Category Archives: El Camino del Norte

Adiós España

Being my early self I’m at the airport almost 3 hours before my scheduled departure, and as a result, I’ve been aimlessly pacing up and down the terminal back and forth. Yesterday in Muxia I went from no plans to jumping on a bus to Santiago, a train to Madrid, and soon a plane to Italy within 24 hours. The world suddenly became very fast. In fact by the time I reach Trento, Italy from Muxia, I will have taken a total of 4 buses, 3 trains and 2 planes. Gone are the days of simple dependency on my own two feet. I didn’t expect a huge shock returning to a busy city like Madrid, but after the peaceful calmness of a place like Muxia, I was suddenly jolted back to life. Strangely enough being back at the airport in Madrid felt nostalgic, as I passed the place where I bought the SIM card for my phone, my first cafe con leche, and my toothpaste for the trip 44 days ago.

Video from Muxia:

On reflection I’m not sure if I was always present on this trip. I think my mind was in many other places, but it has really allowed me time to process the events of the PCT that were impossible to do at the time. I’ve reminisced and I’ve grieved, and as a result I feel a lot more at peace. I feel I missed a lot of the Camino because of it, but looking back the the photos and videos I guess I was there, maybe just set on autopilot sometimes.


My heart aches a little to leave Spain so soon, but when work presented itself back in Abu Dhabi for a few weeks before I head back to Australia I could hardly say no. It will enable me to enjoy the time with my friends and family so much more, without worrying about the decreasing bank account and duration of my unemployment. I want to be 100% present when I’m home, as I’ve been looking forward to that moment since I left for the Middle East in early January. Family and friend time is calling, loudly! I want to be around the people I love.


I’m still in my hiking clothes. I can’t explain how much I’m craving wearing a new pair of pants that actually fit me (I gained weight on this trip… ergh), and that I don’t have to fight with every time I put them on. My bandana is permanently fixed to my head still and my shoes are beyond worn out, both physically and in measure of odour, they have to go! Calling in a few favours, the life I left behind in a suitcase in Dubai will meet me at the hotel when I arrive back in Abu Dhabi. This is when hiking Rozanne will transform back to working Rozanne. And so life continues…


Many of you have thanked me for sharing my journey, but it is me who should be thanking you for allowing me to share it. Not many people walk with a support network lending advice, thoughts, stories and support. I was often carried on the PCT by the outpouring of support and encouragement which still seems incredibly surreal to me. Reading about your stories and experiences makes my own much richer. So gracias to you!


Ciao Spain, my home for one and a half months. To have gone from entering a bar red faced as I pointed to things I wanted, to walking in and ordering exactly what I want while briefly conversing with the locals in broken Spanish is incredibly satisfying. The power of communication is something I’ve underestimated until this trip. Languages can open your world more than you may appreciate. Learning Spanish is now at the top of my ever increasing list of things I want to do. That list grew a lot on this trip. Luckily I still have a lifetime ahead, should be enough time to get through most of it!


The end of the world

Rule number one following any kind of travel or adventure… have a plan for afterwards. It’s not essential but it helps to prevent that floating in space feeling, especially when your tent is your home and the door to your home is broken… again.

Welcome back real world, where travel is by car, bus, plane or train, where schedules are determined by timetables, not hunger or weather, where people ask ‘what’s next?’ rather than ‘where are you heading?’ I haven’t had to transition with the immediacy of arriving back at home, the biggest change for me is there aren’t anymore yellow arrows telling me where to go. For the first time in 40 days I need to decide my own direction. North, South, East or West? Work or play? All I know is my time on the Camino is complete, I have reached the end, and it’s time for a new direction.

Santiago – Finisterre – Muxia

Hola Santiago!

Am I going to Finisterre? Yes, I have to; as I just reached the Santiago Cathedral without really knowing it. My arrival was possibly the most anticlimactic the Camino has ever seen, and I’m extremely grateful as I was having mixed feelings about Finisterre, partly because it wasn’t in my original plan. Imagine at the end of the PCT someone shook your hand and said ‘well done, now just walk another three days to the real finish’. Not possible. This arrival has left me wanting more, a true finale to this journey which has taught me so many things in such a short amount of time.



