Camino de Santiago (Inglés) Day 5 Walk: 16.1km (10 miles) from Sigüeiro to Santiago
What should have been the easiest day - Sigüeiro was just 16 km or 10 miles to Santiago, almost half of the distance of other days - turned out to be the most stressful. Because. I. Got. Lost!!
The day already started off later than I had wanted. Breakfast was included with the room, and was supposed to be served from 6:30am. But since I guess few people really get up so early for breakfast, they were kind of slow preparing it, so by the time I left the hotel it was already 7:10am. The breakfast consisted of some slices of toast, some sweet croissants, and some beverages, and I probably would have skipped it had it not been included in the rate.
So I set off and crossed the bridge I had scoped out the day earlier as the exit from town, and I made the mistake that would set me off track. Well actually my mistake was that I diligently read my guidebook the day before, since I had so much time on my hands!
See, before setting off on the Camino Inglés, I had browsed some internet forums on the Camino de Santiago, and quite a few people recommended the Johnnie Walker series of books. Basically, the guy Johnnie Walker walks the different caminos, and writes up a detailed text guide for each route.
I specifically checked, before I bought the Kindle version of “Camino Guides: on Amazon, that I had the 2017/2018 guide with the “New update to this pertinent route, starting at either Ferrol or A Coruña, including the recent re-routing!”
So the guide told me to turn left following the bridge, and then to go up a lane to the right passing a church on the left. There were actually arrows pointing this way, but perhaps because I was in a bit of a rush, I didn’t notice that there must have been the official stone arrow pointing straight ahead. At this point, a guy came along from behind me, saying that he lived in the house straight ahead and told me that the new path was to go straight, while the old path was to turn left after the bridge. I felt a bit disconcerted taking advice from a lone guy walking around at night, and decided that I would follow the advice of the guidebook.
But eventually, I found myself walking a path with no markers at all. I was confused, because I was following exactly the arrows after the bridge, and the path of the “updated” guide! But I finally realized that those arrows were probably installed by the church to lure people in, and weren’t the official arrows. And that kind local had been right after all. I had to resort to using the GPS on my phone to see that I had gone far off track, and only through having Google Maps was I able to navigate back to the general direction of the path.
This took me on a big detour, and at times I felt just a sense of helplessness, because I was in the woods with no one around, and at times I lost my sense of orientation because the trees around me all looked the same. Eventually, I found myself at a main road, at the Hotel San Vicente, listed in the guidebook. There were just two cars in the parking lot, so I guessed that they must have had at most one guest (since one of the cars should belong to the innkeeper). I rang the doorbell to ask for directions, and the rather gruff gentleman who came and unlocked the door just told me to go down the road. I asked for a stamp and he actually refused! He said stamps were only for guests! I was pretty surprised by this, because most people on the camino were happy to give out stamps, and I would have thought that having had the new Camino Inglés redirected away from his hotel, he would have jumped at the chance to provide a service to one of the few who passed by his hotel.
A few meters down the road, however, I entered a cafetería, where I got a coffee a very kind waitress not only gave me a stamp, but also explained that I was indeed on the “old” route, but that I could soon rejoin the current route by crossing the highway ahead, and she walked out the door to point the way.
Now I felt really behind schedule, both because of the late breakfast as well as the enormous detour I made. I speed-walked the rest of the way, through the so-called Enchanted Forests which were 360 degrees green all around.
The Enchanted Forests plopped me out directly into an industrial park, where I came upon the Industrial Park Cafe (Cafe Bar Poligono in Spanish)!
Bemused by the name, and relieved that I was at the outskirts of Santiago de Compostela, I had a churro and coffee here.
And from here, I might not have followed the official route exactly to get to the Cathedral, but I did reach it in the end!