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Walking the Santiago de Compostela to Muxia camino

After our recent Via Francigena walk in Tuscany we felt we were equipped with more skills and experience. Perhaps we might be able to face something a bit more challenging this time. We needed a route with longer daily distances and I felt we should attempt to carry our bags this time…
So together with our new found love of Galicia, the Camino “extension” to the Costa do Morte (coast of death) seemed the natural choice, offering what we thought an intriguing, challenging, but doable route.
Some cursory research led to us choosing Muxia over the other more popular destination of Finisterre. Various descriptions of Muxia as not only having been considered (another) “end of the earth”, but also being home to ancient fishing traditions, a site of pagan ritual,  as well as it purportedly being quieter and more charming than neighbouring Finisterre, led us to believe it was our kind of place.
If what we had read was to be believed, many walkers/pilgrims decide to extend their camino on arrival in Santiago de Compostela and follow this route.
Many choose to walk the 86ish kms over 4 days, but I believed we could do it in 3 (I hold my hands up to being the sole organiser of these trips, so if it goes wrong it is mea culpa!) Another of the variables with this trip was that in contrast to other walks, we planned to carry our bags, rather than having them transported. We knew this would be upping the ante, but we had seen so many other people do it, surely we weren’t so different?
Also it was mid July, so we had to factor in weather, but we felt that the lure of the coast and several days R&R by the atlantic ocean would be incentive enough for us to keep going, when things inevitably got tough. We were aware Galicia never gets super hot, so even though the rest of Europe was in the midst of a heatwave, we felt it would be bearble. We knew the sun would be behind us. and it was only for 3 days, so how bad could it be?
I did our standard 6 week planning routine; bought the relevant guidebook (which I have to say, was very scant on detail), downloaded the Wise Pilgrim app and set about planning our accommodation, flights, transport etc.
The plan was to follow the main stages; first night in Santiago de Compostela, walk 22kms to Negreira, 32kms to Olveiroa, with a final 33kms into Muxia.
Finding accommodation in Santiago de Compostela was straightforward. We were familiar with the city and wanted to be near the start point at Praza da Obradoiro (and our favourite haunt of the market).
Finding accommodation in Negreira and Olveiroa was more challenging. Whilst many walkers opt to stay at the municipal albergues, we are definitely not those people. Our own room and bathroom are non negotiable. Everything else, we are fairly relaxed about. There wasn’t a great deal of choice, so we just took what was available. Muxia had more and better options and we went a bit more “upmarket” for those 2 nights at the coast.
Arrival day
Flights from Stansted all good. We then hopped on the 6a bus directly outside the Santiago de Compostela airport which ferries you comfortably into town (about 20 mins) for the princely sum of €1 per person.
Quickly we orientated ourselves into the city centre, we booked in to our rooms at Pension Rua Nova we had to visit the sister hotel to ours in Rua da Vela, where the charming receptionist joked with us about taxi numbers in case we needed bailing out along the way – she wouldn’t tell anyone etc, etc.
Our room was just right; on the 3rd floor of a handsome building in the next street. It had green shutters and geraniums, 2 of my favourite things and I remembered why I had booked it – it also had air con…
We set about reacquainting ourselves with some of the locales we had discovered on our previous visits including the fabulously low key Bar Orense, where wine is drunk from the traditional cuncas (bowl like cups). We may have lingered longer than we should have (we usually include a “buffer” day when we embark on these trips and I think we may have lost sight of that a little). …
What also occurred to me later that night was that I should have booked somewhere further from the cathedral as it announces the time every 30 mins.  My rationale on booking Rua Nova was that the air con and the shutters should blot out the noise. I was wrong.
Day 1 proper
Not feeling nearly as fresh as we would have have liked, we set out for Praza da Obradoiro and the cathedral. We took several wrong turns, were given some dodgy directions, but eventually made it. We headed out of the square and stopped at the first bar we saw for much needed espresso. After a bit of a wrong turn at a park area and seeking directions from a very patient lady, we finally got onto the right path out of town. (For some strange reason, navigating the arrival/departure from a city is often fraught with confusion and this day was no exception).
We saw our first way marker 86.482kms  and felt the familiar sense of relief that we were on the right path. Soon we were walking up and out of the city, turning back for a glimpse of the majestic spires. We journeyed through some wooded areas, spotted our first horreo (ancient grain store house), dodged a couple of showers. We stopped for a much needed toast con tomate at an unexpected bar in Quintans. I asked the chap working in the bar where we were and he had to check!
We saw/met our first walkers, a German couple who were having a a breakfast beer – for once we weren’t tempted – cant think why?! I was super chuffed to recall a bit of schoolgirl German and translate it into Spanish, so they could get what they required & off we went….
We continued on through hamlets, woods, and after a long uphill walk came across Bar Pancho at Trasmonte (after about 14kms). We weren’t super hungry but rather than risk there being nowhere open later on decided to share a precautionary cheese bocadillo. Lucky we didn’t order 2 – as out came practically a whole baguette,  which of course,  we soon snaffled.
We were very grateful for that stop because when we arrived at Ponte Maceira, reputedly the most beautiful village on this route (which it was), the only bar/restaurant was super unfriendly to walkers with a big list on the chalkboard out front of things they wouldn’t tolerate….(walkers/pilgrims basically).
Hmm, this place may be beautiful with its waterfalls etc, but not welcoming.  We did exchange a few pleasant words on the medieval bridge with a lovely woman and her mother from Madrid – all of us remarking on how tough the day’s walking had been.
Just another 4kms would get us to Negreira and our room for the night at Hostal La Mezquita.
We arrived to a less than rapturous welcome from our hosts. Another strange sign in a few languages telling you not to take your shoes off! A shame because the room was really good, the bar/restaurant looked very promising (though opened at 20.15). We were hungry and opted to take our custom elsewhere (after a shower and a mini rest).
A couple of beers from the bar directly opposite were a way more friendly prospect. The staff were cheery and provided some great chorizo stuffed bread rolls with our beers.
We opted for a meal nearby which was also quite odd. The host didn’t want us to sit in the front of the restaurant as it was reserved for (non existent) card players. The meal took ages to come and when it did, the salad came topped with gulas (baby eels).
Anyway, we finally fell into our comfy bed in our more than ample room and drifted off to sleep….
Day 2
Buoyed by a good night’ sleep, we headed down for breakfast at the advertised 7.30am. No sign of life in the bar, hotel, or anywhere. When we eventually found out how to get out of the building, I asked a delivery man where we might get a coffee at this hour on a Sunday morning. He directed us to the nearby, friendly Bar Nova Celta.

