Walking with strangers

Walking with strangers

I spent last week walking with strangers. As an introvert, this is something I wouldn’t have done of my own accord, as it is way out of my comfort zone. Meeting strangers along the way is one thing. But committing to spending 6 full days with a group of total strangers is a completely different story. However, when the opportunity arose, I said yes!

 

So, why did I walk with strangers?

A fellow teacher, María Ortega, organises Spanish retreats in Spain every year: a few days in a Spanish city, practicing your Spanish language and learning about the culture in a natural way. We met online, maybe just over a year ago, at an online event for language teachers and we started following each other.

 

One day, she asked me: “Why don’t we organise a retreat together, on the Camino?”. It was a scary idea (I’d never done such a thing), but at the same time I had the feeling it could be an interesting experience, so I said yes. We picked a route (Camino Inglés), set the dates and the rest is history, as they say.

 

As the starting day approached, fear kicked in and a voice in my head kept saying: “What were you thinking when you agreed to take part in this crazy idea?”

 

But it was too late to change my mind then. I was stuck walking with these strangers.

 

Who were they?

The only person I knew (and that was only online), was the other María. We soon became “las Marías”.

 

And then we had 5 men and 2 women, from several places: four from Reino Unido (UK), Inglaterra to be precise; one from Canadá (Canada), one born in China (China) but living in Estados Unidos (USA) and another one born in Polonia (Poland) but living in Suecia (Sweden).

 

The age range went from the 30’s well into the 60’s. So, all in all, we had quite a diverse group. I didn’t know any of these people at all before and I was not just going to teach them a lesson or two. I was going to spend a week with them! All day. Walking together for hours every day, sharing conversations, meals and even rooms.

Walking with strangers

On the last day, somewhere between Sigüeiro and Santiago. I’m the shadow taking the picture.

As I said earlier, I’m an introvert, and I enjoy spending time in my own company. So, as the starting day approached, I was feeling a bit anxious.

 

I know people meet other peregrinos on the Camino and sometimes they remain friends for years or even get married (read Julia’s story). But you normally have the choice to walk with someone or not. I did not have that choice and that thought worried me a bit. But I applied the Galician philosophy of Maloserá* and hoped for the best.

 

The truth is that I soon found out I needn’t worry. Despite being a mixed group of different ages and backgrounds, these people were all lovely in their own different ways. By the end of the week this group of strangers had almost become family and it was hard to part.

 

I’ll detail our journey in future posts, as I’m still trying to process the experience and I’m not back to my normal self (maybe I’ll never be?). So, for today, I’ll leave you with some thoughts.

 

I was wrong

I’ll be honest: I didn’t anticipate the effect this Camino has had on me. I know most people talk about the life-changing nature of the Camino and the emotion they feel when they reach Santiago. But somehow I didn’t think I would be so touched, for several reasons:

 

  • First, I was on the Camino for una semana (a week) “only” and I didn’t think it would be long enough. I thought I would have to walk for weeks to experience all of that, but I was obviously wrong.

 

  • I’m from Galicia. So, even if I hadn’t been to all the places the Camino goes through, I’m home. I’m not walking on exotic lands. I’m familiar with el paisaje (landscape), la comida (food) and the languages (both Galician and Spanish). Well, it was still somehow different, maybe because I was showing it to others.

 

  • I’ve been to Santiago many times. In fact, I lived in Santiago for a couple of years when I was in college. I’ve been on Praza do Obradoiro countless times, I’ve crossed it in all possible directions, I’ve heard la gaita (bagpipe) millions of times too… Why would this time be different? Yes, your guess is right: I was wrong!

 

  • I was walking with a group of strangers and this was supposed to be more of a “work thing” than a spiritual pilgrimage. Of course, I was wrong again! There was no teacher and student division; we were all together in a journey full of lessons to be learned by all of us.

 

Maloserá

 

 

 

*Maloserá. This Galician word does not have a literal translation. Google Translate will tell you it means “it will be bad”, but in fact it means quite the opposite. It’s an expression of our optimism and you can use it in any potentially negative situation. It means that you shouldn’t worry, that things will be OK, that it’s probably not as bad as it looks, that you are going to be alright…

 

 

 

Today’s words

 

Would you like to know how the experience went for the others? You can read my conversations with James and Richard.

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¡Buen Camino!

Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos

Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos

Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos |

Day 3 was the last day on our Camino Inglés… for now. When we decided to take our daughters along on this adventure, we thought that maybe walking 20km from Pontedeume to Betanzos would be too much for them. We still wanted to see Betanzos and so that’s where we booked our accommodation for Monday night. We thought we could walk around 10km up to Miño and then take an autobús (bus) to Betanzos (arriva.gal). But we didn’t make any definite decisions.

Day 2, we stayed at Pensión Luis, in Pontedeume. They open their café at 9.00, but we wanted to leave earlier. One of the guys there told us of a cafetería around the corner that apparently opens at 5.00am: a place called Martiño. We certainly didn’t go there at 5.00 to check if they were open. But they were open at 8.00am when we left the pensión to start our day. So we had breakfast, bought a couple of extra things to take with us and left.

Before I started walking this Camino, I had never paid much attention to stage profiles. Whenever I was hiking, maybe I would read a general description of the route and that was it. I just showed up and walked. Profiles were not usually present in what I read and, even if they were, they felt somehow abstract.

Walking from Neda to Pontedeume they suddenly started making sense. So I wasn’t looking forward to walking out of Pontedeume when I saw the profile. And the uphill didn’t disappoint!

 

Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos
 
The climb is over… for now

After we finished climbing, we walked through a lovely forest. The weather gave us a break. It was not as warm as Day 1, but the wind had died down and, again, rain was not expected until later in the day. El sol (sun) was shining and los pájaros (birds) were singing. Quite idyllic!

 

After this, we crossed a road and found ourselves going through a golf course. I wasn’t expecting that and it felt somehow weird and out-of-place. Or maybe it was just me. What I wasn’t expecting either was the hard climb we had to tackle next, through a forest on this occasion. There was a woman on a tractor waiting at the bottom of the hill… I was very tempted to ask her for a lift up to the top!

Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos
Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos
Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos

 

We then continued on paved roads through rural areas for a while until we decided to had a short break at one of the many picnic areas we saw today, by the medieval puente (bridge) over the río (river) Baxoi. We refilled our bottles at the fuente here and ate the churros we had bought earlier in Pontedeume.

Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos
Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos

After this bridge we walked for a few minutes through a forest area under the motorway bridges before we entered Miño, a lovely coastal town with plenty of tiendas (shops) and cafeterías.

Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos
Graffiti under the motorway

We stopped for a toilet break and to drink something that was not water. After eating the churros, we were not hungry and so we didn’t order any food. But we got a pincho de callos with our drinks.

Callos is a typical Spanish stew. As is usually the case with all traditional recipes, there are almost as many versions of callos as cooks. But they all have the same 2 main ingredients in common: beef tripe and garbanzos (chickpeas), as well as a bunch of spices.

I must say the callos tasted heavenly, like pretty much everything else we ate during those 3 days. I guess that’s one of the side effects of walking for hours.

 

So, now we were in Miño and we had to decide whether to keep walking or skip the rest of the stage and take a bus. And we took a vote: it was still early, the weather was holding up and our energy levels were OK, which means we decided to continue walking up to Betanzos (guess who was the only one who voted against it? Hint: teenager).

The rest of the stage, from Miño to Betanzos, goes through tiny villages and it’s mostly (or all) on paved roads. Just like days 1 and 2, it was lonely out there, our company just the odd caballo (horse) or perro (dog).

Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos
Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos
Camino Ingles: de Pontedeume a Betanzos
 
Betanzos

When we finally made it to Betanzos, our first priority was to find a place to eat, because it was getting late. Restaurant kitchens usually close at around 3.30 or 4.00pm and we didn’t want to wait until la cena (dinner) for a proper meal. There are many places to eat on two narrow streets off Praza Irmáns García Naveira. We tried one of them (I think it was Mesón Sabín) and they agreed to serve us, although I’m sure they were getting ready to close. ¡Gracias!

Among other things, Betanzos is famous for its tortillas de patatas. We got to taste one of them and a few other things as well. Again, everything tasted delicious!  (http://www.expansion.com/fueradeserie/gastro/2018/08/06/5b617442ca4741f5728b45e0.html)

After food, we headed to our accommodation. Shortly after we had arrived, it started raining, although it was not as bad as the previous day in Pontedeume.

