Welford to Wilbarston

We picked up today from where we left off on the 27th July. The walk in the gale force winds on the peak of Skiddaw hadn’t deterred Hannah from adventuring with me.

The weather was perfect, the low autumn sun was out, the temperature cool and the ground dry, we couldn’t ask for better conditions for mid October!

After leaving a car at Wilbarston we returned to Welford to begin our 4th stage of the Jurassic Way.

Welford Church

We set off from the church where we ended two months prior, cutting across fields to the Welford reservoir. The path follows the banks before scooting over a sluice to head towards Sibbertoft.

The kilometres flew by as we enjoyed the peace and quiet of the Northamptonshire countryside, listening to the birds and enjoying the autumnal colours.

Cows Drinking from the Reservoir

While at Sibbertoft we were greeted by some friendly cattle, that paid a bit of interest in us. Naturally we stopped to say hello and give them a stroke.

From Sibbertoft you keep heading towards Market Harborough until East Farnden where the route heads southeast to Great Oxenden, here we stopped for a quick drink at ‘The George’.

At this point we were over halfway, the distance had flown by. We continued on crossing more rolling fields as the sun gradually lowered casting long autumn shadows.

As we left Braybrooke and approached Stoke Albany, we realised the route had been easy to navigate and none of those blasted nettles that had plagued us on the previous stages, stood in our way. But we spoke too soon. We encountered worse!

The Route Goes Through That!

We were confronted by a wall of green prickly plants! There was no defined path, and only guided by the ordinance survey app, we entered this triffid monstrosity.

There were brambles, hawthorns, nettles and all manner of shrubbery between us and the next field. Clearly the ‘Jurassic Way’ is not a well trodden route. It is a shame really, as it would make a great first thru hike for those wanting to test the waters of this pursuit.

You get to see the best of the Northamptonshire countryside, no demanding hills like the Cotswold Way and there are plenty of villages, and pubs along the route, to keep you going.

After some ducking and weaving resembling a modern dance recital, we navigated through this prickly obstacle wall.

From here it was easy going across freshly planted fields into Stoke Albany then on to the stage end, of Wilbarston.

We arrived at the village hall where we had left a car; grabbing a selfie before heading to the local pub (which was closed so we ended up in The White Horse at Stoke Albany) for our, now traditional stage end pint.

As autumn has set in and winter is around the corner, the last two stages will likely be done in the spring. So see you next year as we continue our adventure on the Jurassic Way.

Hannah’s First Mountain

All the training and the long distance walking covering the Jurassic Way for Hannah has led to this point, summit day for Skiddaw.

You may recall from an earlier blog, that Hannah has never climbed a mountain and challenged herself to climb the 4th highest in England for charity; Dementia Uk.

We set off from Northamptonshire about 8.30am, zooming down up the M6 making good timing. By 12.30 our were bags fastened, walking boots tied and we started our ascent.

The weather was cloudy with sunny spells and fairly windy, not too bad considering the forecast was rain today.

Our good timings continued as we made our way up the dreaded steep zigzag section that puts you on the run up to ‘Little Man’. We encountered a few brief rain showers, nothing to dampen our spirits.

The path gradually gets steeper as you summit ‘Little Man’ nothing we couldn’t handle, however as soon as we got to the top, we were hit with gale force winds, winds we were protected against as the path runs the North East side of the mountain.

We and fellow walkers had to sit low to the ground and hold on to the rocks to stop us being blown over.

The path dips down along a ridge and up again to Skiddaw. The wind was blowing with such force the clouds we speeding by like race cars. It was too dangerous to take this path, and the other walkers had the same idea.

There is another route that follows a path on the North East side of Skiddaw giving protection from the wind, not ready to give up, we back tracked to this path and attempted the summit. But nether the less, Hannah had summited her first mountain, ‘Little Man’!

Bracing the Wind

The plan seemed to be working, soon we were ascending Skiddaw. The top was in cloud cover but didn’t look daunting. We reached the cairn that marks shallow rise to the true summit.

Bang, the winds hit us again, the true summit a mere 100m away, but the weather worsened. It started to sleet! This, coupled with the gale force winds that had us clinging to the mountain top, forced us to turn back.

