Camino de Santiago – Tui to Santiago de Compostela (19th to 23rd Stages of the Portuguese Way)
Day 6 Tuesday (September 5): Tui -Porriño (17km)
Carlo’s colleague Andre picked us up from the hotel at 8:30am. We followed A3 and cross the bridge over Minho River and entered into Spain. By 10:30am we arrived at Cathedral of Santa Maria, the starting point of our 119km-long walk to Santiago de Compostela. The medieval cathedral (12th century) looks imposing with an impressive portal. As a mass was going on, we could not walk around. The interior with a central nave and organs are equally impressive. After getting our first stamp in the Cathedral on our camino passport, we began our walk.
As we were not familiar with the use of the GPS given to us by Carlos, the group took a wrong turn which brought us back to the cathedral 15 minutes later. We now got our bearing right and knew how to follow the “shell” icon and a yellow arrow that line the whole way to Santiago. It is difficult to get loss as there are many pilgrims along the path and signs every 5 to 15m.
The path took us through this lovely medieval town of Tui with history. I find the stone walls, remain of the fortress and streets are timeless and well-preserved. This small town has a surprising large number of beautiful public buildings, churches including the Church of San Francisco, Chapel of Mercy, Chapel of San Telmo, convents (the Convent of the Clarissas, Convent of Sancho Domingo and monasteries) and pilgrim lodging houses. As the group was keen to walk and make steady progress, I was unable to visit a couple of attractions.
After leaving Tui, we saw the Minho River again. We had a good start spending most of the time in the morning walking through natural path through woods. We saw the Bridge ‘da Veiga do Louro” and late Bridge “das Febres”.
Around 2pm, we stopped at Ribadelouro and had omelet, sandwich and beer or fresh lemon juice in the Cafe Casa Cultural. The lady suggested us take the alternate route (9.5km) to Porriño which is nicer. Anyway, we walked a lot on pave road (secondary or main road) after lunch and saw open cast mines in the distance.
It is tiring and boring. After walking for about 6km, I spotted a sign of ‘Hostal Expo’ at a junction and wondered whether it was the hotel we would be staying. (Carlos had told us to call Daniel when we reached Porriño. Daniel would pick us up). But as the name is “Hotel” instead of “Hostal”, we thought it might be a different one and walked on. After walking for another kilometre, Aliana was tired and did not feel well. We therefore decided to call ask Daniel to pick us but we hardly knew where we were.
We saw a man working in his garden and hoped he could tell us our location or call Daniel for us. The man does not speak English and is not helpful. Igraine who could call with her phone tried to call three times without success. We finally had to call Carlos’s office in Portugal for help. Then a van passed by and I stopped the driver asking him for help. Though he cannot speak English, he is smart. He immediately knew our problem and used his phone to call Daniel. How wonderful!
Daniel arrived in less than ten minutes. We were relieved. He drove us to his hostal in Pinetellas. Daniel is funny and efficient and we had a great time and nice dinner. We walked about 17km today. I was tired but could not sleep as our room faced the street. It was noisy whenever a vehicle drove past. Aliana started to cough and did not sleep well. She decided not to walk the next day.
Day 7 Wednesday (September 6): Porriño – Arcade (24km)
Aliana coughed badly at night and did not sleep much. She was tired and decided not to walk. Instead she would take a ride in the luggage van to the hotel. Porriño is small and looks boring. After getting a stamp in the town hall, we began our long walk before 9:30am. I find today’s walk boring and least interesting because we spent considerable time walking on paved road with much traffic.
After an hour we stopped for a drink. Then we reached Mos.
We walked uphill through woodland and then downhill to Redondela. On the way we saw a Roman milestone marking the military route Via XIX. Around 1:30pm, we had a pilgrim menu for €8 in before walking to the Redondela town. We went through the town following the yellow arrows and did not make a short side trip to visit the 15th century Iglesia de Santiago located up the cobbled rua do Adro.
After leaving the town, we soon saw the estuary of Vigo, the Islands of San Simón and San Antón, hanging bridge of Rande. We had walked about 20km when we descended onto N-550 and walked to Arcade famous for its oysters. As the locals told us that our hotel is located next N-550, we decided walked straight on instead of following the waymarked pilgrim path. Later I discovered that I had missed a picturesque walk through the old town and the picturesque Pontesampaio stone bridge over the Verdugo River.
Aliana waited for us outside San Luis Hotel. We were tired after the longest walk of the trip. Aliana had a rest and seemed to feel better. She felt ready for the walk to Pontevedra the following day. The room was nice and quiet and I had a wonderful sleep.
Day 8 Thursday (September 7): Arcade – Ponteverdra (10.2KM)
Today’s walk brought back happy memories of my last camino. We walked mostly on scenic natural path without traffic noise. The sights of forest, stone paths, villages, vineyards and corn fields.
