Thursday 11th May Mansilla de las Mulas

We woke as usual at 6am, and got up. Getting up was easy in such a small room. We had our breakfast of our new and much nicer muesli in the albergue, and set out. We were the first out of the albergue, at 6.45am. Most of the others were waiting for the bar to open at 7am for breakfast.

It was not raining, but there was a lot of dark low cloud and a strong cold wind. I never unzipped my vest at all. Despite the conditions, it was a nice walk; not too many other people and no discarded tissues bordering the track. After 5km the bitumen road stopped and we moved onto the old Roman road; it was quite easy to walk on. We passed a rest area, then a strange part of train line (where there had been some heavy machinery through leading to thick mud), past a river, along a weird part where the Roman road part was fenced off – we had to step over the fence to walk on it, as it was better to walk on than the gravel road adjacent – and then the straight ahead road to the town of Reliegos, where we turned right onto the “green” route into Mansilla. This was a mistake, in retrospect; it avoided beside-the-road walking, but was ~2km longer, and we felt it. Especially as the rain had begun and we needed to walk in our ponchos.

Then, the very sparsely marked route got near town, and we lost the way. We could see town and headed there, and stopped at the first bar we came to. It was quite close; we were shown the way in, and we got to the albergue at midday. Hooray!

The hospitalera here remembered us! Amazing. We have moved into a 6-bunk room; and very soon after, Fran and Rick arrived and are in the same room. We had soup and leftovers for lunch, then all went for a walk around town. Unlike last time, it was cold with intermittent rain.

A bit of stitching on one of my boots has come adrift and I got grumpy trying to fix it. Alison then did a better job than me, I think. Fran and Rick are taking us out to dinner as a “thank you”.

Dinner wes really nice, at a restaurant around the corner, “Curioso”, recommended by the hospitalero. Some others were there having menus del dia; we didn't – after much discussion with the waitress (while we were all very hungry) we had raciones she recommended, and decent wine; it was an excellent meal and a very good night. We went home to bed.

Friday 12th May Virgen del Camino

Today, we had decided to travel by bus, to avoid a long boring walk through Leon's suburbs; so we slept in. Till 6.20am, when everyone was awake and we all got up. Despite taking breakfast and packing up slowly, at 8.30am we were on the bus for the 20-minute trip into Leon – passing a lot of peregrinos walking in the rain beside the road. It was the right decision.

The weather was not good today. Cold – 9-12º, with a lot of rain as well. We left all our bags in a locker at the bus station and walked into town, in the drizzle. I had put on my thermal top as well as my vest before leaving Mansilla, and I needed it. It was still before 10am; many shops still shut; we had a coffee in a bar, where it was warm. Then walked to tourist info and got a map, and found out where the supermarket was. We looked at the outside of the cathedral but didn't need to spend the €6 each to see inside again; so we went to the museum for a couple of hours. Apart from being warm and dry, it was quite interesting.

But then – coffee and a tortilla for lunch, a visit to the supermarket for food for dinner etc., and pick up our bags. We went to the bus stop and caught the local bus out of Leon, through solid suburbia, to Virgin del Camino – a town which is really an outer suburb of Leon. The bus dropped us very close to the albergue, which we had to run to when rain started falling again.

It is a warm comfortable place, with two dormitories. For reasons we don't know the hospitalera took us past the not quite full first one and gave us first choice of the second. So we have bunks down the far end with a heater and window control. Today, I'm having a shower but not washing any clothes; they've not been sweated in and they'd be unlikely to dry. Alison has cooked a chicken stew for heating up for dinner tonight – no fast food today – and we've been out the the supermarket here and bought ice cream and wine. So tonight should be a sort of a feast.

And it was. A very nice dinner.

Saturday 13th May Hospital de Orbigo

We were late getting up – thanks to my needing to use ear plugs because of snorers, and thus not being able to hear the alarm. So it was 6.40 am when I realised it was time to get up, when it was getting light outside. Fortunately the rain had stopped sometime during the night.

