Tuesday, 12th of June 2007 at 06:14:01 PM

My Camino Day Zero: from Munich to Villafranca

1h S-Bahn, 2 hour Condor flight, 4 hour Bus drive and 15 minutes Taxi drive

Munich -Madrid – Ponferrada -Villafranca del Bierzo

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Wednesday, 13th of June 2007 at 06:51:45 PM

My Camino Day 1 (Friday June 1st 2007): Villafranca -O`Cebreiro-Alto do Poio (~40 km)


Pilgrims Poetry from Hernan Alonso on a bridge in Villafranca.

My first hiking day starts at 7.00 am. From my Hotel I walk through Villafranca and I try to understand how and where to get the credential stamps for my Pilgrims book. I will not be succesfull in Villafranca, because I didn’t know then that normally I can get them either in the albergues, hotels or in churches on the camino. After a while I give up and take the Camino which was marked by signs leading over a bridge and out of the town. Leaving Villafranca I miss my turn for the Camino duro variant over the mountain. I notice this after 1 km and return to the start point for the Camino duro which in the Guides is described as the more beautiful Hike compared to the walk along the freeway. The camino Duro leads over a mountain and avoids the loud freeway.


Not very professiional warning for the Camino Duro.

Tha Path up to the Camino Duro variant over the mountains avoiding the freeway leads through a nice chestnut forest and through small hills and finally again down to Trabadello where it meets the other route. In those forest the camino is not very good marked so that I loose around 30 minutes by walking back and forth the correct path.


Old Lady in Trabadello selling Pilgrim sticks.

On my way up to La Faba I met Louis from the Basque country. A nice man which I liked very much. He chatted with me and then everybody continued with his own pace. He told me he was doing the camino every year for ten years now, starting in his nometown in the Basque country. So he had a long trip behind him and was on his last 200 km, whereas I had just started on this day. I will never forget the “clip-clap” sounds of his ski sticks, which he used as pilgrim sticks. Later on I met him several times always delighted by his charisma. I saw him stopping wherever he met locals, for a small pretty chat. Everybody seemed to like him.


Louis from Basque country.

I arrived in La Faba around 1.30 pm where  I had vaguely planned to pass my first nights, but seeing it was so early in the afternoon and  being full of energy on this first day, I decided to extend my hike after this first 20 km and take the hike up to O`Cebreiro mountain.


Me in La Faba with another Pilgrim.

On the way up  to 1330m O´Cebreiro peak I pass the gallicien border and exactly at the border stone I meet another Louis, this one from Florida. He had no backpack cause he let it drive from albergue to albergue by taxi and therefore he had quite a good pace. I liked to talk with him not knowing that i would meet him again on two different locations on the camino.


Photo taken by Louis (Florida): me at the gallicien border stone.

At around 2.30 p.m. I arrived in O Cebreiro peak. The bad news arriving there: No beds free anymore. I got informed that I had to walk further 10 km to Alto do Poio. Another mountain.


Not much good temper to admire the Palloza houses in O’Cebreiro. I got the first time panic: Where should I sleep this night? What if I have to sleep outdoors?

I am so tired meanwhile after the first two mountains and hiking 30 km that I need around 2.5 hour to arrive a Alto Lo Poio and get the last bed in that hostal. My feet and back are aching, 40km on the firstday: I didnt expect this.

If you like to see more fotos here the link to my camino photo album Camino de Santiago 2007 .

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Sunday, 21st of October 2007 at 04:00:17 PM

My Camino Day 2 (Saturday June 2 2007): Alto do Poio - Samos - Sarria (~40 km)

I had passed the night together with a group of five Italians in a small alberge on Alto do Poio. We have had a nice dinner and a good chat in italian. Suprisingly one woman of the group came from Iseo, a small city in northern Italy were I had lived for a year and done a stage. Another italian guy about 25 year old was on the camino together with his father, he reported of his job as a nurse for elderly people. He didnt like his job and seemed unhappy. My second night gave me the impression what it would mean to use the cheap alberges and sleep with multiple people in one room. One of the nice italian men who I had chatted with became a snoaring monster. I would see and hear worse things (snoring woman), so I was happy when around 6.30 in the morning the first got up and began to rummage in his backpacks. I got up, brushed my teeth, rolled my sleeping back and wished a Good Camino to the Italian group.


