The Pilgrim has left the country

This is the post excerpt.


Well, not quite yet, but on 4th March 2018 I fly out to San Sebastian, then travel to St Jean Pied de Port via Bayonne in readiness for my Camino de Santiago walk of approx 520 miles, starting from St Jean and finishing at Santiago de Compostela, (maybe adding on a little extension at the end), stopping overnight at alberques, refuges and hostels along the way. So an early start from St Jean on March 6th will see me actually start the walk. Finishing date is sometime in the future, ‘to be determined’ as they say, but I expect it to take 5 to 6 weeks.


I’ve read FAR too much about the chances of encountering bed bugs en-route so I’m carrying a set of ‘bed bug sheets and pillowcases’ along with a large 70 litre dry bag to keep my rucksack in overnight, plus everything I own has been sprayed with Permethrin. These extras probably explain why the weight of my rucksack is approx 9kg. That’s 1.5kg more than I would like it to be but I just can’t get it down any further. Somebody suggested cutting the toothbrush handle in half, however, I can now no longer get the batteries to stay in so I’ve had to revert to a manual. Thanks for that suggestion Dave 😑.

I will attempt to update the blog each day but this is going to be rather dependent on circumstances, ie, energy levels (of equipment and me), wi-fi situation and enthusiasm.

When you access the blog via derekscaminowalk.wordpress.com you can’t help but notice the adverts within the blog (a penalty of using WordPress’ free blog facility I’m afraid). If you choose to follow the blog by clicking on the little ‘follow’ button that appears in the bottom right hand corner, this will mean you get an email each time I update the blog and if you then connect via the link in the email, the adverts at least move down to the bottom of the page and are far less intrusive.

I’ve looked around and there are dozens of Camino blogs out there that are far better than mine will ever be, however, I feel that mine will possibly bring a new depth of shallowness to the genre. Please feel free to point anybody in the direction of derekscaminowalk.wordpress.com if they make the mistake of showing an interest.

Any comments are welcome and I can guarantee I will read them but I can’t guarantee that I will be able to reply to every one. Please don’t feel ignored, it’s purely down to time and battery power.

I ought to mention that this is by no means a sponsored walk, been there, done that, etc, etc, however, if by some strange quirk of fate you should find yourself enjoying this blog then please feel free to click on the following link and donate a little to our local hospice.


They do a fantastic job.

Muxia and Finisterre

There’s no compulsion to move on to Muxia or Finisterre from Santiago. It’s not a part of the Camino Frances and only a very small proportion of pilgrims arriving in Santiago carry on by foot to Finisterre so I didn’t feel toooo guilty about taking the bus out there today, although it really wasn’t as satisfying as walking it would have been.

The name Finisterre actually comes from the Latin “Finis Terra” which literally means “the end of the earth” and that’s exactly where the Romans believed the end of the earth to be at the time. To be honest I found Muxia much more appealing with its rough, wild seas even though it was a relatively mild, still day today.

Anyway, here’s some of the photos I took. Anybody who’s seen the film “The Way” will probably recognize Muxia as the place where Charlie Sheen spreads the remainder of his son’s ashes. I can understand now why he didn’t get closer to the water than he did ……

It could actually be Charlie Sheen returning for a re-enactment
Visited by the late Stephen Hawking no less
Finisterre from behind the lighthouse
At least I managed to get the final stamp for my Pilgrims passport from Finisterre, even if I had gone by bus.


Today’s occurrences have almost made me wonder whether there actually is something in the idea that the Camino looks after its participants. It was pouring with rain when I got up and I was thinking about all those peregrinos that I had met and passed along the route and how some of them would be struggling into Santiago this morning in these horrible conditions. So I thought I would go and spend an hour or two by the Cathedral to offer a hug or a handshake or simply to take a photo if and when they arrived. I would have loved that when I arrived yesterday and thought this may be my chance to give a little back.

