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Notes on a family's Camino Ingles in August 2009


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We recently walked to Santiago along the Camino Ingles using John Walker’s (JW) useful guide. It truly was like having somebody showing us the way and the information contained in it made our pilgrimage that much easier.

We set off on Monday 3rd August and we were incredibly lucky with the weather as it remained overcast for most of the week and we even had some rain on day 3, which meant that we did not feel so foolish carrying our rain capes.

The Day 1 walk was easy to follow, however, there is a point (I think between Neda and Fene) where one of the waymarks points the wrong way (possibly straight on, where you should go left - this could be at the point where JW mention’s the sign for Conces, but I cannot recall the detail). We were alerted to this by several locals, but there will be times when there is nobody around. The local police (see below) also told they had rescued a couple of "peregrinas" the previous day, who had got lost at that point. The lavadero water there is excellent and the locals stock up with big containers.

We stopped at Fene for the first night. The people at the Town Hall were most unhelpful. We arrived there at about 5 pm. There was no indication as to what their office hours were, but the cleaning lady who opened the door was unable to find anybody willing to stamp our “credenciales”. There were people working in the building but they refused to deal with us. We did wait outside the front door and they all eventually had to walk past us. Only one woman talked to us indicating that we were outside office hours. By then we had called the other number listed for Fene (609828744) and this turned out to be the Local Police. Their offices are at the other end of the same street. They were incredibly helpful. They were out on their rounds, but they arrived shortly after, stamped our “credenciales”, sorted out our accommodation and drove us to the hostal. They had to do two journeys as there were six of us and they even then made an extra journey as we had left our maps on their counter. The funniest part was that the Town Hall personnel accompanied us to the police offices to witness the drama. We stayed at the Hostal Restaurante La Cepa. It was brilliant. The three rooms we had were all en-suite, large, with windows in both bedrooms and bathrooms, very clean and comfortable. We had a simple meal of raciones in the bar downstairs, which was also very good. We paid 30 euros per room. The hostal is not directly on the camino, hence the lift from the police, but it is not more than 1 km away on the other side of the railway line, by a railway station called Perlio, and there is a useful supermarket on the way.

Day 2 was mostly uneventful, apart from the fact that on the way out of Miño and after crossing the bridge, House Number 2 (where you turn left) was being painted and the waymark had been removed. Hopefully they will replace it soon. I assume that the recent editions of the guide have been corrected. We were using the printed, plastified version and the telephone number for the “Chocolateria” in Betanzos was incorrect. The correct number is 981 774495, just in case. After the luxurious night in Fene, we were quite disappointed by the facilities there, considering we were paying the same. We had dinner at a busy pizzeria round the corner from the pension. The details are: Sinuessa, Calle Carretera Castilla 18.

Day 3 was the “deal breaker” for our family. By the time we got to Bar Julia, our 14-year-old twins were ready to give up. I took them back to Betanzos in the afternoon bus together with my 16-year-old daughter and we left my husband and 18-year-old daughter to carry on after lunch. I think the guide should recommend people to ring Bar Julia in advance just to make sure she will have enough food and bread for lunch. Unfortunately I seem to have lost the card with her details. As we were leaving, a larger group of pilgrims arrived at the bar to order food. They had arranged to spend the night at the school in Leiro. That possibility is worth investigating, as we would probably have continued the pilgrimage as a family if we had been able to stop then.

My husband and oldest daughter carried on to Bruma, where they were very well looked after and the following day continued on. When they got to Sigueiro they found the Hostal Miras fully booked by a coach load of "pilgrims" who would be walking the final stage the following morning. Perhaps a word of warning about the possibility of day pilgrims should be added to the guide. Undeterred they continued on their way and made it to Santiago the same day.

Meanwhile my younger children and I had retreated to the apartment we had borrowed in Cedeira, and my second daughter and I returned to Bar Julia to pick up from where we had left off two days earlier. We had a lovely half-day’s walk to the hostal at Bruma. The takeaway meal was excellent, although the pilgrims sharing the upstairs with us were very noisy late into the night, some convoluted medical family emergency, so could not really complain.