It was my first and only day on the French Way, and it was both terrifying and exhilarating to see so many pilgrims along the Way. I hit the trail at 7:40am after packing up my tent, and by that time at least 40 people had already passed by. I emerged from the forest, swinging out onto the trail using my hiking poles in front of a group of three girls who laughed when they saw a hiker suddenly appear out of nowhere. They were close behind me as I slowly grew accustomed to walking within the pilgrim train. Initially I felt so self conscious I couldn’t find my rhythm, dropping one of my hiking poles and sending it flying with my foot down the trail. I sighed, realising this was what the day would be like, and accepted that nothing was going to change the number of people heading towards Santiago.


I discovered later that there are many pilgrims who join the Way just over 100km from Santiago, granting them the privilege of receiving the Compostela which certifies that you have walked the Camino de Santiago. This is why there were hundreds of people on this stage. I can’t even imagine what summer must be like!



There were many bars and cafés along this stage, reaping the benefits of numerous hungry and thirsty pilgrims. I managed to find one empty of hikers where I could breathe a sigh of relief and simply watch the herds pass by the window. I was aiming to reach Monte de Gozo and complete the last 5km on Saturday, but I reached the 400+ bed Albergue around 4:30pm, and after meeting Carlos for coffee, doing my laundry for the second time the whole trip and taking a quick shower, I felt ready for the last stretch to the cathedral.




The final leg led from the outskirts of the city into the centre. It was more exciting to reach the sign for Santiago than the cathedral for me. Sometimes when you expect your emotions to flow on cue they just don’t appear, which is exactly what happened when I reached the destination thousands of pilgrims have travelled to for hundreds of years. I honestly didn’t feel much at all. Firstly because the cathedral was closed for the mass taking place inside, and secondly because there was no one to share the moment with. I was determined to start and end the Camino solo, insisting to Fuller at the beginning that my first steps had to be alone, and to Carlos that my last steps must be the same. But the most joyful part of reaching the cathedral was watching three cyclists arrive together and start cheering and singing, inviting a group of school kids to join in on their celebration. I breathed in their energy feeling a little more satisfied, but knew there and then that the journey must continue to the end of the world, to the point where I can’t walk any further.




Angels along the Way

Today I woke at 5am and couldn’t get back to sleep. There wasn’t even anyone snoring in the dormitory of the monastery, so I don’t know what was keeping me awake. I decided to put on my sandals and go for a walk with the moon still high in the sky and the shadows on the old stone walls eerily following my every step. There was such a calmness surrounding this historic place that I felt fortunate to be able to experience the silence and the stillness all for myself. The bitter cold morning air forced me back inside after half an hour of roaming through the centre of the city. I went back to bed, fell asleep, and the next thing I felt was my foot being shaken by the cleaner telling me in Spanish I should have already left. I looked at my watch which said 9:15am, then at the empty dorm room, then back at the cleaner and just said ‘ok’ in my semi-dazed state. I couldn’t remember hearing everyone leave the full room of at least 30 beds.



I went to the closest bar feeling a little like a kid who had been left behind at school camp. It was already 10am and by the time I had two coffees and a muffin it was 11. I didn’t feel in a hurry as I had already decided I would likely camp somewhere close to Arzua 23km away, which is where the Northern Way meets the French Way. The idea of colliding with hundreds of pilgrims was enough to slow me down to a shuffle today, and I basically stopped at every bar just to savour the peacefulness of the Way before the inevitable crowds invade.


While I had coffee this morning I read a post Leigh had forwarded me from her blog called ‘Breaking bread with strangers‘, about trail angels and the generosity she received near Reds Meadows during her JMT hike where we first met. I’m fascinated by the way Leigh views the world and how accurately she communicates her observations and philosophies. Interestingly enough today I met a few unknowing trail angels. I went into three cafés today asking if they had food and they all shook their heads. I thought I must have been saying the wrong phrase in Spanish until the last woman changed her mind and came out with a calamari sandwich. It was the last thing I was expecting to eat, but it was delicious, especially with one beer to wash it down. There was the usual group of older men at the bar making lots of noise, and just as I finished eating the woman from the bar came and told me one of the men had paid for my lunch. He shyly turned around to acknowledge my thanks and then left with his mates with a wave and a smile. I was stunned, and momentarily didn’t quite know what to do other than to smile and feel incredibly grateful.



