Way of St. James, the pilgrimage of a lifetime

In November 2016 me and two friends have decided to do the Portuguese Way of St. James. We walked for more than 200 km for almost 2 weeks, from Porto (Portugal) to Santiago de Compostela (Spain). It was an amazing experience and a valuable life lesson!

DAY 1

PORTO – VILARINHO (27,5 KM)

On the 3rd of November I started this great adventure with two of my colleagues from Sandeman. As our employment contract ended and we had free time, we decided to set foot on the road to make an old dream come true. For years I wanted to make the Camino de Santiago on foot, but the timing was never right. Now was the time.

We started in the Cathedral of Porto around 10 am. We went up to Rua da Fábrica, we pass Praça da República, Lapa, Jardim de Arca d’Água and we followed Amial, after Circunvalação. In Matosinhos, from São Mamede de Infesta, the path has already begun to be well signalized (because the truth is that in the center of Porto we think the directions were a bit confusing).

We passed by the Monastery of Leça do Balio and stopped there for lunch. It was an essential break because we were already KO. Me and Marie we were feeling pain in one shoulder and Joana hurted her back and a toe. Lunch was great. We passed a giant wall with some graffitis and we headed towards the center of Maia, passing by the Church of Nossa Senhora do Bom Despacho.

When we got to Vilar do Pinheiro it was already getting dark. We didn’t plan the time right. We left very late from Porto! We were super tired and still had 2 hours to walk to get to the Monastery of Vairão, where we were supposed to sleep. So we decided that the most sensible option would be to call a cab, not caring that we’re cheating, because health and well-being come first.

We then went to a pharmacy on EN 306 and asked to call us a taxi. It was here that the magic of chance and fate began to emerge. The man from the pharmacy knew a taxi driver and called him. If we had not gone to that pharmacy, we would not have gotten that taxi driver, and that day would be different. Is that the taxi driver was amazing! He told us that several pilgrims already cheated like us and, when he was going to leave us at the Monastery, he decided to take us (without charge) to the next hostel (2 km ahead) in Vilarinho, to see if we liked it better, since Vilarinho has more places to eat nearby. He also told us that if we did not prefer this one, it would bring us back to the Monastery (also without charge). Along the way we were still showing friendly coffee places and everything. So thoughtful!

Another thing of faith was that we arrived at the Vilarinho Hostel (called Casa da Laura) and the owner (D. Laura) was about to go out to go and buy some bread! What a timing, if we had arrived a few minutes later we would not have stayed there and would have gone back. The hostel / house was brutal. A large house, clean toilet with shampoo, shower gel and hairdryer, drinks such as water, tea, coffee and milk available, food like crackers and marmalade, etc. The house still had a garden and a very nice terrace. The room with 3 bunk beds was just for us, it was perfect.

In the meantime two very friendly Brazilian pilgrims from Rio Grande do Sul arrived at the Hostel, but they stayed in the next room, so that we could all have privacy. At night we showered and went to dinner at a coffee place next door. The coffee shop owners were also very friendly. Finally we still drank a glass of Port wine at the Hostel, offered by the owners and went to sleep.

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DAY 2

VILARINHO – BARCELOS (26 KM)

In the morning, we said goodbye to our Brazilian friends and went to the cafe from yesterday to ask for a stamp and say goodbye. Yesterday and today we were lucky with the weather because it only rained during the night and during the walk it never rained. I loved a phrase from one of the Brazilians, who told us that all of us who chose to do the Way are crazy! xD I agree, but I also agree when he completed saying that he is a healthy craziness.

We started our walking passing through a beautiful medieval bridge over River Ave, flanked by two windmills. We continued walking through the middle of some fields and we passed another medieval bridge, before arriving at S. Pedro de Rates. There we met another pilgrim (now we know that he is German), that we saw two or three times that morning.

It is true, even before we arrived at S. Pedro de Rates, we stopped to buy water and bread in a coffee place (Café Barbosa, in Arcos, Vila do Conde). The owner was fantastic with us. We signed his book, he took a picture of us for Facebook and we talked to him a lot. It was a very nice break.

Back to S. Pedro de Rates, we were looking for a place to have lunch and the owner of Macedo’s Bar chose not to profit from us and indicated us a nice restaurant (Restaurante Ritual), where we went to eat. When we arrived at the restaurant we met an Italian pilgrim who had just finished his lunch (Don Laura had already told us about him, because he asked her for the price yesterday, but ended up staying in the Monastery).