Shortly after this Alison turned on the light – nearly everyone was up. An Irish bloke turned it off - “an unwritten law says no lights on till 7am, and there are some sick peregrinos here”. I thought this was rubbish, and I channelled Dad – which, of course, Alison did not like. So the day could have got off to a better start.

But we ate some muesli and set off at 7.45 am, in dry weather, on the “scenic” route to Hospital de Orbigo. The first part was quite scenic, up to the halfway point of Villar de Mazarife, at 14km; we went to the bar here but it was closed, so had to backtrack to an albergue at the beginning of town which was the only place there one could get a coffee.

The road on from here was sections of long, straight, flat roads; but at least it didn't rain. We had another coffee in a bar which was open in Villavante, then did 4km more to Hospital de Orbigo. Our feet were feeling it. We got to the albergue – Karl Leisner, where we stayed last town – at 2pm, just before it started to rain. We got here in the nick of time.

We were hungry. But it is Saturday afternoon, so all the shops are closed; so we cooked some pasta with pesto and the last of our broccoli in the little kitchen here. It has continued to rain on and off all afternoon, and it is cold. I have my thermal top on but I'm going to put on my puffer jacket as well.

I put on my puffer jacket, and we went for a walk; there was intermittent rain, it was freezing cold, and we wondered why we are doing this. The weather is helping us feel this way, as is the lack of people we can get on with in this albergue – which is the luck of the draw.

We cooked in the crowded kitchen, and the sun came out – a bit. And it got warmer – a bit.

But the fact remains that so far, on this camino, we've spent less than we did six years ago, so far – despite our stated intention to go more upmarket more. So we will have to try!

Sunday 14th May Santa Catalina

Everyone in the room woke at 6am today, thanks to my using the phone as an alarm clock and being unable to turn the thing off! In the end I managed to turn the phone off completely and it stopped; but I didn't feel good about it.

We are some breakfast in the kitchen, packed, and left – though not till 7.10am, because packing is more difficult in a crowded bunkroom. We headed for Astorga, the end of a section. In contrast to yesterday's being unable to find an open bar, we found two in the first two villages – and open before 8am on a Sunday! I don't understand it. We stopped at the the second one (Santibanez) which was at a new albergue. It was really nice; we regretted not having stayed there. But.... how do you know?

Then we started going uphill for a change. And for 200m went along a narrow footpad; how nice, after days of walking on roads; quiet roads, but roads. But soon we were back on a road, doing a bit of uphill and downhill before walking up into Astorga at 11am.

Alison remembered the synagogue park; so we went there and ate some bread and cheese for early lunch. While we were there, who should walk up but Fran, who'd arrived from Leon on the bus! She and Rick (who's walking from Hospital de Orbigo) are staying in the Gaudi Hotel.

We went to tourist info, and put into action the going upmarket plan. We got the lady there to book us a double room in Santa Catalina, a further 10km on. So we are in luxury tonight.

Fran minded our bags while we went and did a little sweet shopping; Astorga, especially on a Sunday, is quite a tourist town. Then she had to go off to the Roman Museum; we went into the Gaudi House – the former Bishops' Residence. It was nearly as impressive from the inside as from the outside, which is saying something. (Last time we were here on a Monday, when all these attractions are closed).

At 2pm we continued on out of Astorga; as usual, along roads as one leaves a big city. 5 km got us to the little village of Murias de Rechivaldo, where we stopped for a coffee; it seemed a nice little town. Then on further to Santa Catalina, where we found our double room (for €40) comes with a little balcony, en suite, and towels! Luxury! We got carried away and washed all our clothes we'd been wearing in the little bath. (Later, we found there seems to be no clothes line to use here – but we're getting by.)

It hasn't rained today, is not as freezing cold, and we have a touch of luxury. And we're eating out here tonight – there is no kitchen, and the only food we have left is some broccoli.

Monday 15th May Foncebadon

A good sleep; no alarm; we woke at 6.15am, packed up in our private room, went down for a Colocao and croissant in the bar, and then walked out. It was 3½ km along to El Ganso, the next village, on a level track beside the road. The first bar there was shut, but there was a nice little store near the end of town which made us one.

