Friday 23 March 2018

A new journey

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

The journey begins

Well I am off yet again.  This pilgrimage route is a different one, the Via Romea Germanica, and one I am really looking forward to.  It follows the journey made by Abbot Albert from Stade, around 40kms north east of Hamburg, to Rome.  Along the way I will be crossing several routes I have taken before, finally joining the Via Francigena for the last few days into Rome.

In round figures I am anticipating walking in the vicinity of 2,300kms.  From my research I think the first week or two will be quite flat, gradually rising as I move through Bavaria and on into Austria.  In Italy the path is flat as I traverse the path around the River Po, before rising steeply to cross the Apennines.  From there, heading south through Tuscany, there are numerous hilltop villages - so there will be much up and down.

With the weather being somewhat colder than we have had in Australia, I will need warmer clothes and have had to pack a few extras for the cold I am anticipating.  This means that my pack is a little heavier than I would like, however once the warmer weather arrives I may be able to post things home and lighten it.

It is going to take me a couple of days to rest and recover from the flight and so I will be doing some sightseeing in Hamburg and Stade before setting off.  Let the journey begin!

New blog is here

Friday 9 September 2016

Off wandering, again

Here it is – only 15 months since I returned from my year long journey and I am off on another Camino!  Two Caminos in fact!  I have set up a new blog and here is the address. You can register to receive any new posts by email – just submit your email address and follow the directions.  I hope you enjoy following my journey – actually our journey – this time. The address is:

Wednesday 18 June 2014

I'm off again!

This Camino was a training run for my current project.  There is a new blog address for that one, and if you're interested here is the address.

Friday 24 January 2014

Santiago at last!

You may well be wondering if I have made it.  Yes I have.  I arrived in Santiago on Tuesday, looking , and feeling, like a drowned rat!  There were numerous blessings along the way, not least of which was the fact that the forecast rain did not arrive until around midday. However it made up for it from then on!  Sustenance was the other blessing. I had a hearty breakfast, and then also managed to find a bar open where I could have lunch at a reasonable hour.
The drowned rat arriving in the Praza Obradoiro......

.......and about to enter the Parador!

I was expecting many people at the last albergue that I stayed in at ARCA, because of the fact that it is generally considered  a comfortable days walk to get to Santiago from there,  but when I returned after dinner there were still only the four of us - a Korean man, a Spanish man, a French man and me!  Even so these men got cracking early in the morning, and so I too was up long before the light arrived.  I left well before dawn, and stopped at the first bar open for brekky and to wait for the daylight to arrive.  This meant that I eventually hit the road just after nine, and then got caught up in the school start and all the traffic, as my way went past the school.  The poor kids were arriving, ready for a days school and it was only just light, and not properly at that!

The way goes through an ancient forest, and if I had to choose a site for a magic forest this would be the one!  Ancient, gnarled, moss covered trunks bent and twisted, interspersed with just as large, but not so ancient, eucalypts.  Still plenty of water and mud, just to remind me on this final day what it has been like.

Walking through the "magic forest".

It is hard work on this last day.  One walks with anticipation of getting there, but also with a touch of sadness because the journey is coming to an end, and the purposeful, but itinerant, life one has led for weeks on end will change.

It is also hard because after walking through the forest, and up the hill past the airport, one sees for the first time a sign saying Santiago.  So close, yet so far. After seeing this sign there is still another 11 kms to go, and a lot of that through suburbia!

Signs that we are close, but still 11 kms to go!

The last half of the day was spent in rain and fog.  Supposedly I should be able to see the cathedral spires from Monte de Gozo, but I was only able to see about 50 metres ahead due to the fog!

Still about 8 kms to go!

The is the little chapel at Monte de Gozo, and in the background, through the trees and fog, you can see  the sculpture/monument (below) that sits on the top of the hill.

The first thing I did on reaching my room was to run a deep bubble bath and loll in it. Luxury!  I must say I did enjoy staying in the Parador, complete with antique furniture in the corridors and wall after wall of paintings.  

Below are various views of places and things on show at the Parador, including a couple of cloisters and my room.

A pestle and motto in the medical part of the building.

I didn't get to the pilgrim office till the next day as they were shut by the time I surfaced!  There for e it wasn't till yesterday that I heard at the pilgrim mass "one Australian from St Jean-Pied-de-Port"!  That was me!  At that mass I also was fortunate to see the botafumeiro swing. I was sitting with a Dutch pilgrim and an Australian woman and her son, Deborah and Sam, right in the front row, with a birds eye view.  No jostling, because there were so few people there.

Swinging the botefumeiro.


The cathedral, which is now partly clothed while it is cleaned and repaired.  It is likely to look like this for some time to come.

