The hike itself
We flew from San Francisco to Porto, Portugal, then spent the day heading to our starting point in Ferrol, an industrial port along the northern coast of Spain. Once in Ferrol, we settled into our hotel, slept through some of our jet lag, and then headed out for an amazing dinner at a Michelin-rated restaurant. The food was fabulous throughout the trip ranging from seafood to lamb to ice cream and everything in between.
Well, except vegetables, which rarely make an appearance in Spanish and Portuguese cuisine. You can read more about the food part of our trip in my article this week Catering section of the Argus-Courrier.
We covered about 12 miles on the first day, starting in Ferrol and ending in Pontedeume. The initial walk was nothing spectacular, but once we crossed the nearby bay and climbed into the hills it was beautiful and quiet. Our first day was a great introduction to the Camino, especially because the last two miles gave us views across the water to the port town of Pontedeume, where we would spend the night.
The guides are a bit misleading in that they only divide the hikes into paved and unpaved paths. The reality is that even the paved roads we rode were seldom used side roads, some of them extremely quiet forest roads.
There are plenty of sleeping options along the Camino, with “albergues” being the historical choice. However, staying in hostel-style dorms was not part of our bucket list experience, so we opted for hotels for all of our overnight accommodations, as many peregrinos do.
Our second day was only a little longer than the first, at 13 miles, and took us to the town of Betanzos, another small Galician fishing village. Today’s route was a bit more hilly, starting with a long climb out of Pontedeume. Again, the guides make a mountain out of a molehill, presenting that first hill as if it were Mount Everest, but taken in stride and at our pace, it was no worse than it was. any other part of the road.
The drive from Bentanzos to O Meson do Vento was long but as scenic as the first two days. We were warned to pack food for the day but even though it was Sunday we ate better on this part of the walk than any other – so the lack of food stops is clearly not an issue on the Camino Ingles.
Our fourth day took us from O Meson do Vento to Sigueiro – where it was hard not to start celebrating that we were only 11 miles from the finish. My feet started to bother me that day, but that was due to an unfortunate choice of untested socks and shoes on the second day, which left me with a few blisters, but nothing would stop me from completing the Camino .
The end of the journey
At only 11 miles, our last day was the shortest and took us to the square in front of Santiago Cathedral before lunch. The end of this road was a bit industrial like the start of the road, but still scenic for most of the way.
Once we removed the photos and texted our families that we made it safe and sound, we headed to the Compostela office to show our peregrino passports and collect our certificate of completion. We then left for lunch in a restaurant just as impressive as the one we visited the day before our trip.
Along the way we met many other pilgrims, ranging from teenagers to a group of 80 year olds. We also interacted with many locals, who will wish you a “Beun Camino” or “Bom Camnho” no matter what they are doing at the time. In restaurants and bars, customers and staff were really happy to see us and interact with us. And the language has never been a problem. Between our limited Spanish, their limited English and lots of pantomime, we never had a problem communicating with the locals.
The landscape along the Camino Ingles is considered the most beautiful of all the Caminos and was a mixture of forests, crops, streams and small villages. The route looks a lot like eastern Iowa, but that’s a compliment to Iowa, not a criticism of Galicia. Eastern Iowa is beautiful, but Galicia beats them hands down when it comes to food. The Galician terrain is covered in hills covered in trees or corn, with small streams crossing wooded ravines all the way.
Our total distance was somewhere in the 70 mile range, which sounds more impressive than 112 kilometers. This did not include the bonus 3-5 miles we inadvertently drove every afternoon and evening exploring the towns we stayed in. None of our days were rushed, leaving us plenty of time to stop whenever we wanted to rest, take pictures or try the coffee, sandwiches or ice cream at the various shops along our route. In fact, we always got to our overnight accommodation in the early afternoon, which gave us plenty of time to shower, nap for an hour or two, and then head into town to see the sights. and try their food.
The Caminos are a great way to see the Spanish and Portuguese countryside at a slower pace, giving you more time to interact with the locals, if that’s your thing. However, they also provide great meditative experiences, as you can choose how little or how much interaction you have with those around you. Although the mileage can seem daunting, we soon realized that when you just walk from meal to meal – and enjoy the sights along the way – the mileage seems to be zero at the end of the day.