Camino de Santiago (French route) – The complete index

Camino de Santiago
Our journey from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela
20 Sept – 1 Nov 2016

The Complete Index

There is something undeniably special about walking the Camino de Santiago. As one of the great medieval pilgrimage routes it draws people from all over the world – irrespective of religious belief or lack thereof – to do something extraordinary. To walk in the footsteps of a thousand years of pilgrims is a way to touch a deep cultural history – something we rarely get to do in a busy life. Scroll down to find links to all the posts about our 2016 Camino.


Camino - Don't stop walking

The Camino, like most travel, is at least three journeys in one. It is a physical journey, in which you discover what distance can be covered in a day’s walk, and the strange feeling of walking across an entire country. It is also an inner journey of the mind, as your perspective changes, your assumptions are challenged, and you have an opportunity to spend time out from a busy schedule to gain a new perspective on life. Thirdly, it is a cultural journey spanning a thousand years of history. As UNESCO has stated: “Europe was built on the pilgrim road to Santiago.” Buen Camino!

Compostelas with shells


INDEX to the Camino posts

I have collected here links to the story of our journey to Santiago de Compostela in 2016 – feel free to dive in at any point, or to follow the story sequentially.

Camino training

Trekking pole tripod – camera mount

Camino training – a lighthearted look

Packing for the Camino de Santiago

Camino Credential from Notre Dame Paris

Paris – the final pack for the Camino

Paris to St Jean Pied de Port

Camino Frances: St Jean-Orisson

Roncesvalles and the Witches Wood

Espinal to Zubiri: A sketch and a close call

Abbey of Eskirotz and Ilarratz – a hidden gem

A Bell before Pamplona

Pamplona rest day and a moment with Heidegger

Zariquiegui and on to the Mount of Forgiveness

On to Puenta la Reina

Magic House at Villatuerte

The Wine Fountain then on to Villamayor de Montjardin

Villamayor de Jardin to Los Arcos – and a special sunrise

Viana and a micro-fiesta

Logroño – city of farewells

Logroño to Ventosa

Ventosa to Azofra via Nàjera

Azofra to Santo de Domingo de la Calzada

On to Villamayor del Rio – and some thoughts on the Camino

On to Villafranca Montes de Oca

Camino Frances: Haven’t seen you in Agés…

Atapuerca and on to Burgos

Burgos – And a Museum of Human Evolution

Burgos – A Cathedral, a Prince and a Toy Train

Leon – Stained glass to rival Chartres

Leon – Hogworts, a museum, and the weight of history

Hobbit houses, then on to Villar de Mazariffe

A long bridge and a fiesta – Puente de Orbigo

Passing Astorga

Tex Mex on the Camino

Cruz de Ferro – a poignant moment

The descent, then on to Ponferrada

Villafranca del Bierzo – and a Camino angel

To O Cebreiro – Gateway to Galicia!

O Cebreiro to Fonfria

Sarria – Beginning of the final leg

Sarria to Morgade

Portomarin – and a moving church

Off to Hospital – and an encounter with Spanish plumbing

Palas de Rei

Camino – Casanova scammers and on to Melide

Melide to Arzua and an encounter with raspberries

Arzua to Pedrouza

Pedrouzo to Santiago – Arrival at last!

Santiago moments, and an encounter with the Botafumeiro

Camino Kilometre Zero at Finisterre and on to Muxia

Encounter with the Secret Pilgrim

Lessons learned on the Camino

Santiago cathedral

bronze Camino shell

Encounter with the Secret Pilgrim

I had heard rumours of a so-called secret pilgrim, or hidden pilgrim, from the concierge at our hotel in Santiago. It was all a bit cryptic, so I decided to find out more. But first, it was time to visit the museum and tour the cathedral – including hugging the Saint.

Santiago cathedral

This latter is another pilgrim tradition. Saint James’ relics are contained in a large life-sized reliquary in the cathedral. And by climbing the stairs behind the altar and under the watchful gaze of a member of the clergy (no selfies allowed) you can embrace the jewel-encrusted golden reliquary.

