Amman 11th May

Anne and I were pleasantly surprised when we arrived at the departure gate to meet the tour group for our flight to Amman, when we saw her sister Julie and friends sitting at a table right next to us when we sat down for breakfast. It was a happy reunion and after meeting everyone it was soon time for our flight. The plane was not full so Anne was able to secure a four seat section and put her swollen ankle up for the duration of the flight. Watching the country from the air was so interesting because it isn’ just sandy desert like the Sahara.

When we arrived in Amman we were met by our immigration guide who asked for our passports to get our visas and then we were all shepherded through in single file. I have to say I felt like a primary school kid again but it was certainly trouble free. From here we were met by a bus and then taken to our hotel, the Larsa, which is in the suburbs. Everyone freshened up and then a few of us went for a walk around the block. On the way back we found a massage place just up the road from the hotel and Julie went in to ask about the services. Anne and I decided we would have one too but as we were going to a local parish church later in the afternoon for Mass we would have to go after dinner. It was Ramadan so the spa was not open again until 9.00 pm and closed at 1.00am in the early morning! We decided it would be good to have one before going to bed so we booked for 9.00.

There are 27 pilgrims on the tour and it was a challenge to remember everyone’s name but everyone was friendly. The others were all tired after their long flight from Australia. We visited a rather lovely church where we were all welcomed warmly by the priest. He had a marvellous voice and a bold personality. Randa our tour leader told us that though Christianity is tolerated its followers are not growing here because they don’t have large families like the Muslims so it is difficult for the churches here.The grotto at the church.

On our return to the hotel we had a buffet dinner with lots of salad and delicious dips which Anne and I relished after our recent travels. While everyone went to bed early Anne and I trundled up the street for our massage. What a hoot it turned out to be. On our arrival we were given blue paper bloomers and a paper bandeau bra( of sorts). Then we were asked to shower then get in the hot jacuzzi. Except, the water was scaldingly hot and we could barely stick a toe in let alone our bodies! The girls brought a big hose with cold water which we alternated on our feet but it was taking too long to cool so we were told to go to the sauna for a few minutes, then into the steam room. While in the sauna we were given a red drink, kakdi ( hibiscus tea) which looked like a dark red wine. No OH&S here because it was served in glass! I thought it was grape juice but I have been assured it was hibiscus tea.

Next we returned to the still hot jacuzzi and managed to immerse ourselves. We were being properly sterilised! When we could stand it no longer we entered the cool pool. We were so hot it was a relief. We were given the red drink again and in glass again. Now we thought it must be time for our massage. We found our towels and went to dry off but no, we had not washed with the soap and loofah ( it looked like a bleached coconut)! We were sent back to wash again. By now Anne and I were in mild hysterics because we were a sight to behold in our wet bloomers and not too generous paper bandeau bra. Finally we were deemed clean and then led to a marble counter with a thin towel draped across; no pillows or holes for your head. Soon we were slicked with oil and the massage began in earnest. This went on for an hour and was delicious. We were pummeled and stretched and smoothed. Even our heads were massaged. By the time they were finished with us we were relaxed, slippery, greasy haired blobs.

It took me two days to get the oil out of my hair but nary a stiff bone or muscle was found in our bodies the next day. It ended up being two hours for A$50 each. I would do that every week if I could! Needless to say we slept like logs and were very grateful no photos could be taken!

Note the trees planted on the footpath. The foot paths were very uneven and cracked so for the sight challenged it must be a nightmare and where the trees are it is nearly impossible to walk.

Some of the houses nearby and the baker cooking flat bread at the hotel.

Dubai 10 th May

Arrived early morning and checked in straight away. Because the plane was delayed an hour and a half leaving Madrid we missed getting a breakfast. Anne was feeling a bit sick from her empty stomach and no sleep so we showered then she set the alarm for an hour nap. I felt okay. We both felt a lot better after we lunched.

Next was a tour of Dubai. I have never seen anything beyond the airport while Anne had a sister and brother -in -law who had lived here for a number of years so she had visited a few times. We opted for the private driver on the basis that a hop off hop on would take too long, it was Friday and the beginning of Ramadan, the Holy period of fasting for Muslims so we were not sure what was open. It was a good decision. We saw so much more and avoided the waiting for buses when places we visited turned out to be closed, such as the museum and half the gold souk.

