Walk for Hope 2016

The Walk for Hope is an attempt of a few supporters of Hope Behind Bars to fundraise for the next step. Hope for those behind bars start to fade quickly once they have been released. Many inmates re-offend within the first 2 years after their initial release. They end back in a system which held them captive for many years because they have been unable to survive in a world which has become foreign to them. Unable to cope without the necessary skills required for survival, they relapse and end up where they started – behind bars.

This walk aim to take a step toward “hope beyond bars”. This hope will come in the form of a place called Hope Farm which will serve as a half way house for released inmates on parole in the north-eastern part of Thailand. It is a dream which can be realised by those who support the belief of second chances. It will only come about by the combined efforts of many who rally behind us.

We have chosen a well trodden path, the Camino de Santiago as our route. We are welcoming you to join us on our journey here and on FaceBook.

Our self-guided walk which will cover almost 800km, will commence August 31st 2016 and last for 40 days. The journey will be both a physical and spiritual journey and we welcome your support as we share with you our daily observations and experiences.

The information below is but a snapshot of what we hope to see and experience. Many have walked this route before us.

We hope to walk on behalf of those who can’t , those who depend on others to extend hope to them. Join us on this journey in all its stages from preparation to execution to reflection. Our hope is build on the solid rock of Jesus Christ, our righteousness.

Here is what Ellen Broerse, founder of Hope Behind Bars has to say:

Charles R. Ringma

Earthbound and self-preoccupied, a deep work needs to occur within us if we are to be oriented to the things of God. In this we need the power of God’s love and spiritual practices that continue to reorient us.

The team from Brisbane

This is the team from Brisbane and below is what we aim to walk and see daily. You can follow our route and look for feedback on FB on our personal pages, GoFundMe page and also on the Hope Behind Bars FB page.

Thanks for joining and supporting us.

Lani and Madeleine

The Walk for Hope

The History of the Camino de Santiago

People have walked the Camino de Santiago for over 1000 years and this time honoured tradition is how most people experience their Camino. The concept of the Pilgrimage on foot was largely a necessity for poorer Pilgrims in medieval times as few could afford to go by horseback. For the modern day Pilgrim walking offers the chance to slow down from the hectic pace of modern life and revert to a gentler, more reflective rhythm.
The Camino is a UNESCO-listed trail as it has been connecting people and cultures for many centuries.
Much has been written about the Camino de Santiago. Please have a look at the links below to learn more or plan your own adventure.

Day 1

St. Jean de Pied Port – Roncesvalles (23km) Set off in the pre-dawn darkness through the old streets and under the statue of St. James , following in the footsteps of millions of others who have preceded us over the centuries. The streets are full of Pilgrims walking towards the hills, it is a magic feeling as you cross the old bridge and head out of town. Today will be our first time to follow the famous yellow arrows which mark the Camino all the way to Santiago – we’ll get practiced at looking out for them and other pilgrims! The first section today is quite steep as we follow country lanes up out of the Valley of St. Jean. Take your time and enjoy the views over the beautiful countryside. You will pass The Albergue at Orisson and start to head into open country above the tree line, where sheep and ponies are grazed. Look out for the statue of Mary and the van which sells weary pilgrims hot drinks and snacks.
The inconspicious border with Spain is in a patch of forest marked by an old stone sign saying the distance to Santiago and a small drinking fountain. Continue onwards to the highest point at the Col De Lepoeder and enjoy the extensive views over the Pyrenees. After this we start a descent through wood lands to the monastary at Roncesvalles, which we can see through the trees. Arrive at Roncesvalles and enjoy a well earned drink at the Posada before checking into your accommodation in this historic and beautiful building. Roncesvalles or ‘the valley of Thorns’ is a beautiful spot still cloaked with a medieval atmosphere. Look around the 12th century church, cloisters and museum before your dinner, sharing tales from the way with fellow pilgrims from every corner of the world, relived to have finished today’s section – the hardest of the Camino some would say!

Day 2

Roncesvalles – Akaretta (28km) Today’s walk is mostly downhill as we head down through the valleys and delightful countryside and woodland walking. You meander on country paths crossing rivers and two small hill climbs, with plenty of shade and drinking fonts en route. It is very pleasant walking and nothing like as strenuous as the day before. Towards the end of the day you’ll descend to the town of Zubiri and continue onto Larrasoana, from where it is another couple of km to our hotel. Today is a long walk but well worth it once you reach your accommodation , a beautiful converted country house that is a delight to spend time in. ( It was also featured in the movie ‘the way’) Enjoy the lounge and library, relax with a drink before your meal which is prepard from produce grown in the gardens – you’ll never taste anything fresher!

Day 3

Akaretta – Pamplona (15km) Today’s walk is a much shorter one as we leave the peace of the countryside and approach the famous city of Pamplona. There are some beautiful old bridges along today’s route and as we climb a small hill the city comes into view. The excitement builds as you walk in through the outskirts of the city, over the river and through the old city walls. Immediately you are into the narrow , cobbled streets bursting with colour and life. The Camino passes through the streets used for the running of the bulls, the San Fermin festival, ( and the infamous fountain!) and into the central plaza area. Check into our centrally located hotel and explore the many galleries, churches and sights. Alternatively head for Cafe Iruna on the main plaza where Hemingway and other celebrities hung out – it’s art deco interior has not changed over the decades.

