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Live from the Camino!!!

I am now in Pontevedra after 7 days on the Caminho/Camino! I thought that I would report back on conditions on the Camino while it is still fresh in my mind.

We arrived in Porto, late on Friday Aug 7. Our John Brierley guidebook started earning its keep straight away by recommending that we take the metro from the airport to the centre (half the time the bus takes). We stayed in teh Pensao Aviz (Av. Rodrigues de Freitas, 451, tel 22 3320722). We got a great deal (68 euros for two people and two nights in an ensuite) via bookings.com. It is a bit run down, but comfortable and clean and it is a short walk to the Cathedral.

On Saturday, I did the hop-on-and-off bus tour. I highly recommed the red route which takes you out to the beach (where I dipped my feed in the ocean and collected some stones to take to Fisterra), to the Port houses, the Cathedral (which I picked up my credencial and visited Santiago), the Torre dos Clerigos, Livraria Lello, the Museum of Modern Art, etc. For 19 euros, you can get a combination bus and boat tour ticket. Brierly gives quite good recommendations on what to see and do in Porto (and in the other places you pass through on the Camino).

As everyone who answered my question about language said, it is pretty easy to get buy in Portugual with Spanish, English and/or a bit of French. I am glad to say, however, that my Portuguese is improving now that I am getting used to the pronunciation.

We set off on Sunday, Aug 9. To avoid the heat and the traffic, we started off from the Cathedral at 5:30 am. Sunrise is at 6:30. Even in the dark, it was pretty easy to follow the arrows (a flashlight is occasionally useful where the street lighting is out). There are one or two places where we had to hunt around, but the Porto map that Brierley provides is very helpful. I do have to say that the way-marking in Portugal is EXCELLENT. Not only are there frequent arrows, there are also clear indications of where not to go. So, following the arrows, we missed the turn off in Araujo that would have taken us to the dangerous crossing. Instead, we went straight ahead and easily made it to Vilharinho. As it was Sunday, we picked up the keys for the refuge from the bar/Repsol gas place instead of the pharmacy. We were the first there and so had our pick of the four bunks. We were later joined by a Portuguese pilgrim who did the Northern route and was on enroute to Fatima. The broken bunk that John posted in response to my question about Vilharino has been temporarly fixed. It has been bent back into place and shored up with a gas tank. We had to play hunt the bathroom. For the info of future peregrinos, these are found two doors to the left of the bunkroom )separate key). The showers are cold.

On Monday, Aug 10, we went to Barcelos. We set off again at 5:30 am and found the route easy to follow (flashlight needed). One thing that puzzled me about this section is that you are not routed through the centre of villages and past the chuch (as you are on the Frances). Just before Pedra Furada, the way marking didn´t seem to match up to Brierley´s description, so maybe there has been some re-routing here. We didn´t stop at the Albergue in Rates, but ironically ended up meeting Nuno, its hospitalero on the Camino. He is working on his own guidebook. We did stop at the Perdra Furada bar. They have a great stamp and the people couldn´t have been friendlier. We don´t sleep well in Albergues (and have enough money to avoid them), so we have been staying in hotels, pensions, etc.In Barcellos, we stayed in the Residencial Arantes. We had a large and bright room with a double bed and ensuite bath (50 euros).

On Tuesday, Aug 11, we went to Ponte de Lima. This was a long and hot day. Again, we had an early start and the way-marking is excellent. This is where we met our first peregrinos going to Santiago. As the day progressed, we had met about 7 other peregrinos. When you come to the cruce after the parish church in Vitorino, you REALLY have to look out for the Viana bar on the right hand side. From the sign, all you can see is Viana Talho. When you hit the N203 after Quinta de Albergia, there is a pasteleria bar which is not reported in Brierly. There is a bar at Ponte de Barros, but there is no sign at all. Ponte de Lima itself is a charming town. We stayed in the Pensao Sao Joao. This was clean and tidy and we had an ensuite room with a balcony (30 euros).

