Just over a year ago a new client walked through my door ……. and the following 90 minutes of our appointment might well have changed my life! Every single day I learn something from my clients – old and new. I learn more from my clients than I do anywhere else to be honest. But this particular day, this particular client (We shall call them TJ) talked about something that I could not get out of my head. That was The Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage. TJ had walked the last 117km of this 780 km (500 miles) route the previous year and by the end of their appointment I knew I was going to do it as well.
At the end of the day I was going home to an empty house and immediately brought up Amazon on the TV and downloaded the film The Way and sat and watched it. My Husband came home from a running race and I actually said to him that I could not talk to him until this film had finished. He sat and watched the last 10 minutes with me and at the end I turned to him and told him I needed to do this walk. Not all of it. Time and finances would not have allowed that but I wanted to do the popular last 117km. This was not a dream, this was going to happen. He obviously replied with, “Of course my darling wife, anything for you!” I don’t know what he said actually. It was probably, “OK dear!”
The next day I went on my regular walk with my dearest friend Anna and told her my plans. She informed me that her and her Husband Colin would love to do it as well. I was delighted. I knew it would DEFINITELY happen if Annie was on board. She may be the Queen of procrastination but when she wants to do something she does it!
On TJ’s advice I contacted Caroline at Macs Adventures – a walking tour holiday company and had a chat with her. She was absolutely brilliant. We needed to book our flights – we would need 5-6 days walking and we wanted to stay on a couple of days in Santiago to have a little city break! We would then let her know all the flight details and she would organise the rest for us.
We are very nice people BUT sometimes we might be a little anti social and sometimes awfully friendly, however, we definitely did not want to carry our belongings on our back and stop ad hoc at the Albergues (Hostels) each night and share a dormitory with 30 other people – probably hundreds of years younger than us! So we were going to walk to a different hotel each night and be welcomed by our luggage! True peregrinos (pilgrims)!!
We booked our flights in between Christmas and New Year. We could have gone with Ryan Air from Stansted but because we only had a very short window of availability their flights didn’t work with us so we went with Easy jet from Gatwick. I sent the flight information off to Caroline at Mac Adventures and left her to do the rest! And she sorted out our amazing Holiday!
At this point I would like to explain what the Camino de Santiago is. Translated into English it means The Way of St James. St. James was one of Jesus’ apostles and tradition says his remains are buried in the Cathedral of Santiago. This pilgrimage consists of a network of pilgrimages or pilgrim’s ways throughout Europe all which lead to the cathedral of Santiago. The French way is the traditional and most popular route. Although some of the pilgrims are doing it for the religious experience, many do it for Spiritual growth or see it as an adventure! Turns out – a beautiful adventure.
So! After several months of planning, training, excitement, eating, buying essentials that were not needed we were ready to go!
The flight into Santiago was less than 2 hours and after picking up our luggage we were met by our driver Sally from Tee Travel – the travel company in Santiago that Macs Adventures go through- who drove us 117km to Sarria, our starting point.
The following is the day to day diary of our Camino adventure that has been taken from my private Facebook page. Some of it is word for word and some of it has been edited. Apologies to my Facebook friends who have already read it on my page and I hope those who haven’t read it enjoy it!
If it appeals to you, do it. Just do it. It is so easy now. Gone are the days when you had to carry your home on your
back, although total admiration if that is what you choose to do. Now you choose to do it YOUR way. To get your certificate of achievement! (The best certificate I own!) you need to have completed at least 100km walking along the Camino. It is more if you cycle. You are given a passport where you need a minimum of two stamps a day which you get from Hotels, cafes etc. You will see people travelling with the traditional camino scallop shell. This shell was used by the original pilgrims and used as a food and drink vessel. The pilgrims would be buried with their scallop shells and are revered. A badge of honour! This is your medal!
Contact me, ask me all the questions you want. I cannot talk about this experience enough.
Day of travel
It has been a fabulous first day. Getting up at 3,30 to get the shuttle bus to the airport was a bit of a bleary eye opener and having breakfast at 4.30 in Wagamamas was very odd!
The flight from Gatwick to Santiago was less than 2 hours and after collecting our luggage we were met by Sally, a lovely lady from Tee Travel who drove us to Sarria pointing out bits of the Camino along the way!
First hotel is fabulous. Coffee and churros were most welcome and very cheap!
We then took a little walk up eleventy billion steps and did a bit of sight seeing. Had a fantastic lunch (at about 3.30pm!) That was gorgeous and cheap! We cannot get over how cheap it is!
Saw loads of pilgrims (peregrinos).
Came back to the hotel, slept, showered, got dressed, decided to go out and have a tinsy winsy snack so stuffed our faces!!