In the afternoon we continue through a large forest area, where we only cross with tractors and where there was only nature ahead. So cute and bucolic! We wrote our initials on a mossy wall and even went to pee in the woods, because there really was nothing and no one around. Through nature we had interesting conversations about life and about metaphors and analogies between the Way and life.

For example, I said that in the Way and in life we only value the downhills after first having gone through the difficult climbs. The Way teaches us to value things we do not value in our daily lives. It teach us to taste the little pleasures of life. He also said that in the Way and in life we can not plan everything because there are always surprises and unforeseen ones and we have to know how to deal with them. You have to learn to relax and plan one day at a time, enjoying it. Carpe Diem! The Way and the life are also equal in the sense that we are always complaining and only give value in the end, when it’s too late. I think we are now focused on pain and miles, but later, looking back, we are going to realize how special the Way was and how it has changed us.

We must think that what does not kill us makes us stronger. Not only physically, but also spiritually. On the Way we spend a lot of money on equipment, food, shelters, etc., but the truth is that the Way is making us richer on the inside. Finally, we also talk about the fact that it is interesting to see people from all over the world, with totally different lives, doing the same Way, before each one goes back to his own Way.

When we got to Barcelos it was dark and we were dying of fatigue. My vision was already blurred and my feet were super swollen . I could not do it any more. We still stopped at a grocery store to go to the toilet and in a cafe to buy some food to eat at the Hostel. Finally we arrived at the Hostel in Barcelos (Friends of the Mountain). The hostel was super modern and well located, with a good living room / kitchen, but the rooms were not very comfortable. We had to rent sheets and the mattresses and pillows were very hard. We had to get along like cold, light and noise in the room. I slept a little badly, also because today we walked 26 km without cheats and my feet were already dead.

Two Canadian pilgrims (Daphine and Julie, two ladies from Alberta) stayed at the Hostel with us. They were super nice! We stayed in the living room talking to them and eating chocolate. One of them had done the Way before. The other was chubby and had various health problems, but nothing to stop, had an incredible spirit. In fact, both had a fantastic spirit.

They were giving us advices about life and the Way and we ended up deciding to cut off two steps tomorrow to enjoy the Way more. Because, as they say, “pass by the Way, do not let the Way pass through you”.  So we will have more time to enjoy everything.

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DAY 3

BARCELOS – VALENÇA

We woke up later (until we were almost expelled by the cleaning lady of the hostel) and went to have breakfast in front of the hotel, at the cafe Cantinho do Peregrino. The lady that works there, D. Irene, was super sweet, we even took a picture with her. She also gave us directions and told us stories about the Way. She told us the story of a pilgrim who had survived a shipwreck, surrounded by the bodies of his dead friends. He promised that if he survived, he would make all the holy ways of the world on foot. Now it has been going for over ten years. He also told us the story of the Barcelos cock.

Then we went to a pharmacy (Pharmacy de Barcelinhos) because Joana had a big bubble in her foot and the pharmacist (D. Manuela) was incredible. She gave us tips, told us that she is part of the Mountaineering Club of Porto and still left us the contact of her if we had any questions / problems along the way. We have met lots of helpful and friendly people!

Then we walked to the center of Barcelos and, on the bridge, we met again that German pilgrim. Incredible, what a timing! Fate is really funny. He did not even sleep in Barcelos, and we, as we woke up later today, thought we would never meet him again. Every time I believe more and more in fate. This time we got into a conversation with him and we even took pictures together. He thought it was amazing that we were all three together, getting along so well and looking so happy.

We went to visit a church and ruins and then walked to the station. And is not it that, in the end, we were sitting on the ground, resting, and we see Danny (German pilgrim) again? Amazing! It’s because the station does not even stay on the route, the Way does not go there. He came to sit by our side, we were talking and even exchanged contacts. He told us that he had already done the French Way before but that this time he was feeling very lonely and that he was going to stay there and was going to catch a train to Lisbon (where he will stay for two weeks). He was very pleased to meet us and even asked us to send him the photos.

We went to lunch at the Cafe Snack Bar, next to the station. From the cafe we also saw the Canadians pass by, but we did not have time to call them. The owners were also very nice in this cafe. In Valenca we went to take a snack and we checked in at Hotel Val Flores. We decided to pamper ourselves today and stay in a hotel that appeared in my book instead of staying again in a Hostel without blankets and sheets. Each one paid € 15, but we stayed in a triple room with toilet, hair dryer, breakfast (and even room-service ahah, because the owner let us take a little tea at night in the room). The Brazilian gentleman from the hotel was very friendly and gave us some tips on the way.

