Category Archives: Caminho Portugues

Finesterre parte dos

10/15 – today we walked the several miles from the town of Finesterre to the Faro (lighthouse) on the cliff. This is the End of the Earth.


Here we found a pilgrim statue:




Some pilgrims build fires on the rocks to ceremoniously burn their boots, socks, or other articles of clothing used on the Camiño. Many more leave a rock as a token that they made it all the way to the end.



The wind at the edge of the cliff is so strong that it could either hold you up or blow you over.




Here is the last pilgrim cross:


…and the last distance marker:


Congratulations to all who have completed their Camiño!


Finesterre also has a twelfth century church:



And a castle, destroyed repeatedly in battles defending the coast:



The rain let up at dusk to give us some more beautiful skies:





Here’s a story: We stayed in Finesterre an extra day, as we had ordered our EuRail Pass online, and had to wait for it to be delivered from Ireland. We told the lady at our pension that we were expecting a package that had to be signed for. When we next checked the tracking info, we were surprised and delighted to see that it had been delivered a day earlier than expected, and had been signed for just one hour ago! We went downstairs to ask for our package, but the lady said she didn’t have one. We showed her the name of the person who signed for the package, and she agreed that that was her husband’s name, but she had no package. Then, you could see reality dawning on her face as the color drained from it. Madre de Dios! She rushed into the kitchen and rooted through the trash can, pulling out our beloved EuRail Pass, opened and crumpled into a ball. When her husband handed her the stack of mail, she opened the envelope, thought it was junk advertising, and tossed it! If Jim hadn’t checked the tracking info a day early, we would have been out of luck (and out a ridiculously large sum of money). Don’t you love a story with a happy ending?

Finesterre – the End of the Earth

10/14 – after finishing a Camino, many Pilgrims take a final step by visiting Finesterre (or Fisterra in Galician), the westernmost point of Spain that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. Long before satellite photos proved otherwise, this point was thought to be the End of the Earth, otherwise known as the Coast of Death for all the ships that sunk off its rocky shore.

Some pilgrims leave the Cathedral in Santiago and walk the additional four days to Finesterre. Many more, including us, opt to take the bus. A two hour bus ride up a breathtakingly beautiful coast brought us to the little fishing town. You’ll have to take my word for the views, as the weather up here is gray, overcast and rainy most of the time.



We checked in to a pension at the top of a hill, Mirador Fin da Terra, that afforded us views of the mountains behind and the ocean below. The first evening, the rain stopped long enough for us to catch a glimpse of the setting sun.



Now here’s a story. I kept walking west toward the sunset, looking for the next great picture, assuming that Jim was behind me. When I turned around in the gathering dusk, Jim was nowhere to be seen. No prob, thought I, I’ll just retrace my steps back down the hill. I followed the road back, then realized this was not the road I had come up. Nothing looked familiar, and it was getting dark. I looked for a familiar landmark, and found none. So, what to do? Our pension was at the top of a hill, so if I walk up this hill, I should be able to see it, right? Nope. I walked up promising looking streets until I was well and truly lost. Don’t panic! I made my way back down toward the lights of town, thinking to retrace our steps from the bus station. I found the bus station, but couldn’t find the road we had taken. I asked for help at several hotels, and asked to use a phone, but no one was willing to help. (as we had only ducked out of our room to take pix, I didn’t have my bag or my phone, so no GPS).

Finally, I went into the German restaurant where we had eaten our lunch earlier, and explained my plight to the only waitress who spoke English. She told me to go up the road and tell the owner of the pension that it was too hard to find. I had no idea who the owner of the pension was, so the waitress left the restaurant with me, and walked me up the street to a shop. She introduced me to the little old woman behind the counter, and told her to show me the way home. The woman obligingly left her cash register and walked out into the dark, motioning me to follow. Ten minutes later, I could see the sign for the pension, and, thanking the woman profusely, made my way up the right hill.

Jim, meanwhile, had given up looking for me with a flashlight, and was preparing to call the police. He had my passport in his hand when I banged on the door to be let in. Looking at my watch, I had only been gone for an hour, but it was the longest hour of my life. Moral: never let Jim out of your sight!

Travel without leaving home


In Valenca, there is a huge fortress, Fortaleza, which guards the Rio Minho. It has been a major military structure from early times but the main design took shape in the17th century.  It’s cannons are aimed at Spain. We descend on the north face and approach the international bridge that leads to Spain.

