Sunday, 3 May 2009

Dear Diary – Day One of the Camino Inglés

Ferrol – Pontedeume 25 kms

In that half sleep before wakening I realised that a childhood parody of the John Masefield poem was running over and over in my head:

I must go down to the sea again, the lonely sea and the sky
I left my vest and socks there
I wonder if they’re dry?

It was pitch black. The window shutters in Spain do a good job. "What is that sound?" Then it was clearer. Seagulls crying out in the dawn. Memories of seaside holidays long past.

Packed for breakfast at 7am when the place across the road opened. The lights have been on for ages and on the dot the woman opened the door. This is a huge café from the 1930’s. Original furniture and fittings. Behind the counter a man in white worked at a deep fat fryer. The sweet smell of home baking told us this wasn’t a fish and chip restaurant. So too did the mountain of churros on the counter. We ordered sweet café con leche, and orange juice. “Churros?” the woman enquired. I decided to try one. With sugar. Dipped in the coffee.

I realised in an instant that although it had the taste of ambrosia it was also about 1 million fat laden calories. I could be a churro addict.

A queue was forming. Restaurants collecting large bags of churros. Others taking them home or to the office for breakfast. “ 2 for me and 8 for the kids” a man ordered as we left.

An hour later we were eating a proper breakfast in a café in Ferrol just round the corner from the Tourist Office where at 9am prompt it opened to give us our Pilgrim Records and first sello. We were off.

My compañero had my guidebook in his hand and his job was to check it for accuracy. The fee for this service in daily end-of-the-day cervecas had already been negotiated. As we walked I mentioned to him that we were walking down part of the route to go to the beginning at the harbour. A few steps later the mad meaning dawned on him. “You mean we are walking backwards on the route so we can walk the same way again from the start?”
At the harbour we set off. From the beginning.

We imagined we were medieval pilgrims just off the boat from Scotland and we set off.

This was to be a day of sea views, sea gulls and glorious sunshine.
The route has changed mostly sympathetically since the first guide was written in 2000 and we took the alternative route by the sea mentioned in the guide and recommended by the tourist office.

On the way to Neda we encountered a new Camino in honour of San Andrés de Teixido but just before the route turns on to a beautiful new riverside promenade in Neda we left San Andrés behind. Santiago is enough for now!

Lunch on the promenade then more riverside walking past the Albergue before turning inland to climb briefly.
On this route you quickly learn that what goes up must come down. But on the Camino Inglés the climbs are very often rewarded by excellent views.

Today there is also some walking on the kind of forest paths we will encounter over the next few days. I’m also very fond of lilies and we find them everywhere. Growing by the roadside, in gardens, in fields.
As we walked on the sun got stronger. We had to apply more sun screen. The route felt as if we were in “real” Spain. We passed through small hamlets. There people were shy, eyes downcast when we approached but their faces lit up in greeting when we shouted “Buenos Dias”.
The sun was high and it was hot when The Guidechecker asked what was to be a daily question,“When do I get my first beer, please?” The answer was “Soon, but first let’s go to the beach” and, following the waymarks, so we did.
As we strolled along the beach at Cabanas 1 km from our destination Pontedeume, the temptation to go swimming was very strong. Another day perhaps. For now we wanted to get across the historic bridge into Pontedeume for our lodgings and dinner at the Bar Louis. 24 euros each for dinner, bed and breakfast. I also paid the daily fee to the Guidechecker.

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