The statue of the Pilgrim at Alto do Poio Peak

I started at 7.00 o’clock from Alto do Poio, in good spirit because from now on until Santiago it would go only downhill and the mountains would be behind me. From Alto do Poio (1337 m) to Santiago de Compostella (251 m) still

some 160 km to walk. 

The camino lead through small rural communities with the bad smells of agricultures and moody roads. At around 10 o’clock I arrive in Triacastella and make a stop for bathroom and a breakfast (bocadillo con jamon and coffee). 20 minutes later the camino continues and I decided to go via Samos and make a  guided visit of the monastory of Samos. On the way from Triacastela down to Samos the sun came out and it got really sunny.


A nice and sunny hike: between Triacastella and Samos

 Afterwards I will remember this hike as one of the nicest on my camino. I arrive at 12.15 in Samos. I had walked already for 6 hours and done  25 km.


Arriving in Samos: View to the monastery

I arrived in time for the 12.30-13.00 guided tour. A spanish lady lead me and a australian couple through the monastery, none of us spoke spanish but I understod quite a lot due to the similarity to italian. this tour gave me a little bit the sensation of being on a normal vacation, beside that my feet were aching. After that tour I had lunch in a small restaurant in front of the monastery, again a bocadillo con jamon and tomato and a nice coffee with a shot. At around 13.15 I continue my way to my day target: Sarria which was away just 11 km.


Only 11 km from Samos to Sarria: No Problem ?

This 11 km was a real pain because I got more and more tired, my feet were aching every step I made and I had the impression of getting slower and slower. I remember doing the last 4 km in slow motion, throwing in some pain killer pills.


after 35 km, Just near Sarria, I was hallucinating with pain: Does this sign mean Pilgering banned?

In Sarria I checked out the NH Hotel which was 52 Euro. Having done the last night for 6 Euro I had become a little bit thrifty. By accident walking around in the center I found a new and very clean alberge (Albergue Los Blasones: A Blister-Hotel).


Albergue Los Blasonos: I was lucky, no blisters on the whole camino!

I didn’t wonder any more meeting again the american guy from Florida (Louis) inside the alberge, which I had met before on the O Cebreiro peak. We had a nice chat and he told me he was recommended that alberge by friends and it was good. After “Check-In” and getting credentials in the nearby church, I went straight to a supermarket and bought me a foot creme. Incredibly how my feet were aching: my flatfeet really didnt like doing the camino and they painfully tried to tell me this. I went back to the alberge, cremed my feet and relaxed for some hours in the bed, reading one chapter of “Stripped” by Brian Freeman. (Not the best literature for the camino, but I like thrillers). In the evening I went out for checking my emails in a internet cafe and writing my one and only life camino blog post (Day 1). Later I would have either no Internet or either no energy for blogging during the camino. Last in theat day was a dinner in a pilgrims restaurant around 50 meters from the alberge. Good and cheap food, and most important a good bottle of red wine which made me sleep well and made me nearly ignore the snoaring guys in that 20 bed room alberge.


In this Pilgrims restaurant i closed the 2nd June of 2007!

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Sunday, 18th of November 2007 at 03:19:55 PM

My Camino Day 3 (Sunday June 3 2007): Sarriá - Portomarin - Portos (~44 km)

The night in the 30 bed sleeping hall was one of the better ones. Relaxed and with new energy this days hike started for me  6.30 a.m. It was still dark outside.


Leaving Sarriá on sunday morning 6.30 ; June 3 2007.

After the spontaneous decisions of the first two days I had no plan how far to walk today, cause my original hiking plan was outdated already twice. So I had only a rough goal: Make the traditional stage from Sarriá to Portomarin (around 24 km). I was so lucky this morning to have my warm fleece pullover with me, cause I had made long pros and cons about necessity of this warm pullover in a June Hike in spain.  This day should remain foggy , cold and wet until 12 noon time, for a long 5 1/2 hours of hiking.


Pligrims in the fog.


Incredibly humid and cold .


After 4 km near Barbadelo I saw a couple lying in their sleeping bags in the wet fields. Was it like this if you weren’t succesful the day before to find a bed in an albergue. I could only imagine how uncomfortable that night must have been for those people. Their sleeping bag must be totally wet, no chance to dry it later on which means they have to carry it on, wet as it was. Never would I have slept there in the wet fields! But lets see where I will sleep the coming night. One of the thrilling experiences of the camino, was this uncertainty about the place to sleep which followed you on your hike. I had experienced it as extremly seductive to continue the Hike in the afternoon once having found a first place to stop the days Hike and to sleep. But more later on. This day was one of the best marked stages, I have seen yellow arrows quite everywhere.



