In September 2021 I walked about 150 miles from Porto, Portugal to Santiago de Compestella in Spain. Rather than trying to explain what the Camino is, here's a Wikipedia link that gets into detail of the history, culture, and purpose.

Why did I do this? People walk the Camino for many different reasons. I love history, culture, travel, taking pictures, and sharing stories. I'll be spreading Tom's ashes at all the most beautiful stops along the way. I have many friends who will never have an opportunity to do something like this. They tell me they live vicariously through my stories and pictures, so I will am sharing my experiences here for them. You know who you are.

Porto, Portugal
We made it to Porto with no major issues and with all of our luggage. Now to tour the town and drink some wine! A little too much vino verde, sardines, cheeses, sausage, bread, and fun times!

Day 1 - Mosteiro (Porto) to Arcos
We walked from Mosteiro (just north of Porto) to Arcos, a total of about 11 miles. We took a couple of detours to avoid walking on dangerous roads. Lots of trucks zoom by with little space, so we took the rural route instead through fields of corn and some pretty cool forests. Got to Arcos just before it started raining. Our accommodations were at Quinta de Sao Miguel de Arcos.

Day 2 - Arcos and Barcelos
We walked somewhere between 12-14 miles, depending on which device was keeping track. Much prettier than yesterday through lots of gorgeous countryside between Arcos and Barcelos. Our accommodations were at Hotel Bagoeira in Barcelos.

Day 3 - Barcelos to Quintiães
We walked only 9 miles from through lots of vineyards. Very sunny and hot today, so it was nice to find our hotel had a swimming pool, but the water was way too cold to swim in. Nice for a foot soak. Our accommodations were at Casa dos Assentos. This place got a bit sticky, since we walked too fast and arrived before check-in time. The hotel manager also insisted we show a QR code for our Covid status, which we could not get. We had proof of vaccination and negative tests before we arrived, but that didn't seem to be enough. He finally did let us in a little early and we walked to a local gathering spot for some vino verde, snacks, and good times with the local boys.

Day 4 - Quintiães to Ponte de Lima
It was a hot, long 14 mile hike, but very pretty. We hiked past the River Neiva and River Lima, through a gazillion vineyards, lots of small towns, and through the Lima Valley with mountains on both sides. We were out of water by the midpoint only to find the only cafe on the path closed, with no others for six km more. Fortunately as sweet man on a bike pointed us to another little place where we could relax and get water and food. We survived another day! Tomorrow is our most challenging hike. We have to climb over the Labruja Mountain.
Day 5 - Ponte de Lima to Cossourado
This was definitely the most challenging, because of distance, steep terrain, and weather. We started in Ponte de Lima and walked about 15 miles over Labruja Mountain, past beautiful waterfalls, patches of forest, over Roman bridges, passing various hamlets, and Romanesque churches to arrive in Cossourado at the end of the day. It was pouring rain when we left, but the weather got very hot as we were walking up the very steep mountain. Then more downpour as we walked down. We are staying at a nice B&B, still high in the mountains, but expect thunderstorms again tomorrow as we descend down to our next stop.
We are seeing some people over and over again who are on the same path. This is especially fun to know we are all making it. It’s hard to describe the feeling of total physical exhaustion combined with the mental and emotional exhilaration one gets from doing this. It’s not for everybody, but I sure am glad I’m doing this and happy to have such great hiking sisters with me.

Day 6 - Cossourado to Valenca 
We started in the mountains in the town of Cossourado and walked to the city of Valenca in the valley below, which was just a short 7.5 mile hike. This path had a lot of places to stop for coffee, so we did a few. We’re getting better at following the guide maps and finding our hotels at the end of the day when we’re all tired. The maps apps work well here. Weather forecast said it would rain, but we were lucky to avoid it.

Day 7 - Portugal border to Porriño
Today we crossed the border from Portugal to Spain across a long, steel bridge (19th century, base on Gustavo Eiffel’s design) over the River Minho. We were soon in the midieval town of Tui, where the 16th century Cathedral of Santa Maria de Tui is located. Total walk was about 13 miles ending up in the town of Porrifino. Tonight we are at a small B&B drinking wine and eating ham croquettes. Tomorrow is another big day.
Day 8 - Porriño to Arcade
Today we started our Camino in Porriño, Spain and walked over two BIG hills (460 meters) about 13.5 miles to the town of Arcade, Spain. The second hill felt like the steepest we’ve done so far, since it was toward the end of the walk, yet even these long, steep hikes feel less challenging than they did earlier in the trip.
Our paths merged with those walking the Portuguese coastal route and we hit the 100 km from Santiago milestone, which is required to get the official “certificate” awarding those who have walked the Camino. So there are many more people on the trails and at our destination compared to when we were in Portugal. Tonight we are at a small 2* hotel that is absolutely fabulous! We have a beautiful view of the Rio de Vigo estuary.

Day 9
We walked 8 miles from Arcade to Pontevedra, which is considered an easy hike in spite of much of it up another big hill between the two cities (240 meters). It started with the one-lane bridge then uphill through winding stone paths through the woods and along the River Tomeza detour. We still have some touring to do in this city, but had to get some croquettes and beer first. It’s been raining most of the morning, but it looks like the sun will be out before the end of the day.