The only trouble was I started to get really sleepy and nod off. Anne was prodding me and finally I got into the front seat with the cold air conditioning to keep me awake. Dubai was certainly a hive of building and I would like to be in the glass business here because that and marble was everywhere. It is a bit like Las Vegas, totally artificial but fascinating for the imagination that makes it a destination. The water was a beautiful green and warm. I walked across the beach to put my feet in. I wondered how it stays so clear when they are building artificial islands. What tides do they have I wonder to keep the water flowing?

After our tour we returned to the hotel for a quick rest and then we went to dinner with Anne’s friend Mick who had worked for her husband and had been in Dubai for a very long time. He took us to a Japanese restaurant in our hotel and we had a very talented Tepenyaki Chef cook for us. It was a night of laughter and memories for Anne and Mick who has recently lost his partner. It was not a late night because we had an early departure for Amman to catch. We needed to be up by four o’clock in order to meet the Australian contingent of the Jordan tour at Dubai airport.

Santiago de Compostela 9 th May

Irene and Bill left this morning at 6.45 am and Anne and I woke to say our goodbyes then went back to bed. It was a good place to be because all the cats in Galicia were falling on the roof. The day was wet to extremely wet!

Anne and I tidied up the apartment then departed in the rain to take our bags to luggage storage. Anne had found a plastic bag that she draped over her backpack and I lamented the posting of the poncho! Once the bags were divested, somewhat bedraggled, we headed off to the Santiago fresh food market. We actually found it without a problem. We were getting the hang of the place. What a charming market. All the fruit and vegetables we have craved were spread before us. Even the greens still had dirt. We wandered into the fish part and saw a guy with an oyster and lemon on a plate. It was only 11ish but we decided to buy some too and the oyster seller told us to go down to the end of the hall and get wine to go with them. We did a tasting of two very delicious wines with our freshly shucked oysters. They were fat and juicy and gorgeous. We felt quite decadent! The market has an area where if you buy from the stalls they cook it for you. We passed several people with prawns and octopus and sausages. We ended up at a Japanese stall and had soba noodles and vegetables as well as dumplings. It was so nice for a change.

The rain hadn’t let up at all and was heavier still so I suggested we go to the Museum of Pilgrimage and Santiago. It was free for over 65s, a nice bonus for us to keep our Euros for food and taxis. It was so interesting because it traces the origins of pilgrimage in all beliefs and then the development of the Camino De Santiago. It also had a display on the Kumano Kodo in Japan which brought back good memories.

We were so engrossed we didn’t realise the time and it was past three when we collected our bags and went to the taxi ramp. It was pouring and there were no taxis, a small queue and no shelter. Once again I lamented the posting of my ponch. I then found the taxi number and rang for a taxi. Another 15 minutes and we were in danger of getting completely soaked as the wind was swirling the rain around us and we were starting to get a little desperate. Finally the taxi arrived and we jumped in quickly. There was a conference in town so the driver had been back and forth to the airport five times already.

Irene and Bill had said get there early because it was like Marrakech- slow and crowded. What a delight when we found not one person waiting at the checkin desk and staff on duty who promptly printed our boarding passes and put our luggage all the way to Dubai. Even security was a breeze despite having to remove boots and getting the drugs and gunpowder test. No queues, no rush. It took us longer to get loaded on the plane as it was a full flight!

Arriving in Madrid was also easy and though we had to go through the whole process again there were no queues or hiccups. What amused us and we took as a sign, was that we were being directed by yellow arrows everywhere. We are still on a pilgrimage but this time to the Holy Land.

Santiago de Compostela 8 th May

We all seemed very tired and our time together has come to an end. Tomorrow we all leave in different directions. Irene and Bill will head to Seville, Spain and Anne and I fly to Dubai to meet our group for the tour of Jordan and Israel.

Irene and Bill as well as Anne have struggled with their suitcases and have decided to post some excess bagage back to Australia. I didn’t have quite the same issue but I am happy to send some items too.

