Day 47 – To Santiago de Compostela

O Pedrouzo to Santiago – 20 Kms, 27,570 steps

My final day started out damp and foggy and there were a lot of us out in the predawn darkness, walking using headlamps, cell phones, and flashlights. Conversations were hushed but there was definitely a sense of anticipation in the air, an an extra bounce in our steps. A few more hours and we’d be at the end of our long walks!

The first sidewalk marker in Santiago

I was walking through areas and towns that I remembered now quite clearly from 2019. In Lavacolla, I stopped at a cafe and ordered a sandwich to go. I was given a bocadillo so large that I had to fold it in half to get it into my backpack! Mount Gozo, with its sprawling summer camp-like pilgrim housing (closed in October) is still impressive. Everyone was stamp-happy, filling up their Pilgrim Passports with stamps at every opportunity.

Front half of my Pilgrim Passport

We finally had to break out the rain gear when it started to drizzle mid-morning but it didn’t last long and the temperature was mild. The Camino stellae guiding us counted down the kilometers as Santiago drew ever nearer. I was never walking on my own today, and I could often see 20-30 pilgrims ahead of me.

Officially, I walked 779 kilometers from Saint Jean to Santiago. My iPhone says that came to 1.22 million steps over 47 days! I lost about 15 pounds doing it but came through it without any serious injuries, which I credit to my training and preparation. It wasn’t as cosmic an experience as my first Camino; despite walking with some very nice people for extended periods, I felt much more alone this time. There were moments of “Camino magic” but nothing like those on my first Camino. These differences are down to me, I think, the result of changes in my expectations and outlook. The post-pandemic world is a different place, after all.

In front of the Cathedral in Santiago
The coveted Compostela

I met a surprising number of pilgrims along the way who were walking their second, third, even fourth Caminos. One likened it to going to their beach house each summer. This time I wanted to walk the complete route, Meseta included, taking no shortcuts and no taxis, and I did it, but this one will definitely be my last Camino.

My friend Marti from Paris joined me in Santiago and we enjoyed some fine Galician meals over the weekend. We went to mass in the cathedral, which has one of the most ornate altars I’ve ever seen:

No shortage of gold leaf and silver here

Now we’re back in Paris where I’m enjoying being lazy. And so, my dear readers, I will bring this installment of my blog to an end. Thank you for following along, and for encouraging me. Cheers.

Day 46 – To O Pedrouzo

Arzua to O Pedrouzo – 18 Kms, 27,001 steps

I’m at O Pedrouzo, my last stop before Santiago. I left Arzua this morning before dawn and had a pleasant, if sometimes damp, walk along fog-laden farm roads and country lanes.

Chilly fog dampened the morning

I walked for about an hour with Barbara from Alaska, whose husband is bicycling the Camino Norte route. It was interesting to talk with someone from Alaska and to get her view of “lower 48” politics. Unsurprisingly, she felt pretty insulated from a lot of more recent developments.

A piper serenaded a donkey and us

The horde of pilgrims has stretched out but I’m rarely alone. Tonight there’s a palpable sense of anticipation in the cafe terraces.

Not everyone survives the Camino

So what has it meant to me? I’m going to enjoy the satisfaction of the achievement, of course. But this has been a much more solitary Camino than my 2019 jaunt, and I haven’t experienced quite as much Camino magic.

Eucalyptus trees, an invasive species

It has been great to do it again with better prep and in better shape; just not having to deal with physical pain (blisters, stress fracture, etc.) has made this hike a much nicer experience. And I’ve enjoyed much better weather this time, too. However, I’m quite certain this will be my last Camino.

10,000+ bottles decorate Tia Dolores’ Beer Garden

My New French Girlfriend, Marti, is flying in to join me in Santiago tomorrow night, so I’ll be busy, and I want to take a day or two to process my feelings before making a final Camino 2022 blog post. Look for it in a few days.

Day 45 – To Arzua

Melide to Arzua – 14 Kms, 20,761 steps

Given the short distance to Arzua and my lengthy walk yesterday, I decided to take it very easy today. I slept the deep sleep of the exhausted, then I got up a little later than usual, had a good breakfast, and didn’t leave Melide until 9:00 AM.


Once again, I had a cloudy, cool start and then it warmed up and the sun came out. It was 54 F when I left, so I wore a long-sleeved tee-shirt and a windbreaker. As it warmed up, I shed the windbreaker and later rolled up my long sleeves. When I arrived in Arzua, it was 64 F. Does’t seem like much of a temperature change, does it? Well, there was fog in the morning and the humidity went way down by midday. And, I was going up some long and steep climbs, which definitely warms you up.

