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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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Agata & Jakob – Poland

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

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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.

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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’

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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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I thought it was apt that today’s day of gratitude should be about my job. In this capacity I get to meet people from a very wide spectrum of humanity and I get to travel the country, mostly for 2 weeks at a time and sometimes for a longer stint…currently I’m at a 31 day position in north west Wales.

I have a love/hate relationship with my job; as a Carer for the elderly. Sometimes the assignment I am allocated is amazing, and sometimes its just plain awful – you never know which it will be till you get there. One thing I have learned in this job is that there are so many very unhappy people in the world, and there are some lovely folk who are a daily pleasure to be with.

In my capacity as a Carer I get sent all over the UK and sometimes even to Ireland. Its a fantastic way to see the country and mostly I don’t mind the travel, even though occasionally it takes anything up to 8 hours to get to a place from home; door to door. Fortunately I have social media to keep me occupied and every now and then I pull out my knitting and knit a few more squares for my motor-home blanket.

I’m grateful that I am able to visit some of the most historic, quirky and amazing places in all 4 countries that make up the UK. It was during a visit to the Isle of Wight that Project 101 really took off….when one day while out walking I noticed the village sign board; Nettlestone 1086 🙂 wowwwww a Domesday Book village.

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Nettlestone 1086; a Domesday Book Villages

Intrigued, I decided to see how many of these I had already visited over the last 16 years. Before then I had merely been counting the islands I visit with a goal of 100, but since I saw that sign I decided to find out how many Domesday Book villages, towns or cities I had visited….currently it’s 107!!

I was astounded and that got me to thinking about other places I had been, and so Project 101 was born.

I am grateful too that I have work. During uncertain times, it is in fact a bonus to have a job, especially a job that I mostly enjoy. I’ve been with the same agency now for 10 years and in that time I have travelled to just about every county in England, a good few in Scotland (I worked in a castle once!!), 1 county in Ireland and currently I’m in Wales.

31 days of gratitude, domesday book villages, nettlestone 1086, travel the uk, working as a carer for the elderly, not just a granny travels, project 101

some of the many, many places I have worked in the UK

It’s not always an easy job and sometimes I leave after 2 weeks absolutely drained; emotionally, mentally and physically. Old people can be very challenging, on all 3 levels mentioned. But I have learned some fascinating stories…when someone is prepared to talk about their lives, you hear some extraordinary tales. I often wish they would put their stories into a book. Especially when it relates to WW2. So many personal accounts of life during the war are lost and we’re left with the ‘official’ accounts.

I am grateful for my job because it allows me to satisfy my highest value; travelling. I get to meet interesting people, see fantastic places, and steep myself in the amazing history of this country. And at the same time, I can pay my bills LOL 💸💸💸💸

I’ve also learned to be extraordinarily patient, to create interesting and colourful meals and occasionally I get to enjoy an assignment that is so lovely, that I got back again and again.

31 days of gratitude, domesday book villages, nettlestone 1086, travel the uk, working as a carer for the elderly, not just a granny travels, project 101

preparing nutritious and colourful meals

I also get to meet all manner of pets, and now and then I fall in love with a real beauty.

I also get to meet all manner of pets, and now and then I fall in love with a real beauty.

a beautiful little boy

 

 

 

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So excited to be part of this fantastic challenge #walk1000miles 2017

It’s literally changed, improved and saved lives, and taken people of all ages, from toddlers to oldies, from all walks of life, in all manner of situations, out and about; in cities, towns, villages, hamlets and the countryside, to and from and in all parts of the world – whether it’s 500 or 5,000 the members have risen to the challenge and gone walking 🙂

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….one foot in front of the other…

Join us along with Country Walking for 2018 and walk 1,000 miles or maybe even 5,000 – yes, some people have walked in excess of 5,000 miles this year. Awesome 🙂

Walk 1000 miles in 2018 from Country Walking on Vimeo.

https://vimeo.com/245014566

 

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How lucky am I that I get to walk in so many amazing places in the United Kingdom. My current location is in a tiny village in the stunning Welsh county of Mongomeryshire, right on the border of England’s beautiful Shropshire.

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graveyard in the church

I usually have a 2 hour break every day whilst working, so if it’s not raining I take myself out for a walk. Today I had a free hour in the morning, and since it’s a stunning day and not raining (for a change), popped out for a quick walk to the castle and back.

