A short 11 kilometres walk along a real Roman road with cart tracks worn into the rock, took us to the Monasterio de Santa Maria de Oseira. Graham Green fans will know that he spent some time here planning his book Monsignore Don Quixote. Part of the film of the book with Alec Guinness was also filmed here. We arrived really early and so were the first into the Albergue.
The Albergue was situated in one wing of the monastery on the ground floor.
It was Spartan and very cold!
We Bears were not at all sure we wanted to be here, especially as it looked as if we might be the only pilgrims here. Our human checked in and told the person in the office he was here to pray with the monks! Alan went on a guided tour of the monastery together with a German couple of tourists, at the end of which he was told to return in 20 minutes. At the appointed time he was taken now to another part of the monastery, not in the guided tour and shown into a small chapel where he sat down. 10 monks in all, eventually came in to pray and chant in a sort of Gregorian way, but nothing like the music that Alan had at home or on his iPhone. They were accompanied by a monk on a small organ and Alan thought that as it was midday the service was Sext! This then was the religious experience our human was looking for.
At this time he was the only pilgrim there.
When it ended some monks stayed to meditate and Alan was now taken by the Hospitalero, called Lucas from Belgium, back to the Albergue, but by a different and shorter route.
As it was not possible for Alan to sing in the chapel he sang in the main body of the church to himself and in the hope God was listening!
Later the Albergue hosted a total of six pilgrims in all and they all went to Vespers. Because Alan had mentioned to the Hospitalero that Graham Green had stayed there and wondered why none of his work was being sold in the monastery shop, the Hospitalero took the pilgrims to the library where some old books and the picture of Graham Green hung.
Alan mentioned to us as we left, early the next morning, that he could never be a monk as it was just too cold and damp in the monastery. Perhaps this was why the monks Habits were made of thick wool and they all wore woollen cloaks as well!
The next day was to be a long walk of 32 kilometres to Laxe/Lalin.
As always when we stayed in an Albergue in a valley it required us to climb up a steep hill to get up and over into the next valley. It started to rain just as we found a bar open in a small village so we took refuge there. A Polish female pilgrim from the monastery and a Frenchman also took short refuge in the bar. As the rain showed no signs of abating there was nothing for it, but to cover up and get out and on the Way.
The rainbow showed rain coming and it was a day of raincoats on and raincoats off the whole way to Lalin.
After the cold of the monastery, Alan walked the extra mile to take us to a five star hotel for the night. Here we were in luxury, but as we arrived at around 1600hrs the restaurant and cafeteria were no longer serving food until 2100hrs!! So much for five star luxury. The barmaid in the cafeteria took pity on Alan and gave him a piece of Tortilla and some bread to have with his very large Cerveza. A sort of consolation prize!
Another long day followed to take us 36 kilometres to Ponte Ulla our last stop before Santiago. We now also saw other pilgrims occasionally on the road, but it was still very much a walk alone.
We played Pooh sticks on this Roman Bridge and it was the one place where a draw was declared! The sticks as they fell came together and spun round and round in the water. We led 2:1 at this point anyway!
A chapel on a hill was found to be open and giving out a Stamp so in we went to pray and sing.
More rain and so it was cover up time again. The hill going down to Ponte Ulla was steep and so at the end of a long day, quite tiring for our human. We found a Pension here and got a room to ourselves. They were kind enough to give Alan a great meal even though it was after 1600hrs.
Needless to say it was a steep climb back out of the valley the next day, but we were rewarded with sunshine on our last day into Santiago!
Alan stuck to the Camino path, though he had passed a couple who had said they were not walking through any more woods and would stick to the road to keep their boots dry!
We now had the good fortune to be overtaken by an Englishman called Pete. The two humans got talking and so they stayed together to walk into Santiago. Consequently Alan had someone to share the final kilometre ceremony beer and sardines with!
Many of the way markers now still had the distance marked on them. Alan took photos of almost all of them too.
Here we are at one kilometre from the end. Note the sardines which he has carried since Sevilla! The beer though he had bought that morning.
Pat and Dan will be pleased that the tradition is being kept, though Alan confesses he can't remember the words to Barret's Privateers!
Here we are in front of the Catherdal. A long queue for the Compostella followed.
This certificate which Alan got in addition to his Compostella shows we walked 1006 kilometres from Sevilla!
In keeping with tradition Alan went for his celebratory meal in the same Italian restaurant he had ate in with his friends exactly one year ago.
We also stayed in the same Albergue as last year. The next morning we were up early to go to the Cathedral to pray and hug the Saint.
They swung the Botafumerio after the service which is always a moving moment.
Some shopping was in order and Alan sewed a new badge onto his rucksack.
