From Bodenaya to Santiago de Compostela
Bodenaya - Campiello (24.5km) - Berducedo (27km) - Grandas de Salime - A Fonsagrada (24.9km) - Cadavo Baleira (24.1km) - Lugo (30.5km) - San Roman de Retorta (18km) - Melide (28.2km) - Salceda (24km) - Santiago de Compostela (28km)
Woohoo, I made it to Santiago! But I'm not actually done yet, I've got a few more days walking up to Muxia on the coast, then down to Finisterre (the end of the world).
Day 62 brought with it the Hospitales route, one of the most challenging ascents of any camino (or so claims the guidebook). This involved a 990m ascent up through mountains and past the ruins of three pilgrim hospitals, before descending 800m into a small town. It is strongly recommended that you only walk this route in excellent weather conditions, so Ro and I were a little edge as the weather had been mediocre at best in the days running up to our Mega Mountain Day. Thankfully the weather was on our side that day, and after climbing through cloud for the first part of the morning, we popped up above it, and were greeted by absolutely phenomenal views. It turned out to be one of the most beautiful and rewarding days of my journey so far! That evening, the rain and storms hit again and continued for the next 32 hours - just proving how extremely lucky we were to be able to do that mountain route! At the end of the day I got an extra treat, as I ran into one of the people I met on my camino last year, Sabrina, who is part of my 2014 Camino Family!
While good weather was essential for completing the Hospitales route, it has become particularly evident that beautiful walking doesn't necessarily hinge on blue skies and sunshine. Days 64, 65 and 66 were all very cold (by Spanish summer standards, 12-15degC) and very foggy! We were still up in the mountains, and could've had "sweeping views" according to our guidebook, but in reality we had three days of walking almost consistently in cloud! This proved to be incredibly atmospheric and peaceful, particularly through the forests. From time to time, after a steep ascent, we would discover we were on a ridge lined by wind turbines, their long, spindly shapes disappearing off into the cloud around us.
Another highlight was our brief stay in the walled city of Lugo. This is a very lovely city, made better by some lovely weather. But for us, it stood out due to the Roman Baths, where we spent the morning relaxing in the warm sulphuric water, letting it's medicinal properties work their magic on our tired bodies and broken feet!
Unfortunately, this day did not end quite as well as it started... The albergue we stayed at that night was the most appallingly inefficient and disorganised place - the man in charge (who we nicknamed Basil, after Fawlty Towers) had no record of our booking, so we were lucky to get a bed. Dinner then took a whopping three hours to be served, particularly torturous as we had eaten so little during the day. Still, we made it through without food poisoning or bedbugs (both a very real possibility), and look back on the events of that evening with a certain fondness...Reaching Melide on day 68 was a pretty momentous moment, as it is the point at which the Camino Primitivo meets the Camino Frances (the most popular camino and the one that I walked last year). Between Melide and Santiago there were hoards of pilgrims walking, though somehow Ro and I managed to avoid a lot of them (possibly though starting several hours later in the morning) and had a relatively peaceful way! These last two days were also very beautiful - there were woods full of the tallest eucalyptus trees I've ever seen, expansive Galician countryside of rolling hills and fields off into the distance, and little towns ideal for a quick coffee or cold drink! Finally, after over 1500km, I made it to Santiago de Compostela, the most famous endpoint of this pilgrimage. However, this is not actually where I am finishing - I still have almost 100km left to walk until I reach the end of the world, Finisterre. Regardless of this, it was still hugely exciting reaching Santiago! We went to the pilgrim mass and saw the Botofumeiro, the incense burner that swings over the congregation and we got our Compostelas, the certificates officiating our pilgrimage. Ro and I also went for coffee and ice cream with a few of our Primitivo friends, which was also a farewell as they aren't walking on to Finisterre!
Unfortunately, I've been plagued by bedbugs and, due to a ridiculous number of bites on my feet and ankles, ended up taking an extra rest day in Santiago. This means I'm no longer walking with Ro, as she went on ahead, but we've arranged to reunite in Santiago in a few days when we've both finished! So, now all that's left is a few days of walking to the sea... And then my journey of 1,000 miles will be over!