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Posts Tagged ‘walking the camino’

I had such a wonderful afternoon. Met up with a young woman who I connected with on instagram via her Camino posts and mine, about 2 years ago.

Since then we’ve enjoyed each others posts, both Camino and other life stories. She’s been to Broadstairs a few times but I’m usually away so we never managed to meet up. But finally, my dates at home were conducive for her to visit the area and so we planned to meet today.

It was so gratifying to be able to talk to someone who has also walked the Camino, someone who understands the impact it has on your life, and ‘gets’ more than just the basics.

Although her journey was 6 weeks and mine only 11 days, we found so much in common with our experiences; mentally, emotionally and physical. We spoke solidly for over 3 hours.

We agreed that on the whole, unless you’re sharing Camino experiences with someone who has actually walked a Camino, most people’s eyes glaze over after 10 minutes or so. Which is not a criticism, but rather an acknowledgement that they don’t ‘get’ what you’re talking about.

Her experience of the Camino was vastly different to mine; she was 21 when she walked 6 years ago, and I was 62 when I walked last year. Her distance was 790 kms whereas mine was 240kms. Yet, despite the differences there was so much we could share about packing, what we actually needed by way of clothes vs what we thought we’d need, about injury and how we dealt with them, and how we related to other walkers.

After listening to her experiences it confirmed for me what I suspected….the French route is completely different to the Portuguese route. Not just in geography, but in the set up and the way in which pilgrims connect. There seems to be more opportunity to form deeper relationships.

It was a relief to be able to talk to someone who understood what I meant by the ‘essence’ of the Camino.

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I saw this graph going around the various Camino pages on Facebook and thought I’d share it with you.

How interesting to see where people are from, and which routes they walk.

Camino statistics 2017

Camino statistics 2017

I must admit that I was surprised at how few people were from the UK.

It’s also useful to note that not all pilgrims register for a Compostela on arrival at Santiago. I met quite a few pilgrims who were walking their 3rd or 4th Camino and weren’t bothered about getting a Compostela (certificate). So I guess the numbers are higher than shown here.

As for myself, I’ll be sure to obtain a Compostela for every Camino I complete 😊😊

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After months of reading up on other people’s facebook posts, reading blogs and posts on Camino forums, I finally narrowed down my Camino packing list.

packing for the camino, how to pack a backpack, camino de santiago, long distance walking, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, solo travel, women who travel on their own, baby boomers travel

My Camino 2017 packing; I’ve made relevant adjustments for walking in the UK

Items that I removed from the final pack before leaving: top left image; gloves, sandals, and I changed my walking socks after testing the marvellous socks I found at Mountain Warehouse; double thick…

packing for the camino, how to pack a backpack, camino de santiago, long distance walking, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, solo travel, women who travel on their own, baby boomers travel

some of the many articles I researched and a bit of a laugh

Admittedly I had bought a whole load of items while I was in South Africa in May 2016, but I realised over time that most of it wouldn’t really be needed/suitable for a Camino in September. I will however make good use of them when I start walking in the UK….we all know how changeable the weather can be here so no doubt the double fleece jacket, woollen beanie and thick woollen gloves will come in handy for those trips. So for now they shall remain at home.

One of the items I bought which will come in handy is the Glowstick which is of course packed.

So at the final Countdown to my Camino, this is what I packed:

Osprey Mystic Magenta Tempest Talon 40 – my erstwhile backpack 1.08 kgs

Osprey Water Bladder 1.5liter                                                            0.700 grams

Sandals (walking sandals swopped for flip flops)                               0.120 grams

Fleece – lilac                                                                                      0.500 grams

Jumper – lilac                                                                                     0.220 grams

Hiking pants x 2 pairs – black (packed)                                              0.620 grams

Hiking pants 1 pair – black (to be worn)                                             0.310 grams

Quick drying T-shirts x 3 – magenta (packed)                                    0.360 grams

Quick Drying T-shirt to be worn                                                          0.120 grams

Panties x 7 (black) & pantie liners x 20                                              0.100 grams

Hiking socks – double thick x 5 (black)                                               0.250 grams

Hiking socks – double thick – worn                                                      0.050 grams

Wick away inner sock liners x 2                                                          0.050 grams

