Friday, 23 August 2019

El Camino (Levante) Xunquiera de Arubia to the Poligono in Ourense and thence onto our Hotel which was right on the Camino route into central Ourense (approx 17 km).  Final full day - Friday 20th April, 2018

Watch out for the slight diversion to take you off the busier
road and sharp bend.  It takes a nice little detour on a prettier
route - go to the left of the barrier here and head down the hill
The detoured route off the main road
And so to the last full day of this particular section to the Camino.  It stared with a beautiful and cool morning.  The sun was due out but a haze kept the heat off, certainly for the first part of the morning.  This was one of those sections that was a bit daunting for me as I really do not like waking on the road, especially if it is likely to be busy.  Tar walking is very tiring on the feet and body and pretty demoralising.  Despite this, the walk was actually remarkably peaceful.

 The road was not busy all the time and although quite a few lorries use it - still all in relation to the railway construction - they were noisome but supportive - hooting loudly with thumbs up to all those walking the Camino.  This is what the Camino is all about - or at least in part.  There is a connection between people, a warmth and support - it feels nurturing even when walking alone.  This echoed the sentiments offered by the elderly lady in the mountains earlier on the trip when she asked me the equivalent of was I walking "by myself" which is different (to her) from walking it "alone" saying "you are never alone, God is always with you".

About half way along the route is a fabulous little cafe where they also do sellos.  On weather like the day held it was nice to sit outside and relax.  The coffee was good and it provided some cool shade as the day heated up.  Look out for Cafe Bar Manuel (no not that one!!)... A Peregrina was coming up behind me but she must have decided to stop as she never passed me.  I seem to be first out today and stayed ahead - unusual for a change as usually I get overtaken which always amuses me as people thing I walk fast!  I don't see the point of rushing - there are too many fascinating things to see and amazing views to take in, scenes to record and photographic memories to record.

Despite the routes starting to converge on Santiago, there are still not lots of pilgrims.  Apart from spying the one near the cafe, I walked totally on my own today.

Love these wonderfully cold fountains for both refreshment and cooling off - sweet and delicious spring water
One diversion (which I added to the map) was to "San Xillou" (like Saint Gillou - the namesake or our favourite French character in Spiral)... It did have more wet and mud, but this time I managed to keep my shoes dry!  I passed the East Tunnel Mouth and then a km later the West Tunnel Mouth of the new high speed rail link to Ourense.

There were some beautiful watering holes - such as that in the photograph above, with icy cold refreshing water.  As I entered the outskirts of the city and countryside turned to town, the shell markers were laid as tiles in the centre of the pavements.  Large yellow arrows were painted along walls or in the middle of roundabouts.  The markers in Ourense, or certainly on the entry when heading to Santiago, are very clear - much better than many other cities I have passed through.  Maybe this is because it is a main entry point for many who walk only the last 100km of the Camino and the fact that many routes converge here.

Life size cow statues - painted ceramics (?)
There was one weird moment before reading the poligono - a house with a large field attached to it that had decided to go a bit "Milton Keynes" on the Spanish countryside...  The cows you see in the picture are statues!  Initially I had looked at them and not taken much heed, but as I passed I thought, that's weird, they seem remarkably still. Then.. hmm, they don't seem to have moved since I first noticed them?!

Our favourite pulperia!
By the time I reached the industrial estate it was hot, hot hot and I did start to feel tired, flagging as my feet pounded the pavement and tarmac.  On reaching the final hill up to the hotel the thermometer hit 31C, I much prefer walking in temperatures that do not exceed 28C!  I couldn't believe that as I got closer the route actually passed right by our favourite restaurant - the pulperia!  There, were the arrows and markers, clear when walking but which we has missed when visiting the bar to eat!
Opposite the road where
we turn to our hotel and
starting point for the last 5km
into Ourense. 

Outside the hotel - passport stamped
and Robertson Male with me
To note, there is a great bar on the right just after the big round-a-bout just before you head up the hill toward the Pulperia (if you are in time to go in for lunch - do so!)... The bar sells caña for only €1.00 and provides sellos for Pilgrims.  Missed that!  I had decided to just do one at the hotel as it is only 200m from the Camino.  After one last hot push, I reached the top and headed to our hotel - a quick change and then out to another of our local cafes for white wine, lunch and calamares.

At the top of the hill - 200m from the hotel - the Eurostars Auriense

El Camino (Levante) Hotel Eurostars Auriense to the Cathedral (the last 5km to the centre).  Saturday 21st April, 2018

The feet were definitely a tad sore when I woke up in the morning - I think that 17km of pounding tar was a km too far, but I made it and today M joined me for his first walk since the first day after resting his foot.  Also, the first time we have walked a committed distance together, deciding to take a taxi back to the hotel from the Cathedral.