Then in was an to Rabanal, 7km away. The last half of this was on a rough track off the road – a very nice change. Rabanal looked very touristy, moreso than I remembered from six years ago; there were lots and lots of albergues. I had no wish at all to stay there. We peeked into a church which had the usual enormous gilded bits beyond the altar.

We got here at 10am, bought some food in the little store there, and had a break and some chocolate at the fountain at the top end of town. Then it was on the off-road track up to Foncebadon; it was steeper than we have been used to, but really nothing too bad, and the views were good – including across to a mountain which still has a lot of snow on it.

Foncebadon, a little village with a lot of fallen-down houses, was one of our favourite spots from last time. We came around a corner and it came into view, and we nearly did no recognise it! It has been done up enormously, has more albergues, more restaurants...

We went looking for the hotel / albergue we stayed in last time – with the Lube motorcycle in the restaurant – and we couldn't find it! We both had second thoughts about staying here; it was only midday, and we could walk on; but the location of the town is very nice. So, we looked for a double room. In looking, we found the old hotel; and we also found an albergue with a double room; it has a double bunk, but we have it to ourselves. Quite comfortable.

We hung out our not quite dry washing, had a shower, washed more stuff – and were starving! We ate our lunch at a rustic table across the road; bread, cheese, chorizo, chocolate.

Then I made the mistake of lying down; it was nice and cuddly, but hard to get up. In the end I started to get too cold. We went for a walk up to the frog pond above town; there was a lots of frog noise, and it was very pleasant. Lying there in the grass I saw a few other peregrinos looking at the area – but most just stay in town, often drinking; not seeing much of where they are.

We read outside the albergue for a while, seeing some peregrinos walking up after 4pm to find that all the albergues are completo. It has certainly become a popular spot, which it used not to be. One of the many changes in the camino.

Dinner time approached. Neither of us felt like menu peregrino, so we each had a plato combinado before the “communal dinner” at 7pm. Then a little walk after the evening rain had stopped before going to bed together in our strange but very comfortable top double bunk.

Tuesday 16th May Pontoferrada

Today was a mix of lovely walking and tough walking.

We woke at 6am, as usual; despite not being in a hurry, and eating our muesli from a cup in our room, we were out walking just before 7am. It was lovely walking; off road, high up in the mountains, views... We first came to and passed the Iron Cross with some peregrinos resting there, then down to the tiny village of Manjarin with its primitive albergue; then up again to the high point on the camino, and then down the other side. At 10am we got to the village of Acebo, where we stopped for coffee. Then on again; 11am through the next village of Riego de Ambros, and down to Molinaseca where we arrived at midday. This bit of the camino was excellent; walking on narrow tracks with great views and a lot of wildflowers out. Really nice. (And we had the place to ourselves; there were not other peregrinos!)

Molinaseca is a nice village, with an old bridge across the river – which they dam in summertime to make a swimming pool. We bought some food for lunch and ate it down by the river, then had a cafe con hielo. It had become a lovely hot cloudless day.

Which was a pity, because we were going to walk on 7km to Ponferrada. And we did. And our water bottles weren't full, and we didn't pass a fountain. It was hot beside the road walking, then hot off the road walking; Ponferrada seemed a long way away.

We stopped in the shade of a building to drink our last water, then continued. Spanish houses do not have garden taps. Then we came across a lady going into her house; I asked for water. She refilled both our bottles and gave us another one besides.

This made the rest of the walk tolerable; at last we got to Ponferrada and walked up the hill. The signage was poor; we had to refer to our book to find out how to get to the albergue, but in the end get there we did and joined the queue waiting to be admitted. This was a slow process, with the bunk allotment seeming incredibly complicated – or it may have been the people doing the allotment. We were let in and taken to go downstairs. “No! we cried; this is what happened last time.” So they've given us bunks in a 4-bunk upstairs room instead of the 56-bunk downstairs room. Whew!