We were welcomed back at the hotel to the most tremendous noise and spent half an hour watching these noisy birds. About a trillionty of them in the trees. Being the experts that we are when we Google something we have decided that they are getting ready to migrate! Or they were waiting for Pete, who was obviously very late, as usual!
Tomorrow the hard work starts. 15.5 miles to our next port of call!
Officially day 1 of our Camino.
After breakfast we left the hotel at 07.50 which was officially sunrise as did most people! We walked and walked! Up down up down up up up up down up down down down. It was quite exhausting and at 12 miles my feet were hurting.
We spoke to several pilgrims along our way because we are frightfully friendly. And we saw a few who had started from the start. We knew they were “whole” peregrinos because they had their socks drying on their rucksacks! They are also quite wiry looking.
After 12 miles I was beginning to lose my sunny temperament so you can imagine how I was at 15 miles!!
We climbed 46 steps into Portomarrin where I decided enough was enough and I was not moving anywhere. We were right in the middle of a fiesta so they left me to have my tantrum and then Chris came back with some water and said Anna and Colin had found a table at a restaurant so I cartwheeled and triple salcoed down the hill to join them.
We ate! Marvellous!
We had a beer! Fabulous!
We then had to walk a whole frigging Km to our hotel.
Oh my goodness it is so worth it.
We are in little wooden huts with powerful showers and a comfy bed with air conditioning looking out over the reservoir.
We then went to the main building for dinner and had a feast! Traditional Galician broth (salad for Anna) and pork ribs with salad (cheese omelette for Anna) fantastic desserts, plus red wine and coffee followed by grappa.
Colin then asked the chef what % the grappa was. It was 40% so the Chef brought out a “white” grappa which was 55%. This was the final straw and it blew our heads off.
I then told everyone that I had not drunk enough water because I hadn’t weed enough today.
I told the entire restaurant when I had weed so I will tell you. Morning wee, 5 mile into walk at a cafe and when we got to the lodge (and that was only a trying out the loo in a new place scenario) .
Now we are back at the huts (I have done another tinkle).
We will pack our bags for tomorrow’s little jaunt in a minute before falling into bed. After we have sat on the veranda and admired the view and appreciated the beauty of it all.
Our day started at 02.11 this morning when I awoke finding myself lying unnaturally close to the Husband. Horrified, I realised the air conditioning was so efficient we had naturally moved together for warmth. This was rectified very quickly by turning said A/C off and normal bed positions returned.
I had decided that for whatever reason my beloved walking boots and I needed a break from each other. There was no way my blistered and swollen feet were going to fit into them so I wore my trainers with the ever patient Husband carrying the boots in his rucksack! (I was however, carrying the majority of the water!)
We set off for the next stage of our Camino at 8.15. It was a long one and the first 9 km were pretty brutal. Up up up! And up a bit more! Then a steady pace down. Believe it or not, going down is harder than going up. We got a little bounce going. Actually very much like Dora the explorer as she bounces along jollily speaking Spanish!! It is hard on your whole body especially your knees.
The weather was slightly kinder. 28 today with a nice breeze.
We stopped at a couple of places for coffee, feet checking, having a tinkle (no problem in that department today) but I think our attitude was to just bloody walk!
The views are breath taking. To be honest, the 4 of us see and look with our eyes and not through a camera lens. Photos cannot capture the magnificence of this place. You need to see it in all its nakedness.
I had come to the conclusion that my body is strong and capable but that ruddy chimp in my primitive mind is determined to tell me different. Today that chimp was not rearing its head AT ALL And although the feet were burning at around the 13 mile mark I knew I had to girl up and get on with it.
We came across a little boy – no more than 8- herding his cows along the road! It was most surreal! And actually
So now we are at our next destination. Palas de Rei. We are staying in a 6 Bedroomed house run by three sisters in their 80’s. The other 5 siblings and their parents who all lived in the house are dead! I know this because we have been told their life story. I also know the parents of the sisters are possibly dead because the youngest sister is 86! One of the sisters had 13 children! One of the Grandchildren lives in Madrid! I know everything!
The manager welcomed us as if we were family. I almost cried at the motherly nature. It was beautiful. The rooms are typically Spanish! Wallpaper on the ceiling! We showered, rested, played cards outside then headed off to dinner for paella and beer!
16 miles completed today! Tomorrow is a shorter day. 9 miles. We are looking forward to it. This is our Camino and we will do it OUR way. We are loving it. I am with the most wonderful people who are making this week one I will never forget.
I have no signal or very little so if this doesn’t post I will be livid!
Our accommodation last night was so lovely I have actually felt quite homesick for it today!
We were given a breakfast of pilgrims egg which was actually very nice but the mashed potato and onion did keep repeating on us during the morning which was interesting!
