El Camino Fonseca

Northwest via Ourense

Rolling Hills and Steep Climbs

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Ourense to Santiago

Ponte Ulla to Santiago: 23 June 2006

The final day of my walk along the Camino Fonseca began with a long climb out of the valley of the Rio Ulla. At first the way is by minor roads either side of the N525 but soon the Camino leaves the main road near the restaurant Os Palmeiros and goes under the railway line. The steep climb is by forest tracks, mainly through eucalyptus, to the hamlet of Outeiro.

 Outeiro

The Camino seems to pass just above the village but, at the crossroads, there are a couple of signs pointing downhill to restaurants. The reason for these signs will soon become clear. The Ermita de Santiaguiño is on the crossroads opposite its ornate fuente.

Passing between the ermita and the fuente I re-entered the eucalyptus forest and soon came to the new albergue. This is a very modern building but was locked so I could not rest inside. There did not seem to be any other facilities here so I hope the signs back at the crossroads were only a short distance from the restaurants.

There then followed a pleasant walk along forest tracks rising gently towards the Pico Sacro where, on a clear day, there are distant views of Santiago.

vineyards

I didn't have a clear day and the diversion to the mirador on Pico Sacro was long and steep so I turned left when the path reached the road down towards Ardarís. Now begins a long stretch of walking mainly along country roads. The farming is intensive along here and there are some good examples of grapevines growing on the traditional trellises.

Ardarís

The Camino now passes through a series of small agricultural communities and, when it touches the main N525, it is possible to obtain refreshments in the larger village of A Susana. I also noticed that, whenever the Camino approached the main road, enterprising local bars and restaurants have erected signs for their own diversions from the way.

vineyards

This pattern of small villages and hard roads continues until the Camino swings away to the east of the main road and enters the southern suburbs of Santiago. This is a much more pleasant introduction to the city than the route taken by the Camino Francés and part of the way is along another cobbled Camino Real.

Santiago

What a change I found when I reached the city centre. For the last two and a half weeks I had seen very few other pilgrims and had been able to wander at my own pace without worrying if the accommodation at the end of the day would be full. Now the town was swarming with pilgrims and, after visiting the cathedral, I joined the long queue at the Pilgrim's Office to claim my Compostela. My intention had been to stay overnight and visit the restaurants and bars I knew from my previous visits. However, after trying several hotels for accommodation, I gave up and went to the bus station and caught a coach to visit friends near the coast. By luck their town fiesta was just beginning and I had five days and nights winding down before returning home.