On my way there I popped into the Cathedral and asked a nun if she new if they were going to swing the Botafumero today as Sue had pointed out that the next swinging wasn’t officially due until May 15th and disappointingly I had read that they no longer swing it every Friday because it costs them about €300 each time they did so. The nun replied that she didn’t know but I should come back to the 12:00 mass to see. (Maybe with a slight twinkle in her eye if nuns do such things)

Back outside in the rain I only encountered one pilgrim that I knew, shook his hand and congratulated him and then went for a coffee to dry off.

10 minutes later the two Scottish ladies, Ali and Liz who I had spent the day with after Sarria came into the very same cafe and they were made up to see a friendly face offering dry hugs. After a further coffee they invited me to join them at mass and then who should we meet at the Cathedral entrance but the South African pair Liselle and Canton who I had shared evening meals and long talks with during the last couple of weeks.

Mass started spot on time and I was thinking there’s only the young Spanish couple, Raquel and Mikel who I suspected would be arriving today that I hadn’t seen. Five minutes later they sneak in late and sit right next to me with more big smiles, handshakes and hugs. I couldn’t believe it. Almost 1000 seats in the Cathedral with 4 different entrances and they walk straight to the seats next to me.

To really put the icing on the cake, Mass was going very nicely with lovely singing from the nun I had spoken to earlier, when suddenly gasps went up from the congregation as a group of priests came out with a lit brazier with which to light the Botafumerio. I couldn’t believe my luck as it was lit, the group of priests started pulling on the ropes and the huge incense burner started swinging up and down the Cathedral, almost smacking into the high ceiling as it was travelling so hard and fast. Everybody watched it in awe. I can honestly say that this day has brought my Camino to the most perfect end I could imagine.

Apologies if I’ve gone on a bit and apologies again if the attached video has taken a while to download but this has been such a special day I just had to share it.


I hope the video link above works ok with WordPress.

The stationary Botafumerio before being lit

Old Santiago
Monument to San Francisco (St Francis)

I had planned to take a bus from Santiago to Muxia and then walk from there to Finisterre, about 16 miles, but I’ve had a slight change of plan due to rain being forecast all week. Along with this my legs and feet are threatening to call a referendum about breaking away from the rest of my body if I force them too much (I didn’t know they had scots blood in them but there you go). I still feel I have to visit these places to close the Camino but I’ve taken the cowardly decision to go by bus. If I manage to get any decent pictures I will publish another blog page. If not, and for some unexplained reason you’ve enjoyed my blog, it really would be appreciated if you could visit my Just Giving page and maybe make a small donation to my chosen hospice. I’ve very much enjoyed writing the blogs and receiving your comments.


A big thank you to the people who have already donated.

O’Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostela – Total miles 522.77 Ascent – 53512 ft

I’m here and I’m still not sure if I believe it. There were many times when I just wanted it to be over and many times when I wanted it to go on forever. Now I’m here it’s such a mixture of emotions.

All I’m going to say today is thanks to all the people I’ve met along the way who have made this Camino so special.

Also thanks to everyone who has sent me comments and messages of support along the way.

And of course thanks to Helen for letting me escape and become a pilgrim for five weeks.

Normal blog service will be resumed tomorrow 🙂 (probably)

Boente to O’Pedrouzo Total miles 509.52 Ascent – 52250 ft

We’ll today wasn’t quite the easy stroll I was hoping for. It started off badly due to me being so cold last night, I thought those nights were over and done with but the radiators in the Alberque never got above luke warm and everything everywhere was so wet and damp. To top it all there were no blankets, so a very poor Alberque all in all. Then this morning I set off with a certain Alberque in mind to stop at tonight but when I arrived it was full of noisy teenagers. I couldn’t face another night of very little sleep so I’ve moved on and found myself a little”pension” where I have the luxury of my own small room and shower.