As I explained before, we had to go back home on Tuesday in order to allow the kids some time to do homework and study for exams they had right after this short break. So, we got up early and explored Betanzos a bit before taking a bus back to A Coruña. There is a lot to see in Betanzos! (click here for more info).

Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos
Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos
Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos
Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos
Camino Inglés: de Pontedeume a Betanzos

My plan is to go back at the end of this month to complete it. So you’ll have to wait a bit for the rest of the story…

 

Today’s words of Spanish for the Camino

 

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Camino Inglés: de Neda a Pontedeume

Camino Inglés: de Neda a Pontedeume

Welcome to Day 2 of my Camino Inglés: de Neda a Pontedeume. If you missed Day 1, you can catch up here.

On Day 2 of our Camino Inglés, we had planned to walk from Neda to Pontedeume, but the weather forecast was not good. In fact, we were on orange alert, with gales and heavy rain… or temporal, as we call it in Spanish.

 

Neda

We woke up to strong winds and grey skies. We checked our weather app again and the chances of lluvia (rain) during the morning seemed to be slim. The owner of our pensión looked quite sceptical when I commented that we might be lucky and make it to Pontedeume with no rain. But, in any case, we decided to leave and see how things went.

Neda was still asleep. We refilled our bottles at the fuente (fountain) outside the concello (town hall in Galician) and kept going.

Iglesia de Sta. María de Neda

We were in Paradise!

Refilling our bottles

For things to see in Neda, click here.

The second day was the complete opposite of the first one. On the one hand, there was the issue of the weather. The rain held off until we make it to Pontedeume (phew!), but el viento (wind) was so strong that we could hardly walk at times. We would just hold on to each other so that no one fell, and we tried to keep moving.

This was not one of the windiest moments of the day

 

On the other hand, the terrain was quite different too. While Ferrol-Neda was mostly flat, Neda-Pontedeume was a bit of a rollercoaster, constantly going up and down. And I discovered that walking uphill is not one of my specialties!

My youngest daughter tends to be a fast walker. My husband is not, generally; but today he was in a hurry to make it to Pontedeume as soon as possible, before the rain started pouring. So the two of them walked in front.

Between the uphills and my tendency to stop and take pictures, I was constantly behind. My older daughter (the grumpy teenager), was kind enough to slow down and stay with her poor, slow mother. And that’s how we walked most of the time.

For me, the only good thing about the uphills is that, occasionally, you get rewarded with stunning views like these:

This stage was mostly through rural areas, either tiny aldeas (villages) or forests.

 

**Warning: rant ahead

A lot of the forest areas we crossed today were full of eucaliptos (eucalyptus). I often read other pilgrims’ posts in blogs or social media, about walking through an eucalyptus forest: it’s always about the wonderful smell, how nice it is and how much they love it.

Sorry, but I can’t agree on this one. I do like the smell of eucalyptus, but not in Galician montes (forests)! For me, eucalyptus equals economic interest, destruction of native vegetation and increased risk of fires, among other things. In short, a total disregard for the environment. So, walking through an eucalyptus forest (in Galicia) saddens me greatly **end of rant.

 

To stop or not to stop

Anyway, after going up and down a few times, we got to Fene, a larger town with cafeterías and other services. We took a vote and decided to continue.

More uphills, villages and eucalyptus. After one of these uphills through eucalyptus, we came to a couple of yellow arrows painted under a bridge, that seemed to indicate that we had to get off the path we were following. That didn’t seem right. So, after a couple of minutes’ deliberation and checking maps, we decided to stay on the path. Good decision: after a bend, we could see a stone marker a few metres ahead.

Shortly after, we came to an industrial state (Polígono Vilar do Colo) with a big Gadis supermarket and a bar-restaurante on the other side of the road. So we crossed and enjoyed a well-deserved break. Once inside we realised the place is linked to a petrol station (or gas station, depending where you are from) and small convenience store.

After the break, we went back out into the wind and continued our walk through some more villages until we came to this crossroads:

 

More decisions

Again, like in Day 1, we had to decide: continue on the “regular” Camino (right) or take the Camino complementario (left). The latter added almost 2 km to our day, the first one included a dangerous spot, according to the information panel.

Yesterday we were all in agreement: skip the Camino complementario.