St James reliquary

And then we explored the rest of the Cathedral, finding niches and side rooms richly decorated with Camino symbolism.

Santiago cathedral

The Cathedral museum, housed in the former Benedictine monastery next door – was the very monastery from which Dom Salvado came to Perth in Western Australia to found New Norcia – itself the subject of an Australian pilgrimage route. The museum held a wide range of art objects and religious objects – chalices and the like, and statues formerly mounted on the Cathedral, and a couple of spare Botafumieros that have been used over the past few centuries.


We met up with Camino friends Dekel and Jack once again. They had walked to Finiserre and Muxia and had returned to Santiago before departing back to the UK. We shared a wonderful meal and drinks with them before parting. It is definitely worth hanging around in Santiago for a few days to meet up with those wonderful people we had met along the way.

Jack and Dekel

Later in the evening, it was time to seek out the hidden pilgrim. He was a shadowy figure, only seen at night. And there is a story attached.

Legend has it, that centuries ago a monk fell in love with a nun and planned to elope. He told her he would dress as a pilgrim (great disguise as there would have been thousands of pilgrims as they are today), but at the appointed hour she didn’t show, so he appears every night hoping for her to turn up. It is, of course, a trick of the shadows formed by the base of the lightning conductor and his staff is the shadow if the support column for the Berenguela clock tower – but it makes for a good romantic – even gothic – story! It was made all the better for the late evening gloom and the rain that fell steadily throughout my search for the pilgrim.

Secret Pilgrim

It was time to celebrate with a Tarte de Santiago – the famous Galician almond cake that provided excellent sustenance along our journey. We would not be eating many more of these once we left Spain, so it seemed a fitting conclusion to our Camino. Next stop Madrid, then Rome!

Tarte de Santiago


INDEX – If you wish to follow our journey from the start, or jump in to any of the Camino posts,
here is a link to the index page – also found in the navigation bar at the top of this blog


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Camino Kilometre Zero at Finisterre and on to Muxia


We felt that our Camino would not be quite complete without a visit to Kilometre Zero at Finisterre, and a side visit to Muxia. Finisterre is reputedly the place at which the boat carrying St James’ body landed on the coast of Spain, and the place where the local pagan queen denied permission for his burial, ordering that he not be buried within three days walk of the coast – and hence why he was taken inland to Santiago de Compostela – to lie beneath the field of stars.

We took a bus tour – partly because we were running up against visa deadlines, partly because after 42 days walking it was nice to rest, and because the tour would be informative about what we were seeing.

Finisterre – which literally translates as the ‘end of the earth’, or more poetically, the ‘end of the world’ – was indeed what the Romans considered to be the end of the known world at that time. From here there is almost nothing but ocean between us and the Americas. Consequently, the place developed a mystique – especially when there was an ocean fog, where people could literally sail away and be swallowed up in the mist. It was considered a gateway to the underworld or the afterlife.

The area was once inhabited by the Artabri – a Galician Celtic tribe – who were Sun worshippers and a ritual site has been identified nearby with that practice. And there is archeological evidence of continuous habitation on the peninsula since around 1000BC.

The Faro, or lighthouse was built in 1853 and is still in use today – albeit with updated lighting! And it is open to visitors.

Faro de Finisterre

There is a tradition that pilgrims would come to this place and burn their clothes (a practice now outlawed) perhaps as a ritual of purification, or as an actual disposal of clothes that by now would be pretty rank if you hadn’t washed them regularly along the way. It was also a place to collect your scallop shell as proof that you had completed your pilgrimage. Today pilgrims start with the shell to identify themselves as pilgrims.

This place also marks the true end of the Camino – with the 0.00km marker. It is the Spanish equivalent to Lands End or John-O-Groats, although there is another zero kilometre marker in Madrid – from which distance from Madrid is measured right across Spain.

