20 km To Go

The 14 mile walk today from Ribadiso to O Pedrouzo seemed longer than usual. Maybe it was the heat of the sun or our tired feet. Or, maybe it was because it was our last day before getting to Santiago. There seems to be a mixture of sadness and excitement that this journey is coming to a close. We went out for dinner in the town and were reunited with pilgrims we had met early in our journey. We said goodbye but only until tomorrow when we will all make our final 20 km to the Cathedral, get our Compostella, and attend the pilgrims mass.

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Oh Sure, This Is Good Idea

20140610-223856-81536218.jpgOn our way from Palas de Rei, there is an opportunity to take a detour off the Camino to see Castillo Pambre- a 14th century castle. Now, Rick did warn us that there was a chance we could get there but maybe not our way back to the Camino. It started off with a beautiful hike

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20140610-224510-81910678.jpgwhich led us straight to the castle.

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20140610-224850-82130447.jpg. Now the fun began and it began with a little bush whacking:

20140610-225047-82247815.jpgYes, that is an actual path we were following, needless to say we did not run across any other pilgrims on this trail. Hmmm, wonder why?

20140610-225312-82392654.jpg Our adventure added on an extra 8 to 10 k onto our day and we were so happy to get to our Albergue in Castaneda.

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License plate game

Remember when you used to play it in the car? Well, I find myself playing it on the Camino except with the people I meet from all the different countries.

20140610-214652-78412550.jpg There was a couple from Portugal who come the same week to walk, a group of family and friends from Ireland walking together to celebrate a wedding on Saturday at the cathedral, a father and son from the UK, and a man from South Africa walking by himself for six weeks.

20140610-222134-80494587.jpg. There were many highlights of the day: the scenery

20140610-222225-80545369.jpga blind man in a chapel stamping my credentials

20140610-222417-80657040.jpgand mass in Palas de Rei.

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Pilgrims Ho

To get an official compostella you need to have walked the last 100km of the Camino. You can do it in 6 days start today, June 8, and reach the cathedral in time for the pilgrims mass on Friday.

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The 100 km mark comes between Sarria and Portomarin and many people start here.

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It was a bit alarming for us to all of a sudden see all these new pilgrims. The trail was now a bit more crowded but did not deter from the sites.

20140609-163516-59716123.jpg Yes, that is a dog on a roof. We also started to see a lot of these.

20140609-164520-60320422.jpg They are stone storage bins to keep the harvest free from rats and rain.
I have not been to Ireland but I was told that our surroundings were very similar.

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I also came around the corner and found Elizabeth and Mary trying to skip out on the last 5 miles!

20140609-165458-60898168.jpg Of course they would have missed another village we went through

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before we reached our destination

20140609-170057-61257967.jpg Portomarin is on a man made lake. In the 1960s the Miño River was dammed to create the Belesar reservoir, putting the old village of Portomarín under water. The most historic buildings of the town were moved brick by brick and reconstructed in the new town, including its castle-style main church: Church of San Juan of Portomarín.

In the seasons when the dam is at low level, the remains of ancient buildings, the waterfront and the old bridge are still visible.

20140609-171851-62331120.jpgThis the view from our Albergue ( which had a series of compartments with bunk beds divided by curtains – no doors – interesting to say the least!)

Entering Galicia

June 6
Laguna de Castilla is really the last town in Castilla. We quickly came upon another type of marker telling us that we are in Galicia. We will follow these markers all the way to Santiago.

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It was a beautiful hike up high in the mountains and stopped for breakfast in O’Cebreiro, another significant gateway on the Camino because it has administered to the needs of pilgrims since the 12th century.

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We stopped in Fonfria, a typical Galician village. When I tell you these are farming villages, take a look at what goes by behind us sitting outside having lunch at a restaurant.

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Shortly after this it started to rain and continued until we got to Triacastela. Nearby are the quarries that provided the limestone used I the building of Santiago. Medieval pilgrims would carry as much as they were able to the kilns to help. We are hoping the packs we are carrying will remind us of their sacrifice.

Cows have the right of away

Meaning, it’s up to you to moooove. Sorry, if you were here after a long day of climbing you would think that was hilarious. Today (June 5) took us through small farming villages and up into the mountains. So different from the plains when we started. From long trails through wheat to quiet paths through the woods, it’s as if we started a whole new Camino.