Early morning onlookers

There was a crowd of pilgrms around me when I left Melide but it had stretched out and dissipated by 10:30. It was hard to tell if the national holiday was affecting cafes and bars along the Camino, as many were open.

In case you missed the other yellow waymarking arrows

Another pilgrim and I were talking about the one thing we all tend to gloss over when we look back on our Camino: this is hard. It’s hard to walk this distance every day, and many of the ascents and descents are really tough. Then there’s the weather. No matter what anyone else tells you, this is a difficult undertaking.

After reaching Santiago, a lot of pilgrims carry on to Finisterre on the Atlantic Coast, another 88 Kms, extending their Camino by 4-5 days. I’ve never been interested in doing that but, more importantly, I’m not sure I could do it. I’m using up just about everything I’ve got in the tank to get to Santiago.

A welcome sight: the Arzua sidewalk markers
Public art, “The stars of the Camino”. Kevin Costner, maybe?

Despite my efforts to take it easy, I still arrived in Arzua at noon, and had to wait an hour before I could check into my hotel. I waited over a cafe con leche, watching cars, locals, and pilgrims go by on the main drag.

It’s really starting to hit me now: the day after tomorrow I’ll be in Santiago! Has it really been 45 days? I’ve got 18 Kms to O Pedrouzo tomorrow and I imagine there will be a collective sense of anticipation from my fellow pilgrims on the Camino. Just two more days!

Day 44 – To Melide

Airexe to Melide – 22 Kms, 32,077 steps

My walk to Melide was long but the weather was just about perfect. I left in the cloudy, pre-dawn darkness and didn’t see another pilgrim for an hour, which was very nice, given the crowds of the past few days.

Pleasant shaded lanes

Tomorrow is the “National Day of Spain”, a big national holiday here. They’re celebrating Columbus discovering the New World, resulting in Spain becoming an economic and military powerhouse. I’m told lots of stores, schools, etc. will be closed. Some cities even have parades. How this will affect pilgrims remains to be seen.

Public art encouraging pilgrims to proceed

The path took me through small towns and farm fields today, alongside busy highways, and through underpass tunnels. Generally, the path surface has been smooth, packed dirt and dried mud or crushed stone. Nonetheless, “my dogs are barking”, i.e. my feet are taking a hit from all the kilometers. I’m using my bag of footcare essentials daily to ensure that my feet will get me to Santiago.

Grain storage building, designed to keep vermin out

I’m recognizing a lot of places and landmarks from 2019 as I go along, and it’s fun to “fill-in-the-blanks” when I encounter them. It’s also surprising how much I do, and don’t, remember accurately.

Someone’s “finca” (estate), tucked away in the hills

One of the nice Camino traditions is that any bar will refill your water bottle with tap water for free. They’ll do it even if they sell bottled water.

Shady lanes are nicer once the sun comes out

Melide is a larger town with a main drag, and all manner of trucks pass right through it. It really needs a truck route around town. The main street has one roundabout and, while I ate lunch, it was entertaining to watch big freight tractor-trailers negotiate it. Then there was this, which happened right before my eyes:

Here’s the front third…
… and here’s the back third. The driver could steer the rear wheels.

I stayed at an albergue with private rooms, the same one I stayed at in 2019. I saw a couple there with their medium Schnauzer, and I remember seeing them alongside the path with the dog earlier in the day. The dog hadn’t looked happy. At the albergue, they were tending to the dog’s foot: he cut a foot pad on the path. That’s an interesting challenge if you bring your dog along on the Camino. I wonder how they proceeded.

Tomorrow is a short 14 Kms to Arzua. Santiago draws ever nearer. Only three days until I reach it.

Day 43 – To Airexe

Portomarin to Airexe – 18 Kms, 23,488 steps

I was amazed when I opened my blinds this morning to find that it was not raining, and there wasn’t even any wet pavement to be seen. So much for the forecast! I quickly redressed for a dry, even warmish start, and headed out with the pilgrim horde at 8:00 AM, 35-minutes before sunrise. No need to worry about seeing in the the dark: the line of pilgrims was continuous from my hotel, through town, across a bridge, and up into the hills.

The pilgrim horde on the march

It was quite pleasant for about an hour, then just as I stopped at a handy cafe, it started to rain. I was able to put on my poncho under cover without hurrying, which was fortunate.

It rained pretty steadily for an hour, drizzled for another hour, and then was damp and misty. Nonetheless, I got the full steam bath effect under my poncho and was completely soaked. However, the pilgrim horde was reduced and spread out, my feet were dry, and the hiking wasn’t too bad. I’m very glad it’s over now but it could have been worse.