Bras x 2 (one on & one packed)                                                         0.050 grams

Night t-shirt (slogan: everything hurts – gift from my daughter)          0.210 grams

Towel – magenta (quick drying) & face cloth                                      0.230 grams

Rain poncho (now ditched in favour of a lightweight poncho – 20g)   0.395 grams

Extras:

LED Light (glowstick)                                                                          0.020 grams

Pale blue scarf with silver scallop shell pattern (gift from daughter)   0.040 grams

Pilgrim’s Scallop Shell                                                                         0.020 grams

Pilgrim’s Passports                                                                              0.030 grams

Orange Emergency Sheet                                                                   0.230 grams

Silver Emergency Foil Blanket                                                            0.010 grams

Various odds and ends (pack 1)                                                         0.180 grams

Various odds and ends (pack 2)                                                         0.310 grams

Various odds and ends (pack 3)                                                         0.110 grams

Phone charger and cord                                                                     0.050 grams

Emergency travel charger for my phone                                            0.220 grams

Teabags (vital and essential for my morning cuppa)                          0.030 grams

Toiletries                                                                                             0.800 grams

(shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, face wash, face cream, hand wash, dish-washing liquid, toothpaste, detergent gel, toothbrush, dental floss, comb, nail clippers, emery board, small scissors, shower gloves, incognito spray (100 grams), citronella oil, Epsom salts, rehydration salts, immodium, various vitamins)

Below are images of what I’ve packed for my next Camino – new additions would be the pink travel case (not yet sure it’s going to be useful), small day pack for those days I send Pepe ahead (it’s a marvellous little bag and folds away into itself and weighs next to nothing). The bits and bobs have been dramatically reduced, I did find the little velcro straps to be incredibly useful as well as the elasticated straps with clips…good for hanging socks to dry.packing for pilgrimage, long distance walks uk, packing for the camino,packing for pilgrimage, long distance walks uk, packing for the camino,packing for pilgrimage, long distance walks uk, packing for the camino,

packing for pilgrimage, long distance walks uk, packing for the camino,

packing for my impending UK walk – my fabulous new puffer jacket and my wonderful Pepe; Osprey Mystic Magenta, packed and ready to go

packing for pilgrimage, long distance walks uk, packing for the camino,

the noodles came in handy one night after a very long day. I used the tea bags 3 times and the mug never LOL

Some stuff you just don’t need. 😉 It’s really tricky packing for a long distance walk, especially in a foreign country. I took way too much of medical supplies like plasters and stuff (they are in plentiful supply in all the large towns and some of the villages you pass along the way).

medical supplies, camino de santiago, walking the camino,

clearly took far too much stuff LOL

Admittedly, despite advice to the contrary, I took a load of stuff I really didn’t need – most of it came home with me. LOL

I’ll be rechecking my list before I start along The Pilgrim’s Way and hopefully I can ditch some more items before I start…..

Buen Camino

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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.

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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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.

inspirational quotes

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.

inspirational quotes

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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Before leaving for Porto and my first Camino, I had read many an account of Camino families and how many of the pilgrims walking the various Caminos met and made friends with people they met along The Way. During my walk from Porto to Santiago I met so many lovely people, especially in Portugal, Some were just a fleeting connection, and some I connected with in a more meaningful way. With some I managed to capture a selfie, whilst others I connected with were just a fleeting conversation and they were gone, no time for a photo.

I had some wonderful encounters and conversations, especially in Portugal. Mostly because I was still full of joie de vie and not yet exhausted whilst walking the fabulous coastal route from Porto to Caminha. I still had the energy for meaningful conversations, a Bom Caminho and besides that, the Portuguese community were amazing. So friendly.

But, I did mange to capture some photos, and thought to make note of the names too LOL

People I met along The Way; Camino 2017.

Day 4 Porto to Foz do Duoro 09/09/2017

Jasmine – USA : I met Jasmine as I was walking along the River Duoro towards Foz do Duoro. Jasmine had just finished her Camino and was visiting Porto for a few days. I was over the moon with excitement at having met my first bona vide pilgrim 🙂

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

Jasmine USA met in Porto enroute to Foz do Duoro

Day 5 Porto to Vila do Conde 11/09/2017

Roger and Amanda – South Africa : we met on the bus just before Matasinhos and bumped into each other the whole day at one place or another. As we were nearing the bus station I saw a backpack coming down the stairs with a South African flag attached 🙂 I could barely believe my eyes and immediately struck up a conversation.