At the first bar I went to I was short 5 cents which the guy let slide, and at the final bar in Arzua when I asked for bread after the woman told me the shops were closed, she went outside and came back with a full loaf which she gave me for free. Arzua was full of pilgrims. Some in big groups all wearing the same t-shirts or coloured bandanas, many in pairs and some on their own. They were filing through the town like a parade and I was so glad to have my tent tucked away in my pack offering me the freedom to escape the masses.



I’ve set up camp in a perfect spot less than 1km (0.6 miles Barbie) from Arzua. I could have walked for longer as it was only 7:30pm with over an hour of decent daylight left, but I decided to rest early in this beautiful spot, ready for one of my last big days tomorrow.


One month on trail

Yesterday signified one month on the Camino, and although I pictured a quiet day to reflect over the last 31 days, the trail ended up connecting me with two fantastic people right from the beginning. I was busy writing on my iPhone in the bar during my morning coffee in Baamonde when a Spanish guy Alberto and his aunt Blanca came and chatted to me before hitting the trail. I was in a bit of a somber mood and when I saw them ahead of me an hour later I figure we’d exchange pleasantries and I’d continue. Because a car passed us from behind they looked around, spotted me and waited for me to catch up. Because they’d stopped I figured it would be rude to bypass them so quickly, so I joined their pace and we chatted for over 10km until we reached a rustic cafe near Seixon. I was aiming to complete just over 40km and I’d already set off late, but the company was too good to pass up, so we enjoyed a coffee and beer under a blossoming pear tree at the cute cafe just 150m off the Way.



Again I thought we would part ways, but the two of them enjoyed the pace and rhythm I set, so we carried onto Miraz, and before we knew it we’d already walked 15km with little effort. The trail was absolutely stunning which helped, but the energy from these two new pilgrims was driving me while I set the gear to autopilot.




After another beer, bread, cheese and chorizo, Blanca decided she would take a taxi to Sobrado dos Monxes as it was still at least another 25km and it was nearing 3pm. She offered to take our packs, but I shook my head and explained the term ‘slack packing’ and they understood. The next part of the trail suddenly entered a completely new environment of huge stones and magnificent yellow flowers, literally transporting us in seconds into a zone that reminded me a little of Yosemite minus the swarms of mosquitos. Alberto had lived in Melbourne and lives a very similar nomadic lifestyle to myself, allowing us to share stories and philosophies for hours as the kilometres ticked by. I was able to talk about the significance of yesterday and my memories of the PCT which felt like a huge mental release, because other than Carlos, Ali and Agnes, I haven’t had anyone to communicate my thoughts and feelings to face to face, which I realise made things a lot more difficult for me.




We were moving at such a steady pace that we stopped again at the next bar 10km ahead to enjoy the afternoon sun on the roadside and another cerveza. I think the old woman who ran the bar enjoyed watching two strange pilgrims chatting away in English outside her otherwise empty establishment. We figured we had another 3 hours to walk and probably just enough sun to make it. 9km out we passed an incredible open green pasture where the sun was still streaming over the tops of the gum trees. We looked at one another with the same idea; ‘a quick siesta?’ I didn’t expect to sleep, but when I woke up the weather seemed to be changing signalling the time to move on. I was sure at this point darkness was on its way, however every time I thought the sun had disappeared, it would reappear again over the next hill. This happened so many times it became the never ending sunset, and it wasn’t until we reached a beautiful lake just on the outskirts of Sobrado that the sun finally bid us farewell.


The final gift of the day was a mystical view of the monastery as we neared the centre of town. This is where I spent the night after a warm shower at 11pm, following one of the most magical days to celebrate my one month on the El Camino del Norte.


April 15 2014

With the full moon and anniversary of the start of my PCT adventure in 2013, I was tempted to camp tonight. Then suddenly the heavens opened, the thunder and lightning begun, and all the little nooks I could have hidden in were muddy and wet. I opted instead to head to the Albergue in Baamonde which wasn’t a bad choice with its wooden floors and loft style sleeping area. Today I walked just over 40km, and reminisced about the PCT for 39 of them. I even put Missy Higgins on for the last hour coming into town for a true sense of nostalgia.


