Camino Frances – Day 32: Going home

A final morning amble around Santiago, stocking up on local delicacies in the central market before catching the bus to the airport and back to England, our journey over.

Matt: Yawn…woke up, still raining…turned over, went back to sleep – no need to get up and walk anymore! It hasn’t stopped raining since we arrived here, luckily for us, but not so lucky for the daily influx of pilgrims into Santiago under their not-so-rainproof ponchos, bent double against the driving wind, their feet soaking wet [note: according to a pilgrim we met yesterday, the authorities closed off the route into Muxia yesterday on account of gale-force winds – lucky escape there eh?!]. Hats off to them for having suffered more than we ever had to, but anyway enough about those poor souls…back to my morning coffee at the delightful Casa Barbantes, just off the Plaza Fonseca overlooking the southern aspect of the cathedral…hmm, they do look very wet indeed!



Well, how’s about that then for the restorative effects of a good morning’s café con leche: caffeine + final day = sunshine!

Jackie: Bit sad to be leaving today and know that in a very short time it will be back to the fast pace of normal life. I do hope I will be able to take this sense of peace back with me on the plane! Anyway better enjoy the last few hours of our trip. I almost miss my early morning 5km before breakfast already!


Matt: So, we wandered about, taking in Santiago in the sunshine, had a nose around the very posh hotel in the main square called Hostal Reyes Catolicos [note – there are 4 squares surrounding the Cathedral, but Praza do Obradorio is known as the ‘golden’ square; i.e. the front one!] where we made ourselves very much at home, mingling with the more well-to-do pellegrinos, and even helping one of them how to use the computer (something I’m accustomed to with Jackie; i.e. providing 24/7 IT support!)


Jackie:  I certainly haven’t missed the dealings with the dreaded technology at all over the last 2.5 weeks. I feel really good having not been sat at my PC dealing with emails or other technically related activities or trying to juggle so many things to do! I don’t want reminding for the next few hours anyway.

It is amazing what just being outside all day walking can do for mind, body and spirit! I don’t have any aches and pains at all – it is all gone! And I feel calm and happy! Better bottle that feeling!

Market shopping

Matt: We bought some queso con membrillos (cheese with quince) from the local market, and a couple of boccadillos (sandwiches), and by the time we’d repacked, it was time to head back off to the bus station (in a much calmer fashion than we’d entered it a few days ago) and hence to the airport…and back to Blighty.


Regrets? Nope, none at all…apart from the fact we didn’t get to have our last ‘chocolate con churros’ before we left (both the bus station and airport being devoid of such delicacies), and before we’d even touched down in the UK, we were already formulating the plan for our next adventure, o Caminho Português de Santiago, a mere snip at just under 600km – watch this space!

Jackie: I feel so grateful for being able to do this trip and to share it with Matt. It has been a fantastic 500 mile (780km) journey together and one that will remain close to our hearts. Our Camino’s will continue…

If you got to the end of this blog thanks so much for your interest in our journey and we hope that you have been inspired or at least had a good laugh

Camino Frances – Day 31: Rest day in Santiago

A stroll around Santiago, probably 10km in total….but who’s counting? Enjoyed a lie in at our centrally-located hotel, and explored Santiago despite the rather inclement weather – at least this meant we could partake frequently of the numerous bars & cafés! 

Jackie: Santiago does have a nice vibe and despite the slight tourist feel after the tranquility of the Camino it is certainly an interesting place to spend a few days. 


I was able to relax and walk round with Matt (Nav) .. who has an uncanny knack of being able to suss a place out in a very short time and acts as if he has lived there for much longer. This is very good for me as my sense of direction is pretty poor, especially so after 14 days of walking following the signs! 

Matt: The big advantage of Hotel Suso, (our hotel) is that it’s very central. The big disadvantage, is that a a coterie of drunks seem to have taken up residence under the portico arches which run more or less the length of Rua Vilar…..more specifically, right next to our hotel….even more specifically, more or less under our 1st floor window. So, I wouldn’t say we were exactly serenaded from our slumbers this morning!


Still, it was joyful to not have to to pack up everything into our rucksacks and be on the move again, even if just for one day. We’ve found that this ‘decompression’ from the Camino is essential to prepare us once again for everyday life; the ‘holiday’ part of the holiday!

After our morning cafe con leche con tostadas & zumo (orange juice – a new twist on the old favourite, we were now being daring), we set off to explore the City on foot, full of little nooks, crannies, boutique hotels and albergues – in short, something for everyone. The market was bustling and we scoped out the triangular Queso Galicia to take back home (“it is a young cheese….from a cow you understand….a cow!” as the waitress had previously explained to us) which is always served with chunks of quince (membrillo).


El Gato Negro

Having previously been tipped off about a great restaurant called ‘El Gato Negro‘, we decided to make for there at lunchtime. It was a ‘hole-in-the-wall’ type place, absolutely packed with pilgrims and locals (always a good sign), and a very limited menu (also a good sign), but no visible tables free and hoards of people waiting (not a good sign). As luck would have it, Jackie ventured into the back room and happened upon Michel, the Frenchman whom we’d bumped into along the way, most recently in Muxia [note – he’d walked from Le Puy all the way to Finisterre, around 1,600km over the past 2 months following a stomach operation – that is impressive!]


As Jackie would say, that was the  Camino looking after us!

It was one of those places where you had to be quick and point to the menu and then just hope. The pimientos padrons were superb, the najera (crab) was less so, quite a scrawny specimen, but we were starving and literally picked it to bits. Oh, and our new favourite dessert – Galician cheese with quince.

A reminder of my past!