There is a strike in France and apparently it has thrown the airlines out and Irene and Bill are not sure when there flight is now, 9 or 11 am. Erring on the side of caution they opted to be at the airport for the early flight, so leave at 7 am. We don’t leave till 5.40 so have a day yet to spend here.

The trip to the post office to buy a box was like a comedy show. The weather was intermittently heavy showers and sunshine. Every time we went out it rained, when we came in it was sunny. We assessed the box and took the biggest and as we left a heavy downpour started. Irene was determined to protect her box so took off her raincoat and wrapped the box up, then wrapped her scarf around her head and shoulders. Anne said she looked like one of the Virgin Mary’s in the church. I raced ahead to get the door open.

Bill had gone off looking for a place to charge his phone. It is always a bit fraught because he has a Portuguese sim. The three of us had a practice pack to check we could fit all of the ‘stuff’ in the box. Once that was achieved we realised it would be too heavy to carry! In the end we unpacked a suitcase and stuffed the excess into that and a backpack and returned to the post office to pack it there. This time we took umbrellas.

Spanish post near the pilgrims office were amazingly helpful and with the box packed and weighed, paperwork completed, postage paid we were free! That required an appropriate celebration and we finally went to the Parador for a celebratory drink. We felt like frauds when we turned up with an empty suitcase and the doorman rushed out to assist. When we explained he laughed and happily placed the suitcase in luggage storage while we had a drink.

Afterwards Irene returned the case to the apartment, Bill went in search of money and a place to recharge the phone, while Anne and I checked our some museum shops. We regrouped again and set off in search of a lovely hotel we had seen earlier. I found a place selling Herbas Liquor on the way which I bought to take home. I remembered it from previous trips and rather liked it. I have had some again both as a liquor and over ice. It has a slightly herby flavour. We ended up in a restaurant that offered vegan food instead of the hotel. However what the restaurant was really offering was the ability to choose vegan or lactos free items. Most places in Spain just don’t get vegetarianism. They seem to think it is vegetables and meat or eggs! This place at least knew the difference even if it wasn’t a strictly vegetarian restaurant.

On the way back we came across the source of noise that has been bothering Irene and Bill through their windows at night. Behind the apartment is an information office and a car park. At night its foyer provides shelter to a group of homeless people. They tend to talk loudly and it echos in the space. At least they are dry but it must be very cold.

Santiago de Compostela 7 th May

The day was grey and wet and after our first porridge for weeks we finally got ourselves organised to attend the Pilgrims’s Mass. While the Cathedral is undergoing renovation the mass is being held in the Church of San Francisco. It is a beautiful church of course but certainly not with the grandeur of the cathedral or the spectacular Botafumeriea.

Here pilgrims could come straight in from their walk and many had their certificates in hand too. It was a very moving service initiated by a nun singing Latin hymns with the purest voice. Quite angelic. The service was conducted in Spanish and the countries of pilgrims that had arrived that day were announced. It is very moving to here all the countries named and the prayer for peace in our world. It underlines our common humanity and what unites us rather than our differences. Anne and I took communion and I started to cry. I felt so overwhelmed with emotion I had not anticipated. Even Bill and Irene found the service moving.

Recovering composure we finished by lighting candles for our families and then setting off in search of the office for pilgrims to get Anne’s dual pilgrimage badge. Because she completed the Kumano Kodo- Kiri-Tanabe to Kumano Hongu Taishi -Kumano Nachi Taisha in Japan when we all walked together and now the Portuguese Camino, she can be acknowledged as a dual pilgrim. Irene and Bill were eligible also but were unable to find their Japanese Credencias before leaving. The instructions given to us to locate the Pilgrims Information Office were difficult to follow. Even the GPS was bamboozeled. After completing a circuit of half the old town we eventually located the place! It was an ordeal in its own right! What was just as amusing was the number of other pilgrims all trying to follow their phones. We laughed at each other as we all passed like dots in Pac-Man. The old town buildings were throwing out the GPS signals. Anne and I had our photos taken and recorded on the register here in Santiago. What was most galling was that we had been within 5 minutes of the office before we started to look for it!