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Montgomery Castle, Montgomeryshire, Wales

The views across the Welsh countryside and into Shropshire are just beyond description from that elevation; 85 meters. The UK truly is a most beautiful country.

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looking toward the county of Shropshire in England from Montgomeryshire, Wales

I was quite surprised that I managed to walk that elevation with barely any heavy-breathing LOL The Camino route I’m planning for September 2018 has elevations of 360 meters on one or two days, so I shall have to get in more practice with higher altitudes before then, but for now it’s good to be out and walking with my Camino goals in mind.

As for my 2017 goal of walking 1000 miles, I reached that in Santiago in September; boots on miles from 01.01.2017 till 24.09.2017. Since then I have walked a further 73.15 miles (117.03 kms) in places like Barcelona, Broadstairs, Caterham, Montgomery, Caenarfon, Porthmadog, and along the Miner’s Track up Mt Snowdon from Pen-y-Pass

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walking up Mt. Snowdon from Pen Y Pass

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a walk up Mt. Snowdon

and briefly along Offa’s Dyke on the Welsh/English border.

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along Offa’s Dyke

Participating in the #walk1000miles 2017 challenge and practising for my #Camino2017 along with Project 101,  has taken me to some fascinating places in the UK and Europe.

Long may it last…..

I’ve joined the #walk1000miles with Country Walking Magazine challenge for 2018, and along with planning my 2nd Camino for September 2018, I’m aiming for 2018 miles next year.

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Take a walk, not a pill….

 

 

 

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I have the very good fortune to work in many different places in the UK. Currently I’m based in Wales, very near the border of the English county of Shropshire.

Having decided to walk, and in the midst of planning my 2nd Camino, I kicked off my #Camino2018 training with a practice walk from Montgomeryshire to Shropshire; a walk from Wales to England.

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Welcome to Shropshire. Welcome to Wales.

Thursday was the first day we had sunshine since I arrived the previous Sunday, and so a walk was in order.

a walk from wales to england, walk 1000 miles, camino practice walks, camino ingles, nordic walking poles, offas dyke, walks in the uk

beautiful trees on a beautiful day

It was terrific to finally be out walking again. The last couple of months have seen me mostly in front of my computer writing blogs about my 1st Camino. I do wish I could hasten the process, but with my need to describe almost every detail of the walk (LOL) and with all the research about the places I walked through or stayed in, it sometimes take 3 or 4 days to write one article. That’s beside editing the photos!!!

This was the first time I’ve walked with Gemini, my Nordic walking poles, and my absolute #1 Camino item, since I got back from Spain in September. They’ve been on sabbatical, and quite rightly too, considering how hard they worked to keep me upright on The Way to Santiago.

Heading downhill along the Forden Road I branched off along New Road but ended up going the in the wrong direction…no arrows to point the way LOL. I soon realised my mistake and returned the way I had come and followed the opposite side of New Road to the Chirbury Road along which I walked till I reached Shropshire 🙂

To my delight, not long after crossing over into England, I stumbled across Offa’s Dyke. Hoorah. I would love to walk along this route sometime, so after climbing over the stile, I took a quick bimble along the dyke, closely observed by a flock of daffy sheep that ran as I approached and followed when I turned and walked the opposite direction. Silly creatures.

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Offa’s Dyke

The sun was setting behind the hill and I could just see the outline of Montgomery Castle peeping out from behind the trees. It’s a rather remarkable building and must have been quite imposing in it’s heyday.

a walk from wales to england, walk 1000 miles, camino practice walks, camino ingles, nordic walking poles, offas dyke, walks in the uk

Montgomery Castle on the crest of the hill

Unfortunately I only have a 2 hour break each day, so had to hasten back before too long. But oh my, how lovely it was to be out striding along the asphalt with Gemini in my hands again. Although I must say that my left hand, between the thumb and forefinger was quite sore when I got back…it will take some getting used to, this walking with poles again….need to get back into my stride again….pun intended. 😉 Sorry.

a walk from wales to england, walk 1000 miles, camino practice walks, camino ingles, nordic walking poles, offas dyke, walks in the uk

Montgomery circa 1227

With just over 10 months till I cross the English Channel from Plymouth in England to Santander in Spain, I will have to get some serious walking in. Fortunately I have the Country Walking #walk1000miles challenge to spur me on again, as well as the knowledge that the Camino Inglés crosses some serious elevations – ergo I have to practice and practice a lot.