Day 4 was complicated for us. I must say we lost our way on a couple of occasions and I really feel there needs to be a bit more information in the guide at some points for the stretch between Bruma and Sigueiro. There was one point, I cannot remember exactly where, when we emerged from a forest path at a t-junction and there was no waymark. The guide was silent so we turned left and shortly found a nice Cruceiro so we thought we were on the right track. We were still a bit suspicious so we turned back to the t-junction and went right; fortunately this time we met a woman who told that that was the correct way. There were some multi coloured fluorescent marks on the bushes on the right at the t-junction, but they did not look like the usual yellow paint so we were confused. Later on we were totally lost at the “granite blocks” section. We did miss a waymark when there is a very wide clear path uphill to the left, but the waymark is off to the right into the trees. We were not the only ones to make the same mistake. It took us quite a while to retrace our steps and we did go over and under the motorway at various points trying to find our way back.

Incidentally, one of our pilgrim companions explained the reason for the 4 km straight stretch before Sigueiro. Apparently the motorway eradicated the traditional route for the Camino and the route they recreated followed the motorway too closely, so much so, that the pilgrims complained about the constant noise not being very conducive to a spiritual journey. So the route was diverted to follow the quieter road made for the gas pipe into Sigueiro.

When we got to Sigueiro we were ready to stop for the day. The Hostal Miras was closed for the weekend. We found a cheap and basic menu del dia in a Meson just up from Hostal Miras. We walked to the church where a very young lad went to get the key, opened the church and very helpfully stamped our “credenciales” and allowed us a quick prayer in the little church. We then tried to find the “polideportivo”. Unfortunately they had decided to take the roof off for the summer. The telephone numbers in the guide were not available and things were getting a bit scary. We eventually rang the hospitalero at Bruma who seemed to think there was a school where we could stay. Finally we got a reply from one of the telephone numbers. It was the number for “proteccion civil”. The secondary school gym had been made available for pilgrims. There was no hot water, there were four toilets and four sinks and about 50 pilgrims. By the time we got there, there were no floor mats either. It was a very grim night.

Day 5 was straightforward. My daughter literally shook the dust of her boots from the school and we were the first to leave. We were rewarded for our early start when we surprised a young deer in a meadow. We arrived at Santiago at about 11 am on the Sunday. Unfortunately so did another 1498 pilgrims that day so we queued for 3 hours at the pilgrim office. We missed the midday Mass and by the time we had our “compostela” it was 2 pm and the next Mass was at 7:30 pm. When my husband and elder daughter finished the previous Thursday evening, they only waited 30 minutes. It might be useful to point out that arriving at a less popular time could save hours of waiting. We visited the cathedral quickly, still heaving with tourists and pilgrims, with queues for everything; however we were lucky enough to hear some Bach from the organ and that made up for the other disappointments and certainly made me very emotional. We found a very convenient place for lunch, almost next door to the pilgrim office. The café Airas Nunes does a “buffet libre” for 9 euros. There is plenty of choice, including a wide selection of salads as well as fish, meat, pasta and chips. They also do great homemade cakes. I think almost everyone in the “compostela” queue had ended up there at some point. The staff at the cafe had been quite welcoming to pilgrims who just wanted to use their facilities while queuing and they were recommended by everyone. Their details are: Rua do Vilar 17, 981 582 516.

It was clear that the Spanish pilgrims we met along the way did not have access to such a good guide. They simply walked with the tourist leaflet they had picked up at the tourist office in Ferrol and followed the waymarks. I discussed with the “hospitalero” in Bruma whether it would be possible to make the guide accessible to other nationalities and in particular to Spanish pilgrims. He seemed to think that the Xunta de Galicia would not be interested, but I think other pilgrim confraternities would be very keen.

I hope you find our comments useful and we again thank JW for preparing such a very detailed guide. JW is certainly very well known at Bruma and the tourist office in Betanzos. I am not sure whether the distances given in the guide are accurate, we certainly thought they were, but there were many discrepancies between the guides and sadly many of the waymarks had had the section giving the information about distance to Santiago removed by vandals.

Maria who walked with Patrick, Monica, Cecilia, Daniel and Martin
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RIP 2015
loved your post Maria an epic worthy of the Von Trapps themselves, and one I'm sure your children will remember for years to come, so different from my own wet quite Febuary walk.
thanks for bringing the memories back.

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