Found out that these stores are called “horreos” and contain corn, not grain

Anyway moans over, that’s not what you’re reading this blog for. Today’s weather was greatly improved over yesterday with a bit of sun and just the occasional very heavy shower. The route was really pleasant, for most of the way, as well. The path went up hill and down dale, through forests of what I think were eucalyptus trees and I’m fairly sure I could smell the faint aroma of eucalyptus in the air. Mind you, what with the already damp socks ………

I think the farmer has left something behind. I wonder when he will realise
Passing through Arzua

Couldn’t help noticing also that all the rain seems to have kicked a lot of spring flowers into their first bloom, not something that was noticeable in the first couple of weeks. (Come to think of it, I probably couldn’t see because of all the snow 🙂 )

Over the pilgrims bridge and into Ribadiso

If any of you watched the recent series with the celebs doing the Camino then you may remember them coming across Casa Verde where they found that the lady behind the bar hand drew the stamp for their pilgrims passport. Helen kindly and very accurately worked out where this cafe was and gave me the details. I’m very pleased to say that I visited Casa Verde today and the very same lady has hand drawn my stamp for me. I strongly suspect that I was the first person to ask for this since the series shown as she was over the moon at being asked and was making sure that all the locals knew that I had requested the “special” stamp and when I then said “TV”, and “famous” she could hardly contain herself. It was a fabulous cafe as well. Over the years they have encouraged visitors to write anything and everything over the walls, bar, windows, tables, chairs, you name it, it’s been written on. Then to top it all off a Spanish gentleman started playing a guitar and singing whilst I was having my coffee. Yet another Camino experience I will remember and cherish.

“Stamping” my pilgrims passport
The outcome on my pilgrims passport

I recorded him playing one of the songs and If I get a chance later on I shall try and create a bonus blog containing the recording.

Just 11 miles or so to get to Santiago tomorrow. Who’d have thought 🙂

Anyone out there know what these are ? Sprouts ?

Gonzar to Boente – Total miles 491.16 Ascent – 50203 ft

A good rest plus a magic spray from that Farmacia plus a very tight strap over the affected area and I’m very pleased to say I hardly had a twinge from my shin today. I’m being a real wimp really when I consider the way that some people are suffering, and still they keep going. I have every respect for them, especially the people who don’t walk almost every week like I do.

It rained for most of the day today and I don’t know if that’s why it was so quiet or whether it was just because I had an early start and therefore stayed ahead of all the newbies.

Early start as the sun was rising

There were dozens of them yesterday but today I only encountered 4 other peregrinos all day. I walked for an hour with Sarah from Belgium who I had eaten with before, but never walked with as she’s a very slow walker. An interesting girl, even if a little weird. Later in the day I walked for 2 hours with Maxim from Russia. I had encountered Maxim before, but only in passing. A nice guy and thankfully he doesn’t work in the chemical industry like Slav from a couple of weeks ago, so I felt safe shaking his hand (no nerve gas involved in marketing).

I’m reading a book in the evenings, “Buen Camino” by Peter Murtagh, it’s written by a father and daughter and chronicles their Camino walk from both their individual viewpoints and they describe what it’s like at the height of the Camino season. It sounds horrendous after Sarria and I’m so glad I’m doing it over March/ April.

Getting closer
Iglesia De Santa Maria del Leroreiro

I actually walked further than I had planned today because I was so relieved that my shin problem seems to have been overcome and the weather was so bad I knew once I had stopped I would just be spending the rest of the day holed up in the Alberque. The disadvantage of this is that I walked straight through Melide without taking as much notice of it as I probably should have. I’m sure it’s very nice in the sunshine but there was none of that today so like most places in the rain it wasn’t looking it’s best. The big advantage of walking further is that I will probably be arriving in Santiago a day earlier than I expected which will enable me to eat with Howard, Marilyn and Gerry, the group I walked with up to Leon, in Santiago on Sunday evening. I’m really pleased about that. Shame that the lovely June from Norway will be missing. She still WhatsApps me each morning with a Buen Camino along with best wishes for the day.

