Day one on the Camino Inglés takes us from Ferrol, around the estuary and into the medieval town of Pontedeume, Spain, for a trip of about 25 kilometers. Join us on our picture journey, of this first leg of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. If a picture says a thousand words, then these will give you a great idea of what this part of the spiritual journey entailed!
"A pilgrim's journey, unlike a traveler's never ends; it only deepens." ~ Author Unknown
The anticipation was high, on this glorious and warm mid-September day. My friend Shelly and I (This is Elle writing) wound our way through the streets of Ferrol, at daybreak on the first day of our Camino Inglés. (Go to my introduction to the English Way to see our first steps of our Camino from the docks and to our hostal, that we did the evening prior. For a much more detailed description of the English Way, go to the Confraternity of St. James website, where you can download the guide for a donation.)
The maps I used are the best I could find, however, they are from a Spanish website. It is always nice to see your elevation gain, and on day one of the English Way, the gain of 200 meters (about 600 feet) feels significant. Those who haven't taken the time to prepare, may want to stop in Neda, at the first albergue (Spanish word for hostel) after about 12 kilometers, to avoid this gain on the first day. Read the map below from right to left! I guess that is a Spanish thing?
I am not fond of the orientation of the route map, below, with North pointing to the lower right hand corner. Make sure you compare this to Google maps or something else to set your orientation straight. Also, like the elevation map above, the pilgrimage is depicted from right to left, which may also be a little confusing.
Within a short distance from the start of our Camino, which began at our hostal in the center of the town of Ferrol, and after passing a military zone, The Way of St. James turns into this lovely promenade. It
was a wonderful place to document how I looked on the first leg from
Ferrol to Pontedeume. Here I am, loaded up and ready for my spiritual journey!
Many pilgrims complain about the first day on the Camino Inglés because you have to walk through an industrial area. Yes, there are parts that are not very pleasing, but it was only for a very short way. I found this complex in the industrial area, below, to be quite fascinating. It appeared to be a memorial of some sort, as work clothes were attached to the fence of this industrial building. Some clothes were very tattered as if they had been there for a long time. Or was it a protest? Why were children's clothes and non-working clothes among them? If anyone knows the purpose for this seemingly sacred site, please contact me and let me know!
The waymarks on the Camino de Santiago are very easy to follow and are everywhere. Just go in the direction of the rays on the shell, the official emblem for The Way. You see a shell at every intersection and every change in direction. In addition, there are yellow arrows, like on the column to the right. We were instructed to ignore the white and red arrows, as they shared The Way of St. James, with other routes, diverging at some point later.
Day one on the English Way follows the Ría de Ferrol, traveling predominately northeast. The roads are pleasant and do not have a lot of traffic. Here, the Camino de Santiago approaches the Parish of San Martín de Xubia, a major landmark. It is a tranquil and beautiful place along the river, a peacefully serene place for a stop for lunch, if the timing is appropriate for you. We had many kilometers to go, so we paused only for a moment.
Looking back at the Parish as the pilgrimage travelers walked by.
A statue of an angel greets you as you enter the grounds of the parish.
Here is another beautiful view of the pastoral land that surrounds the river inlet. I found this part of the Camino de Santiago to be very tranquil and inviting! Whoever it is that does not like this part of the spiritual journey is a strange person indeed! A pilgrim travels with eyes that see all things in a new way, and even industrial areas can be a cultural experience anyway!
Soon after the Parish, day one on the Camino Inglés takes an upturn into a eucalyptus forest. The freshness and the scent of the trees was a welcome reprieve from the hot sun.
After the forest the Way of St. James leads you down to sea level once again, and to another promenade on the waterfront. This path was full of walkers, joggers and hikers on the nice day, but we did not see a lot of pilgrims. There was a nice fuente (fountain) and we filled our water bottles, aired out our feet and stopped for a significant snack here.