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Right now it is 9pm and we are tucked in our bunks and i can hear the bells clanging as the farmer brings his cows under our window and back to the barn. Most of the day was like this-quiet and serene – starting from Trabadelo and heading towards Laguna de Castilla. Our first village – surprise – had a statue of St. James that told us we are only 190km from Santiago!

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Stopping in Vega de Valcarce, we found the village church open. We were the only ones in the church and Rick played his flute while we all took our own moments to appreciate where we are..

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My moment was to light a candle for my family!

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It truly is amazing how each of these tiny villages, most with a few houses and inhabitants, have these beautifully maintained churches. In Herrerrias, we came across another open church that we stayed for a few moments to admire.

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Leaving the church we faced the beginning of our climb and an alternative to walking it ourselves. For only 10 euros we were offered transportation:

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Next stop- La Faba. It was described as a hamlet. Not sure what a hamlet is, but if it means a store, an Albergue, a bar, and a church then this it it.

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We stopped for lunch and visited the 12th century church that says mass at 8 pm every night from May to August including washing the feet of pilgrims.

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From there we were less than 3km from our Albergue. We had a short delay because of local traffic.

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But worth the wait.

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This is what I can see from our room and I already told you what I can hear.

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Pilgrim down part dos

After Villafranca the fun began with a 7.4 km uphill hike. We had lunch at the top of yup you guessed it : cheese, bread and yogurt.

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The decent was hard into Trabadelo but delighted to have a room to ourselves.

20140604-223442-81282829.jpg our fearless leader getting some well deserved alone time

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Pilgrim Down

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Don’t worry, Elizabeth is ok. It is just this picture describes our day! We left Cacabelos around 715 and stopped in Valtuille de Arriba at a pilgrims fountain and had a breakfast of bread, yogurt, cheese and jam. We then went up and down and up and down through the vineyards. 20140604-185923-68363245.jpg. And came down to Villafranca for our cafe com leche.

20140604-211438-76478114.jpg. On our way out we passed a 12th century church with a door of forgiveness for pilgrims unable to continue to Santiago could receive absolution.

tonight’s dinner is dedicated to my brother – yummy trout!!

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Friends

We stayed to tour the castle that opened up at 10am. It extended our rest day giving us the time to reorganize our packs and have cafe con leche before starting our day. Here is a picture from the castle looking down on our hotel.

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Carol, this is where your first night wlll be! Here are a few more from inside the castle.

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We stopped in Camponaraya for lunch and we can not seem to pass a Pasteleria-so don’t think of losing weight on this trip.

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To be honest, today was hard. Even though it was only a 15 km walk it was on sidewalk and roadways which exasperated our aches and pains. To get us motivated, rick said there was a treat a mile ahead. There was two. Yup a vineyard to fast wine and to walk through.

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We made it to Cacabelos. It was here that I took extra time to think and to thank for my friends and family back home. My love and respect continues to grow with each step.

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Ponferrada

Today is a rest day. We took a leisurely 6.5km walk into Ponferrada and treated ourselves to a hotel. It is a beautiful hotel right across from Castillo de Los Templarios, a 12th century Templar castle. It is closed on Monday so we are going to take the time to tour it in the morning.

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We first had coffee out side the hotel at the tables you can see in front. The next two pictures are looking out from those tables.

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20140602-160310-57790774.jpg. Took advantage of the day, walked around, ate and then ate some more.

20140602-221210-79930986.jpg. We attended the 8pm mass and at the end the priest called up all the pilgrims for a blessing-all in Spanish, but we felt every word.

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What Goes Up.

Oh yea……..today (June 1) was a 7 hour, 20 km decent and we r still not completely down. For all my JOI family, take a little bit of Kili from base camp to millennium, add the 5 miles of Marcy and a pinch of the Canyon – without the hat and you got our day. For those of us with blisters it was a new experience and not a pleasant one, but the sights along the way helped a great deal.

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We left Fancebadon around 730am to have breakfast at Cruz de Ferro- one of the symbols of the Camino

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20140602-145828-53908090.jpgEvery pilgrim stopped to place a stone, say a prayer, and take a picture. The pile I am standing one is filed with messages written on stones. It was awe inspiring and little did I know how much I would need that for the rest of the day.
Our first stop was in Manjarin- ok wait for it – population 1.

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You can see him in the white knight Templar robe talking to Rick. He serves coffee and sells some Camino memorabilia
We continued our decent down through the ullage of Acebo.

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Yes, in the picture you can see our path below and the city of Ponferrada In the horizon. We decided to use a rest day and break up the next two days into shorter hikes and stay in the town before Ponferrada, Molinaseca

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