On Wed, Aug 12, we went to Rubiaes. We had another early start which meant that we did all the up hill before it got hot. We stayed at the Pensao an Roque (30 euros). This was one of the nicest rooms we had to date. The lady who runs the Pensao is lovely. I asked if they had a washing machine. She offered to wash and dry our clothing for us. When I asked her how much she wanted, she said it was for free. She also phoned a local restaurant to arrange for them to pick us up for lunch and dinner AND deliver us back (all for free). Brierly reports two bars by the Pensao. One is now closed and up for sale. There is a shop/bar open. This is a few 100 m uphill (i.e. not in the direction the Camino is going). It has no sign to indicate it is a bar or even a shop. However, you will spot the gas cylinders outside.

On Thurs, Aug 13, we went to Tui. This was another early start. The way was well marked. This is again one of those places where I don´t understand the logic of the people setting the route. The Camino bypasses the old part of Valenca. This is really lovely and well worth visiting. Brierly recommends a good route through this. However, his map is a bit mis-leading here. When you come to the roundabout at the entrance to the old bit of Valenca (there is a water fountain in the centre), you almost immediately come across a sign that says ´fortaleza). This will take you into the old part of town. Brierly´s map suggests that it is a few hundred meters from the roundabout. So, we walked straight past this and only realised this when we passed by the tourist info site (boarded up and closed). Valenca was heaving with tourists, so we continued on to Tui to spend the night. In Tui, we spent the night in Hostal Generosa (25 euros). This is in a lovely old building. The baths are down the hall. The rooms looked tidy enough, but the bathrooms could have been cleaner as could the sink in our room. Senor Nic, the owner, is a wonderful old gent. He also runs the bar downstairs. He didn´t even bat an eyelid when we asked if we could be let out at 5:30am (his wife, I have to say, was less than enthouastic about this when I asked her).

I really enjoyed my time in Portugal. This was my first time there and it certainly won´t be my last. I can´t believe how cheap everything was in Portugal. On the caminho we would normally have two expressos, two caffe con leite and a sande de quiejo or fiambre each for about 4 euros 50. Once across the border into Spain, the prices almost doubled. The other disapointment about the Spanish side is the real lack of good way-marking compared to Portugal. Once in Spain, there were much fewer yellow arrows and rather infrequent scallop shell tiles. At one point, on Friday Aug 14 on the way to Redondela, we had a 5 min discussion (in the dark) about whether or not the route was the silver coloured arrow painted on the ground or the scallop shell in the wall with the rays pointing right. I seemed to remember reading that the ray showed the direction, but I couldn´t find this in Brierly to convince my boyfriend. So, we wasted time checking out both possible directions. We did manage to get out of Tui, however, we met other peregrinos that day who got quite lost. On the roads out of Tui, the way marking is very insufficent (especially if you have been spoiled by Portuguese marking). Again, we wasted time checking out several dead ends. We always managed to stick to the route eventually, but a few more arrows here and there would be reassuring. The worst bit is when yo hit the major road after the Virxe do Camino. The route description is a Brierly reports, but we travelled a long way before we hit a marker which confirmed that our choice had been good (we had been on the point of turning back). When you hit the major road you do have a shell indicating that you go right. There is also a purpose built pedestrian area (red pavement). You go almost 1.5 km before you hit the next shell. There is construction work in the main street of Porrino which makes the way a bit difficult to find, but people were quite good at pointing out the way. By this time, the number of peregrinos had increased quite a lot. A number decided to stay in Mos. Note: one of the bars was closed, but the shop/bar across the albergue was open. Note: Brierley says that the camino passes La Taberna resaurant. The turn off is actually before La Taberna. When we arrived in Redondela, the hospitalera at the Albergue confirmed that there were no hotels in the centre of town. So, we had to walk an extra 3km to Hostal Jumboli (35 euros). Together with the discussions about route finding and checking out possible directions, this was a long day indeed (over 33 km).