It was beautifully cool and dry with an astonishingly pretty walk into the city.  Unexpected and therefore even more special.  One of the "unexpected" delights was that of "Sex-Elbow" - actually Siexalbo and it's Panadería Roberto with a friendly and delightful baker - maybe Roberto?!  He invites peregrinos in for their sello and no doubt realises that his pastries will be too enticing to resist!

Panadería Roberto welcomes pilgrims
The aforementioned "divine"
The pastries are to die for!  I had a little twist with chocolate on the outside and stuffed with a sort of caramel. Divine!  Siexalbo itself is a beautiful old town, mostly restored to former glory and absolutely a place I would love to have a town house if I won the lottery!  The area of Galicia, the food and Ourense itself are impressive and a real find, a little bit of relatively unexplored Spain perhaps, certainly by British tourists.

A frieze on one of the walls is of pilgrims pointing along the Camino showing the way into Ourense and then on, beyond to Santiago.

Frieze pointing Pilgrims onward toward Santiago

We passed by more huge and magnificent houses.  One very imposing building had a "fuentes" of St James and a statue of Santiago himself.  We thought the owners must be very pro-Camino and the house itself overlooks the route.

Be very careful around Santa Agueda!  It is very easy to get lost here.  As soon as you leave the main road, there is a left to take you down and then under a railway bridge.  It goes behind the houses and the marker can be rather over grown.  We ended up going some distance out of our way - and because markers can be a little more elusive in towns, we didn't question the fact we hadn't seen one for a while.  We had to backtrack some distance in order to find it.

St James in the cathedral
in Ourense.  

The cathedral was magnificent with many references to St James.  They are also one of the most welcoming cathedrals so far with concessions for pilgrims and happy to stamp the passport - €3.50 rather than €5.00 and that is still much less than the other cathedrals which, like the UK, charge more than one might expect!

The statue of St James in the cathedral is the "only" one to show him triumphing over evil with his sword.  The portico (with St James) is apparently second only to the one in Santiago.

With my sello and the
Robertson Mala outside
the cathedral
The taxi back to the Eurostars was only €11.00 in April 2019 and the Eurostars Auriense was excellent value - allowing us to use one central location to walk this entire section and stay in comfort - only €465 for 10 nights for 2 people.  The room was spacious and clean and very comfortable.

From the cathedral we decided to walk up to the Monastery of San Francisco which has an albergue.  It has the most magnificent cloister (the third panorama below) but finding it can be confusing as the signs are not entirely clear and it is quite a hike from the cathedral!  The sign seems to suggest you go all the way around the round-a-bout and exit eg as though leaving at 3 O'Clock if you enter at 6 O'Clock but in reality it is more like "go straight across"!

The first two panoramas that follow show the magnificence of Ourense Cathedral

Cloister of San Francisco Monastery - Ourense
The end of this section of
the Camino - mala and sello
outside Ourense Cathedral
Treating ourselves to a special meal out to celebrate - in
the lovely town of Allariz


View from the restaurant in Allariz

With a few hours to spare before our flight, we took lunch
out at the Faro (lighthouse) at A Coruńa.  The ONLY
redeeming feature in this carbuncle of a town!  

The beach just outside A Coruńa - about the only pretty sight
in this dreadful and godforsaken buboe of a town

Before heading home we had some time to kill and went out to the lighthouse at A Coruńa on our way to the airport.  Oh my word - what a horrendous town!  I am sure it must have a high suicide rate - the buildings are depressing and just awful!  Talk about concrete jungle with no character... I couldn't even bring myself to photograph it, it was so horrendous.  The little bit of beach we found was the only redeeming feature!

Anyway, we did manage to find a pretty part of spend our last few hours before heading back to the UK and to plan for the final stage of the Camino.  I really want to complete it in the autumn - my favourite time - so it's likely to be a whole year away (and a bit more) before we return to this beautiful province in Spain.

See you in Santiago!

Thursday, 22 August 2019

El Camino (Levante) Vilar de Barrio to Xunquiera de Arubia (approx 15.3km) also going a little further than planned as I had finished ahead of where I had originally planned my finish...  Thursday 19th April, 2018

Wow - what a fabulous walk!  The best yet - for "pretty"ness and with interesting signs, places and history.  Big houses, huge plots and extensions - most like for extended families.  There were many big wash areas still in use.

It was a cool start to the day, with storms due later by around 19.00 but perfect walking temperatures for me in the morning.  It got up to around 26C but with some cloud it was a very comfortable walking day.