Some Spanish women asked us where they could get coffee and we motioned them to follow. On returning to our hostel about 15 mins later, there was still no sign of life, but more importantly no way back into the hotel to drop off the key. In the end we rolled it up in the newspaper hanging outside the front door. We were super glad we hadn’t left our bags inside whilst heading out for coffee, as we would not have been impressed at not being able to get them out again..

So, after a mixed start, we headed off out of town, past the market which was setting up. Happy to be back on the path for what we expected to be a long but not too challenging (otherwise) day…
We headed through some wooded areas, glanced upon fields of maize and delighted in the beautiful hydrangea which was in abundance along the route. We passed some dairy farms and I noted with interest that the manure smelt like apples (don’t know what they’re eating/drinking, but they smell sweet!)
After 8 or so kms (all on the incline) we were ready for breakfast and came across the Albergue da Pena with its “abierto” sign. After climbing the steep steps, “abierto”, it was not. Pretty frustrating, but fear not, just around the corner was the fab “A Cabaña”, sitting proud on a hill, like a true oasis. We ordered a bocadillo each and they were of almost comic proportions… one was duly packed away in the bag, whilst the other one (with a french omelette filling) made a great breakfast for 2!
Girded by the megawich and several more espressos each we headed off. Across a babbling brook, past fields, ivy clad trees, a lovely heatheresque plant everywhere. A bit of road walking with a polite bit of graffiti reminding us to ” emancipate ourselves from mental slavery”.

The day was pretty tough going, particularly as the temperature was rising. The sight of a blueberry stall cheered us up no end. We helped a young Spanish man get to his hat (without taking off his pack) as he passed us walking in the opposite direction.