And this is probably the reason why the business with the Yellow arrow camino T-Shirts is working fine. As a camino pilgrim you walk for hours just meditating and downplaying your pains. One remaining minimal brain activity is looking for the right path by means of the yellow arrows. This yellow arrow gets so burned into your thoughts that no wonder arriving in Santiago you must buy your yellow arrow T-Shirt. (I bought two …).  However, the hiking continued and due to the fog, cold and cloudy weather I don’t remember much of this morning beside arriving at exactly 12.00 at Portomarin.


Bridge over river Mino with view to Portomarin on the hill.


The stairs up to Portomarin. Weather still cloudy.

In Portomarin I got a credential stamp and had a bad lunch in some filthy tourist restaurant. Around 12.30 the sun came out and the cloudy weather changed to a beautiful sunny day. Although I had reached the minimal day target  (24km Portomarin) , the bright sun gave me new energy and I remember that I was keen on continuing the hike with my new day target : Hospidal la Cruz, another 12 km only. Hospidal was listed in the guides having a nice new albergue.  I put of my fleece pullover and continued the camino at around 1 pm. Impressive for me how much circumstances like weather can immediately change your mood. Having been tired, bored and indifferent the whole morning, the sun made me happy, energetic and receptive for nature’s beauty. Incredibly how quick it got really really hot. After 1 hour hiking in the sun I was sweating, my face began to get burnt from the sun  and I  removed the legs of my trousers. Definetly I am made for the sun: Dind’t care of sweating and my face burning, I enjoyed walking in the strong sun. What now became more important was supply of water. I had began to carry a half liter bottle of fresh water always in my hand, not touching the water reserve 1.5 l bottle in my backpack. I must admit I was not brave enough to drink and refill the water from on the way fountains, but I used to buy half liter bottles of water in bars. I wanted to avoid to come into a situation of needing restrooms too much. In fact in this three days I had only once got the necessity to use a non lavatory nature location for doing my big business.


Tired: relaxing at a picnic area.

On this sunny hike I met Matt from Kentucky and having not talked the whole day it was nice chatting with him. We walked together until Hospidal. He told me a lot of people he met during his hike and about his studies and his professional ambitions and that he travelled  a lot. Our pace was quite high, nevertheless it was afternoon. We arrived together with two Italian girls in the Albergue of Hospidal la Cruz. It was around 3 p.m. and the albergue was still empty and looked really clean and nice. But nothing around it, no bar or restaurant or shop. I was not sure what to do here the whole afternon until sleeping time, and I was still so happy of the experience of walking in the warm sun. So at km 33 (Hospidal) I decided that I would prefer to continue the Hike in the sun. With further two albergues in Ligonde (4km) and Airexe (6 km) I had quite enough possibilities in around 1-2 hours hiking distance. I continued my hike now without hurry, just enyoying the sun and the blue sky. Meantime weather had reached at least 30° Cel., the first summer hiking day on my camino. In Ventas de Varon I had a unhurried coffee and ice cream in a bar. The hiking speed now had changed to moderate and I just enjoyed the walk but recognizing that I slowly got tired. Painlevel was not too high this day.


Near Ligonde I see the first stone cross. Stone Crosses are typically  for the spanish region Gallicia, especially on the camino there are some to admire. But in Ligonde I am litle bit shocked to see that the albergue is closed due to restauration. So now a little bit nervous and speeding up my leisure walking I continue to Airexe hoping to not get surprised again there. Meantime its 5 p.m. The incredible really happens; a group of around ten 14 year old spanish pupil had already occupied the albergue in Airexe. No bed left. Now I was getting really a litlle bit panicy. I saw the image of the couple in the morning lying in the wet field. I asked for the next albergue, which was in Portos: The albergue a calzada. Of course now I was really tired (I had made already my 40 km). This would be my longest hike on the whole camino. Beween Airexe and Portos which was another 3 km I tried to speed up and even overtook three pilgrims, hoping of getting a bed finally. Arriving in the albergue la calzada I was so lucky. One bed was still empty. Without asking for the price I immediately checked in. When I got my credential stamp from the albergue owner, I notice: My pilgrims pass is quite full. I need to be more delicate now and not take every credential on the way, otherwise my pass is full before arriving in Santiago.


