Some pointers

We’re back home and really missing the magic of the Camino!! Thought I’d close the blog with a last post with some pointers for all of you who will walk the Camino some day soon!

1. Phone connection – If you’re travelling from India DO NOT subscribe to the ultra expensive data roaming packages. If you need to receive OTP’s then take the basic roaming which is free with Airtel and Rs.145/- per month with Vodafone. When you reach your destination in Spain or France, pick up a prepaid SIM card in the city you land in. In Spain it was simple- just needed to show the grocery store owner our passports and we got a SIM immediately….hassle feee. Recharge can be done at a lot of places – petrol bunks, supermarkets, etc. We spent just 15euros on data and calling unlimited, for 2 months! Connectivity with the Sim was great, in the middle of the Meseta, on mountain tops, everywhere!

2. Book airlines, train and bus tickets as early as possible, in Spain, France, Italy. Tickets prices are flexible and increase quite drastically as you approach your travel day.

3. is great to locate and book hotels. Sometimes, especially in small towns and villages of Spain, call the hotel you’ve found on Booking & you may get a room for 5-10Euros less. Other good sources for stay and information on the Camino that we found useful are Camino Ninja and Gronze. is extremely useful to communicate with your next stay place, to let them know what time you’ll be reaching etc. The app does automatic translations and you don’t have to worry about language being a barrier.

4. Learn some basic words in Spanish. I tried learning some on DuoLingo before we left, but when you actually hear the language spoken, it’s really difficult to follow given the accent and speed. Cafe con leche (with milk) and Cafe sin leche (without milk), cervaza (beer) vino tinto (red wine) are some essential words! Gracias (thank you) and porforvor (please), helps! Some places serve you a hot black coffee but add cold milk, which is a downer, so I later learned to say Café con leche caliente…then you’re assured of a really hot cup of coffee! Aseos is the word for toilet – ‘hombre’ will be on the one for men and ‘mujer’ for women, as you sometimes can’t tell with the symbols used. As you walk the Camino and listen to people speak the language you’ll soon understand a lot more than when you started! It’s beautiful to listen to and the Spanish use their facial expressions and gestures when they speak, which is really great!

5. Staying in the albergues or hostels is really an experience! You find all sorts of albergues, no two are the same! Mixed dorms, some with fewer beds, some with many many beds. One thing you can be assured of is that every place is clean, bathrooms are spotless, as long as you wake up early to use them. Mixed bathrooms are not a good idea! Waking up early and getting ready is tricky. There’s an etiquette to follow – keep everything packed the night before, carry your bags out of the sleeping space to a common area, as zips and bags make a lot of noise in the quiet, and you don’t want to wake the others. Some albergues have private rooms and bathrooms attached, for those nights you want privacy. Apart from the albergues, there are pensions or apartments you could opt for, where you have a room and an attached bath or a common bathroom. The apartment normally comes with a good common kitchen, sometimes a washing machine too. The Casa Rural chain was one we really liked. Then of course there are hotels of all ranges you can avail of, in the bigger towns and cities on the path. Alda – a reasonably priced and really good hotel chain, is all across northern Spain – go directly to their website to book rooms and avail of good discounts they have online.

6. One of our favourite afternoon activities once or twice a week would be finding a Lavandería (laundromat) in the area. There’s nothing more satisfying than warm, fresh smelling clothes! The prettiest one we found was in Santiago, not far from the cathedral! A wash is 4euros and drying is about 3euros for 21 minutes of high heat.

7. Another favourite jaunt, everyday, was to the supermercado! Juice, local fresh fruit, tomatoes, chips, beer or wine (cheaper than water in Spain!)…the standard list! And Yatekomo – the cup o noodles of Spain! Comes in some interesting flavours!

8. ‘Pan’ or bread, you’ll be eating ALOT of it! Every village has a panaderia which is the centre of activity! You’ll see people walking around town with long loaves of bread under their arms or in their bags, children chewing on pieces of it! It’s in every meal. Boccadillas – a sub without all the vegetables and mostly hammon and queso(cheese) are the most popular lunch offering. Spanish omelets or tortillas are the most popular breakfast. For the vegans there’s always ensalada (veg salads). Along the way, you’ll always find ‘pilgrim meals’ being offered by restaurants and albergues, usually for dinner. It’s a set meal for anywhere between 10-18 euros and has 3 courses plus a wine or beer or coffee. The choice in each course is large in the restaurants. In private albergues, the cook (the owner) decides what they’ll offer. It’s normally the more popular local cuisine. If you’re lucky you may get paella- which is just brilliant!