Never too wet for a Maxibon

I hope this all makes sense today. I fear the vino tinto was a little bit stronger than normal tonight

Sarria to Gonzar Total miles 468.73 Ascent – 48148 ft

I wasn’t sure how I would feel about all these new walkers joining us in Sarria to do the last 100km with their lightweight rucksacks and a spring in their step but it’s actually just succeeded in adding a different dimension to the walk. It’s good coming across all these different faces and most of them realise I haven’t just started (could be the size of the bag or it could be the smell) and start asking questions about my experiences which I’m always happy to talk about.

Early morning mist over Sarria ( I really like this picture)

I actually walked the majority of the day, until Portmarin, with two lovely Scottish ladies, Ali and Liz, who are doing the 100k as a sponsored walk for Cancer Research and they were quite good walkers. Not the first sponsored walk they have done I would guess.

Liz and Ali from Edinburgh
Getting close, just 100km to go

The weather today was beautiful and we stopped for lunch and ate outside in the cafe garden, in the sunshine, at quite a busy cafe. First time I’ve ever come across a busy cafe on the walk so that shows how the Camino has changed now. Fair do’s to the ladies, even though they were from Scotland, because I had donated to their sponsorship, they treated me to lunch.

A lovely spot for lunch

I left them a Portmarin, a very nice town from what I saw, but far too busy for me now and I carried on to a much quieter Gonzar, another 5 miles or so.

Steps into Portmarin and the cursed yellow arrow points up them
Spotted in Portmarin

I fear I am having a problem now with a tendon on my left shin. It was painful today and quite swollen. I can’t believe I have only 50 miles to go and this has started happening. Luckily I do have a few days to spare, so, depending how it goes overnight and tomorrow morning, I may have to do some very short days from here to Santiago to ensure I get there, but I will get there.

Looking down the river just outside Portmarin
There’s a few of these grain stores appearing in the gardens around this area. At first I thought they were for keeping the family bodies in

Triacastela to Sarria Total miles – 448.97 Ascent – 45536 ft

Last night I was invited out for a meal by two Indian ladies and we were joined by an Italian and a French gentleman. Later on, my two South African friends arrived and without prompting they said “we’ve just been speaking to some Mexicans about you, everybody on the Camino knows you”. Although far from the truth, I’m just soooo made up to hear someone say that as I’ve gone out my way to try and chat with everyone I’ve met along the route, always finishing with a Buen Camino as I move on. I couldn’t possibly have wished for a better birthday present than hearing somebody say that.

Getting closer, as can be seen from a super accurate mile (km) post. 114.736km

Only a short walk into Sarria today (at what stage did 12 miles become a short walk I wonder) and Help! the Camino has suddenly become incredibly commercialised. Albergues and pilgrim gift shops everywhere. I guess it’s going to be like this for the next 100km. I maybe need to pick and choose my stopping places carefully from here on.

Huge scallop shell motif encountered just outside A Balsa
Gentle country lanes and paths along most of the route today

The walk was good today, along forest paths and country lanes, even if they were very wet indeed due to heavy rain overnight and continuing downpours this morning. Stopped halfway for a coffee and a piece of chestnut cake. There’s lots of sweet chestnut trees locally and it’s good to see that they are utilising the local produce. Farming wise, I would hazard a guess that there’s more cattle than crops around this area and walking through some of the named villages now, you feel you are just walking through a large farmyard as opposed to an actual village.

Villages were almost just large farmyards
A huge vegetable sandwich for lunch, with the usual tuna hiding in there

I called in a small church whilst looking around Sarria and the lady in charge mentioned there was a Pilgrims blessing at the main Santa Maria church at 19:30 so I decided to give it a go. I have no idea what was said or what was going on but I felt I should attend one whilst doing the Camino and there were go, now I’ve done it. Seemed harmless enough.

Santa Maria church where I attended my first mass
Paintings on the wall outside Santa Maria
I think this chaps thinking “what have they done to my Camino?”