Camino English Way
The port of Corunna was the port of call for Irish and English pilgrims to Santiago de Compostella back in the middle ages.
Sir James Rice was one famous Waterford man to make it there to Santiago via Corunna.
We traveled via Camino Ways in Dublin to travel the old and less fashion able English walking route to Santiago at 122km from Ferrol, it was not too long. We did stay in the El Suizo Hotel, there and the manager there knew Waterford and had even some Waterford Crystal at home, as his Dad had taken him there from Liverpool, where they lived.
This was a homely start before the big walk outside there was much noise with a Spraoi type festival on called Fashion Night, with live bands and Spanish dancers performing.
Not the best prep, but Ferrol turned out to be quite friendly and a good tonic before the pain ahead we reckoned.
We surprised ourselves that we could do it in 5 days but could be done in 4 if you wanted to do a 40 km day, but being in the 50 plus age not recommended.
The first 30 km day walks on the opening day was hard enough, especially after seeing a music festival in Ferrol, Mark Graham would have enjoyed it.
The early part of the walk saw one walk along the old ship building and naval city zone, some of which were closed.
Ferrol, like Waterford has seen better days. General Franco a native of Ferrol took over the ship yards after the Spanish civil war and re equipped the navy, leading to a boom in the town, but like the UK has been hit. We met an English shipyard engineer, named Richard, who gave us the story and said now his work is in the far east in Korea and Singapore.
Much of the first day was on tarmac and warm at 25C, nice!
Later on in the day we would see beautiful Pontedeueme through forests and by well kept farmers gardens but the early part of the day was along suburban roads.
Early on there were just casual walkers from the town. later we met some British and Spanish plus a Czech and her Irish husband some working for airlines, others at Palma Airport in Spain. They were a large group on their 3rd Camino, we .stopped at lunchtime with them at a fine inn they located in Neda, we still had another 16km to go 14km clocked up from Ferrol, half the target achieved and no big blisters yet. We were glad to say.
Like myself they were doing it with the luggage sent on ahead ( this is allowed ). Camino Ways in Dublin arrange this and means you can cover more ground and be less exhausted with the heavy back pack.
Following the scallop shell.
Their tales of the Portuguese Way and French way, showed that I was a real novice but prepared to learn, we had the right walking boots and head gear for the heat but lacked the Spanish to find the right eating place but they did that part, we forgot to get our first stamp for our Camino passport so got on our way and refused a beer and stuck to coca cola to get going further on the 30km first day.
At 25C plus it was hard going but a forest loomed and that was nice and cool, took some water then met two Americans from Oregon. Jeff was a writer like myself, but also a computer man and his partner, Sinclair, a psychiatric nurse, they were back packing and with better mapping we kept on the final 5km to the town of Pontedeume.
We passed beautiful farm house gardens, small rivers, then a beach area, where families, we just had to struggle the last 1km across the river.
A day on the beach at Cabanas ( missed the swim) is easier than a long walk, but there was a great sense of achievement at the end of the day as we shared a meal and drink. Try the Os con Pasos for great sea food we learned later from the Spanish, where they do local speciality, octopus. Hotel Eumesa is convenient just on the bridge from Camanas.
We learned about each others country and way of life, energy sources and food.
American politics and lots of other stuff. Jeff sells his solar energy and gets free electricity for the energy firm using his roof space as panels.
The benefits of the Camino are not just the sense of well being but the inspiring and interesting people you meet. We thought we might meet some odd balls but that was not the case.
We walked together the next day till lunchtime, having company makes the journey shorter and interesting as you learn from one another.
It was slightly hilly from the town of Pontedeume, warm but manageable and later we had forest cover keeping the sun off us.
We enjoyed the wonderful scenery, watching the farmers at work.
At the next town, Mino, the Americans withdrew as Sinclair had some knee trouble and stopped her camino, Jeff did it on his own after, he told us and got his story done, Mino had a lively market that Sunday.
We did the rest on our own to Betanzos and after 24km in total arrived at hotel Complejo Palacete.. The food was good served by a Senegal man who told us about life in Dakar and France where he lived before. A Muslim but non mosque man are, he was ready to open a business with his daughter with a guest house near the beach of Dakar. Senegal is a land that is stable and peaceful we learned where Christians and Muslims co exist well
Betanzos has an old town centre well worth discovering with lots of churches and nice café bars too, where the young date and congregate, bikers were also there in big numbers on the Sunday.