Zero km marker

We stopped for lunch in the main town. Despite us being in a fishing port, we had steak and salad, served by a surly youth, for whom our lunch was clearly an unwelcome interruption to his day. However, we did have a lovely view out over the harbour with its colourful fishing boats and enormous seagulls.

Finisterre fishing boat




Muxia, for its part, is reputedly the last place that St James preached, and where he prayed for guidance on how to convert the locals. At this point, he had a dream which took him on a pilgrimage to Rome, where he was subsequently martyred.

There is an ancient cross to mark the place, just near the church. The town of Muxia is named for the monks that established a nearby Benedictine monastery.

Cross at Muxia

The church at Muxia is known as the Santuario da Virxe da Barca, which translates roughly as ‘The Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Boats’. It was badly damaged by fire from a lightning strike in 2013 which destroyed the sacristy; the main roof; and the ornate baroque central altarpiece. The church has since been repaired, although it wasn’t open when we visited (I managed a photo through the window). According to Wikipedia:

“The sanctuary was originally a pre-Christian Celtic shrine and sacred spot. This part of Spain was resistant to conversion to Christianity, and was only converted in the 12th century. The Christians built a hermitage on this location at first, and later the present church in the 17th century.”

Church at Muxia

The church houses quite a collection of model fishing boats – these are brought into the church by local fishermen to seek divine protection while they are out on the ocean. It is, ironically, a form of sympathetic magic that has been invoked since pre-Christian times, or perhaps a kind of Dorian Gray for boats.


Muxia is located on the Costa de la Muerte – the coast of death – so-named because of the large number of shipwrecks along the treacherous coastline. So it is perhaps not too surprising that sailors in the local fishing community seek divine protection.

Such divine protection was not so forthcoming on 13 November 2002 for the oil tanker ‘Prestige’ which ran aground at Muxia, spilling some 20 million US gallons/75 million litres of oil into the Atlantic and along the coast from Portugal to France, with Muxia being the worst hit. A massive cleanup followed, and a large compensation payout was made to the local fishing communities, but many small coastal fishing and farming villages reliant on coastal industries and tourism were badly affected by the spill.

A monument has been erected up the hill from the church to recall the incident. The monument takes the form of a broken rock – symbolic of the break in the ship, the wound to the sea and also of how the disaster divided the community through the economic hardship engendered by the damage to the area. The monument is called “A Ferida” and was sculpted by local artist Alberto Bañuelos.

Monument to the tanker Prestige

There was also a kiosk selling locally made lace – it is always fascinating to watch a skilled lacemaker at work – such nimble fingers and such fine work!


The tour also took us to a waterfall – reputedly the largest such fall in Spain.


But the tranquil bay was visually far more interesting, if less dramatic …


Then it was on to see the great Horreo at Carnota. It is apparently the largest in Galicia, and our guide enthusiastically explained how it worked to dry the corn cobs and maize. They were built narrow enough to get air flow around all of the corn cobs, and the mushroom-capped stilts deterred vermin – rats and the like – from entering and spoiling the crop. As for the size? This one was built and owned by the church, and held the tithe tributes from the local market gardeners. By tradition, each farmer was to give ten percent of their crop to the church, who would store it and use it to feed the clergy, the pilgrims and the poor – likely in that order. It was also a safe store in case of crop failure. Horreos are a significant feature on the Galician landscape, although similar grain stores and drying houses can be found throughout France and rural UK.

Horreo de Carnota

And finally, we came back to Santiago de Compostela. Tomorrow it will be time for another visit to the Cathedral and to search for the Hidden Pilgrim!


INDEX – If you wish to follow our journey from the start, or jump in to any of the Camino posts,
here is a link to the index page – also found in the navigation bar at the top of this blog


Why not have these posts delivered to your in-box? Just enter your email address and click the ‘subscribe’ button in the left margin, and don’t forget to respond to the confirmation email in your in-box 🙂