We cross the bridge.

We enter Spain.

Lao tsu talks about travel without leaving home. He refers to meditation and the fantasies that emerge when you cross from the outer to the inner realm. You can see images in the mind. The mind is a traveler but, from ancient times, people have found that the Inner Path involves stillness rather than movement. The true inner path is toward stillness.

We walk past a row of crosses. The mind is restless. It goes in all different directions but it has a fixed physiological structure. We note the way sign…

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A good traveler has no fixed plans



We had problems sleeping in Porrino, our first night in Spain. There was a festival going on with much drinking. Around 3 am, a drunk guy pounded on our door calling out someone’s name. Eventually, he realized he was pounding on the wrong door. It seemed that he might break down the door but it withstood his blows. Someone he knew came out and they shouted at each other. Finally, they went outside and walked away shouting.

We walked out of town and it started raining.

It rained most of the day and much of our walk was through urban areas.

It is hard to keep a positive attitude when it you walk over uneven stones and concrete much of the day,  it rains hard, and the air is chilly.

We walked through Redondela and had trouble, at times, getting across the N-550 highway. We took shelter in communal washing…

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Padrón to Santiago

10/10 – today we walk the final 14.5 miles in to Santiago! We left around 8am (that’s about a half hour before dawn), with the intent to get as many miles in as possible before the rain started again.



Around 11 a cold wind blew… then it passed over and we could actually see blue sky! It was exciting to see the markers count down to single digits:




We found our hotel, showered and rested, then walked down to the old city to see the Cathedral.

IMG_2661.JPG It was covered in even more scaffolding than the last time we were here in 2011, but looked beautiful to us, even though the rain was coming down again.

10/11 – In the morning, we got into the queue to get our Credencial, the official document that says you have completed your pilgrimage.


You do this by showing your record of dates and places you stayed and ate along the way. This record was as important as our passports – I’m going to feel like something is missing if I don’t have to ask for a stamp every night!


An hour later, we had our certificates:

IMG_2698.JPG. We didn’t realize until we got home that the clerk had entered the wrong start date, 21 Jul instead of 21 August. That officially makes us the slowest walkers on the Camiño!

Then we headed back to the Cathedral for the Pilgrims Mass at noon. We got there just in time to snag two seats in the front section nearest the altar.



The mass is totally in Spanish, but you can hear when your country and your Camino is mentioned. A nun with a beautiful soprano voice led the sung responses, and a choir sang during communion.

At the end of the service is the moment everyone waited for: with organ rumbling and choir singing, eight sturdy deacons hefted the world’s biggest thurible (incense burner), el Botofumeiro, and set it swinging across the cathedral. Word is that this tradition started because the pilgrims smelled so bad, but now it is the highlight of the pilgrim service, and is a wonder to behold. A pic doesn’t do it justice – go to YouTube and see any number of videos. Jim will post one soon on his blog.


After the mass, we took our turn climbing the steps behind the altar, to wrap our arms around the golden statue of Santiago and thank him for our safe journey:




Then down to the crypt, to kneel before the bones of James, son of Zebedee, Apostle.


Pontevedra to Caldas de Rais to Padrón

10/8 – we walked all the way through Pontevedra with the plan to stay at the only pension on our map that was north of the city, to give us a jump on the next day’s mileage. Yup, you guessed it, the place had gone out of business years ago. Our guidebook let us down again… We didn’t want to walk back to town, so we kept walking until we found an open bar. Jim stuck his head in and asked if there was any place we could rent a room for the night, and a lady jumped right up and motioned us to follow. Sure enough, a new building with no sign, with rooms to rent, and right on the Camiño!

11 miles to Caldes de Rais, with rain, rain, then torrential rain. We got soaked through, and there was an inch of water in my backpack!


Some people carry umbrellas rather than pack covers, but at the end of the day, we’re all just as wet.

Luckily, our pension had a washing machine, and, thanks to the spin cycle, our clothes came out much drier than they went in! (And smelled much better, too!)

10/9 – 12 more miles to Padrón, our penultimate day before walking into Santiago tomorrow. Our nice pension man told us that the rain wouldn’t start until 11am, so we got as much mileage as we could in the morning.




Sure enough, at 11 on the dot, the rain pelted down. I was feeling cold and bedraggled when we passed by a little statue of Santiago. Even though I don’t like to take my camera out in the rain, I had to capture his expression. Standing all day in the rain, he looked as miserable as I felt!


