23 June 2015

A Spanish Holiday

My time here in O Grove is slowly coming to an end. My knee is better, but not perfect and I fear it may well need another Operation to fix it. So what have I been doing for the last few days?

I chose O Grove by the price of a hotel room for 15 days more than any other criteria, so the town was not my first choice for a two week stay. O Grove is a small fishing port on the east side of a small peninsula on the Atlantic Coast just north of Pontevedra. In the Bay off the fishing port are many mussel beds which attract trip boats for tourists. When the tide is in, there are no real beaches to lie on, but when the tide is out the beaches make for great beach combing.

Every morning I have walked around 500 meters to a Cafe for a light breakfast of coffee and a croissant. I am well known there now and they bring me my coffee and croissant as soon as I sit down. There are around a dozen hotels and an equal number of restaurants, cafe or bocaterias that I pass on the way. My hotel is virtually empty as seem all the others too. On the water front and around the port are many more restaurants, so the choice of where to eat is large, yet what to eat is not so large a choice, since all seem to offer the same. Sea food  and shell fish in all its forms is top of the list and only a few offer a menu of the day. Here the menu does not always include the vino either. Not all restaurants have wifi either.  So my choice of where to eat has been further limited by my need for wifi. Up until 22 June I did not have wifi in my hotel room, only in the bar of the hotel, which was never open for selling drinks either! However, I now have wifi in my room, so life has improved some what.

After breakfast I have slowly walked back to my hotel via the water front, buying stuff in a supermarket for a picnic lunch, which I have taken on a bench in the shade on the promenade in front of my hotel. After lunch I have retired to my hotel room and my bed, to sleep and read the afternoon and early evening away. This enforced bed rest has done my knee some good and I have used the time to read or watch TV. Fortunately most of the films can also be watched in the original language. Since I have now wifi in my room I have also watched some German TV programs, on my iPad, when the Spanish ones do not suit me, but reading has been the main activity of choice. 

I downloaded the Kindle App for my iPad on arrival and was pleasantly surprised when I suddenly had access to all the books on my Kindle at home! So my thanks goes out to the Phileas Fogg Club for giving me the Kindle in the first place. 

Around 8 o'clock in the evening, after a soak in the bath, which also does my knee some good, I go out again looking for a place to eat. Then it's back to bed to read and sleep for the night.

I am now ready for a new adventure as this one is beginning to get boring. The undoubted highlight of my day has been the beach combing I have done on the way back to my hotel after breakfast.

              The shells I have rejected and returned to the beach.

These shells I have kept. Some I have varnished with nail varnish to bring out the colour.

My next adventure is to fly to the UK on 27 June to visit friends and attend my Corps reunion. The plan had then been to spend time visiting more friends until I was required to crew a yacht to sail to Kiel in Germany. Sadly this will not now take place since the skipper requires to be operated on. It just goes to show that without good health life is nothing. Consequently I shall return to my home earlier than expected. My knee and Christopher my grandson, will be thankful and I am pleased that I will now be at home to see him on his first day at school!

8 June 2015

Pilgrim's End!

A friend of mine believes that everything happens for a reason. She does not believe in coincidence. Well I wish I knew the reason for today's incidents in my life which almost made my heart stop with sorrow. But I jump the gun, let's begin at the beginning.