Walked 5.84 kms / 3.65 miles. 8809 steps. Elevation 87 meters….that is not enough!! I believe there will be some mountains to climb out of Ferrol; 360 meter ascents….so I gotta find a mountain to climb…Oh wait I did……

 

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When I first bought my fabulous Osprey Tempest 30 Mystic Magenta (don’t you just LOVE that name!) backpack I decided to name it Pepe. I wanted to take something with me on my first Camino that would be in remembrance of my Mom who died 34 years ago at the age of 52 and never had the opportunities I have had, or been able to do some of the amazing activities I have done or been to places I’ve been. So I wanted to take her (my Mom), on pilgrimage with me to Portugal and Spain when I walked my first Camino.

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However, bearing in mind that weight is an issue, I was reluctant to carry anything more than I absolutely had to, so I decided that I would give my backpack a name, something that signified memories I had of my childhood and something powerful that was linked to my Mom. So Pepe it is……

The back story to this is that when we were very young; 7 (me) & 4 (my sister) and just after my parents divorced, my Mom got us a dog. A little sausage dog. We named him Pepe after a little donkey I had seen in a film my Mom and I went to after my Grandmother’s funeral. Over the years we had a number of sausage dogs named Pepe and each had a number added; Pepe then Pepe 2 then Pepe 3. After that I don’t recall having any more sausage dogs, although we did have many pets in our lives. Pepe was reserved for a special time.

So every day while I was walking, with Pepe on my back, I thought of my Mom. Buen Camino Mommy.

In the meantime, besides the daily repacking on the Camino, I have repacked Pepe 3 times since I got back. Needless to say I’m preparing for my (unexpected) 2nd Camino; the Camino Ingles in September 2018. Unexpected because at the time I planned my 1st, I said I would do just the one and maybe another. Now I have 6 planned LOL It was that amazing.

To read more about my first Camino click the link 😉 Enjoy.

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It’s exactly 2 months ago today since I arrived in Porto and although it’s taken a lot longer than I expected, I’ve now written about my fantastic stay in Porto, a wonderful day visit to Coimbra (recommended) and the first 6 days of my Camino 2017 from Porto to Valenca. Before I continue writing about the final 5 days walking in Spain, I thought I’d pause for reflection and consider what I learned and discovered along The Way on the Portuguese Coastal Route and The Portuguese Central Way (via Tui) from Porto to Santiago.

portuguese coastal route mapacoastal

The Portuguese Coastal and Central routes; Porto to Santiago de Compostela

Firstly I must just clarify that I didn’t walk the Camino for religious reasons, but rather to learn more about myself, and for the sheer adventure. I love walking and I love travelling, so the Camino was the perfect opportunity for me to combine the two. I’ve wanted to visit Portugal for ever such a long time and Porto was my desired destination, as well as which I love the ocean, so it made sense to start there and walk the Portuguese Coastal Route. But because I wanted to visit the walled town of Valenca and of course cross the famous bridge that I’d seen in photos and to also visit Tui, I decided to start off on the coastal route to Caminha and then head inland to Valenca and finish off along the Central Portuguese route to Santiago.

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I just wanna go on more adventures….

My goal was all about discovery. I wanted to see if this was something I could actually do. I’m a creature of habit and I love my home comforts. I get really grumpy when I have to get up early and/or go without my first cup of tea (usually preferred while relaxing in bed – with a couple of biscuits).

 

So it was going to be interesting to see how I would respond to both rising early and forgoing my cup of tea. I did take a packet of teabags with me….but in all the 21 days I was in Portugal and Spain I only used 6 teabags, and 4 of those were in Barcelona AFTER I finished the Camino 😉 So teabags won’t be on my packing list for 2018 then!

So although I didn’t walk for ‘religious’ reasons, I walked in the ‘spirit of learning’; about adventure and discovery, about what I can or cannot cope with, about the countries I walked through, and about their history. I walked with the aim of finding out how walking long distance, under sometimes challenging circumstances would affect me relating to my human spirit/spirituality or soul as opposed to relying on the usual material or physical things and my comfort zones. I could have planned a similar long walk in the UK but that would have fit in with my comfort zone….so Camino it had to be.

inspirational quotes

When it feel scary to jump….