Today, it was hard to decide. On the one hand, nobody wanted to add unnecessary kilometres to our day. But we didn’t want to take risks either. Or at least, the more responsible adults didn’t; teenagers didn’t really agree. So, we took the longer route, which includes plenty more uphills. Yay!

Eventually, we joined the “regular” Camino, walked through Cabanas and crossed the bridge that gives Pontedeume its name.

We had booked a couple of rooms at Pensión Luis, so that’s where we headed. All the rooms have private bathrooms and the price is €15.00 per person.

After dropping our mochilas in the rooms, we had lunch at the restaurant they have downstairs (menu for €9.00; tasty and abundant).

After lunch we went out with the intention of exploring Pontedeume, but it soon started raining and rain gear was back at the pensión, so we went to our rooms. Good excuse to go back to Pontedeume.

Anything is possible during the Carnival. While we were having lunch, a group of ancient Romans came into the restaurant. They parked their vehicles outside. Later, while the Romans were still eating, a gust of wind dragged chariots and horses all over the street.

For more info about Pontedeume, click here.

Theme of the day

On Day 1 we say at least 6 “tanque de tormentas”. I must admit I don’t remember ever seeing one of those and I had to check our what they were. Apparently, these structures generally hold water from storm water runoff and release it gradually, reducing damage from erosion and other physical changes.

On Day 2, we kept seeing a different type of construction: lavaderos. Women used to gather around them to do their laundry in the past. According to this article, Cabanas council has been repairing some of them, not just because of their historical value, but also to turn them into meeting points and rest areas for pilgrims.

Day 1: tanques de tormentas

Day 2: Lavaderos

It was again a lonely day. I think we encountered a couple of people only: a woman in Fene saw us while we were deciding whether to stop or to continue, she thought we were lost and showed us the way. And later, we saw a guy on a tractor. That was it! And we saw horses again.

Will the weather improve for Day 3? Will there be a new theme? All will be revealed in the next post.

 

Today’s words

 

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Camino Inglés: de Ferrol a Neda

Camino Inglés: de Ferrol a Neda

Before I start my account of day 1 on the Camino Inglés: from Ferrol to Neda, let’s get some practical info out of the way.

 

Guidebooks

 

  • For a more “traditional” guide, with very detailed information on the route and background information, I bought The Confraternity of St. James‘ Guidebook, by Johnnie Walker.

I bought both of these books in the digital version. Then, at the last minute, for some reason, I decided to buy a paper one, in Spanish. Don’t ask me why… I’m not really sure. Of course, I am aware of the advantages of digital books in terms of space and weight, but I still prefer browsing through a paper one. I think that was why.

 

  • So I got “Guía del Camino de Santiago: Camino Inglés”, by Antón Pombo. It does include a whole chapter about Santiago (around 20 pages) and also the route from Santiago to Fisterra and Muxía (close to 40 more pages). So there was a lot of book we were not going to need on this occasion, but I still decided to take it along. Being a book lover, I struggled with the idea of tearing the book apart and taking only the pages we needed, as I’ve read that some people do.

 

Accommodation

  • Ferrol: we stayed at Hotel Real Ferrol (calle Dolores, 11). We chose it because it was one of the few places that offered a family room and the location was great too. We paid €45 for the four of us in a very spacious room with 2 double beds and a private cuarto de baño. All new and clean… the perfect choice for us!

 

  • Neda: Pensión Maragoto, not far from the albergue. As well as the rooms, they also have a cafetería-restaurante, where you can have a menú del día for €9.50. They open at 8.00am in the morning. We had our breakfast there before heading off to Pontedeume on Sunday.

 

Sábado, 2 de marzo. De Ferrol a Neda

After el desayuno (breakfast) and a bit of walking around Ferrol (check Empezando el Camino Inglés), we headed towards Muelle Curuxeiras, the starting point of the Camino. Despite reading about it before, my initial instinct was to look for the stone marker closer to the water. I had read on forums about previous pilgrims having trouble locating it and others explaining where it was exactly and I was still looking for it in the wrong place. Then I remember and so we crossed the road… and there it was!

But before we started walking towards Neda, there was one more thing to do: pick up our credenciales from the tourist office, which is conveniently located right next to the stone marker. There is also a farmacia there, in case you need to get any last minute tiritas (plasters) or paracetamol. And if you haven’t had your desayuno yet, there are also a couple of cafeterías here.

