Via de la Plata Camino – Day 7, Spain

Ourense to Xunqueira de Ambia  4.12.16. 22.2km

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Municipal gardens, Ourense.

Aim: to keep myself safe

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River Miño, showing the modern bridge and not the famous Ponte Vella, Roman bridge which Ourense is famous for.

I prepared a very careful hand-drawn map with directions from the internet yesterday evening, and struck out on my own at 9am, after a very slow start because I needed to buy a lead to charge my phone and it was a Sunday – would all the shops be shut? The night before I had been told there would be a ‘Chinese’ shop open, and wandering through the old city where bric-a-brac stalls were being set up for the flea market, this info was confirmed. But could I find one? No. Instead I saw a sign in a cafe for wifi and phone charging, and the kind barman used his own lead: the first of many bartenders to help me out this way.

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View of Ourense from the old Franciscan Monastery,  now the municipal albergue for peregrinos (those who are walking the Camino).

It was a long walk out of the city, made worse by my tendency to distrust the people I asked for directions. In the meantime I found first a ‘Chinese’ shop and bought a phone lead, and secondly the hot baths I had been told about. They look like a surreal, steaming, swimming pool right in the centre of the city replete with people in rubber hats. I made a promise to myself that I would return to bathe there one day.

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Surreal, steamy baths. 

The next part of the day’s walking was a long slog on tarmac through the industrial area, but I was very glad not to get lost, and it was at least all flat.

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Stops: a coffee at lunchtime in a bar opposite a temporary street stall selling plates of pulpo (purple and white octopus) and potatoes, which were then eaten by Spanish couples in the bar, washed down with red wine. Happily, I was able to buy fresh bread to take away.

As the chemical smells receded, I walked through a residential area with the familiar vegetable gardens and spotted a well, not more than 5 paces from the front door  right on the edge of the street and stopped to photograph.

Railway lines crossed: 3 times. Surely this can’t be right, despite the yellow arrows clearly showing me the way? No trains in sight – perhaps they don’t run on a Sunday.

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Chapel Sta Agathe.

I scrambled down the bank and round the corner and discovered the little church of Saint Agatha on the hill behind the railway lines. In the sun, the simplicity and calm of the stone structure set in green grass was refreshing.

Until, that was,  I dipped into my pocket for my map and it wasn’t there. Yes, I decided that I really did need it as I had no other way to know my way. I hadn’t met a single other pilgrim on route that day, and though locals are keen to help there aren’t many to be found in the wilder parts. So I took off my rucksack, and retraced my steps, back over the railway line, until I found my scraps of paper by the well I had photographed 20 minutes earlier. Thank goodness.

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Nearly half way.

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The rest of the day was picturesque in parts… 

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…with unexpected delights.

As always there was a steep climb up from the river to the village at the end of the day. Alarmingly, I had to walk through and out the other side and only then arrived at the albergue to find it deserted.

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So I removed my boots and socks, found myself a bed, had a cold shower (to be fair they had a problem and the plumber was there early the next morning), and settled in with my bread and cheese before a cyclist appeared. I discovered the next morning that he was from Seville, with a computer job, had ridden 70km that day, and had a handy GPS. Kindly, he spent time letting me draw a map from it for the day’s walk – such a lucky break.

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Did I keep myself safe? Well, I didn’t get seriously lost; and it was a good call to go back and look for my map because I needed it. On the other hand I walked for miles along very busy roads with no pavements; and I think that was the first time in my life I have roamed along and over train tracks. I survived another day walking a considerable distance alone with my rucksack, and arrived safely. so let’s leave it at that. Plus I got another good picture of a donkey!

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