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Home – Reality Bites

Well folks this will be our final post for our Camino 2013 adventure. We arrived home safe and sound late on Friday evening. It’s bitter sweet on many levels, but it is very nice being reunited with our loved ones, both human and furry!

What can we say? It was definitely a trip of a lifetime, one we will cherish and never forget. Although, we were tactfully reminded by a good friend on our arrival home of a missing 20km from our Camino pilgrimage and were asked what are we going to tell our grandchildren in later years? “We nearly completed the Camino!” (Thanks Mark!)

What we can say is that we have thoroughly enjoyed sharing our experiences with all our followers. You have encouraged and inspired us with emails and comments during our trip that has kept us accountable to put up a blog each day that we will now benefit from as a journal of our trip for the years to come.

We do want to thank all our family and friends for your encouragement and kind words via emails and comments. We have had many laughs along the way with you all. We want to personally acknowledge Phillip and Thierry for their fantastic itineraries, maps and support they gave us for Paris, Venice and Rome. We got so much more out of these wonderful places with the information provided acknowledging that some of these were put together in the wee hours of the morning ready for us when we awoke for the next instalment!

Thanks to our avid followers Anne and Daniel for putting up with us for a couple of evenings in Torino. We thoroughly enjoyed your company and enjoyed our personal tour of Torino. Our first real taste of Italy! (Gelato and Alpha Romeo’s!)

To Jeff and Sue, Paul and Jacky, it was great to take some time out in beautiful Tuscany to celebrate Sue’s 50th. We had some great laughs together and are now very jealous of you all as you continue on your holidays while we are now stuck at home in Melbourne winter! We can now only watch the Tour de France on TV and pretend we are there with you. We will be looking out for an Australian flag!

How can we not mention the leader of Blog comments “Mark”. You have made us laugh and we have looked forward to your witty comments. You inspired the 3 Aussie Bums photo to solicit a comment out of you and we weren’t disappointed!

And finally a big thanks to our girls for not killing each other or destroying our house. We are very proud of you both and now know we can take off anytime and know you will survive!

It’s now time to put together our 10,000 photos for a monster slideshow. So watch out, if you are not careful you could get invited over for a private viewing and commentary – a slow and painful death!

But more importantly, it’s time to plan our next adventure. How are we going to top this one off? (Maybe go back and complete the Camino in its entirety?)

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Camino – Santiago (Day 33)

Date: Sun 9th June
Temperature: Cool
Mood: Glowing
Highlight: Following the tradition of pilgrims

Whilst packing in as much as we could, we still had time for a small sleep in! However, this came at a cost of missing breakfast so we could attend the Sunday pilgrims mass (again). Now being a little more wiser, we found ourselves seats not in the main nave as yesterday, but rather the transverse nave, as this is the path of the swinging incense (take note fellow pilgrims). We arrived around 11am and being a Sunday, it filled much quicker than the day before, but good seats we got.

Again at the end of the service, they concluded with the swinging of the incense (this possibly means that they perform this ritual at every pilgrims mass, but cannot be sure). Whilst we cannot understand a word of Spanish, we now don’t think they read out names, but rather the country pilgrims are from and from where they started their pilgrimage. We again enjoyed the service and had more time to soak it all in!

Straight after we had to dash to view the Palacios as had limited opening hours and after a small misunderstanding, we had got ourselves attached to a Spanish speaking tour of the Cathedral roof top! Whilst we already had tickets for the English tour later in the day, there was no way we could escape as they had locked us in. Well it was entertaining and couldn’t complain getting 2 tours of the roof top in the same day, as the views are excellent and we also learnt a lot (on the English tour that is). We still made it to the Palacios after which we viewed the Cathedrals Museum by which stage the day was pretty much over and we had overdosed on all that was on offer!

During the day we had the opportunity to follow the time worn pilgrims tradition of viewing the Pórtico de la Gloria (as much as we could as it is undergoing restoration), which included sneaking a touch of the Tree of Life as it is now corded off. We visited the tomb / crypt of St James followed by giving St James a hug who presides at the main altar inside the cathedral. We didn’t burn our old pilgrim clothes or bathe in the fountain as they once did, as the church no longer hands out new clothes, (what a shame, as we are now stuck with the same clothes for another 3 weeks!)