We finally headed home and then had to turn around and go out for dinner. We saw a lot of Santiago and found it’s winding streets so charming but beguiling.

We found a Galician tavern for dinner and were seduced by the atmosphere. The food was quite good until the scallops and corn arrived. We had been sharing the other dishes but the scallop was actually one scallop! Very disappointing. The waiter gave us a discount when we said we had been disappointed. He knew we were sharing so he had not given us the correct guidance.

Santiago de Compostella 6 th May

After a restless sleep we departed for Santiago. Yesterday we were sure we walked more than the expected 10 km. It was more like 15km but we had enjoyed resting in the garden and the dinner was early and quite delicious. It was way too much. I felt like I was a stuffed goose! That contributed to my restless night I am sure.

The walk in was very pretty with lots of pretty houses and farmlets and forests. Lots of gum trees here too so we have often felt like we were walking in Australia. We had a couple of stops. One was full of pilgrims grabbing a breakfast. Irene and Bill started talking to a small group from Alicante who had walked from Tui. They were so happy. The next stop was to doctor the Henning’ s feet and a pit stop at the most practical time. An enterprising guy had opened his outside loo for a pilgrim pit stop at 50 cents a pop. When you enter urban or suburban areas it is hard to find a place if you need a toilet stop so this was gratefully paid. In the full season I imagine it is a real money earner!

Along the early part into Santiago there were lots of signs about keeping the areas clean and it is warranted because we have stopped behind a bush and found that it was a well frequented bush with lots of paper around. Pretty yuk really but there were no alternatives. Anne and I are anti paper and only use nature, a fern or other leaves, bunch of grass or a smooth stick. At least nothing out of place is left behind then or if necessary you take your wipe and put it into a plastic bag and dispose of it at the next bin. Those are generally pretty frequent everywhere.

The Portuguese Way takes you in from the South and I felt quite disoriented until I arrived in the old town. I was shocked to see the Cathedral was now beautifully cleaned but the interior and much of the roof at the back is all under restoration. No services are held here, though access to the touching of the St James Statue and the crypt with his relics was still open. I will have to make another visit sometime to see the Cathedral in its full glory. I had felt disappointed for my friends but as they knew nothing else it was still an awesome spectacle to see the people milling in the square and hugging friends, and feeling the satisfaction of completing the journey.

I had started to get very emotional while I was walking in and I had Peter so much on my mind. Our last discussions about life in the future without him and his wish that I would still live joyfully were ever present. It will be ten years since he died this year. All this walking gives me a sense of peace and I feel like I am doing it for him too. He loved to travel but he would not have been too keen on Albergues all the way I am sure! The walking from town to town would have appealed to him if he had been well enough. Probably would have spent most of the time wondering what and were we would eat! Despite being a stick he did love a good meal. Maybe walking with Bill and Irene made me feel that loss more keenly this time but grieving never really stops when you have lost your soul mate.

Because Bill had the bike and is now able to sell it, he wanted to make sure it was safe so we left the cathedral and found our apartment. It is in a great position and is very nicely appointed. The owner came quickly to give us access and shortly after our bags arrived. We were so used to them being in our accommodation when we arrived we panicked a little when they were not there. I rang the company and they checked with the delivery company and it seemed they only get to Santiago about early afternoon. Sure enough the truck was there by the time we had rung off. Portugal Green Walks have been so reliable with our luggage and the arrangements. We have been impressed. Some of the mileage in the guide books seem a bit elastic but I have had that experience with other guide books and don’t see it as a major fault. I would happily recommend the company to anyone interested in doing a supported walk.

By now we were all faint for lack of food. We have become accustomed to a regular intake!! Once more into the old town we ventured. Santiago has a charming old town that is mostly restored but not slick. I love its atmosphere. We all needed money and Bill prefers banks to holes in the wall. The only bank we found was closed for siesta and it’s ATM was not working. I had seen an ATM between some touristy shops and soon we had money for lunch. It was a bit cool so we sat inside in a very tiny little place and all had scrambled eggs and mushrooms and wine! Anne felt she was having wine with breakfast but we were all happy and we finally tried the Torte Santiago that Irene has been hankering for. It is a lemon almond flat cake. Very delicious with coffee or any time really! Now for our Compostella. This being my third visit I have seen the office change from a small office of three people to slightly larger office still right in the old town and this time there were 6 or 8 clerks and digital numbers that direct you to the counter like at the banks at home! We waited for over two hours, almost as long as it took to walk into Santiago this very day! You can imagine the hubbub from hordes of exhausted pilgrims! It was a quite merry affair though physically taxing to stand for so long.