Tapas beer and vino were drunk in the best Tapas Bar in town, Petiscos do Cardeal.
Then it was early to bed to get ready for the walk to Negreira.
It was raining hard the next morning as we left and we all felt sad as our very own personal ray of sunshine, called Lisa, was not there to greet us as we left. Instead it was a lonely walk in the rain through dark wet city streets. The rain was too hard to attempt photos at the spot above the city where last year Alan photographed Lisa and the cathedral towers.
On we climbed through the woods and up the steep hill over looking the city. As we got to the top flashes of lightning blinded us and the crash of the thunder directly above our heads, made our hearts almost stop. Alan reminded Jamie that they had already been struck by lightning once in the Indian Ocean, so were more likely to win the lottery than be struck again. A small comfort Hanna thought.
Then as so often is the case, God sent us comfort in the form of another angel! Out of the rain emerged Alexandra a German woman from Trier. She too had been frightened by the thunder. The two humans now walked in company, and gave each other courage and companionship on the wet slog through the day.
When the rain abated and did finally stop the humans were able to take photos again.
About a kilometre before this bridge is where Alan discovered Hanna had gone missing last year!
Unlike the Via de la Plata the Camino to Finisterra has many more pilgrims walking it and here is Angelo an Italian from Napels. Alan saw him often over the next three days.
The next morning saw Alan and Alex setting off in the rain again. When it did clear Alex with her youth and long legs was off like a greyhound from the trap and so the two humans went their separated ways again.
After some 38 kilometres in Oliveiroa we stayed in the same Albergue as last year. Angelo came in and had a bed opposite us.
We were first out the door the next morning to walk the long way to Finisterra. Some pilgrims go from Oliveiroa to Muxia and we met a Colombian couple who we had passed the day before in a cafe who were going to do just that.
The parting of the Ways, left to Finisterra and right to Muxia.
Alan sang at this shrine and the Dutch lady who happened to be there to take the photo, said it was a nice song!
They had improved the road since last years but the final slog down hill into Cee was still a trial for sore knees.
We played Pooh sticks again at this bridge into Finisterra, but Alan had no chance we won again. 3:1 to us!
Since the Albergue where Alan stayed with Lisa last time is now an hotel we walked a little further into town to the Albergue de Paz. This meant that when we left for the sunset at the cape we did not have quite so far to walk now, only 2.2 kilometres.
The bright blue feather we had found so many days ago, along the Camino had not survived the constant rain and so was now consigned to the wind.
Alan sang as the sun set over the sea and then we walked back to our Albergue and bed.
Our final days walk to Muxia was another fine one. We passed some slower pilgrims, something that never happened on the Via de la Plata. And we even picked up a dog.
The dog looked tired and indeed lagged behind so we thought he had gone home.
Some 15 kilometres later at the first bar one comes to, the dog turned up and sat immediately behind Alan, panting his poor head off. He had followed some American pilgrims the rest of the way!
Alan went and found a clean ashtray and shared his water with the dog, who lapped it up greedily. There was talk of calling a Vet and when we left we were thankful that the dog did not follow us.
Now we were surprised along the way by meeting some pilgrims whom we had last seen around Oliveiroa, the Columbian couple and a woman who had a bear too.
The bear's name was Rudy and his BBF was Yolanda from Slovenia.
The sea is blue in Muxia and we stayed in the same hostel as last year Bela Muxia.
Alan treated himself to an expensive meal in the hotel next door and of course it had to be Scollops. A fitting end to a pilgrimage we thought.
In the wind shadow of the Virxe de Barca church we sat and chatted to some German pilgrims and watched the sun sink slowly into the sea, though they left before it did!
Prior to singing Alan consigned his stones that he had carried to the sea, in the hope that God would recognise his efforts on the pilgrimage on the day of judgement.
He sang then for the last time on this pilgrimage and a South Korean couple clapped!
We did not burn anything, but Alan did discard his rainproof jacket in Finisterra. It was torn anyway and since now he has a poncho, no more need of it. Alan has collected some new Facebook friends and will remember fondly many of the pilgrim brothers and sisters he has met along the way. A,B and C, for three! Hans and Uwe, Richard, Christoffer and Frans, Young Soon and Goichi, Esther, Huligo, and Niels. Pete we will always remember for sharing our last moments into Santiago and Alex for sharing the walk in the storm.
We wish them all "Ultreia", the Latin greeting amongst pilgrims which serves to encourage them on their journey and to go beyond what they normally would do.
It was still a very long walk alone, but was made more bearable by the people we have met along the way. Any Camino is an exciting adventure and definitely a walk worth doing. Will we walk another? Inshahallah!!!