WALKING THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO IN SPAIN
By Alison, who did this walk alone in March/April 2001, while Digby was
working in Samoa.
At the end of the journey I sent this summary below to my family and
friends. It took me two more years to get around to writing up the unabridged
version for my travel diary. You can now read
the full version. When I searched the web for info on the walk I couldn't
find very much so I share my account and hope it inspires others to become
EMAIL POSTCARD - SUMMARY OF MY EXPERIENCE
I have arrived in Santiago after walking more than 700 kms in 27 days,
and walking between 20 – 35 kms each day. I have walked through
snow storms, hail storms, had winds so strong it was not possible to walk
vertically and I have suffered from sun burned lips and knees. I have
verged from hypothermia to heatstroke.
Every morning I wake up at 7.30, pack my muchilar (backpack) and start
walking about 8.00 AM. I stop and have breakfast in a bar – a coffee
and a Danish or bread and jam- if there is a bar and if its open. During
March there were some days I walked without food, just because there was
nowhere to buy it in the villages I passed through. Every day would be
a new day with whole set of memories. The early days focused on coping
with the pain of the blisters underneath the balls of both feet, the heels
and the toes. I learned that once you start walking, it goes numb and
you can cover large distances as longs you don’t stop often and
restart – that’s when the pain returns.
I also had to learn to cope with the solitude. In the first two weeks
I only saw a handful of other pilgrims, and often at night I was the only
pilgrim at the refuge. I have learned about humility from the Spanish
people who have tended my blisters, warmed me up, given me food, encouraged
me to go on and whenever I lost the trail, they magically appeared to
give directions, This is the spirit of the Camino and it came as a complete
surprise to me. I just thought I was doing a long distance walk but the
Spanish people have the Camino embedded in their history and heart, and
give respect and support to pilgrims as they pass through their villages.
I have developed a different set of priorities – centred on the
basics of survival, and I have enjoyed being able to place everything
else out of my mind. I have had one goal for the last month, and each
day I have moved a little closer to reaching it.
I have walked from the Pyranees down into the olive groves, the vineyards
and the wheat fields, up onto the meseta – the high barren plains
and through the mountains of Galicia. I have seen spring bringing changes
over the four weeks, as the fruit trees start to flower and the Spanish
people start to prepare their fields for planting. At times I felt I was
in Europe 50 years ago – the donkey and the oxen pulling the carts
and plough, the shepherds with the sheep, old women collecting firewood.
The main thing I will remember will be the day-to-day interactions along
the way with the local people.
In the last two weeks of the walk I walked with other pilgrims and started
to care about them. When I lost my Maui crocheted sunhat, Jo the Canadian
offers me his scarf, and as I wear it I slip into the role of Spanish
grandmother and peasant, and it seems to fit and I feel comfortable, even
though I don’t recognise myself in the mirror. One afternoon lying
on the path exhausted, a Spanish pilgrim appears and says ‘I will
help you, it is easier walking if there are two’ and he got me through
the last four kilometres to the refuge.
The welcomes by the hospitaleros have been really special. They have
made me a cup of tea, carried my pack upstairs, and checked all is OK.
I have met and walked with so many different nationalities – Mexican,
Canadian, Belgian, Spanish, and the friendships have been really open
– there is no bullshit on the Camino.
Walking alone has been wonderful - I think people reach out to you, and
you are more approachable. My main recommendation would be to walk alone,
if you are thinking of doing it and avoiding the peak season, with all
the large groups and the crowds in the refuges. My experience was solitary
- it gave me a lot of time to think about my priorities and life in general
- and to appreciate the companionship on the path.
Do you want to read the full