Tag Archives: Camino del Norte

Camino del Norte – Finally Santiago

Mileage post

Getting over the bridge into Ribedeo in Galicia doesn’t mean that we were at the end of our walk.  We had 186.917 kilometers (over 112 miles).

Even though Beth and I can handle numbers, we were not be keeping track of the remaining mileage with three decimal place precision.

But the Norte in Galicia has these concrete posts consistently on the trail. Not all have the mileage but all have the all-important arrow.

Now I can be bribed with clear, accurate signage, which is why I decided that Galicia is the best section of the Camino del Norte.

Galician is also a regional language, connected to Portuguese. All official signs are in two languages – Spanish and Galician. The area isn’t wild; it has well-tended farms and fields and fields of kale. We found kale in everything. See the top photo.

The people seem friendlier, even though they don’t speak English any better than those on the rest of the trail. Maybe they’re more tuned into the Camino del Norte. Better signage, more water spouts…

I think I’ve lost it – language-wise. I meet an old man with a big “Buen Camino” smile. A water fountain is close to his house, so I say

Gracias pour this. My brain has Spanish, French, English indigestion.

Albergue Villa Martin

The first unforgettable hostel in Galicia was Albergue San Martin, in Miraz, an impeccable hostel run by volunteers of the Confraternity of St. James, a British group.

This is the start of the 100K (or 60 miles). To get your Compostella, your certificate, you have to prove that you’ve walked the 60 miles going into Santiago by getting two stamps a day in your pilgrim passport.

The volunteers at the “British Albergue” speak English. They also make you a nice cup of tea as you sign in. I’ve missed a proper cup of tea with real boiling water.

No one should miss staying at the Sobrado Monastery. The imposing monastery was founded in 952 CE, though the building is more recent.

If you’re lucky, Brother Lawrence, originally from London, will fill you in on the history of the monastery. He’s so intelligent, well-spoken, friendly and open – a character from the Camino that will stay with me for a long time.

And then, the Camino del Norte meets the Camino Frances for the last 24 miles.

What was a trickle of hikers have turned into a river.

Cafes are open at 8 am, more quirkiness on the trail, because there are more people on the trail. Art, graffiti, food, water fountains are plentiful. The trail is wide and on dirt.

A person who lives on the trail posted numerous pithy quotes, which he/she thinks pertains to pilgrims on the Frances.

Finally in Santiago.

In Santiago

People are giddy with their accomplishments – good for them. We pose for  the standard photo in front of the Cathedral.

But our hiking adventure isn’t over.

Camino del Norte – Food on the trail

We interrupt this hikinglogue on the Camino del Norte to discuss food on the trail.

Meat and cheese

The meals available on the Camino are very heavy on the meat and cheese. This makes sense since the area is full of farms raising cattle, sheep and goats.

Much of the meat is processed into chorizo (Spanish sausage), bacon, and bologna. Every area has a special way of curing its meat and making cheeses. Cured meats and cheeses stay for a long time, which is most important when you have bars and cafes with a small clientele.

Asturian bean soup

The best way to enjoy cured meats is Asturia bean soup. They take fava beans, potatoes, kale and boil it with ham, chorizo and blood pudding. I tried not to think about the fat content and concentrated on the healthy beans.

But it is really “Asturian”; once we crossed the bridge into Galicia, the soup disappeared from the menu.

Since I’ve been back home, I made my version of Asturia bean soup with chicken – less fatty and still good.

In these small villages, getting fresh fruit and vegetables is a challenge. The picture at the top of this post was taken at a large food hall in a big city. In the small supermarkets, we ended up buying what looked fresh and eatable – apples one day, bananas that hadn’t gotten too soft, another day, kiwifruit that wasn’t rock hard.

Ensalata mixta

But our go-to for vegetables was ensalata mixta, mixed salad.

Unlike most salads in the U.S., the salad wasn’t tossed but laid out on a large plate: lettuce, tomatoes, onions, sometimes shaved carrots and beets, half of a boiled egg and some canned tuna fish. You sprinkle olive oil and white vinegar and you have a meal. Once we discovered that ensalata mixta was a constant in cafes, I must have eaten one almost every day.

