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Follow here my journey and stories around the World. 


Filtering by Tag: Trees

Day 14: Palas de Rei - Arzúa

Ivan Blanco

Español aquí

The night before, after some cheesy delicacies, we came back to the albergue where the washing machine, great invention pointed out on day 13, had an unexpected surprise for us. It actually did all except washing... the machine seemed to be broken so we had to charge all our dirty and wet clothes into another one and wait for it to finish.

But, you usually don't expect two machines to be broken at once, right? Well, apparently yes, and after a long 2h wait, the second washing ended as bad as the first. With Morpheus calling us to sleep, Maitane and I dried the clothes as much as we could and left them hanging in the cold night... Waking up, to our before last day on the Camino, Palas del Rei was going to be remembered as the place where we spent two hours drying our clothes with hair driers.

Fifteenth recommendation for the Camino: if you're a male pilgrim with short hair, join some female pilgrims, chances are you might need their hair drier at some point.

Fifteenth recommendation for the Camino, BIS: if you're a female bike pilgrim and don't know how to repair a punctured wheel, join some male bike pilgrims, chances are at least one can help you out.

My best Camino stamps!

With the clothes a little less wet... we did however go for our breakfast with not one, but two cappuccinos, my attempt was to try to out balance our wet apparel... and no, that didn't really work out. Although we left the albergue together, I suddenly decided to head back to the town's church, where I had met friar Jesús the day before to get my Camino stamps. They are actually some of the nicest ones of my Camino Credential (see them on my final Camino day). My sudden turn back, was probably motivated by the fear of not reaching the photo-interview objectives I had put myself. Therefore, I did him the interview which turned out to be one of my longest ones, not only because of Jesús' very positive energy, but also because of the many pilgrims that where coming for their stamps... this fact wasn't annoying at all, it even brought great unexpected moments and made me see another side of the Camino, the more spiritual, one of the people who make it possible; my time there was worth every minute.

The famous "Pulpo á feira"!

Reaching almost lunch time... yes, you've read right, it was 12:30, lunch time for most European countries, when I was going to start my day. To my surprise, Andrew had decided to wait me out, so we left together towards Melide. We went with the intention to have the famous Octopus dishes for which it is known. Some say that the best one is Pulperia Ezequiel other say it's A Garnacha... So how to decide when two options seem so seamlessly good... well, we were bike pilgrims, we only rode 1h30 on that day, we like beer, and we don't drink just one: so we had "Pulpo á feira" in both places (this is the Spanish name for yet another gastronomic delicacy, which some funnily and inaccurately translate into "Octopus to the party"; find more info here).

All topped up, Andrew and I took our beloved bikes and while still in Melide, it turned out to be one very social place to be. We had a chitchat with Raquel and Macarena, fellow pilgrims, at one of the "Pulpo" places, afterwards we found some Californian girls, Stephanie, Emilie and Sabra, pilgrims too. So the idea of staying was developing in our heads, after just 10 km on our counter this day, yes 10... I even found Alfred! Yeah, Alfred, the German I met on my second Camino day in Villanova, I couldn't believe my eyes! Obviously, he did take some shortcut, but that didn't make it less of a happy moment of finding a walking pilgrim friend, specially when I wasn't expecting to see him on the Camino again.

Deep Galician forest

As tempting as the situation was turning out to be, our bikers' guilt made us finally head out and some more unique and special moments were about to happen. We first stopped in the next bar we found, no, we didn't plan a bar crawl. We actually had committed to get ourselves some drinks once we'd reach the next bar on our way with the very funny Raquel and Macarena. Without excess, drinking a little on the Camino helped them to lessen their feet pain, which already forced many walking pilgrims to stop and give up on the Camino (check out Spain's tourism board recommendations here, if you intend to do your Camino walking, biking or on a horse).

After this nice encounter, we went on and stopped at a Church where it's inside baffled us with the enormous number of saints cards that were hanging there, if you pass by Boente, between Melide and Arzúa, get inside, you won't get just a stamp. Even if you're not religious type, it's worthy to see this religious perspective of the Camino made up by the most devoted pilgrims, instead of the usual cathedrals, churches, crosses, statues, etc. It was also where we met Marina, Laura, Irene, Rubén and others, a very happy and funny bunch of Spanish pilgrims from mainly Southern Spain. They were at least ten and they had just recently met on the Camino, their happiness and energy were really contagious. Again, the bikers' guilt was doing us very good.

The amazing display of Saints Cards

More good was about to come, the ride down to Ribadisio was one of our most funny and beautiful ones, where we didn't stop to laugh and smile from ear to ear. It was going to precede a moment where we were about to save a life... yes, we were about to become heroes!

Away from any highway, roads or civilisation, in the midst of the deep forest and with night's darkness around the corner, we spotted a helpless and lost living creature... we found one very dazzled...Cow! One of the most common animals in my home region Galicia, giver of milk and the delicious cheeses. This one was out alone and lost its herd. We then tried to prevent the owner some further kms away, but she couldn't go back since she was herding the rest of the cows, so that's when Andrew and I decided to go back to rescue Pitusa (this name is totally fictional and any coincidence with reality is unintended). So, in a pure pilgrim style, Andrew and I became the Camino Cowboys. As a team of two tenacious riders, the mission was going to drag us even deeper into the Galician lands to liberate Pitusa from its trap. Once found, surrounding her on the bumpy grass lands wasn't going to be an easy task, but even with our heavy bikes and carriage, speed and skills made herding a cow possible. Having Andrew cut Pitusa's way, we got her back on track and started to head home. Happily leading her on the right path, the emotional moment when Pitusa recognised her owner was demonstrated with a very very passionate mooing. With everyone happy, we went on satisfied with our good deed.

The Camino Cowboy!

