Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Back home!

With my combo of stand-by and waitlisting, I had a long wait in Singapore, but there were a few things that made it easier. I was able to take a shower in the transit hotel. Then there were a couple of 'rest areas' in Terminal 3 with big long stretch out chairs so I was able to lie there quietly for a while with my eyemask on, even though sleep still eluded me.

And they have some excellent services for stand-by passengers in Singapore, run through the Tourist Board. You can get a free shuttle to a couple of places in the city if you want. (I felt a bit too jaded for that one.) They also have a couple of free tours, and I took the "cultural" one at 4pm. They take you out through immigration, then onto an air-conditioned bus. We had an excellent guide who gave a real insight into Singapore's history. And it was amazing to be driven through Chinatown and Little India by bus. I had been to both places before, but in Singapore's heat, you tend to wander them slowly, not going too far away from the MRT station: in the bus we saw interesting parts of these areas that I hadn't passed through before.

Then when we got back to the airport, I didn't need to go airside straight away, and I was able to take advantage of the greater range of cheaper eating options in the basement of T3.

Finally it was time to board the flight back to Auckland. It was slightly shorter than the one from Europe and time seemed to pass a little more quickly, though sleep still eluded me! We had a strong tailwind across much of Australia and made good time. I found it strange that it was possible to cover more than 1000km in an hour when I had just taken many weeks to walk the same!!

In Auckland the people at AirNZ made the necessary changes to my final flight, but it seemed like all the flights to PN were full and I had a long wait. Then suddenly mid-afternoon, I heard my name paged...... Someone hadn't turned up for a PN flight, and the lady in the ticketing/coordination area had remembered me from the morning. Sudddenly I found myself issued with a new boarding pass, and I was off on the final leg home! I was so impressed by this excellent bit of personal service, especially since by this stage I was so very tired.

And so I have had two sleeps (of the jetlagged wake-up-early variety!) back home. And this morning I am even feeling slightly 'normal' again.....

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The long way home!

Monday we journeyed to Finisterre...by bus! It was a fitting end to the journey to walk to the lighthouse at the "end of the world".
And since then I have been "on the way home". I took two trains from Santiago back to Paris. The first, daytime, didn't take the same path as the Camino, but it traversed the same landscapes. First the lush green of hilly Galicia, then the flat more barren expanses of the Meseta, much drier than when we walked there a few weeks earlier. Lastly the climb up towards the edges of the Pyrenees, though this time it was often through tunnels when the going got steeper! I reached Hendaye after nearly 12 hours in the train, then slept in a couchette overnight to Paris.
My first job getting back to Paris was to visit Singapore Airlines to try and find an earlier flight home. I was very impressed by their service, but the flights out of Paris were very full and I remained wait-listed Thursday evening... I rested two days with ny friend at Bonnelles, a peaceful place outside of Paris, then headed to CDG to try and get a flight on stand-by. Success! And now I am at Singapore for 12 hours awaiting my onward flight to NZ. I will be tired at the end of all this, but eventually I will be home!!!

Sunday, July 06, 2008


We only intended going to Arzua from Melide, only 14km, but another 15km to the next albergue...But when we arrived and it was only 10.30am, and it wasn´t raining, and all these new pilgrim albergues were on the unattractive main street, we decided to continue....
Spent the night in a pleasant pension at Brea. Real sheets but the snorer #2 from hell- and again a woman! But that left us in striking distance of Santiago.
Next morning it was very humid for our last start, and before long it had turned to constant rain - not hard rain mostly, but more than drizzle. By the time we were getting closer to Santiago, it was very misty in the rain, and you could hardly see ahead at all.
So that led to an easy decision: we stopped at Monte de Gozo, five km from the Cathedral. I had heard about this place and it sounded like army barracks, but it was actually very pleasant. It is all divided up into well separated cubicles with room for eight in each, and the hospitalero was very friendly. Lots of people we had seen on the way also stopped here... Big advantage..you can stay three nights, so we were able to make the last walk with only a day pack, and leave the big pack here at MdG, and come back on the bus!!!
This morning we left soon after 7am so we could get to the Cathedral Square while it was still quiet. We met several people we knew on the way...
Soon after 9am I found the Pilgrim´s Office and joined the queue to get my Compostelle. The French couple just ahead of me in the queue knew how far I had walked, and pushed me in ahead of them when it was their turn... The young woman who served me was very pleasant. All the people on the list just ahead of me were students who had started in Sarria. My two credentials were full on both sides and didn´t need much checking, and I now am the proud possessor of a Compostella with my name on it in Latin!
Went to the pilgrim Mass at 12...jam-packed.. and lots of people circulating while it was on..... young pilgrims were given some parts to play. Spied a man we had met sometime ago on the track... so lovely to see him again. He finished several days ago, but walked on to Finisterre. (I will take the bus on Monday!!) Had lunch with him and L and D. A celebration!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Lestedo and Melide