One of us enjoyed another soak in the old tub back at the Hotel (slightly better than the fountain and the sight doesn’t upset our fellow pilgrims), whilst the other braved the night for some nighttime photos as it will be up early to leave for Barcelona tomorrow!

Goodbye Santiago! We will miss you and the warmth that we experienced in your Cathedral. We felt that this was indeed the people’s church, rather than a glorified monument as experienced in other great Cathedrals!

This concludes our Camino adventure. Feel free to join us as we continue our adventure to Barcelona and into Italy, but we cannot guarantee we can Blog as regularly.

Buen Camino!

 

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Camino – Santiago (Day 32)

Huge day… Stay tuned and check back later for an update! And just for the record, we were on the road to Santiago at 5:45am! We weren’t disappointed!

Update!
Date: Sat 8th June
Distance: 20 km
Temperature: Cool/Wet
Mood: Excited
Left: A Rúa 5:45am
Arrived: Santiago de Compostela 11:00am
Highlight: Swinging of the Incense (one of many highlights)

The alarm clock was set for 5:00am for a planned 6:00am departure. The plan was to arrive in time for the midday pilgrims mass. This would then give us two opportunities to witness the pilgrims blessing and we were hoping that at least on one of these occasions they would swing the incense (as we were unsure if this was a daily ritual or only performed on certain occasions).

We hit the road at 5:45am, excited and motivated by the prospect of reaching the final destination of this pilgrimage. Once we left the village and were on the trail we had to use our headlight torch to see the way markers and where we were walking! Another couple of pilgrims had the same idea of an early departure and latched onto the back of us as their torch wasn’t powerful enough to help them navigate the trail. Within an hour there was enough light to see and the birds had decided it was morning so we were treated to their morning singing sessions. The added bonus of such an early start was that we could enjoy the walk into Santiago with only seeing a small handful of fellow pilgrims as the track can get quite busy on the final leg of the journey.

We were able to find a hotel with restaurant along the way for a quick rest and breakfast, before pushing on (no lazy coffee and donut crawl today). The weather met all our expectations of Galician/Santiago weather. Cold, foggy and damp! Followed later in the day by a soaking wet drizzle/light rain! This meant that the view over the city and the Cathedral before entering the city was a complete white out!

Before long we had hit the edge of town and successfully navigated our way through due to the well marked Camino trail. We were “pumped” in fact at this point we were humming to the theme song of “Rocky”! A well dressed pilgrim who had obviously arrived a day or so earlier, spurred us on letting us know that we were within 20mins of the Cathedral.

We had arrived! Our emotions would have to wait just a little longer as we dashed to our Hotel, dumped our gear and headed off back to the Cathedral for the midday Pilgrim Mass with just enough time to secure a decent seat!

After the names/countries of all the pilgrims that had officially completed the journey had been read out (ours not included as we hadn’t yet received our Compostela (certificate of completion) and holy communion, with great anticipation the service was finished with the swinging of the incense! I think for the two us us, this was the pinnacle of our Camino. We had been inspired by doing the Camino by the movie “The Way” in which, the swinging of the incense was a very touching and moving scene. So having just completed close to 800km in the footsteps of many, many other pilgrims over the centuries and witnessing the full ritual of the swinging incense we felt our emotions sweep through us as the magnitude of what we had just undertaken started to sink in, but more amazing has been the fulfilment of our dreams and that our expectations have been far exceeded. We have felt truly blessed.

Whilst on this reflective note, we cannot even begin to tell you that a big part of our positive experiences have been influenced by you, our family and friends. The genuine interest, the support and encouragement has been a special part of our trip. Whilst you may all look forward to our next blog instalment, we equally have jumped out of bed in anticipation for your emails and blog comments! We really do appreciate them all and it has kept us in touch, encouraged and humoured.

We had sort of broken all the rules of the Pilgrims rituals one should follow when arriving! But we do intend following them where possible, just not in their proper order! So after attending our first pilgrims mass we headed straight off to collect our Compostela to prove to all that we did actually complete the Camino in accordance with the Church’s requirements. There was a reasonable queue, but a lot of excitement was in the air and we got a buzz from receiving them. Our names written in Latin (Stephanum and Goeneveram).