We went through the arch into Rúa Carmen Curuxeiras. I’ve been trying to find out who this woman, Carmen Curuxeiras, was; but apparently it is unknown. Also, in case you are wondering and getting confused, rúa is the Galician word for calle (street). You may see both used.

Anyway, this part of town is called Ferrol Vello (Old Ferrol in the Galician language) and it really lives up to its name! Almost the first thing you see after walking under the arch is a few collapsed buildings (or about to collapse).

 

Walking through Ferrol Vello

These are not too bad!

Out of Ferrol

So we walked through Ferrol, past the Parador and iglesia (church) de San Francisco, along the rúa Real and cantón de Molíns, and past iglesia de las Angustias. The last stretch out of Ferrol was not particularly appealing, with modern/boring buildings on our left and army property on the right, blocking the view of the sea. Eventually, you get to enjoy the view, walking by playa (beach) de Caranza.

Then, it’s a busy road for a while until you reach an industrial state, where you have to turn right. There is a Lidl supermarket here, in case you need to buy anything. We already had some fruta, galletas and frutos secos (fruit, biscuits and nuts), so we kept going, but not for long, because we got to a leisure area with benches and we decided to take a short break, have a snack and enjoy the view.

According to this, there’s a cafetería behind Lidl where you can get your credencial stamped. Well, the sign actually says you can get your Compostela stamped; I guess that’s a mistake. It also says it’s the cafetería of a tanatorio or funeral home. None of us needed a toilet break and we were not too keen on hanging out at a funeral home, so a bench outside was good for us. There’s another bar right on the Camino if you keep walking just a bit longer.

After the break, it was not so nice again, going through an industrial area with busy roads and roundabouts, before walking through villages. We passed the monasterio de San Martiño but it was closed, so we kept going.

Monasterio de San Martiño

We kept walking

Decisions, decisions…

After going through a forest area, we came to this:

Left or right?

Map detailing the 2 options

The Camino complementario on the right was longer (it adds close to 1km) and the main reason to take it was to see an old water mill. We’ve seen a few of those before, so we took the “regular” camino on the left and over the bridge. After the bridge, you have to go down some stairs and then you are in a nice promenade by the water. We had almost made it through our first day!

 

Neda

Now we only had to decide which bridge to cross

The old bridge?

…or the new bridge?

We went for the old one and so we got to see this 300 year old magnolia tree:

We quickly found our accommodation, left our mochilas in our rooms and went to have lunch.

A couple of games while waiting for the food

Calamares a la romana

After lunch, a rest and a ducha (shower), we went to have a look around. The park area across the bridges has one of these “playgrounds” for adults, with equipment to exercise instead of slides and swings. Well, the girls still had plenty of energy to play around and compete to see who could jump higher or do more pull-ups. I really envy them!

Up the road from our pensión, there is a Día supermarket. If you are not stopping for the day in Neda, you will pass it as you continue on your way. If you are spending the night in Neda and need to buy anything, don’t leave it till the next morning, as it will be closed.

 

 I didn’t know this, but apparently Neda’s bread is famous and they even have a monument to it!

On company and weather

I think we only encountered one person during our walk, an old man keeping an eye on his sheep. Our company during the day… horses, cows, sheep and goats!

Day 1 was a nice and easy start to our Camino Inglés. Despite the rain the previous night, the weather was bright and sunny, with very pleasant temperatures… not really what you would expect at the beginning of March. The forecast, however, was not good. There was an orange alert for the next couple of days, with gales and heavy rain. In fact, we could already see it changing in the evening: it was becoming increasingly windier and the sky was getting grey. According to our weather app, there would be no rain the next morning, at least not any significant amount. We were a bit concerned about walking through forests and branches falling… but that’s for Day 2.

 

Today’s words

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Empezando el Camino Inglés

Empezando el Camino Inglés

Empezando el Camino Inglés means “starting the English Way”. Why starting? you may ask. Well, because I didn’t get the chance to finish it… yet. And because I’m not telling you the whole story today. But let’s start from the beginning.

When I first decided I HAD to do the Camino, my first question was: which one?

 

Why the Camino Inglés?

Somehow, the Camino Francés didn’t sound so appealing. Maybe because it’s so popular… I don’t know. I’ve always had a tendency to go against the flow and NOT do stuff for the simple reason that everybody else was doing it. So maybe that was it.