Jackie: Our company for the evening on our last night in Santiago was in fact an ex boyfriend of mine (from a very long time!) Alberto a lovely Spanish man from Bilbao. He had made contact with me out of the blue before we returned to El Camino and we had aranged to have dinner in Santiago! Matt was ok about this by the way. Alberto is a very happily married business man with two daughters now, when I knew him he was a foreign student studying English in Oxford.  


It was strange meeting with Bertie (I used to call him!) after all this time. He thought I hadn’t changed! (bit worrying as I was 23 at the time!) Anyway he remembered so much about the past, (lots of funny little details that I would not have expected) We had a great chat! Alberto took us for our final supper which I will let Matt say more about. Matt and Alberto got on well, especially well, as Matt can speak Spanish!

Catch up with Jackie and Matt’s adventure Camino Day 32 click here.

Camino Frances/Finisterre – Day 30. Muxia to Santiago….by bus!

Muxia to Santiago….by bus! A nice wander around Muxia in the morning, then a midday bus to Santiago and onto our pre-booked hostel in the heart of Santiago – great for relaxing and exploring.

Jackie: First thing in the morning we took a short walk out to the highest point of the headland which over looks the main church (where we went to the service the day before) and sat watching and listening to the sea as it crashed against the rocks. It was a nice moment especially for Matt who calls himself a man of the sea!  This was I think another high energy point on the Camino …. you could feel it!


We then had a coffee by the harbour waiting for our bus to Santiago. Bit strange going by bus when we are used to walking everywhere. 

Jackie: We walked from the bus station into Santiago and to the Cathedral which although impactful I suspect may not have been as intense an experience as walking the whole route in and arriving at the Cathedral (Becky and Vicky we thought of you both!)

 I felt that my sense of completion on the Camino was at the lighthouse at Finisterre.

(described on day 29)

We went to the evening Pilgrim Mass which gave us some time to just soak up the atmosphere and relax. 


After checking into our hotel (Matt had done a great job of finding the perfect location very close to the lovely old part of the city) we found an excellent tapas bar, enjoyed a lovely bottle of Godella (my new favourite Spanish white wine) with our selection of tasty tapas. It was good fun especially with no pressure to get up in the morning pack up and walk. 


Matt doesn’t seem to have written anything today! Maybe Matt Nav has gone walkabout!

Catch up with Jackie and Matt’s adventure Camino Day 32 click here.

Camino Finisterre Day 29, 15km: Lindes to Muxia

A coastal 15km from Lindes to Muxia. A slow meander today, no time pressure, no rush, and we managed to time our arrival into Muxia at exactly the same time as the festival parade. Very atmospheric end to our walk, with mass at the Cathedral ‘in the sea’ providing a fitting end to our journey. 

Jackie: I was looking forward to Muxia, having heard how peaceful it was from Sylvie (the lady we met a few days back at our Aubergue St Irene) it would be a nice place to end to our walking days so we thought…

Getting in the slow lane to Muxia

Matt: Yawn…this leisurely Camino wind-down is very nice indeed. Alarm went off early, ignored it, drifted back to sleep listening to the patter of rain outside, then meandered down for a leisurely breakfast of cafe con leche + a multitude of tostadas before finally setting off (somewhat reluctantly) around 10:30am. We’d normally be planning our elevenses stop by now having walked 15km…this was ‘slow lane’ Camino at its finest.


Again, we hardly saw anybody walking in our direction (most were still heading for Finisterre) so we had the ‘Scottish highlands’ almost to ourselves, with purple heather and yellow gorse dotting the moors above the pine tree forests which glowed through the mist, backlit by the haze of the midday sun.


Serenaded by seagulls

Jackie: As we approached Muxia along the coast … a huge flock of seagulls suddenly errupted into the sky as we walked in… it was as if they had all waited until we passed by! It was a lovely sight…

But things were about to change….

Matt: It was only as we walked along the long beach road into Muxia that things began to change. First a car of 4 youths stopped to ask us if there were any police at the checkpoint ahead (no, but we hadn’t realised the barriers were a checkpoint), then there was the barrage of gunfire coming from beyond the hill opposite the football field. It later turned out that this was the ‘Romaria de Virxe da Barca’, a 4-day festival held in Murxia between Fri 11 – Mon 14 Sep which was attended by the whole of the region. So, maybe this was not going to be the quiet, reflective Muxia we had been anticipating…..

Nope, not a chance. We did have the strange honour of joining up with a religious procession as it wound its way throughout town at the same time as we were searching for our hostel, Bela Muxia. We ended up following it past our intended hostel and all the way to the church where they proceeded to sing lots of songs to a statue of the virgin on a litter. All very jolly. In fact, churches in Spain tend to be quite high-energy affairs in general – lining the way to the church were lots of fast food tents (yes, we did succumb to churros again), helping families to munch their way to redemption.

Having checked in (dorm this time as all the double rooms were taken) we checked out the port area where everything appeared to be happening. Basically your bog-standard carnival, but with a huge stage full of Galician line dancers, and all the crowd joining in – actually it was mainly the oldies throwing the shapes, with Jacks herself summoning up the ‘spirit of salsa’ and giving it large herself.

One downside of a festival is that lots of people = lots of potential to make money, hence all the special menus del dia were off. So, when we’d finally decided upon somewhere to eat, we had to wait half an hour to be seated, then were told it was only the full price menu, and the kitchen would be closing in a few minutes (I suppose it was almost 5pm by now). Gulp!

Jackie: We have probably been spoiled by these pilgrim menu’s … the reality is the Galician meal we had here in Muxia was great and still incredibly good value! it will be a bigger shock back in the UK when we go out to eat. 