For the sake of getting an extra 3m higher to the stone marker wasn’t worth taking flying lessons. If you doubt us, see the below video!

We begrudgingly began our descent in the driving rain. There were a couple of walkers heading up that we warned of the conditions, but they wanted to see for themselves.

Once we got to the bottom of the dreaded zigzag section the clouds cleared and the sun came out. We couldn’t believe it! However looking back up you could still see the clouds speeding over the summit. It may be pleasant now but the winds certainly hadn’t stopped.

Once we dried off a celebratory drink or two was in order. So a pub crawl around Keswick ensued. We also found out after speaking to some friends, that the mountain rescue team, find Skiddaw the worst for people and dogs being blown off from the winds!

So congratulations to Hannah for conquering Skiddaw in some of the most horrendous conditions. The current total for Dementia UK is £840!

Camino Portugués Brucy Bonus

I have finally found some time since returning from my second Camino to make my customary video of the trip. It has been a bit hectic for me since arriving home; my feet were only on British soil for a week, before I was boarding a plane to Amsterdam for a training in course; I had only enough spare time to do my washing! The montage is below, and I hope you enjoy!

Out and About in Porto

Overlooking the Port Cellars

First thing I did once checked into Porto was do a bit of clothes shopping. If I’m spending a few days in civilisation, I don’t want to look and smell like a pilgrim! It was a late one Tuesday as Hailey flew out Wednesday afternoon, thus we celebrated her last night of her Camino adventure.

Wednesday morning we went on a walking tour around Porto. We visited the main points of interest and admired the architecture. Most of the buildings had been designed by José Marques da Silva in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Two prominent buildings are the theatre and the São Bento railway station. The Funny story about them is that he forgot to factor in toilets or ticket booths!

One aspect around Porto are the blue and white mosaic tiles that adorn the buildings. In fact there are 20,000 tiles that make up the interior of the train station.

Mosaics detail the history of Portugal

The blue colouring is made from cobalt, which at the time was an expensive metal, so it was a sign of wealth; hence they are on the government and religious buildings.

The tour went past the cathedral where I had a bit of nostalgia, as two weeks ago I was there collecting my credential and setting off on the Camino Portugués.

We descended the medieval part of the city to the waterfront, calling into a bakery for chocolate cake. This was when Hailey had to leave for the airport, we hugged goodbye. It reminded me of the last day in Santiago at the end my Camino Frances; it felt like I am saying goodbye a friend I’ve known for years, not just for two weeks.

Medieval Streets

Thursday morning I visited the Bishop’s palace next to the cathedral. Porto and the region used to belong to the Catholic Church until the Portuguese civil war ousted them. So the person in power was the bishop, who thought himself as a king, thus had the palace built.

The building is dominated by the granite staircase in the centre of the building which is grandly decorated with a dome ceiling. There are many rooms for functions and greeting guests as well as a throne room!

Staircase in the Bishop’s Palace

A huge painting depicting the Napoleonic invasion of Porto and the populace fleeing the city by crossing the Rio Douro to Gaia that at the time only had one bridge consisting wooden planks on boats!

In the afternoon I went on a Port tasting tour. It is actually made on Gaia over the bridge from Porto. The tour went to three producers, starting with the bigger company Cãlem then to two micro companies.

There 4 types of Port, white, tawny, ruby and rose; my favourite was the rose. I left the tour with the buzz of 7 Ports to meet up with Alfredo for the last night of this adventure.

It was a quiet one due to going on a pub crawl the night before and the early flight in the morning.

Full Circle

I still have a week left of my leave and most of my Camino friends have either left or due to leave today. I had the option to go to Fisterra or fly back.

However checking the flights they were either too expensive or too early for me to get the bus back from Fisterra, should I continue walking.

I went for option ‘C’. I hopped on the bus with Alfredo and Hailey to Porto!

I plan to stay here until Friday, when my flight will take me back home. I’ll spend the next couple of days exploring the city since I didn’t get chance two weeks ago.