It’s wasn’t easy to cook in hostels. On the Camino Frances, you see lovely pictures of groups gathering around a communal table, cooking together. Here, the hostels were small, and most didn’t have more than a microwave.

Group dinner

You never knew what the facilities were going to be, so it didn’t seem worth carrying groceries from a far-away market only to find that the “kitchen” was a microwave and two cups. Still, we ended up cooking twice.

Here, we were in a town with several markets. After checking out the hostel kitchen, we went to the supermarket to buy dinner supplies and invited everyone around. The others took care of the wine and doing the dishes – a fair exchange.

No discussion of Northern Spanish food would be complete without mentioning (praising) Spanish tortillas (or omelette). It was ubiquitous for lunch in many cafes because it stays fresh for a couple of  days. You order a piece and they heat it up for you.

Spanish tortilla

Spanish tortillas  is not related to the Mexican tortilla we know in the U.S. It’s potatoes covered in egg batter cooked in a large cast-iron pan.

Each cafe makes it differently. Some are mostly potatoes with just enough egg batter to hold it together. Others have lots of egg and little potatoes and even a few pieces of sweet peppers.

We watched one man cook a tortilla, cover the pan with a large plate, and flip it at just the right moment. If you flip it when it’s still soft, you would get a gooey mess on the stove. That’s why I’m not going to try to make that at home.

Santiago cake

Once in Galicia, every place had Santiago cake. Very simple – almond flour, sugar, eggs and orange zest. It’s even gluten free. The cake is supposed to date from the middle ages.  If I get a springform pan, I might try to make it.

This picture shows individual tarts. Usually, it’s packaged as a big round cake that the server cuts in wedges.

That’s a cake I could eat every day – and I did.

Camino del Norte – Asturias (Continued)

Split in trail

On the Camino del Norte, still in wild Asturias.

The villages are small and many are deserted. It’s difficult to find an open cafe before 11 am, because they cater to locals and not to Peregrinos that might or might not decide to stop there.

By now, Beth and I are walking separately; she is so much faster than me.

We walk out of the albergue together, stay together until we decide that we’re on the right trail and she takes off. At the end of the day, we meet up again at the next lodging.

So sensible. We should have done this from the start.

But I bump into her at a cafe in Soto de Luna and we share a coffee together. This is the last place for drinks before we get to Cadavedo, our destination for the evening.

Trail above the sea

Look at the sign above. The bottom sign is pointing correctly to the left.

This trail sign is as clear as day – hikers to the left – that’s the Camino. As I make the left turn to follow the Camino marker, a cyclist yells out:

“No Camino – Mal” and zips by.

Who is he and why does he think I’m going to listen to him? Follow the signs, not the locals, and he’s probably a visitor as well.

I start climbing on a good trail until I reach a plateau. The trail follows a gas pipeline, so it’s very clear. The view on the right, see the top photo, is magnificent.

But there’s no one here. All those young German hikers should have passed me by now. Beth, I assume, is way ahead.

I’m almost up to the transmission towers when the trail takes an unexpected right into a field. It’s so deserted up here that there aren’t even any cows, just evidence of cows. It’s starting to rain. I’m at 2,200 feet – I carry an altimeter – up from sea level. But I’m still on the trail, as evidenced by fresh concrete posts.

Finally the trail goes down, down, down to sea level. I have no idea where I’m going to end up but at least there might be some people. And there are. But I’m so eager to find someone that here I lose the trail through a cluster of houses. A woman sets me straight but I still have a couple of kilometers to Cadavedo, my destination.

Emanuel

I get in at 5pm. Beth, who’s been wonderful, grabbed me a bed in one of only two hostels in the village.

This is where we meet Emanuel, a very religious Italian from Palermo. His pack looks huge and he’s carrying his food bag in front. But he makes it work.

This is his eighth Camino. On this trip, he started in Lourdes and will go to Santiago, then on the Portuguese Way to Fatima. WOW!

That evening, I reread the guidebook.

It said that the mountain route was not recommended because it was poorly maintained and signposted. That’s old information – the trail is just long, steep and deserted. Beth took the other route.

A few more days of walking and we have no trouble figuring out where Asturias ends and Galicia begins. We walk on a huge bridge over the Ribadeo Rio.

Bridge into Ribadeo

Welcome to Galicia, our last principality.

We’re getting closer to Santiago.