The Way to Mass

Matt: To recover afterwards, we went for a wander by the old part of town, where an amazing church juts out from the headland, almost entering the sea. This was where the final scenes of ‘The Way’ were filmed (at least that’s what I reckon) and in a way, I’d say it was more ‘spiritual’ than Finisterre in that you were right down by the rocks rather than a couple of hundred feet above. Plus of course there was a huge stone church – that always helps.


Being good pilgrims, we went to mass there. More by accident than design as they were announcing it as we were looking around, but by strange coincidence, the priest started off with the same Pilgrim Mass that I’d last heard at St Juan de Obrigo. Jacks was asleep at this point.  Still, I think she enjoyed it when she awoke and had to stand up. (Jackie: I was meditating, he just didn’t realise!!)

Time to sleep

Jackie: Yes I did feel tired … after 380 kilometres of walking over 14 days I suppose 12 hours sleep in one go is acceptable! I ended up going to bed at 8pm and not waking up until 8am the next day! It was a very comfortable top bunk. Funnily the person in the bed next to ours was a monk …. he was doing as much sleeping as me so I was in good company!


So tomorrow we are off to Santiago to end our Camino journey … we are taking the bus!

Catch up with Jackie and Matt’s adventure Camino Day 30 click here

Camino Finisterre – Day 28, 15km: Finisterre to Lires

A serene 15 Kilometres from Finisterre to Lires. The Camino Finisterre is a welcome return back to the ethos of the Camino – that of quiet contemplation. Beautiful walking through pine-clad forests with the sound of the sea ever-present.

Peace in the forest


Jackie: It was a good decision to do this … we realised almost as soon as we started walking again this morning. The familiar Camino signs appeared and we had a lovely route to follow. Through little farming villages, beautiful pine forests where you could hear the sound of the flowing streams and the birds singing. The sun was out for most of the day and the temperature perfect for walking. We hardly met anothert pilgrim and those we did we shared our usual Buen Camino and carried on our way!  Perfect peace to end our Camino journey (Thank you Silvia for suggesting it)

With only a short walk today (15km) comparatively, we had time to relax and start to rest our bodies a bit. Our plan was to walk half way to Muxia this morning and relax in Lires by the coast for the rest of the day. 

Matt: Totally agree – there is such a different vibe about this part of Spain and this part of the Camino, a bit like travelling over to the Isle of Wight from the mainland –  you get that feeling that you’ve suddenly gone back in time a couple of decades.

To have ended the Camino in Santiago would have left us feeling a little stressed at all the ‘intrusions’ which had seeped into our journey during the final 100km or so. I know that it’s everyone’s Camino and that those who have walked 800km on their own aren’t supposed to be in any way superior to those who have only walked 100km (ahem, with transport back-up). However, having walked that distance does teach you respect, both for the walk and for fellow pilgrims, which can be lacking in ‘recent arrivals’. Just saying…..

It was blissful walking today – down pine-strewn tracks with the soundtrack of the ocean a constant backdrop and glimpses of the never-ending Atlantic around almost every vista. There were more pilgrims coming the other way (from Muxia) than were travelling in our direction, so we did have the occasional ‘Buen Camino’ to keep us connected, but not too much.


“Walk, eat, sleep, repeat”

This was Ina’s mantra (the Belgium lady from St Irene) and quite aptly conveys the simplicity of the Camino for me. That’s all you really need to do. Of course, you can do more, talk more, drink more….but stripped down to the basics, that is essentially it. And between Finisterre and Muxia is the perfect backdrop for this. Thanks Sylvie again!


Owning your Camino

We found a great place to stay in Lires – lovely room in the centre of the village. Had an afternoon siesta  followed by a short coastal walk and some peaceful time by the ocean listening to the waves break against the rocks. This I think is the ideal way to gradually bring our Camino journey to a conclusion. It certainly feels right!


Walking resets your body and your energy

I feel surprisingly good at the end of such a long walking experience and realise how good it actually has been for me. (Matt too!) Even after walking continuously for 2 weeks (20 to 30 kilometres a day on average) carrying 12 kilos I feel alot better physically than I have for a while. My lower back pain has gone, my stiff hips seem to have relaxed and my legs feel a lot stronger. My walking trousers are nearly falling down … which can only mean one thing (I have trimmed up!!) I certainly hope so!

Letting the good stuff in

I also feel a lot better mentally. It is so nice just to follow signs (and Matt Nav) and just think about walking, eating and sleeping and what I am experiencing each day. Simple in the moment stuff. Walking is simple really – one foot in front of the other, close to nature, doing what is natural. Moving forward all the time … shifts your energy, releases the good back in! You get back into your body and feel more grounded. It enables your mind to free itself from all the noise for a while … both internal (self created) and the external intrusions that compete for attention on a daily basis.

How to keep this up

Having realised how good this has been I am wondering how Matt and I can keep the connection with all that we have gained on this special journey. It can be so easy to revert back to all the old habits back in normal every day life. I want to take the Camino back into my life… the big question is HOW?


Matt: Lires is a very tranquil place, about 2km from the sea, so after the usual Camino wind-down (beer on terrace, lunch, nap…..rather like a big baby eh, although I don’t need winding anymore – I can do that all by myself!) we ventured out to the sea to soak up the view and the vibe. Maybe coming from the seaside (Grimsby-born, Liverpool- bred, much to my brother’s amusement who all consider themselves true Scousers ….besides never having actually lived in Liverpool ‘like what I did’!) infuses my fascination with the sea. I could sit and watch it all day, there being something hypnotic about the motion of the ocean. Although the west coast of Spain in September somehow seems to possess a deeper reverance than either Cleethorpes beach or the Mersey in the depths of winter…can’t think why?

