Late on Sunday 10th July staff and Kinder met at school to travel down to Gatwick Airport for their flight to Santiago de Compostela. Even at 4am the airport was busy with families going on holiday and business people. All excited about our trip we took our seats on the two hour flight. On arrival we were met by our bus driver Manuel and all our bags loaded for a two hour drive to Sarria the start of our walk on the Camino Way. Some of us caught up on sleep and some watched the sweeping green hills and forests go by. On arrival we left our bags at the hotel and walked into Sarria. The town was a mix of new and old with the train splitting the town. After some lunch we made our way uphill through the old main street of Sarria. This was full of hostels, cafes and walkers preparing for their walk. Marker posts showed us the route we would take in the morning. We returned to the hotel to rest in our rooms after missing a night's sleep. The hotel provided us with a a full three course supper and then we planned for the next day, a full 14 miles to Portomarin.
After a full buffet breakfast we packed our daybags and set off back through the old town of Sarria. We had stamped our logbooks to confirm our starting point and were full of energy on an already hot day. Some of us bought walking sticks and a few souvenir badges, as photos were taken of the group. We left Sarria to walk down and across the medieval pilgrim bridge and head up into the hills on a forest trail. We gained our second stamp halfway up the hill from a man selling drinks and jewellery. On reaching the top we had our first views across the Gallician hills and valleys. Walking on brought us to Barbadelo, where we stopped to rehydrate, buy a few momentoes and get our logbooks stamped. The next stage followed a main Camino route with a stop for coffee and ice creams, another stamp at Cruce. Before heading back on to the country trails. Lunch saw us sample our first Gallician tapas. A mix of cheeses, meats and stuffed green peppers at Ferreros. The afternoon turned hot as we crossed the plains before spotting the river and reservoir of Portomarin. We headed down and across the bridge to enjoy the central Piaza and church, moved stone by stone, as the reservoir flooded . Stamps again on offer and a cool drink. Utilising our Spanish expertise three cars arrived from our hotel to take us in two trips to our lake-side residence. What a view! An ice-bath beckoned us to the lake and an enjoyable swim to ease the legs before supper. The mountain of pork fillets and salad filled the energy deficit.
Next morning we returned to Portomarin and began our 16 mile walk amongst other groups uphill through the trees to a heather-filled plain. The temperature was rising as we stopped for coffee and ice-creams at Gonzar. Peaking at Sierra Ligonde we descended through old farmyard communities to Eirexe for lunch. We had another hill to climb to Rosario in hot sunshine and everyone was feeling it as we came down into Palas de Rei for the evening. We stopped at the small pilgrim's church for our final stamp before heading to our hotel. Our supper at the Castro restaurant was superb Spanish cuisine with three courses and wine reviving our energy.
The following morning we had another 18 mile walk to Arzua. As we left a group of nuns provided our first stamp of the day towards our Camino certificate. Some felt really strong and pushed the pace on through O Coto and the town of Melide. This took us across the old medieval bridge at Furelos - Ponte Velha and the 14th Century cross of San Roque. Melide was the place to sample the Gallician delicacy of octopus. Unfortunately the afternoon's short steep hills proved tough and blistered feet developed for some. The final decsent into Ribadiso was welcomed with a river dip and relaxing drink at the pilgrim cafe. The last ascent into Arzua and the hotel Rua gave us all the chance for a cool shower before going out for pizzas and Sam Blackhurst's birthday celebration.
The penultimate day saw us heading out of O'Pedrouzo with only a 12 mile walk spirits were high as we set off along woodland trails and across several rivers. A coffee and ice-cream stop at A Calzada kept our energy up before lunch in a typical Spanish taverna at Brea. The afternoon took us through several woodland valleys before bringing us to the edge of O'Pedrouzo. However with two trails we headed out on towards Santiago and an extra 2.5 mile trek. With energy and spirits dropping a welcome drink and taxi to the hotel gave everyone relief. With the late arrival we took a quick shower before going out for our meal. Tiredness was taking over as heads fell to the table! A good night's sleep prepared us for our final push to Santiago. Re-routing our previous day's extended walk we headed back along wooded trails past the airport. With the heat of Santiago drifting out we stopped for a cool drink and ice-creams at San Payo. Temperatures were rising into the high 30s as we saw Santiago in the distance. On the hills above San Marcos we stopped for lunch. Revived we set out on our final leg with the cathedral of St James in view. Across the ringroad and through the outer suburbs we reach the old city wall gate - Porta do Camino. Tired, legs sore and feet blistered we followed the route millions of pilgrims have taken over hundreds of years. The crowds increased as we reached the North Door and the Plaza of Inmaculada. In front our amazing accommodation of San Martin Pinario. Part of a monastery, with vaulted ceilings, long stone corridors and a relaxing quad.
We settled into our rooms before taking a walk around the narrow city roads and a refreshing drink. The city was full of pilgrims having similar spiritual thoughts of how tough the whole walk must have been and the joy of seeing this amazing city. In the evening we had supper in the most fantastic vaulted room, a celebratory meal with wine over-flowing and a waiter who gave us superb service and humour.
In the morning we all took our completed stamped cards to the pilgrim office - Oficina del Peregrino. Handing them in to be checked we were to return for our colourful certificates. Now for the tomb of St James in the cathedral, a walk above the altar to touch his gold statue and a wonderful experience. Lunch and a bit of souvenir shopping followed for some, whilst others relaxed in the plazas. Our final evening saw us collect our certificates before supper in a local Italian restaurant.
The next morning we left for Finisterra - land's end. An afternoon on the beach and in the sea brought a restful day and drinks over the Atlantic. On our last day we walked to the lighthouse and where pilgrims before us had viewed out to the New World. Returning home with memories of supberb scenery and a sense of achievement to whet our appetites for future adventures.