In the afternoon we went to visit the city inside of the walls of Valença. I really enjoyed the craft shops. I already knew the city but they did not. In the evening we had dinner at a coffee place near the hotel and went to sleep.

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DAY 4

VALENÇA – O PORRIÑO (22 KM)

In the morning we had breakfast at the hotel and departed from Valença going to Tuy (Spain). We passed the bridge that marks the border between the two countries and it was very cold and foggy, we couldn’t even see the end of the bridge. In Spain we lost 1h because of the time difference. We were curious to see if in Spain we were going to keep meeting nice people or not.

In Tuy we crossed the streets of the medieval village until we reached the Cathedral. At the Cathedral we forgot to ask for a stamp, but we only need two stamps a day in the book, so it’s fine. Since it was Sunday, everything was closed and there were few people on the street. We passed the tunnel of Convento das Clarissas and by some churches. The first contact with Spanish people was positive, because we stopped for a coffee and the owner of the coffee place offered us some tapas to eat, because we were pilgrims.

Then we continued by the bridge of Veiga, a Roman bridge with a statue of a pilgrim, where we took the opportunity to take some photos. Then the Way continued inside a protected forest area, with bridges and streams, very beautiful. In this zone we ran into a pilgrim who came in the opposite direction, very nice. I can not remember her name anymore. She came from Israel and was doing this alone. She told us that she made the French Way with her brother, and when they arrived in Santiago, her brother returned home and she decided to continue walking to Porto. We exchanged tips about the Way and also exchanged contacts. She had a positive and contagious energy, we really enjoyed meeting her!

Already close to O Porriño, we passed through Portico da Glória, a mural painted on a wall by an artist in honor of the pilgrims. Then there were two paths to choose from: the traditional and the alternative. We chose the traditional one because it was 3 km shorter, but the truth is that it was really ugly. It was a giant road in an industrial area called Polygon, which seemed to have no end! We wanted to stop band have lunch but there was no nice place to do it. And to got worse it started to rain. Luckily we were almost arriving in O Porriño, our destination for the day.

At the entrance of the city we stopped at a cafe to have lunch, but the lady was really unfriendly. In the center of O Porriño, to compensate, we found a street fair and the ladies of one of the tents offered us tea and cookies, because we were pilgrims. They were super nice with us! We talked a little bit and later, in another stall, we also tasted some organic wafers that the ladies offered us. The lady of the tent and her mother already made the Way and they walked an average of 50 km a day! We took pictures with them and headed to the historic center.

There we passed a building that looked like a castle tower and a shopping street. Then destiny and the magic of the Way did strike again. We were on the street deciding whether to stay at the Albergue or in a Hotel, when a gentleman appeared in the street and started to talk to us and asked if we were pilgrims. Do you know who he was? The president of the Association of Friends of the Way of Santiago of Galicia, what a good timing! He was one of the creators of the alternative detour that I mentioned earlier (because the landscape was more beautiful and we did not pass through the Polygon). He was so cool that he even offered us books created by the Association (a guide on the Way) and gave us a stamp on the street.

As for the accommodation, we ended up opting to stay at the Hotel (Hostal Louro). Not only for the amenities, but also for the friendliness of the receptionist. We have certainly made the right choice! We spent a lot of time talking to him and his father (the Hostal is a family business). They told us stories about other pilgrims (lovers who argued and got upset and later the guy calling the hostel looking for his girlfriend because she did not want to see the stars with him and ran away, two pilgrims who met on the way and fell in love, stayed in a room together and at night the boy listened to them having sex and imitating animals, etc.).

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The boy also told us that he met a pilgrim who has already made a pilgrimage across the world 5 times! Oh, and he told us that we are lucky to be doing the Way now, at this time of year, because there are so many free rooms and you do not have to run to get there before the others. He told us that sometimes in the summer at 11 am is already full! We also spoke of all the Ways in the world that exist to get to Santiago and he said that the Portuguese Way, as it is not as exploited as the French, is not yet so artificial. He told us that the French Way is a real Mafia! They only think of frauds and business in order to profit from the pilgrims. Juan (Mr. from the Association) had told us today that in creating alternative ways, he had already made enemies, because certain businesses are no longer on the way and they get mad about it.