Today was an emotionally charged day which I expected, and fortunately the Camino was on actual trail or dirt roads that were far removed from society for the majority of the day; making for spectacular scenery and the chance for solitude. I had a lot of thinking time between 9am when I hit the trail and 9pm when I reached the Albergue. I was on a high at the beginning, a low after lunch, and then while I was resting on the wall of a bridge over a beautiful creek I received a comment which basically put into words exactly what I was going through and made me feel like someone else did actually understand what I’d experienced and how I must be feeling now. Somehow the words released all of the emotions I’d been carrying with me all day, and like any good crying session, I felt immediately relieved and my mind lighter afterwards.



Today was the first day I saw a road sign to Santiago. I’ve been vaguely keeping track of how many kilometres left, but when I saw that name appear I suddenly felt the excitement growing in my stomach. I keep forgetting how long and how far this journey actually is, and hadn’t fully appreciated that I’ve waked over 700km this last month until I realised how close I must be to my destination. I am planning to walk the additional 3 days to Finisterre, but I’m avoiding thinking beyond Santiago until I actually step foot in the cathedral.


It started pouring after my break on the bridge, but the rain and thunder were a welcome distraction from my former thoughts of the day, and in a symbolic fashion, cleared the slate for this new adventure to continue without distraction from the old.


One year ago…

I’ve mentioned in previous posts about how much this trail reminds me of the PCT and how therapeutic it has been to have time to process the events of last year. In all honesty I think of the PCT 80% of the time I’m walking, and to tell the truth, it’s been really difficult at times. The events of the PCT deserve a novel, and perhaps even a sequel, but it’s only now I’m actually appreciating that it was in fact me living those events from April to October in 2013 and also realising that no one will ever understand what life was like unless they were out there living it.

I wanted to post a video from my first day on April 15 2013 which I never posted on my former blog, but unfortunately I don’t have access to it just now. It’s so funny to look back at what a rookie I was on Day 1, I’ll have to post it when I’m off this new trail. I started watching my California Dreaming video today to evoke a few trail memories, but it was a actually too much for me, and I had to stop it halfway through to prevent tears from appearing in front of my fellow pilgrims. The emotions are still so raw from the experience that sometimes I think maybe it was too soon to hike another trail. But in some ways the Camino is such a different experience and so different to a thru-hike that maybe it was a perfect journey at the perfect time. I’m enjoying this adventure so therefore it can’t be a bad thing.

April 15 2013:


April 15 2014:


There are many ways to Santiago

Sitting here digesting a huge lunch of fish, chips and salad; a small feather from my down vest was floating gracefully to the floor in the sunlight of the nearby window. I coughed at this moment which disturbed the feather and caused it to change its course and speed towards the ground a lot faster than before. Once it was free of the draft I’d caused it slowed again to its original graceful speed and continued to the ground. I wondered if I hadn’t coughed, if it would have still landed in the same spot. This got me thinking about how interactions with others and chance encounters can change your course so easily and so unintentionally. Does each interaction change the course of our lives completely or do they just take us on an alternative path to the same destination?


The Way has made me think a lot about the course we choose to take in life. On this trail you can choose how much control you take of your direction, how fast or how slow you move, where you stay, who you speak to and when and where you eat. None of this changes your destination, but it will ultimately change your course and your experience. There’s times when you follow the Way and regret its lengthy detour in the wrong direction, then there’s times when you choose an alternative to the direction of the Way and regret the straight boring road. The only obvious consequence is the level of your enjoyment, unless something drastic happens on the new path you choose.


