Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Camino de Finisterre Day 53: Muxìa - Finisterre

To the end of the earth!

Galicia is known for its foul weather, and today it must have realised I was about to get away without experiencing any, because it unleashed all the elements in grand style for the very last day of my Camino.

The forecast was grim: rain all day. I considered taking the 11:30 bus to Finisterre. After all, I had already achieved my goal of walking to Santiago, and my goal of walking to the ocean. But something in me rebelled against the idea of reaching the place that was once considered the end of the known world on a bus, however foul the weather. The symbolic value of reaching Finisterre on foot is just too strong - even now that we all know the edge of the world is really in Haida Gwaii!

By the time I had finished breakfasting on the remains of yesterday's giant tortilla (which I had slipped into my handy leftovers box before leaving the bar), an avocado, a croissant and my very last envelope of instant coffee, the clouds appeared to be opening up and the sun was even attempting to peer through. What the heck - I'll walk it!

My decision was confirmed when I ran into my new friend Mary Beth, who was determined to walk despite having suffered a bout of minor food poisoning during the night (she ate at a different seafood restaurant from me last night). If she can do it on no sleep and a troubled stomach, surely I can do it too!

So I said goodbye to Valter, Eleanora and Andrea, the other three hospitaleros staying at the Bela Muxìa, wrapped myself in black plastic in preparation for the onslaught of the elements, whenever it should come, and set off.

The morning began with a long, steady climb, up into the clouds, alongside the wind turbines. It wasn't raining up there, but it was very damp nonetheless. And windy! (Well I guess they wouldn't bother putting all those wind turbines up there if it weren't!)

After what seemed like an interminable climb the path finally levelled off and then descended to below the cloud/fog line. By the this time it was raining, but only very gently. Quite acceptable. I ran into two ladies from La Spezia I had met at the hostel last night, and we walked together for a while. We crossed paths with Caterina, who is doing the Camino from Finisterre to Santiago in a wheelchair, accompanied by her mother and a whole bunch of other people, many of whom were also from La Spezia and Genova - so we had to take a group photo!

When we came to the day's halfway point, in Lires, we stopped for coffee in a bar/restaurant - and ended up staying there for more than four hours! As soon as we got through the door the rain started pouring down. I ordered coffee. Then I ordered muesli with fruit and yogurt.

After some time the two ladies from La Spezia bravely went out to face the elements, but I decided to wait longer, and spent some time chatting with Chloe from Florida whom I had met the day before. Laura from Germany joined us, then Mary Beth came in, absolutely soaking wet!

I ordered orange juice and a triple decker tuna and tomato sandwich with a fried egg on top (my third since discovering this unique culinary treat in Santiago the other day).

Mary Beth ordered plain toast for her gradually recovering stomach. Then she bravely decided to continue, despite the rain, which was coming down in sheets now. Chloe called a taxi, as she already had a cold and didn't want to make it worse. Laura and I looked at the weather forecast and decided to sit it out, as the rain was supposed to slow down and maybe even stop at four.

I ordered a chocolate brownie with chocolate sauce and ice cream - just to help pass the time! The rain was still coming down by the bucketful and blowing across our field of vision through the glass wall of the café.

The café cat ventured outside and came back soaked and disgruntled, and attempted to steal the anchovies off the pizza of the Californian couple beside me.

In short, the afternoon passed in good company, making lots of new friends and eating lots of good food!

At about a quarter to four the rain began to show signs of letting up, as predicted. I settled my bill, refilled my water bottle and struggled back into my waterproof wrapping. At four on the dot the rain stopped, right on schedule, and Laura and I were out the door in a flash! We walked as if we were competing in an Olympic speed walking event, but with backpacks and waterproofs on. We had 15 kilometres to go, and in two hours it was forecast to start raining again! Meanwhile, it was blowing up a storm, and so we were walking into a strong wind, and hopping between puddles, too!

We almost made it to Finisterre before the rain resumed, but not quite. We arrived in town in a gentle rain, just enough to soak us through. Laura went off to her hostel and I - to my waterfront hotel! I treated myself to a room of my own, with an ocean view and, best of all, an actual bathtub, and loads of beautiful white fluffy towels!

Muxìa - Fisterra 32 km

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In the morning it was raining less, and so I met up with Mary Beth and we walked put to the lighthouse and kilometre zero.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Camino de Finisterre Day 52: Dumbrìa - Muxìa

To the ocean!

From Dumbrìa through a series of villages... Horreos, horreos and more horreos. Old horreos and new horreos, stone horreos and concrete horreos. 

I stopped at a bar and asked for tortilla, and the lady disappeared for a long while and then brought me a whole one, freshly made - a frittata the size I would make for my whole family! While waiting for the preparation of this marvel of the culinary arts, I passed the time chatting with Mary Beth, from Alaska, Chloe, who is from Florida but has cousins in Santiago, and their Welsh friend (whose name I don't recall). 

