Mother & Daughter Bonding in Galicia

The next few days rushed by and I hardly had time to enjoy the peace and tranquility of the Camino way.   We completed walking in the Leon Province and then entered the hypnotizing countryside and vineyards of the Galicia Region.

Elizabeth and I were eating, sleeping and most importantly walking together, day after day, with no breaks from each other or the schedule.  To pass the time,  sometimes we discussed history, politics, how talented she was twirling her walking stick and how difficult middle school was.   We took care of each other, me by ensuring her toe blister was cared for and her by handing me her walking stick each time we descended steep hills,  so I did not kill myself in a tumble.   We were both entirely committed to each other’s success here and in life.    She seemed to mature right before my eyes and my stress levels vanished to a non-existent level.   The life I had was perfect at this time, as we wandered up and down the hilly pathways and inched closer to Santiago.

Departing Ponferrada,  we enjoyed the path out of town because this flat Camino section runs parallel to a river or creek that was partially visible with our head lights.  But just when I thought it was going to be an easy day, we were faced with a monstrous stone staircase that needed to be climbed.  It was only 6:00 am, and I was already overheated and panting climbing these killers.  But once we arrived at the top, it was satisfying to know that we were able to do it without stopping to rest.   Our bodies and our mother-daughter bond were getting stronger by the day.    After the stairs, we were rewarded with a lovely stroll through the edge of town.  We then entered the bountiful and green,  wine producing region of NW Spain known as Galicia.

Spain is the worldwide leader in exporting wine, ahead of even Italy and France, and its wine production dates back 2,000 years.  Galicia is well known for its lush landscape, white wines, and seafood.    At one point on the Camino, we approached a large wine production factory that bottled wines called Vinas de Bierzoso.  It was opened to the public and although there was a wine tasting area,  this was a real wine factory with its workers in protective clothing and hairnets. I wanted to buy a bottle but did not want to carry it, so we continued on.  It was so nice to walk in and out of different grape vineyards  during this wonderful day and we sat down regularly to enjoy the pretty scenery.

The heat wave continued to haunt us and that night while staying in the lovely town of Villa Franca del Bierzo  we found some relief.  The town has a picturesque river flowing through it with a beach area for swimming and sun bathing. This place seemed different from the others to me in that it wasn’t a  typical Camino type stop with tourist stores everywhere but a real town with restaurants, stores and  locals who were out and about, working and socializing. I liked it here.

After checking into our Refugio, we went for a swim in the crystal clear, fresh water river.  I expected to see many pilgrims cooling off  but didn’t any.  It did not matter because we had a ball.      Elizabeth was thrilled to be swimming and devouring ice cream at the foot of Leon mountains we had just walked over.  The icy cold water was the perfect remedy for my aching legs and Elizabeth’s sore foot.

 

Buen Camino

 

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Galicia Grape Orchard
Elizabeth walking through among the grape vines
Elizabeth on the Camino
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Wine liters for sale in Galicia
Elizabeth and her map on Camino
Elizabeth on the Camino in Galicia, Spain
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Swim Spot on the Camino
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Villa Franca del Beirzo, Spain
Enjoying the ice cold mountain water in Spain
Elizabeth enjoying the river on Camino Santiago

 

How to use Mochilas on the Camino Santiago de Compestela

 

Mochilas on the Camino

In June of 2017, my 12-year-old daughter and I set out to walk the last 283 kilometers of the Camino Santiago de Compostela, a pilgrimage in NW Spain.

After spending several months’ salary at REI on lightweight gear, hiking shoes and clothing we were all set to begin this once in a lifetime hiking trip.   However, once we arrived in Leon, Spain we quickly realized how hot and humid it is in the NW of Spain. The summer of 2017 was so hot in Spain that the heatwave was dubbed “Lucifer.   Assuming we might be in over our heads, the hotel receptionist suggested that we ship our backpacks to the next day’s destination for a few days until the heat wave subsided and that is what we did.

On the Camino Santiago, many folks have their backpacks, also known as rucksacks in Europe, shipped each day to their next location.  It is very economical to use these services which only costs about 3 to 7 euros per bag and are extremely reliable.  Since all your worldly travel items are in your backpack, it is critical that once you arrive at your next location your stuff arrives with all its contents intact and on time.

The Spanish people call the backpack or luggage transport service ‘mochila‘ and the albergue, Refugio and hotel reception areas all offer the service.  Once a pilgrim arrives at their destination for the night they need to request a mochila envelope, the clerk will then make the arrangements with the transport company for you or you can call yourself.  I was apprehensive about calling the service but quickly learned the person answering speaks passable English and the process is very simple.  The hardest part of using this valuable service is figuring out where you will stay the next night.  So, if you tell them you will be staying in a village 25 kilometers away but then you can’t walk that far your bag, unfortunately, will be at the village 25 kilometers away.   Luckily after 2 or 3 days on the Camino, you will know how many kilometers you are capable of walking to each day. We walked about 24 kilometers each day and some days were much harder than others.

There are different transport companies in different stages of the way, but the drivers all seem to know each other and once you pass through their region of Spain they pass you off to the next region’s transport company along the way.

To use the service, you will get a small envelope which asks for some basic info like name, contact info, and lodging today and where you want your bag dropped off the next day.  When you are departing your lodging in the am just attached the completed envelope with a pin or rubber band to your backpack, insert the cash and leave the backpack in the lobby with all the other backpacks.  On really hot days we saw upwards of 20 packs in the lobby.  When you retrieve your backpack later that afternoon/night at the new town there will be a blank envelope attached to the previously used one..    Once we did not know exactly where we were staying but did know which town we would be walking to,  so the transport representative told me to pick up my bag at a certain bar in the village of Palas de Rey, and sure enough when we entered the town around 3pm, we found the bar and our back pack was near the bar.  Easy Peasie.

 

REI and OSPREY backpacks and Pilgrims Passports
Backpacks and Pilgrims Passports
Back pack transport envelope for Mochila
Mochila Envelope

 

Not carrying a back pack up long, steep hills and treacherous descents back down on the Camino was wonderful.  We simply carried a day pack with water and other essentials. After about 5 days of walking we started carrying our own packs but it was nice to know we had options.

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