9. Invest in good shoes. Nothing else matters. You need to keep the feet happy. We bought Columbias from their outlet in Bangalore and they worked well for us. Make sure the shoes aren’t tight. On days where you’re walking longer than usual, wear 2 pairs of socks. Whenever you stop for a break, take off your shoes and let your socks air. We did these things and avoided blisters for the most part of the trip. Do stretches before you start everyday and take care of aches and pains in your legs, on priority.

10. Lights with sensors are all over the place in albergues, pensions and hotels – In corridors and in the bathrooms. We’d find ourselves waving our hands to re-activate the lights in the loo, after it automatically switches off in 2min. In the Roncesvalles pilgrim hostel baths, the shower switches off in 2 min. You can restart that of course! A hot shower after a long walk and one before you set out the next morning are necessities, and the showers of Spain did not disappoint!!

11. Giving way to cyclists on the path is important. They have a difficult time cycling on the unpaved paths we walk and appreciate walkers moving out of the way when you hear them approaching.

12. Always use the pedestrian crossing to cross roads, even the smallest roads. Everyone stops for people who follow the rules. You’re likely to be yelled at or run over if you try crossing anywhere else!!

13. Add a little light backpack/ bag to your luggage, to use when you go out in the town or village in the evening. This way you don’t have to buy a plastic ‘bolso’ every time you go shopping.

14. It’s cash or cards. E-wallets are no use. Would recommend you carry your banks Forex card. There are ATMs aplenty in even the small towns. Many small pension and apartment owners and cafés, we found, in the villages, would accept only cash. So make sure you always have some cash on you.

15. There’s no Uber in Italy or Portugal. As for Spain, you can use Uber in Madrid and Barcelona & other large cities, but in the countryside (even Santiago), it’s the local taxi services. There are standard rates they follow. Some have meters. The local cafe can always help you find a reliable taxi driver.

16. In the small towns and villages, everyone- yes everyone, wishes everyone ‘Buenos días’ or ‘Buenas tardes’ or ‘Buenas noches’ depending on time of day. Don’t ignore anyone as no one ignores you. Most locals will recognise you’re a pilgrim seeing your backpack and clothing and will add a ‘buen Camino’ to the greeting. In the bigger cities like Burgos, Leon, Astorga and Santiago, given the crowds, this bonhomie is missing. We preferred stopping for the night at the small villages and towns precisely for this reason.

17. And lastly, how much would this cost on an average? It would depend on where you stay every night really. John and I had a budget of 100euros per day – this was split up this way:-

Lodging 30-50 Euros – (private rooms were on an average 40-50 euro per night for a double room, a bunk bed in an albergue was on an average 10-15 euros per person)

Food 20-25 euros (for quite a luxurious spread per person) – breakfast is anywhere between 4-6 euros, lunch and multiple coffee breaks 7-10 euros, dinner 10-15 euros (if you want a heavy pilgrim meal- this can by shared by two people – most restaurants allow that and charge you a couple of euros for the extra drink). Many days we’d just visit the market and buy fruit and empanadas for dinner, along with a bottle of local wine. The bigger towns have great supermarket chains like Dia and Carrefor that carry really good sandwiches, ready to eat pastas and paellas, salads etc which make for great and cheaper alternatives to eating in the cafés.

Miscellaneous expenses: 5euros for forwarding your bag using one of the baggage forwarding services. I used JacoTranz, which was very reliable. In the last 100km, where the number of pilgrims are far higher, the fee decreases to 4 euros per bag.

To conclude, don’t worry or be anxious about anything – the Camino truly provides!

Day 43 – O Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostela

The final 18km! We start the day with mixed feelings! We’re almost there! Also, gosh! We’re going to miss this routine!

I’m walking today, probably a really bad idea, but I muster up all my strength and adrenaline! The knee isn’t great and the Achilles’ tendon on my right foot is playing up! John is in top shape and probably dreading the slow walk ahead of him!! Nevertheless we lace our Columbias and head out of the Pension after a breakfast of toast, coffee and orange juice. We’re grateful for the well stocked kitchen at Pension Peregrina 3!

The path is full of people! A couple of familiar faces and the rest, new! I see a few limping, so don’t feel completely out of place. There’s a lot less noise today and people seem to be quieter and more introspective! The final stretch and you’re thinking about when you started and what the whole walk has done for you!

Two things stood out for both John and me:

1. Our ability to be in the “now” for 43 days at a stretch, focusing each day on our destination for the day, focusing on the path, focusing on the canvas we walked through every day – an ever changing canvas created by God and tended by man, focusing on the body’s needs to get us through the challenge of the day and finally focusing on our Faith and the graces we received each day.

