Camino Frances Revisited!Posted: October 26, 2011
Many roads, or “ways” converge on Santiago. Ancient paths all over Europe with a 1200 year history dating to Medieval times, when walking a pilgrimage to the bones of St James earned an annulment of sins and everlasting life in Heaven! An enticing reward that encouraged millions of pilgrims over hundreds of years. Many, (Team Pink included), if not most of todays pilgrims seem to be less religiously motivated, enjoying the cultural and endurance aspects of “doing the Camino!” Still, thousands are drawn to it every year.
Team Pink completed half of the Portuguese route to Santiago which headed north on the western side of Portugal into the south-west of Spain. Of all the routes that converge on Santiago, the French Route, Camino Frances, is the best known and most well worn. This is the “way” that Jo, Antonio and I shared in the middle of the last year, but two weeks apart.
Jo and I were a friendship waiting to happen. We had met briefly over a couple of occasions but it was one balmy summer night on the deck of a friends home at Balnarring beach that we bonded over talking about Antonio and my, forthcoming Camino journey. Jo had often considered doing the walk, was inspired and made a commitment to herself to book and do it.
Whilst Antonio has a laissez-faire attitude (probably a boy thing), Jo and I revelled in the planning, preparation and training program. (Definitely a girl thing). Walking poles were researched within an inch of their lives, backpacks were packed and unpacked on numerous occasions. We became “gram counters!” Even a safety pin might miss muster!
Eventually ready, Jo departed on her journey alone, two weeks before us. Whilst Antonio and I were beginning our honeymoon, Jo’s reward at the end of her walk was to meet her husband Paul in Paris and begin a wonderful trip through Europe via Venice, to mark their 25th wedding anniversary.
As such, we had shared so much of the preparations, and so little of the actual journey. It is a wonderful opportunity to now together, relive and share the paths we all crossed.
Antonio and my shadow heading West last year, Jo now joins us heading East!
We leave Santiago and travel, this time East, along the Camino road. It is hilarious to pass masses of pilgrims walking their way to Santiago. We toot (a lot) and they wave, thankful of the encouragement. Our first stop is Samos, the destination of one of the most beautiful parts of the 800 km walk. (Did I mention that Jo and Antonio each walked every step of the 800 kms with their backpacks on!!! I managed about 600 but also had the “Mochilla Man” carry my pack some of that time!) Jo, in an amazing hostel for 11 euro a night, us parked beside the river, all share an early morning view from our respective bedroom windows, of the significant monastery that sits in the centre of the town.
We walk both ends of this section of the Camino (did I see Pink! I think!) and are in our element. The Autumn colours envelop us as we walk on farmers paths, from one untouched village to the next. We indulge in that luxurious, peaceful, mediative state that “deep walking” in a beautiful environment evokes!
O’Cebriero is next. The start of Galicia. Galicia being the beginning of the end (150 km to Santiago) of the
Camino and scenic wise, the most spectacular section. At 1330 meters, O’Cebriero is the last high point of the Camino and you could say, it was all down hill from there. Being so high the weather can be changeable and cold. We wake to a frosty mist being swirled by wind. (Photo by Jo!) Its the first cold weather we have had in months and reminds us that we are heading into winter. The mists can be so thick here, it is said in Winter the bells ring to guide the pilgrims through the mists.
Leaving the Camino, it’s south to Madrid. We have hardly reached our first destination, Salamanca, when 200 or so, slow Cubby kilometres later it is dawning on all of us that we may have bitten off more than we could chew! A road trip all the way to Barcelona, with sightseeing on the way, especially in Madrid and Barcelona, was going to be a hard slog on asphalt, and not a pleasant journey if we tried to do it all into the 8 days that Jo has before flying home. Like a turtle carrying its home on its back, Cubby just cannot go fast!
A new and realistic plan was hatched – road trip to Madrid. A more relaxed travel pace could be adopted and we would still have time to explore Madrid together and set Jo onto the VERY fast, unturtle like train (650 km is 3 hrs!) to Barcelona.
Based on a new plan of action, Antonio and I will change direction and head back to Portugal and see the southern end of that country, before continuing in Southern Spain. This appeals in many ways especially seeing the lights turned on in Antonio’s eyes! Other than Italians, Portuguese are the only European race, so far, that can make a decent Cafe Expresso! (in his opinion!)