Anyway, lovely restful evening, perfect pilgrim supper on the terrace overlooking the sea (pimientos padron, ensalada mixte, calamares & pescados mixtos together with the ubiquitious bottle of wine) and a very restful night’s sleep. Only 15km to go tomorrow to Muxia, then that is it….mixed feelings.

Catch up with Jackie and Matt’s adventure Camino Day 29 click here

Camino Frances – Day 27, 25km: Cruce O Empalme – Santiago

A race-against-time 25 Kilometres from Cruce O Empalme to Santiago…but not the cathedral, the bus station! Navigational errors put us behind schedule early on, but we managed to claw it back with some serious switched-on walking. Caught the bus from Santiago to Finisterre with about 20 minutes to spare and did all of our end-of-Camino sightseeing stuff there in the afternoon.

Jackie: Not the ideal way to enter Santiago but we had a plan and this was not going to be the end of our Camino. 

Matt: We left our ‘sanctuary’ early, since we’d found out that we had to be in Santiago before 1pm to catch the bus to Finisterre.…otherwise it would mean waiting until 7pm for the next one and we would have been too late to find accommodation and watch the sun go down at the lighthouse. So this was it, all or nothing….

Even the best laid plans can go off track

Our walk into Santiago depended upon perfect navigation, a walking pace of over 4km/h, and split-second timing at rest stops. The thick early morning fog soon put paid to the first of these criteria, with the usually reliable yellow arrows either disappearing from view or mysteriously re-appearing but pointing in the wrong direction (thanks to over-enthusiastic albergue owners trying to direct pilgrims to their hostels). So, whilst we were never exactly ‘lost’, neither were we ‘found’, which lead to some fruity early-morning exchanges (for which I apologize to Jackie) and which might have given cause for any casual passer-by to mistake me for a religious fruitcake, “Will you not just give me a bl**dy sign?!”

Jackie: I had to laugh at Matt suddenly getting angry at the Camino for not having good signs … I reminded him that it had looked after us for 750 kilometres and it wasn’t it’s fault that we had a bus to catch and had left at 6.30 in the pitch dark and morning mist!  It just shows how easy it is to get into a negative state when you get focused on achieving a tight deadline or goal. Matt did see the error of his ways!!!! Actually is was Jack Nav that came to the fore with a suggestion that actually helped us find our way! (Matt won’t admit this of course!) [Matt:this was ‘random JackNav at work; i.e. one second she insisted we went down a forest track (wrong), then she said go back the way we came (didn’t do), then she suggested going down a certain road (which turned out to be randomly right). Not exactly map-reading].

Matt: So, we stumbled past O Pedrouzo, only 4km away but in around 1h30m; i.e. dangerously behind schedule already. Oh, and did I mention that we’d already forgotten our walking poles in the aubergue – the 1st time ever – and so had to go back to get them? The signs weren’t looking good….and those were just the ones we could see.

Industrial Camino-ization

Luckily (I think) the huge numbers of people now on the Camino meant that there were no enticing, quaint rest stops. Everything now seemed to be industrialized on a grand scale, designed to maximise the throughput of people and anyway, when we did stop, it was probably the worst cafe con leche of the whole trip.

So, the upshot was that we now had just 4 hours to walk 20km, including rest stops. The rest stops would have to go. I chose not to break this to Jackie at the time.

Jackie: Actually I was walking quite well and felt pretty positive that we would make it. I did lose my Camino hat though!

The old & the new collide


Matt: It was quite a pleasant walk (once it got light), the majority of it on woodland paths through pine & eucalyptus forests, the scents rising and mingling on the misty morning air. The juxtaposition of old & new was interesting – at one point, the path skirted round the perimeter fence of Labacolla airport which had been festooned with thousands of wooden crosses made by pilgrims. Then, just behind the airport tower appeared an old church where the pilgrims used to wash themselves before entering Santiago. Hence Labacolla derived from ‘lavar’ (to wash) and – probably – ‘ropas’ (clothes). But now it’s just known as the name of Santiago airport – time change, eh?

Shifting barriers and obstacles

Jackie: As I was walking past the row of crosses I decided to do some chanting ( in my head of course)  for the removal of obstacles in certain areas of both my own and Matt’s life. I did some for him and wierdly as I was doing this beside the crosses … I could see a ghostly breath in front of me … as if the energy was passing through me to him. This stopped after I reached the end of the line of crosses!  It was spooky!

Sylvie … saving grace

Matt: We were making good time but it was still very tight….very, very tight given that we needed to find the bus station, then the right bus and then buy our tickets. Luckily we ran into one of the pilgrims we’d befriended last night – Sylvie – a veteran Caminista / Medicin Sans Frontier aid worker / all-round woman of the world. Walking and talking with her helped take our mind off our pressing schedule and resisted the need to stop, with the upshot that we made it to Santiago bus station with 15 mins to spare. Camino energy to the fore!

Jackie: It was great to bump into Sylvie … I really like her. She has a good vibe about her, a strong sense of self and very interesting to talk to. We would both like to see her again. Perhaps we will as she is over in the UK on business quite a lot. 

I also spied the sign to the bus station … so did aid our mission to catch the 1pm Bus to Finesterre.


Matt: Hence, we’ve yet to see the cathedral in Santiago – we’re saving that from Monday afternoon when we return on the bus from Muxia. However, in a way, I’m quite glad since when we do see it, that will signal the actual end of our Camino. And it’s not over…quite yet.

