A few thoughts now about the Via de la Plata. This was our first time walking this route and we were pleasantly surprised at what we encountered. It is a beautiful camino. There are many flat sections that are sort of Meseta like, and those might not be everyone's cup of tea, but we enjoyed them. The trail marking and surface condition was surprisingly good. There are several arroyos scattered along the route that have to be crossed and depending on the weather (rain) keeping your feet dry might be challenging. Fortunately, we had no problems as the weather was quite dry. We elected to taxi to Guillena and start walking from there. We are not fans of long urban exits or arrivals, and the arroyo issue admittedly also played a role in our decision to skip the first stage. As it turned out, even though the weather had been quite dry, the two arroyos that had to be crossed in the first stage were quite full and required deviations (this from another pilgrim who walked from Seville).
Regarding accommodations we stayed mainly in private lodging (hotels, pensions, casa rurals). We stayed in some albergues when that was all that was available, and some were quite nice. Our only bottom line requirement was heat. If there was no heat available we moved on. It was quiet in November, but we were not totally alone. We fell in early on with a small group that eventually scattered and then we carried on mostly alone after that. We met one fellow outside of Ourense who had walked from Valencia, and he said we were the first pilgrims he had met.
Robin's foot problem forced us to skip the walk from Puebla de Sanabria to Ourense (about a week). We then, after a couple of day's rest, tried pushing on from Ourense but that only worked for part of that section. Eventually, Robin walked from Silleda to Ponte Ulla, and that ended any hopes of walking further. Even though we were just a day's walk from Santiago, it was not going to happen. So we offered thanks for what we had been able to accomplish, and then took a taxi into Santiago.
Our initial plan was to arrive in Santiago about five days before Christmas. As it turned out we were there for two weeks. Now remember Robin was still very much limited to what she could do. Sitting around a hotel room icing her foot was not her idea of a grand vacation. We both had to reach an accommodation with the situation, and we did. The days passed slowly with resting, icing and sipping a bit of wine. Eventually Robin felt she could walk a bit so we would set out for short excursions around the town. This helped a lot. As Christmas approached Robin began practicing with John Rafferty and Stephen Shields to get ready for the upcoming Christmas masses at San Agostin where the three of them would be providing the liturgical music over Christmas. These are two wonderful people and we are very pleased to call them friends. This lifted Robin's spirits exponentially, and mine as well.
|The fun is about to begin|
|Our (always happy) liturgical musicians|
|The Christmas Eve feast awaits|
|Home at last|
|St. Mary's Cathedral in Portland, Oregon, from where we always start out and God willing return|
|Robin back where she loves to be|
|Me trying to get healthy|