2. The people we met everyday were inspiring! The locals in villages across the breath of Northern Spain who’d opened their towns to us, made us feel loved and included. The owners of the establishments we stayed at or ate at, who always went the extra mile to make sure we were well taken care of and never forgot to wish us Buen Camino! The fellow pilgrims we met from across the world who were also fully present! We all shared a common goal of reaching Santiago and that united us, making us kindred spirits. We looked out for each other and shared in each other’s joys and pain. Never before had we felt this kind of fellowship within such a short time with such a diverse group of people! It made the Camino special!

You catch sight of Santiago from the adjoining hill! It’s heartening to know your final destination is close by. You pass through the new city for about 5km before you see the Gothic spires of the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela. The last time I was here in 2017, it was drizzling and cold. Today it was a toasty 25 degree C, much to John’s delight! The cold makes him miserable!

We pass the Cathedral on our way to the hotel. They don’t let you into the church with your backpack. Since we’re here tomorrow too, we decide to go to the Pilgrim Office tomorrow morning, to get our final stamp and our Compostela certificate.

John meets up with Chris and Sarah for a drink close by. Everyone’s elated. Both Chris and Sarah, like many others, plan to go on to Finisterra and Muxia. Chris talks about his remarkable experiences over the period of the Camino. Some of them are really moving!

We’d met Chris in Trabadelo and he was really out of sorts with a bad pain in his leg. Apparently later in the day, as he was sitting outside for a smoke, a biker came by, asking for a cigarette. The biker on seeing Chris wince in pain suggested Chris massage a specific point above his knee and that immediately worked wonders. Chris didn’t have that pain again! Another time, Chris reaches a village after a long walk, and can’t find any place to stay. As he was walking through the streets and enquiring at many places only to be told that they were all completely booked, out of the blue, a door suddenly swings open and a nun walks out, walks straight to him and asks if he needs anything! On understanding that he’s in search for a place, she whips out her phone and gets into action calling up places and stressing on the fact that she is the nun of the village, uses her influence and finds a place. It so happens that the place is quite a distance and seeing Chris exhausted, she pulls out her car keys and drives Chris to the place! The Camino truly provides!

The next morning we meet Chris for breakfast, after which john and I head to the hospital to see a doctor. Isabella is our translator and after X-rays and an examination, the doctor says there’s just some inflammation which will come down with anti inflammatory meds and rest. Continue doing what we were doing! No ultra long walks.

From there we head to the salon for a haircut and shave for John! And then to the Pilgrim Office to collect our Compostela and distance certificates.

The English translation of the text is as follows:

The Chapter of this Holy Apostolic and Metropolitan Cathedral of Compostela, custodian of the seal of the Altar of St. James, to all the Faithful and pilgrims who arrive from anywhere on the Orb of the Earth with an attitude of devotion or because of a vow or promise make a pilgrimage to the Tomb of the Apostle, Our Patron Saint and Protector of Spain, recognises before all who observe this document that: …………… has devotedly visited this most sacred temple having done the last hundred kilometers on foot or on horseback or the last two hundred by bicycle with Christian sentiment (pietatis causa).

In witness whereof I present this document endorsed with the seal of this same Holy Church.

Issued in Santiago de Compostela on ……… of …………… year of our Lord ……….

The Dean of the Cathedral of Santiago.

We spend some more time exploring the beautiful old town of Santiago before our journey towards home. Next stop Madrid, then Milan and finally home!

Day 42 – Arzua to O Pedrouzo

These 20km are through quiet forest paths with eucalyptus groves between villages that are so small with houses so spread out that it is hard to tell where one village ends and the next one begins. The scenery is one of the most beautiful throughout the Camino. But then Galicia is something else!!!

A bottle cafe – you can leave a message in a bottle

John sets out early. Javier arranges a cab for 11am & I reach OPedrouzo in 20 minutes. Javier and his wife were most affectionate as I got into the cab. From the stray words that were familiar, the gestures and the expressions I gathered they were hoping my legs would heal soon, they hoped the stay was ‘Buen’, and that we would reach Santiago safely. I got hugged and kissed by these kind people who hardly knew me. As usual I’m overwhelmed! The drive to the village OPedrouzo is pretty, through fields and hills. just as I get out of the taxi, John arrives. He walked alone the entire way, as usual, at top speed, not stopping anywhere! The shared apartment here has a fully stocked kitchen, so we help ourselves to fruit and sandwiches.

