A bridge over the river Minho marks our border crossing into Galicia, Spain. Fortress remains on both sides of the river remind us of the turbulent history of this region. While the landscape is quite similar to Portugal the architecture is remarkably different. Particularly noticeable is the shape and colour of the churches and the absence of the now familiar blue and white tiles.
Images elicited by the following extract from “The River and the Book” by Alison Croggon reflect well some of our memories.
The old quarter… a tangle of alleyways… always strung with washing. Many… buildings were once grand houses with wide courtyards and graceful windows covered with iron grilles and carved wooden shutters but they have long lost their grandeur: the bright paint has faded and the stucco has fallen off the bricks and the gardens are gone wild with brambles and prickly pear.
A haiku from one group member enhances this image:
Tangled up in vines
A little house is waiting
For a hungry goat
The days fly quickly as our feet take us ever closer to the ancient pilgrim city. Each day brings new surprises. A walking pole dropped by one of us floats under the historic Roman bridge in Pontevedra; the chance, in Caldas de Rei, to bathe our feet like Royalty, in a traditional washing trough filled with hot spa water; a village festival enlivened by a brass band; a far too generous feast prepared by one hotelier is not wasted but shared with regular patrons.
Instead of following the well trodden path from Padron to Santiago we diverge to walk the last three days through lush forests and remote villages on the Camino Finisterre. First stop the famous lighthouse!
A gentle breeze cools the air as people walk past on their way either to or from the lighthouse at the end of the world. … The mist envelopes the sea… with no horizon at this mysterious shrine of the Celts which served as a place of pilgrimage before it was claimed by the Romans, and later the Christians. The hills above the lighthouse are filled with yellow gorse and dotted with large granite boulders encrusted with lichen.
… Moved to tears I walked along the edge of the world listening to a young man play a haunting tune on the bagpipes. His dog nestled into me as if to comfort me and I thought of the thousands of people who left Galicia for the new world, uncertain and afraid, but full of hope for a better life.
One Travel Enriched team member walked the full circuit between Santiago and Finisterre. With long distances between daily rest stops the return journey provides new challenges. Few people walk The Way from Muxia to Santiago. Camino signage is not well marked but the rewards are bountiful. Peaceful woodland paths, birdsong, babbling streams and the occasional donkey! The rare chance of solitude and time to wonder. The hospitality and generosity of families who open their homes to pilgrims in need of food and lodging.
So far the weather has been perfect. Our spirits are not dampened on our last walking day despite the prediction of rain and thunder! We commence in the charming village Ponte Maceira said to be the most beautiful in all Galicia. But the rain holds off as we walk the final 17 kms to our destination. Our smiles on arrival are evident to all. And finally… a poetic summary from one happy traveller.
Our way (with thanks to F. Sinatra)
And now, the end is near
And I know my feet are hurtin
My friends, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
We’ve walked a walk that’s full
We’ve traveled each and every highway
But more, much more than this
We did it our way
Wrong turns, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I followed those yellow arrows
Then called Diane to avoid detention
Diane and Sol planned each charted course
Each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this
But still some did it their way
Yes, there were meals, I’m sure you knew
When we bit off more than we could chew
But through it all, when there was wine
We drank it up and felt quite fine
We faced it all and we stood tall
And did Caminho our way
Yes there was pain and aching feet
And giant blisters and too much heat
But through it all when it was tough
We didn’t give in or say enough
We walked it all and had a ball
We did the Camino!
Thanks to Peter L., Sue H. and Christine G. for their photo contributions; to Sue H. and Tess E. for sharing images and words; and to Glenda L. for her fine poetic tribute.