Relaxing in Santiago

I rolled out of bed around 8, enjoying the extra sleep. I went for some breakfast then had a walk around while it was quiet. I went to visit Santiago’s tomb and the cathedral.

For lunch I met up with my Camino friends and said goodbye to Jelonda, as she would be heading home. In the evening I went on a walking tour around the city.

It started in the main square outside the cathedral. The original cathedral didn’t look as grand as it does today. It was once in a Roman style, and looked very simplistic. However as the Camino grew in popularity, during the 18th century, the church built the facade that we see today.

To the left is the Paradore hotel where it will cost you a small fortune to spend a night. It was once the location where all the pilgrims stayed, but before that it was owned by the king.

The main power in Santiago belonged to the bishop, but the king made the building under his authority, and became an estate within the city, that had different laws. Somethings were legal in the building but not outside.

The building opposite the cathedral are governmental offices, including the police stations.

Gov. Building left, Paradore right

On the other side of the cathedral is the main entrance, where above the pillars on either side of the doors are strange, evil looking creatures. Which seem out of place for a cathedral.

They are meant to be lions! At the time these were carved, the stonemasons actually had never seen a lion in their life, so they did their best with descriptions and their imaginations.

There is a park that over looks the cathedral, boasting some of the best views in the city. Here there are two statues of ladies in colourful clothing.

They were fashion designers at the time of the Spanish civil war. Many of those who opposed the tyrannical government fled Santiago and hid in the surrounding countyside. These two ladies did not, and they were suspected to be protecting those who were in hiding.

They were raped, beaten and tortured almost on a daily basis, but they still walked the streets in defiance. They became symbols of the city’s stoicism.

Back into the city we were shown a building that was housing for the wealthy elite of the city. Below this in the cellar, they used to keep horses and cattle, to protect them from Galician winters.

The cellar was also where you would go to the toilet! Since then proper plumbing has been installed and they are now bars.

We were also shown a statue of the first ever pilgrim, King Alfonso II. When he was notified of the finding of St. James remains. He left his palace to see and verify the finding. So he is accredited as the first pilgrim, and the route he took was the Camino Primitivo.

Once the tour was over we all went for drinks and tortilla y potata. I said goodbye to Christin, as she has an early morning flight back home. Still being on Camino time, by 10pm we were falling asleep, so we called it a night.

Faramello to Santiago de Compostela

It was a good night sleep as we left the windows open to allow air movement, keeping the room nice and cool; also the sangre we had last night helped, as we celebrated our last night before Santiago.

We left at dawn walking in the cool misty air. As it is Sunday, most of the cafe’s were closed, so it was about an hour into the walk before we had breakfast.

The route was undulating as we approached the city and we mostly walked in silence contemplating our journey to this point. At about 5km to go, we got our first glimpse of the cathedral. We’re getting close now!

We walked through the urban outskirts then through the old town to arrive at the square outside the cathedral at 11.30am. It was a joyous moment, we all hugged and congratulated each other for completing the Camino Portugués.

We all laid down using our packs for pillows and stared at the cathedral in awe. Then to my surprise Erdal showed up! We walked together out of Vitorino, but he had to turn back to Ponte Lima due to his bad knee.

I gave him a congratulatory hug as well. He has a flight back to Germany tonight, so unfortunately he won’t be joining us all for a meal later.

We then went to get our compostelas, in the queue in front of us, was no other than Kim! After getting our certificates we all went for food and beers, where Daniel joined us as well (he arrived yesterday).

I checked into my accommodation then had a wonder around the city. I bumped into Christina who I met briefly on the Espiritual route who had been walking from Lisbon!

I also met Francina from Germany who I met in Labruja. But the Camino magic hadn’t finished yet, Jelonda then arrived! She too took the Espiritual route! All my Camino friends are now in Santiago!

At 7.30 I went to the pilgrim’s mass at the cathedral, but I wasn’t lucky this time to see the botofumerio swing.

Everyone I had been walking with since joining the central route, met up for drinks and food to celebrate our achievement. Over the next few days everyone will be leaving for home, which leaves me with the quandary with what to do next.

