Laxe to Santiago de Compostela (38.54 miles / 45.95 k)
Wow, today was it, the day that I finished the Camino Via de la Plata at Santiago de Compostela! The way I felt this morning I didn’t think I had it in me to finish today, nor had I intended to.
I had a restless night’s sleep which surprised me as I was pretty tired coming into the alberque so late. After walking 19 miles you would think I’d sleep like a rock. I don’t think I slept more than five hours, and surprisingly that really didn’t affect my energy level today.
I was so tired I didn’t want to go and eat diner last night because it was a long walk to the restaurant. Funny, you walk all day and the last thing you want to do is clean up and then have to walk again. Sometimes I have forced myself to go eat because I know it’s important in my energy level the next day.
The bag rustler was one bunk away from me and he was asleep and snoring by eight. I used my ear plugs and didn’t hear him in the morning. There was no echo chamber like the monastery so I am sure that helped.
I had a strange moment this morning when I started to leave at eight when I found the front door locked. The municipal alberques generally lock the doors at ten at night and you can generally get out. Everyone but the young Spanish guy had already left and I thought they might have locked the door and dropped the key in the mailbox. The alberque is fairly large, spread out, and two stories, and I checked some other doors and they were all locked too. I woke the young Spanish guy and asked him. Apparently the hostelera had told them that only one door would be open, and it was in a dark room without lights and I wouldn’t have seem it. It makes me wonder what would happen in case of a fire?
Waking a very slight uphill first thing in the morning already tired me out and it confirmed that I wasn’t going all the way today. This stage is typical of many on the Plata where you don’t have much choice, either stop after a short distance or go much further, almost to your limit.
I started out on the Camino but stayed on the highway most of the way as the Camino paralleled the highway, and moved on and off the highway in many places anyway. As troubling as my knee felt this morning the hard asphalt was still better than the tougher and steeper downhills on the Camino.
The temperature was perfect for trekking as it was cool and overcast. After a few hours it started to rain, and at times very heavy.
I made fairly good time and got to the stopping point for this stage, Puente Ulla, at about 2:30. There was a hotel noted in the guide and an alberque in the Camino app, but I was really feeling my knee and visioned a hot bath tub. And, the thought of sleeping next to the bag rustler didn’t sit well with me so near the end. I have to say that he was a very nice man. So with a little apprehension in my stomach I continued on.
It was still raining off and on until the outskirts of Santiago. The closer I got to Santiago the heavier the traffic seemed. It was also the end of the weekend.
I was making fairly good time and I knew it would be late when I got there. I had Mindee look up hotels and reserved one near the cathedral with good ratings. Knowing I’d have a nice hotel waiting for me was like dangling a carrot in front of that stable horse.
A little over four miles to go, and there it was, I could see it, a big uphill climb before dropping down into Santiago. Why now?! I am almost there and now this! It was steep and I stuck to my goal of not stopping, and it didn’t turn out to be too bad.
Once over the top I was in the city. It was very different than entering from the Camino Francis way as you are immediately in the commercial business area of the city. Even though it was Santiago, I still had about two miles to go and my phone was almost dead. Oh no! I really needed the Google Maps to find the hotel because once in the old town section it’s an absolute maze. There is no straight street in that area, and even with maps it’s a challenge.
Half a mile to go and my phone is down to 5% battery. Please, please, don’t do this to me now. I can picture that tub and soft bed. I surely don’t want to walk around another hour or more looking for the Hotel Bonaval. Then 3%! There it is, up this street. No, dead end! Stupid Google! Or, maybe Wrong Way Stressed Out Ted?! I stopped and asked a man, and he pointed to it. Wow, I made it! Then the phone went dead.
My original plan was to stop at the Santiago Cathedral before going to the hotel and getting a picture of me there. The cathedral is only an eight to ten minute walk from the hotel, but obviously with a low battery getting to the hotel was my main priority.
I had only reserved the hotel for one night not knowing if it was nice, and it was nicer and better than I expected. It was 51€ ($57) a night, and I got the last room there. When I asked the clerk if my room had a tub and she said it didn’t, I fell to my knees and began to cry. I was sobbing! Ok, I lied, I just showed her my knee brace and told her I had walked over 28 miles today. She was probably afraid that I was going to cry, and moved the reserved rooms around and gave me a room with a tub and a view of the cathedral. Imagine what I would have gotten if I had cried?
It was 7:30 by the time I got to the hotel, eleven and a half hours after I started this morning at eight. I wanted to hop in the tub and then go back out and shoot that picture at the cathedral. They have wonderful twenty-four hour breakfast buffet here and after forty minutes of stuffing myself I decided to go to the cathedral. I had only charged my phone for ten or fifteen minutes and it showed 20%, good enough for a photo.
No bath, and I am sure stinky, I hooked up the Wheelie and headed out to the find the cathedral with my Google Maps. Without it I’d be wander the maze for hours. So ten minutes later I am there and my phone suddenly flashes 2% battery! What the heck! That’s probably not enough to take a photo and then have Goggle Maps find my way back to the hotel. It was an easy choice, a picture or my sanity? I choose my sanity. The cathedral will be there tomorrow, so hurriedly I pulled the Wheelie back to the hotel. Tomorrow I’ll get my bearings and won’t need my map program.
I emptied the bath gel into the wonderful tub and felt like a little kid again because there were so many bubbles that they almost overflowed out of the tub. I was in there for almost a hour and threw my last load of dirty clothes in there with me. What the heck!
It’s almost midnight and I started this blog but I am almost to tired to finish. I have the window open and have a beautiful view of the city lights, and of course the cathedral.
I fly home from Barcelona Friday morning and have not decided when I’ll go to Barcelona. Santiago is such a beautiful place that I am in no hurry to head back to Barcelona. This hotel doesn’t help in my decision either.
The official certificate that I got along with my Compostela, and the guide book, state that the distance from Sevilla to Santiago de Compostela is 1,006 kilometers, or 625 miles. My trekking program states that I have walked 1,021 kilometers, or 634 miles. But my mileage was confirmed by Wrong Way Ted, and that includes all the miles walked in an attempt to getting to Santiago de Compostela.
The Camino Via de la Plata was a great and wonderful experience for me. Completely different than the Camino Francis as it was much more challenging. Having to plan every day because of the great distance to walk, limited places to stay, and difficulty in getting food, were part of that challenge. Having the stomach sickness for almost ten days, and then my knee and shin issues, made it even more challenging. My shin has actually gotten so much better in the last 3-4 days that’s it’s not even noticeable.
I was so sick at one point that I seriously had considered flying home. From encouragement from Mindee I made the decision to stay and work through it, and for as long as it took for me to feel better, it was all well worth it in the end.
Someone already asked me which one I liked better, the Francis or Plata? They are both different, with good and bad on both. I liked the solitude of the Plata, but on the other hand, I really enjoyed the excited spirit of the first timers on the Francis.
I have to admit that I miss seeing those bars, like on the Francis, every few kilometers. Yet if I had know more about the Plata, and I would have taken my tent. Most people would not, but for me, it would have made it smoother. I’ll have that chance when I trek New Zealand. As they say on the Camino, “it’s your Camino, do it the way you want.”
Thanks everyone for all the positive comments and encouragement.