The guy from the hostel also said that hostel owners know each other and indicate accommodations to pilgrims (in fact, he is a friend of the owner of Hotel Val Flores, where we stayed in Valença, and they are thinking of doing the Way together next year). And, of course, there are many complementary services (such as transporting bags from one hostel to another, massages, etc.). He speaks Galician but the Galician is so similar to Portuguese that it even seemed at times that he was speaking Portuguese.

We had diner outside, near the city center (I love Spanish smoked ham!) and came back to the room. We did meditation together and we listened to the conversations of some Portuguese women who were in the next room, who were speaking super loud. Today we walk a lot but I do not have blisters. I’m happy!

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DAY 5

O PORRIÑO – CESSANTES/ARCADE (18 KM)

Joana was in the room talking about the Way and about life. She said that if we can reach the end of the Way, it will prove to us that we are capable of so much more than we think! And this applies to everything in life. We can not stop doing things for fear of not being able to, because if we want something and fight for it, everything is aligned so that we can achieve our goals. We have to think big and do not doubt ourselves. We also talked about the fact that life is like a puzzle. I feel that I am gradually collecting pieces (I know that I like the direct contact with the public, I know I like Tourism and travel), but I still can not see the final image that the pieces of the puzzle form. I still do not know what my purpose is, I have not gotten there yet.

On the Way we passed through Palacio de Mos Palace and Church of Santa Eulália. We found two Galician old ladies almost 90 years old sitting on a wall, with whom we talked for a while. One of them even said some rhymes, so cute! Then we climbed a slope and found some cool landmarks of the Way.

We met three pilgrims in a forest (one Italian, one French and one from Estonia) and stopped for lunch with them in an isolated restaurant. These three pilgrims met last year while doing the French Way and became friends. We ate Spanish tortilla. We did not like them very much because they were not modest people. We like humble people and not people that think they are better than the rest. We followed a road with a panoramic route to Ria de Vigo and we arrived at Redondela.

In Redondela I really liked the narrow medieval streets. I also liked a bridge from Eiffel that was built over the city. As we were feeling well and energized, we decided not to stop there and continue walking to Cessantes, 3 km ahead. The trouble was, we could not find a place to sleep. I will summarize what happened.

Basically we only found a hostel that did not even appear in my book (Jumbino) and we paid €15 for a triple room. For our astonishment, the lady told us that the rooms were not there, that they were in a house a bit further down the road, in a hidden alley. I asked her if there were more pilgrims there today and she said no. We felt a strange energy in the place from the beginning. Even in the cafe where we paid for the room there was one of those prosperity cats and the paw was not moving, which is a bad sign.

Already in the room, in the house, we heard a strange noise coming from the toilet of another room, where nobody was sleeping. We went to take sneak peek and heard some water running. We tried to open the door and it was locked, but then I noticed the key was in the bedroom door. Completely frightened, we opened the toilet door and saw that the lights were off, everything was dark, but the shower was running and the water was boiling and the bathroom was already full of steam in the air! We were full of fear and we ran to get our backpacks and we got the hell out of that strange place. What a strange energy we felt! I am a skeptic, but I don’t have an explanation for what I saw that day.

We took a taxi and stayed in Arcade, a small town a bit further ahead, in another Hostel (Lar de Pepa). We were also alone in this Hostel, but the owner was old and nice and we felt more comfortable. However, this experience left us a bit traumatized and we even went to the bathroom always together, afraid. None of us could sleep that night.

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DAY 6

ARCADE/CESSANTES – PONTEVEDRA (15 KM)

The lesson of the creepy things that happened yesterday was: we must always rely on our instincts. When something does not seem right, it probably is not. We must pay attention to the signs. Today we left early and had breakfast at a spectacular cafe that the owner of Lar de Pepa recommended us. For 1,50 € we drank coffee with milk and we ate a delicious toast and the lady was so nice that she even offered us some cakes because we were pilgrims.

Then we decided to take a cab and go back to Cessantes, so we do not cheat again and start the Way from the exact place where we left it yesterday: in Cruceiro do Viso. We passed through an area with a net covered in giant shells from pilgrims from all over the world. There we found a group of three girls: 2 from Germany and one from Iceland. They were nice. We walked for a bit with them, but then they stopped and we kept on walking.

