On day 8 walking into Caldas de Reis our focus was on water in its many forms. Across babbling streams, past ancient washing troughs and drinking fountains we arrived late afternoon at the historic spa town once frequented by Spanish kings and nobles. Some of us decided to indulge in a modern day version of this old custom with a 30 minute dip in the steaming waters of a thermal pool. Sorry but we agreed not to post photos! But we guarantee that the hot mineral springs in this little town do wonders for aching backs, limbs and feet!
On the penultimate day of our journey along the Camino Portugues we encountered two pilgrims on horseback. This made us reconsider our initial scepticism about the efficacy of this travel option that was listed in our official pilgrim passports. Statistics show that in 2013 some 200,000 people received a Compostela for travelling at least the last 100 Kms to Santiago. Of these the majority arrived on foot. A sizeable proportion rode there, most by bicycle and a few by horse.
By mid afternoon we gathered in the small town of Padron where St James had reportedly begun his ministry, promoting Christianity throughout Galicia. After a siesta we visited the tiny riverside Church that houses an ancient mooring post where it is said the Saint first tied up his boat. Three members of our group decided to scramble up a steep hill to capture a photo of the silhouette of a stone reproduction of St James ministering from a rocky platform.
After taking several obligatory group photos with the bronze statue of a pilgrim heading off on the final 25 Kms to Santiago, we dined on fresh fish and tapas, including a plate of the tasty (and often very hot) Padron peppers for which this town is well known throughout Spain.
And finally the next day we reached our destination! Some of us arrived in time to attend the midday pilgrim Mass that is celebrated daily in the 12th C Cathedral. Witnessing the enormous swinging incense burner, the Botafumeiro, was certainly an experience to remember! A farewell group dinner at a restaurant near the market prepared with fresh local produce capped off a memorable day. A fitting end to a 10 day adventure in which the camaraderie was exceptional.