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

Roger and Amanda – South Africa

Mel – UK : we met when we both stopped to photograph a small chapel just beyond Matasinhos (behind us). I met Mel again in Vila do Conde when we stayed at the same B&B, briefly in Valenca and again briefly in the Cathedral in Santiago.

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

Mel – UK

Laura – Austria : I came up behind Laura just as we were approaching Vila do Conde. She was hobbling with leg pain. I walked with her over the bridge. Turned out we were staying in the same B&B and were room-mates 🙂 She, Mel & I had supper together.

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

Laura – Austria

Day 6 Vila do Conde – rest day 12/09/2017

I met this lovely young girl from Germany who was also walking the Camino on her own. Just 19 years old and an absolute delight. I’m just sorry I can’t find her name.

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

at the main church in Vila do Conde

Day 7 Vila do Conde to Esposende 13/09/2017

Inge – Denmark – I met Inge in Vila do Conde. We were roommates on my 2nd night at the B&B. I saw her briefly in the morning as we were leaving and again somewhere along the way. We connect on the facebook page.  Unfortunately I didn’t do a photo

Helga – Germany : we connected somewhere along the way and she was in the same room as me at the albergue in Viana do Castelo

Jakob and Agata – Poland : we met just outside of Vila do Conde and chatted all the way to Povoa de Varzim. I was really sorry to lose touch with them, they were so sweet. (if anyone reading this blog happens to know them, please let them know I would love to be in touch)

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

Agata & Jakob – Poland

Jose & Teresa’s – Povoa de Varzim (coffee stand) – again I didn’t take a photo. But she was lovely and I can recommend you stop there for coffee. She signed my Pilgrim’s Passport 🙂

camino de santiago portuguese coastal route port to santiago

practising my Portuguese and asked for coffee at Jóse and Teresa’s shack in Povoa de Varzim.

Guiseppe – Mr Barcelona : we had a very funny conversation, mostly in sign language. Between my minimal Spanish and his non-existant English we manage to establish that he was from Barcelona, so I told him I was going to visit there later that month. 🙂 Other than that I saw him again a few times but never took a photo.

My group of 5; Mo, Ed, Joan & 2 other ladies whose names I never quite caught. We met just outside Povoa de Varzim, again in Vila do Conde on my rest day, again in Valenca where we stayed at the same hotel, and then this photo was taken on the day (17/09) we stopped at O Chiriringo enroute to O Porrino. So these are the folks I saw the most of. Joan and I walked together a lot and had some fun conversations.

Orbitur camp site

my group of 5 – Ed, Joan & Mo and the 2 outside ladies all from AUS

Day 8 Esposende to Viana do Castelo 14/09/2017

Mr Cyprus – met at Orbitur camp site enroute to Esposende. I never did get his name, but he said he was from Cyprus. We had a brief but interesting conversation while resting at the camp. We met again briefly the next morning at the hostel in Esposende where I stayed the night before. Sadly no photo.

Day 9 15/09/2017 Viana do Castelo to Caminha

Lina – Russian (lives in New York) – met at Viana do Costelo at the hostel and again in Caminha by coincidence at the restaurant. I invited her to share my room at the hotel as she was staying in a really grim hostel.

Orbitur camp site

Lina – Russian living in New York

Amelie – Barcelona met at the beach side cafe in Carreco. We walked together for a few kilometers and stopped to look at some ancient rock markings. She walked much faster than me so we lost contact. 

Day 12 18/09/2017 Proprietor at Albergue O Recuncho do Peregrino near Arcade

Miguel, our lovely host

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

Miguel at the best albergue ever….