Joana left a poem with the shells: “In this role, in this place, I leave everything that hurts me and torments me back, I leave all my sorrows and fears in the past, which is where they belong. I forgive those who made me suffer and I move on in peace, towards my Way “:)

We went back to Arcade, where we had slept, and then we passed Puente Sampayo, a beautiful medieval bridge in a fishing village. This bridge was the scene of a battle where Napoleon Bonaparte lost. When entering the municipality of Pontevedra, after passing a giant Roman sidewalk in the middle of the hill, we took a wrong turn.

We got into a park / woods, by a river side, and we were finding it odd that there were few arrows. We asked for directions to a farmer who passed by us and he said that we should be careful, that ahead in the woods, there was a rapist that raped some girls there and that several pilgrims have had problems in the past. He said that we should stay together and always look back and forth, but that it should be ok because it was only 1 km in the woods and then we would see houses again. We arrived well, but I tell you … it was the longest kilometer of our lives …

When we returned to an urban area we had a break down and I even cried because we really felt the danger. I even smoked in a coffee the only cigarette I brought, that I was supposed to smoke in Santiago, to relieve the stress. We decided, from this point onward, to avoid the sections of the Way that are in abandoned forests. Joana thinks this was the perfect timing for me, as a warning to be more cautious when I go to Malta, since I’m gonna go completely alone. We walked to the center of Pontevedra and it began to rain.

We went to Froiz to buy food and to the Chinese store to buy a blanket to stay in municipal hostels without feeling cold and then we went to the city center to see the historical part of Pontevedra. Then we realized that the Hostel was farther back, at the entrance to the city, and that we had already gone too far. There was even the episode of Marie, who dropped a slice of pizza she had bought and started to cry, because we were all tired and we didn’t want to keep on walking.

The Albergue seemed cozy to us. We were there and then suddenly a Spanish old man started to talk to us and he was nothing less than … Antonio, the famous pilgrim who survived the shipwreck, who has been walking for more than ten years and who has made all the holy ways of the world!! Do you believe in destiny ?! The lady from Cantinho do Peregrino, in Barcelos, had told us his story a few days before and now he was there and we met him in person! We hugged him, we took pictures with him and we cried together. Amazing! What a perfect timing…

We also met again in the Hostel those three girls that we walked with today and, guess who else, the two Brazilians that we met the first night, at Casa da Laura! Good, we thought we would not see them anymore, because they had fewer days to complete the Way. They even made dinner for us and had good conversations about the Way and life with us. They have also made the French Way and other trails (in Italy, for example) and are already accustomed to human contact and sharing among pilgrims.

We told them about our fears and they even told us that we can walk with them tomorrow if we want. They are incredible people. At the Hostel we also talked to a Polish boy and had good conversations with a girl from the south of Spain who is making the Way with her brother. Well today was a roller coaster of emotions, I’m learning more these days than in months of my life.

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DAY 7

PONTEVEDRA – CALDAS DE REIS (23 KM)

Today was a super tough day! We left the hostel at 8 am and did not even have time to have breakfast outside because we wanted to walk with our Brazilian friends, Eduardo and Sepé. They are lawyers. The oldest is already 60 years old. We walked with them through the center of Pontevedra, where we had already been by mistake yesterday. The city is beautiful. We passed in Pontevedra in a beautiful bridge where we saw the sunrise. I forgot to say that there is a church there in Pontevedra of Virgen de los Peregrinos and it has the shape of a shell.

After that the Way was no longer urban and we walked again in the woods but this time, with some company. They had a super fast pace and it was difficult for us to walk more than 5 hours straight with only two mini-breaks and no lunch. Finally we arrived at Caldas de Reis, dying. We stayed at Albergue O Refuxio, which was fantastic. We shared a room with the Brazilians and we all went to a coffee place for lunch. Then we visited the Church of St. Mary and bought food for dinner at the Hostel in Froiz.

We had dinner with Sepé and Eduardo in the living room of the Hostel and we had good conversations with them. They told us that only arrives in Santiago whose who Santiago allows, because those who are not humble, they either give up, or get hurt, something always happens to them that makes them not reach their destination. I hope Santiago allows us to arrive! We were also told that a true pilgrim does not like the city, likes the nature. While I was doing the Way, I realized that I was really very detached from nature and I need to make that connection again.

Entering nature without stopping (walking without pauses) makes us enter into that magical atmosphere in a way that we forget everything else. And in life is the same, if you work in something that you like, you concentrate on it and can not get rid of you objectives and then the magic happens.