Next day it was another sunny start uphill, heading further inland, very rural with no other walkers, we passed one Spanish couple that were on the road the day before so spent most time alone. Then a Spaniard asked us to walk along it helps in the event of a leg injury.
The meeting point with the Spanish couple later was Bar Julia, near Vizono the last café for 15km till the town of Bruma the top walkers town on this route. The food was good and brilliant value with huge sandwiches for 3 euro and soups, after all the perspiration one had to replenish. Bruma has an albergo , where you must get a stamp as it is in heart of English camino. In the old days, the albergo, where pilgrims were treated in hospital, some never made it to Santiago and died there, such was a pilgrimage in old times, when they hoped a cure might come to them or a minor miracle.
We learned about Spanish food, iberica ham. Where the pigs are fed with acorns, Galicia wine, life in Spain today, where house buyers like Ireland have negative equity.
A local farmer stopped for a chat, he was called Antonio and knew a local family that lived in Ireland and how their child learned about Tir Na Nog and the immortal Irish.
The Galicians like the Irish have their own Celtic fairy tales.
Life in Spain is tough too with many young people not working, farmers manage ok, but in the towns you see idle people. Spanish youth unemployment is 50 per cent.
You also see many abandoned houses. One Irish camino walker learned that these can be bought for giveaway sums, but would have perhaps 10,000 plus in outstanding property taxes in some cases. The next generation may have moved to the towns for work and sold land but not the houses.
Spanish like the Irish also emigrate, some to South America and Northern Europe
The second last evening before Santiago was spent in a small truckers hotel near Bruma. This was a venture back in real world again after Ferrol.
The meal of the day in Canaima was substantial with a large bowl of Galician vegetable soup with cabbage and beans after a long walk it does the trick followed by fish or chicken all for less than 10 euro with some wine.
Next day was another 29km from Bruma before arriving at Torre near Sigueiro, very few people again on this route.
You need some determination to keep going alone and enjoy the reflection time.
The Spaniards were now behind or gone ahead, so we had a very thoughtful day on the walk and the last 10km were in a forest where apart from a few log men and farmers nobody about, just as well leg was good and mobile was working as there was no one around for help Stop at Calle for a coffee break, as there is little chance of much after that village. The smell of slurry, seeing beef and dairy cattle made one feel at home.
Dogs went crazy as we passed by a little rain and drizzle saw us put on a poncho rain mac, which you can get there and is lighter than Irish rain gear.
Villages were quiet and was all a little strange and bizarre, as there were so few people.
The work phone rang a little, but otherwise all peaceful.
Good for a day or two but not too long, humans are social so it’s good to have company on a walk
I would reach Santiago the next day, where there would be many folk so no hassle being alone for a day.
I could hear some distant noises from lorries as I approached Sigueiro a commuter town to Santiago 15km out. Good cafes here at great value, with again the Galician soup, the filler.
Walked a little more to the hotel on main road after river, the San Vincente was a rather quiet hotel with fine garden and out door pool in summer, but not in use.
I met some Swedes driving back from Portugal, who retire there for winter and take some rental property for just 400 euro a month, then return home for summer. A fine meal was had again with the Galician soup as starter and a great rest before we took last 15km stretch to Santiago and made the pilgrims mass for noon. Stayed at the fine Hospedera Hotel near the Cathedral, where there is also a seminary.
Pleasant walks again via cool forests for the first 8-10km but the last 5km were on edge of the main town with much traffic.
It took quite some time to catch the signs going into town and the great Cathedral city and capital of Galicia, locals directed us if we were off route and there was no scallop shell to direct one.
Things to do:
Get good boots worn in, or use strong waterproof trainers, wet gear that is light you need them in spring rains.
Fly with Aer Lingus to Santiago, train to Corunna then bus or train to Ferrol for 6 euro.
Book with Camino Ways.. com they can sort out travel arrangements, luggage forwarding, itinerary etc..
Santiago de Compostella serviced by Aer Lingus.
Let www.CaminoWays.com organise your package
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