We have an early dinner. Resh and Ash are in the village too, so we catch up with them. Another great conversation with them about their adventures around the world, this time fascinating recounts of their difficulty entering Israel, staying in Palestine, their time in Iran, getting pickpocketed in Addis Ababa, etc. We bid our goodbyes and promise to stay in touch. They head on to Finisterra after Santiago. Finisterra, as the word tells you, is where the world ends, at least till Chis Columbus discovered the Americas.

I’m determined to walk into Santiago and get ready mentally to do so. The next morning we plan to leave early so that the 18km can be covered slowly.

Day 41 – OCoto to Arzua 20km

Everything is closed at 7am, including the hotel reception. I walk down the road with John to a tiny cafe that’s open. There’s an elderly lady, probably in her 80s arranging the cups. We order some coffee and cake and using the Google Translate app ask if she can help arrange a taxi to take me to Arzua – 20km down the road. She immediately calls someone she knows and organises that. She shares the number. John sets off while I return to the hotel and wait for my ride who has promised to come at 10.30am.

I message the apartment we’re staying at in Arzua to let them know I’ll be there by 11. They message back saying I can leave my luggage at the apartment but will have to wait till 12 to move in. When I reach there, Javier and his wife are there at the door. They live downstairs and offer the apartment upstairs on It’s a pretty pink building with flowers in the windows and right opposite a park filled with laughing children, parents and grandparents. Schools are closed for holidays and the park is packed. Seeing me limp as I get out of the taxi, Javier comes across the road to help me out and cross. He’s in his 80s and chats non stop in Spanish. I understand a few words here and there- he’s sorry my leg hurts, and I’m missing walking, the cafe is across the road & the church is just down the road, could I wait in one of these till 12?

I leave the bags in the apartment and wait at the cafe.

Meanwhile, John is having the time of his life. After a walk in solitude for about 5km, he reached Melide. This is the town where the Primitivo route joins the more populated Camino Frances. It’s a pretty town. After a coffee and a croissant John sets off at a brisk pace, overtaking everyone ahead. I can see it as being very liberating for him, as the last 40 days were a lesson in patience, walking at my pace! He’s soon joined by Darren Carey. Darren walks real fast too and they walk and talk over the next 5km. Darren is a FIFA referee, former footballer from Ireland and teacher. He’s doing the distance from Sarria to Santiago and alternates between walking for an hour and running for an hour. His watch let’s him know when it’s time to switch. They talk about football, teaching, their Camino experiences, they talk about an upcoming opportunity Darren is exploring, Darren shares his volunteer work for special needs people at his sisters school and John talks about Diya and our work there.

They pass the Spanish couple and the parrot on the Camino. They stop to talk to them and the couple allows the parrot to climb onto them and photos are taken.

A little later, the watch let’s Darren know it’s time to switch to running. He gives John a hug and disappears down the path.

As I reach the apartment after my hour at the cafe, John reaches too. He stopped at the mercardo on the way here and picked up some paella and wine. The apartment has a good kitchen with a cooking range and microwave and washing machine. In the evening we go to the Iglesia for mass. It’s nice to see the church full. After mass, we stop by the store to pick up fruits and vegetables and make use of the kitchen to put a nice dinner together.

We have just 38km to go! The left knee and the right ankle are both still hurting and it looks like I’ll be taking a ride to OPedrouzo while John walks. Well – to use the Spanish phrase – Que será, será!

Day 40 – Castromaior to O Coto 26km

Walking through parts of Galicia is like walking through some fantasy land. This morning the clouds are below us and mountain tops looks like islands among the clouds. It’s beautiful! We set off at a fairly brisk pace and we have a long distance to cover. We left after a good breakfast at the only cafe at Castromaior, but when we reach the next village, 4km down the road, as has become customary now, we stop for coffee. A charming Frenchman gives me a little bunch of flowers, saying ours were the first smiles he was seeing since he set out walking that morning!

The walk is through breathtakingly beautiful wooded areas and little villages. One architectural features you’ll find in every yard of every home is the horrero. It is a safe space for corn and other crops before they are threshed, built on raised pillars to keep rodents out. It was first built over two thousand years ago in these Galician villages and though probably no longer used, it continues to be a feature in every home- in memory of a good idea!


We stop for lunch at Palas de Reis, a biggish town and popular stop for the night on the last stage of the Camino. We would have liked to stay here and kept our walk to ~20km, but we weren’t able to find any rooms. We’d been warned to book rooms for every night of the last 100km from Sarria to Santiago, but with my knee troubling me, we didn’t want to commit to distances for each day.