After the washing we set off into Ponferrada. Looking for tourist info; it was very difficult to find. They don't seem to like having signs here. But find it we did, and we found out how to take the bus out of town tomorrow. After the walk in today, we have no wish to do anything like it tomorrow. And we went to a supermarket and bought food for dinner, and walked quickly home as it started to rain lightly. We were both tired and worn out.

We ate in the well equipped but very crowded kitchen, talking to Jessica and Katie from Michigan and a girl from Mt. Dandenong, whom we've leapfrogged with a bit. It is much better to cook one's own food. We both remain very thirsty even after drinking quite a bit more water and tea.

We are also not communicating well with each other. Tiredness? Uncertainty about what to do?

There was big group of ?Italians having a big dinner in the kitchen; it was a very noisy evening, which went on till nearly 11pm when the hospitaleros (I presume) shut it down.

Wednesday 17th May Pereje

We got up at 6am, as usual. It was raining. We were in no hurry, because we had till 7.30am to leave, to catch our bus out of Ponferrada's suburbs to Cacabelos. So we had breakfast – and then I found my boots had disappeared from outside our room! So had one of Alison's insoles. We looked all through the albergue but there was no sign of them. The boots were not new; or expensive – but it leaves a bad taste in your mouth when someone steals a peregrino's boots.

So I set off in crocs, which I'd proven I could walk in in Sweden, on the Kungsleden.

We had had no good impressions of Ponferrada to start off with, and this didn't help. We walked up to the bus station and got on a bus out of town.

The bus was going to Villafranca de Bierzo; there was a 3-person Korean family on it who had also been in the albergue last night. We got off at the outer suburb of Cacabelos, and had a pleasant 7km walk through orchards and vineyards to Villafranca. In intermittent rain, but a pleasant walk nonetheless. We got to Villafranca and found the Korean family lined up outside the municipal albergue! I know what they are doing is legal, but I think it is morally wrong for them to stay in municipal albergues – they should go to private ones if they are not walking. But – it's a sign of the times on the camino.

It was not quite midday. We had intended to stay in Villafranca, which we remembered as a very nice little town; but – it had changed. Far more people, more cafes, more peregrinos; lots more peregrino cyclists (as it is 200km from Santiago?). We had a coffee in the Plaza Mayor, next to a fat American woman and her two fat children, eating nachos. The “Camino comodo” (“comfortable camino”) van went by. There were advertisements for “Camino facil”, as well.

We had no wish to stay here. We walked on 6km to the little town of Pereje and are staying in the albergue here; it is very nice, with beds instead of bunks. There has been a bit of rain on and off all afternoon but our washing is hung out under cover. And Alison discovered a kitchen upstairs here in the albergue so we were able to make a coffee.

I fear that all the “stage end” towns we come to from here on will be changed enormously as well. We are thinking we may skip Santiago completely and go down to Ourense from some point on the camino in the next few days.

We went up to the bar to use the wifi, and had a Colacao. It was very productive; we've booked accommodation in Porto, and in Madrid the night we arrive there. The time between now and Porto remains a bit grey. Then it was dinnertime and we had a menu del dia with Helmut, a German whom we met on the way here. His German guidebook says that here is a good place to stay, and it is absolutely right! The food we had was excellent – a contrast to a lot of the food we've had when eating out in Spain. And we were able to follow it up by going up to the kitchen in the albergue (which no-one else seems to use) for a cup of tea. And warmth! It is lovely and warm up here in the roof, and our remaining washing is hung out here.

Thursday 18th May Hospital de la Condesa

We were relaxed about getting up this morning – we did when everyone else was doing it, and went and ate breakfast up in the kitchen in the attic – where it was warm, and all the washing had dried. So it was 7.45 when we set off walking up the valley, towards the climb up to O Cebreiro. There were lots of little villages along the way; we stopped at Trabadeljo for our first coffee, bought some very nice artesanal bread in Vega de Valcarce, ate it all at a picnic area in Ruitelan, and then had second coffee in Las Herrerias.. The walk was beside the road most of the way, but it was very pleasant.