Then, the obvious choice was the Camino Portugués, as it passes almost right in front of my doorstep. I’ve walked parts of it, although just as day trips or hikes, and not as a Camino experience. But I still was not convinced.

And then I started reading about the Camino Inglés and my decision was made! The English Way was the one followed by British, Irish and other northern pilgrims from the 12th century onwards. So, in a way, it made perfect sense for me to walk this route, since I lived in Ireland for 15 years.

Anyway, “where?” was clear. But “when?” was a bit more complicated. I’m not going to bore you with the details, but I’ve had to cancel this Camino a couple of times. And now the Carnival gave us a few days off; the perfect opportunity to finally do it.

The plan was for my husband and myself to walk for cinco días (5 days) and leave our dos hijas (2 daughters) with their grandparents. But… all of a sudden, a week before our start date, plans changed and that was not an option anymore. So, we could either cancel (again!) or take the kids. And we went for the second option.

 

Change of plans

The decision to take the girls affected our initial plans in several ways:

  • First. We were not able to walk for 5 days, because they needed some time to do homework and study for exams before going back to school el jueves (Thursday). So we walked tres días (3 days) instead: sábado, domingo y lunes (Saturday, Sunday and Monday), starting in Ferrol and finishing in Betanzos. El martes (Tuesday) we did a bit of sightseeing around Betanzos before returning home.
  • Second. Our 2 mochilas were a bit heavier than planned, because we split the girls’ stuff between them. The girls only carried a small day-bag with some snacks.
  • Third. We pre-booked all our alojamientos (accommodations). There being four of us and two of them being girls close to adolescence, we thought that was the best choice for us (one of them turned trece (13) this week and the other one had turned once (11) a week before our Camino).
 

 

Getting to Ferrol

We made our way to Ferrol el viernes (Friday), March 1: train to A Coruña and then bus to Ferrol. The train and bus stations in A Coruña are very close to each other, so it’s an easy switch. There are trains going from A Coruña to Ferrol too. However, we found that they took longer than the bus and they were not so frequent.

Empezando Camino Inglés: waiting for train

For train routes, schedules and tickets, you can check RENFE‘s website. And you can find buses covering A Coruña-Ferrol (but also Miño, Betanzos and Pontedeume), on ARRIVA‘s website.

Anyway, el viernes was a school day. So, by the time we got to Ferrol it was dark already. It was also raining a bit. That means that, basically, all we did was find our hotel, do a bit of last minute planning for the next day and go to sleep early.

El sábado we got up early, got ready and went out looking for a place to have breakfast.

Breakfast in Ferrol

We had company while having breakfast in Ferrol.

I didn’t know it at the time, but this really was a sign of how our Camino was going to be: we encountered more animals than people…

After breakfast, we walked around Ferrol for a short while, before we headed to the starting point of the Camino. Some parts are a bit run down and in need of a lot of care, but there’s still some amazing and interesting architecture. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Ferrol

This is the stone marker signalling the beginning of the Camino, quite close to the tourist office, in the port area. From there on, the route is very well signposted. You can’t get lost!

We bought our credenciales from the tourist office.

For more tourist information about Ferrol, you can check https://visitferrol.com

And that’s it for today! Don’t forget to come back for the rest of the story…

Read all about Day 1: Ferrol-Neda, Day 2: Neda-Pontedeume and Day 3: Pontedeume-Betanzos

 

Today’s Spanish words

 

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¡Buen Camino!

A conversation with Susan

A conversation with Susan

Conversation with Susan |

Susan had been longing to walk the Camino Francés for a long time but she had to put it off a couple of times due to different problems. She finally planned it for September 2016… only to find out that it was not possible again! She was very disappointed, but… she came across the Camino Inglés and decided that was the Camino for her. Read our conversation to know the whole story.

 

Please tell us a bit about yourself

I’m Susan, I love adventures and learning things. What I don’t like is exercise and gyms, because it can quickly get very boring. I love to be healthy and fit, and I found that walking and hiking is just right for me. One hour in the gym vs four hours walking, there’s no contest there. I’ve been in IT all my life, and my job was to make computers easy for users, so that they could get the solution when they needed it, and where they required it. I am also a bestselling author of two books, a hiker, and now an obsessed grandmother. I am thinking of taking my four-year old granddaughter on my next camino!