In the garden of the church at Palas de Reis

After a quick lunch of vegetable sandwiches we continue to OCoto, passing about 3-4 pretty villages on the way. It’s a 7km walk and I find it difficult to focus on the beauty that surrounds me as my ankle hurts really bad. It maybe the Achilles’ tendon and by the time we reach our hotel in OCoto, it’s throbbing. A hot bath and dinner and I feel a little better, but don’t want to risk hurting it further, so decide to take a taxi to Arzua tomorrow, while John walks.

One difficult lesson the last 40 days has taught me is acceptance. My legs, much to my surprise, had worked really fine for 600km. I may have been stretching them to the limit with overly long walks on consecutive days. It was time to accept the outcome or consequences and the only way to do that was to focus on resting the body and letting it repair itself. The disappointment was enormous as I really wanted to walk these last 100km with John. I’d described the paths in great detail to him after coming back from my last Camino in 2017, when I walked them with my friends! I wanted to show him things we’d seen the last time. But that was not to be! John would have his own experiences to remember over the next couple of days, while I rested!

Day 39 – Portomarin to Castromaior

It’s a really short walk of 9km, to see how my knee behaves. We leave the absolutely beautiful town of Portomarin and get onto the scenic path through enchanted forests. We left only at 7am and leaving with us, are hundreds of pilgrims, all of us headed in one direction.

It feels strange! On the one hand, we’re in awe of how many people are on the St James Way, some for adventure, others for the exercise and others for the spiritual experience! There are many, many young ones, average age of 17 possibly! Maybe it has something to do with the time of year. Some have music playing loudly, so their friends can listen too, others are chatting or singing loudly. They’re having a good time! It’s a different atmosphere!

On the other hand, we miss the quiet, peace and solitude of the last 690km, when it was just us on the path and we could hear the crunch of our footsteps, the chirping of the birds, walk carefully to avoid stepping on the hundreds of snails that crossed the path with their little houses on their backs. It’s different now, but we’ll come to love this too!

It’s easy to distinguish between the fresh legs and the long haul walkers. There’s noticeable weariness in the later.

There are more dogs and children (all ages) in this last 100k stretch. There’s even a parrot that has its own back pack, worn by it’s pet mom!

In the last 680km it was customary to wish everyone you passed a ‘Buen Camino’. The greeting had come to mean more than just a good wish. When someone said it to you, especially the locals, you felt encouraged, you felt recognised, you felt included! Sometimes we’d stop to chat and figure out which countries we were from, or which town we were headed to for the night! Familiar faces were seen frequently as we were probably less than a 100 walking through the villages any given day. Today, we had to search for familiar faces and when we did see one, there was immense joy! Also, it was rare to hear Buen Camino! Maybe as old timers the onus was on us to welcome and include the new walkers with the greeting!

The Pension we’re staying at is lovely, in a tiny village called Castromaior. It’s going to be a peaceful rest day! My knee seems ok! Not perfect! Tomorrow we head to OCoto. Maybe we’ll download some podcasts and put our earphones in our ears!

In the evening we walked down to the Castro de Castromaior. Recent excavations discovered this 4th Century BC site.

This partially excavated hill fort is next to the Way of Saint James and it is believed that it was occupied until more or less the 1st century A.D.

An intricate system of ditches, walls, embankments and palisades surrounds the entrance to the settlement, where the houses have straight, regular walls and are grouped into neighbourhoods.

After the visit to the excavation site, we went for dinner to the only restaurant in the village. It was bustling with activity in the morning with many pilgrims on the way stopping for bocadillas and coffee. It is quiet now with just the seven pilgrims staying in the 2 albergues in the village. Joining us for dinner are a Brazilian couple and a retired Polish gentleman. A good meal with lots of red wine, the conversation is interesting. The Polish gentleman is a mountaineer having scaled many heights. An accident in the Arctic resulting in him being airlifted to the US o save his life, had kept him from climbing for a while. St Pope John Paul IIs visit to Santiago in 1982 and a few years later, again, to address the world youth meet there, had made the Camino popular among Polish catholics. Henrik remembers seeing it on the news and had vowed to do the Camino when he could.

The Brazilian couple Michelle and Antonio were Catholic too and very devout. They related many events during their walk from Leon onwards that couldn’t be called ‘happy coincidences’ but miracles! The conversation was beautiful and helped us to dwell on the meaning of the Camino for each of us! Feeling blessed that we had this wonderful meal with these wonderful people!