We then came to a mega steep hill. Brian had to take my pack as I felt like I was falling backwards. Fatigue was also starting to set in. A young, sturdy looking Spanish man passed us saying that this must be some kind of joke, surely pilgrims didn’t really walk this way?
However, at the top we were rewarded with some spectacular views of a lake and the beautiful surrounding hills and countryside we had covered to get to this point.
We continued on to Lago, stopping for a beer and the largest bag of crisps ever at Casa Xalleiro. The last 7kms was a bit of a blur as we were both pretty hot and tired. But we continued onto the outskirts of Olveiras and found our bed for the night at the lovely Casa Manola, where the beer was cold and the South American music was pumping, this warm Sunday afternoon. The “clock” (Pacer app) was telling us we had done 35kms & we were feeling it!
Our room (with a glorious view)  in the albergue was fab.  This being an albergue, there were laundry facilities and a communal kitchen area, where walkers could make their own drinks and snacks. We were not carrying provisions and unfortunately we had arrived in the Spanish deadzone between 4 and 8pm when the kitchens are closed. So, after the obligatory beers, shower and power rest, we were in need of sustenance…
I googled the neighbouring Pension Casa Loncho – success, their kitchen was open! We sat in the cool interior, watching the Wimbledon men’s final, eating a superb “Pilgrims” meal – the lentejas (lentils) here were so good. My grilled merluza (hake) was just what I wanted.  This simple, hearty meal was exactly what we needed.
Happy, tired and full we returned to our albergue for a good night’s sleep….
Day 3
When we read some of the Camino forums, we noted that some people share concerns about not being able to sleep in an albergue (due to noise, disruption etc) they are told they will be so tired at the end of the days walking, sleeplessness will not be an issue.
Let me just dispel that myth. If you are a bit of an insomniac (as am I), the Camino may not be the panacea you are looking for. If you are lucky you may find some respite, but if you are like me, you may find there is so much exhaustion + overthinking going on, your issues may get even worse….
Unfortunately I had another one of those nights (no fault of the lovely albergue). A sleepless night is far from ideal, but it happens. Over breakfast we decided to give ourselves the option to take transport whenever we needed it. The plan was to make it to the first stop, c 6kms in, then reassess.
So we headed off, quite full of trepidation, but with the knowledge we had plans B & C if required. We headed through the lovely medieval stone hamlet of Olveiroa, past the fine horreo.
Once more, starting to climb.  The countryside was lush, green and very beautiful as we looked down to the valley below. The going was pretty slow,  tiredness making me concentrate more on my footing. However, the sound of birdsong and babbling brooks, together with the slightly overcast weather kept us going.
We came to a point with some comedy brass boots; an irresistible photo opportunity to anyone passing. We met a lady who had been walking 1000kms and seemed to be carrying just a regular handbag!
Just beyond this point at Hospital, the route splits and you decide wether to go to Finisterre or Muxia. We knew which way we were going, just had to decide whether or not we were able to keep going. I decided we should review again after another 6kms (this seemed manageable as Brian kept reminding me, this was just 3 times around Bedford park!).
So we continued onwards. It was a Monday and most bars and shops in Dumbria were closed. A helpful woman directed us, just off the route to the great, olde worlde pension/supermarket called Pension O Argentino. It was dark and inviting, with an elderly lady asleep in the corner (whilst the television blared). The kind of place we love and would have happily stayed the night. But we were not done with this day yet.
Espresso fuelled the following 6kms. I was struggling with exhaustion and my frozen shoulder and Brian had to carry my pack for some parts of the day.
It was getting quite hot also and there weren’t as many stops as we would have liked. We came across a bar called A Coxa in Senande with a super friendly host, where we opted for a Pepsi and a rejuvenating break in the cool interior.
Shortly after this, we passed through a very beautiful and artistic village, A Griza replete with murals, carved water fountains and of course some fine horreos. Too soon for us to stop again, we ploughed to the sizeable town  of Quintans, where we thought we might stop for some substantial refreshment. However, everything was closed.
This was a bit of a low moment, but we had come so far, we were not willing to give up. Fortunately we happened upon a vending machine outside an albergue and we had a shandy for the road! Approximately 10kms (5 times around the park) we felt we could make it all the way.
We came across a little stall with a lady making keepsakes, but we didn’t have any cash to buy anything. We passed a lovely old monastery and finally got our first glimpse of the Atlantic!
This turned out to be a false dawn with us both believing we were nearly there…  Unfortunately there were another 6 or so kms that took us back away from the sea, up and down through wooded areas,  where you felt like you were getting further and further away. It was quite dispiriting and both of us felt we would come across a bar at any moment, so we could pep ourselves up a bit. But there were no signs of life anywhere.
This last stretch seemed to go on forever, until we finally emerged back to the sea, giving us the last burst of energy required to make it up the wooden boardwalk and round into the fabulous Muxia where we pretty much fell into the first bar we found on the seafront.
The super welcoming Cafe Miramar, where a charming young woman served us the coldest beers and slabs of empanada, which we devoured with great gusto!
Full disclosure here: at this point we had totally forgotten about the camino and focused soley on getting booked into our lovely hotel (Solpor do Coido) and getting ourselves clean, fed and watered. We opted for an excellently low key sardine and steak meal at the ” chefs table” at A Dorna – basically a grill on a street corner – I defy anyone to resist the smells pumping out of this place!
All of which brings me on to a rather unexpected –
Day 4….
I awoke (yes, I slept!) in a bit of a confused/panicked state. Recalling the ending of the day before, it occurred to me that the camino hadn’t ended as I had expected; with a light house, a grand church, an end marker etc, that I seemed to recall from photos I had seen…
That is because in our beer induced euphoria, we hadn’t actually finished the camino. Oops!
Rather shamefaced, we retraced our our steps to the seafront and found the marker which pointed us to the official end point (about 1 more km!), the Santuario de la virgen de la Barca, the light house and the monument to the Prestige oil tanker, all of which make a rather more fitting end to the route… Finally, a little later than planned we had made it to the end of the world!


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