 

When did you first hear about the Camino? When did you decide to do it?

I was going to India to visit friends, we were going to hike in the Nilgiris, a mountain range in South India. In the flight out, I saw “The Way” – and thought nothing of it. I had never heard of the Camino, and now suddenly it was everywhere. I became more and fascinated and decided to do it in 2014.

 

Did you prepare either physically or mentally? How?

Oh yes, I walked every day, in different types of terrain, and gradually built up stamina and endurance. By the end of 3 months, I could walk 10 kms in 3 hours carrying a 6 kg backpack. I also ate for energy, too supplements to protect my joints and build up my immunity. Mentally, I began attending pilgrim events and meetups and met others who had done long distance walks.

 

You were not planning to walk the Camino Inglés initially. How was your experience? Is there any particular anecdote you would like to share?

The Camino Inglés turned out to be an exquisite experience, with just enough challenge to push you. It is not an easy stroll. Parts can be challenging, and some of the stages are long. It can be long way between bars and cafés con leche! It was quiet too, and we saw only a few pilgrims. I loved Betanzos, the walled city and the medieval centre is authentic, and while it is ancient, the life within the square in the evening is pumping with music, cafés and families enjoying themselves.

 

You then wrote a guide for the English Way. When/why did you decide to write it and how was the process?

I decided to write it because I couldn’t find accurate documentation on the way. The distances were incorrect, and often, so were the directions. I had kept a brief journal on the way, with notes on distances and landmarks. I was also doing live streams everyday from the way. When I got back, when I was sorting the photos and videos, I kept hearing myself say – I didn’t know this – I should write a book about it…So I did.

(Read my review of Susan’s The Camino Inglés: 6 days (or less) to Santiago).

 

Did you learn Spanish prior to the Camino?

Yes, I tried with DuoLingo. It gave me some words. But when we reached Spain, we could understand nothing. I did print out a list of sentences and words, and I used this to communicate in a few words.

 

Do you think your knowledge of Spanish had any impact on your Camino?

Yes, I think I would have enjoyed it much more, and had a chance to really talk to the people – who were such friendly and helpful people – but we couldn’t talk much! Learning more than Gracias and Por Favor will make a huge difference to your experience.

But don’t let a lack of Spanish stop you!

 

I asked Susan to pick a few Spanish words that she thought you should all know before you start your Camino and this is her list:

  • Common words: el Camino, credencial (Pilgrim’s passport), sello (stamp), Compostela (certificate of having walked at least the last 100km of any Camino).

 

  • Greetings: Hola (hello), buenos días (good morning), buenas tardes (good afternoon/evening), gracias (thank you), disculpe (excuse me), lo siento (I’m sorry).

 

  • ¿Dónde está…?: it means “where is…? and you can combine it with other words to ask about the location of anything. Susan has chosen albergue, el Camino and cathedral.

 

And now you can actually hear Susan say all these words in Spanish! She does a fantastic job too! What about you? Have you been practicing?

 

Today’s Spanish words for the Camino

 

About Susan Jagannath

Conversation with Susan Jagannath

Susan Jagannath successfully combined a passion for reading, a love of writing and a fascination for technology, to create a career in technical writing. With over 50 technical manuals (not) to her name, she finally decided it was time to write the books she wanted to write under her own name.

As an army brat, her childhood included seven different schools, three universities and a couple of emergency evacuations from conflict zones. Travel and adventure were a normal part of life. She now believes in seizing every opportunity to have a new adventure. Whether it’s camping on the beach in Australia, trekking in the Himalayas, kayaking in Queensland, whitewater rafting down the Ganges, or walking the Camino in Spain, her philosophy is to pack it into one or two weeks to create memories for a lifetime, and inspire others to see that the right time for adventure is right now.

Her first bestseller came from her walk in Spain, The Camino Ingles: 6 days to Santiago. What also happened is that Susan fell in love with Spain, and all things Spanish, and is busy making plans to return for a longer time, and maybe, another Camino.

Susan is now on the next adventure of her life, writing books that are not technical manuals, training to be an awesome grandmother, and helping others write and publish their own bestsellers.

To learn more about Susan Jagannath (and to download the map set), you can go to https://www.susanjagannath.com

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¡Buen Camino!