Day 38 – Sarria to Portomarin

John walked alone today while I took a taxi again. The knee still hurts and since we have a hotel booking, we decided to do it this way. I really want my knee well again to do the last stretch at least. My cab ride was quick and the driver pointed out all the points along the highway where the pilgrims would be walking in and out and crossing! He points out villages by their name and then slowed down near the steps coming down the hill to enter the outskirts of Portomarin. He seemed very concerned that I’d be missing out all this!

Trying a new format here as John had lots of good photos to share, of the walk.

John had great company in Sarah, an English lady living in the Netherlands. We’d crossed paths on previous days. A HR professional, she too was on a break from work! She’s a really fast walker, so John walked at his normal fast pace.

On the way, John stopped at an elderly lady’s little cafe for something to drink. She was trying to sweep her place but seemed to be having some difficulty doing it. So John took the broom from her and cleaned the space. She was so overcome with gratitude that she asked him to wait there and ran home to bring her camera and some food for John. Just as she came back, Sarah, Johns walking companion that morning, came into the store. The lady told her in Spanish, how John had helped and how she was so happy to have this handsome Indian in her store and she wouldn’t want any money for the food! Many photos were taken and empanadas eaten!

Portomarin is on the banks of the Miño river. In the 1960s the Mino river was dammed to create the Belesar reservoir, putting the old village of Portomarín under water. The most historic buildings of the town were moved brick by brick and reconstructed in the new town, including its castle-style main church: Church of San Juan of Portomarín. Being Sunday we were able to attend the 12.30 pm service here.

We stepped out for an early dinner and walked into a restaurant across from the church. We had some Galician soup, grilled salmon and white wine.

The table next to us is filled by a young couple. She keeps turning to look at us and seems to be wanting to start a conversation. We smile and she immediately asks if we are from India and then we launched into a long conversation. Olga had spent a year as an art teacher in St Lawrence, Sanawar and had traveled around India during her time there! She loved India! Her partner was also a frequent India traveller and was in Mahabalipuram a few months ago. Olga then pulls out her Camino scrap book. She had jottings, tickets, dry leaves, souvenirs and beautiful sketches she made of places we’d passed. They had started their cycling from Leon. She wants us to write in the ‘Devanagari script’…she insists! I write a few lines and then she asks John to. John explains he’d studied in Tanzania and Zambia and didn’t write Hindi. So she checks if he could write something in Swahili. To jog his memory, she sings a Swahili song much to everyone’s delight!!! Olga is one of those people who just radiates joy and positivity! We were lucky to meet both of them!! Saying our byes, we leave. I leave my handbag with my passport and money behind and came back a couple of minutes later to get it and both of them have big smiles and clap as they point to the restaurant owner who has it safely kept away. Bidding them goodbye again, we head to our beds for the night.

A very special day, meeting very special people…Sarah, the little cafe owner and this wonderful couple!

Day 37 – Samos to Sarria

The knee isn’t any better. In fact it’s worse and I’m not able to put much weight on that leg. So we decide that John walks to Sarria while I take a cab. We eat breakfast at the hotel. The owner, Moses’ dad, is on duty in the morning. It’s a buffet breakfast and he brings us our coffee. After breakfast he helps us arrange a pick up and drop, with a taxi driver who’s having coffee at the hotel restaurant, to come by at 11am to pick me up. John heads out on his own.

Some videos of the beautiful path to Sarria, with John’s comments!

Sarria is a biggish town, filled with pilgrims. It’s the starting place for many who do the minimum distance of 100km required to get a Compostela certificate.

The taxi ride was 20min long. The wonderful lady who brought me to Sarria, insisted on carrying the heavy backpack to the pension across the river. About 20 minutes after I reach, John reaches too. He takes a quick bath and we head to the Pharmacy. It’s Saturday and most commercial establishments close by 1.30pm, to open again only on Monday. The pharmacist suggests a stronger balm, naproxen and rest. From there we head to the supermercado to pick up some snacks and fruit. We see a pizza place on the way and decide to pick up our lunch from there.

We enter the pizza store and place an order for a medium sized vegetable pizza, in broken Spanish. The gentleman taking our order, suggests some options for vegetables and then suddenly switches to Hindi! Flabbergasted, I ask him to repeat and he replies again in Hindi, are you from India or Pakistan? Then starts a long conversation in Hindi and he shares how he and his family moved to Europe from Pakistan five years ago and he had worked in Ukraine and France and now Sarria. His wife and two kids live here too and they are one of only two Pakistani families in Sarria. Most Indians and Pakistanis he says, go to Barcelona for work.