Pushing on, within a few hours I had covered almost 20 km, passing by some outstanding examples of 20th century Spanish vernacular architecture, so tacky they were almost beautiful! 

Then I rounded a corner and suddenly, there it was - the ocean!

It was even more exciting than arriving at the cathedral in Santiago. From the Mediterranean to the Atlantic! I struggled to maintain my composure as there were two ladies doing garden chores in the house on the corner and I didn't want to make a scene! I thought of telling them I had walked from the Mediterranean but decided against it as I figured they had probably seen thousands of pilgrims go past their house and get over-excited at the sight of the ocean. 

The path teasingly led me so close to the ocean I could hear the waves, and then up a hill and away from the water again. To the Monasterio de Moraime, where I collected a stamp and some advice about where to go and what to see in Muxìa from the tourist office. 

Then through the woods, down the hill - and, at last - onto the beach!

Here I decorated my backpack with a scallop shell. Many pilgrims carry a scallop shell or coquille St. Jacques right from the start of the Camino, but I preferred to return to the original tradition of carrying a shell only after reaching the ocean.

Then I soaked my tired feet in the Atlantic!

Slinging my hiking boots over my shoulder, I set off barefoot along the boardwalk toward the town of Muxìa.

When I arrived at Albergue Bela Muxìa and joined the queue at the reception desk I heard someone loudly calling my name. Valter, a fellow Hospitalero Voluntario from Italy, was waiting for me and had saved me a place. Once I had settled in he showed me around town, and we attended evening mass at the Virgen de la Barca, the church on the rocks above the ocean, with two other Hospitaleros from Italy who also happened to be staying at the same albergue, which I gather is a legend among pilgrims. 

This St. Jacques looks rather astonished, as if he too has just set eyes on the ocean for the very first time
Dinner: after eating canned tuna all across Spain, a whopping great steak of fresh tuna, for a change! 

To the ocean!
Dumbrìa - Muxìa 25 km

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Camino de Finisterre Day 51: A Pena - Dumbrìa

The Spanish pilgrims who invaded the peace of my dormitory last night set their alarm for six, so six it was. It was good to get on the road early again, after a few days of relatively late starts. And I had a long way to go: a Croatian girl I walked with for a while yesterday told me about an ultra-modern municipal hostel in Dumbrìa where you could use the adjacent swimming pool and gym complex, all for six euros, so I decided to aim for that. 37 kilometres!

After walking about 12 kilometres I stopped at a bar in Santa Mariña for a second breakfast of orange juice and omelette. She made it with a smiley face for me! 

Here I talked briefly with a very tanned pilgrim who had walked all the way from Paris. It took him about 70 days, the same as the group of three I met last night who had walked from Brittany.

One of the highlights of today's walk was the series of stone horreos. 

This was my first morning in Galicia without fog, and it stayed bright and sunny all day. The path climbed up to 500 metres at Monte Aro, and when we crested the hill and could see over the other side, a flat blue line was visible on the horizon - could it possibly be the Atlantic Ocean?

By the time I reached Olveiroa, where most people stop for the night, I had walked 28 km and would have been happy to stop with them. But as the Italian boy I was walking with at the time reminded me, most of them had started in Negreira in the morning, whereas I started 10 km after that, so I really ought to be able to carry on another 10 km and carry on with my policy of stopping off the classic stages. I stopped at a café to stamp my credential, refill my water bottle and refuel with a Kas al Limón, a Spanish lemonade which is very refreshing and reinvigorating on a warm day! 

After Olveiroa the route was pretty much deserted. Practically everyone had stopped there. I enjoyed the silence as I climbed another hill, topped with windmills and the associated power plant. Here, at the roundabout above the village of Hospital, I faced a decision: walk directly to Finisterre, or northwards to Muxìa first. I had been considering the direct route, which would leave me time for a day of rest in Finisterre, but then I received a message from a friend who had finished his two weeks volunteering as hospitalero in Ponferrada and was going to take a trip to Muxìa tomorrow. What a coincidence! Gronze.com describes Muxias as "un lugar perfecto para un homenaje gastronómico", and so we agreed to meet for a seafood dinner. This means two more days of walking: one to Muxìa, and one from there to Finisterre. 

Cresting the hill between Hospital and Dumbrìa, I could definitely see the ocean! 
Only 22 km away! 

At 5 pm I finally reached the municipal albergue in Dumbrìa. It is indeed a fantastic modern building, commissioned by the guy who owns the Zara stores in 2010. It does indeed cost only six euros. But as for the adjacent swimming pool and gym: by this time I was too exhausted to check out the facilities! As soon as I had showered and hand-washed my clothes, I lay down on my bunk for a nap. Then I dined on some leftover macaroni cheese which I had hoarded away at dinner last night - luckily, as there are no shops or restaurants here. 

And that brings me up to date so far!