Since there was so much pavement walking thus far and after 2.5 hours on the pilgrimage, I decided to replace my Tevas with my Merrell trail shoes. I felt like I wasn't getting quite enough cushioning. But my Tevas were great during the full 2.5 hours and kept my feet nice and cool on this very warm day. We were about 4-5 kilometers from Neda, almost halfway thru this leg.
In the photo below, it shows how we skirted the final length of the Ferrol estuary, and could now see the town of Vilar across the inlet and the first pilgrim's albergue. The municipal albergue is the small, low orange building across the river, along its south shore. The way followed the north shore path, also seen to the left in this photo below.
Walking along a promenade and through a park, you come to a footbridge that leads to the albergue just after the bridge. It is the long orange building in this picture, below. We decided that we needed to keep going! Ferrol to Neda is only 11 kilometers and we felt more energetic, spiritually charged and ready to go on.
After the albergue, on the first day of the Camino Inglés, the path turns into a lovely boardwalk that goes through a marshy area. The signs stated this was a nature preserve. It was very pleasant walking and wonderfully forgiving on the feet.
The rural areas are beautiful with traditional haystacks seen in this field. It's been a looong time since I saw haystacks, if ever!
The waymark on this building was very inviting, leading us down the narrow roadway. Whenever there is a choice in paths, the shell and/or the yellow arrow always appear! We never really checked the guide much, as The Way was clear.
At around 13 km into our spiritual journey, we arrived at the Iglesia de Santa Maria, an historic church built in the 16th century.
On the church's wall is a plaque, that shows a dedication for all the pilgrims on the Camino Inglés, on their way to the spiritual site of Santiago de Compostela. This plaque was placed here in 2010, to commemorate this Holy Year. A Holy Year is whenever St. James Day, which is July 25th, falls on a Sunday. The next holy years will be in 2021, 2027 and 2032. The holy years are special and the Cathedral in Santiago grants plenary indulgences and a special door is opened, called the Puerta Santa (Holy Door), for pilgrims to enter from the Plaza de la Quintana.
Onward a bit farther, we came to the Hospice of the Holy Spirit. It was previously a hostel for pilgrims, but is now restored and is a place for the Neda town council to meet. The clock tower was very inviting as well as the fuente, where we filled up our water containers!
The streets of Neda were enchanting, narrow and quite old!
More lovely, narrow streets! We did not linger in this town, but I now really wish we had! If you have the time, I would encourage you to take in more of this ancient, pilgrimage town along The Way.
After leaving the town we wandered along and met this interesting waymark, with the pilgrims boots left as an offering perhaps, or a monument?
Day one on the English Way continued along the south side of the Ría de Ferrol, and onwards toward Fene. The views of the river are abundant and very lovely. My feelings here were ones of pure contentment and gratitude, for the sights, my health, the opportunity for my pilgrimage and the serenity of this area.
As you can see the roads are narrow and go through beautiful hamlets, with interesting and colorful homes and streets lined with walls, covered in vines and flowers.
The café con leche we had in the town of Fene was a most welcome stop, after walking another two hours since our last break just before Neda. We stumbled on the Cafeteria Lembranza, right along the Way of St. James, after about 17.5 kilometers into this leg. From here, we had only 7.5 kilometers to go to Pontedeume.
We obtained our second sello (stamp) on our Credential here for day one on the Camino Inglés. You can see the two stamps on my Credential.
A word about the Spanish culture and siesta time is in order. We JUST arrived in time before the cafeteria closed for siesta time. Fortunately, we were sitting outside and had just paid our bill, because they proceeded to close their doors behind our table at 2:00 sharp!
The café con leche turned into our lunch, supplemented by croissant leftovers from our breakfast and some dried fruit and nuts that we happened to have in our packs.
This cultural surprise could have been looked upon with disdain, but we learned quickly that we MUST carry food in our packs at all times. It was a good thing that we frugally saved a portion of our breakfast, as it came in very, very handy. All the restaurants and shops close up tight from about two or three in the afternoon until early in the evening, around seven p.m. A very tough schedule for tired, hungry pilgrims rolling into town at siesta time!