Day 4

Rest day In Pamplona. A day to explore the sights of Pamplona and take in it’s artistic, historical and gastronomical highlights!

Day 5

Pamplona to Puente de la Reina (24km) The Camino quickly leaves the city and enters tranquil rolling countryside, passing Cizur Menor as we ascend to the hill of the Sierra del Perdón where you’ll find a monument of sculptures to Pilgrims on top. Descend down and you have the option of a side trip to the distinctive eight sided church of Eunate, linked to the knights Templar who defended the Pilgrims on the road to Santiago. We continue to Puente la Reina, famous for its perfectly balanced 11th century stone bridge – it is one of the famous photo’s of the Camino. Overnight in Puente de la Reina.

Day 6

Puente de la Reina to Estella (22km) Today’s track initially follows the River Arga. Before it begins to go uphill it is here you wave goodbye to the River Arga. The track continues through fields and past the remains of the 13th Century Monasterio de Bargota and after having walked around 5 kilometres you reach the town of Mañeru. Leaving the village the path takes you through some olive groves and vineyards and past a cemetery. After about 2.5 kilometres you pass through a gothic arch into the medieval hilltop village of Cirauquí. A little unusually the Camino passes through a building where you can stamp your own credencial.
Look out for the beautiful 12th century Iglesia de San Román with it’s impressive doorway. Leaving Cirauquí through one of the gothic arches the Camino takes a downhill track which leads to an old paved Roman road considered to be one of the best preserved examples along the Camino.After crossing a rather dilapidated Roman bridge the route meanders through rolling yet arid hills. Every now and then the Roman road disappears only to reappear again. The next town is Villatuerta where at the top of the hill you will find the gothic 12th century Iglesia de la Asuncíon, an ideal place to rest a while. Just before reaching the town of Estella you will come across the Iglesia del Espiritu Santo and the Iglesia Santo Domingo also.

Day 7

Estella to Los Arcos (21km) The day starts in Estella, a lovely small town split in two by the Ega River and surrounded by conic, wooded hills topped with castles (or their ruins) and churches attesting to its long history as a crucial center of commerce. in Estella we can find the famous Irache fountain which dispenses free red wine to Pilgrims ( courtesy of the Bodegas! ). After taking a sip and visiting Estella’s most important monuments, our walk enters a dense forest of evergreen oaks, passes through fields of red poppies, wheat, grapes and white asparagus; the latter a local specialty grown underground. We’ll continue on to Los Arcos a classical Pilgrim halt, where you can enjoy the narrow tranquil streets.

Day 8

Los Arcos to Logrono (28km) Most of today’s route is on natural paths and dirt tracks so it’s very enjoyable walking. It’s an enjoyable day’s walk with some steep sections as we cross a couple of hills en route crossing the river valleys of the Rio Linares and Valdearas. At Torres del Río we’ll pass another architectural wonder of the Camino: the 12th century, 8-sided Holy Sepulchral Church, associated with the Knights Templar. Further on we come to Viana, a well preserved historical town whose centre has changed little over the centuries.
Today our goal is Logroño, capital of the La Rioja region and home of some of Spain’s most celebrated red wines. The last short section of today’s route take us into the region of La Rioja before approaching the university city of Logrono built on the river Ebro. Logroño has one of the most distinguished culinary traditions in Spain. There are over 50 taperías (tapas restaurants) located within a 4 block area, near the town center. The traditional tapas restaurants often serve only one tapa [such as seta (mushroom), served as pincho – pintxo in Basque – meaning one serving.

Day 9

Logrono – Najera (29km) Before you leave Logroño make sure you have had a hearty breakfast and take some lunch and plenty of water with you as the next town called Navarrete is 13 kilometres away and there are very few opportunities to stock up in between. Soon after Logrono you come across the restored ruins of the Hospital de Peregrinos founded in 1185 to administer to the Peregrinos (pilgrims) undertaking the Camino and shortly arrive in the small town of Navarette. Navarette is another town where all efforts have been made to preserve the original period homes and the 16th century Church of Assumption takes a commanding position at the top square. On the main road at the other side of town there is another busy square with a number of cafes and restaurants, you may want to stop here for lunch as it is now 14km downhill all the way to Najera, your final destination for the day!
Najera is where you will spend the night and is another good mix of old and new. The town is historically important as it had been the base for many of the Navarran kings during medieval times after King Garcia Sanchez chose it as his base. The town is built on the banks of the river Najerilla and along its banks you will find the Monasterio and Iglesia de Santa María La Real – built in 1032. You will enter this town via the modern eastern quarter with the old town sandwiched between the river Najerila and the towering rock face that acts as a spectacular backdrop with its ancient Castillo.

