I have written here earlier about how difficult I found it to walk on the cobblestones ever present along much of the Camino Portuguese. I have to say though that every one of those cobblestones was worth enduring given that this Camino also took me along the Variante Espiritual (Spiritual Route). It’s a roughly 75 kilometre path that runs from just north of Pontevedra to Padron.
Here’s the back story: locals refer to this as ‘The Source of All Paths’ and the first ‘true Camino’. The legend goes that in 44 AD, followers of the apostle James brought his body here and were guided by an angel and a star up the estuary of Arousa to Padron. James’ remains eventually found their way to Santiago.
Whether you buy the story or not, there is no question about this being a spiritual place. It is hard to be here and not believe in some kind of a higher power.
From Monasterio de Armenteira to Pontearnelas we walked the Route of Stone and Water. There were many old water mills along side a beautiful river. That, coupled with towering trees and the happy chatter of birds, made this one of the most memorable parts of the Camino for me.
Another unique part of this path is that on the final day, there is an opportunity to take a boat down the Rio Ulla to Padron, following the same route that James’ followers took. There are crosses all along the way…some with Jesus facing towards Santiago and Mary facing the opposite way. I have only seen these double crosses in Galicia.
Once in Padron, you can walk a few kilometres to a Franciscan monastery in Herbon, where you can stay the night and be fed both dinner and breakfast all for a donation. We received such a warm welcome from Felix and Anna, who are volunteering there for several weeks. It turns out Anna and I were both celebrating our birthdays that day, and as a result we were treated to the most delicious cake for dessert!
The fate of this monastery seems rather tenuous to me. There were only five elderly friars/monks living there when we visited, the oldest being 96. There was talk of turning the place into a luxury hotel (as has been the fate of some other monasteries in Spain) but recently the Spanish government granted it some kind of special designation, so hopefully it will be retained. The designation also comes with a small amount of money, the first allotment of which was used to refurbish the main altar. As we toured the place, it was evident that the monastery really needed a rather significant influx of cash for repairs and renovations.
To those pilgrims who choose to stay here, something I definitely would recommend, please be as generous as you can with your donation.