Day 10
Today we walked about 13.5 miles from Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis in Spain. The first time we walked that far we were so wiped out and in pain we could hardly move, but now I think we’re getting used to it. We hardly complain at all and just keep going. I only have a couple of small blisters that are well padded, so they aren’t an issue.
As we left Pontevedra the combined groups of pilgrims looked like a herd of cattle, but things thinned out as we passed up a hill and through the forests. It wasn’t supposed to rain, but it did for part of the way. There were several cute cafes along the way where we stopped for coffee or lunch, seeing all our Camino buddies at the same time. We finished up the last three miles through vineyards. There were a lot more bikes on the path, which was a bit dangerous. Two more days of long walks and we’ll be in Santiago!
Got a couple of text messages from my friends and neighbors at home to tell me all is well there. They are taking care of my house, my succulents, and each other. I love my neighborhood!
Day 11 - Caldas de Reis to Padron, Spain
We walked about 12 miles. A lot of the same gorgeous forests, vineyards, and small cafes along the way. Since it is Sunday here we had to hoof it back to town from our hotel to get a bite to eat before the restaurants closed early. Our bodies are aching again and our feet hurt, so disregard the comment I made yesterday about getting used to this. Tomorrow is our last day, but it is a big one. Over 16 miles uphill to Santiago de Compostela. My left leg is aching from my ankle to my knee, so I’ll be on Ibuprofen.
Days 12 & 13 - Santiago de Compostela
Our LAST DAY of the Camino we walked over 16 miles, uphill most of the way. I don’t have many photos because I started the day with shin splints in my left leg and needed to lighten my load, so the big cameras went with the luggage. Lea & Liz waited patiently while I painfully limped my way through the day to finally arrive in Santiago several hours before sunset. We scheduled our Covid tests so we can fly to Lisbon in a couple of days, then headed to the center to enjoy some vino and tapas (Yes, we over-indulged).
Santiago de Compostela is is the place where all the Caminos from Spain, Portugal, France, and all the neighboring countries end, so there were hundreds of people here. We were looking for our many trail buddies, but didn’t see any of the familiar faces. Just before we headed back to our hotel we did run into the two guys from Spain who we had been crossing paths with all along the way.
We started the next day with a trip to a clinic to get Covid tests, then to get in line for our pilgrim certificates. Wandered around the streets for a bit, shopped, drank coffee and ate. Tried to get into the cathedral, but the line wrapped around the block. Tomorrow we’re off to Lisbon. Thanks to my friend Steve in the US, who is a podiatrist, I got the right instructions for taking care of my swollen ankle and shin splints. I don’t think I did any long term damage. Of course every day here ends with a glass of wine!
I’m not Catholic and I don’t speak Spanish well, so going to the mass at the Cathedral would not have much meaning to me. Plus I didn’t care to wait in line for hours in the sun to get in, so it’s Liz & Lea’s turn to take pictures. Some day in the future I’ll organize a photo Camino here to take pictures.
Days 14 & 15 - Back to Lisbon, Portugal
Because we flew in and out of Lisbon, we needed to fly back there to catch our international flights after a few days. Lisbon is a beautiful city and I'm glad I got to see it, but if I did it again I would spend time there before the trip, not after. The flights from Santiago de Compostella to Lisbon were through Madrid, which is a huge airport. We barely made our flight and our luggage did not. Eventually it caught up with us, but next time I'd arrange my flights out of Spain without returning to Portugal.

Some tips for walking the Camino de Compostela

  • Walk at your own pace, even if you’re with someone else, or a group. Everyone has their own reason for doing the Camino. Whether it is to clear your head, set a personal speed, steps, or distance record, take pictures, take in the smells, sounds, and scenery of what’s around you. Do this for you. Not for anybody else.

  • You're going to get a LOT of advice from every Camino expert out there. Things like whether or not you should use poles, what kind of socks and underwear to bring, how you should take pictures. Start preparing at least two months ahead of time to get your endurance built up and find out for yourself what works for YOU! I got all kinds of bad info from a lot of people who insisted they were experts or got their advice from experts they knew.

  • Don't be afraid to walk the Camino alone. If you do it with others be sure to discuss ahead of time what the plan is if you get separated. Make sure you are all in agreement so there is no guilt or hard feelings.

  • Don’t be in such a hurry! If you walk too fast you’ll arrive at your next hotel before check-in time and sometimes before your luggage arrives (if you use a transport service). You’ll be standing there all sweaty, sometimes in the hot sun, sometimes in the pouring rain and can't check-in. Make a few stops along the way for coffee or snacks. Stop and take pictures!

  • Shin splints are the result of over-exertion. You can get them even if you are well-prepared for your Camino. Be sure to stop often and stretch often. Make sure you know how to treat them if needed. Bring the proper bandages and wraps with you. Do not keep pushing through the pain! This could lead to stress fractures. Take your time! There is no need to hurry.

  • Be careful if you’re wearing earbuds! Many Camino paths are on busy streets or even short stretches on highways. Not all cars and trucks give way to clueless hikers. Best to take then out when you’re on streets. 

  • Carry as little in your daypack as is possible. You’ll need to save your energy to carry water, hat, sunscreen, a snack, moleskin & bandages. 

  • Unless you are young, fit, and are staying in hostiles without a reservation from day to day, use a transport service to forward your luggage to each new destination.

  • Know the Covid requirements for each destination.

  • Use a maps app to enter your hotel address before you set out for that day. Realize that the map apps probably don’t recognize the Camino apps and the Camino apps don’t know which hotel you are in. Bring along an extra battery device, because all GPS tracking apps really suck the life out of your cell phone battery. I liked AllTrails because I could download our trail for offline viewing and I liked the earth view.