With yet again, another unique moment behind us and having darkness at our heels, we decided to stay in the nearby Arzúa and end this day's adventures. Arzúa is mainly known for its glorious cheese, the one I already told you about on day 10, the famous "Queso de Tetilla". Being almost the cheese capital of Galicia [thanks Pitusa], they organise once per year the Arzúa Cheese Festival, where you have different cheese producers from all parts of the World and also several home made producers. The latter's cheeses are completely home made and so fresh that you have to consume it almost immediately. If you have nostalgia for you're grandma's culinary expertise, then get your cheese from these, mainly, lovely grandmas.

Arzúa cheese!

We didn't have the chance of the festival being held the same time we were there, but coincidence or destiny was striking me again in another way. We entered in an albergue that was actually run by a neighbour from my small home town Negreira, around 100 km away, so of course, there we stayed! We met there also 5 pilgrims from Nebraska with whom we went to find the most Galician pilgrim menu we could. So we did and learned about their story. They were from the same chapel and when their Fr. Nolte told them his intention to do the Camino, they simply joined him on this adventure. We had a lovely time together where I showed them all I could about Galicia and our gastronomy, obviously, being in Arzúa, we had some taste of the glorious "Queso de Tetilla".

So after a rather wet start, some longing, some great gourmet moments and many beautiful encounters, our Camino was gearing towards its end, but not without making more and more unique friends. At the same time, one of the most important aspects of the Camino was starting to become clearer.

Stay tuned for day 15 of my pilgrimage to Santiago, the final one of this amazing adventure.

Day 7: Belorado - Hornillos del Camino

Ivan Blanco

Español aquí

Starting the day in a place where its name seems to combine a legendary gold seekers' destination (El Dorado), and the starting letters of Italian beauty or puppies' name, another great Camino day deemed to be happening again!

As it usually happens for bike pilgrims, having the room just for us, we woke up quite late. So we had a quick but plenty breakfast and wished a heartfelt goodbye to our brief but dear companion Jürgen (check day 6 for more info). Jürgen followed his path that would bring him up to the Northern route, crossing the magnificent "Picos de Europa" (see here some of his posts), visit Santiago obviously, then down all the way to southern Portugal and ending his trip in Granada (check here his parkour). That's how he completed what was his Jürgen's Weg (the Jürgen's Way), an impressive 4 weeks ride, bravo my friend

"Danke für deine Zeit Jürgen und ich hoffe unsere Radwege kreuzen sich irgendmal wieder! LG!"

Once back to the initial "Ondiñas" team, the happiness and joy of the Camino brought by the people you meet, the experiences you live, the beautiful landscapes, food and much more, made what had to occur at some point or another, our vocal cords' vibrations, or better known by most as: singing. So it was that with high doses of endorphins we starte to sing along the Camino! Going from some general drinking songs, to some Catalan, some Basque and a few Galician ones. We finally ended up with a particular one that somhow became our favourit: Ondiñas! (click here to hear the full song)

It is a song that basically sings to little waves that come and go and to Rianxeira (more info here in Spanish only). It is one of the most popular Galician folk songs, which awakens many positive emotions to both local as well as immigrant Galicians all over the World. This hymn of Galician culture and sort of symbol of our final destination became, this way, our Camino song and team name.  

Bike backpackers!

Although this initially more Galician moment, Catalan soon took over the scene when we crossed fellow bikers from Girona. Their peculiarity was not only their strong strong Catalan accent but the size and placement of their luggage, they were literally carrying backpackers backpacks... yes, the huge ones! Although they were dancing from one side to the other on their backs, they were happy with it and it was one great conversation starter.

After this, our path took us again to natural and beautiful landscapes, in this case, of the Burgos region. Between some happy jumping sessions and amazing trees, we unfortunately stumbled across bikers' least desired outcomes: flat tyres! 

Two paths one way

Actually, we already had a flat tyre the day before, Maitane's wheel punctured, but as a team we quickly managed. So, who was it going to be this time? Well, it struck Maitane's bike again. Although the initial bummer of another flat tyre, it allowed me to take one unique tree picture and have a ride back to assist Maitane without carrying my luggage. However, changing the tyre this time was quite more tricky, the valve was of a very thin type and blowing it was very difficult, but thanks to a patrol from the Civil Protection passing by, they helped us and managed to pump it up so we could roll again.

Eight recommendation for the Camino: always carry spare parts and the right tools, you'll never know when you need them. And, don't fear asking for help, people are more willing to than you might imagine.

Cathedral of Burgos

Following these setbacks, we reached the historic city of Burgos, but be advised, there are two possible paths: the beautiful river side one or the rather ugly and industrialized one which crosses the city's industrial site. Where if not enough, you may be literally overrun by a car... yes, a car! I was hit when it was exiting a car park, the driver was simply looking the other way. But remembering the message of my first Camino recommendation, that everything has a solution, the initial shock wasn't a big deal. I didn't even fall and only my luggage took the hit. So on we went with our Camino after what is now just another anecdote.

After overcoming the initial ugliness, we soon came to reach the full beauty of Burgos and, obviously, it's famous blood sausages "Morcilla de Burgos". They differentiate themselves from common blood sausages because they are mixed with rice to make up one delicious combination (more info here; Spanish only).

Burgos blood sausages, delicious!

Concluding yet another gourmet moment, when we were heading out of the city, rain came to join the show but very mildly. When we were almost reaching the end of the journey, our least desired friend visited us again: Mr. Puncture! And guess what, as in a movie like sequel, it hit Maitane's bike a third time again .

Like many trilogies, it did it in a really epic way, it punctured with...

Yes, I like giving surprises and I like to keep the suspense. But don't worry, you just need to stay tuned for day 8 to discover who's the most epic Mr. Puncture ever!