Chris had to help, actually not help. He had to put my socks on for me today for I was quite pathetic and dramatic!
We started walking at 08.15 having been told our 9 mile walk would be lovely and flat. It wasn’t, it was undulating. Up down up down etc! Why does no one outside of Suffolk know what the word flat means?!!!
It started raining half way in and the rucksack covers, rain coats all came out etc. It was still a lovely walk and we stopped for lunch by the bridge on river Furelos. We were served by a man with the most enormous hands. I couldn’t take my eyes off him! We decided he was probably a real life troll who lived under the bridge!
We arrived in Melide at something o’clock. I actually can’t remember when!
Melide is renowned for its Galician octopus. I was looking forward to trying it along with Colin. As we were walking to our accomodation one of the restaurants let us try a bit. Which was good because my very delicate taste buds did not like it at all!!
After a shower and a nap we went for a stroll around the old town which is beautiful. Possibly the most beautiful town we have stayed in so far.
We stopped at a shoe place and I purchased a pair of walking sandals for my poorly blistered swollen tootsies. I will wear them with walking socks! They seem to be quite popular on this Camino although I am not sure I will get away with them at home.
Anyway my sister says I am becoming the Messiah! And yes! My beard is growing! And yes I do walk with a staff (stick)! You must all follow me for I speak great things!
Had a great pizza whilst Colin went for his octopus. Decided which pilgrimage we will do next, what kind of shop we will open on the Camino. Lots of tat, friendship bracelets, insoles, GPS trackers, foot creams or anything we can find that can be passed off as foot recovery tat and massage!
Tomorrow is another short walk. I think it’s just over 8 miles. It is due to rain but we are prepared for everything.
I am starting to lose our days now but I believe we have completed day 4! Melide to Arzua. Just over 8 miles. No rain!
As usual it was a lovely walk today. Mostly through woods. Very up and down. For those of you who have been to Ma and Pa’s, it was Wood Lane several times over. Up and down! Calves are very sore this evening!
We stopped about half way for our usual coffee and wee break. Colin, after having his air supply cut off by his beloved wife yesterday (don’t ask) almost choked to death on his frothy coffee but we just ignored him and carried on talking!!
I have missed the children today. Then I walked past one of the big bins that you see on the streets in Spain and saw rubbish on the top of the bin instead of IN the bin. It made me smile and I stopped missing them!
We arrived in Arzua just after midday ( I think) and did the usual, showered, had a snack and then we slept. I think I slept for about eleventy trillion hours but Chris says it was more like 3!
Even though we are walking on our own, no walking guides, no group walking, you do tend to see the same people which is nice and strangely comforting. You want to know how they are doing, how they are finding it. Obviously there are the strangest people on this walk but to be honest no one as strange as us!
Chris and I decided to eat the pilgrims menu downstairs which was a fabulous 3 course meal with wine and coffee for €12 each. I think this restaurant is known for its steaks! 1kg T-bone steaks for €26. We didn’t have that! We then met up with Anna and Colin in the square where they had had paella!
Tomorrow we are are back in double figures. 12 miles! We have about 36km to go until we reach Santiago de Compostella. I don’t want it to end but our bodies are a little bit broken and tired. Holding up well!
See you tomorrow!!
Hello and good evening from Rua- 100km from our start in Sarria! This means we have 19 km to go until we reach Santiago! Wahoo!
Our day started with breakfast at 7.30 and we are so on the ball now we were ready to start the day’s walk at 07.50!
When you walk the Camino you are given a passport which you have to get stamped a minimum of twice a day. Our first stamp of the day is normally at the Hotel we are leaving but that was our last stamp last night so we were on the look out for a stamper! We came across a house of Nuns! They stamped our passports and blessed us! Well we hope it was a blessing. We are not Spanish or Catholic so didn’t understand the lingo but we felt wholesome and virginal until Colin swore an hour down the road. Then we were back to normal!
The first hour of walking was so quiet, it seemed everyone walking was happy to just be in their bubble. There was definitely a renewed energy. A feeling of “only 40km to go” and we did speed along at a speedy rate!
I was wearing my dashingly fashionable sandals and socks! White socks. Good choice walking 12 miles in dust, stones, leaves, tarmac etc! I do believe Shane Ritchie would have a problem with the Daz doorstep challenge getting those white again!
Rua is a through town. Not the most interesting of places if I am being honest. The hotel is clean though and I spent the afternoon writing postcards for the good neighbourhood scheme. We also watched a couple of very dramatic Spanish soaps with Chris translating because apparently he is now fluent! He was talking crap but it sounded thrilling!
Now in bed! Having breakfast at 6 tomorrow morning. It will be dark when we leave so Chris has got his head torch out! I can’t tell you how excited he is about that!