Finisterre but not the end …

Matt:  After our stressful morning hot-footing it to Santiago followed by an adrenaline-fuelled 3 hour coastal coach ride, we pitched up in a rainy Finisterre and walked around looking at various hostels before deciding upon the one we’d been offered when we first arrived at the bus station – typical eh? However, as luck would have it, when we got to the said hostel and enquired about a double room, they had an affiliated serviced apartment round the corner for only Eur30, and given that the dorms would have cost Eur12 each (i.e. Eur24), this was, as Jackie would say, ‘a no-brainer’!


The apartment had a great sea view too over Finisterre harbour, which we savoured a while before venturing out on another mini-Camino to the real end of the Camino.

Burning ritual

Jackie: Amazingly the sun showed it’s face as we walked up to the lighthouse to complete the Camino ritual of burning negative connections or symbols in your life that you wish to let go of. It was another 3km walk up the hill but without the ruck sacks it did feel like a heavy weight had been lifted! (very significant!) Matt and I had written our own private things of our own on slips of paper that we intended to set light to. 


When we got to the top we found the area near to the lighthouse at the end of the Camino at 0.00 kilometres. We took it in turns to perform the ritual and then looked out to sea connecting with the energy of the universe (it did feel like quite a powerful place!)

Walking lightly

Our walk back down the hill certainly felt free and light … again a feeling I want to take back with me. It is much easier to walk lightly through life when you don’t have such a heavy burden on your shoulders. I wish this for Matt more than anything, and I do hope that the Camino energy helps to shift some of the things that have been blocking very important elements of his life. 


We had a lovely evening, dinner in a popular fish restaurant – Alaya – overlooking the harbour, a few glasses of wine and green tea before bed at our apartment! It was worth the rush to get the 1pm bus! (not sure I have ever had to walk 25km to catch one before though!) 

Catch up with Jackie and Matt’s adventure Camino Day 29 click here

Camino Frances – Day 26, 33km: Melide to Cruce O Empalme

A tourist-heavy 33km from Melide to Cruce O Empalme, including 1km too many owing to certain, erm, navigational errors! A very crowded day which took the edge off our Camino vibe as it wore on, culminating in a very unsatisfactory experience in Salceda which had been recommended to us by the 3 Amigos. So we continued on to St Irene which really was a haven, and restored our inner peace.

Jackie: A bit of a weird day today … which started off in the rain and then ended up with the distinct feeling that the lovely spiritual peaceful Camino experience had morphed into a Camino tourist experience. It was a bit of a shock!

Matt: It’s fair to say that our real Camino experience probably ended a couple of days ago. Even though we are due to reach Santiago tomorrow.

The day went as follows: We walked 5km in the dark and rain to Boente for breakfast (very grumpy Italian in Cafe Aleman, 8km to Arzua (concrete, depressing town, but great pastries) 11km to Salceda (hell on earth, full of Camino tourists), 5km to St Irene (a lovely ‘sanctuary’, as per the literal Greek translation)


Everyone has to walk their own Camino

Jackie: It is strange when you have walked so far in relative peace and quiet to suddenly find yourself hurrying to get ahead of a group of very loud Americans. I guess the lesson here must be tolerance, as this is normal life… It can’t always be a peaceful escape. They are all doing their own Camino’s and even if it is only the last 100km (helped by a bus) into Santiago, we must be careful not to judge, just because we have chosen a different way of doing it. (a good lesson!)

Matt and I are planning to walk to Finesterre … which is the road less traveled and may enable us to access that wonderful peace again before we end our Camino.

Saint Irene came to save us

We did manage to fall upon a really sweet Albergue with a good vibe to stay the night in Cruce O Empalme called Santa Irene. This will be our last night before we walk into Santiago tomorrow. 


Walking so many miles

It is strange to feel so broken at the end of each day’s walking but still wake up the next day ready to do it all over again. It just shows you what you can actually do when you set your mind to it. Matt and I worked out that this year in 2015 we will have probabaly walked 1000 miles in total. This Camino trip will be 500 miles and with all the miles of training time over the year it will be close to that! I never thought my body was capable! I have little tricks to keep me going … I break it down into 5km stages … and relate it to a 5km Park Run (something Matt and I do on a Saturday morning). When the going gets tough I just tell myself that it is just another park run that I am walking. This helps make it seem easier. (actually we will have done over 165 park runs in total over the whole Camino) 

It is amazing what you can achieve when you just focus on doing a little bit each day!

So now it is only 20km to Santiago …. and as Matt pointed it our yesterday … we have run this distance (a half marathon) So walking it tomorrow carrying 10 kilo’s should be easy! 

Off now to have a nice dinner at our Albergue and then get a very early night!

Matt: It was a lovely evening, quite a fitting ‘end’ to our Camino with a communal dinner served on farmhouse tables in the front living room of the house. We sat next to Sylvie from Italy/Belgium/England, and Ina from Belgium (a closet Liverpool fan) with conversation ranging over a wide variety of subjects from the symbolism present on the Camino to Liverpool’s central defensive frailties in the 3-5-2 system.

The symbols on the Camino

Matt: It was a fascinating conversation on symbolism. All the traditional routes to the Camino started through a door, gateway, or port (e.g. St Jean de Pied Port, the port of Cadiz…etc) and took the pilgrim on a journey, similar to that of the Mass Service. I guess that since all the church and city builders were affiliated to guilds (and hence associated with the church), this meant that as towns grew up along the Camino, the religious symbolism was inherent and pervasive.


So, in Puente de la Reina, the pilgrims are funnelled in through heavy doors into small city streets, before being released across an expansive bridge. The Meseta is long, often bleak, and exposed; a test of both mental and physical endurance….etc. All thought-provoking stuff.

Jackie: I think that the Camino route definitely takes you through gateways… gateways that enable you to connect with different parts of yourself.