Looking at the tree of Jesse and behind, down the cathedral.  You can no longer put your hand in the hand print of millions of pilgrims who have gone before, like you once could.
I am now in Porto having left Santiago last night.  I am here for another night before heading to Paris and from there I will be home on Monday.

I have learnt many things on this journey, and I definitely have got strong ideas on which of my gear will stay and which will get the chop for the next winter journey!

This is my last post.  I must close with a word of thanks to all who have encouraged and supported me with emails and comments.  Reading your words has often cheered me on a tough or tiring day.  Thank you all.

Some of you who don't know my email may want to contact me.  Substitute the word dot and at for the symbols.

jlmagpie at gmail dot com

I am off now to explore Oporto!  Signing off till the next journey and the next blog.  Hope you've enjoyed the journey like I have, despite the trials!   Janet

Monday 20 January 2014

Not far to go now.

Tonight I am spending my last night in an albergue.  It is probably the worst one of the whole trip too, badly in need of updating, which by the scaffolding and banging that has been going on I think they must be working on it! I am only 19kms from Santiago de Compostela and so tomorrow night I am treating myself to what is probably the ultimate luxury and the ultimate in frivolous spending for someone who has been payimg around €6 a night for a bed and a hot shower, some hotter than others!  Yes I have decided to treat myself to the Parador, but that will be another post in itself!

The last few days have shown how Galicia can turn on the rain.  At times it has been like standing under a shower head.  Earlier on in Galicia the rain was softer, but in this part it is heavy and constant, though there have been some sunny parts to the days too, and, best of all, today was fine all day.  I even saw my wet footprints on dry asphalt!

I am now well and truly in eucalyptus country.  The eucalypt forests are, as one would expect, pretty untidy, with bark strewn on the path and hanging in the trees, and twigs of varying sizes strewn over the path to trip the unwary!  Sometime ago I read how these trees, which are really a weed here though they are still planting them for harvesting too, are affecting the water table.  I think, looking with my untrained eye, I can understand this as it seems to me that although the rainfall doesn't diminish here there is less surface water run off and my thinking is that this might be due to the fact that the eucalypts are consuming some of that water.  This only a surmise on my part I might add.

This eucalyptus forest was quite tidy Compared to some I walked through today.

There were other forests too.  South Aussies - take note of the sign and delete the last "s" and what do you get!?

The water continues!

The green fields of Galicia, heading towards Arca.

I have been surprised at how few people are in the albergues the past few nights.  In Melide there were 2 Koreans, 2 Englishmen, and myself and in Arzua there are 2 Spanish and 2 Australians.  Both these towns are big stages and I thought there would be a lot more here.  Tonight there are only about half a dozen too.  One of tonights residents (who I might add looked quite old to me!!) asked me how old I was.  When I told him he waved his hand in the air and said something like "woo, so strong". I THINK it was a compliment!

Having brekky with the two englishman who were my companions in the Melide albergue

I managed to get a sing in two churches in Melide.  I was busy singing to myself when a señora came in, so I finished and stopped, not wanting to intrude.  She spoke to me, I think in Gallego, for there wasn't one word I understood, and I interpreted what she said as asking me to sing some more.  Again I stopped and again I got a barrage of unintelligible sounds thrown at me, so I sang one more hymn, and dissapeared!  Didn't want to push my luck.

The church in Melide where I sang for the Señora.
A couple of little chapels I passed on the way. This one was at Santa Irene.

I didn't take photos of the square in Melide and so before leaving in the morning I walked back to do so.  On the way I passed the market that was just setting up.  One señora called me over and tried to sell me a cheese.  When I declined she offered to cut one, but couldn't understand that I didn't want it because of the weight, and with that she rummaged through a box to offer me a jar of honey, which would have weighed even more!  An Australian woman, Deborah, was in the albergue last night and she had exactly the same experience a couple of hours later, only she managed to extricate herself before being offered the honey!  One very determined salesperson!

The last couple of days I have seen some different Horeo's.  There was one even painted to match the house!  I don't recall seeing so many painted ones before.

This was the Horreo painted to match the house!

I just happened to be in the right place and see this Horreo open today.

Today, walking from Arzua, I had a couple of stops for cows.  Having got to the forests I thought I was out of cow territory, but not so.  This of course means that there is still the cow dung to negotiate on the path!

Cows on the path.

Tonight I am Arca, and tomorrow I have the final 19 / 20 kms, depending on who one consults, to reach the Cathedral in Santiago.  I am going to try and leave at first light, around about 8.45.  I want to see it all, and have no intention of walking in the dark, as I have done in the past.  First light in the autumn is considerably earlier, and so leaving in the dark at that time of the year gives one a chance to get to the cathedral in time for the pilgrim mass at midday, but it is a different story at this time of the year.

