’m complaining a lot about the camino”. But now that I had time to let it soak in, it really wasn’t all that bad and I’m glad that I did it. But would I do it again? Heck no!
Many pilgrims say that the camino changed their lives and changed them for the better. As for me, I wouldn’t say the camino changed my life, but I will say it helped me learn how to be a little more patient. Walking with Ethan almost every day helped me deal with that, as he and I have almost completely opposite personalities and opinions on life, but I learned about him more as the camino went on and I can say that I definitely ‘get’ him tons better than I did before the camino began. He has become a good friend of mine and we are already making plans for our next trek somewhere in South America in the future.
I do recommend the camino if anyone is remotely interested. It is a unique experience and I think if I came straight from home to Spain, and went straight home afterward, it would have been a bit more special for me. Don’t go with a group initially. Go alone or with maybe one other person and then meet all sorts of random personalities along the way.
On another note, if I seemed uninterested in seeing the sights like the cathedrals and the towns…well, it’s because I was. And it showed. The others thought I may have seemed bored but I will tell you, I’m over cathedrals and temples. I’ve seen hundreds. Just like how the safaris I went on in Africa, completely ruined zoos for me. Traveling everywhere all the time kinda does that to you.
I flew back to England, back to Lucy, to chill there and retrieve the rest of my belongings. Plans have changed. I meant to continue backpacking through Europe, but instead, I decided to return back to Nepal for a little r & r.