The opening of the doorway in the beginning… a bit like a child standing up and learning to walk. You leave with a big heavy back pack on, try to stand up and then almost fall over, and you have to learn to walk with it. It is very hard at first but gets easier with every step forward you take. There is also an excitement at the beginning when everything is new and fresh… you don’t know what to expect…you connect back with the child in you… full of wonder, openness and a sense of freedom as you learn to walk, getting stronger every day.


There may also be a gateway to the teenage student in you – when you make new friends easily and have fun. All you have to think about is what you are doing today!  You have shed your responsibilities for this pocket of time.

As you continue on the route you grow and learn through the experiences this kind of journey gives you… there is that gateway to maturity and later on to a deeper wisdom as you reach the conclusion. You are able eventually to shed the load that you have been carrying and move forward freely with your life. Accepting that the gateways you have been through have enabled you to be YOU! You can be at peace with yourself!

Catch up with Jackie and Matt’s adventure Camino Day 27 click here

Camino Frances – Day 25, 33km: Gonzar to Melide

A leg-sapping 33km from Gonzar to Melide. A trial by fire – literally – as we braved the bush smoke first thing, and soldiered on to Palais de Rei and then onto Melide, home of the pulpo…..despite being rather a long way from the coast. Go figure. 

Time to reflect

Jackie: I read a rather nice thought in the John Brierly guide we are using on the trip (very useful) “Walking … I am listening to a deeper way… all my ancestors are behind me… Be still they say: watch and listen. You are the result of thousands…”

As we always start the day so early, I do most of my deeper thinking walking in the dark just before the sun rises. I am not so distracted by my tired feet as after a good night’s sleep – amazingly they seem ok! It is also most peaceful then and Matt and I don’t talk much. 

I think walking the Camino does create the time and space to reflect … to think about the people (friends and family that may be going through some difficulties and send them healing, and to remember). 

Another quote from John Brierly’s book refers to learning the important lessons in life… and to learn through grace rather than grit… I laughed to myself as I reflect on my lessons… which perhaps at this point does involve an element of grit!!

“There’s no smoke without fire”


Matt: No, not a prophetic saying I’m afraid, but a statement of fact. We could see the flames lighting up the skyline as soon as we left our Albergue in the dark at 6:35 this morning. We didn’t give it much thought at the time – as time went on it became quite strange, almost like having 2 sunrises, one in the east and one in the west.

However, at our 5km breakfast stop in Ventas de Naron (tostadas – i.e. toast & jam – has become the new favourite), we saw the flames had drawn rather near and there were now a load of firemen drinking coffee outside our breakfast cafe. ‘Oh well’, we thought, ‘it can’t be that serious if they’re having a break’, and so we pushed on, only to encounter hoards of pilgrims heading the other way down the road towards us.

One group of German students who I’d chatted to yesterday were most animated, ‘Zis vay is not possible’ said one, shaking her head, ‘No, ze smoke ist too zick’ chimed the young bloke, ‘Ve av called ze taxi but ve must vait von (1) hour’ chorused the third. Then an old Aussie guy joined in ‘Bush fire smoke is bloody toxic ya know mate’.

England 1, Germany 0

Now one of the benefits of being stubborn is that I never like being told what to do, so I insisted on going up to the fire engine and asking the guy hauling hoses who looked like he was in charge; i.e. he was shouting at all the other firemen who were busy beating the smouldering bushes or spraying water skywards.

‘Is it safe to pass?’

‘Yes, otherwise we wouldn’t let you’.

‘How long does the smoke go on for?’

‘How should I know, it’s a live fire’.

So, I turned to Jackie and told her to mask up, we were going through (to be fair, I didn’t tell her I didn’t know how long we’d be walking through the smoke, as I didn’t want to wait an hour for a taxi).


To be fair, it was far less dramatic than it sounded. There was about 100m of relatively thick smoke, then it cleared, and although we saw plenty of small fires by the roadside, it was mainly blackened smoking ground.

Jackie: As not many pilgrims were brave (or stupid) enough to go through this smoky area … it meant that most of the day was pretty quiet which was nice …apart from the cyclists which we had to watch out for.

Camino cyclists don’t always know the way

Matt: Camino cyclists tend to whistle at you from anything between 10 – 100m away before hurtling past. Including one most annoying American couple; ‘Jim, did you get a video of that church…..did you get a photo of that grave’, whilst Jim trailed behind with all the panniers and a helmet complete with an oversized rear mirror attached. Not cool.

We weren’t sure whether we sampled Viki’s (our best Camino friend from our last trip) ‘best sandwich ever’ in Portos after 12km (but we did have some rather good Santiago cake at the ‘Ant stop’ cafe) and we then breezed through the official guide stop at Palas de Rei (17km) stopping only to order a boccadillo at a small fruteria (plus Jackie’s ‘disappearing’ bar of chocolate).

Never judge a book by its cover

I had walked on a bit ahead into Palas de Rei with ‘Harry Holland’ (as we christened him), a tall serious Dutch bloke who half-ran, half-walked as if he was constantly on the verge of a major No. 2 disaster. As is often the case, he turned out to be a very interesting chap when we got talking, into hypnotherapy and all sorts – so, never judge a book by it’s cover, eh?

The day just got harder

That was the good part of the day. Well, maybe up until we stopped at Casa Domingo (23km) to sneakily eat our boccadillo on their tables, and were befriended by a very friendly/hungry cat – a Blackie clone (my Mum will know what I mean). Jackie hasn’t stopped scratching since though.