I knew of and had read about the Camino in the past. My father had cycled various routes in his 70’s and 80’s and in 2005 we had toyed with the idea of doing a Camino together – except he wanted to cycle and I wanted to walk. So that never got off the ground. He died a couple of years ago, so that’s that in that area. In retrospect though, I doubt we would have made a success of it, we never really got on very well most of my life and being together day after day would not have been a picnic. However, my younger brother and one of my many younger sisters have cycled The Camino with my father, which is good. I have of course watched the 2010 film, The Way, with Martin Sheen and loved the idea of, but had no desire to walk the Camino Frances (then). Besides all that, I had been inspired to walk the Camino by someone I knew from 2009/2010; a lady in her mid 60’s who had walked the Camino Frances a few years before and loved it.

But because I planned on walking a different route, I didn’t have any preconceptions of how or what the route would be like beyond the fantastic photos I had seen on facebook and the many blogs I read before my September trip. I had read about how some people have major insights, or epiphanies, or religious experiences that changed their lives in a big way, but I wasn’t anticipating any of those and as it turns out, I didn’t have any.

But what I did have, was the joy of walking and being alone. I am a loner, I don’t have a large circle of friends and I am most certainly not a social butterfly; preferring my own company, social events are anathema to me. Even a tea-party or dinner out with a crowd gets me hot under the collar and I’d rather be ill in bed than have to attend a party. LOL

I had read that at certain points you encounter large crowds of people and apparently at the 100km mark (minimum distance required for the Compostela), the route is inundated with other walkers, but I didn’t find that at all, except for one day in Spain when I encountered a group of oldies on the way to Mos. But we soon parted company and in fact at many times I walked for up to 3-4 hours without seeing a soul except the odd local as I meandered by, or the occasional walker who whizzed on by at speed. So in all, the hours that I walked completely on my own suited me perfectly.

However, I did meet some wonderful people along the route in Portugal and spent an hour or so walking with a lovely couple from Poland; Jakob and Agata between Vila do Conde and Esposende. I was really sorry to lose touch with them after we parted ways for breakfast. But as mentioned in the blog, they were a lot younger than me, walked faster and were with a group of friends, and I dawdled a lot taking photos.

It was also going to be really interesting to find out how I felt about not having much by way of home comforts, about wearing the same clothes, not having the convenience of a washing machine, and carrying my belongings on my back day after day. My day job takes me all over the UK and I often get fed up with living out of a suitcase, so living out the backpack for 11 days was going to be a challenge…could I cope? How would I feel about not eating a proper breakfast? (you know what us English folks are like!! Full English and all that, or scrambled egg on marmite toast, but if not possible then oats and fruit, or granola and yoghurt with banana etc etc LOL). And I am not usually a coffee drinker…although the thought of pastries for breakfast every day filled me with joy!! 🙂 🙂 How would I manage? Weirdly it was these type of thoughts that I fretted about most prior to my Camino. Not would I be safe, not would I get blisters, not would I mind a mix-sex bathroom. No. My biggest worry was food!!

I am a magpie and a hoarder. I collect stuff all the time. I love books and am continually buying them (or should I say used to). Apparently my wealth profile is: ‘Accumulator’ – just a shame that didn’t apply to money!! If you saw my house in South Africa in 2001 pre UK, you’d know for sure that I collected ‘stuff’ – a lot of stuff. Since living in the UK the last 16 years, things carried on much the same…even though I arrived with very little, before long I was accumulating stuff; mementos, household items, linen, clothes and books; home comforts. But since I arrived back from my Camino, that has changed substantially. I had already started a few years ago cutting back on ‘buying’ and rather spent my money on travel and experiences like zip-lining. 🙂 which is quite simply awesome, and a must do again.

zip lining with zip world in london

zip lining with zip world in London. My daughter and I had so much fun

Cutting back on spending last year is the reason I had money for my Camino Journey, but now I’ve become quite militant about it. My daughter had already been discouraged from buying me things and has now been seriously encouraged/reminded to not buy me anything that I can’t eat, wear or experience.

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Take a walk, not a pill….

So what did I learn along The Way?