On the suggestion of the hotel receptionist, we booked a table at Casa Roman for lunch at 2:30pm. We had a splash ordering a €50 seafood menu with eight courses and wine. We had fresh octopus, scallop, lobster and fish. What a wonderful and delicious tasting menu!
It was after 5pm when we came out of the restaurant. Aliana, Elaine and Tsui were tired and stayed in the hotel while Kai, Igraine, Lovisa and I followed the original camino Rua Real that goes right through the old town which has numerous beautiful squares, narrow streets, churches and impressive old buildings. We first arrived at the Sanctuary of A Virxe de Peregrina a baroque church built in 1778.
As we had time, we strolled off the waymarked route to visit the Church of San Francisco, Church of San Bartolomé. We took a side walk to reach Convent of Santa Clara which seemed not open to the public. We could only take a glimpse of the magnificent baroque altar through a small glass window.
The town has a dozen of squares of different sizes. But all of them have an intimate and timeless feel. We must have walked through most if not all of them before reaching the 16th century Basilica de Santa Maria A Maior. A mass was going on and we went out to spend time appreciating the ornate ‘Plateresque’ style southern facade.
Today, Pontevedra is the regional capital and lively commercial and tourist city with modern university. We spent some time by the Lérez River looking at the old stone bridge each arch has a shell symbol. It was after 8pm when we were back in the hotel. I was still full after the sumptuous lunch. My stomach was not churning. I only had a few small pieces of pork for dinner. Aliana coughed badly and had hardly slept. She decided to consult a doctor before leaving Pontevedra.
Day 9 Friday (September 8): Ponteverdra – Caldas de Rei (by car)
Aliana coughed and could not sleep. I would accompany her to see a doctor before making our way to Hotel Sena in Caldas de Rei. Kai who had two big blisters on his pinky toe found it too painful to walk, decided to come with us. On the advice of the hotel receptionist, we took a taxi to the nearest public clinic Centro de Saude A Parda. No one speaks English. We communicated with the staff with the aid of a translation application.
The clinic is large, bright, modern and stylish in vibrant white and green colours. We were ushered into a consultation room soon and I tried to communicate with the doctor in French, our only common language. Half way through, a young lady came in and said a few words to the doctor in Spanish. She stayed on and translated for us. We later realised that Isabel who just had her consultation had volunteered to translate for us when the hospital staff asked for help from someone who speaks English.
Our visit to the hospital was an extraordinary experience. The doctor told Aliana that she just had a cold. ‘No worry’, he said. The doctor gave Kai two options: he could either limp all his way to Santiago and then seek treatment or have his wound treated and ‘no more camino’. Kai jumped with joy and said ‘NO CAMINO’. The nurse spent over 15 minutes removing the bandage and dead skin, cleaned the wound before applying cream and bandage. Kai could not put on the shoe. Isabel said she would give Kai her father’s slippers!
The payment system is cumbersome (especially compared with my recent experience in France). Isabel and her mom, Carmen, first took me to the Galicia Department of Health to get a detailed report on their problem and the treatment given and an invoice. As the computer system between the clinic and the department had just been changed and was yet to be connected, the staff took over an hour to retrieve the report from the system. In the meantime, we went out to two pharmacies to get prescriptions. After getting the report and invoice, Carman, Isabel and I had to walk to some 10 minutes to a bank in the old town centre to pay €256 each for the consultation. It was 12:30pm when Isabel and I returned to the hotel to pick up Aliana and Kai for lunch with Raymond (Isabel’s father) and Carman.
We had a seafood lunch at O’Rueiro at Rúa da Seca, a restaurant owned by her father’s cousin. The steamed scallops, octopus and fish were fresh. We also had a typical Spanish dessert with milk and rice. I had a coffee liquor too. We must have a good discount as we only paid €160 for an excellent meal for six.
After lunch, Raymond drive us to Hotel Sena to save us paying €60 for a taxi. They are wonderful and most helpful. On the way, he took us to see Barosa waterfall. We arrived at our destination around 4:30pm. The walking group (Elaine, Tsui, Lovisa and Igraine) arrived five minutes later. What an eventful day with wonderful surprises!
Day 10 September 9 Saturday: Caldas de Rei – Padrón
Today we set off at 8:45am with five walkers. Aliana would go direct to Padrón with the luggage van while Kai would take a bus to Santiago de Compostela (€3 for an hour-ride). He preferred to spend more time in this holy place. I find the path today most enjoyable. We started off by strolling through this small hot spring town which main street leads to a Roman bridge – Bermaña Bridge. We saw the Church of Santa Maria de Bemil which was not open.
Soon we arrived at the picturesque Church Santa Maria de Carracedo which was also closed. It started to drizzle. We all had rain gear and continued without problem. The path led us through thick forest which is beautiful. Then it showered again for a short while. It was atmospheric and cool. The air was fresh and the sunlight coming through the forest after the rain was particularly beautiful.
