Day 1 – Santiago

I now write from an “albergue” in the Spanish town of Portomarin next to a kitchen where 5 French pilgrims are having a wonderful argument about whether to skip dinner or eat it as it is, dry and dreary, having been unable to locate white wine in this town. I would go and say bon apetit, but I fear that my legs, having finally propelled me to my bed in the top bunk, will refuse to get me safely down again. How I ended up in this sorry state, well, I’m getting there.

I arrived safely in Santiago and spent the day shopping for a few essentials that I could not bring in a piece of cabin luggage. Advice for anyone seeking to undertake el Camino. Pack light – really 2,3 t-shirts and any special bits of sportswear – like thermal tops. As you arrive in Santiago, if you have a couple of hours, there is a shopping centre with a Primark, an H&M, a Carrefour and other useful shops – buy stuff from the journey when you get here. Also, all the albergues, the special hostels for pilgrims offer the opportunity to wash (by hand usually) and dry your clothes. Use it, don’t plan your pack with the idea that you’ll carry dirty clothes and wash at the end. Anyway, after exploring Santiago a bit and buying the “Credencial del Peregrino”, the special pilgrim’s passport which gets you access to the albergues and which has to be stamped along the way, I headed for the bus to Sarria, the place where the pilgrimage, the part I’m doing at least, starts. At around 9.30 PM, with the sun on my back, I arrived at an albergue, considerably better equipped than I expected, where I received my first official pilgrim stamp.

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