Well, interestingly, the day after Portomarin, the tracks didn´t seem quite so crazy-full of people. So I guess we just struck more than a few weekend groups on Sunday, and/or that the big crowd has now moved further ahead than us! We are still finding it easy to get accommodation, and it seems like we are here in a ´lull´before the big holiday crowds descend.

Yesterday we left soon after 6am again, and it was quite misty. We headed down the hill to where a footbridge crossed over the dammed river/lake, and crossed it while it was still darkish. The next bit of the walk headed uphill through some beautiful forest, and for the first time I used my little torch to light the way a little.

We planned about a 20km stretch to Lestedo, in the countryside, rather than head for the next biggish town. The day´s walk passed through what was evidently a very historic part of the Camino, and we passed several signs that indicated where former hostels and cemeteries for pilgrims were located, as well as several small churches and very old looking crosses. There was Celtic settlement here as well. (In fact, every time I have heard it, the local music has been very similar to Irish music.)

We were very happy when we reached Lestedo, to find that the spot was indeed very tranquil. There was room for just 10 in the small albergue; the bunks were comfortable and well spaced out; the shower room was huge; and there was a comfortable lounge to relax in, as well as a large garden. Perfect for not walking far! And the promised rain never started until it began drizzling a little in the evening.
Someone told me that a group of ten(!!!) New Zealanders were staying in a Casa Rural not too far away, but so far I haven´t met up with any of them. I haven´t met 10 fellow Kiwis in the whole time I have been walking so it is amazing that there should be that many within a few hundred metres of me.

This morning at about 5am I had my first taste of proper Galician rain, when it woke me up as it thundered on the roof. Thankfully, by 6am it had all eased off again, and though we walked under skies that were threatening at times, we only needed our raincoats for a short period.

It was lovely walking again, a lot of it on leafy lanes and past little hamlets, and to be sure there are rich rural aromas in places. We crossed several old bridges and saw many small churches, and that always gives a sense that many pilgrims have passed this way in bygone centuries.

Melide is quite a big centre, but the path into it was very pleasant, partly through a forest and a little village where we had our credentials stamped in the church. Even when we need to walk near roads in Galicia, they are usually very quiet ones, and the path for us is well separated off.

We are staying in the Galician albergue here in Melide, and I wasn´t sure I was going to stay here as I had heard bad things about how dirty it was last year. However, although the bunks are quite cramped, the new organisation managing the Galician albergues appear to have cleaned things up a bit. There is a Christian group outside singing, and they have made Paella for lunch etc. I haven´t had any though as I don´t want to be hauled into a witnessing-type convo..... chicken that I am!!! (Actually I am probably safe as I doubt any of them speak English though I might be wrong!)

Only 50km left to walk, and we are expecting to walk into Santiago on Saturday.... Then I will hopefully head to Paris on Tuesday. And I am longing for some blob-out time. Still don´t know how long it will be before I can get a flight home.... have heard nothing more about my wait-listed dates so far.... Am looking forward to some nice long rests on my own bed though!!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


Yes... Spain won the European Soccer Cup! We went to bed early but the news was obvious when all the hooting and tooting started in the roads outside!

Started early today and it was cool to begin with. The last couple of hours getting into Portomarin have been quite warm though- but I gather we might be seeing some of the famous Galician rain tomorrow...
There were some lovely leafy walks down quiet country lanes again today. Coming into Portomarin there was less shade, then we came to a place with flags including a South African one... so Sil... I didn´t see Gordon but I enjoyed one of the cold drinks he provided and left him a note saying hi from you.

The nature of the trail has completely changed after Sarria, as many are just doing the last 100km for their Compostella. Track was crowded!!! And I found that a little hard to handle! However, we quickly found a quieter albergue with a cubicle for 3 that L D and I am sharing. Off for a shower in a minute.

Not sure when I am coming home. Tried to change my flight dates but things are full from Paris via Singapore to NZ all July. So time will tell! Might have to buy a little tent and go camping somewhere.....