The flooded way continued for some distance!
No choice but to wade through... it doesn't look
it here, but it is much higher than the ankle part
of even "proper" hiking boots!  
Bisom brooms - love them, made
by the local ladies and used for
sweeping outside their houses.
Reminded me of Flora making them
in RSA!
There were many old paths and mostly the route is downhill or on the flat, a welcome break after the strenuous mountains of the last few days.  There were so many pretty wooded ways between but the open flat and flooded plains for agriculture (including some delightful stagnant ditches!) reminded me of the way through Valencia many, many km ago!  The worst of these flooded and stagnant ditches was just before Bobadilla.  With all the rain it had gone across the path for a couple of hundred metres!  Too dangerous to remove shoes incase of barbed wire, metal or sharp rocks in the path, I had to grit my teeth and just wade through!  Even with proper high ankled walking boots, no one would get through here without getting wet feet.  The flood was too deep to do anything other than wade through and it was way too boggy to go around the outside or there were thick hedges, deep ditches and crops preventing access to a way "around".

Amazing - had been wondering what these were as I passed
many in this area.  Some collapsed and some still in use...
Hórreos (see info below)... storage areas for harvests, many
containing corn cobs.  Basically on "huge" saddle stones!
Used to protect from rats etc.. some even contained chickens
As I strode though the water was icy cold!  Once one accepted that there was no option, that's all there was to it - grin and bear it, then it was a matter of just getting through, not worrying about it and planning to deal with it asap - hopefully at a bar in Bobadilla!  I knew I had spare socks (always carried) extra "drying" non talc type talc.  The worst part was actually the "squelch" once I had waded out the other side and which continued for several km before entering the village!

Think that is "actually" a
picture of me!  
As I entered Bobadilla (delighted to know there would be a pilgrim bar from the sign I had passed... there was another big wash place.  This was situated opposite the bar which Michael had found and was waiting for me with news that there would be hot coffee and "plug" a roll to eat (like the bocadillo) while I changed my socks!  The wash place had been in use just before I arrived - it's amazing these are still part of daily life here.

I don't think I have ever been more pleased to see a Pilgrim
Bar... and it was open.. yay! 
Old ploughs I think - hanging on the
wall of a building 
My plans for my shoes actually worked!  I stuffed them with about a million paper towels while enjoying my coffee and plug, changed into my clean socks - I can not stress how valuable it is to carry lightweight, quick dry, hiking socks!  It's worth carrying extra pairs if you are doing any long distance walking!  Don't skimp on socks and it's well worth carrying the non-talc extra drying talc type stuff!  It works for both damp and hot sweaty feet!  Great for preventing blisters too and keeping the feet comfortable over the day.  Also great against any hot "rash" from sweat that doesn't easily evaporate in the heat - especially in all those personal nooks and crannies including arm pits of course!  Hmmm - the more intimate and less glamorous part of walking El Camino!
Another hórreo

Hórreo with scallop directional
Camino sign
Once changed into my socks, walking shoes dealt with having absorbed most of the excess water on the paper towels, I was fit to go again and actually, in the heat of the day and with that bit of time taken to care for both feet and shoes, they were pretty much dry at the end of the day's walking.  I certainly didn't have any rubbing although the replacement socks were damp.

The wash place outside the Pilgrim Bar
Think this was a well...?
From here on it was simply beautiful.  The ancient paths were a delight - old curb stones and an easy walking pace through trees.  There was yet another old, but abandoned wash place as I left Padroso in the shade of a wood.  It was a "double" washing area and I'm not sure that the panorama I took does it justice reproduced below.  This was one of those ancient places, once somewhere women would gather and chat, exchange stories and news and socialise.  Now, unless one is walking the Camino it will never be seen.  That's one of the things I love about this walk - the many hidden pieces of history that are off the beaten track, totally off the tourist routes and special to those who choose to walk this way.
More accommodation for anyone looking - not listed in the guide book

A little about Hórreos
From Wikipedia...  The oldest document containing a reference to them is apparently from the 13th Century...

An hórreo is a typical granary from the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula (mainly Galicia, where it might be called a Galician granaryAsturias and Northern Portugal), built in wood or stone, raised from the ground by pillars (pegollos in Asturianesteos in Galicianespigueiros Portugueseabearriak in Basque) ending in flat staddle stones (vira-ratos in Galician, mueles or tornarratos in Asturian, or zubiluzea in Basque) to prevent access by rodents. Ventilation is allowed by the slits in its walls. Similar buildings (barns) on staddle stones are found in Southern England.
Hórreos are mainly found in the Northwest of Spain (Galicia and Asturias) and Northern Portugal. There are two main types of hórreorectangular-shaped, the more extended, usually found in Galicia and coastal areas of Asturias; and square-shaped hórreos from AsturiasLeón, western Cantabria and eastern Galicia.
Route to the hidden wash area
There are several types of Asturian hórreo, according to the characteristics of the roof (thatchedtiled, slate, pitched or double pitched), the materials used for the pillars or the decoration. The oldest still standing date from the 15th century, and even nowadays they are built ex novo. There are an estimated 18,000 hórreos and panerasin Asturias, some are poorly preserved but there is a growing awareness from owners and authorities to maintain them in good shape.
The longest hórreo in Galicia is located in CarnotaA Coruña and is 35 m long.
Just loved today's walk
Other similar granary structures include Asturian paneras (basically, big hórreos with more than four pillars), cabaceiras (Galician round basketwork hórreo), trojes or trojs in Castile or silos.