  1. I can get up early and manage to not die without my first cup of tea…or any tea AT ALL for that matter. For someone who usually drinks 5-6 mugs full a day…
  2. I am fitter than I thought and certainly more agile.
  3. I can climb a mountain and survive.
  4. I can walk in the rain and survive, and I still loathe temperatures above 20 degrees centigrade.
  5. I really do love just being on my own and never once did I get lonely.
  6. I am not afraid.
  7. The scenery and the history of the places I walked through was more amazing than I imagined.
  8. I didn’t have any major epiphanies or insights or spiritual experiences.
  9. I’m still not religious.
  10. Although….I do and did love visiting the many churches along the two routes – so peaceful, real repositories of history, with a strong sense of spirituality.
  11. I can manage to live with only a bare minimum of life’s ‘necessities’.
  12. I loved calling out ‘Bom Caminho’ in Portugal and ‘Buen Camino’ in Spain, and getting a response in return…usually with a smile, especially from the locals.
  13. I enjoyed the brief connections I made with fellow pilgrims and locals; just enough to be fun, but not that long it got tedious.
  14. I can, if I make the effort, learn more of the native languages and managed to pick up quite a lot of extra words enroute. I’m currently learning more Spanish and my daughter is going to teach me to speak and listen comfortably before I go next year.
  15. I’m still an accumulator…..over 5,500 photos between 7-28th September bears witness to that LOL At least they’re light, albeit filling up my Dropbox.
  16. I really don’t want all the stuff I still have in my storage – in fact I nearly had a nervous breakdown when I returned home and saw all the boxes waiting. urgh.
  17. Food wise, I still stuck to what I know – like eating ‘tosta misto’ just about every day because I knew what was in it. And because I’m a ‘food coward’ I didn’t try the local ‘pulpo’ or anything too adventurous. LOL
  18. I left the maps behind, found my ‘Camino eyes’ on day 3 and never looked back.
  19. Despite my initial dislike of them, my walking poles became my best friend and my #1 item for future walks.
  20. After I reached Santiago, I could quite literally have just carried on walking…a bit like Forrest Gump, except I had a ticket to Barcelona booked for the 24th 😦
  21. Although it was tough at times, I loved every minute of the journey and even though I had NO PLANS AT ALL to walk a 2nd Camino before I started, I’m already planning for 2018, 2019 and 2020 – Camino Ingles, Camino Norte and Camino Frances respectively. Oh and not forgetting The Portuguese Central Route…I’m guessing that will have to be in 2021 hahahaha. Then there’s the Primitivo Route to think about…..hmmmm. The Camino bug has bitten.

So, having walked 240 kms through Portugal and Spain, would I recommend walking the Camino? Oh absolutely YES!!!! Is it for the faint-hearted? It can be if you allow yourself to open up and experience all it has to offer. It’s not a ‘walk in the park’, it’s tiring, and tiresome, it’s exhausting (especially if you mistakenly plan for long days e.g. 32 kms), but it’s interesting – the history is phenomenal and I really wish I’d had time to explore some of the towns more thoroughly. I’m planning shorter days for 2018. I have read about two nonagenarians (91 and 93 respectively) who have recently walked the Camino Frances, so pretty much anyone can walk it if they are of a mind to.

inspirational quotes

You are not too old and it is not too late

I would recommend packing light – somehow I managed to pack 11kgs which increased to 13kgs with my water-bladder filled. I don’t know how this came about as I weighed everything so carefully and totted it all up. But somehow I think in the final packing frenzy I bunged in a whole lot of stuff I really didn’t need. I won’t make the same mistake again and next Camino I will be militant about packing a maximum of 8kgs. In fact Pepe (my backpack) is already packed and ready for 2018. This is still to be reviewed.

I would recommend training first before setting off. You may think you’re fit. You may think it’s adventurous and fun to set off impulsively without proper preparation, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I’ve read of walkers getting severe blisters, straining their knees or ligaments, damaging their feet or backs and one gentleman I met in Portugal actually had his stomach lining suddenly tear a few days into his walk which landed him in hospital for 6 weeks. It’s not just the distance you walk, it’s also the weight of the backpack that can cause injury.