After that, the remaining 10km into Melide felt like a lot longer. To be fair, Jackie was a trooper and soldiered on, despite her plaintive cries of ‘Weeeeeaaaak’ growing more and more insistent.

Jackie: Yes it was pretty tough but I made it … surprised myself. It was a great relief to sit down … problem was getting up afterwards. Some of the locals were looking at me a bit strangely, so I can only assume I was doing the Camino shuffle not very well!!

Melide wasn’t great to be fair. Maybe we’ve been spoiled by so many lovely Spanish villages, that this one looked decidedly grotty, even the usually reliable ‘old town’ looked largely derelict, but what with this being a confluence point for various other Caminos (including the Primitivo from the far north), it was very popular with pilgrims…and hence busier and more expensive than other places. 


A room, a room, my kingdom for a double room

All day long, Jackie had kept going with the promise of a double room. Now when we arrived in Melide at just before 4pm, it was clear that most had been either pre-booked or were out of our self-imposed price bracket. So, we did what we always do in a crisis. Sat down and had churros with chocolate.

One quick energy rush later, and I ran back to the Cruceiro hostel where the 3 Amigos had previously stayed, chatted with the receptionist, explained our need, and lo and behold, she led us up to a side room for 2 people directly off a dormitory for 8. ‘No worries, we’ll take that’, I told her.


After crashing out for quite a while, drowsy from the overwhelming smell of Deep Heat, we ventured out to sample Melide’s famous ‘pulpo Gallego’ (octopus). Why an inland town should be so renowned for a fish dish, I don’t know, but we tried, voted it on balance OK (I quite liked it, Jackie wasn’t so sure) and headed back to our hostel. To lie, to sleep….no more….

Catch up with Jackie and Matt’s adventure Camino Day 26 click here.

Camino Frances – Day 24, 27km: Triacastela to Gonzar

A taxing 27km from Triacastela to Gonzar. The now customary misty start, a quite spectacular river crossing and a long uphill slog to Gonzar. Oh, and the now customary double room….just don’t get too used to it Jacks!

Jackie: A very long day that basically went from one very very comfortable bed to another with only a 27km walk in between! Never before has a bed felt so good as does on the Camino!



The night of bigfoot!

Well, it turned out to be quite a dramatic Pilgrim Supper last night. After a very pleasant afternoon lounging by, in, and around the pool, feeling very much like we were on holiday (which technically we are), we decamped feeling very chilled to the terrace for our evening meal, along with Tom.

Everything was going fine until he suddenly, without warning, he let out a huge cry and started practically sobbing face-down on the table [note – this being Tom (6ft 7″), meant that he took up most of the table in the process]. Having previously confided with us that his girlfriend was currently undergoing various medical tests, we asked worriedly whether she’d just received some bad news….

“No man, it’s my toeeeee…..sheesh, I can’t BELIEVE it!!! Arghh, I can see blood….blood….nooooooo!”

It turned out that Tom had hurt his foot a few days ago and had just knocked his big toenail with his sandal and nearly taken it off:

“Some stupid girl stood on my toe”

“How did it happen?”

“She was skipping”

“Erm, how old was she Tom?”

“Oh, she was only about 2 yrs old, but it still really hurt!”

It must be said, that for a physiotherapist, he wasn’t all that good with blood….come to think of it, as a physiotherapist, he wasn’t all that well-prepared at all, so the ‘Foot Doctor’ (hastily renamed the ‘Toenail Doctor’) sprung into action and with the help of zinc oxide tape, antiseptic cream and thick plasters, managed to patch him up.

He was so upset at the prospect of missing the rest of the Camino that he wouldn’t even have wine with his meal, “I can’t believe it man, I had a cold yesterday then I felt better, now I’ve lost my toenail and I feel sooooo much worse!”  We did point out that he’d already qualified for his Compostella having walked more than 100km, that he could walk in sandals to protect his toenail, and that it was OK to drink after applying ibuprofen gel. He’d cheered up considerably by the end of the meal,  “Hey Matt, let’s get another bottle of wine”…..and so it began.

Morning has broken


“Nooooo… can’t make me get up….you can’t…this bed is soooo comfy”.

One of the drawbacks of a nice double room, is that JOT (Jackie Operating Time) is prone to adopt a very go-slow mode in the morning, employing delaying tactics akin to that of a hard-left trade union. To be fair though, she did get up & out in reasonable time this morning, although as the early morning Galician fine mist swirled around us, numerous cries could be heard emanating from her general direction as I walked ahead searching for the yellow arrows. Two eyes open ahead, one ear open behind.

Jackie: Actually once I am up and out of my lovely bed… I do enjoy walking in the dark. It is kind of mystical … I am glad to have Matt with me though on our early morning jaunts! The Galician mist is quite spooky at times, and you never quite know what is going to jump out at you!!!


Matt: Galicia does have its own ‘Camino identity’. For one thing, bars & albergues don’t open early for breakfast, but once they do open, everything is far more ‘commercial’, and dare I say it, less friendly? One thing is for sure – the volume of peregrinos has increased substantially since Sarria (as we knew it would), so maybe we’re now seen less as ‘pilgrims’ and more as ‘walking tourists’ and therefore deserving of less respect?

Jackie: We are staying slightly ahead of the bigger groups of pilgrim tourists by getting up earlier and staying in the more off the beaten track places. 

Matt: It was 9km before stopped for breakfast, and then another 11km to Portomarin where most of the ‘tourist’ pilgrims were heading. We decided to stop there for a bite of lunch (calamares & mixed salad to share) before pushing on the remaining 8km to Gonzar.