Vilanova to O Faramello

After breakfast in Vilanova, I made my way to the harbour to watch the fishing boats come and go while I waited for the boat to Padrón.

9.15am I was cruising up the estuary and the Rio Ulla. The boat stopped to watch a fishing boat in action, pulling the catch from the shellfish farms that dotted the waters.

Soon we reached the stone crosses that show the route into Padrón. There are three next to each other, with the central one taller than the others.

The boat pilot, said the middle one represents Santiago and the other two are for the sailers that brought his remains here. We also passed one of 5 forts that once guarded the estuary and for some reason there were Viking boats moored there?!

I don’t know why, as my pigeon Spanish couldn’t pull out enough words to understand what the pilot was saying.

We arrived into Padrón just before 11am where I headed to the town centre. Outside Iglesia de Santiago (St. James’ Church), to my surprise, Alfredo, Hailey and Christin were having brunch. My friends I had left behind in Arcade! Camino Magic!

I stopped for food before popping into the church to see the mooring post that Santiago’s boat is supposed to have been tied to, before walking on with my friends.

It was a mostly road walking again but it did pass through quiet little hamlets, no main roads. We called into the village of ‘A Picaraña’ for lunch before making the last 2km to ‘O Faramello’.

They are stopping here tonight; with luck, the albergue there still had room, so I booked in with them; there is also a washing machine! So fresh clothes for the last 14km into Santiago tomorrow!

Armenteira to Vilanova de Arousa

The albergue stirred around 6am, so I joined in and geared up for the day. 30mins later I was back on the way.

Yesterday was hills and forest, today was rivers and sea. For 13km the route follows the Rego da Armenteira and the Rio Umia. It was pitch black resulting in the use of my head torch.

The first 2km was tricky as the path was uneven with boulders and tree roots. But that subsided to easy dirt paths. It was very peaceful and fun to see bats darting after their pray in the torch light.

As dawn broke I stopped for breakfast at a restaurant then joined the Rio Umia. Ducks and herons were enjoying the early morning waters; no sound but the running water and the birds.

The Sound of Peace

At Ponte Arnelas I left the river to climb over a small hill to descend to the coast, then it was a stroll into Vilanova along the water front.

I called into the information centre to find out what I have to do about booking the boat for tomorrow; the Maritime Camino ‘Via Crucis’. This is the supposed route that brought St. James’ remains into Spain.

The route is marked with 17 stone crosses and is the only one in the world. There is an option to walk from Vilanova to Padrón, but the chance to do the Via Crucis is one I don’t want to miss.

Why the long face? It’s the Camino!

Oh! And I managed to find a place to stay, so no sports hall or sleeping under the stars. The Camino provides!

Arcade to Armenteira

It was stiflingly hot last night in the albergue and even packing my bag, had me sweating like I was climbing O Cebreiro on the Camino Frances!

It was a relief to be out walking in the cool sea air, it was also overcast. Perfecto! We crossed the bridge in to Ponte Sampoio, which was a quaint little village. From there we joined a forest track that took us up and over to a neighbouring valley.

By 10.30am we arrived in Pontevedra, that didn’t have much going for it. Only nice thing was the church, it was mostly new buildings, no historical ones.

The route out follows the railway line and to the point where I start the Espiritual Way. I had to say goodbye to my walking companion, Daniel, if all goes to plan, I’ll meet everyone in Santiago on Sunday.

The Espiritual goes up and over a hill similar to this morning, arriving at Cidrás. This is another quaint little village with narrow winding streets that sharply ascend the side of Mt. Castrove.

This began a very intense climb for the next hour or so. The Sun was at it’s zenith and there was no shade. Once at the top and 5km to go, I ran out of water.

It was a long descent in to Armenteira where at the bottom was an oasis, a bar! I dumped my bag outside and ordered a water and a coke, that I pretty much absorbed instantly.

It was only a short walk to the albergue where I had a cold shower to cool off. At 7pm there was a pilgrim blessing at the monastery that I checked out; got a special stamp for attending!

It was a long day, covering 34km and the climb to get to Armenteira was brutal, but it was worth the experience and the cold drink at the end!