Day 10

Nájera to Santo Domingo de la Calzada (21km) Today we walk along wonderful wide country tracks passing through remote and gently rolling farmland. The first 5km is a fairly leisurely walk which takes you into the town of Azofra. Azofra is a small village with a population that barley hits 500 and relies on the Camino for its survival. In medieval times Azofra was the site of many pilgrim hospitals and there has been a hostel here since 1168 when it was founded by Isabel la Católica. From Azofra you pass over the river Rio Tuerto and continue on a pleasant track that winds all the way up to Ciruena. From here you start an enjoyable decent into Santo Domingo de la Calzada.
Santo Domingo de la Calzada owes its inspiration to Saint Dominic of the Road who built a pilgrim hospital, now the Parador and a church which has evolved into the Catherdral, both are located in the historic town square Plaza del Santo. Saint Dominic of the Road dedicated his life to improving the physical route for the pilgrims. This town has a good variety of places to eat and shop along the main busy streets and also in the smaller interconnecting laneways.

Day 11

Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Belorado (22.9km) Today’s walk towards Belorado is along the newer roads which is quite close to the main N-120 with little shelter and water, so be careful along this section and make sure you have filled up your water bottles. You will get a respite from the busy road when you pass through the villages en route.
You will pass through Granon, Redecilla del Camino, Castildelgado, Viloria de Rioja and reaching Villamayor del Rio which might be a nice rest spot before your final 5km into Belorado.
Belorado has a nice down to earth feel about it and is populated by people who work at a leisurely pace. There is a medieval arcade lined with shops, bars and restaurants which is located in the spacious plaza Mayor. The 16th century Church of Santa Maria has a lovely altarpiece with images of Santiago Matamoros y Pelegrino and is built alongside the limestone cliffs.

Day 12

Belorado to San Juan Ortega (24km) Varied terrain is today’s mission with a nice change from yesterday’s walking on busy road to paths and earth tracks. From Belorado you will travel along level open countryside with some shade provided by hedgerow and woodland. Once past Villafrance Montes de Oca you will start the fairly difficult ascent to the highest point for the day at Alto de Valbuena, you will pass through beautiful oak woods and when you reach the peak it is a gradual decent to San Juan de Ortega. San Juan, a disciple of Santo Domingo, was known for his work to serve the pilgrim to Santiago. He built bridges, hospitals, churches and hostels and even founded an Augustinian monastery, which is dedicated to San Nicolas de Barri who is said to have saved San Juan from drowning on his way back from the Holy Land.

Day 13

San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (27.5km) From San Juan de Ortega the walking isn’t too bad and is mostly downhill all the way to Burgos. From San Juan de Ortega you drop down into the peaceful valley of the Rio Vena and once past Atapuerca you have one final hill to conquer before you descend the rest of the way. Once you hit Burgos make sure you make a stop at the Burgos cathedral. The 13th century Catedral de Santa Maria is one of Spain’s largest and most beautiful, and combines many different styles but is predominantly Gothic. Whatever condition you are in it is worthy of a visit to the interior. You will stay in Burgos for the night and have all of tomorrow to explore, rest and recuperate!

Day 14

Rest day in Burgos. Today is yours to explore! Spend the day checking out all that Burgos has to offer including the beauty of many of the city’s buildings. Burgos is sometimes known as the Gothic capital of Spain and has a growing population of around 200,000. The week either side of the 29th of June is the city’s main festival of San Pedro y Pablo. Caution is recommended in Burgos with common stories of theft and overcharging so it is best to keep your wits about you.

Day 15

Burgos to Hornillos del Camino (20km) Back on the road today we leave the bustling city of Burgos to virtual wilderness. The track on this section is mainly earth and you travel through what seems like never-ending crop fields. This section of the route is often referred to as the Meseta. You may come across a Sheppard and his herd but if not it will most likely be just you and the birds! This section, the Meseta, also has zero shade from the sun so make sure you are well covered up! Hornillos del Camino is your destination for the night and is a classic pilgrim village where little has changed over the centuries. This is a great place to immerse yourself in the ancient atmosphere of the way.

Day 16

Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz (20.5km) Once you leave Hornillos del Camino there are few towns en route to Castrojeriz so make sure you are stocked up with any water and supplies you might need. We are again traveling along the lonely meseta towards Hontanas, a small town of just 80 which is tucked away in a fold in the landscape. This town is largely undiscovered except by pilgrims and has a solid parish church which dominates the tiny village square.
From Hontanas there is less than 10km to go, with 80% of that being quite a flat walk. The last 2km will see you downhill into Castrojeriz where you will spend the night.