Then it was the uphill stretch to o Cebreiro, which a lot of people worry about. It was uphill, but really not a great problem; we got to La Faba with me dripping sweat (of course) and stopped for some water. It was, by now, ~12.30pm and too early to stop. So on. I was thinking how fortunate we were to have dry weather to do this in when we turned a corner before getting to Laguna de Castille and walked into rain. Ponchos on.

I'd thought about stopping in Laguna de Castille but it was still a bit early, and it didn't look so attractive (in the rain) so we kept on. The other peregrinos took the walking track, but we opted for the road – less mud – and eventually got to O Cebreiro – a stage end but really a tourist town only. I kept on going. (I should have stopped – but I didn't).

The track to the next village, Linares, in 2km, was new, wide, and had a lot more up and down than I would have liked. I'd hoped Linares would be a place to stay but there was almost nothing there; we stopped at the fountain for a drink and some chocolate, but not for long – the rain resumed again. We were both feeling a bit weary. So on to see what lies ahead. 3 km on a quite nice track got us to Hospital de la Condesa, where there was an albergue at the beginning of town. That was something! We walked further on to the bar, enquired about rooms, and have a very comfortable double room with balcony, and sheets, and towels. And the girl in the bar was very warm and welcoming. Today I was very glad to find somewhere good to stay.

After a drink in the bar we had a shower – a very good one – and tidied up. We've had a walk around this tiny town, up the bell tower in the church, down to the albergue – which is full. We are in Galicia now, so it has a pristine kitchen with no utensils.

My feet have done alright today; nearly 30km in my crocs; though the airline socks I was wearing in the developed a big hole so they are gone now.

We had a good dinner at a table with a Swiss couple, Stavros and Regina. They were good company. And then we went to bed – though Alison was full after dinner, and I was sleepier. And after this cold wet hard day we were not as connected as we usually are.

Friday 19th May A Balsa

I didn't sleep as well as I should have. And we were in no hurry to get up out of our warm bed, especially as it was raining outside and it remained very cold. But after we'd breakfasted on muesli in our room, and packed up, and bid farewell to the nice lady behind the bar – it was only 8.30am.

The rain had stopped. But it was very, very cold. We left the horde of peregrinos in the warm bar and set out. It was only ~4 km to the Alto de Poio, a short steep climb; at the top we were surprised by a bar, with a fire burning, and not surprisingly doing a roaring trade. We were going to join them, but the staff were too overworked; so we went back onto the cold path again. But only for another 2 km, to Fonfria, where there was a nice bar at a very nice albergue, and where we found Stavros and Regina, again.

From here we continued down into Triacastela, passing 2 bars and seeing our first Galician granary and corriedor. We had thought about staying here, but it was still only 12.30pm. Triacastela had lots and lots of albergues and hostels, and, it appeared, very little else. It is not a big town. We had a coffee, went to a little supermarket, and continued on the 2 km to A Balsa.

Here, there is one albergue – and a walk of 12 km to the next accommodation. We arrived at 1.30pm; they were full – due to reservations. But we have been put up in a sort of overflow section, which is fine. It is an ecological / vegetarian albergue, and moderately expensive; but a reasonable place to stay and a further three hours of walking was not so attractive – even though it is not raining now. But it is still very cold except for the odd occasion when the sun peeks through and it feels really warm.

There is also no wifi here, which is unusual but I think very good. We see so many people glued to their phones walking the camino now. And a nice quiet afternoon is a good idea.

And will we walk to Santiago? Our obsessive-compulsive natures may end up taking us there. And today's walking was very nice.

We had a very good dinner in the albergue, vegetarian, with a lot of conversation. Moreso than usual. Was this because of the no wifi here, so people are not looking at their phones?

Saturday 20th May Barbadelo

As usual, we woke at 6am; and with no yoghurt of mild to have our muesli with, we left without breakfast, at 6.50am, and ate an apple on the way. It was not nearly as cold as it has been and the sky was clear with no threat of rain – such a nice change!

We expected no cafe too soon, and that's how it was – it was two hours or more later when we found a little one at Furela. A stop there, and then it was on into Sarria, where we arrived ~11am.

