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Archive for December 7th, 2017

31 Days of Gratitude and today I am grateful for the opportunity I had to walk the Camino in September of this year.

It was touch and go. I was meant to walk it in 2016, but due to one thing and another; namely fear, fitness and money, I cancelled. I hadn’t actually paid anything out yet which was fortunate, but I had had my heart set on walking in September 2016. I decided instead to walk in 2017.

I had been training for about 6 months at the time I decided to cancel and also due to procrastination I hadn’t book any flights or accommodation. I had bought some hiking gear and thought I’d be ready to go……but firstly, during my research, I had read about the tragic story of Denise Thiem who was murdered on the French Route, as well as many other people who died from either accidents, heart failure or fell off mountains etc. It put the wind up my sails…or should I say reading those reports deflated my sails.

31 days of gratitude, camino de santiago, walking the camino, portuguese coastal route,

Portugues caravel

I had never before considered that people actually died on the Camino!!! I was horrified. Why, I’m not sure. Secondly I didn’t yet feel fit enough. I decided not to go.

Anyway, long story short (if possible) I planned instead for 2017. I felt so much more comfortable with that.

And on 7th September 2017 I landed in the city of Porto, Portugal on the first day of my big #MyEuropeanAdventure 😉 I had always wanted to visit Porto and now that I’m working on Project 101, the fact that Porto Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site was very exciting. Of course, not satisfied with just one WHS, while in Porto I visited Coimbra which was also on my list of places I always wanted to visit AND a UNESCO WHS. Bravo. 2 birds with one stone etc etc

I cracked on with the training and by the time I left for Porto I had over 800 miles under my belt, a new pair of trainers, more gear and a brand new backpack….my beautiful Osprey Tempest 30 Mystic Magenta aka Pepe – and as it turns out, despite my care to not over pack, loaded with way too much stuff LOL

porto to santiago, padron to santiago, osprey tempest 40 mystic magenta, walking the camino, nordic walking poles.

my trusty companions; Pepe (backpack) and Gemini (Nordic walking poles) – after 230 kms – the final 10.166 km to Santiago

But oh my word…the excitement on the day I left the UK and arrived in Portugal was exhilarating.  I was finally on my way… Camino 2017.

I spent a wonderful 3.5 days exploring Porto, with a day trip to Coimbra, and walked the first section of the Caminho Português from the Sé Catedral to Foz do Duoro, a walk that I absolutely loved, and met my first bona vide pilgrim; Jasmine from Colorado, USA.

The weather was perfect, the city was fascinating, I felt a sense of freedom that I seldom encounter in my day life, and 240 kms of the unknown lay ahead of me…..excited beyond words.

On the day I walked to Foz do Duoro I received some of the best advice that I had heard/read in all the blogs, articles and guides I had perused so thoroughly and carefully; “keep the ocean on your left and head north”.

31 days of gratitude, camino de santiago, walking the camino, portuguese coastal route,

Keep the ocean on your left and head north…

That little gem was communicated to me by a delightful young man at the Tourist Information Centre when I asked him about reaching Matasinhos from Foz do Duoro, and served me well all the way from Porto to Caminha.wp-image-1040417021

I had just about the best time you could imagine on my Camino, despite the pain, the exhaustion, the occasional frisson of fear or taking the wrong route, the sense of freedom was so exhilarating that once I finally reached Santiago de Compostela 11 days later, I didn’t want it to end. If I had had sufficient funds in my account I would have just travelled to the beginning of the next route and walked that too LOL

For some weeks after returning from my Camino, I struggled to put into words what it was that was incredible about this walk – besides, the fantastic scenery, the amazing people, the extraordinary scenery, the stunning churches, the wonderful landscape and the sheer exhilaration of reaching Santiago. It was the essence of simplicity.

Your day is stripped bare; reduced to 3 essential functions; walk, eat, sleep – repeat.

31 days of gratitude, camino de santiago, walking the camino, portuguese coastal route,

Walk. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. – I saw this on Facebook…. 🙂

For 11 days. That is all. You find the route to walk along and follow the arrows. You look out for places where you can eat and replenish your system. You look ahead for a place to sleep for the night. Nothing else matters much. Simplicity.