Here is the bridge into Padrón:


We are staying at the Pension Grilo, which translates as Cricket. Imagine my surprise when we went down to dinner and saw their sign:


Should we tell them that there is a difference between a cricket and la cucaracha?

O Porriño to Cesantes to Pontevedra

10/6 – well, we’re not in Portugal anymore… How do we know? Rain, rain, and more rain. The rain in Spain falls mainly in Galicia, and our forecast is for rain every day until we reach Santiago. That said, it’s (usually) a nice, soft rain, and still warm (in the 60s). Our clothes and boots are starting to smell like wet dog again.

The other thing that happened when we crossed the border was a time zone change of one hour. Now, instead of the sun not coming up until 7:30, it doesn’t come up until 8:30! We early morning hikers will have to get used to walking in the dark…

There are more statues along our path today. Here’s a few I snapped when there was a break in the rain. That’s Saint James, with his big hat and walking staff. His token is a shell, and many pilgrims carry a shell tied to their backpacks:



11 miles to Cesantes, a good night’s sleep, and another 12 to Pontevedra. We started out at 7am, and were soon beyond the streetlights of the town. It was so dark, we had to use our flashlight to see the path ahead. Here’s a shrine we saw on the side of a house in the early morning:



We continue to see more pilgrims each day, some of whom just started at the Spanish border. One has to walk at least the last 100 kilometers to qualify for an official certificate of completion.


Pontevedra has a church shaped like a seashell, with a (rather effeminate) statue of St. James on the altar. We must be getting close!



Valença to O Porriño

10/5 – this morning we crossed the bridge over the Rio Minho in Portugal, or the Rio Miño, as the Spanish spell it, into España. (I just figured out how to make little squiggles over my ‘n’s, and am very proud of myself!)



I adjusted my greeting from Bom Dia to Buenos Dias, and on we went, 12 miles. On this side of the border, the Camino signs also count down the number of kilometers left to Santiago:

We read in the blogs about this Camino that the route in this area was recently moved away from a busy road to a wooded walk, much to the chagrin of the cafe owners on the old route who now get less traffic. Every night, the yellow waymarks are painted over with black paint by the bad guys, and every day they are repainted by the good guys. We laughed at a new arrow that was placed high on a pole – presumably the vandals are short people! image

On our lovely nature walk we saw some geese, and a very friendly horse that took a liking to Jim:

Once we got to O Porriño, we could see that it was not just any Sunday. There was a town festival, and everybody was out; kids playing games, and everyone else drinking beer and eating…chickpeas! A chickpea festival?? There was music, lights and much cavorting in the streets until the wee hours. O Porriño!

Beyond is and is not

Love Jim’s perspective…



Porto is a marvelous place, like a Disney  Land of the mind.

I gave a beggar a coin at the Igreja Paroquel de Santo Ildefonzo. He says “Obrigado” (Thank you). Karen and I meditate inside.

In 665 in his church, Bishop Ildefonzo had a vision of the Virgin Mary. Light engulfed the church and almost everyone except for Ildefonzo and a few deacons fled. The Virgin Mary provided Ildefonzo with a special garment to be worn on particular occasions.

We walk through the Praca Liberdale, listening to a street musician.

We visit the Porto train station, famous for its wall tiles.

The lower tile image portrays the Conquest of Ceuta in 1415 by Prince Henry the Navigator. Henry became an important organizer of the Age of a Discovery, supporting explorers who claimed vast lands for Portugal.

The upper image is of D. Joao I arriving in Porto for his wedding…

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If you want everything

From Jim:


We were concerned because our guidebook to the Caminho Portugues, by John Brierley, warned us that, when we left Porto, we would be required to run across a busy highway, climb over the central barrier, and then run across the lanes with traffic going in the opposite direction. The book warned that it would be unsafe to linger around the barrier because of the high speed traffic. The attempt would have to be scheduled at a time when there was a gap in traffic in both directions and the crossing required a continuos effect, one without hesitation. This feat would be required after a long pavement walk, Brierley said. Pilgrims might be tired and should prepare themselves mentally for the feat. Brierley suggested coming to terms “with the inherently impertinent nature of all physical forms.”

Karen was very uncomfortable with this plan. She did not wish to contemplate the inherently…

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