I remembered lots of steps up into Sarria, and that's what there were. There were also masses of albergues. We passed two small supermarkets on the way in, but thought we'd wait for one on the way out. Mistake! There weren't any. We also passed no banks, a pity as we'd intended to get more money out. All we passed was a market where we bought some fruit, and the usual churches and monuments. We did stop for a coffee and saw various people we recognised go by, along with many we didn't.

We'd planned to go beyond Sarria, to Barbadelo. So we kept going for another 5 km. Barbadelo was a bit confusing – there is a sort of town centre, but then the church and three albergues (including the municipal, where we are) are spread out along the next kilometre. We had to get the book out to work out where things were, and found some people waiting at the municipal to open at 1pm – in 10 minutes. So we stayed and talked.

We had enough food left to scape up lunch; did our washing, including shorts; and then enjoyed the sunny warm afternoon out in the grass around the albergue. Its setting is lovely, isolated on a green hill. I was talking to some of the other (German) peregrinos, and found that one lives very near Buckenhof, and another has been taught by Klaudia Kramer from there! It is a small world.

We walked out to find where to have dinner – first up the hill to Casa de Carmen, then down to Casa Barbadelo. We stayed in Casa Barbadelo, using the wifi there to find that our intended bus from Portomarin to Melide is impractical; with the bus routes as they are, it makes much more sense to go on to at least Palas de Rei. So tomorrow's plan is a bit different.

We stayed there for dinner, starting before 6pm so we're not too full at bedtime; and sharing one menu del dia and one single dish. The food was very good. There were a lot of other people we knew eating there – including Deb from Maribyrnong, whom we'd met last night, and whose voice carries far too well when she talks of the camino, which she has walked four times in the last five years and has a lot to say about.

We came home in the warm evening and read more in the last of the sunshine on the grass.

The albergue is full but we moved into the smaller of the two rooms when it was opened.

Sunday 21st May Castromaior

Some Italian ladies started getting up at 5am; we got up at 6am, and left at 6.40am. The Italian ladies were still fluffing around the albergue.

So we were going just before dawn. The first bar was, of course, closed still; so it was after 2 hours that we came into Morgade and were able to have a coffee. The walking was very pleasant.

Then a further two hours brought us down into Portomarin, and across the bridge. There was much more water than last time and the Roman bridge was under water and not visible. We walked up the other side, to two supermarkets, and then a bank; we saw the bar where we had the terrible lunch last time, and had a coffee at a much nicer cafe out of the square. Portomarin seemed much nicer than last time.

We walked out, taking a route across a bridge which was technically closed. Then it was a pleasant uphill walk through bush; the sun was quite strong, but there was shade. We stopped at the top, and had lunch in the grass in the shade talking to a German man who remembered us from Molinaseca.

Then it was on, to the boring roadside walking to Gonzar. Fortunately we had him to talk with, and an English girl we've met a few times, and it made the walk much better. It was quite hot and sunny.

We got to Gonzar; they both booked into the municipal albergue. We had seen signs to a new albergue, not in any of our books, in Castromaior, 1 km further on. We thought we'd see what it was like. And here we got at ~2.30pm, and have stayed. It is much less crowded – there are, at present, only three other people here – and it is on its own, in the country. It also has good secure wifi, so I was able to book the bus from Santiago to Porto.

One of the others here had booked into the municipal albergue in Gonzar, but then decided it was too basic for him and came on here. So I am glad we've gone private tonight.

We are eating our own food – mostly salad – tonight. We had a walk around the tiny village and bought some chips and a tomato to improve our dinner. Which was really nice, and accompanied by a bottle of wine. A lovely warm evening out in the country, and only five people in the albergue!

Monday 22nd May Melide

I thought today would be a bit of a slog, and it was. After eating some muesli in the albergue – a better start than without anything – we were on our way at 6.45am. Only the other Simon (NZ / Israel / Italy / Germany) was left in the albergue.

