Our final days in Portugal were a rich kaleidoscope of colour – walking peacefully on forest tracks and beside vineyards and cornfields ready for harvest. Our last night was spent in a small family run guesthouse located right on the Camino trail. After a welcome swim we enjoyed pre-dinner drinks al fresco followed by a delicious meal of local delicacies prepared by our generous hosts.
Up early next day to avoid the late afternoon heat our forest track led us to the border crossing into Spain – a high bridge with magnificent views of the countryside along the River Minho. First stop, Tui with its sympathetic mix of architecture from centuries past. Some of us had the good fortune to spend the night in the oldest Jewish house in this historic border town.
Day 7 provided a break from long distance walking. Traveling beside the river we then climbed up through the early morning mist to the pre-Celtic archeological site of Santa Trega. How fortunate that our Guide is an Anthropologist who has studied Archeology. Morning coffee in the pretty coastal town of A Guardia and a short stop at the historic waterfront monastery in the tiny seaside village of Oia provided some insights into daily life. It was unanimously agreed that a long lunch of tapas washed down with Albarino wine was a highlight of the day.
Since then the days have flown. Our daily routine of: luggage down by 8.00am (to be transported to our next hotel); a continental breakfast; walking at 9.00am for 1.5 to 2 hours then a café stop; more walking until lunch around 1.00pm; and walking the final stretch to our next destination, hardly varied. Shorter walking distances and transferring by vehicle to our hotel was always an option.
Despite the routine the content of each day continued to afford us with new experiences.
At last, with tears of joy, relief and amazement at our individual achievements we arrived in the World Heritage listed city of Santiago de Compostela. A group dinner of fresh seafood in an atmospheric setting was a fitting end to a most memorable experience. Next day we joined the midday mass with pilgrims from all over the world who congregated in the 11th C. cathedral to celebrate the end of a unique journey.
Our last days together were spent visiting the picturesque Finisterre peninsula. A trip to the famous lighthouse situated on a point once thought to be ‘the end of the earth’ provided fantastic vistas along the Atlantic coast. The final stage took us along secluded forest tracks towards the small coastal town of Muxia with its dramatically sited sanctuary of the Virgin of the Boat built on the rocky headland.
And so to our collective memories that will be long lasting. Grey and white churches, some with a Romanesque past. Roman bridges, stone walls, grottos and blue tiles. Many varied pathways: including cobbled, earthen, pine needle covered and river stones. Spring waters, babbling steams, traditional communal washing troughs and water fonts. Canopies of lush vegetation, native trees, colorful flowers and plants as well as Australian Eucalyptus and flora.