Fog City Boy on the Camino Portugués
Santiago de Compostela, Spain – May 19, 2014
This blog posting is written in two segments – the first is from Padron, "on the Way," and the second from Santiago upon conclusion of my peregrenacion.
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Padron, Spain – May 15, 2014
The Way from Tui has been one filled with a certain excitement as I approach the last two days of the pilgrimage. There are many more peregrinos on the Way now. The majority are Germans, as before. But also Spaniards, Canadians, Australians, and yes, a handful of Americans (clearly in the minority). I had a nice conversation with a woman from Redlands, California wherein we lamented the limited representation by our countrmen. "Americans don’t walk anywhere," she observed. "That’s why there are so few of us on the Camino." True enough, but distance from home also is a factor. That said, distance never stopped an Aussie from going anywhere! And they are prominent in the mix of peregrinos.
There is an expectation that a peregrino will collect two stamps in his or her Credencial each day during the walk through Galicia. I have secured stamps not only from those pensions and hotels where I have spent the night, but also I have my assortment of stamps from restaurants, museums, chapels en route and one from the Galician public safety folks who were parked along the Way yesterday collecting statistics about who was on the Way and where we were from. I had a conversation en route with a delightful girl who works for a Futbol Club in Malaga. She and her Espana-born parents visiting from Venezuela were making their first Camino walk. Her boyfriend is from Oklahoma and wants to join a police force in Silicon Valley. It’s a small world.
The cohort of peregrinos headed to Santiago of which I am a part has coalesced into a friendly gaggle of walkers, if not a Camino family per se. We find ourselves at breakfast in the mornings, having checked into the same habitacion but not knowing until the next morning. Stops at cafes en route are also sites for reunions.
After crossing into Spain from Portugal, my first night was spent in Tui. I explored the town (it was a Friday night) and in the early evening many of the denizens and their families turned out to enjoy the pleasant weather. One plaza boasted four sidewalk cafes and a bandstand. A young ensemble was singing popular Spanish ballads but eventually made a break with tradition and covered a dozen American rock and roll classics.
The next day I had a good breakfast and met a trio just starting their Camino. Mom was from the Central Valley in California, and her son and his girlfriend claimed Oakland, California as their present domicile. We left at different times but caught up with each other at a cafe along the Way. Haven’t seen them since, but hope to meet up in Santiago. I have had a pleasant time walking with and talking with a couple from Alberta, Canada. I saw them at breakfast this morning, but since today is a recovery day for me, and they are going on – again – I hope to meet up in Santiago.
The Way from Tui to Porrino traverses an uninteresting industrial park, but also meanders through woodlands for much of the way. One somber stretch passes the Cruceiro San Telmo and then crosses the Puente das Febres.
The Cruceiro and adjacent monument and bridge memorialize the sad death of San Telmo (Saint Elmo) in 1251 who was returning from a pilgrimage to Santiago, but succombed to a fever just a few kilometers before reaching his home, and origin of his pilgrimage, in Tui. Nearby, a circle of dressed stones in the shaded wood offers passing peregrinos the opportunity for rest and contemplation. Many peregrinos leave a small stone at the monument as recognition and to honor the pilgrimage of San Telmo.
As the Way takes the peregrino further north, it follows the ancient Roman military road, Via Romana XIX, which was part of the original Camino Portugues. Those who determine the way marked routes of the modern day Caminos try to remain faithful to the original paths laid out hundreds of years ago. Modern highway construction and urban development does not always make this possible, however. Fortunately, the Via Romana survives well in these parts. The cylindrical way mark is a Roman original.
The Way from Lisbon did not suffer from a lack of cruceiros. But the reminder of the faith, and the implicit blessing of the traveler, are increasingly frequent as the Way approaches Santiago.
The yellow arrow that has led the way for three hundred miles apparently is being supplemented in Spain by an arrow best described as florescent chartreuse. Certainly they are easy to spot – not a bad thing at all – but time will tell how they weather and age.
Departing the town of Arcade and crossing the Rio Verdugo takes the peregrino across the Ponte Sampaio, dating from 1795 and still very much in use by local pedestrians and vehicles. It is only one lane wide.
The days of late have been a bit longer (in distance and in hours of sunshine) and the temperature a bit warmer than most days in Portugal. Shortly after arriving in Pontevedra, I took advantage of the hot springs there, allowing my tired feet to experience the curative waters at a local fonte.
And yesterday brought me to Padron where Santiago began his ministry in Spain. The Convento do Carme (from the 18th century) dominates the horizon and provides a backdrop to the Fonte do Carme (from the 13th century).
At least two other features of the town deserve attention: The first is a statue in the town square of a peregrino earnestly pressing forward on his Camino. (Note the rock pathway.)
The second is the gastronomic wonder – pementos padron. (I believe the spelling is Galician, not Spanish.) Although native to South America, these mild peppers flourish in the soil and weather in the region of Padron. Lightly sauteed in olive oil and dashed with seasalt, they are a wonderful addition to a meal here, or anywhere else. (They are now available fresh in San Francisco.) When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When in Padron . . . .