Personally, I think the reason my walk went so well is because I spent 18 months in training prior to setting off and walked a total of over 800 miles in the 8 months preceding my Camino. Besides my almost daily 5 mile walks, I did two long walks; 1 of 60 miles and 1 of 19 miles in July before I left, and those gave me a really good insight into what I could cope with, how much I could comfortably carry and taught me to 90% read a map. The other 10% I made my own route when I got lost LOL. I also learned that it’s not a good idea to walk in wet socks!!!

I would recommend buying good equipment; a light-weight backpack – I bought the Osprey Tempest 30 L that weighs only 1.01kgs, the right shoes (I tested 3 pairs over the 18 months before leaving), 3 or 4 pairs of really good socks and 2 pairs of inner socks, and my absolute Number 1 essential – a good pair of light-weight walking poles. I absolutely would not have had as good a walk as I did or been able to negotiate those cobbled streets, sandy roads, steep inclines and declines without my walking poles. I most certainly would not have been able to climb those mountains in Spain.

As mentioned, some days were exceptionally long, and by the end of those days I was practically using my poles like crutches. Of all the equipment and gear I had, those would be the one thing I would recommend most highly.

portuguese coastal route from porto to santiago

a tad overloaded would you say? Laundry drying, my food bag…I looked like a bag lady!! LOL

I would even recommend walking The Camino to people who are afraid of being alone, of walking in a foreign country, or just fearful of travelling beyond the borders of their own country. The whole experience was wonderful. I was exceptionally lucky in that I didn’t have any unpleasant experiences, no illness, no tummy bugs, no bed bugs, no bites (despite an encounter with a very small snake in a Spanish vineyard), no theft of personal belongings, no dehydration (although I did get very thirsty on one day after running out of water), no sunburn, and only one small issue with my right ankle, a contracted muscle acquired while climbing those mountains in Spain, that soon righted itself after being massaged and strapped up. One thing I did suffer with, was swollen ankles. This unfortunately was not a new issue as I generally get swollen ankles when I’m at home too, but it was exacerbated by the heat and being on my feet the whole day, so by the time I reached my accommodation each night, they didn’t look good – however, I survived!! A hot bath/shower and a good sleep does wonders.

How did I feel when returning to ‘civilisation’? Overwhelmed!! I recall with clarity the shock and horror I felt as I entered the old city of Santiago.

I arrived at the old town via the Parque de Alameda and approached the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela and the Praza do Obradoiro via Rúa do Franco. The sea of pedestrians walking towards me, the crowds bumping against me, the beggars shoving cardboard in my face asking for money, and the sheer volume of noise was overwhelming. I was already exhausted, extremely emotional at having finally arrived, struggling to hold back my tears, and the noise and sounds were too just too much. I nearly turned and ran.

arriving in santiago, santiago de compostela, walking to camino, porto to santiago

arriving in Santiago old town

I stayed in bed, in my hotel room the next day until I was starving and had to get out for something to eat. It took a lot of energy just to face the crowds of people again. If you’re expecting peace and tranquillity when you reach Santiago…dispel the thought. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like at the height of summer.

When I got to Barcelona 3 days later, once again I was overwhelmed at the crowds and the traffic noise of the big city. It nearly spoiled my visit on the first day, fortunately I immersed myself slowly and with 4 days to explore I didn’t rush about too much, sticking to quieter roads and areas where possible.

Arriving back in the UK was also overwhelming. The rush and the crush of commuters at the airport, on the trains; being on the tube between stations was a living nightmare. Oh where was the wonderful peace and tranquillity of walking through forests and along deserted roads, the sounds of the ocean as I strolled along the boardwalks, sorely missed.

camino 2017, viana do castelo, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, viana do castelo to caminha, visit portugal

a good ocean breeze and a tumble down fort…what more could I ask for?

Thankfully my base is in a fairly quiet seaside town and the house in a cul-de-sac.

broadstairs, viking bay, isle of thanet, english coast, seaside towns of britain

a winter’s sunrise – Viking Bay, Isle of Thanet

Even so, being back in civilisation was a shock to the system. And as for my store-room; I took one look at all my possessions and nearly had a nervous-breakdown. Time to downsize once again.

The most important lesson of all that I learned on the Camino? I didn’t need 99.9% of the possessions I own in order to survive and be contented and happy.

Bring on Camino 2018.

To read more about my #Camino2017 adventures, my journey started here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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