The next part of my Celtic Camino was to begin in A Coruña , a sea port in Northern Galicia and one of the two traditional starting points for the Camino Inglés or English Camino , the other being nearby Ferrol. The Camino Inglés was the first maritime route to Santiago de Compostela and a large number of pilgrims from Northern Europe took the journey to the ports of Ferrol and A Coruña between 12th and 15th centuries. From there they walked to Santiago. These ships departed from ports in the South of England such as Plymouth, Southampton and Winchelsea , hence the name the English Way.
Here is an interesting blogpost about a 15th C Irish pilgrim from Waterford , James Rice , who made a pilgrimage to Santiago in 1473 and then again in 1483. As Waterford is a port he is very likely to have travelled by boat to Coruña and from there on foot to Santiago. An English pilgrim named William Wey , a fellow of Eton College , made a Pilgrimage to Santiago in 1476, sailing from Plymouth to Coruña , and recorded his journey in a book ” The Itineries of William Wey ” , now held in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Continue reading “A Coruña”
I felt well rested after a good sleep in the hotel in Lavacolla. There was a big party of Americans at breakfast who were doing the last part of the Camino in stages , being dropped off by coach and walking short stages accompanied by a Spanish guide.
It was a cool overcast morning and I quickly arrived at Monte de Gozo ( Hill of Joy ) . This is 4.5km from Santiago and is the place where pilgrims get their first views of the three spires of the Cathedral in Santiago . Tradition has it that medieval pilgrims would ” cry out in rapture ” at finally seeing their destination. Pope John Paul II visited the hill in 1989 and there is a large sculpture there that commemorates the event.
I enjoyed my stay in the Albergue in Ferreira. It was a rustic place with a friendly owner who served a communal dinner of seafood paella. I sat with Julian and an English lad named Edmund who had just started his walk at Lugo the previous day. He is a Cambridge educated scientist who is now working on developing new vaccines for HIV and Ebola at The Jenner Institute in Oxford. He’s another addict as this is his 5th different Camino.
A symphony of snoring , dominated by the Bavarian bass section , would be an apt description of the nocturnal experience in the Cadavo albergue. For once I wasn’t the main culprit as I don’t think I slept more than an hour or so. First thing in the morning I made the decision to book into a hotel in Lugo to catch up on sleep.
I had a decent sleep in Castro in our room which contained just 2 bunks. On waking I greeted the bleary eyed young Spanish girl in the bunk opposite with a cheery ” Buenos Dias ” . I asked if she had slept well and she made a gesture indicating that she hadn’t . Mea culpa……..
There was a lot of foot care going on first thing this morning as the long descent yesterday had taken it’s toll . Nearly everyone had developed blisters , myself included. The nail on my right big toe looks like it’s done for too. A mobile podiatrist would make a killing on the Camino !
It was a beautiful morning’s walk , the mist taking until late morning to clear and providing some great photo opportunities as we ascended to a windmill lined ridge
I didn’t sleep much in the Albergue in Campiello . You can guess why but I’m not blameless when it comes to snoring as I have been told in no uncertain terms already on this trip. Day 5 day turned out to be overcast and much cooler so it was ideal for walking . The Camino split after a few kilometres and there were two route options , a tough one named the ” Hopitales ” route and another lower level option. I chose to take the Hospitales route which led into the Fonfaraon mountain range away from civilisation for most of the day. It is considered the most strenuous but also one of the most beautiful of the Spanish sections of The Way. It took us along a high mountain ridge and past the ruins of three former pilgrim hospitals . It was a fantastic walk though the mist at the high levels obscured the views. There were a number of wild horses up there grazing above the tree line.
I walked relatively short distances on days 3 and 4. The first two days had been quite strenuous and tiring in the heat and I wanted to have a couple of shorter days before the big walk of 31.5km through the mountains on day 5. This is a much harder walk than the Camino Frances with lots of ascents and descents but this is compensated by the fact the scenery is beautiful. There are also far fewer pilgrims compared with the Frances . I’d guess there are around 40 pilgrims walking per stage and they are predominately Spanish and French . I’ve met no British or Irish up to this point and there are just a handful of pilgrims who speak fluent English. Hardly any of the locals speak English other than a few words so it’s a source of regret that my Spanish language skills are still at the basic level.
The walk on day 2 was similar to the first day , plenty of ascent and decent and some shady sections of hillside forest walking . The temperatures in the afternoon have hit 30 degrees and this has made the walking tough.
I reached the small town named Salas around 4.30pm and booked into the municipal albergue. I was allocated a bunk bed in a room catering for eight people and all my room-mates turned out to be French. I wandered across the road to a bar where I rehydrated on a couple of bottles of Asturian cider whilst watching the Sporting Gijon v Barcelona game. The bar was full of Oviedo fans , like myself , and given my new found hostility to Gijon I was delighted to see them spanked 5-0 , as was everyone else in the bar.
For the 2 nights I spent in Oviedo I chose to stay in the Hotel Vetusta rather than the Pilgrim albergue which allowed me to stay out late and enjoy the atmosphere of The Fiesta de San Mateo as well as taking in the Real Oviedo game ( the albergues have a 10pm curfew ) . The Fiesta takes place in Oviedo every September for 2 weeks and the 21st ( the feast of San Mateo ) is a holiday in the city. It was lively to say the least with plenty of dancing in the streets . I particularly enjoyed Spanish Country rocker Paula Rojo and her band . I’ve developed a bit of a yen for modern country music in recent years , a cause of much mickey taking from some quarters. I blame Whispering Bob .
I came to the Asturias with the intention of making not one but two pilgrimages , one to Santiago de Compostela and the other to Real Oviedo FC . Why did Real Oviedo become my Spanish team ? It is all down to Sid Lowe , football correspondent for The Guardian . The club was in dire financial straights in the last decade or so and very near to extinction until a social media campaign led by Sid , the supporters club and high profile ex- Real Oviedo players Juan Mata , Santi Cazorla and Michu . A decision was made to raise capital by selling shares in the club for a sum of €10.75 each and the campaign went viral across the world during the window periods for buying shares in 2012 and 2015. Sid was very much to the fore in promoting this and his passion to keep alive a club with so much history persuaded myself , my son and many others to buy shares. In fact the club was inundated with applications for shares from people all around the world and was able to raise millions of euros thereby saving it from liquidation at the 11th hour. The whole story is told here. Since the share issue the fortunes of the club have turned around and they were promoted from the Spanish 3rd tier to the second division the season before last . Promotion to La Liga is the Holy Grail and would help greatly to pay off the remaining debt.