He piles our pizza with lots of cheese and vegetables. Suggests we get some fries too and a drink. We comply. Then when it’s time to pay, he refuses to take any money! He says we made his day by talking to him in Hindi. John insisted on some payment and this time he refuses saying he can’t take money from his sister!! We’re all overcome emotionally and thanking him profusely we leave!

We head to the room to eat and take a nap. In the evening we head to the laundromat, eat a variety of churros from a roadside stand and then head to the supermarket to pick up some colouring pens and pencils, a colouring book and some chocolate. We go back to the pizzeria and ask for him, Tanveer Tahir Hussain. He’s happy to see us and when we hand him the bag, he’s flustered and refuses it. Then I tell him that the gifts are for my brother’s children and he accepts them! Meeting him warmed our hearts so much!!! We are all people living ordinary lives and we do so with love and brotherhood! Politics just ruins everything, for everybody! We’ll never forget the generosity and love of our brother Tanveer!

The St John the Baptist festivities in the town start early in the evening, kicked off with a street drumming group. The music and dancing continue early into the morning!

Today’s meeting with Tanveer really warmed the cockles of our heart! How easy world peace would be to achieve if we got rid of politicians!

Day 36 – Fonfria to Samos 20km

I woke up with a pain in my hip and knee. The consequences of walking two consecutive days of 30plus km seems to be showing! A hot bath lessened the pain. So we set out on a path of descents.

Our first stop in 6km was Triacastella. A small town with lots of stay options for pilgrims. Very few cafés were open. So just a quick coffee at a small place and we reach the exit point where there are 2 stones, offering 2 paths to Santiago. Turn left and you go to Samos and then to Sarria or turn right and walk to Sarria. Most people took the turn to the right. We turned left as we had booked at Samos for the night.

The walk is absolutely beautiful, through narrow paths winding their way around tiny villages which seemed uninhabited. Just as you think that, you’ll see a cat or a dog or hear some mooing.

Every little village has a teeny tiny church and a graveyard.

Sheepskins piled up on the left

We stopped briefly for lunch in a one-cafe village. The food here was delicious! We had sangrias with the meal. Met two wonderful Americans – a mother and daughter. The daughter’s talk and warmth reminded us so much of Niki. The mother on hearing about my pain, mentioned she was a marathon runner and had similar pains before, jumped up so show us some stretches and exercises which she felt would help. Crossing your feet and bending down to touch your toes, an exercise my friend, Neeth, had taught me during our previous Camino from Lugo to Santiago.

About 2km from Samos, we reach a point from where you can see the town below. The largest building is the active Benedictine monastery, established in the 6th Century AD.

Near our hotel – two weary pilgrims

By the time we reached the hotel, my knee and hip are paining rather severely. The pharmacy is right across the road, but closed as it’s 2pm. We check in, do our afternoon chores and then John heads out to check the pharmacy and the mercardo again. It’s all closed. He talks to the hotel owner’s son Moses, who speaks English well. Moses tells us that it’s the Feast of St John the Baptist and it’s a national holiday. Everything is closed except one mercardo, one restaurant and the Monastery. He says the pharmacy in the next town, Sarria, maybe open, but that’s doubtful too, as the celebrations are big and it’s almost the weekend. His mom, who is also behind the counter, helping as it’s a busy day at the restaurant, sees me wincing in pain and asks us to hold on and not go anywhere. She disappears for a while and comes back with a knee brace and some crepe bandages. We’re hesitant to take the knee brace that she seems to have benefited from in the past, but she won’t take no for an answer. So we head to the room and I put on some balm and then the brace, which fits perfectly!!!

The knee feels better and we head to the Monastery which is about 300m away. There are 5 or 6 guided tours during the day and the last one is at 6.30pm just before the 7.30pm mass.

We buy tickets for the tour in the shop at the entrance. The shop also has chocolate and many other things made at the monastery. We pick up some chocolate including a large bar for Moses’ wonderful mother.

We wait in the waiting room for it to turn 6.30pm. While we wait there are many unfamiliar faces, possibly tourists and cycling pilgrims. Carlos from the previous day joins the group just as the large door opens and we are let into the Monastery. The monk taking us on the tour speaks in Spanish and everyone but us, seems to understand. Seeing our blank faces, Carlos comes by and offers to be our interpreter for the tour!!

Established in the 6th century it flourished between the 9th and 12th centuries and played an important role in helping pilgrims along the St James Way. In 1956 a massive fire that started in the liquor making part of the monastery, gutted a large part of it and it had to be rebuilt.

Paintings on the walls after the fire in the 1950s
Relics of St Benedict
The altar with a suspended crucifix
With our interpreter Carlos

The tour was over by 7pm and a steady drizzle had started outside. We decided to skip mass and go back to the hotel and rest my leg.

