Thanks to our Terra Verde friends, a group of 80 people once again gathered together for the 9th and 10th sectors of our coastal walk last month from Porto to Santiago de Compostela. There was a huge air of excitement this time as we would do two sectors back to back over a weekend giving us two whole days to enjoy the ‘camiño’ atmosphere as we drew closer to Santiago. I will split the walks into two narratives so that they can each be enjoyed individually along with accompanying photos.
For the 9th Sector, from Redondela to Pontevedra, our meeting point was at the entrance of the ‘Pilgrims’ Albergue’ (lodging) in Redondela, following which we walked through the town to the beautiful XV Century Church of St. James, an important stop-off point for all Santiago pilgrims. Although this church has a rather austere and sober facade, inside was a sheer delight where several beautifully embellished alters could be observed in different corners of the church. It also has a notable Baroque bell tower, vestry, Nazarene and the All Souls Chapel all of which were built in 1712.
As we continued our walk through narrow streets which lead out of Redondela and into the countryside, one couldn’t help but notice the variety of beautiful, old granaries (similar to those in Portugal, called Espigueiros or Canastros – read more here). They are absolutely amazing constructions made of granite and wood where maize was dried during the winter months and later to be used in bread making. The huge round circles of solid granite protruding under each of the four corners is a deterrent to rodents from getting into the husks. Today they stand as statuesque ornaments, sadly empty, but as a testament to the hard work from days gone by.
As the day drew on, the weather was on our side, fresh and coolish with an occasional light shower. We followed the official Camiño de Santiago route along the San Simón inlet, fed by the Ria de Vigo, where we were able to look out and enjoy the beautiful bay area. The Spanish camiño is very clearly signed with upright granite markers, strategically placed along the route, showing the exact amount of kilometres that were left to reach our final destination! There was a huge sense of excitement in the air as we walked past each of these markers with the thought in mind that we weren’t far now!
Terra Verde had a special recommendation for a place to stop and have lunch in a small village café called Cafetaria Pili where we could try the typical ’empanada Galega’ filled with either meat, tuna or codfish. Walking into this café/bakery was a sight indeed with huge trays of empanadas fresh from the oven sitting cooling on the counters. Very generous slices of these inexpensive giant pastries were washed down by a cold beer or juice and finished off with a slice of the delicious array of freshly baked cakes and an expresso!
From here our walk lead us to the Sampaio bridge (linking the old Tui province with the parish of Arcade), built over the remains of a Roman bridge in the late eighteenth century and which was the scene of a battle, in 7 and 8 June 1809, between the Spaniards and Napoleon’s forces at the time of the French invasion. Spanish pride in turning back the invaders is clearly displayed with information plaques giving the full history of the battle.
Continuing the walk through the beautiful countryside with small streams, fields and wildflowers, we were fascinated to learn from one of our fellow pilgrims (a historian) that this path was the original Roman route ‘Via 19’ – ‘Via XIX Bracara Augusta – Asturica Augusta’. “It is said that in the spring of 137 BC, an expedition lead by Decius Junius Brutus Lethes crossed a mythical river, the river of forgetfulness, and hitherto the dreaded land of Finis Terrae became part of the Roman Empire. To ensure control of the new administrative and military conquest in 19 AC, construction began of a road network to facilitate the exploitation of mineral resources in this important region. Out of all these routes, the longest was the Via XIX, 299 miles linking the capitals of the three Roman convents in Gallaecia jurisdiction: Brace Augusta (Braga ), Lucus Augusti (Lugo) and Asturias Augusta (Astorga). The route also passed through the towns of Ponte de Lima & Valenca do Minho in Portugal and Tui, Caldas de Reis and Iria Flavia in Spain. Considered the longest of all the northwestern peninsula routes, about 500 km, it was named the Route 19 and was inaugurated in 11 AD.” We couldn’t conceal our amazement at seeing the ruts left in the granite stones lining this route left by bullock cart wheels – a confirmation of the centuries of travel.
Pontevedra soon came into view and with it a completely different scenario. People were out everywhere and as we slowly made our way through the crowds, taking in all around us, one could feel the animated atmosphere of Saturday afternoon in this historical city. Our meeting point was the principle Pontevedra ‘Albergue’ (lodging) where we were invited to a presentation and talk on the Caminho de Santiago given by a local representative. We enjoyed his narrative on the local history of Pontevedra and the walk itself and from here made our way to the São Francisco Church to have our credentials stamped before joining our coach to continue to the small hotel that would accommodate us for a well-earned rest that evening.
A note on ‘Albergues’, this is a budget, hostel type accommodation for pilgrims where they can can get a bunk bed for a night and share a kitchen, bathroom and lounge. The rooms can be either mixed or single sex and is only available to pilgrims who walk not in our case where the walk is done in sectors and commuting is done by coach to each place.
After dinner that evening, we were all invited to the ritual of the traditional Galician ‘queimada’ where Orujo, a traditional Galician liqueur made from the residue of wine production, together with lemon peel, sugar and coffee beans are put into a clay pot, then lit on fire. Eventually, when the flames turn blue, a spell or incantation is recited with the fire put out afterwards. The drink is then served in small ceramic cups.
Follow previous sectors of the coastal walk from Porto to Santiago de Compostela on these links below:-