The scenic Camino path

What a wide variety for rain gear I saw! Everything from the expensive over-the-pack ponchos like mine to trash bags. Some pilgrims could have been in real peril if it had rained and turned colder. Of course, maybe they planned to call a taxi in that case. I admit the idea came to my mind this morning at least once.


I’m amazed at how inconsiderate pilgrims can be. From those who stop right in the middle of the path to consult their cell phones, to those who wear their dripping wet rain gear right into a bar or cafe, they remind me of one of my mother’s favorite questions: “Were you brought up in a barn?”

My Caldo Gallego lunch

Airexe is nothing more than a bend in the road, with an albergue and pension, and a bar. But it’s just the right distance between Portomarin and my destination tomorrow, Melide. I stayed at the pension here in 2019, so a reprise was good strategy. Since then, the pension has made improvements including adding vastly better WiFi.

You won’t see this in the US: a 2-yr old at the bar

Tomorrow is my last long walk, 22 Kms to Melide. It’s generally downhill and a pleasant walk. The weather (if the forecast is to be believed) will be cloudy but dry. Only four more days until I reach Santiago!

Day 42 – To Portomarin

Sarria to Portomarin – 22 Kms, 30,840 steps

The weather today was spectacular and most of the path to Portomarin was just lovely. It was an idyllic Fall day in many respects. It took me six hours, with 40 minutes of breaks to get here, which was what I estimated.

Here they come

The glut of “pilgrims” was amazing though. I ran into a woman I met the first week of the Camino and she called today’s crowds a “real shit show”. It’s Sunday so perhaps that aggravated things.

Almost immediately this morning I encountered what I think was an elementary school class trip, with parents and kids with matching day packs, on the path. Then there was the town shortly thereafter where two tour buses unloaded 80 high school kids and set them loose on the path.

My least favorite of them was the kid with a portable boom box in his backpack, blasting rap as he walked. People walking with poodles and dachshunds, we had ‘em. With 9-year olds? Yep. With the old and infirm? Yes. It looked a little like Disneyland at times.

Even the cows joined us

This was in addition to the other real pilgrims just joining in. As you can imagine, every cafe and bathroom for miles was overrun. I didn’t eat at all until 10:30. And the newbies had awful trail manners, to boot.

Camino fountain and rest area

We crossed the 100 Kms-to-Santiago point and it was a popular photo stop (also known as a “choke point”).

99.5 Kms – I’m down to double digits

At last, after a really ugly, long, paved road descent, I arrived outside Portomarin and enjoyed the sight of the long bridge into town.

I enjoyed the bridge…
…but not the 60 steps! Is this a thing now?

Portomarin was having a local fiesta and the streets were full of booths, vendors, and people. And pilgrims. This was quite a contrast to the other towns I passed through that were closed up tight for Sunday.

Famous Portomarin fortress/church

Portomarin is similarly overrun with pilgrims and high schoolers, but perhaps things will thin out with tomorrow’s rain.

Actually, it’s supposed to start raining here in about an hour and continue on and off overnight. I’m prepping my rain gear and will forge ahead, come what may. I kind of prefer leaving in the rain, with the opportunity to gear up at the hotel rather than in a rush along the side of the trail.

I have 18 wet Kms to walk tomorrow, to a little crossroads called Airexe. My photography tomorrow may be limited by the rain. Only five more days until I reach Santiago!

Day 41 – To Sarria

Triacastela to Sarria – 18 Kms, 26,307 steps

Today’s walk started with a steep climb out of the valley, resulting in some beautiful views of the area ahead.

Misty valleys below me

As we left town, the Camino divided: left to Samos and 25 Kms to Sarria, or right to San Xil and 18 Kms to Sarria. Despite the guidebook’s hyping of the “more scenic” Samos route, I turned right and it was plenty scenic for me.

Pleasant leaf-strewn lanes

The weather was cool and, if not for the extensive descents, the walk would have been perfect. However, as we descended that enchanting distant mist became the cool, damp fog that surrounded us. Rain gear wasn’t called for, but I kept my windbreaker on far longer than in recent days.

Fog cut the visibility

We passed through several small towns, which were pretty quiet for a Saturday morning. Not many cafes were open, despite the pilgrim traffic.

After four and a half hours of walking, with a 30-minute break, I arrived in Sarria.

Well-marked route through town

The Camino path winds through town, goes up a hill, and then goes up this 62-step beauty:

At the top is another steeply inclined street to climb to get to the albergues and hostals. What a way to end a day of walking, with a figurative kick in the teeth. Sheesh.