Public art is common along the Way. The statue of a peasant woman selling her produce graced the front of the Restaurante O’Pementeiro where I enjoyed the house specialty (above). Note the detail on the back as well as the front of the statue. The neighborhood kids loved to climb all over this plaza resident!
I have composed this post during my day of recovery before comencing the last two days of my Camino first thing tomorrow morning. The day today has provided the opportunity for reflection on the six weeks that have elapsed since I began my Camino in Lisbon. Where I have been, and where I am going. Peregrinos and others I have met along the Way. Some with stories told, and others with stories hinted at but not fully told. It has been a good day, with further reflection to come as I complete the Camino Portugues.
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Santiago, Galicia – May 18, 2014
I had intended to be up early and out the door of my lodging in Padron not later than 7 am. However, about 2 am I determined to turn off the alarm clock and simply wake up naturally. Which I did about 8:15. The net result was a departure on my relatively short next-to-the-last day at 9:15 – not an auspicious beginning to the last two days of the Camino! But, hey! I planned the last two days on the Way to be restful ones.
The Way wound its way through lovely vineyards and haphazard byways in old towns. It was a pleasant reminder of my earlier travels along the Way.
I had intended to stay the evening at a rural casa – a small country hotel about half way between Padron and Santiago, and continue the final push to Santiago early the next morning. But, as luck would have it, I didn’t recognize the Casa when I passed it and only discovered my mistake when I reached a small town (that wasn’t supposed to be there) four kilometers later. I didn’t feel like going back, so I kept going, intending to check in to a hostel on the outskirts of Santiago still some distance from the historic town center.
En route, I passed a way mark showing slightly greater than 10 kilometers to Santiago. An obliging peregrino from Argentina took a picture of me showing off my trusty water bottle that had kept me hydrated on this endurance event, and others before it.
Shortly after that break, I came upon another way mark, this time showing 9.8 kilometers to Santiago. Another peregrino passing this way had left a small bouquet in celebration and anticipation.
I walked on and headed slightly off the Way toward the hostel shown in my guidebook. When I got there, I noted the "Vende"sign in the window, and the very locked gate to what had been the hotel restaurant/cafe. As with other endeavors, one learns to expect the unexpected.
There was but one choice: Press on, peregrino, press on.
This last day would be an 16 mile day, considerably longer than my usual 8-13 mile days, and all this with a late start in the morning. The sun was high and the temperature rising.
I called Ginna, who had been in Santiago for a day, and alerted her to my unexpected progress. At this point, the Way was mostly through developed suburbs south of Santiago. But there were wooded areas and parks as well.
The last few kilometers descended into a ravine, climbed up and out, across a bridge over the railway mainline, and then up a steep section of urban asphalt past a major hospital complex, and eventually, to the historic section of Santiago.
I stopped at the traditional city gate used by peregrinos completing the Camino Portugues, the Porto Faxeira. Ginna was on her way to meet me there. I was hot and tired. My legs hurt. My shoulders hurt. My clothes needed a bath worse than I did.
The Italian cyclists told me never to look tired when you finish a ride. . . .
I composed myself, settled into a chair at a nearby cafe, enjoyed a cerveza. Ginna arrived soon thereafter.
After another cerveza, we walked a few minutes more through the old town, arriving at the Cathedral early in the evening. There was a pilgrims´ mass that evening and it was one that included the swinging of the Botafumeiro insenser, which I was able to capture on my cell phone. (Unfortunately, I can’t upload the video to this blog from this location.)
The Cathedral is grand, and it was standing room only. Many peregrinos packed in that evening.
After mass, we went to our hotel, and I got the shower I craved, and so richly deserved!
The next morning, I had a good breakfast and headed off the the Pilgrim Office which is just a few meters from the Cathedral. A representative of the Cathedral checked my Credencials (two of them – I ran out of space in the one issued by the American confraturnity) and determined that I had, in fact, walked all the way from Lisbon, and issued me a Compostela that attested to that fact. The Compostela is printed in Latin, and she had inscribed a Latin translation of my name thereon as Dnum Canutum Michaelem Miller.
At noon, Ginna and I attended the daily pilgrims’ mass and a celebrant read out a list of the nationalities and departure points of peregrinos who had arrived that morning, including one from California who had begun in Lisbon.
The physical journey is complete.
But the Camino continues within the peregrino. And it continues within me. Reflections continue.
Now in Santiago, I have come upon quite a number of peregrinos I encountered along the Way. Not all of those whom I had hoped to see, but fortunately I have contact information for many.
Ginna and I are enjoying an extra day or so in Santiago and then will go by train to Bilbao, by overnight ferry to Portsmouth, and on to London for several days. And then back to Fog City. I’ll post the blog once more after returning to San Francisco.
The traditional peregrino parting acknowledgment is, "buen Camino!"
Forty-six days from Lisbon to Santiago. Three hundred seventy-six miles. Good days, all. For me, it truly has been a buen Camino!
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Is there another walk of exploration in my future? The answer is, yes. The follow-on question, is "where to?" Camino Frances? Del Norte? Finisterre? Mt. Kilimanjaro? New Zealand?
Time will tell.
And with that, I’m off.