Two nights ago there was a guy snoring so loud in the Albergue in A Carida that I set my tent up and slept on the grass outside. Tonight crossing the border from Asturias into Galicia to the town of Ribadeo, the Albergue was actually full. I have to say I was relieved as the additional 20 euros to stay in a private room is often worth it, especially considering that snoring man was likely there again. I’ve started to walk in the same stages and rhythms as a few other hikers, but yesterday all of a sudden 100 additional pilgrims entered the stage from A Carida to Ribadeo from Granada on a fleet of buses to complete a shorter Way to Santiago. I suddenly realised the days of walking in complete solitude are over. Luckily the transition has been a gradual one over the last few weeks, but soon the Northern Way will also join the Camino Frances for the last few days heading to Santiago on Easter weekend!



Today the folks from Granada must have had a day off or taken a different route because I was totally alone on the trail for the first 27km until I reached the town of Lourenza and stopped at a bar to ask for directions after losing the Way. There was a pilgrim sitting outside, and when I approached and said ‘Hola’ he said ‘Hello Rosanna’. At first I thought I must have heard wrong, then I thought maybe I’d met him before. I asked his name and then introduced myself as Rozanne. He said ‘I know, I’ve been following your blog since the PCT.’ My jaw dropped an he started laughing. He said he was only joking and had heard about my blog from Ignace (the Belgium guy I walked with to Cudillero) who he’s met many times. Alvaro is from Spain and is walking with his beautiful golden retriever Baloo. He kindly bought me lunch and while we were chatting Carlos caught up and joined us for a beer. We then continued onto the gorgeous town of Mondonedo, where we sat and admired the view from the hill before completing the 35km day to the town with the best pastries in Galicia.



The homeless hiker

Today was not the European vacation that some days on the Camino have felt like. I was up at 7am in the Albergue in Soto de Luina, and even though I was one of the last to leave like many days, I still walked for 11 hours to Luarca. There were two options to take, the mountains or the coast. The man who owned the Albergue explained the entire route to us the night before in Spanish, and from what I understood and what Carlos was able to translate, the coast was the way to go. The issue with the coast was that most of the route was on a windy coastal road amongst the gum trees with no views and so many twists and turns it doubled the distance (and yes, there’s so many gum trees in Northern Spain I sometimes think I’m back in Australia).


Even though I was up early, by the time I had breakfast and caught up on some writing it was already 10am. From the moment I hit the road I continued walking, except for one coffee stop in a cute bar in a town called Santa Marina and a basic lunch in Cadavedo. My poor body was complaining for the first 3 hours due to the continuos walking on asphalt. I was getting a little frustrated walking north, then south, then north again on the never ending road which seemed to be making little to no progress heading west.


I stopped in a bus stop to stretch my back, legs and the back of my left knee which has staring giving me a little grief. I have almost gone through one tube of arnica cream which I attribute solely to road walking. Eventually as the sky cleared of rain a trail appeared. The transformation of my walking and energy levels was incredible. My speed doubled, my muscles stopped aching and finally I started to feel like a hiker again. Walking on trail, grass or even mud and feeling removed from civilisation ever so slightly puts me back in a zone where I feel I could walk for hours.



By the time I reached Cadavedo I had walked 24km and realised I’d only eaten a plain banquette and a few musli bars the whole day. I found a small general store, which was the first place I’d passed in hours to purchase food since Santa Marina, and walked inside with the feeling of a hiker who had been in the wilderness for at least 7 days. I wandered aimlessly through the store with no idea of what my stomach was craving. I ended up grabbing the most basic food which would take zero effort to prepare, a banana and four tubs of yogurt. The lady in the store had been observing me for the full 10 minutes it took me to decide on these basic items and then watched me as I walked out of the store and set myself up on her front step to eat.


Most people were stopping at the Albergue in Cadavedo including a guy from South Korea called Taken and two ladies from London. As I was crossing town I caught up with Carlos who had just eaten a huge meal of meat, eggs and french fries only 300m up the road. I instantly regretted eating the four yogurts which were now gurgling in my belly and the banana which hadn’t quite filled the emptiness in my stomach like I’d hoped. Carlos was continuing onto Luarca, and although I prefer to walk alone, we continued for the final 16km together along the shoulderless roads with cars whizzing by at ridiculous speeds. I have to say the road walking on the Camino is far more dangerous than most parts of the PCT and far less enjoyable. Although it was almost 9:30pm by the time we’d completed the 40+KM day, the sun setting over the village made the last painful 3 hours of road walking worthwhile.