View from my hostal

I’m in the very nice Aqua Rooms Sarria hostal, and there’s no nautical or swimming pool theme, so the name’s a mystery.

As mentioned earlier, Sarria is 110 Kms from Santiago, the minimum distance required for a pilgrim to receive a Compostela, the sacred document of achievement. So it’s here that tour groups and others looking to do the minimum join the Camino. The Brierley guidebook even has a paragraph asking pilgrims who started much further away to look kindly on these short-distance walkers.

“Light” 11% wine

I mentioned earlier that some restaurants generously give you a full bottle of wine when you order the Menu del Dia. Not so fast! I’ve just noticed these are often bottles of something called “Light” wine, which clock in at only 11% alcohol content. Interesting.

Tomorrow’s walk is a long 22 Kms to Portomarin, with a 200-meter climb in the middle. The weather is forecast to continue to be nice. Cheers.

Day 40 – To Triacastela

O Cebreiro to Triacastela – 17 Kms, 31,197 steps

Today’s walk promised to be “mostly downhill” and much of it was on nice wooded paths with friendly walking surfaces. However, it was not without its ascents and my legs, still tired from yesterday, were sluggish by the end of today. There were also long descents that punished the toes and knees.

I’m unreeling the kilometers

I’m filling in a lot of my memories from 2019, places I remembered but not where they were exactly. At my halfway point cafe, a huge tour bus pulled up and disgorged 40 German tourists, who were then given the option of getting back on the bus or walking some of the way on the Camino. About half of them chose to walk, further clogging up The Way in an already very busy season.

Beautiful view back across the mountains

That kind of thinking won’t serve me well starting tomorrow, when I arrive in Sarria. It’s the town just outside the 110 Km requirement for receiving an official Compostela (Camino completion document) in Santiago and is where a lot of short-distance walkers and tour groups join in.

The weather continues to be glorious and the Fall colors are appearing. There’s a low chance of rain a few days next week but I hope that will disappear.

Local government has had many dry stone walls along the Camino rebuilt

Earlier I saw the German lady with her dog Alma (not Greta, as previously reported) and she was about to take a taxi to the next town because there was no place here that would take a dog overnight. She’s also reluctantly flying back to Germany from Santiago; a first for the dog and requiring the purchase of a big “air kennel” for her. It turns out that buses and trains in Spain do not accept dogs as passengers. Seems like a key piece of pre-trip research missed.

Mist-filled valleys seen from above as I descended today

A lot of my 21 Kms today was along lovely shaded lanes, perfect for walking except for the relentless downhill slope that was killing my toes and knees. I have to use my hiking poles to take some of the load, and take really small steps, which slows down progress.

Lovely shaded lanes

My room tonight at the Pension Complexo Xacobeo costs two Euros more than last night’s room and is twice as large, with first-class fixtures and amenities. I shall sleep well tonight and recover a bit, I hope, from my journey to and from O Cebreiro.

Sometimes when the Camino goes through a small town, we’re walking on roads used by farm animals. This means that the pavement is often splattered with stuff you don’t want to step in and you have to be vigilant while walking. The aroma is pretty bad, too.

Civic art in Triacastela
The front of one of my favorite beer taps

Tomorrow is the start of my last week on the Camino, just seven days to go. As we get closer to Santiago, as I remember it, we’ll all anticipate the finale, and all loads will become lighter. Cheers.

Day 39 – To O Cebreiro

Trabadelo to O Cebreiro – 17 Kms, 27,146 steps

Wow! Today was hard. The flatish part of the morning walk went by quickly but the rest was really difficult. The distance is deceptive, climbing 900 meters added about 1-1/2 hours to my walk. I was all right aerobically but my legs are so very tired.

A gaggle of onlookers in La Portela

I got a pre-dawn start and walked pretty quickly through three small towns. After an hour, I had a snack in Ruitelan. The weather was great and I was walking mostly on paved roads or shoulders. The path wound around beneath some of Spain’s excellent “flyover” motorways.

The motorway in the sky

I walked a little bit with the German woman walking with her Dalmatian. She seems pretty responsible and has good command of the dog, Alma, who appears to be enjoying herself.

Alma loves to eat raw carrots

Finally, I got to the hard part of the path, which left the road to descend to cross a stream, then went up. And up. And up!

Rocky surface, lots of flying bugs

The path surface is a mix of rocks and dirt, but so steep that use of my hiking poles was mandatory.

