Camino Portuguese da Costa – Days 11 and 12, September 29th – 30th 2019

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How many kilometers between Pontevedra and Santiage de Compostella?

Pontevedra to San Mamede de Portela

I left the Casa A Grade air bnb (see my previous day’s walk for details) in the almost-dawn, and continued along the Rio Tomaza into Pontevedra, a 40 minute walk.

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Glorieta de Compostella – Fuente de los Niños (Fountain of drinking children) at the interseccion (intersection) Rúa (Road/street) Peregrina con (with) Rúa Fray de Navarette 36001 Pontevedra, Spain
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The Capela (chapel) de Peregrina (of female) pilgrims, Pontevedra, Spain
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Detail showing St James, The Capela (chapel) de Peregrina (of (female) pilgrims, Pontevedra, Spain
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Convento (convent) do San Francisco, Pontevedra, Spain

The Top Ten Things to Do and See in Pontevedra website (not mine)

Leaving the city, I once again rejoined the Via Romana / Portuguese Camino

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Via Romana XIX and yellow arrow / iconic signposting for the Camino de Santiago, Spain
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The Virgin on decorative tiles, Spain

Being a Sunday, the cyclists were out. When you are walking quietly, focusing on the way your feet meet the ground, allowing thoughts to meander in and out, and then a cyclist shoots past your left elbow with a whoosh and, very occassionally, a Buen Camino, it is a shock. When it happens over and over again, it’s more akin to a small trauma and there is no possibility of resting in your rhythm and pace, you must stay alert.

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Sunday cyclists on the Camino Portuguese, Spain
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It rained on and off as I passed a cemetery, near San Mamaede de Portela, Spain

Shortly afterwards, it poured and it was not possible to take photos. Arriving at the hostel of San Marmede de Portela in the middle of the countryside, there was no-one to greet me, just a couple already drying off. Thank goodness the door was open! I was soaking, wet through. It was a large dormitory and I chose a corner away from the door, not knowing that there was no heating and that by the end of the day the room would be completely full to overflowing (there were pilgrims sleeping in the eating room etc). It was also very dark and although some of us tried to open windows, they were always immediately closed by others.

Wet walking clothes are stinky, especially when there is no drying room or anywhere to hang clothes / store boots except narrow corridors. If you sleep on the bottom bunk and they are like drapes all around you, there is no getting away from the smell. People were using one hair drier between 20 or more, but it takes a long time to dry sodden socks with one. There is a big garden and other buildings outside, but the weather was too terrible to contemplate unless you arrived very late in which case I did see folk sloshing across, seemingly with no other opton, but I didn’t know where they were going.

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I am not good at these sorts of photos but you can see the world map on the wall on the right and the numbers of hikers who have written on it, plus the table laid and the scrum of diners waiting to eat

Run by volunteers, this is a donativo hostel and the men who came along later knew what they were doing and were well prepared. Being well away from shops or restaurants, a great meal was produced and tables and chairs arranged and rearranged to fit everyone in. Sitting alongside all nationalities, it was a jolly occassion (there was nowhere to get away from it if you had wanted privacy). There was wine and hot soup, vegetarian tortillas with salad and, if I remember rightly, a desert too. Clearing up was a communal event and the partying went on, as ever, late into the evening.

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All ages, all nationalities, many fixed on screens. Other than the bunks, there was nowhere else to sit until we were given permission to be at the table. Hostel San Marmede de Portela

San Marmede de Portela to Caldas de Reis

The next day it was still raining, but luckily it cleared. Ugh, putting on wet boots and clothes is one of the worst things after a broken night!

I walked through Santa Maria de Alba, A Cancela and Albergue de Briallos.

There was a most unusual cafe where many of us stopped for a hot drink that morning (some were taking shots of orujo (a sort of grappa) with their coffee, perhaps a way of warming up from the inside). There was only one, older and innovative man serving us all. It looked as if he had used his garage for this purpose and, after serving us, I noticed that he disappeared through a side door. On further investigation, I spied huge vats of grapes steeping.

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Crowded with pilgrims ready for morning coffee, A Cancela, Spain
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A garage reimagined as a cafe, A Cancela, Spain
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And winery in a side room – the smell was amazing as he stirred the great vats releasing the aroma of rotting and ripening grapes. A Cancela, Spain

I am always coming across dead animals on the camino, but today’s fox was still alive. I crouched down and whispered to it, knowing that it would not live long, wishing it well on its journey.

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I thought perhaps you would not want to see a photo of the fox, but this was nearby, always a reminder, Spain
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It continued to drip and drizzle, puffy rain clouds on the horizon, some walking with umbrella, past vines heavy with fruit
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I can never resist a chat with a donkey

My In Praise of the Donkey blog

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Black grapes heavy on the vines, Camino de Santiago, Spain
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Letter box and bread slot
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A speckled, camouflage-yellow canna resplendent against a dull sky
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Caldas de Reis, a most attractive place at the confluence of the Rivers Bermaña and Umia, Spain

I stayed in the private Albergue Peregrinos Posada Doña Urraca and I do not recommend it, despite the fantastic location. It was dirty and crowded, the rooms are almost at the front door so anyone can walk in and out. The photos on the website do not show it as it is – do not be deceived. It is not a municipal one – I have never seen a government-run hostel be filthy like this.

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Accumulated dirt in one of the 2 tiny bathrooms at the private Albergue Peregrinos Posada Doña Urraca, Caldas de Reis, Spain

There was some lively conversation around the table, however, from the US as well as Germany, and a crowd of Polish pilgrims (I have not met people from Poland much at all on the Camino) at the hostel.

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Caldas de Reis, Spain

It’s a busy and normal town despite all of us traipsing through, with friendly local people and lots of facilities – a big supermarket, cafes and loads of banks. I tried the three cashpoints in one street – one was charging 3.50 euros, one 1.50 and the third nil, so watch out for this when getting cash out. It wasn’t my bank which charged me, nothing to do with getting money from a British finance organisation, it was the cashpoint machine company and I found this all over Portugal and in some parts of Spain. (I use a Post Office Travel Money Card via an app on my phone which charges for the exchange, but doesn’t have an additional service charge like the Bank of Scotland does if I use my everyday debit card when I am abroad).

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Stunning bridges, some reminiscent of Oxford or Venice, and clean rivers in Caldas de Reis, Spain

Have you walked the Portuguese Camino? Maybe you are planning to? Leave me a comment to let me know 🙂

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