Of course that doesn’t for one second take away from the other experiences along The Way; the joy at finding a longgggg stretch of beautiful boardwalk ahead of you. The fun of meeting fellow pilgrims along the route.

porto portugal, porto to santiago, camino de santiago, walking the camino, project 101

Agata & Jakob – Poland

Stumbling across a centuries old chapel. Seeing your first horreo. Meeting your Camino Angel.

porto portugal, porto to santiago, camino de santiago, walking the camino, project 101

My Camino Angel; Susana – Portugal

A Super Bock after 4 hours of walking in blazing sunshine and temperatures in excess of 36 degrees C.

31 days of gratitude, camino de santiago, walking the camino, portuguese coastal route,

Super Bock

The sheer pleasure of eating a Magnum Double Raspberry. Of seeing the endless ocean on your left for hour after hour. Walking across a bridge built by the Romans. The amazing discoveries; a 999-arch aqueduct, an exquisite sunrise an equally extravagant sunset.

31 days of gratitude, camino de santiago, walking the camino, portuguese coastal route,

exquisite sunrise

Finding your Camino eyes. Recognising the Signs Along The Way. The excitement of discovering and recognising places that till that moment had only been an image in a book, on a facebook page, in a guide.

31 days of gratitude, camino de santiago, walking the camino, portuguese coastal route,

exciting discoveries

Discovering you are walking along an ancient route; Via Romana XIX, a Roman Road from the time of Augustus (63BC-14AD).

31 days of gratitude, camino de santiago, walking the camino, portuguese coastal route,

Via Romana XIX

Climbing a mountain. Crossing streams and rivers. Exploring cities hitherto unknown. The sheer joy of acquiring your first and then one after the other; your pilgrim stamps in your treasured Pilgrim’s Passport. And at journey’s end, the culmination of miles and miles of walking, sweating, talking, crying, pain and joy, you reach Santiago de Compostela. You receive your ‘Compostela’

santiago de compostela, pilgrims passport, walking the caminho portugues, walking the camino, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago

My Pilgrim’s Passport, the Compostela and Certificate of Completion

and watch the swinging of the Botafumeiro – the famous thurible found in the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral.

31 days of gratitude, camino de santiago, walking the camino, portuguese coastal route, swinging the botafumeiro

the swinging of the Botafumeira in the Cathedral of Santiago

Today I am grateful for having had the opportunity to walk the Caminho Português.

31 Days of Gratitude – Day 6

 

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Hot on the heels of remembering my Mother on what would have been her birthday, yesterday. “I wasn’t there that morning my father passed away“…….Today I’m reminded of my Father who died 2 years ago.

For many years, probably decades in fact, I had a really fractious relationship with my Father and as yet I find it difficult to mourn for someone that left home when I was just 5 years old and my little sister just 2.

Of course while growing up he was my idol, I adored him and cried many desperate tears when he left after a visit. But in time he moved on, remarried and then the visits became less frequent, birthdays missed and behaviour criticised. The first 8 years weren’t too bad, we saw him on holidays and due to 2nd his marriage acquired a new brother, the same age as me.

But as the years went by, the criticisms grew more frequent and the disappointment began to show, and so the relationship deteriorated. I grew up and wanted to get married, he refused to give me away and I never forgave him for that. He went on to have another son, divorced that wife and married again, having 2 new daughters.

He only ever wanted sons. I got that. But I never got that despite that he didn’t raise me, he still felt it was his place to criticise me and find fault. I spent many years trying to please my father, to no avail. When I was in my 30’s I was promoted to Regional Personnel and Admin Manager for a large Courier Company in South Africa with 5 branches countrywide and the Head Office…..his response “are you sure you can manage that?”. I gave up.

After that I didn’t seek his approval. Time moved on, we grew up, I got older and eventually I moved to the UK. A relationship that was tenuous at best, was further strained by distance. Years went by without any much contact and the last time I remember really talking to him was on my 60th birthday 2 years ago. That was such a surprise, but time, as time proved, was running out. There was to be no opportunity to repair the relationship. C’est la vie.

One of my favourite songs that I love listening to is ‘The Living Years’ by Mike & The Mechanics. I remember how, when I first heard this song, how much it resonated. It reminded me of the relationship I had with my father…or lack thereof.

And so the years go by and although a sense of regret lingers, I feel no pain and no loss, but I think of him every time I hear this song….That’s good. I hope.

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