I had stayed last night (7 June) in the same Albergue as Lisa and I did on the way down in Negreira. There I arranged to have my rucksack taxied to my hotel in Santiago carrying only a small one with rations and water for the journey, and of course my bears.
Usually they sit in the rucksack with just their heads out. I was slow starting as my knee took awhile to warm up and allow me any sort of pace. As I had started at 0645hrs I was not too concerned as I had plenty of time to walk the 22 odd kilometres. I even took the opportunity to show Pat and Dan that I still do the superhero pose.
About two kilometres from where I started is a roundabout junction with a main trunk road and a large bridge over the Rio Tambre. As I reached it an Australian woman also walking back, overtook me and I remarked that I had not come over the bridge, so it felt wrong going over it now. She showed me the App on her phone and said that we had to go over the bridge and off she went. Well foolishly I followed her. On the other side was another roundabout where I tried to indicate to her that we should go left and follow the river, for I now realised where the Camino was. She either did not understand or didn't care for she continued to follow the main trunk road. Against my better judgement I did the same. By the time I came to the next roundabout, some 800 meters  later, she was gone from sight. I now turned off the trunk road and went more or less back the way I had come towards the river and then followed it till I found the Camino at the point Lisa and I had crossed the river days before. A place called Ponte Maceira, which had a lovely medieval bridge.
I continued on for another two kilometres till I found a bus stop to sit at and have a drink. I had now been walking a total of one and a half hours and had gone a little over six kilometres. 
This is now when my heart stopped beating for when I took my pack off I found that Hanna Bear was  missing!!!! I had clearly lost her along the way. I dare say most normal folk will say, "so what, you have another 60 odd bears at home. It's pointless worrying about it, it's only a small teddy bear." But I did worry. The thought did occur, maybe this is meant to happen. Hanna has gone, you are living without her and so you can also live without a stupid little teddy bear.
I did not hesitate or deliberate for too long though, I took a drink which is why I had stopped, made sure Jamie Bear was safely stuffed well into the pack and set off back the way I had come as fast as my poorly knee would let me. People stopped me on the way trying to tell me I was going the wrong way, but I just kept on walking now on the wrong side of the road scanning the gutter and verges for signs of the missing bear. And yes after going back at least three kilometres I did find her lying forlorn and alone in the gutter of the main trunk road.
I was now physically and emotionally drained. I went to the nearest bar which I had now passed twice and sat and had two strong black coffees and a croissant for my breakfast. I then decided that enough was enough and I waited till the bus came and took it in to Santiago.
I arrived early, but was shown to my room. I then decided to go visit the Post Office to see about sending my parcel. Did that and sat outside a bar and had a beer and generally unwound from today's adventure. My rucksack had not yet caught up with me. I was told to wait till 1 or 2 o'clock. Well the time passed and my rucksack still did not arrive. At 3 o'clock I got my hospitalero to call the Albergue in Negreira and yes my bag was still there, and they had done nothing about it either!!!!!! Enforced rest on the bed in my room, is doing the knee some good though. Eventually at around 4 o'clock my rucksack arrived and I could shower and change.
My small pension is in the heart of the city and my room has two small balconies where I have now hung my washing!
I have used the waiting time to find a hotel by the sea to rest in, and must admit to choosing it by price as much as any other reason. How to get there will be the other conundrum I have to solve. It is Hotel Tamanaco in O Grove, which is on the west coast near Pontevedra. I had wanted to go to Cambasdos, but the hotels there were just too expencive.
My pilgrimage is thus over and I shall just chill, as they say until it is time to fly to the UK.

4 June 2015

Farewell to Friends.

The last day in Santiago was quite a sad affair as it was combined with lots of farewells. It started with us saying goodbye to Pat and Dan. As a leaving gift, our BBF gave Pat a Superwoman doll in the superhero pose to much acclaim. On her blog www.patanddanmakingtracks.com Pat has written about it and calls her doll "Karma Too" which we think is most appropriate. 
Lisa being more artistic and thoughtful presented them with a lovely picture of the three of them, inscribed with the words, "No distance is too great with a friend by your side!" This brought a tear to all our eyes.
Alan then went off to try and post his parcel of unwanted things, but the Spanish Post Office computer in all Spain was down and so could not. He left the parcel there saying he would be back around the 6 June when hopefully the computers would be working again.
In the early evening he met outside the cathedral with John and Suzanne, from Oregon and Simon and Millie from Australia. We were now here to perform the exchange of rings between Alan and Simon. We went into the cathedral and Alan found an empty chapel in which they could sit to pray and do the exchange. Millie performed the exchange putting the rings on their fingers. Then Simon replaced Millie's ring on to her wedding ring finger! 
Drinks were needed to celebrate  and so they all went off to the best Tapas bar in town. John and Suzanne had brought a friend from Colorado called Debby so now we were six humans. 
After the meal the humans exchanged much from their past lives, in particular they shared the grief that each of them had known. Interestingly tears flowed from them all, not for the memory of their individual loss and grief, but more for the grief of the others. This has undoubtedly bound them even closer together now. 
Then again it was the parting of the ways for some. It was to be hoped that we would see at least John and Suzanne again in Fisterra. 
On the morning of 30 May we met Lisa outside our Albergue and after they'd adopted the superhero pose set off on the first stage of their next journey.
                 Looking back at the Cathedral in Santiago.