Saturday, Aug 15: Today we arrived in Pontevedra. Thanks to the extra 3km yesterday, we had quite a short day today and so have had time to explore the town (and even sit mass in the very
charming Santuario da Peregrina. Even though many shops are closed (Aug 15 is a national holiday), Pontevedra is still quite lively. The sidewalks cafes are full and there are roaming musicians in traditional Galician attire and bag pipes. We are staying in the hotel Ruas. This costs 58 euros, but as it has air conditioning, we don´t mind paying a bit extra. This hotel has an excellent location and is only a few blocks away from the Camino. The waymarking today has been OK except for central Arcade before the bridge. We missed the turn off to get off the main road and only realised that we were in the wrong place when we saw the bridge we were supposed to be crossing over to the right. I do have to say that the photos in the guide are quite useful for this sort of thing. We managed to get back on track. On the far side, the Pontevedra council has taken over the marking. This is quite detailed.

A few comments on Brierly´s book. This is an excellent book. The route maps, city maps and topos are very helpful as is his info on accomodation, restaurants and ´what to see and do´. So as a ´practical guide´I find it quite useful. One of the features of this guide, however, is that it is also a ´mystical guide´. Intersperced with the practial info are things to reflect up an Brierley´s own personal reflections. Personally, I don´t find these of any use. I would much rather have my own reflections than read someone elses. Also, as I am the one who gets to carry the guidebook, I keep on wondering how much lighter the book would be if it didn´t have the mystical stuff. With regards to the route maps and topos, I don´t think that these are all to scale. So the best way of figuring out how far you really are is to add up the kms rather than look at the route map.I also like the fact that you can use the front and back covers as page markers. So, thank you John for a very useful guide. Other pilgrims have ended up consulting out book before setting out the next day. As I mentioned earlier, Nuno Ribeiro (from Rates) is working on a new guide (he is even carrying a GPS and a laptop). His guide is going to stick to practical info. He said that he is very concerned about accurate directions, maps and topos. So, this might be something for people to watch out for when it is out.

An overall comment on this camino: It certainly has a very different character than the Frances or Via de la Plata. It is much lusher than the Frances or Plata. There are bits of it that remind me of some of the Inca trails I have done in Bolivia (i.e stone paving, ferns, eucalyptus). There are enough peregrinos for you to feel that this is a camino, but not as much as the Frances. LIke the Frances, there are cafe/bars at relatively frequent intervals and you will often see a pile of rucksacks outside of the first open cafe on the day´s walk. Unlike the Frances, however, it doesn´t have the same peregrino friendly facilties (i.e. not all the pharmacies have compede). I think that this would be a great training route for someone thinking of doing the Frances. It would help you work out the kinks, like what to take or leave behind.

A final note on feet: After 7 days of walking, I don´t have a single blister and neither does my boyfriend!!!! The secret? A week before starting out, we bathed our feet for 15 min each day in hot water with a few crystals of potasium permangenate (you only need a pinch). This prevents your feet from sweating. Also, before we start off each day we rub our feet with pilgrims ointment. We bought this on the Frances. It is essentially vaseline with arnica, camphor and eucalyptus added. We have run out of this and I have been using Vick vapo rub. This is a good substitute. I wear bridgedale trek light socks and bridgedale liner socks. I also wear a pair of walking shoes that are about 2 sizes larger than I would wear at home.

I found with the Frances that my feet swell in very hot weather (I live in Scotland and so hot weather ususally isn´t something I encounter). I developped blisters. Once I bought some larger walking shoes in Logrono the blisters started healing. I used the ointment (purchased in Fromista) daily on the feet and ontop of the compede (helps to prevent the compede from sticking to your socks). By the time I arrived in Santiago, my feet were fully healed and blister free.
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Thank you! I take off from Porto next Saturday. Starting to panic a bit...what to bring, guide good enough, where to stay on the route, waymarking....etc. etc. I walked the Frances two years ago so the camino life is not brand new to me. I feel much better after reading Nicoles live camino report!
Anyone else starting next week?

