I’ve just returned from my first experience of the Camino de Santiago de Compestela, the Way of St. James. We started walking from St. Jean Pied de Port in France then crossed into Spain and followed in the footsteps of centuries of peregrinos towards the tomb of St. James the Apostle in Santiago – the route known as the Camino Francés. We walked for 9 days and made it to the town of Nájera in the La Rioja region of Spain. In spite of sore feet and blisters and many other challenges I can’t wait to go back and finish the Camino. Hour after hour, day after day, putting one foot in front of the other seems like the simplest thing to do. But I discovered very quickly that it can be surprisingly difficult. Yet experiencing the kindness of strangers (many times), walking through small medieval Spanish villages, sleeping in the albergues (pilgrim hostels), meeting people from all over the world, each with their own story, was a very special experience which I know I will be some time processing. In the meantime here are some photos to give a little flavour of the Camino.
On the hills above Pamplona on day 4
Sun, blue sky and poppies
Evening skyline in Los Arcos
But it certainly wasn’t all sunshine. These were our very wet and very muddy boots after walking from Roncesvalles to Zubiri on May 31st, our day 2. Anyone who walked that route on that day won’t easily forget it. Floods, mud, driving rain all day. We walked 20km over 7 hours and arrived sodden and weary into the albergue.
A lovely albergue in Los Arcos where we learned how to treat blisters – it involved a syringe and bethedine. Scary but it worked!!
How to relax in the evening in Navarrete – home to Rioja wine
At times the paths seemed full of fellow peregrinos
But many times we had lots of space to ourselves
My pilgrim passport or credencial. This has to be stamped along the route as proof that you are a pilgrim and is also needed to be allowed stay in the albergues or pilgrim hostels.
And it’s filling up with lovely stamps, evidence of the journey
Pilgrims traditionally carry a scallop shell, a symbol of St. James. I got mine from the local fish merchant, Pat Hartley, in the farmers’ market in Carrick-on-Suir. Carrying everything that I might need for two weeks in a rucksack was an interesting personal challenge. There was lots of dithering and packing and unpacking in the lead up to departure day. Everything had to be thought of in terms of weight and usefulness – and I still ended up with some things I never used! So much to learn … the journey is certainly far from over.
I wish Buen Camino to all the peregrinos who are now on the path to Santiago de Compostela. Go n-éirí an bothar libh.