We were slowly running out of days and there was still one third of the way to go, so we decided to travel the 32-kilometre stage by bus and then continue on foot from Tábara to Santa Marta de Tera. We weren’t in a hurry in the morning, we took the bus at 1.30 p.m., and then started our hike around 2 p.m. It was already very hot, so we were draining our water supply quite fast.
After three hours, we reached the first village where we ordered some cold Coca Cola and then continued our journey, following the road to Santa Marta de Tera. It was late when we arrived. The albergue looked completely new; three people already settled in; as usual, we prepared everything for the next day and fell asleep at 10 p.m. The following day, on the way to Mombuey, we came across a small albergue that was run by a family from South Africa. The father, mother and two daughters lived a missionary life; years before, the father had walked El Camino and wanted to buy a property in Spain. The family had no money but, due to a fortunate turn of events, they were able to buy a dilapidated house and completely renovated it in two years. You can spend a night at their albergue or simply buy a drink by making a voluntary contribution. This is truly an incredible story about hard work and determination. It took us eight hours to walk 38km and we arrived at a neat albergue at 4 p.m. We had dinner at the albergue and then followed our daily routine. Our next destination was Puebla de Sanabria where we were supposed to meet Dennis and Mark, two pilgrims with whom we’d already walked part of the way. Puebla de Sanabria is a tourist attraction – a charming walled town nestled on top of a hill with an even more charming view of the surroundings hills and valleys. We had dinner together that was prepared for us by an Italian woman named Lucia who later joined us twice.
It was raining lightly when we left the next day. Due to cold, Mitja and I put on raincoats, but after about four hours we suddenly ran into a snow blizzard. Welcome to Galicia, the final region of the pilgrimage! Laughing was the only reaction that came out of us. The albergue was full that night, the room smelled of old socks, and it was stifling and cramped inside. But we weren’t particularly bothered because we topped off dinner with aguardiente, the Spanish version of schnapps. The hangover from the drink was fierce throughout the whole next day when (just my kind of luck) we were in for a steep climb that served as an official gateway to Galicia. Our destination was A Gudiña that was, compared to the previous places, a large city, and the accommodation was also arranged (our beds were next to each other, which was rarely the case). In Galicia, pilgrimage has great significance; albergues are neat and cheaper than in the rest of Spain, and you get single-use bed linen, plus they usually include a kitchen, clean and tidy toilets, and a laundry room.
The next day, the path we were following led us up into the hills. Villages and stops were more frequent, so it took us longer to reach our final destination for the day, Laza, which was the spitting image of the Logar Valley in our home country, Slovenia. We had to check with the Guardia Civil, and there were only six of us in the room in the neat albergue. Six people with the same habits when it comes to waking up, getting up, and manners – quite a pleasant surprise. Our destination that day was a town called Xunqueira de Ambía, a name which still none of us know how to pronounce. We stopped at an interesting bar, along the way, that was full of seashells that were left there by people from all over the world and had inscriptions on them. After that, we had dinner together and then set out for Ourense, a larger city, which was something we really looked forward to. The city was a very pleasant surprise. Apart from the vibrant atmosphere, gorgeous architecture and great cuisine, the city centre of Ourense and its surroundings are also known for thermal water. In the old town and near all the tourist attractions, are the Roman baths where anyone with enough free time and swimwear can soak in. We could’ve stayed longer than a day in Ourense, but our schedule was “strict”, so there was no time for a break. The next day, we followed the path to the Castro de Dozón albergue. We also stopped at the Casa Cezar, an oasis for pilgrims, where a retired lorry driver takes care of pilgrims by offering some homemade wine, biscuits, coffee, food and accommodation.
We continued together, though each one on our own, to the next town of Silleda. Every now and then, we engaged in conversation, but everyone was walking at their own pace. We crossed a wonderful, thousand-year-old bridge, and there was a lovely forest path leading to the town. Ponte Ulla was our last stop before Santiago, which was reflected in our mood. We arrived in Santiago on 7 May 2018, at around 2 p.m., and the first thing we simply had to do was make a victory pose in front of the cathedral, and then Mitja and I searched for a room that would serve as our home for the next two days. We were able to find our dream place to stay; a nice and bright room in the old town, just a few minutes from the cathedral, with a large arched window, and a small romantic balcony with a view of the lively street. We went out for some well-deserved beer in familiar company. An idea came up about during the conversation, of setting out for a pilgrimage from “Paris to Dakar”, two famous bars in Santiago, between which there are 36 other bars, and “pilgrims” should then drink one aguardiente in each. So, we walked that path as well, and then had difficulty getting up the next day, after which we waited for our Compostela, the official document that certifies your pilgrimage.
I could go on and on about El Camino, but I won’t because you really need to experience the pilgrimage first-hand, and everyone’s experience is unique and one of a kind. Even though the journey becomes difficult at times and one would rather take the easier route, the time that you spend all by yourself, and the pride that you feel after conquering the obstacles, are something that only happens once. This is a journey for all who would like to get rid of all that mental or material baggage and, even though not everyone manages to complete it, there’s always a chance to try again. We’re already thinking about our next endeavour after having walked 930km. Ultreia!