Day 13 Arcade to O Porrino 19/09/2017

Maria, Antonio and Guiseppe – Spain. I first met these 4 pilgrims at breakfast at the Albergue O Recuncho do Peregrino. We crossed paths again between Arcade and Pontevedra and again in Santiago

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

pilgrims at the Albergue – on the left: Maria, Antonio, Guiseppe. Chap on the right I didn’t get his name – all from Spain

Gregory – UK : I met Gregory on the diversion from Concella de Vilaboa along the rio Tomeza to Caldas de Reis. We had a fascinating conversation about Pope Gregory and St Augustine. We crossed paths again later in the afternoon, but not again after that.

Day 14 20/09/2017 Caldas de Reis to Padrón

Susana – Portugal : enroute to Padrón – my Camino angel. On this day my right ankle was in a bad way and I limped into this shelter on the route intending to rest. Susana introduced herself as a massage therapist and offered to massage my legs. She strapped up my ankle after which I was more able to walk comfortably. A true angel. We met again in Santiago. 🙂

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

My Camino Angel; Susana – Portugal

Day 16 22/09/2017 Santiago.

Leah & Michelle – Germany : I met these delightful young women in the Plaza del Obradoiro in front of the Cathedral in Santiago at 8:30 in the morning. We had a wonderful conversation before they left on their way to Finisterre. They were so full of energy and vibrant with joy. I hugged them long and hard.

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

Leah and Michelle – Germany

Susana 🙂 I had been to the 12noon service at the Cathedral and afterwards was just meandering around looking at everything and taking photos of all the details in the church when suddenly there before my eyes was Susana. I hugged her so tight. I was delighted. I had so wanted to see her again and there she was.

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

Susana and me outside the Cathedral in Santiago

We spent some time meandering about the square and then met up with the Spanish ladies for dinner at a tapas bar. Unfortunately I was exhausted and very emotional, and not speaking the language was unable to really participate in the conversation. But it was wonderful to see them again.

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

Susana and the wonderful group of Spanish ladies who helped me enroute on the day I met Susana

Day 16 23/09/2017 Santiago

Sabrina – Germany : Santiago cathedral. I met Sabrina at the evening service in the cathedral. We sat together on the edge of a very hard pillar for the duration of the service chatting about all things Camino. She had just finished walking the Camino del Norte and was so excited at the prospect of seeing the botafumeiro being swung. 

And our patience was rewarded. Sadly I didn’t get her photo either, she was lovely.

Day 17 24/09/2017 Santiago

On my last day in Santiago de Compostela I was up really early in the morning and in the Plaza del Obradoiro by 06:45. I wanted to see the square before it was overcrowded with pilgrims and people. Initially there was not a soul about, but by 7am people were starting to cross the square in various directions; locals on their way to work. Suddenly to my amazement and delight who did I see crossing to the centre of the square???

Maria, Antonio and Guiseppe. 🙂 They were on their way to Finisterre…I wished I was going with them. We chatted for a while and then after a big group hug we waved goodbye….

porto portugal, porto to santiago, camino de santiago, Plaza del Obradoiro, walking the camino, project 101, unesco world heritage site

my pilgrim group from Arcade – met on my last morning in Santiago. they were enroute to Finisterre – Maria, Guiseppe, Antonio

Buen Camino peregrinos, I miss you all. Each person in their own different way made an impact on my Camino and will forever be in my heart.

My only regret for the whole Camino was not learning the languages of the two host countries. I do feel that if I had had more Portuguese and Spanish I would have enjoyed a richer experience. I am now rectifying this and learning Spanish in anticipation of my Camino Ingles in 2018. I have been fortunate enough to connect via Facebook and wordpress with Maria who posts a weekly blog; Spanish for the Camino.

 

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The signs along The Way are many. When I first started planning my Camino I joined a number of Facebook pages and groups and started reading blogs. And, although I saw a few photos of the Camino waymarkers and some of the yellow arrows, I didn’t realise how plentiful they would be.

camino portuguese coastal route

Bom Caminho Buen Camino Good Journey

My initial impression was that you would HAVE to follow the guide books and to that end I bought one about the Portuguese Coastal Route, which I studied intently, meaning to take copies with on the journey, but forgot. So, while in Porto, in a panic and before I started, I had my daughter photograph each relevant page and whatsapp them to me. For no reason. As it turned out, the signs were virtually every 500 meters.