At the end of dinner, Sepé still told us his life story. His wife has triple negative breast cancer, which has no cure. She was given two months to live, but she is still alive. Seeing him always smiling, we had no idea he had such a sad story. But his wife told him to do the Way, because she knows he likes to walk and he came for her. Incredible… she has survived more than expected, just for all the support and positive energy she has received from him. Sepé was a dear in sharing his story with us. He warned us about the importance of health (I’ll do some check ups when I get back) and a smile. Besides, Sepé’s story also made me think about my mother. We can cherish our loved ones, but we must also follow OUR OWN Way.

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DAY 8

CALDAS DE REIS – PADRÓN (20 KM)

In the morning we said goodbye to Sepé and Eduardo, because they were in a rush to get to Santiago. We had breakfast in the hostel’s cafe. Then we started our walk alone. We passed through woods, but we were always finding some pilgrims along the Way, which made us feel safe. On the Way we talk about Sandeman: how Sandeman prepared us for the Way (it allowed us to know each other, to practice languages, to make money, and for the three of us to be all three available now) and the Way will prepare us for other things (Malta, in my case).

The Way teaches us not to give up, even when we think something is difficult (like Sandeman at first when we arrived there). There is a joke about Trump (who unfortunately won the election these days), about him winning, which says that we should all send our CV to that job that we think we will not get because we can even get it!

On the Way we also spoke about the physical side of being physically stronger than we initially thought. We also spoke about the fact that, on the Way, whoever receives must give back, if not, it’s like a hot potato in our hands. We are thinking, as a way to give back, to send a postcard to people who were nice to us along the Way.

In the middle of our walk we had the most special moment of the day. We passed a kindergarten that had a window filled with papers in various languages to wish “Buen Camino”. I stopped to take a picture and the teacher called us inside. Already there were two other pilgrims (Portuguese! From Gerês) and the teacher said to sing a song for them and we sang “A Machadinha”.

The kids were so sweet and cute! We took pictures with them and then some came to hand us some necklaces with a shell, made by them, with the help of the teacher. When they delivered the shell, they gave us strong a strong hug! It was so good, so special 🙂 After, the teacher told us that for 3 years he has opened that window “to the world”, because it is very important for kids to have contact with people from all over the world. The kids even know how to speak English and German at the age of 3-5, they know some phrases that they learned to tell the pilgrims (for example, when they gave us the shell, they said “This is for you”).

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The teacher told us everything with such passion that you can see he is really happy to do what he does! It’s like he says … if the school had been built a few meters higher, it would no longer have a window to the world. He also told us stories that have already happened there. He once again met two Latvian pilgrims, who also went there. They got on so well that they met in Santiago and later one of them invited him to their wedding there in Latvia. He went and met again the other one in the wedding and they fell in love. Now they are married and have a baby son.

He also told us that he read in the newspaper the story of a pilgrim who was doing the Way barefoot (because his daughter had an illness in her legs and could not walk, but began to take a few steps and he promised that he would go to Santiago barefoot) and told this story to the kids. That same day, that guy showed up at the window. Another story he told us was that one day he dreamed of New York and felt it was a sign that he was going to meet someone from there. Then he wore a t-shirt saying “New York” to prove it. That same day, two pilgrims showed up there from NY and a Portuguese boy from Lisbon wearing a cap saying New York.

Awesome these stories! We left that place with our hearts full of joy: ‘) The Way makes us have our emotions at the edge of our skin. In fact, the Brazilians have told us that those who did not make the Way, will not realize why we are so moved by little moments, only those who go through this understand. This episode at school was special and, as Maya Angelou says, there are people with whom you cross only ten minutes and who mark you more than certain people you’ve known for years. Very true!

We then arrived in Padron and went to lunch near the Hostel and ran again into the two Portuguese women who were in school. And did not we discover that it was the Portuguese that we heard in the next room in O Porriño? Amazing. We talked to them (they are very funny) and we took a photo together.

We left our backpacks in the hostel (near the Carmo Convent), which looks like a chalet, and we visited the city of Padron (the shopping streets, the botanical garden, the pilgrim statue, etc.). I really enjoyed the city! In the Hostel we found the Germans we had met and there was another boy there. We ate pizza in the kitchen and went to sleep.

