Photo credit Zack Hussain
Camino Day 2
38.65 km (24 miles) Negreira to Olveiroa
It is 9:00 AM and we have a late start, we procrastinated and indulged in a big breakfast, we head out of Negreira with grey skies and a slight drizzle, as we reach the outskirts we are greeted by Pazo de Cotón, a spectacular medieval palace, last night we didn’t get this far and we wish we had. We spend some time exploring the grounds and taking in its splendor and furthering the delay, we were oblivious of the long walk ahead.
The sun broke through finally for a few moments, our spirits are high and we enter the rugged terrain in the mountains and begin a series of steep climbs, the air is ever so moist and fresh, and the vegetation lush with amazing indigenous flora.
Few hours in and it dawns on me that I have started to reflect and been having conversations in my head, I realize the magnitude of this journey and how lucky I’m to be traversing a portion of this planet on my own two feet, introducing myself to mother earth, getting to know earth, albeit just a sliver of it.
A different continent, country, landscape, history, culture, a place I have never been, breathing air in a different environment, feasting my eyes on amazing scenery, this is my opportunity to understand and get to know my planet, our home. How lucky am I to be doing this with my best friend, lucky to explore, lucky to travel, forge bonds, create memories and live life with absolutely no regrets.
It has been raining nonstop since we left, we cover 15 km in four hours without stopping through the heavy downpour, the terrain has been daunting through the mountains and deep woods, the temperature has dropped considerably, it is cold and we finally stop in the woods at a makeshift tavern, we sit on tiny stools on dirt floor and lunch on a dry sandwich resembling something straight out of an ancient kitchen. The bread is rough unleavened, layered with ham and cheese, we had a tough time getting it down, but it was our only option. Saving grace, we found a bar of chocolate and hot coffee, it was a luxury we indulged in. As we rested, we realized we still have another 23 km to cover. We must get back on our feet, now, even though our feet are a throbbing mess. We are exhausted and the weather miserable.
5:00 PM – We have been walking now for 8 hours, I’m happy and enjoying the Camino, the mountains give way to farmlands and expansive meadows, livestock in abundance grazing freely under blue skies with sumptuous grazing. We have not encountered a lot of fellow walkers, just the two of us in solitude on long stretches of country roads with plenty of time to reflect. We come across many tiny charming villages, one thing that stood out was, they all had unique granaries that are from the medieval ages and still in use. The architecture and detailed embellishment of these granaries depicted the wealth of the household.
We come to rest our feet in such a tiny village, sitting under a cruceiro with the evening sun on our faces we believed we had just a couple more hours of walking, but were we wrong? At this stage, we cannot feel our feet, the thought of taking another step is arduous, exhaustion has set in, but we need to get up and get going right now before we start losing light.
6:30 PM – Nine and half hours of walking and we begin to ascend Mount Aro at an altitude of 1900 feet, by no stretch of imagination was this day done. The summit unfolds an incredible vista of the expansive Terra de Xallas region in Galicia. The view is incredible, but my mind is numb, I fight my senses to comprehend what I’m seeing and my body does not co-operate. We take a breather, the wind cuts through us like a knife, the agony of our bodies dulls the beautiful visage, we continue and start descending the mountain hoping our pit stop is down below.
7:30 PM – Ten and half hours since we started this morning, no village, not a soul in sight, we have not encountered another human now for hours, the feet are moving on their own, we are beyond exhausted, I curl my toes inside my shoes to relieve the pressure, Valerio is lagging, I slow my pace for him to catch up, he doesn’t look happy. He discloses that he has a torn meniscus from a previous injury and now he is paying for his folly, his knee is not cooperating.
We cannot stop, we need to keep moving, if we rest our muscles will lock down, we need to maintain movement and keep our muscles warm, yet Valerio stops by the road side, discards his backpack and removes his shoes and collapses on a stone wall. I see the grim resignation on his face, he is in pain, I’m in pain, but we cannot speak of it. I reluctantly follow suit and put down my backpack. We are disheartened, we have no idea how much further we must go and we are in the middle of nowhere.
After the very brief rest, we get back on our feet and start walking again, our GPS cannot tell us how far the destination is, it displays the distance we have covered and the speed of our pace, as the day turned into late evening, our pace had slowed considerably and we are struggling. We see endless stretches of road ahead, solitude, private thoughts and the sound of our own footsteps.
8:30 PM and it is still light outside, eleven and half hours of walking has taken a serious toll on us physically. I have never experienced pain like this, I’m learning new things about my feet, my mind, my resolve, my fortitude and myself. Finally, through it all we come across a sign announcing the village and our final pitstop but it is still 3.5 km away. We f ind billboards for hotels and albergues along the way and we place a call to reserve the hotel.
9:30 PM ushers in the village of Olveiroa and our hotel. It took us twelve and half hours to cover 38.65 km, completely famished and beyond exhausted we make a beeline to the restaurant and after a hearty meal we take stock of our wellbeing. Valerio thinks he can’t continue the next day, we sleep, we just need to sleep and tomorrow is another day. Is our Camino over?