Eventually released from this ordeal with our certificates we shuffled off to a supermarket to get some provisions for breakfast. Irene is determined to have porridge with bananas and dates and nuts with soy milk and nothing or no one will stop her. She is a desperate woman pushed to the limits of her endurance by croissants, cheese, white bread and cake for breakfast. She does make a delicious porridge which I respectfully and gratefully enjoy.

Breakfast sorted it was now time for dinner. Food, food, food is always on your minds when you travel and do not have your own larder or fridge! The owner had suggested a little restaurant down the road that was cheap( tick) and good( double tick). We were all exhausted and didn’t want to go far. We were pleased it had a menu of the day for €8.50 which had lentil soup ( a favourite of Anne and Irene), Chicken or Squid and dessert or coffee and wine. The lentil soup would have been enough in our state but we had the works. The food was pretty good, homemade tasting and the owner charming. Anne and I shared the Galician wine this time- a carafe and two bowls for drinking. It had started to rain and looks like it will set in. Our host has umbrellas also for us and when my automatic opener was pushed I thought I might do a Mary Poppins it had such force.

We shuffled back up the hill and all showered and crashed into bed without a sound.

We had arrived, despite all physical challenges, particularly Anne with a very sore ankle and Bill’s sore foot, (He was determined to walk all the last day into Santiago and he did), weather and missed arrows (very few), arguments about directions and we are still friends. It was a wonderful experience.

Téo 5 th May

It was a bit of a shamozzle at breakfast this morning. Despite being a stately home the breakfast area was long and narrow and we were all jammed in so to get up and down we had to ask people to shift. It was very congested at the buffet area too. However we didn’t starve. The Canadians were walking in to Santiago today (23 km) so they got off at 9.00am and we followed soon after. I hoped to stop in at the church to get the stamp I missed last night but there was a mass and the church was full.

We met them about halfway and Bill and Gary discussed the bike and Gary took it for a test drive. Bill looked like he had a sale!

Some wag put these up to encourage us or was it the community college?

We were taking two days to get to Santiago so our walk was 10 and 13 km, a short version. It was a pretty walk, though on roads through villages and fields. Only towards the end did we hit forest. It wasn’t all that crowded though we did see lots of pilgrims at cafes along the way. In the afternoon there were few. Our goal was Teo and the Parada de Franco, a Casa Rural with a chef and restaurant which literally sits on both sides of the Camino.

At our first coffee break we saw three young men having their breakfast-bananas, wine and cigarettes. It was only 10.00am. They were having a great Camino!

The country side became more lush and there were glorious roses. We were actually pretty close by car to Santiago (11kms) but still further when you walk. Anne and Bill got talking and missed a turn off but after about 100 metres they realised the mistake and found the turn off. Irene and I were wondering where they had gone because they hadn’t been far behind us. Generally the markings have been very clear and we have hardly needed the book except for understanding the distances and possible stops.

We stopped for lunch at a trendy place we thought was close to our destination. It was exciting to have gazpacho and quacamole and toast for lunch. Irene and Anne had golden milk to drink which had turmeric and other spices. Bill and I had Galician beer. They offered us a blue ribbon no which we could write our wishes for our Camino. It was then tied to the fence. It is a nice ritual and lovely to think those wishes are fluttering into the universe.

Our destination seemed to stretch ahead instead of getting closer but eventually we got to Parada de Francos and were able to rest in the garden. Probably our first real opportunity to do such a thing the whole trip other than our rest days. It was so lovely listening to the birds.

Here they also offered gourmet pilgrim’s meals (€23) at 7.00 pm! We enjoyed the meal though we were ushered through pretty quickly and were home in time for a game of cards! Also a first even though I have carried them the whole trip.