If one is to learn the true art of pilgrimage, one must be prepared to step outside of their comfort zone, and this would prove to be true for us in regard to meal times, over and over again on our Spanish pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela!
After Fene, and the long day thus far, The Way proceeded to climb up. The steep hills here felt pretty significant after an already long day. I almost wished we had decided to stay in Neda! Fortunately, the Camino de Santiago was very lovely in this stretch, going through hamlets with the quaintest old buildings!
Not pictured here, but we did follow along a dirt path that ran along the motorway for some time. At least the path bordered a forest as well, so it wasn't too unpleasant on this first day of the Camino Inglés. Our spirits were still high despite the proximity to the motorway. I don't think anything would have brought us down on day one of our English Camino!
We went through another hamlet, where this lovely sign on a home greeted us. Another Camino supporter! They were everywhere!
The climb continued up and through another eucalyptus forest. Since it was a sunny and warm day, this path was most welcome! I found that my T-shirt I was wearing had too much cotton. I was drenched after this part of the walk. I will note to bring ONLY quick dry fabrics for my next Camino! (Plus, later when it became humid and rainy, this T-shirt did not dry fast enough. Lessons learned, already on day one of the Camino Inglés!)
I quickly learned that throughout Galicia, there is rain in the forecast for essentially every day! I don't know if this was true only for September or for all seasons. Often the only rain was a few drops, as was true on this day.
The hilly region here takes you through deep rural areas, which certainly evoked a feeling of serenity in my soul! This scenery more than made up for any short distances in the industrial zones.
Eventually the Way of St. James drops down toward sea level once again, and by this ancient mill. The Camino runs along the stream, right immediately by this wonderful place.
Judging from the haystacks, this mill is still occupied! It must be hundreds of years old. Our Confraternity guide told us that from here we had only about a mile to go! We were jubilant!
We wound through yet another hamlet, with wall-lined streets, that kept our first day on the Camino Inglés so full of quaintness.
Eventually, The Way drops steeply through a stairway, and leads you to a beach, called Magdalena. It runs along yet another promenade and bike path that was an extremely refreshing way to end our day one on the English Way.
The final bridge across the Río Eume into town seemed extremely long! All we could think of was the beer waiting on the other side! As it turns out, that was our ONLY choice, as it was too early for food at 5:00 p.m. Day one on the Camino Inglés was yet again inviting us to adapt to the Spanish culture's limited window for food during siesta time! Because of this, once again, it is essential that you carry food with you at all times. The only other choice is to deal with gnawing hunger until the cafés or restaurants re-open. The beer we had was at least served with a very light tapa (appetizer), fortunately, because we did not get dinner until almost 8 p.m. that evening. We were learning fast!
We had our beer, just across the bridge, before going to check out the municipal albergue. When we reached the albergue at 6:00 pm, we discovered that the hospitilero would not arrive for another hour-and-a-half, too long for hungry, tired pilgrims to wait! Instead we went into town and checked into the Hostal Allegue, a very comfortable place, but not the most economical at 42 Euros for the two of us. And no breakfast included.
All-in-all it took us a bit over 8 hours of hiking to do the 25 kilometers, but long breaks were included. It was a long first day indeed! We took lots of time to acclimate to our physical journey with our loaded packs on day one on the Camino Inglés. We certainly overcame our physical difficulties, which is part of the spiritual journey, isn't it?
I felt exuberant that I had gone over 15 miles on just day one! The English Way was harder than I imagined, despite being very fit, from Colorado and used to hiking at elevation. But nothing really prepares you for a lengthy hike with an eighteen pound pack unless you are training at the same level. Unfortunately, I had not.
Amazingly, at the end of day one, I now felt ready to face day two. With the beauty of Galicia and the cultural experience of ALL that was seen, plus the many friendly faces wishing us a "Buen Camino!," I was still exhilarated on this day one of the Camino Inglés!
I hope you enjoyed your own spiritual journey as you traveled with Shelly and me, the pilgrimage travelers! Join us now, for day two!
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