Sunday, 3 January 2010

Legends in our own lunchtime

I need to start with an apology. The way I'm posting blogs means that I don't see what is posted until I am either in an Internet Cafe or a WiFi area. The few times I've been able to log on with WiFi I have been able to see the comments which have been left but I can't post comments in reply. Thank you all for your words of encouragement, they have been much appreciated.

I think that mobile phone charges from abroad are a complete rip off. I was therefore delighted when last summer my provider provided calls from Spain at the home rate. I use a Blackberry for working as well as pleasure and because I am away from home so much I need to keep doing emails. That's what I did in August on the Madrid Route. I posted blogs with pictures, answered emails and sent myself notes for a new Guide. What I hadn't realised was that the substantial reduction in price applied to phone calls and texts, not internet use. The bill could have funded several good lunches in La Terazza.

Another pilgrim taught me how to blog much more cheaply by email by logging on, pressing "send", then immediately logging off again then resisting the temptation to use the internet to check if it has been posted.

Economics apart, we wanted this to be a pilgrimage and not just a walk, so with the exception of a New Year text to family and sending a post into cyber space each evening I've been out of touch. However yesterday in Sarria I had to go to an internet cafe to check an email about our accommodation. There was an email from a friend currently in Santiago - "John, you are in the newspaper!" Never has a Voz de Galicia been purchased so quickly. " Two Scots, John and Stephen from Glasgow were the first two pilgrims to enter Galicia on the Camino Frances in the Holy Year" the story ran. I was astonished. In Triacastela just as we crossed the road to search for our hostal a lassie stopped her car in the middle of the road. She wound down her window and shouted, "are you pilgrims?" We nodded.
"Where did you travel from?" She asked ignoring the traffic behind her. When we replied she shouted, "wait, I need to talk to you." She raced off to park her car some way down the road. We soon found out that rather then asking if we had seen a lost friend she was a journalist who wanted to ask questions. We were tired to the point of exhaustion and answered briefly whilst trying to edge away from her. We confirmed we had walked over the mountain to Cebreiro and I showed her some photographs of the snow and our passage into Galicia. She wanted to go and fetch a camera but by that point we could just have closed our eyes. We wished her a happy New Year and went off to find the Casa Olga. We thought nothing more of it until we saw the newspaper the next evening.

Over dinner we read the story again. The normally shy Big Man showed it to the barman who was suitably impressed. All the more so when we taught him the secret alchemy of making hot toddies. After a few we had scaled Everest and we were preparing for a press conference on our entry into Santiago.

Needless to say we slept soundly and after coffee set off from Sarria the next morning in the rain. The day was grey and there was water everywhere. The thaw had caused flooding in many parts of the route. Streams were overflowing their banks and water cascaded down walls from the fields above.

For a while we tried to pick our footing carefully but after a while we simply checked the depth of the water blocking our way and then charged forward. Thank goodness for Goretex. By noon we were starving and in a little bar we wolfed down a tortilla francesa and bacon - nearly the bacon and eggs of home. We met two Spanish pilgrims, the only others we saw all day.

The rain went off making walking more pleasant but long stretches of the path remained waterlogged. We took each other's pictures at the 100 kms waymark and proceeded ahead. After a short distance we looked into a tiny wayside chapel where pilgrims have adorned the altar with petitions and prayers. As we stepped back onto the path we encountered a wee man in green wellington boots. "Be careful" he said, "there's a lot of water ahead". We shook his hand, " don't worry", we said, "we're Scottish." The implication being of course that we were the recent heroes of Cebreiro and had the sello to prove it. Obviously he didn't recognise us because he laughed and said, " Scotland or Galicia, water is water." We knew what he meant when we turned the corner and at least 100 metres of the route was a fast flowing torrent. Obviously this has happened before because there were granite stones up the centre. Only they were submerged. We made our way carefully water coming up to ankle level at times.

As we passed Fin de Ferreiros the sun came out and we walked the 9kms to Portomarin in glorious sunshine. The beauty of the route was revealed. We were glad to be pilgrims and thoughts of our fame disappeared with the clouds. However at one point we looked back and two windmills stopped generating electricity for a moment and waved at us. They knew who we were.
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device


  1. Dear John, I just passed along your blog for the first time. You are a good walker and a great writer, I like to read your writings a lot. I tried to follow where your are walking. As far as I can see you will reach Compostella on your next walking day ? Good luck. I am planning a long hike for the next spring.

  2. Now, don't let it go to your head, Johnnie! That's the fame (or do I mean notoriety). Not the whisky.

  3. Go Johnnie! If only you had let her take a photograph as well!!!
    I intend to take some sort of smart phone next time I travel- as much to look up city maps when I am lost as anything ;-) Must remember to learn how to blog by e-mail though.
    I have a couple of photos of some of those stone crossings in Galicia- well above the water level when we crossed them in summer though!

  4. Wow... that photo really shows how much water was flowing along the track...... did you earn trouble in the form of blisters after walking in all that water?