No matter how slow you are if you keep going you will get there


Now 8km doesn’t sound too much after 20km, but when its hot, exposed, and uphill, it feels like a lot longer. Added to which, we missed the turning for our aubergue and walked on an extra 0.5km (which felt even longer) before sheepishly turning back and passing oncoming pilgrims, many of whom motioned that we were heading the wrong way. Cue clenched smile and tunnel vision until we reached Casa Garcia, our haven.

Jackie: Matt Nav basically went off track and my cries of maybe this is wrong fell on the deaf ears of a man on a mission to find the Aubergue. However it was worth it when we did get there … the lovely comfortable bed that I had been fantasizing about all day.


It was a good day, my legs ache quite a lot but we are now only 80 km to Santiago, although we are also planning to walk part of the way to Fineste … the road less traveled.

Catch up with Jackie and Matt’s adventure Camino Day 25 click this link

Camino Frances – Day 23, 23km: Triacastela to Badaleros

A misty 23km from Triacastela to Badaleros. Saw our first ‘floating islands’ of the journey and encountered lots of the local wildlife at first hand, cows being ubiquitous in the Galician ‘Yorkshire Dales’. Bypassed Sarria and stopped about 5km beyond in an oasis, complete with swimming pool.

Jackie: A pretty perfect day I would say … a manageable 23k compared to the previous 2 days, inspiring scenery, some great coffee stops, ending at  a lovely Albergue in Badaleros with private room and a swimming pool! 


After Pack-gate….Snore-gate

“If you look around the dormitory, and can’t identify the snorer….then it’s you” – Matt Wright, Mon 7th Sep 2015

Jackie had suggested me that maybe I could allow myself to be deeper & more thoughtful whilst on the Camino, so that’s my thought for the day, right there. I must confess that I had a great night’s sleep, though judging from Jackie’s demeanour this morning, the same could not be said for everyone else in the same dormitory.

“I was going to spray you with some water from the top bunk…but I didn’t have any, so eventually I managed to yank on a power cord next to your neck, and that stopped you”.

Cue garotte burn and a burning sense that I’d better not snore tonight, as Jacks is threatening to take a walking pole to bed with her,“…and I can’t promise which end I’ll be using”. Point taken (hopefully not literally).

The snoring, combined with Jackie’s ‘I’ll only be 2 minutes in the bathroom’ routine, meant that we didn’t leave the hostel until well after 7am, considerably behind schedule. This marked divergence between MOT & JOT caused a semi heated discussion which rumbled on for the first hour or so of the walk, before eventually burning itself out, much as the mist which hung over the valley this morning finally gave way to bright sunshine.

Jackie:  I am just aware of the need to create a balance between having a plan and going with the flow. This is not supposed to be a race to the finish line. It is an experience that will be over all too quickly and it is important to connect with it whilst it is happening. I want that but again I can see how silly little arguments or niggles over keeping to the schedule can get in the way. Luckily Matt and I can both see the funny side and ended up laughing at ourselves!

Rise above the obvious


Matt: Luckily, we climbed above it at the high point of our walk, and found ourselves looking down at ‘floating islands’ (as they’re known in Galicia) – patches of green surrounded by a thick white cloudy sea, rather ethereal actually (does that count as a 2nd deep thought for the day?). Jackie: Yes Matt … you can admit to being a bit deeper that you let on!

Jackie: Actually Matt won’t admit this but we had a chat about higher consciousness as I thought the clarity above the clouds on this particular part of the Camino signified this in a way. It was foggy down below but higher up everything was clear and bright! Maybe this is a message to look up and see the bigger picture when thinking becomes confused or foggy! Maybe there is a more expansive universe than the one we find ourselves in right now! 

I will hold on to this image as it was a powerful one! It represented a feeling I have at times when a meditation goes a bit deeper!

Matt: The Galician Yorkshire Dales continued on as of yesterday – semi-derelict stone outhouses, fringed with moss, echoing to the sound of dairy cattle on their way to/from milking.

Compostella Baggers

Sarria is the ‘closest’ place that pilgrims can start their journey from in order to qualify for a Compostella in Santiago, hence it is inordinately popular with the Spanish – over 25% off all pilgrimages originate from here. Rather than be caught up in this rush, we bought some provisions, intending to eat them in a park, having already decided to press on for a few km further to a place which Jack’s had seen in a brochure. (Jackie: a little brochure I found in a bar today on the Way!)

Everything you need is on the Way

Jackie: When you walk the way it seems like everything you need just turns up! When you are living simply, carrying what you need on your back, walking from place to place, eating when you are hungry and sleeping when you are tired you don’t need so much and what you get means alot. You appreciate and are very grateful for everything.


For example for very little expense (our average daily expenses are approximately 35 to 40 euros each) today we have had breakfast in a cafe in Triacastela, a late morning cafe con leche with some gorgeous home made lemon cake in a great little bar on route, a mini picnic (picked up a few provisions from a supermarket we passed by) a double room (treating ourselves tonight) at a super Aubergue with a swimming pool in the quaint village of Badaleros, a few beers in the bar with our Camino friend Tom (who turned up again on route!) and no doubt tonight we will have a great pilgrim dinner! (3 courses with wine!) 


Everything you need is here on the Way! And here we have time to reflect and appreciate it! I could do this more in daily life at home! As we do really have an awful lot and it is important not to take it for granted. The simple pleasures are more often that not the best!

Matt: Casa Barbadelo was indeed an oasis – expansive terrace, azure blue swimming pool, and (most importantly for Jacks) a spacious double room. I just hope that I don’t snore tonight, or else this will be the last blog posting you ever read……wish me luck!


Jackie: Yes … Matt … I need my sleep to be able to keep up with MOT!!

Catch up with Jackie and Matt’s adventure Camino Day 24 click this link