From Pontevedra we had the choice to continue on the Camino Portugues or to detour along the Variente Espiritual, the route that, in 44 AD, allegedly, Saint James’ followers ‘led by an angel and guided by a star‘ carried the apostle’s earthly remains to their final resting place. We were glad to have chosen the latter, quieter, way.
And so day one took us through the pine forests to Poio and Combarro; then on to Armenteira, where we spent the night – a small town in the mountains with a beautiful working monastery. A three course meal served with the locally produced vino tinto – more of a tantalisingly, slightly chilled, purple-hued, delicious viscous liquid. All beautifully presented for a mere twelve euros.
We set off the next day along river sides with old stone mills, the roads and many bridges a positive legacy from the Romans who had also traversed this way. It was interesting to consider that what is often welcomed in our lives now would not have been so upon its introduction, but then life is interesting….. then on into more forests and acres and acres of vineyards through the Arousa estuary. I was wonderful to soak our feet at the beach of Vilanova.
Once accommodated at our lodging for that night we found the friendliest art gallery and museum that I have ever encountered. It had its own vineyard, quaint garden and 400 year old magnolia tree. And, of course, another wonderful dinner followed.
The hospitaller from the albergue, as charming as the museum curator the previous day, saw us off on the boat that, like so many pilgrim’s boats before us, was to deposit us at Pontecesures. From the harbour we walked into Padron to begin the final 5km to Santiago.
The oak, pine and eucalyptus forests gave way to the inevitable stretches of main road as we neared our destination. After 280km the journey that Steve and I had set out on together was coming to an end. It was with quite mixed feelings that we first noticed the cathedral spire in the distance, And emotional as we joined the many fellow peregrinos by the cathedral square. Most had arrived by foot, many had cycled. We joined them again for the pilgrims mass at noon the following day.
For nine days we had followed this pilgrim’s way. Up in the morning, often to the sound of a cockerel’s crow. Walk for as long as we cared. Talk if we wanted, keep silent if we didn’t. Eat. Sleep. I had been surprised by how quickly we had become accustomed to this life during which we had witnessed so much beauty. All so simple, nothing to worry about. Just to be.
But after two nights together, soaking up the festivities in Santiago, it was time for Steve and I to be somewhere else – a parting of the ways for us for a time. I walked on alone, thoughts of our shared experiences running through my mind…….