Day 17

Castrojeriz to Boadilla del Camino (17km) Today you start with a steep climb out of Castrojeriz to get back onto the meseta, but never fear there is a downhill slope on the other side. Again today’s walking will see you in little shade on earth tracks with few water stops so make sure you take precautions. About 7km into your walk you will come across a small village called Itero de la Vega with a population of only 190. After Itero de la Vega you will pass over the Canal Pisuerga with a gentle incline before descending into Boadilla del Camino.
Boadilla del Camino originally had a population of over 2,000 which once served the multiple pilgrim hospitals, but the population is now only a mere 200. You will stay in Boadilla for then night

Day 18

Boadilla del Camino to Carrion de los Condes (25km) Continuing on from Boadilla for a few kilometres you will reach Fromista. Fromista is best known for the beautiful 11th century Iglesia de San Martin which was built with a gorgeous mellow stone. With over 300 external corbels each carved with a different human, animal or mystical motif this is a must see tourist site.
From here we are off the earth tracks and onto what is often referred to as the pilgrim autopistas which run along side the main roads. Around 13km from Fromista you will enter the town of Villalcazar de Sirga which is well know for its hospitality. Now declared a national monument, the town of Villacazar de Sirga is home to the superb Templar church of Santa Maria la Virgen Blanca XIIIthC. This church houses the tombs of royalty and nobles alike.
Only a short 5 more kilometres to your resting place for the night – Carrion de los Condes. This fascinating town retains its medieval atmosphere in its quiet side streets and was home to no less than 14 pilgrim hospitals. The town has a variety of shops, bars and restaurants so take your pick!

Day 19

Carrion de los Condes to Ledigos (23km) Today’s walking is generally flat all the way and again once you leave Carrion there are few towns in between so make sure your bellies are full and your water bottles are filled as there are no facilities for the first 17km until you reach Calzadilla de la Cueza. If you need to stock up on snacks you can do so here or wait until you make it to Ledigos which is only another 6km down the track.
Leave Carrión de los Condes by crossing the 16th century bridge and passing the 10th century Benedictine Monasterio de San Zoilo. This had originally been built as a convent but was used by the royal family of Castilla y Leon as their court.
From here the Camino de Santiago is pretty straight following an old Roman road known as the Via Aquitana, alternatively known as the Calzada de los Peregrinos. This ancient road provided a link between Burgos and Astorga. After about 16 kilometres you come to the village of Calzadilla de la Cueza but you will have spotted the church tower a long time before you reach the village. The village is tiny, primarily just one street. Head out of the village down the unusually named Calle Mayor, taking a right at the main road and following the gravel path to the left.
About 2 kilometres from Calzadilla de la Cueza you will pass the remains of the once hugely important 11th century pilgrim hospital of Santa Maria de las Tiendas. The old monastery also marks the half way point of the Spanish section of the Camino.
Once leaving the monastery we continue down the track before a slight upward climb and then a descent into Ledigos where you will spend the night.

Day 20

Ledigos to Bercianos del Real Camino (26.5km) From Ledigos it is a only about 3 km Terradillos de los Templarios a small humble village of just 80 residents. The next major town we hit after this is Sahagun which is full of ancient monuments and has a population of 170,000. Sahagun was the seat of great religious power, largely because of the influence of Alfonso VI who, along with his numerous wives, is buried in the Benedictine convento de Santa Cruz. Sahagun is approximately 16km into your 26.5 km walk for the day so you may wish to stop for lunch here if you haven’t already had lunch. From Sahagun you will make your way to Bercianos del Real Camino where you will spend the night. Leave Sahagún through the old town passing through the Arco de San Benito and cross the Rio Cea using the Puente de Canto, a bridge built by Alfonso VI in 1085.
Continue along the path for 4 kilometres until you reach Calzada del Coto. Here the route splits into two, one called the Real Camino Francés and the other la Calzada de los Peregrinos. Our preferred route is to follow the Real Camino Francés that will take us through to El Burgo Ranero as there are more opportunities to stop to get something to eat or drink. After 1.7 kilometres you will pass a laguna or lake on your right and after 2 kilometres you will come to the Ermita de Nuestra Señora de los Perales just before coming to Bercianos del Real Camino.

Day 21

Bercianos del Real Camino to Reliegos (21km) Leaving Bercianos walk all the way through the village and continue along the well marked route. In the distance you can see the grain silos of el Burgo Ranero about 7 kilometres away. Keep along this track until you come to a tunnel under the motorway, go through the tunnel and into the village of El Burgo Ranero. To leave El Burgo Ranero follow the main road through the village past the church and then past the cemetery. Walk for approximately 4.5 kilometres and you will come across a brick fountain set back slightly from the road in amongst some trees. Keeping straight on after another 3.5 kilometres you pass a turning that takes you to the village of Villamarco. The village is about 1 kilometre off the Camino but it does have all the usual amenities so if you feel like a detour then turn left here. If not continue on for another 2 kilometres at which point the route crosses the railway line.
From here we more or less follow the railway line, keeping it to our left for most of the next few kilometres. We soon enter a small valley crossing 2, usually dried up, rivers firstly the Valdearcos and then the Santa Maria. Soon after crossing the Santa Maria the landscape becomes a little hillier with wine storage cellars or bodegas set into the hills every now and then. 2 kilometres later you will enter the village of Reliegos where you will stay for the night.