It was time now to have a wander through the streets and check in properly to our Hotel we had booked many months ago. We hadn’t given it too much attention when booking, other than to be near the Cathedral in the old town quarter. The Parador was out of the question so we booked the San Francisco Hotel Monumento, which is a recently refurbished monastery. Well we think Saint James might have played a part in it, but we nearly fell over when we entered our suite! Awesome! We won’t post any photos of us enjoying the spa bath in fear of any forthcoming comments from the peanut gallery, other than to say we felt like complete pilgrim frauds enjoying the luxury of a spa, whereas pilgrims of the Middle Ages had only the fountain out the front of the Cathedral to bathe in before finding a place to sleep on the upper level of the Cathedral on the cold hard solid granite floor!

Apologies for the delays in getting this post done, but there has been so much to see and experience that we just don’t have enough hours (after factoring a couple spent in the spa!)

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Camino – A Rúa (Day 31)

Date: Fri 7th June
Distance: 20 km
Temperature: Cool/Warm
Mood: High
Left: Arzúa 9:00am
Arrived: A Rúa 2:00pm
Santiago de Composela: 20 km
Highlight: Spanish Donuts

We were in no hurry this morning as we left Arzua as we only had a leisurely 20km to cover for the day. We decided to have breakfast a little further into the town rather than at our accommodation which was just short of the town. of Arzua, Whilst we couldn’t complain about the quality of food, we weren’t given the friendly hospitality that we have become so accustomed to here in Spain, so no Sello (stamp) from her cafe!! (She was definitely not a morning person!)

The Galician trails did not disappoint with every twist and turn offering up a perfect photographic opportunity, who knows what tomorrow’s trail might bring, so better take that scene to add to all the others of a similar nature! The trail soon turned to those more familiar in Australia with forests of gumtrees. We could have been taking a stroll in the Dandenongs rather than here in Spain. We were looking out for the picnic table and BBQ – a sausage in bread would gave topped off the scene together with a kookaburra! A surreal experience, but homely and pleasant.

We started the day off in long pants, but the day warmed up enough for us to lose the zip-offs during our morning coffee and donut break (no chocolate croissants available!). We won’t tell you that this break came only an hour after our breakfast stop!

On passing the 20km mark to Santiago de Compostela, it’s hard to imagine that such a significant city is literally around the corner!

Whilst as always we enjoyed the day’s walk and the Galician countryside our attention is now shifting to focus on our last day on the Camino. As they say, it is not about the destination but the journey and we have, without hesitation or doubt enjoyed every part of our journey together that began 12 months ago!

So tomorrow is a new day, the finalé as we enter Santiago de Compostela. We try not to have any expectations other than we know we will be sharing this day with many other Pilgrims all on their own special journey.

Will we be able to make an early start to the day so we can attend the Pilgrims mass at midday?

Here’s to Mañana!

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Bounced back from my night out, even with the extra sausage (note, must read comments!)

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Camino – Arzúa (Day 30)

Date: Thu 6th June
Distance: 28 km
Temperature: Cool
Mood: Loving it!
Left: Palas de Rei 8:00am
Arrived: Arzúa 3:45pm
Santiago de Composela: 40 km
Highlight: Ever changing Camino scenery

Today we had a pleasant change back to cooler conditions. Whilst we love to see the sun out, it does come at a cost and the cooler conditions are ideal for walking in (not so much for photographing!)

We are simply amazed at the ever changing landscape and the Camino trail makes every effort to avoid the ugly side of the larger towns so is not uncommon for us to emerge from a magical green moss covered forrest into a town and then disappear out the other side down a rural lane way with the town quickly forgotten!

We had a big walk today with plenty of undulating trails that would drop down and over a creek and then have steep climbs up to a summit. Whilst nowhere as big a climbs as we’ve encountered before on the Camino, they do take it out of you. We stopped for a number of breaks during the day with a very bad habit of stopping for coffees and chocolate croissants whenever the opportunity arose. (Whilst never as nice as the ones in Paris, anything is good!) This might account for us getting in so late in the afternoon!

Whilst there is now more foot traffic, we still had plenty of trail to ourselves to enjoy (very hard not too!) and our fellow pilgrims can be quite entertaining at times!

Our last 2 nights accommodation were booked yesterday and we weren’t disappointed with the accommodation for the evening, especially for the cost. It also had the added bonus of being directly on the trail just before the township saving us a few extra steps! Not to mention a nice big hot bath to soak the weary muscles!

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