We crossed River Ulla and after walking four more kilometres, we arrived in Padrón shortly after 230pm. We covered about 20km in about six hours and had two brief stops at Sta Mariňa de Carracedo and San Miguel de Valga .
We were hungry and went straight to a popular restaurant Os Carrios close to the Tourist Office for lunch. Aliana took a taxi and arrived within five minutes. Perfect. We spent €130 for six and had scallops, mussels, octopus, Spanish omelette, pork and beer. After tasting excellent scallops and octopus the day before, Aliana and I had little to say about the food today.
After lunch, we had a wonderful leisure stroll in this historic and important town on the camino. The town has a spiritual and peaceful atmosphere with River Sar running through it. It is amazing to find crystal clear water in the river with many trouts.
The Paseo do Espolón, a beautiful park with matured trees by the river and a monument in memory of Rosalía de Castro, a famous poet born in this town. Next to the park is an old stone bridge and the Church of Santiago. They add so much atmosphere and charm to this enchanting and timeless town. Under the altar of the church is the stone where the boat that brought the remains of St James was moored.
We walked across the bridge to Fonte do Carme (14th century) displaying the arrival of the sarcophagus of St James with his two disciples and the scene of the conversion and baptism of the pagan Queen Lupa. We walked up the staircase to Convento do Carme (18th century) with an imposing facade. Unfortunately, we had not read the map given to us at the tourist office and missed the opportunity to walk to the Monte Santiaguino where according to legend St James first preached the gospel message. It is a symbolic spot for pilgrims and his work in the Iberian Peninsula.
Shortly after 5pm we continued with the camino for another 1.7km to reach our hotel, Hotel Scala. I stopped at a medieval Church of Santa Maria de Adina. I was surprised to see open sarcophagi line the wall of the church. The famous poet Rosalía de Castro was buried here in 1885 before her body was exhumed and moved to the Pantheon in Santo Domingo de Bonaval in Santiago. As Kai had gone to Santiago, Aliana and I both had our own room.
Day 11 September 10 Sunday: Padron –Santiago de Compostela
We all hardly slept. First there were fireworks around midnight. Around 3-4am, there were lots of noises made by drunken in the corridor. At 6am, I was woken up by noises made possibly by a pilgrim group that set off early. Elaine did not feel well and decided to take a taxi with Aliana to Santiago.
The group of four (Igraine, Lovisa, Tsui and I) set off at 8:3am. The valley was veiled in mist and looked most beautiful in soft golden light. We made good progress and had a beer break in Glorioso Bar (I know the location from the stamp on my pilgrim passport). The walk from here to Milladoiro is lovely as we walked from hamlets to hamlets, along corn fields, vineyard and forest. We crossed rio Tinto. I got another stamp from Parada de Francos, a lovely rural restaurant. I wish I could stop to eat and enjoy the atmosphere!
It rained twice in the morning. But it did not last long. The last 10km was less interesting and a bit boring. We walked mainly on paved road and built-up area. Igraine was walking with some difficulties as she had a blister. We were all tired and slowed down.
We were excited when we finally arrived at the Cathedral around 3:30pm. We entered the cathedral and wanted to proceed to the High Altar to ascend the stairs to hug the Apostle. Pilgrims would lay their forehead on his broad shoulders and say what he or she came here to say. As the queue was very long, we decided to come back later to hug the Apostle. Instead, we proceeded down the steps to the crypt and the reliquary chapel under the altar. We saw the casket containing the relics of the saint.
We were all hungry and exhausted. Thank to Aliana and Elaine who queued for over half an hour for a table in a popular restaurant on Rúa Franco, we were able to sit down for a sumptuous late lunch. We had beer, three steaks, a grilled fish and some tapas. The steak was so tender and juicy that even Kai had some!
I did not get a pilgrim certificate last time as we did not possess a passport with stamps. Hence I would like to get one this time. We crossed the impressive Praza do Oradoiro and found a long queue (with 100 – 150 pilgrims) at the new Pilgrim Office. While Lovisa, Igraine and I queued up, others returned to the Cathedral to attend the mass for pilgrims. I had attended it on my last camino and watched with amazement and awe the swinging of the giant incense burner at the mass. This is now performed only on rare occasions. I noted seven counters were opened but the staff were not efficient. We waited for almost two hours in poor condition. There is no seat and the corridor is hot without ventilation.
We spent our last night at Hotel Pombal, a boutique hotel Rúa do Pombal. The staff are very nice and efficient. We were all so full and tired that we skipped dinner. Aliana and I love our room which was cozy and comfortable with an amazing view of the cathedral and Rúa das Hortas. Aliana loved to stay longer. But we had already booked a hotel in Lugo.
END of CAMINO