The sleeping place in the albergue de calzada looked like a big garage behind the restaurant. I didn’t care. It was clean and only 5 other pilgrims had place. After a shower and creaming my feet (it still was sunny)  I went to the restaurant and had a outside pilgrims meal composed of salad, meat, bread and most important a bottle of red wine.


Although the evening had been a little bit too thrilling, everything ended up fine again with a good eat and some red wine. The pilgrims in that garage were quite boring altogether. I had just a small chat with a spanish lady which was from Madrid. Funny thing she spoke spanish and I Italian and we still managed to understand each other a little bit. I dont remember too much, one I was impressed of was she told me that the Gallician dialect is so different from spanish that Galician people are not understood  if they talk in their dialect. Although this albergue was in the middle of the road and nothing around, this evening I was just happy having it made to find a bed and having had this nice sunny day.

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Sunday, 9th of December 2007 at 08:55:13 PM

My Camino Day 4 (Monday June 4 2007): Portos - Palas de Rei - Melide -Arzúa (~35 km)

This monday starts at 6.30 am when the first pilgrims start their hike and wake me up. I wait until all have left and start as last one at around 7 am. The first 1 hour until Palas de Rei its quite foggy and cold. I decide to Breakfast not before 9 am like the previous days.


Palas de Rei: I arrive there after a 1 hour hike. The first bigger town after Portomarin on the Camino.


Near San Xulian I cross the road and this sign motivates me: Only 65 km remaining to Santiago.

Here I pass a peculair pilgrim: He walks extremly slow, occasionally raises both arms to the sky and sings kind of church hymns. Overtaking him with my speedy pace I just think this poor fool will never make it to Santiago. I wouldn’t believe to meet him again this same monday evening in the same albergue like me in Arzua, arriving 6 hours behind me and telling me he is from Brasil and has Arthrosis in his hips. His name is Antonio and he is such a nice guy. Later on the camino I learn from other people I meet, that everybody on the camino knows Antonio from Belo Horizonte and everybody loves him. What I learn this day is: Dont judge someone too early and dont judge someoone by his speed.

Quite hungry I arrive in San Xulian and after having read the recomendation for the bar O Abrigadoiro in my guide I decide to breakfast there.


San Xulian, Alberque O Abrigadoiro: Here I had my breakfast, after 2 hours walking. The man behind the bar with a big white beard is quite occupied to serve a group of spanish pupils and I have to wait 15 minutes for my coffee and bocadillo (sandwich).  But the bar is so nice a interesting that I dont mind to wait.


Passing San Xiulian city centre: stone cross


apostle cross on the camino somewhere near Melide

At noon I arrive in Melide and have a quick lucnh. I tried to find a possibility for Email/Internet but nothing to find here. So I continue my walk around 1 pm.


exiting Melide: view back to the town

The Hike from Meilide goes through forests and fields and it was a warm sunny afternoon. Very nice the crossing over Rio Catasol over big stone bricks.


Me crossing Rio Catasol: Near Raido

In the small village Boente I remember a priest standing in front of his chapel and intercepting every pilgrim on the camino to have a look into his chapel. He was spreading good mood, greated everyone by hand with a wide smile, explained the interior of the chapel and awarded every visitor with a small photo of apostle Jacob (Santiago). I also took the chance to get a credential in his chapel and one of his photos.


Late evening, near Arzua. The woman with the sticks was a french lady who had told me she had started her camino in Paris, France. Around 4 in the evening I arrive in a nice clean albergue in Arzua, the Hostal Lactae. (8 Euro). There I takea shower, relax a little bit and then I find a Internet shop where I can check emails and news. In a nice restaurant I have a great dinner with red wine. Late in the evening around ten o clock, I was already lying in the bed I decide to stand up again and go into the garden of the hostal cause I couldn’t sleep yet. There I meet Antonio: The slow and hymn singing pilgrim I had seen this morning near Palas de Rei. We chat a litttle bit and I recognize that he is not crazy. He tells me that he is from Belo Horizonte, Brasil, is 34 years old and has hip arthrosis. He can walk only very slow so he has to make very long day hikes. He told me he had just arrived in Arzua, was washing some clothes and having a cheesee sandwich. Very sympathic guy, father of a 4 year old girl. I was  little bit ashamed of me having declared him as crazy this morning.

I am in Arzua: only 42 km left to Santiago. A good feeling, knwoing that I had walked already 160 km and I will latest arrive on Wedneday in Santiago. Only one full hiking day left!

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