Day 22

Reliegos to Leon (26km) Leave Reliegos by walking straight through the village and joining a stony track which leads you to the township of Mansilla de las Mulas which can be seen approximately 6 kilometres away. The path is more or less straight from here until you reach the main road. Cross over the road, then walk over the bridge spanning the canal and enter the town of Mansilla de las Mulas. Whether you have walked the Camino Real Francés or the alternative Calzada de los Peregrinos here is where both Caminos meet.
Leave Mansilla de las Mulas by crossing a stone bridge over the Río Esla, then take a left onto the old road which soon becomes a track that runs more or less parallel to the main road for about 5 kilometres. Back on the track after 4 kilometres you pass through the village of Villamoros de Mansilla and then 2 kilometres further on you cross the 200 metre long, 20 arched Puente de Villarente over the Rio Pormo and enter the village that shares its name. Be aware that this bridge is extremely busy with traffic so can be pretty dangerous at times. Pass through Puente Villarente and after a petrol station on your right you will find the way-marked gravel path which runs parallel to the main road passing through the small village of Arcahueja after about 4.5 kilometres.
Unfortunately, shortly after Arcahueja, the path disappears and you have to follow the main road. You will start to walk uphill towards the Alto del Portillo from where you will get some great views over the city of Leon and the mountains in the distance. Eventually you come to a bypass called the Avenida de Madrid which veers to your right but you will need to fork left towards the Puente Castro over the Rio Torio. Cross the pedestrianised footbridge about 50 metres from the main bridge and keep going straight on down the Avenida del Alcalde Migue Castaño for about 1.5 kilometres till you come out on the Plaza Santa Ana. Follow the Calle Barahona then the Calle Puertamoneda passing the Iglesia de Santa Maria del Mercado on your right, down the Calle de la Rua and the Calle Ancha until you reach the cathedral in Leon.

Day 23

Rest day in Leon Spend your day exploring this beautiful city and its incredible Gothic Cathedral which is renowned for its marvelous stained glass windows. The streets of Leon come alive in the evenings when people parade the streets and its bodegas are overflowing with people.

Day 24

Leon to Villadangos del Paramo (22km) Today it takes some time to clear the city limits of Leon and you may even choose to do what many Pilgrims do and catch a taxi to ‘La Virgen Del Camino’ on the outskirts of the city to avoid the built up areas. There is two routes available for this morning ( marked in your guidebook).
The best way to leave Leon is from the cathedral following the scallop shells that pass by the Real Colegiata de San Isidoro and towards the Parador of San Marcos. By the hotel is a bridge over the Rio Bernesga, cross this and walk through the Parque Quevado and then take a left turn at a fork in the road. There is a crossing here over the railway line via a footbridge, take this and keep going straight passing la Iglesia Capilla de Santiago. The road begins to go uphill from this point. At some traffic lights, about half way up the hill, take a right onto the Camino de la Cruz through some bodegas and an industrial estate. Keep straight on walking past the factories and rejoin the main road that heads into the large village of La Virgen del Camino.
The very modern church that stands in the place where the original Ermita had been is la Iglesia de la Virgen del Camino which was built in 1961 and is managed by a Dominican Order. The Camino continues across the road from the church down a minor road towards the cemetery. After about 100 metres you have a choice of routes towards Hospital de Orbigo. Our preferred route, follows the Roman road and is considered the original Camino de Santiago. It does however follow the main road. The other route takes you through the countryside. Both routes are clearly marked. Both routes meet in Hospital de Órbigo. Our preferred route takes us to the village of Villadangos del Páramo which will be our stop on this section.

Day 25

Villadangos del Paramo to Astorga (28km) At the end of the village turn left to return briefly to the main road. After a little while fork left onto a path running parallel to the road. Try to follow this track as far as you can before you have to rejoin the road and walk along the hard shoulder. There is no choice but to walk along the road here as the land hereabouts is criss-crossed with canals, dykes and irrigation channels. After about 4 kilometres you come to the village of San Martin del Camino.
Walk through the village and cross the road forking right down the path running parallel to the road. After about 2 kilometres take a left turn crossing a bridge over a dyke and unfortunately, return to the main road. After about 1.5 kilometres you come upon a gravel works, take a right turn down a lane walking through fields heading towards the town of Hospital de Orbigo. Take the Calle Orbigo walking adjacent to the river and cross the fabulous medieval bridge into Hospital de Orbigo.
Walk through the town down the Calle Álvarez, past the Iglesia de San Juan Bautista and the Iglesia de Santa Mario, continuing down the main street right to the end of the village until you come to some crossroads. Continue on the road to, this route will take you to Astorga, which is your planned stop for the night.

Day 26

Astorga to Rabanal del Camino (20km) Leaving behind Astorga you will be walking on pleasant paths across the plains with good views of the hills before you. This next section of the Camino de Santiago goes all the way through to Ponferrada, passing through the area known as la Margateria and then enters the Bierzo region, with its mines, bordering Galicia. This area has very few villages so we would recommend that you always have enough food and water with you for emergencies. As you will be walking through some pretty high mountains make sure you take some warm clothing with you, you will need it, even in the height of summer. Follow the Camino markers through Astorga past the cathedral, taking a left onto the Calle Portería and out through the Puerta Obispo. Take a right into Calle Sancti Spiritu and down Calle San Pedro passing a church. At a crossroads cross over to the Calle de los Mártires towards Santa Colomba de Somoza. You will know if you are going the right way as the Ermita del Ecce Homo will be on your left.This path runs parallel with the road and after about 5 kilometres out of Astorga you will reach Murias de Rechivaldo. From there, after about 5 km’s you enter Santa Catalina de Somoza, walk down the Calle Real and rejoin the main road at the large cross situated near some seats. In a little while the path starts to climb again. Keep along this track for 4 kms until you reach El Ganso which is about 1,020 metres above sea level.
The Camino continues through El Ganso down a track running parallel to the road. Here it passes an old oak tree where many a pilgrim have rested in the shade of its canopy. It is known as el Roble del Peregrino. As you walk along the path towards Rabanal del Camino you will pass the remains of the Roman gold mines of La Fucarona, one of many such mines in this region. After about 7 kilometres you reach the small village of Rabanal del Camino.