The walking was quite nice. A lovely sunrise, clear sky; we walked with Jan, the German from yesterday, after our second breakfast at Ventas de Naron; then the other Simon caught up to us, and we all walked on together for a while with interesting talk – touching, of course, on Israel / Germany / the war etc. Simon then went on ahead and we left Jan when we stopped for a coffee again at Meson Brea, a little before arriving at the “stage end” town of Palas de Rei.

We got there at 11am. It is not a big town; we sought out a supermarket on the way in and found a Dia, with a good special on boxes of four ice creams – cornetto style (€0.59 per box!) So we had them for morning tea in the plaza there.

Then on. Another 15km to Melide – we walked more than 30km today, more than we like, but there was no good alternative. The track was mostly on off-road shaded track through bush – good, as it was very sunny. We stopped for lunch beside the track just after Casa Domingo, then on again. The track was still nice – we started going through gum trees as well, which was good – but we were getting footsore and weary. This worsened as we got near Melide, where the track became less shady as it passed through the industrial outskirts, and went on and on.

Eventually, after 3 pm, we got into the centre of Melide. As usual, the profusion of ads for albergues. Where to go? .We headed for the municipal, on the way out of town – meeting Kate from Mt. Dandenong again. She went to the municipal, where we found there was plenty of room. (Many people have told us that, after Sarria, you need to reserve a place at an albergue or you will miss out – but we don't believe that this is true.) We went a few metres up the street and found a pousada with a double room. On the 3rd floor, under the roof – but with an opening skylight. So we are here, with towels to use.

But, we were a bit worn out. After getting clean we went out; Alison had lost a bit of a hearing aid, and we found an optician who used an otoscope to make sure it wasn't in her ear, and got us some replacements. And to two supermarkets – a Dia for more ice creams, and Frioz for food for dinner. Salady stuff is very good for dinner when there is no kitchen.

We ate on the terrace downstairs, in the sun, and now it's late. But tomorrow should be a lot less walking.

Tuesday 23rd May Ribadiso

We slept in, not surprisingly; it was nice. And packing up was easy. We were on our way at 8.30am, among a lot of other peregrinos. More than 95% were wearing either day packs or no packs at all! That is how it is on this end part of the camino.

It took us ~ 2½ hours to get to Ribadiso. We stopped on the way at Boente for a coffee – it was overpriced, so I was happy to hand over my foreign coin which looked mostly like a €2 piece. I don't know who gave it to me.

We had a couple of hours to wait for the albergue to open. It was a lovely hot sunny day; there were a couple of people who worked for a camino tour company. An “ethical” one – they take their clients off the camino at night so they don't use up space in the albergues or hotels on the route. Still.... But they were pleasant to chat to, and Lorenzo told us of the little 4-bunk room in the albergue we were waiting at. Good info!

After a while we walked back to the bar up the hill to see if they'd sell us some bread – the only food we needed more of. The grumpy lady there said “no.” So back down the hill. But a little later a van came over the bridge saying “panaderia”, so I flagged it down (I know this is acceptable now) and they sold us some bread. Nice bread, too.

Finally 1pm came around and we were allowed in. We asked for the little room, and got it! So we have a Swedish lady and Polish girl in with us, instead of being out in the big dormitory.

We put a big load of washing on. I walked around in my lungi till some of it was dry; the day so warm and sunny drying was not a problem. We lunched; I went for a swim in the river, briefly. It was a bit cold.

We both think that this is the end of the camino for us. Walking into Santigo with the hordes of other people, through mostly built-up areas, holds little appeal. So we plan to walk 2km to Arzua tomorrow, have a nice breakfast there, then catch a bus to Santiago and then a train to Ourense. This afternoon we went over to the bar near here (there are new albergues and bars in Ribadiso since we were last here, though the municipal one here is thankfully unchanged) and booked a hotel for the next two nights in Ourense. So we'd better get there! (Then we'll return to Santiago for a couple of nights before our bus to Porto.)

We ate a similar dinner, similarly delicious, here. The albergue is completo but there is no-one here that we recognise from the track. This is how it is now on this section of the camino.