Thankful for the angels who came our way today!

Day 35 – Trabadelo to Fonfria

Today would be the most challenging walk so far! Not just the distance but also the difficulty level! We are going to climb 1200mtr and this would be through pretty strenuous paths and to top it all, it’s drizzling and cold.

We leave sleepy Trabadelo in the rain. It’s cold and we wouldn’t mind a cup of coffee! The petrol bunk is closed, as well as everything else in the village.

Just before Ambasmestas, approximately 4k down the road from Trabadelo, we see an open cafe. We enter a warm room with a few pilgrims inside. The cafe owner, is making churros on the stove. He’s been to North India a few times and is really happy to see us. His friend, a Dutch lady, who has her eye on a property in Trabadelo to turn into an albergue, is helping him this morning. She walked the Camino Frances a few months ago and felt the need to come back and start an albergue herself! She’s a certified yoga teacher and has spent a few months in Kerala learning yoga and ayurvedic remedies. She hopes to provide Indian food and meditation at her place when she opens. We also meet the owners dog, a handsome boxer, who is a therapy dog. The Dutch lady tells us about the cafe owner’s recent bout of cancer and how he got the dog for company and comfort! The doggie is very friendly and sits with us for a bit. John sneaks him a small piece of churro much to his delight. We eat the hot churros and drink some delicious coffee, wish them both well and head out into the cold.

Making churros

As we head into the mountains we see bridges for the highways. The height and length are really impressive!

Las Herrarias, about 10km from Trabadelo has horses you could hire to take you up the 8km trails up the mountains. The ride is 40 Euros. Tempting it was! But we decided to use our feet.

The trails up are narrow, mildly rocky and slushy. It’s a mixture of mud and poop.

Three cheers for our Columbias

Every morn as the path beckons

The Columbias get laced tight.

Asphalt today, one reckons

Impact on the feet will be light!

Neat bow, feet ready in seconds.

We set out and asphalt it is

Until we hit the mountain path

Jagged stones lie amiss

Ankles good support they hath!

Without the Cs, hit or miss?

Poor Cs get covered in dung

As we climb to O Cebrero high

Shared the path with goats young

Cows, horses and cloudy sky.

Feet safe! A ditty must be sung!

At La Faba we meet Carlos Jesus Clarke, half Spanish, half British, who is from West London. He’s taken a break from working and decided to walk the Camino for the adventure of it. As we continued our climb, we shared our experiences of the journey and he told us about finding unexpected spiritual connections and relating it to his Catholic upbringing.

Very smart dogs herding cattle
Although the pallozas started to appear over 1,000 years ago, these rustic round stone huts with thatched roofs were actually inhabited by villagers all the way up until the 1960s.

O Cebrero is where many pilgrims flock to discover the village that experienced the Miracle of the Eucharist, or the legend of the Holy Grail of Galicia, for themselves. It is widely believed that around the year 1300, a man named Juan Santin was such a devout Christian that he never missed mass for anything. One day, a fierce storm ravaged the village, and the priest assumed that no one would turn up. When Juan entered, the priest was surprised and made fun of him by saying that it was not worth braving the storm just for a little bread and wine. The legend continues that to punish the priest for his words and lack of faith, God turned the bread and wine into real flesh and blood.

In 1486, the Catholic Kings returned through the village after their visit to Santiago de Compostela, and after hearing the story, they gave the church two crystal flasks in which to keep the relics.

Baptismal font
150km to go

Just before reaching OCebrero, we entered the Galician region of Spain. The countryside turns stunning and strangely mythical looking. The cobblestoned village was filled with pilgrims and too few restaurants, so we continued our walk and about 5km later we stopped for lunch in a tiny village & treated ourselves to the famous Galician soup – caldo gallego (a stew made from cabbage, potatoes, white beans, sausage and chorizo). We had the vegetarian version and it was wholesome, filling and warm.

As we leave the bar, it starts raining. Geared to walk in the rain, we hit the path again. Cold and wet, we reach Fonfria after many climbs and descents. Casa Galego is warm inside, has a washer and dryer and a well stocked bar and restaurant. There’s no need to step out and we’re thankful for that!

I must mention here that all the albergues, pensions and apartments we’ve stayed at have always been looked after by the owners themselves with maybe family members to help. We’ve never seen hired help. The same goes for the cafés and restaurants on the way. The owners do everything from cleaning to changing linen, cooking, taking food orders, to managing the bookings etc, and with all that, being extremely warm and welcoming to the pilgrims! Very hardworking people!