The Way is incredibly well marked with arrows, the Camino scallop shell signs and waymarkers showing the distance in kms, until they didn’t – weirdly they came to an abrupt end just as I reached Santiago.

Update: 24/11/2017 – I just found out who paints all those arrows and maintains the various markers along the routes. They’re on Facebook as: Asociación Galega de Amigos do Camino de Santiago. A big shout out to them for all the hard work they do to keep us pointed in the right direction.

Leaving from the Sé Catedral in the old town of Porto, a remarkably historic building in it’s own right, it made a fitting location to start my journey. It was also recommended in the book. Now I didn’t go in ‘blind’, I sussed out the route a few days before – didn’t want to get lost on my first day on the Camino LOL. So, on the day I left, at approximately 07:30, it was easy to follow the downward spiral of steps to the riverfront.

camino portuguese coastal route porto

Sé Catedral, Porto, Portugal, view of the river and of the route, San Tiago, a pilgrims shell and hat, my passport with stamps from the 8th

1. ancient route

The route down from Sé Catedral to the riverside

Although I didn’t see any arrows or markers at that juncture, and since I took the bus to Foz do Duoro, having already walked that section beforehand, the first time I saw anything resembling a ‘sign’, that I recall anyway, was well after I had left Matasinhos at about 14:13 – a yellow arrow painted on a lamp-post. Now, I’m almost certain that there were many others before then, but either I didn’t see them, or was so intent on walking that I didn’t stop to photograph them…that aspect changed further along on my journey.

camino portuguese coastal route

The first arrow that I noticed on the Portuguese Coastal Route

Truthfully, what I did was ‘follow that pilgrim’. For most of my journey and where applicable, I followed the pilgrims up ahead.

camino portuguese coastal route

Follow that pilgrim

There was one place where I came unstuck, on the road to Esposende, and I’m still not at all sure how, but I just trudged along following the footsteps in the sand. There was one set of shoe tracks that I could recognise, so I followed those all the way through along winding sandy paths, and shrubby land till suddenly I could see, in the distance, a road and some buildings…at last civilisation. I was beginning to think I’d be wandering around there forever!! And at some stage along the route I ended up walking through thick brush and undergrowth with zip, zero, nothing and nada around me except for undergrowth, thick brush, trees and deep sandy paths. I did see a few diggers and excavation equipment but no people. It was weird and a little unsettling.

But to get back to The Way and the arrows. They are plentiful. In some areas there are 3 or 4 and in other areas you have to have faith and search.

camino portuguese coastal route

Tilting at Windmills – spot the arrow! If you’re not concentrating…

Most of the time I walked I was enjoying the scenery or in a day-dream, so occassionally I ended up suddenly stopping and realising I hadn’t seen any arrows or scallop shells or waymarkers for quite some time. This usually brought me to a standstill and a panicked look around! Did I miss the arrows?

camino portuguese coastal route

How could you possibly miss this!!

At that point I’d stand still, take a deep breath and having faith that I was still on the correct route, I’d walk on and sure enough there it was; whether a small arrow painted on a rock, or a faint outline on the road, maybe even, as in one spot, painted on an ivy covered wall…..the ivy carefully cut away around it like a frame! The Signs were there. Marvellous.

camino portuguese coastal route

Learning where to look and eventually knowing where to look

There was one day however that I did seriously go way off and as I was swinging along, I heard distant shouts “Senora!! Hello. Hello. Hello.” Eventually I stopped to look around and see what all the fuss was about, and about 500 yards away, distant figures were shouting and gesticulating wildly in my direction then pointing along a path that was not where I was on? LOL Initially a tad confused, I suddenly realised that I had been so deep in thought that I’d not kept my eye on the route. I scurried back laughing and we all agreed I could have ended up who knows where, but it wouldn’t have been Santiago. I still wonder that if they hadn’t drawn my attention, where on earth I’d have gone to?

camino portuguese coastal route

In case you were not aware…this is the Camino de Santiago..weirdly these signs were all in Spain

But on the whole, the route was amazingly well marked. People have been really inventive in where they painted the arrows and or made the markings to show which route you’re on.