Typical: I climbed up this part…
…only to find this part awaiting me

Horses are available for rent in one town so that pilgrims can ride up this trail to O Cebreiro. The horses apparently know the way and it’s all sort of automatic. The owner collects them at the top. Unfortunately, the horses crap all over the trail. So, in addition to the steep grade, the clouds of gnats and flies, and the uncertain footing, walking pilgrims have to dodge large, fresh deposits of horse shit. Delightful.

I came out of the woods and soon reached the little town of Laguna and, mistaking its outskirts for O Cebreiro, set myself up for bitter disappointment when I found I had another 30 minutes or so to walk.

Camino path users going the other way

Interestingly, a rancher on horseback came along behind these cows and admonished me not to take their picture because it would upset them. Of course, I already had and they didn’t seem to notice.

I did eventually make it O Cebreiro and, though I was sweaty and tired, I was in so much better condition than when I arrived in rain and fog in 2019. After checking into my lodging and showering, I went out for lunch: a bowl of the Galician specialty, Caldo Gallego, a tasty soup of beans, potatoes, and turnip greens. I have officially entered the region of Galicia.

My first bowl of Caldo Gallego this year

Don Elias Sampedro was the parish priest who, in the 1980s, revived a moribund Camino by traveling the country and painting the yellow directional arrows that guide pilgrims to this day and are now a symbol of the Camino. He’s buried here and his grave has become something of a shrine:

Tomorrow’s walk to Tricastela is a bit longer, 21 Kms, but it’s almost all downhill. Tomorrow will also mark one week until I reach Santiago.

Day 38 – To Trabadelo

Cacabelos to Trabadelo – 20 Kms, 24,350 steps

My room last night was not good. The establishment was not staffed (check-in was elsewhere) and the yanked-out common area fixtures and furniture gave it the vibe of a ghost town. Except for the loud construction noises right above me (drilling, hammering, etc.) that went on through the afternoon until about 7:00. Add to that burnt out lights, a view across the alley to a disgusting rooftop patio littered with trash and mangey dogs, a strong cigarette smell (pehaps the workmen?), and a sewer aroma in the bathroom. Definitely NOT recommending this place (Hostal Santa Maria).

Feet, take me away

I calculated my walk today as 20 Kms but it sure went by quickly and my step count seems low. A happy accident, perhaps, but it only took me 4 hours, including a 30-minute break, to get here. A lot of the way today was along roads and roadside paths and the ascents and descents were mild.

The mountains start to appear above

I took the old “original” Camino route at one point today, instead of the newer “recommended” route which is 2 Kms longer, and I remembered it quite accurately fom 2019.

At my halfway point break in Villafranca del Bierzo, I shared a table with two 20-somethings from Italy who were bicycling the Camino. We had a very enjoyable conversation, even discussing their thoughts on the rise of fascism in Europe and the recent far-right Italian election results (they weren’t happy about it). They spoke English and Spanish quite well, so we didn’t have to rely on my tourist Italian.

Camino on the left of the wall, highway in the right

For most of the second half of my walk today, I was on a paved area separated from the highway by a Jersey wall (see above). Asphalt is not the greatest surface but it sure beats rocks, and the highway ascent angle was gradual and made for easy walking.

The Mayor

When I finally arrived in Trabadelo, the town mayor came out to greet me, just as he did in 2019. Fine fellow!

Speaking of dogs, I met a woman yesterday from Germany who was walking the Camino with her Dalmatian. We talked about her decision to bring the dog and she told me she had consulted her veterinarian about it and he had given the OK, even encouraged her. So, my feelings that bringing your dog along was irresponsible and hard on the dog were assuaged a bit.

My tasty lunch

When I got to the very nice Albergue Camino y Leyende, they asked me if I wanted lunch. Albergues usually offer a communal dinner, but a personal lunch was a new twist. After we discussed what I wanted, the cook went out to the garden and picked the vegetables for my meal! And it was really tasty (and included a copious quantity of local wine). I’m looking forward to seeing what we have for dinner.

The weather has been just perfect. Right now, it’s 75-degrees F with low humidity and a clear sky. I hung my clothes on a rooftop clothesline and they were dry in an hour.

Tomorrow brings a challenge: the climb to O Cebriero. In 2019, it was steep and raining and it was a horrible experience. I arrived at the top looking and feeling like a drowned rat. Hopefully, tomorrow will be better. Here’s the elevation profile:

It’s only 17 Kms but, as you can see, it’s a tough climb. I look forward to reaching the top and seeing the statue of Don Sampedro, who’s buried there. More about him tomorrow. Wish me luck. Cheers.