Camino Day 3
36.02 km (22.4 miles) Olveiroa to Finisterre
8:00AM finds us fresh and completely rejuvenated, it is amazing what 8 hours of sound sleep and a good meal can do. Last night we thought today would be impossible, but our bodies have recovered and we have new energy, new resolve and determination to make it. We slightly alter our plan, given the toll our bodies took yesterday; we eliminate an entire day and 32.5 km to Muxía and instead decided to go straight to Fisterra.
Our strategy this morning is to cover as much ground as possible, while we were fresh and have energy reserves, no stops, no rest, just walk.
With the final destination mapped out, we begin in earnest, the day is beautiful with sunshine and blue skies. Leaving Olveiroa we f ind ourselves back in mountainous terrain over ridges, ravines and valleys, the terrain is extremely difficult with no straight paths, we hobble through boulders and rocks and the ankles start taking a beating immediately.
We cover 16 km in three and half hours and finally see a faint glimpse of the Atlantic over the horizon, we are amazed how our body is responding, psychologically we are in a different place, just 12 hours ago we thought we could not make it. Our feet are still miserable, intense pain rakes through our entire body, but our mind is amazingly strong.
We cover a total of 20 km before lunch as we reach the coastal town of Corcubión. We f ind a tavern as soon as we enter town, we take this opportunity to rest our feet. Over the next hour we devour multiple bowls of lentil soup, bocadillo sandwiches, Santiago cake and copious amounts of coffee. Over lunch we meet many fellow travelers, we exchange travel stories and make new friends.
We set out after lunch knowing we have another 15 km to walk to our destination and if we maintain a steady pace that would be another 4 hours of walking, if yesterday was any indication, we were looking to avoid that scenario. However, nothing goes as planned, as we got into the heart of Corcubión, we found the town to be very endearing and beautiful, great architecture and the beautiful sunny coast kept us engaged, we whiled away a good portion of the afternoon enjoying the town.
Leaving Corcubión we thought we would be walking the rest of the Camino along the coast, our hopes were dashed as the route took us back up into the mountains, the climb was extremely steep and I was starting to hate anything uphill. Climbing at this stage had become the bane of my existence, every ounce in the backpack was starting to come into play, every muscle ached and screamed, but every step took us closer to our destination. To forget the pain, Valerio taught me a few Italian songs and we sang in unison as we walked, my favorite was “mi fa volare” which literally translates to “it makes me fly” and we were flying towards our destination.
Many twist and turns later we dramatically approach an opening in the woods, and laid before our eyes was the brilliant Atlantic, we begin our decent to the coast and realize our spirit are soaring, we can see in the far distant the cape of Finisterre. The coast line is spectacular, jagged cliffs with brilliant white sand beach below hastens our pace, we forget our pains, we are amazed at our new-found energy and clarity of mind as our destination reveals itself.
We have now walked 30 kms, almost the equivalent distance of what we did yesterday, however our mindset is completely the opposite. It was a teachable moment for us, we realized yet again how important our outlook and positive attitude is. We project our own internal conflicts to the outside world and believe that is how the world is, while mostly it is us, the situation we see is never what it seems.
7:40 PM and almost twelve hours after we left Olveiroa we arrive at the spectacular crescent shaped Langosteira beach with its brilliant white sand and azure waters and decide to abandon the traditional trail and cover the next 6 km walking on the beach to the mythical city center of Finisterre. As soon as our feet touched the sand, it was euphoric, a wave of emotion washed over us, the accomplishment of what we have just achieved was invaluable, especially for a couple of novices who have never attempted such an endeavor.
A sudden storm hits us as we walked along the beach, it was symbolic, washing away our pains, worries, stress and cleansing us of all our earthly burdens, we walk together, brothers in arms, reflecting on what we are capable of and how much there is to live for and to do. We felt lucky and alive. We made it.
Finisterre derives from the Latin name Finis Terrae, which literally means “End of the Land.” Finisterre is a rocky peninsula, and it is the end of the “Camino.” As a seaside town, the gastronomy here is incredible with amazing fresh fish, seafood, and Galician delicacies. Walking along its streets we could clearly feel the spirit of a fishing town and its ancient past.
The following day we covered an additional 10 km to the Cape Finisterre Lighthouse (Faro de Cabo Finisterre) situated on Monte Facho. The 0 Km marker ended our 90 Km journey which started as an adventure, but somewhere along the way became spiritual. We had no religious or spiritual reason to do this Camino, but the experience changed us, we were not the same as when we started.
Valerio and I found our own separates spots along the edge of a cliff. As the sun began to set on the coast of death, it reminded me of how small our place is in this world and yet how big of an impact we can make. We will be long gone as have people from our ancient past, yet the planet remains and will continue to do for all the other generations to come, the question was, how will we leave this place for the other generations who will follow in our footsteps.
My Camino has ended here, however the journey has just begun!
Find yours, Boun Camino!
Article by Zack Hussain
Avid Traveler, published Photographer and Commercial Real Estate Broker specializing in Retail with CBRE, Las Vegas