Saturday, 16 May 2009

Dear Diary – Day Four of the Camino Inglés

Hospital de Bruma - Sigüeiro - Santiago

Hospital de Bruma – Sigüeiro 24 kms
Sigüeiro – Santiago de Compostela 16 kms

Most people walk the 40 kms into Santiago in two stages, stopping off in Sigüeiro. But the route from Bruma is so flat and straightforward it could readily be done in one long day by stronger walkers.
We bade Carmen a fond farewell. I hope to see her again during the Holy Year, next year. We passed the cottage where part of the medieval pilgrims hospice is incorporated into the building and immediately we were on a long, straight and flat road. There weren’t any cars.

Then we walked on for a couple of hours strolling through hamlet after hamlet until we stopped for a coffee in As Buscas, 8 kms from Bruma. There is a new posh Casa Rural in the village and another one 2.5 kms further on.. More sleeping options for pilgrims and a sure sign the route is becoming more popular.

We soon set off again passing the quaint village church with a small 18th Century statue of San Paio, a child martyr.

Flat and green, we knew from the country side we were in rural Spain. A feature of much of this route we had noticed was the number of older women tending the fields or market gardens on their own. Were they all widows? Where were the men? “Playing cards with Benino,” the Guidechecker mused.

Our next stop was going to be Calle de Poulo and on the way there I answered a question which had been bothering me since the Guide was written. The original 2000 Guide described the route as going directly to the Church of San Julián de Poulo. The new Guide didn’t mention it. So where was it? The answer of course is that the route has changed and the church now lies off to the Right of the current route which passes behind it at some distance. Problem solved.

We felt slightly peckish by the time we had walked another hour or so and we hoped that Caroline, the owner of the O Cruceiro bar in Calle de Poulo would be out of bed and opened for business. After all it was nearly 1pm! The last time I was at the Bar the men of the village were waiting outside waiting for Caroline to open. I discovered she had been born and raised in England and her father had bought her this bar in his home village. She explained she was running it on her own and with the Spaniards’ late night eating and drinking habits she couldn’t open early in the morning. I put this information in the Guide so that hungry pilgrims arriving before 1pm could eat earlier.

We marched into the Bar and in English asked for “two steak pies and mushy peas” – Caroline’s face broke into a smile, “I heard yesterday you were coming“, she said. She saw my puzzled look and explained that the most amazing pilgrim had called in yesterday with a copy of the Guide and had mentioned that I was going to be around. This was Maime a pilgrim I had been in e mail correspondence with. Why “amazing”? Well what I didn’t know was that Maime is 83, was walking alone and commanded admiration from everyone she met along the route.

Caoline served us a plate of Jamón Serrano and tomatoes instead of steak pie and introduced us to her father. She explained that he had now moved back home permanently and was opening the Bar early in the mornings. Guide updated!
On the way I was taking pictures of sheep and lambs in a field when the shepherd who had been resting under a tree came over to talk to us. “Buenos días” we greeted him.”Are you English?” was his reply. We explained we were NOT English but Scottish. He laughed heartily at the joke and went on to explain in perfect English that he had worked for 30 years in restaurants in London and had come home to the village to look after elderly parents who had recently died. Now it was only him and the sheep. “Was he happy?” I asked a little nosily. “How could I not be?” he said looking at the sheep in the field. Indeed.
Then we made the push onto Sigüeiro. Although this stage is very pleasant and flat it does have a sting in the tale. 5 kms from Sigüeiro the route turns Left and there is a section of 4 kms where you walk in a straight line on a wide path between trees. It goes up and down. It is tedious and on a hot afternoon it seems to go on for 2 million kilometers. To pass the time until Sigüeiro and his first beer, the Guidechecker decided to recite the many faux pas of Johnnie Walker which entertained him on this Camino. The litany began…you did that BIG thing about the weight of your pack in the airport, I had to look away….you made us walk back along the route in Ferrol to get to the beginning only to walk it again… then you had the guy laugh at you when you asked about the number of pilgrims…sawing your tooth brush in half…taking 2 hour detours up a mountain…taking us to lunch in a restaurant that was closed, some Guidewriter… on and on it went. And when he came to the end he started the litany again. By the time we reached Sigüeiro I was planning the perfect murder.

There is very little to commend the route from Sigüeiro to Santiago apart from the fact the end is Santiago. Spanish pilgrims describe it as feissimo – VERY ugly. I wouldn’t say it is that bad and some of it is on pleasant forest paths. But it is boring mostly and I’ll just skip that bit and finish this tale in Santiago.

No matter how often I walk the beginning and the end are always exciting. This time was just the same. Catching sight of the tips of the Cathedral spires, walking through the narrow streets of the old town, entering the great Cathedral Square and seeing the joy of fellow pilgrims arriving from different routes, getting the final stamp in the Pilgrims’ Office and seeing the botafumeiro fly at the 12 noon Pilgrims’ Mass.

Then off to lunch. Afterwards we called in at a little bar for a post-prandial copa or two of liqueur. Perhaps it was the headiness of finishing the Camino or the effects of the booze or both but I overheard the Guidechecker chatting to the woman behind the Bar. She had been issuing orders to the waiters in a stream of colloquial Spanish but now she spoke to him in English. “Your English is very good” I heard the Guidechecker compliment her…”Well, it should be,” she replied, “I’m American”.

YES! Game, set and match to JW wouldn’t you say? Revenge is so sweet.


  1. In last July 2009 I follow you blindly from Ferrol-Santiago with your fabulous "7.The Camino Inglés (2009)"
    I only saw 3 pilgrims all trough the Camiño
    God bless the Confraternity of Saint James!
    God bless you!
    Emídio Almeida (Portugal)

  2. Hi, what happened on day 3?
    Jen B

  3. Hola _ it is there now - it was misfiled!