Buen camino
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Hello Reineclaude!

I am glad that you found my posting helpful. I do have to say that the Brierley Guide (which I bought off of Amazon.com) is the best I have seen so far in any language (we have done a lot of guide book comparing at the cafes along the route). If you can get a rush delivery of this before you set off, you won´t regret it. As I said in my original post, you do get spoiled by the Portuguese way marking, so coming out of Tui is a bit of a culture shock. The waymarking is much more minimalistic. Basicially, the general idea seems to be that if you come to a junction and there is no way marker, you just go straight. However, some of the waymarkers are a bit hidden, so it is always good to take the effort to take a wee bit of a look around to see if there is any alternative. Up to Pontevedra, I can confirm that the rays of the shell logo do point out the direction you take. I feel quite sorry for the peregrinos that are going from Santiago to Fatima. The Fatima markings (blue arrows) are excellent in Portugal. They are almost non-existent so far in Spain.

While we haven´t been staying in the albergues, we have been meeting up with peregrinos staying in the albergues. At this time of the year, they are either full or near to full. I haven´t yet heard of anyone being turned away from an albergue. The very helpful hospitalera in Redondela (who phoned ahead to book us a place at the hotel 3km down the camino) said that the albergue had been full for the past week. Reports back from the albergue peregrinos indicate that there are no bed bugs, but that the almost full albergues do get quite hot and stuffy.

This is a very nice route and certainly easier than the Frances. Many of the other peregrinos have already done the Frances are so are well trained in camino culture. That is to say, people are not shy about saying hello, introducing themselves and comparing guide descriptions.

If there is anything specific you would like to know that would help you with your camino, just let me know!
We arrived in Santiago this morning and managed to get processed in time for the noon mass. The way marking improves after Pontevedra, but there were some confusing contradictory arrows on the final day. I will give a more detailed update tomorrow. Now I am getting together info for Finesterre. I downloaded the recommended guide, but seem to be missing a page.
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Here is the rest of my ´Live from the Camino´report. We had a great time in Pontevedra on Saturday, Aug 15. This was the national festival and the streets were filled with muscians.

On Sunday, Aug 16, we went to Caldas de Reis. This was a nice day´s walk. The waymarking improved significantly from what we had previously experienced between Tui and Arcade. So, the route was very easy to follow. The only problem we had was because it was Sunday and we were on the road early, all of the cafes were closed. So, we didn´t get our normal coffee and sandwick break. August 16 is the festival day of San Roque, the patron of Caldas de Rey. So, we left one party only to find ourselves in another (more street musicians and later fireworks). We stayed in the Hostal Lotus, where we paid 35 euros for an ensuite. We tried out the famous Taberna O'Muino with the idea of having dinner there. While this is an interesting place, I wouldn´t recommend this as a place to eat. They ony had tapas and these took FOREVER to arrive. The place was packed and there only appeared to be two very harassed looking waitresses running around. We had two beers, an order of chorize and some pimientos de Padron and it took us well over an hour to order, get the food and eat. We then went to the Puente Romana cafe bar where we had excellent sandwiches for lunch. We had a great meal, the owner is super friendly and even came over with some free after dinner drinks.