Day 27

: Rabanal del Camino to Molinaseca (24.5km) As you leave Rabanal del Camino you’ll start to feel the incline which will steepen as you get further into the hills towards Foncebaddon – the infamous deserted village which is no longer deserted! The incline is always walkable and there are plenty of switchbacks with great views back over the plains from where you’ve come. At the top of the hill is the Iron Cross, where pilgrims leave something whether a pebble they’ve carried or a bad habit or memorial to a loved one.
Pssing over a few more hilly sections you will reach your highest point for the day Collado de las Antenas (1515m) and from here it is downhill all the way into Molinaseca.

Day 28

Molinaseca to Villafranca del Bierzo (31km) Leaving Molinaseca you are still on a descent towards the city of Ponferrada which can be clearly seen in the distance. You then climb into the city of Ponferrada past the castle of the Knights Templar, worth a quick coffee in the plaza to admire the hills you’ve just climbed over. After Ponferrada continue on through gentle rolling hills and Vineyards to reach the charming town of Villafranca del Bierzo, nestled in the hills that mark the border with Galicia.

Day 29

Villafranca del Bierzo to Vega de Valcarce (18km) Walk down Calle del Agua and at the far end turn left by the statue of the pilgrim and walk across the Río Burbía. Once across the Rio Burbia walk past the convent and Iglesia de la Concepcion and keep walking until you reach the exit of the road tunnel through the mountains. Cross over here and take a right turn and walk for another 3 kilometres when you will take a right down an older section of the NVI road just before you enter the village of Pereje. Again walking down the Calle Camino de Santiago keep walking ahead until you reach the spot where the motorway crosses the NVI and you then turn right onto the main road. Follow this road until you reach the Hvillage of Vega de Valcarce

Day 30

Vega de Valcarce to O Cebreiro (18km) The Camino from this point onwards until you get to O Cebreiro climbs up through the mountains starting off gently but progressively getting steeper. Walk through Vega de Valcarce down the road for 2 kilometres until you reach the village of Ruitelán. The path continues to wind its way up the mountain passing a farm and another fountain. Keep following the markers through an old quarry and at the road take the path signposted Camino de los Frances into the village of San Fiz do Seo. The path continues to climb for about another 2 kilometres and then descends slightly down a left hand fork in the path. A right hand fork will then take you through some chestnut woods and then down into the village of Villasinde were there’s a bar and fountain. As you enter the village take a right turn and fork right by the cemetery down a descending track then across the Puente Viejo into Vega de Valcarce. From here follow the road route to O Cebreiro.

Day 31

O Cebreiro to Triacastela (21km) From O Cebreiro you take the main road towards the village of Liñares which is about 3 kilometres away. Walk through the village and join the road at the end following the markers to a rough track which runs parallel with the road. The path now climbs steeply for a kilometre up to the Alto de San Roque. Up here you will get fabulous views across the mountains, on a clear day that is. The path continues climbing and after 1.5 kilometres you reach the small village of Hospital da Condesa. Walk through to the end of the village and down a minor road sign posted to Sabugos. This will take you along a lane and then a track through the small town of Padornelo. Once through the village the track begins to climb steeply towards the Alto do Poio 3 kilometres away.
ough the village and down the road forking right to walk down a track parallel to the road down to the village of Fonfría in 3.5 kilometres. From here is it down hill all the way to Triacastela.

Day 32

Triacastela to Sarria (21.5km) As you leave Triacastela at a T-junction you are given a choice of 2 routes towards Sarria. The left hand route takes you to the impressive monastery at Samos. It is about 11 kilometres but the monastery there is one of the most impressive buildings. The right hand route takes you through a more rural route towards San Xil. Both routes meet a few kilometres before Sarria and are clearly marked.
In Samos you will find the impressive Benedictine Monasterio de San Julián de Samos. To leave Samos continue along the main road towards Sarria. Sarria has been inhabited for many thousands of years both by the Celts and the Romans but the town was founded at the end of the 12th century by Alfonso IX, the last king of León and he named the village Vilanova de Sarria.