Many of the hórreos had crosses on them (I am guessing this was for blessing/protection of the crop inside) and some were highly decorated.

Almost every house seems to have one and apparently there is a growing awareness that they should be protected.  Some have wood slats and others terracotta - I assumed in order to allow the air to circulate so that the crop did not get mildew or rot.  I think this is due to a longer damp season here and to the many floods!  In the UK I discovered when walking Hadrian's Wall that in the north of England, the barns are build with what look like many long slits or elongated pigeon holes in the walls - this too was to air the crop inside in a much wetter northern climate.

Panoram of the double lavadera - wash area... it has actually come out much better than I thought!

The photos capture a little better how delightful the walk was today and surprisingly "free" from peregrinos!  We are definitely getting to the business end of the Camino - often people only walk the last 100km, plus many of the routes converge (as shown on the sign with the fingerpost)... so more and more pilgrims start to come together as they near Santiago.  It's one reason why I would like to finish mine in the autumn - not only as it is one of my favourite times for walking in Spain, but I am hopeful that there may perhaps be a few less pilgrims on route.

Another panorama of today's stunning walk - and a great directional rock, one of the "artist' stones/carvings along the
Galician route.  

Close up of the artists route marker

Caminos coming together
It's quite amazing that we are so close to the final 100km of this camino that started so long ago!

The final descent to Ourense marks quite a significant end to this particular trip and heralds the final stage is just in sight.  I headed down, down, deeper and down for two whole days and the flat lands of the plains of the Rio Miño that runs through Ourense.

The photo of me with the carved St James (one of the artistic markers on the Galician route is similar to the one at A Canda where I started the camino this time.  I later saw another in Xunquiera, with a yellow painted finger on a pointing hand - also pictured below.  That was quite amusing!

There was a perfect end to a hot day in Xunquiera with an ice cold caña.  A bearded peregrino also sat next to us - glad of a beer.  He wished me Buen Camino and looked hard and wiry - like he has walked many caminos and probably has just done the entire Levante (or other route that joins it) in one hit!

I just LOVED this part of the walk today
Ha briefly left his beer, trustingly, to nip to the Spar and came back with provisions.  As I set off he was on a bench having lunch and an old guy leaving his walking stick next to him was in a full spate of an argument with a house jacketed older lady!  The peregrino continued to eat, almost oblivious!  He was obviously in the right moment and frame of mind from his camino!  A little distance from the arguing pair was another person - just standing by observing, I assume for the pure entertainment of it all.  It was quite fascinating and of course very "latin".  I initially thought she was part of it - but after a while she left, wishing the couple "¡allegria!" (enjoy!)  I would love to know what it was about - young flossy and an affair?  Grandchildren in a Romeo and Juliet affair?...

I can't quite believe that there
is a suggestion to find an
albergue in Allariz!  We were
to go there later, but it is a little
way off the camino! 
Knowing a decent amount of Spanish means you get so much more from your walk, however, a heated, passionate argument at top speed takes some understanding!  I did pick out the choices sear words though - haha!

Here he is - St James again, part of the same artist's
route markers for Galicia

bench - taken specially for Jayne

Entering into Xunquiera

St James with his yellow pointy finger! 

We decided we wanted something to eat and headed out toward Allariz although we didn't know that that is where we were going to end up.  Wow - what a find and what super tapas.  Definitely worth the diversion and we parked next to a beautiful convent at the top of the square.  The tapas we found at a heavenly local bar was delicious with a lovely barman who served us crisp white wine, croquettes, bocorones (one of our favourites) and squid - called chiperones in Galicia.

I would thoroughly recommend it - Cafe Bar Cultural Roi Xordo - Praza dos Mesóns s/n, 32660 Allariz, Ourense.

We also found an asador advertised on our search for a bar for lunch, they roast to order and so we put in a request for conejo so that we could have a room picnic.  We had found them (Pita Pita - por encargo) via directions from wonderful warm and friendly locals going us directions.  After ordering we headed off to get salad and a bottle of red to add to our picnic before returning to the asador to pick up our rabbit.  The menu was mouthwatering and I'd love to try all they had to offer - in particular the picantones and cordonice.

Perfect day - perfect walk, perfect tapas, great people, perfect dinner.