This is always a happy and sad time at the same time.  Happy, because after so much walking, often in trying circumstances the body, and the mind, are ready to stop and rest.  Sad, because living the life of an itinerant pilgrim has special privileges and special joys that one really doesn't want to end.  The time to travel slowly on life's journey, to communicate as best one is able with those we meet, the chance to see how another people live their lives, and the time to reflect as one walks are all very special gifts indeed.

Saturday 18 January 2014

More of wet, green, smelly Galicia!

As I mentioned in my last post I am in Palais de Rei,  well not quite!  I am actually in the albergue that sits in the big recreation reserve called Os Chacotes, 1.2 kms before hitting the centre of the town.  I am enjoying staying in these places that I haven't stayed in before, and experiencing the little quirks of the Xunta albergues.  Each have little peculiarities, but they are all universal in that they don't have WiFi.  This is a different experience to the other regions.  They all seem to have plenty of hot water, though there are some that one has to keep pressing the timer tap to get more, and though some have shower doors, the vast majority don't!

The albergue at Gonzar.

Enough of albergues though and let me tell you about the last couple of days.  Yesterday I set off in the rain, which continued for most of the day.  The day was spent sloshing through constant streams of water.  If the path went uphill, the streams ran towards me, and just for a change when the path went downhill,  the streams rushed past me!  It reminded me of hiking in New Zealand because it gets to the point where it was just as easy to slosh through the water and muck as it was to avoid it, something one quickly learns when hiking, sorry tramping, in NZ!

This type of walking is very tiring as I am constantly on the look out for things that could catch me unawares such as hidden rocks, mud that is deeper than it looks, and worst of all uneven ground.  Easy to twist an ankle and suffer severe injury, the last thing anyone wants!
I didn't have the albergue to myself last night, but shared it with a Korean chap.  Every time I woke in the night he was reading on his computer, and the last time I noticed the light was at 3.00 am.  I bet he was tired today!  This albergue was a converted school building in Gonzar.  Both here and at Ferrerios there was no opportunity to buy food (and I forgot to as I passed through Portomarín) and so I had a light tea of muesli bars and chocolate biscuits!  Mind you I am not fading away - both days I had a hefty lunch!  Tonight though I have had a proper dinner at the restaurant a 100 metres down the road.
Last night I went to sleep with the occasional sound of cars going past on the road in front of the albergue, and at the back the gentle lowing of cows as they settled for the night.

The little chapel at Ferrerios

And another on top of the last hill before the descent into Palais de Rei

The walk from Ferrerios was much like the day before, passing through little hamlets on the way to Portomarín.  I took it very slowly and carefully on the steep descent leading to the river Miño, which has been dammed and now is the Embalse de Belesar.  On all previous trips here I have seen the "drowned" buildings protruding from the shallow waters.  This time the waters were high and all I could see was water!  I wish I could post a photo of what I saw previously so that you could compare like I did in my mind's eye.

The much higher Embalse.  Previousy I have seen the old mediaeval bridge high and dry, next to this modern bridge.  There was no evidence of it at all this time.

Every other time I have crossed this river, leaving Portomín by the iron foot bridge in the foreground.  That is now closed and pilgrims cross via the second bridge, also a road bridge. 

After crossing the bridge there is a flight of sstairs to climb!

This is the church that was dismantled, stone by stone, and then reassembled higher up the hill.

Just like the steep descent into the river valley there was an equally steep ascent out of it when it came time to leave Portomarín.  This was accompanied by the singing of the rushing water as small streams joined up.

The rushing water,

 and a particularly nice looking Horreo on the way out of Portomarín.

Today has been a treasure.  The forecast a couple of days ago was for 7 days of rain (mind you that is what the current forecast is too), but somehow the day was fine all day, with the occasional touch of a watery sunshine.  Returning from dinner I even saw some stars in the sky!

In contrast to yesterday, most of today's path has been on, or next to, quiet country roads which has meant that even if it were raining, there would not have been the water to contend with like yesterday.

Just some of the quiet country roads.

This is to show that I did see sun for some of today! Another horreo in a village I was passing

I will just finish with a comment about the smell in Galicia.  It, in my opinion, is quite distinctive.  There is that unique smell of hay that has been wrapped in plastic as is sort of "mouldering"!  Then, this smell mixes with the smell of the cow dung which surrounds the sheds, and is on the paths and roads.  This all goes into a potent mix of slurry which the farmers then take out in big tanks and spray on the fields.

This past couple of days there has been one other obstacle to dodge - the farmers on their tractors.  They hoon around these narrow lanes at a great rate and I am constantly listening in case one should catch me unawares.  They can make quite a splash as they drive through the puddles!