Today we are in Sarria, the starting point for many pilgrims since to get the certificate (the Compostela), you only need to walk 100 km. It is Day 54 and we have walked just under 1160 km so far.
After the mostly dry yellow plains between Burgos and Leon, we are now in the wooded mountains of Galicia. It's my favourite bit so far; everything I love. Plus delicious local food, my favourite being Caldo, a rich cabbage soup. We tried another local soup called Callas: chick peas, chorizo, stomach of cow and foot of cow. Less tasty. Galicia has its own language and has Celtic origins, including music which sounds very familiar to that from Scotland. Of course the whole idea of autonomy and own language has a particular political resonance in Spain right now. And while we aren't seeing much television on the Camino the high numbers of displayed Spanish flags reminds us of what is going on.
The day before yesterday we were walking for most of the day at 1300 metres, above the clouds, above the world. We saw rainbows and felt a curious warm wind on our skin. Tiny stone churches in every village, the rich aroma of cows and few people.
Yesterday after a night in Triacastela, we were in the valleys, walking through giant ancient chestnut and oak woods, still literally smoking from the forest fires which have been racing through Spain and Portugal in the last week.
We had chosen the road less travelled, adding an extra 6 km to the main Camino. This was so that we could visit the oldest and largest monastery on the Camino, Samos, and to avoid following the road. It was absolutely worth it. We felt like we had stepped back in time, passing through slate roofed houses dependent on farming or pilgrims.
One of the most surreal days we have had on the Camino was when we climbed to the highest point on the entire walk - the Cruz de Ferro. In the Middle Ages, pilgrims carried a stone from home - representing their sins - to leave at the Cruz. Today the 'leaving of the stone' has evolved into pretty much what anyone wants it to be. For me it was about leaving certain things behind and making some positive decisions about the future. So it was already an intense day. Add to this an otherworldly yellow sky, falling ash and smoke which made our eyes water and our throats dry. Only 30 km away, Spain was burning.
Curiously given the increasing busyness of the Camino we have had fewer encounters. Two great international evenings: one with a woman from Canada, Croatia and Denmark, and a man from Ireland; the other with a man from Japan and one from the Philippines. We have stayed in touch with Lonnie from Denmark, happily bumping into her at unexpected moments - at the monastery and at the Knights Templar castle in Ponteferrada. And it seems as if Finn the dog is following us.
Five days walk to Santiago; a rest day to get our certificate and explore; and then onwards for four more days to Fisterra, where pilgrims originally had to go to pick up a shell as proof they had been all the way to the end of the world.
PS. Please remember I am doing this partly to prove to myself that despite having had ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I am not only now better but able to walk this far. I have raised £3200 at the time of writing this. I would love to raise £4000 for the ME Association by the time I close my fundraising page, so if you haven't yet donated, please consider doing so (even five pounds can make a difference) so that no one else has to wait a frightening year for a diagnosis and a cure can be found.
Go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Sophie-Breese