This is is it, the moment we have been waiting for! Santiago de Compostella!
We are done!
The day started early. Up at 05.15. Breakfasted and ready to leave for our final 19km by 06.30am!
It was dark! Very dark! However! we were very prepared! We had packed torches which very cleverly were in our luggage back at the hotel!! Chris had a head torch which was very useful but he strode on ahead so we followed the stars! And the torches from our phones!
It was a beautiful route, trees and woodland, lovely villages and not as busy as we thought it would be.
I had to stop and do a nature wee but it was really dark so I asked Chris to come with me. I told him not to look at me because he had his head torch on and that would mean my ample bottom would be glowing brilliantly in the light. So he turned away from me. We walked back to find Anna and Colin laughing their heads off. We had forgotten that both of us had Lidl LED lights attached to our rucksacks so everyone out on the walk plus anyone in Space would have seen my unclothed backside!
As usual the last mile was actually 5 miles long and I could have cried with every step I took towards the end! My feet knew we were nearly there.
The cathedral came into view, the city is stunning. Little tiny streets, cafes, markets and this beautiful cathedral. It takes your breath away – you cannot help but be in awe of this magnificent building.
We found the stone in the ground that told us we had completed The Way. It was very emotional and I will admit to quite a bit of sobbing on Chris’ shoulder. The pain in my feet disappeared completely! A miracle had taken place!
Then we sat on the ground- not caring if we couldn’t get up again and just watched everyone and everything go by. Shattered, emotional, overwhelmed, enthralled, excited. I think we experienced every single emotion in the next hour. We could not get enough of what was happening around us!
We finally checked into our hotel, went and got something to eat and then Chris and I slept before meeting up with Anna and Colin to collect our Camino de Santiago certificates. It was worth the 90 minutes of queuing!
Dinner was a fantastic €10 3 course meal, then a wander around the city, coffee and now back at the hotel.
Now to enjoy this city for another couple of days.
This was one of the hardest challenges. I am sad that it is over. Tomorrow we will get up and will not put our rucksacks on our tired and weary backs. We will miss it.
Today has mostly been spent in queues! Us Brits love a queue so we saw one and joined it. We were in the queue for about 2 hours and hoped no-one would ask us what it was for because we weren’t actually quite sure! But it was great fun because we saw everyone walking into the square who had completed their Camino. There was a DJ and some sort of celebration with lots of people from different areas coming into the square all dressed up! Actually some of them were very scary.
Once we got in to the cathedral we saw the portico da Gloria which is where all the pilgrims centuries beforehand would finish the Camino and touch the statue’s left foot.
This obviously doesn’t happen now because the foot has almost worn away! The security guards were very strict. No leaning, no photos, no touching!
Because we had queued so magnificently we treated ourselves to tortillas for lunch and then went to the museum in the cathedral.
At 5pm we had a guided tour up to the roof of the cathedral which was very interesting. The tour guide definite knew her stuff and we were very brave and sensible when we were up there! Chris and I went off to look at the other part of the museum that A and C recommended we went to see.
We saw two weddings (we obviously weren’t invited! But the photos were being taken in front of the cathedral!)
We took ourselves off for dinner. Pilgrims menu again €10. Tuna pie, seafood paella, Santiago tart and half a bottle of wine each. Am plastered!
On Sunday we took ourselves off to the Pilgrim’s mass at the cathedral. There is a Pilgrim’s mass every day. Like I said before we are not Catholic but (in the words of Colin) it was very soothing. The majority of it was in Spanish and I know very little about a Catholic Service but it was so interesting and you get to see the swinging incense which is magnificent. We lit candles for our loved ones who are no longer with us and then went off to lunch.
After lunch we had a walk around Alameda Park which is designed to resemble a Country Estate Garden. It is beautiful and very peaceful. It is also famous for two famous siblings, nicknames “the two Marias”. They were persecuted for their left wing views during the Civil war and these sisters took a stroll around the park wearing colourful flamboyant clothes at 2pm every day. A silent protest against the conservative culture that repressed Spanish society at the time.
After our last evening meal in Spain we took a stroll back to our favourite place – Santiago Cathedral and just sat and looked and stared and pondered. Truly grateful for the great week that we had shared. I don’t have the words to express the wondernment of this region, the Camino, the people, the views, the food (Can’t forget the food!). The whole experience. If you want to do this, don’t say, “I wish” or “one day”. Just do it! JUST DO IT!
And that is the end of our adventure! Or perhaps it is the beginning of something new. We have been back a week now. I miss it…..alot. We want to do more of it. It has changed me. I am no more and no less religious than I was before all of this. I have a faith. I respect all faiths, religions, beliefs. I am a believer of all and a believer of none but the one thing I am sure of; I AM a believer in me!