Day 33

Rest day in Sarria Today Sarria is a busy, modern town with plenty of shops, hotels, restaurants and bars but its origins are Celtic and it was an important and major medieval centre for pilgrims. Remnants of its ancient past can still be seen in the old quarter along Rua Major. The church- Igrexia de Santa Maria –has an ancient pilgrim’s mural and if you follow the Camino route to the top end of town you will see the ancient convent – Monasterio da Madalena- and the ruins of the Castle as well as the medieval bridge Ponte Aspera that leads over the River Celerio. Nowadays the town is bustling with peregrinos; from those that started their Camino 100’s of kilometers back to the large number that walk the final section. Now is a good time to stock up on any equipment you may have forgotten or need. You will find the Peregrineteca equipment shop, located by the steep stairway at the start of Rua Major, good for hiking socks, walking poles and a variety of hiking gear. From Sarria to Santiago is 110km which will entitle you to a Compostela. You can get your credencial from the Igrexia Santa Maria on Rua Major or the Convent Monasterio de Madalena on the outskirts of town which you pass on the first stage of the Camino.

Day 34

Sarria to Portomarin (21.5km) Today’s walk is mainly uphill with some moderately steep sections before a steep descent down to the Mino reservoir and over into Portomarin. The majority of the walk is on sheltered woodland pathways or quiet country roads, passing though many hamlets and some small villages. The scenery along the way is wonderfully green and lush and very rural. It is a good idea to have some provisions with you as after the first villages there are long stretches with no amenities – and women also also be mindful that there are few bathrooms! You start this section climbing the steep stone stairway at the start of Rua Major and then wind your way through the old quarter, down over the river and alongside the railway track. Once you cross this there is a steep climb through the woodland and then across open fields to Barbadelo, a village that has been her from the 10th century and has a 12th century church that has national monument status because of its ancient frescos .After this come the hamlets of Baxan and Leiman; they are the last places for a rest and refreshments and the next section is uphill for 5km until you reach Morgade – which is a good place to stop for lunch or also overnight if you want to walk shorter sections each day. Its then downhill for the next five km passing through Ferrerios with its ancient chalice stone and Romanesque church, until the climb to the final steep section and the high point of today ( 660m) of Pina dos Corvos which has wonderful views over the reservoir and surrounding countryside. Now it’s a steep descent down into Portomarin. The path is as steep as a staircase at some points but has a good, gripping surface even in the rain; it is a good idea to have walking poles though to reduce the strain on your knees. Now cross the Mino Reservoir over its modern bridge into Portomarin.

Day 35

Portomarin to Palas de Rei (22km) Portomarin has been inhabited for thousands of years and its importance grew with the popularity of the Camino in the middle ages. At onetime it had 3 orders if Knights, the Knights Templar, the Knights of St John and the Knights of Jerusalem; this may go some way to explaining the castle- like edifice of the Church, the 12th century Romanesque Igelsia San Nicolas, which still stands in the square at the centre of town. The town used to have two halves on both sides of the Rio Mino but in 1960 it was flooded to create the Mino reservoir, the historic monuments were moved brick by brick to the town that stands on the hill today; you can see pictures of the old town in some of the bars and cafes that line the main street.
Today’s walk is another one that is uphill for the first 15km; the gradient is never too steep and you gradually climb up to a height of 720m. The path crosses and runs parallel to the main road to Gonzar , though you spend a good amount of time walking in woodland and on quiet roads
The Camino starts at the Escalinata de Nuestra Senora de las Nieves (Stairs of Our Lady of the snow) crosses back over the Mino Basin and then a climb up through woodland to the main road which it crosses several times passing through Toxibo on the way to Gonzar, with its popular roadside café this is good place for a rest stop. After Gonzar the Camino leaves the road and goes down a small track to Castromaior then onto Hospital de la Cruz and then on a country road to Ventas de Naron – a good place to stop for the night if you are walking shorter distances. You then climb the Sierra Ligonde to today’s high point of 720m. The walk is now downhill to Ligonde and Eirexe and onto A Calzada – there is a detour here of 2km to the National Monument, Vilar de Donas where the Knights of Santiago are buried – this is worth seeing if you have the time. It is then a gentle climb up through several small hamlets to Alto Rosario – a good vantage point on a clear day, then down in Palas de Rei. the villages of Portos and A Calzada and finally to Palas de Rei.

Day 36

Palas de Rei to Arzua (25km) Palas de Rei – Palace of the King – has little to remind you today that it was once the home of a king. Today it is a small country town but has plenty of shops, bars, cafes and ATMs and another Peregrino equipment shop on the Camino in case you need to stock up on any items.
Today’s walk is mostly on paths through woodland, crossing over the main road to Arzua several times, though you spend very little time on the main road, as the majority of the walk is on woodland paths and quiet roads . The walk takes you through 6 river valleys to a high point of 515m at Coto. The Camino takes you out of Palas de Rei over the main road and up into woodland to Carabell with its 12th century church -Iglesia de San Xulian. The path crosses the Rio Pambre then onto the hamlet of Pontecambre then climbs up through oak woods until it reaches a road , goes into the hamlet of Casanova, then goes onwards through Campanilla where you will leave the province of Lugo and enter the province of A Coruna. It now follows the road to Cornixa and then leaves the road for a pathway to Leboreiro – here you will find the 13th century Iglesia de Santa Maria and the old pilgrim’s hospital – Casa Enfirmeria. The path now crosses the medieval bridge over the river Seco and the skirts an industrial estate through the Village of Furelos and onto Melide. Melide was founded in the 13th Century and has many historic buildings and churches. The Capilla de San Pedro & San Roque dates from the 13th century next to which stands the 14th century stone cross said to be the oldest in Galicia. The museum and the buildings around the Plaza de Convento are well worth a visit. Melide is famous for Pulpo Gallego, octopus cooked Galician style, reputed to be the best in Spain so well worth trying some for lunch. Melide, a busy town, is also a good overnight stop if you are walking shorter distances. Much of the path after Melide winds through woodlands of oak, pine and eucalyptus passing over several valleys though Boente, Castañeda and then Ribadiso – which is a wonderful location where you can see the Hospital San Anton – one of the oldest pilgrim hospitals in existence. From Ribadiso follow the country road uphill, a steep climb though the outer suburbs and then into Arzua.