8. fields and houses

Camino de Santiago – signs along The Way

10. I spy with my little eye

Camino de Santiago – signs along The Way

11. blink and you'll miss it

Camino de Santiago – signs along The Way

In fact I often wondered about the person/people who painted the arrows and made those markings, or put up the scallop shells and installed the waymarkers. All I can say is ‘thank you’. Whoever you may be, you were in many instances blessed by me. 😉 I got really excited when I came across the Caminho Beach Bar. I’d seen photos of this on the Fcabeook page and the board of shells (behind me), so I stopped, bought a shell, put my name on it and hung it up…@notjustagranny was here 🙂

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

Caminho Beach Bar – Santiago de Compostela 265 kms!!

As I said, most of The Way was very clearly marked and I seldom had any problems, especially after 3 or 4 days, in locating them up ahead…although some were far between, if you just keep walking you will eventually discover them. One of the things that I enjoyed was discovering the yellow X! Sometimes you’d be walking and what looked like the logical route, is not. Then you’d see a big, or as in many cases, small yellow X – this not The Way. So you’d look around till you found what you were looking for…a Yellow marker…this is The Way. My favourite markers were the brown metal plates with yellow arrows.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

X says “no, this is not the way” – even though you may be tempted, but no…this is not The Way

As you wind your way along the Potuguese Coastal Route the signs are varied. Once you get into the forests and hills, you have to be a little more inventive in where you look.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

keeping your eye on the route, sometimes you had to just be a little more aware, they were not always pretty

A tiny yellow arrow pinned to a tree trunk, a scallop shell attached to a wall,

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

show me The Way to go home…oh wait, this is my home!! I loved these ceramic wall plaques

and frequently just two little lines, one yellow, one white to say ‘don’t worry, you’re going the right way’.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

Crossing Paths – the Portuguese Coastal Route blends with the Littoral Route

I loved seeing the different signs, some were freshly painted, others a very faint outline that if you were not looking you could miss it altogether, and others were right across a busy road that needed to be traversed.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

sometimes it was right in front of you, and others …..well suffice to say, you kept your eyes peeled

The waymarkers were the best, I loved seeing the kilometers measured out, and note my progress… my steps eating up the miles.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

Santiago 165kms – my 4th day of walking and I still had 165 kms to go. Ouch

I think I photographed about 95% of them all the way from Valenca in Portugal to the last one at Santiago. Weirdly though, the very first concrete waymarker I saw showing the distance, was in Valenca; 117,624 kms to Santiago. I saw countless after that. Perhaps they only have them from that point.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

Following an ancient route in modern shoes – leaving Valenca, last town in Portugal before crossing to Tui in Spain – 117.624 kms to Santiago

I loved the many many scallop shells that decorated O Porrino, one of my favourite overnight stops.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

The scallop shells of O Porrino, Spain

And I really loved the signs that showed there was a rest stop nearby!!

Camino de Santiago - portuguese route

Refreshments along the way…

One of my favourite places (of which there are quite a few) along The Way was Mos.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese route

Mos. Oh what a delightful stop this was. A small but pretty little town with a church, restaurant and shops.

Admittedly though I was very disappointed coming into Santiago from Padron. All along the route I had seen yellow arrows, scallop shells and waymarkers, and then suddenly I didn’t.

camino portuguese coastal route

the signs along the way. I found these to be most helpful. It was also fun to see how the kms were going down. down. down 🙂

I was expecting the countdown to continue right up until you reached the 000.000 kms to Santiago and frequent arrows or scallop shells….but no….the last one was the last one and it wasn’t 000.000 kms. The last waymarker I saw on the perimeter of the city said 2,329 kms. After that, the scarcity of arrows and scallop shells was very disappointing. I think perhaps they feel that once you reach the outskirts of the city, you can jolly well find your own way LOL.

camino portuguese coastal route

I saw very few signs after this. They seemed to get scarcer the closer we got to Santiago

But a few pilgrims felt the same way I did…or did I just walk the wrong way? I don’t know.

But what I do know, is that they were a life-saver. There was something incredibly reassuring about finding/seeing the signs. I’m on The Way to Santiago de Compostela.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

Camino de Santiago – I’m on The Way

Trust, that was one lesson I learned on the Camino, to trust in the signs, to trust in the route, to trust in myself. And I made it. 🙂

 

 

 

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