We have to say it is such a pleasure to be walking in the company of Lisa who is a real ray of sunshine. Consequently the distance of some 25 odd kms on the first day went quickly and without real incident.
After the entry into Santiago which was not really so nice as they were so many package pilgrims on the last 100 kms, our route now was quiet and peaceful as we walked through beautiful countryside.
To cut a long story short we stopped just twice along the way. The second day was particularly hard as we walked a little over 36 kms and then had another 30 km day to get to Fisterra.
Up on the hill we had our first glimpse  of the Atlantic Ocean.
And then we stopped at a lovely spot where we could actually see the Cape in the distance.
Our Albergue when we got there had fine sea views from our room.

Later in the evening we met with John and Suzanne and adopting the necessary superheroes pose we all walked the last few kilometres to Finis Terrae, the end of the world.
At the one kilometre mark we honoured Pat and Dan by singing the beer bottle song too.

At the end is a stone which shows we have no further to go.

Our BBF then took himself off to find a quiet spot from which he could toss the stone he had carried all the way from Hanna's grave, into the Ocean saying the appropriate prayer as he did so.
As the sun kissed the surface of the sea he sang the Pilgrim's Hymn.
Then they all took a taxi back to Fisterra and more goodbyes followed before bed.
Alan and Lisa set off early the next morning for the 30 odd kilometres to Muxia. There is only one place for stopping for coffee on the way and that is more or less halfway. Neither Lisa nor Alan were in a really good mood since the night before they had found the setting of the sun was the more perfect closure to the pilgrimage than the services in Santiago. The way though was through more lovely countryside with occasional views of the sea.

They were both exhausted when they got there. Lisa so much that she was in bed by 20:00 hrs. 
Alan went off one more time to the end of the peninsular to sing the Pilgrim's Hymn to the waves before he too found his bed and was asleep by 21:00 hrs.

                A rucksack on legs called Lisa

The next day we set off back to Fisterra and we were all in a much better mood, so much so that the humans set a cracking pace. This was undoubtedly the last straw for Alan's right knee which had had enough of walking 30 odd kilometres for four days in a row.
                 An angel of mercy trying to help and old donkey 

 Once back Alan and Lisa went into town to get a knee support and the certificate saying that they had walked to the end of the world.
That evening we had a picnick on the beach and the humans collected shells and generally relaxed. They had hoped to finish with the traditional burning of clothes, but the wind and the modern fabric conspired against them, so they found a celebratory rubbish bin instead.

This morning 4 June our humans got up a bit later then usual and went to see the sunrise from the beach and to look for more sea shells.
Our humans left only footprints along the Camino.

Once again came a parting of the Ways. A tearful last hug and we set off by ourselves for the long walk back. Lisa stood on the balcony of our Albergue in tears and wished us one last time "Buen Camino", Alan replied with " Via con Dios, Lisa!" Which we understand means, "go with God."
Our BBF can only go slow now and has said that this is the lesson for him to learn. The majority of his life is past and to enjoy what he has left he should go slow, without hectic, smelling the roses as he goes. Certainly despight the knee, we enjoyed the walk to Caminos Chans. There is no rush and we go as far or as little as we feel we are able.

                         Our last look back to Fisterra

To Alan's delight our Albergue gave him a fluffy towel, had sheets on the bed and a fluffy carpet on the floor.
We went into town to get some money once we had done all the chores, and to honour Lisa, Alan bought the makings of Pasta Carbonara and will cook a meal for himself this evening.
We are taking five days to go back to Santiago instead of the three we took getting to Fisterra. Alan said he would decide how it continues when he gets there and sees how his knee has held up along the way.
Buen Camino