On Monday, August 17, we went from Caldas de Rey though Padron an onto Areal (9km into the final stage). The waymarking from Caldas to Areal was very good and we had no problems with the route at all (even with a pre dawn start). As it was Monday, the cafes were open again. So, we had a few coffee breaks on route to Padron (Brierley very usefully indicates where the cafe bars are on route). After doing the 18 km to Padron we had a long rest break. We had lunch, visited the Padron by the river and the Fuente do Carmen. Then, we had a couple of hours stroll to Areal. On this stretch, there are a few extra options for accomodation than is indicated in Brierely. There is a small pension in Esclavitude directly on the route. Before you hit Areal we also say a sign offering rooms for 7 euros. In Areal, we stayed at the Pension Milagroso. This the the big Pension-Restaurant that you first encounter when the camino hits the main road. There are a variety of different types of rooms at a variety of prices. We stayed in the new bit which has large ensuite rooms and don´t face the highway (and so are more quiet). We paid 50 euros for this and ate in the restaurant. The woman who runs the place is SUPER friendly and helpful. We later met up with some of our amigos del camino who stayed at the Teo albergue. They said that they had arranged with her to be picked from Teo for their evening meal and then were delivered back to the albergue afterwards. The restaurant has a menu peregrino.

On Tuesday, Aug 18, we arrived in Santiago. Pushing on a bit extra on the Monday ment that we only had 15 km of walking. We had an early start and managed to arrive in time to get processed in time for the noon peregrino mass. On this short stretch there are a few problems with the way marks. We managed to get a bit off route near O Seve. However, as we did this bit in the dark, it might have simply been our own fault for missing an arrow. When we hit the main road we knew that we were off route (the maps in the Brierly guide are useful for this). However we simply followed the road sign back to O Seve and picked up the route. So, I don´t think that we lost any time here. The other place where we got lost (and this was in broad daylight) was coming down from Monte Agro before arriving in Ponte Vella de Arriba. There are a few places where there are conflicting arrows. Just before arriving in Ponte Vella we followed some arrows on the curb which pointed down and to the right. We ended up at a new looking roundabout and a bridge crossing a very busy road. There was a restaurant nearby so we stopped for coffee and directions. As this was the first open cafe we encountered since leaving Areal, getting lost wasn´t a bad thing. Once back on route, we noticed up and to the right a massive arrow. This lead us to the village square and we were back in business. The waymarking from here to Aveneda Rosalia de Castro as you enter Santiago was good but seemed to disapear once on the Ave Rosalia de Castro. We were happy to have the Brierley city map which directed us through the park and onto the Rua Franco.

In Pontevedra I had booked a twin room with bath with the Hospedaje Santa Cruz (for 35 euros per night) (mentioned in the Brierley guide). When we got there (10:50am) we were told that they didn´t have a room for us because the person in 'our room' hadn´t left. For this simply reason, I wouldn´t recommend this place. I must admit, I was a bit dubious about our reservation because when I made the booking the woman didn´t ask for my name. I found this a bit strange and so insisted on giving it to her. What I can say is that the man who was in charge of the Santa Cruz when we arrived is that he did manage to pass us onto someone else who had rooms for rent. Ironically, this turned out to be better as it was part of a self catering house. We had a double with a connecting bathroom. There was a communal kitchen and also a washer and dryer. The man who runs this is called Ramon. The address is 4 Rua de Trinidad (an excellent location). His number is 628577323. I gather that he is somehow connected to the people who run the Hospedaje Santa Cruz. When booking, you need to be careful about getting a good description of your room. We were shown one room with a bath, but you had to go through someone else´s room to get to it!!!! If you were a group of 4, this would be an OK situation, but we were not happy about the idea of having to disturb another couple to get into and out of our room. We stayed in room number 1 which is OK. Room number 3 is a proper ensuite. We managed to get our room for 35 euros as I insisted that this was the price I was given when we booked. Ramon said that room 3 normally goes 45 to 50 euros.

Today was a rest day. It was great to sleep in to 10am!! Tomorrow we head off to Murxia and then Finnesterre.

We have put off booking our return flights until today because we wanted to make sure that we had time to do the Portugue route AND the bit to Finesterre. We decided to return to Portugal and after looking around we managed to find a great deal with flyglobespan from Faro to Glasgow for 46 euros (plus 10 euros for a checked in bag). So our plan is to go to Porto, then to Lisbon and onto Faro!

Buen Camino!!!
Thank you for sharing! It allows us to escape to the Camino for a time.

Sounds like you had a great time.


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