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DAY 9

PADRÓN – SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA (25 KM)

Today we wake up early, anxious to be the last day of walking to Santiago. We had breakfast at the same cafe yesterday and we found the Germans there, who asked us where we got our shell necklaces, which the kids gave us. We started our walk from Padron and passed by the Church of Iria Flavia.

We passed several picturesque villages and even small woods, but this time we were no longer afraid, because the Way gave us the strength to overcome them. We played with dogs and cats, wrote our names on arrows, we took pauses to rest, but we always kept going. We arrived at a mountain where we could see the Cathedral in the distance and it was a moment of ecstasy! But she was still so far away, it seemed we never made it. We were so tired already. We’ve been walking for 7 hours straight! We could not anymore …

We still stopped to buy water, and later (already at the entrance of Santiago), for lunch, but we almost fainted because we were so tired! At the entrance of Santiago an elderly lady came to us, asked us where we are from, said that she was very fond of Porto and welcomed us to Santiago. How cute! We entered the old part of Santiago by Rua de Franco and finally we arrived at the Cathedral and Obradoiro Square!!!

It was raining a lot and at first it was strange because we were looking for km 0 and it is not there, as it is in Finisterre. There’s only one sign on the floor. We took pictures, we hugged each other to cry and it was an emotional moment. These days we have talked a lot about the power of a hug and not wanting to be the first person to leave and really this hug was super special and none wanted to let go. I really enjoyed sharing these moments with Joana and Marie, I really like them 🙂 I can not believe we arrived.

When we were there in the square a lady came to us to ask us if we had any place to stay. As we had not, she showed us an apartment we had to rent for €18, just in front of the Cathedral, right in the historic center (on Calle Trinidad, 4). It was brutal! A room just for us, with kitchen, toilet and terrace.

We put down our backpacks, went to buy the train tickets to return tomorrow. On the way we found the two Portuguese from yesterday, they also arrived well. Afterwards we went to get the Compostela, which is a certificate in Latin for those who walked at least the last 100 km on foot. There we met the two Spanish brothers we had met at the Albergue de Pontevedra. They are very friendly. Our Compostela was hard to get and we thought several times about cheating again, but thank god that from Spain we did everything right.

Then we went to buy souvenirs and at 7:30 p.m. we went to attend the Pilgrim’s Mass in the Cathedral. At the mass the two “Australians” we had met at the Hostel of Caldas de Reis and with whom we had crossed on the walk too (always holding hands, very cute). It was they who protected us in the woods, without even knowing, when we walked alone to get to Padron. I really enjoyed meeting them there. I barely talked to them, but they have good vibes.

Marie also saw the Germans. The church was full of pilgrims and I felt that we were really part of a large community. The mass was very touching. They presented the different countries represented by pilgrims present there and mentioned the places where they began the walk (“Portuguese, which began the walk in Oporto”). We went to the communion and saw the spectacular swing of Botafumeiro (the famous giant incense).

At the end of the Mass the priest wished everyone around a good return home and wished that the fortune and protection we felt on the Way continue to accompany us home. That touched us so much that, at the end of the mass, we gave a strong hug together and we began to cry: ‘) And we were not the only ones to cry at the end of Mass. Then we went to embrace the statue of Santiago and thank him for all the lessons we learned on the Way and all the protection he gave us at the sight of his tomb in the crypt. Then we went to the restaurant and went back to the apartment. Even though we were tired, we stayed in bed until 1 am in the morning to write down all the life lessons we learned and the conclusions we reached on the Way. Definitely an amazing experience!

Capture


 

DAY 10

SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA – PORTO

We slept like stones no later. It felt very good not to have to wake up early to walk, but I know I’m going to miss it. We went to have breakfast at the same cafe as last night and we bought more souvenirs. We left our backpacks in the Post Office and took the opportunity to send a postcard to our Sandeman colleagues to thank them for their concern and support. Next we went to attend a mass at noon and the priest spoke of the magic of the Way, like when we meet with strangers who give us a helping hand. We had several on our Path, fortunately!

After the Mass we had lunch and came to the train station. We made Santiago-Vigo and then Vigo-Porto. In Vigo we had to wait for the train (2h) so we went for a walk around the city. It was an amazing journey of ten incredible days, but it also feels good to come home. It was very strange to spend 4 hours on trains and know that I did that (almost) everything on foot! I arrived in Paredes tired but happy and with the certainty of having lived the most fantastic experience of my life so far 🙂

 

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