Day 37

Arzua to O Pedrouzo (19km) Arzua with a population of around 7000 is the last large town before you reach Santiago. Arzua has plenty of restaurants bars and cafes and a few ATM’s if you need cash. The main monument in Arzua is the 14th Century Capilla de la Magdelena. Arzua is famous for its local cheese – Quiexo and most menus feature it in some form –a smooth creamy cheese made from cow’s milk it is definitely with a try – the town celebrates its cheese with a Quiexo Cheese festival every March.
The majority today’s walk to O Pedrouzo is through wonderful pine and eucalyptus scented woodland. The path is mostly level, passing through 3 shallow river valleys and then a gradual climb up to Alto de Santa Irene – at 404m the high point of today. It starts though with a rather steep Short climb once out of Arzua to the main road to Santiago, then it alternates between track and county lane passing through several small hamlets before crossing over a shallow valley and stream and up into Calzada – where you will find a roadside café which is good place for a rest stop. After another 1.5 km you come to Calle – a quaint village of traditional houses and 2 more cafes. The Camino now winds its way over another shallow valley and onto Salceda – a small village with a bar and shop. There is good accommodation here, just off the Camino, for those who are walking shorter distances and want to spend the night here. The Camino now continues on a woodland path passing the monument to Guillermo Watt who died at that spot only a day away from completing his Camino. The path now takes you through two small hamlets and onto Brea where you have an option of continuing on the road to Santa Irene or through a woodland path to Alto de Santa Irene the high point of today, where there is a picnic and rest area. The path now continues down through woodland and a tunnel in to Santa Irene. After Santa Irene the path climbs steeply up to the main road and then into more eucalyptus woodland to A Rua, then goes through the village onto the main road and into O Pedrouzo.

Day 38

O Pedrouzo to Santiago (20km) O Pedrouzo /Arco do Pino has lots of shops, restaurants and bars and is small but busy town being the last stage on the Camino before Santiago.
You will find that today’s route will be a busy one as all the pilgrims start their last stage into Santiago. The pilgrims mass at Santiago Cathedral starts at 12midday so you will need to leave early to get there on time. The first part of the route today passes through eucalyptus forests and most of the route is on quiet roads and pathways before the final kilometers up Mount Gozo and through the suburbs of Santiago. There is a steep climb up to the airport and then up Mount Gozo, before descending in Santiago. The Camino wends its way through eucalyptus forests and farmland through the village of San Anton and then onto Amenal then climbs up through Cimadevila and the forestry areas around Santiago airport. The path runs alongside the airport where you may see a plane taking off. You will also see lots of crosses made from branches and twigs that pilgrims decorate the airport fence with! It now follows the road into San Paio where there is a popular bar and restaurant that is a good place to take a break. After San Paio the path heads uphill onto a tree lined pathway and then into Lavacollo, which is the place where pilgrims traditionally washed to purify themselves before entering Santiago – Lavacolla literally means to wash your tail! It is also another good place to stop the night for those walking shorter distances. From Lavacolla the path heads steeply uphill to Villamaior, then on a track to the studios of TV Galicia and the high point of day at 396m. Then it heads downhill into San Marcos where there are several bars and cafes. Here you will find a monument commemorating the visit of Pope John Paul II. In less than a kilometer you will come to Monte Gozo – Mount of Joy – so called as this is where the pilgrims first spied the spires of the cathedral. The route is now downhill along and over the railway and into the city suburbs. From here the route is well signposted all the way into the old quarter with its wonderful old buildings and narrow shop filled alleyways until you finally reach the Praza Obradoiro and the wonderful ancient Cathedral.

Day 39

Day in Santiago Today you have the whole day to explore! You can look around the famous Cathedral of St. James that forms the city’s heart and see the stream of Pilgrims that arrive into the square to finish their epic journeys. The atmosphere in Santiago is excellent and the historic streets are very nice to explore, with many nice Tapas bars and restaurants.

Day 40

The day of departure.

Charles R. Ringma

There is little doubt that the good Christian will want to give back to God in some way. And usually this is expressed in some form of service to the neighbour. But maybe there are things we need to give directly to God.