Day 7 : Crossroads

This morning was an enchanting intertwining of autumn mist and sunlight. It was an artist or photographer’s delight!

I have been completely surprised by the beauty on this walk. It has been so full of treasures.

As I was walking through beautiful woodland today I reached a cross roads, at this point the Camino was clearly marked with one of the very regular stones with a yellow arrow and the exact km & metres left till we reach Santiago.

I’ve also observed that as we get closer to Santiago, there are often more paths other than the Camino to choose from.

I often find as an artist that the best way to present a scene is to be some distance from it, to give it some perspective. In the case of the crossroads of course this meant stepping off the Camino and walking a little way down another path to create the view looking back.

As I was doing this a couple of travellers on the Camino called out at, clearly concerned I was wandering off in entirely the wrong direction

I explained that I was taking a photo of the crossroads which I proceeded to do, of course now having them in the frame.

What I realised then was that whilst markers on the path are helpful, what is more meaningful is a fellow traveller walking that path with us giving context and vitality.

Day 6 : Let it flow, let it go

Melide was enveloped in a veil of mist this morning & as I set off with a little more spring in step I suddenly felt a little homesick for Cambridge as I passed the Sunday markets setting up. I was blessed this morning with some time to walk alone. There were definitely fewer pilgrims around – those walking great distances tend to leave before I wake and others still were resting today- . In the relative solitude I found the walking through the woodlands profoundly moving today. The delights of woodland treasure – bejewelled cobwebs , colourful fungus & paths that wouldn’t be out of place in a j r Tolkien adaption. I listened to music , including the Christian vocalist Steve Green. I’ve always his enjoyed his musical style that is somewhere between musical theatre & devotional. It served only to highten the mood. There is something incredibly potent about placing ones boots in the same path as millions of pilgrims before. Wherever we come from , whatever we bring , there is space on the path for us. This afternoon I was blessed to catch up with two lovely Mexican sisters who are on the same itinerary as myself- María & Selina- We walked and talked. Maria asked what brought me here and I shared something of my story. As we were about to enter a village on the woodland path there was the sound of bagpipes (the Celtic culture is big here ) & a singer. Maria turned to me to translate the Spanish song . “ The water that you can’t drink , let it go, let it flow away “ #lessonsfromthecamino #pilgrims #thewayofstjames #caminodesantiago

Day 5 : Ups & Downs

Today was very much one of highs & lows – physically, spiritually & mentally . I slept well in a comfy bed, but felt tired on the #Camino in the morning. It felt very much today that the cumulative impact had caught up with me. My body seems to have caught on to what I’m asking if it on a daily basis ! When I stopped at the first cafe after a few km on the road out of town, I was delighted to be joined by Nancy & Tom from the day before & we walked the rest of my day together. Whilst the day started pretty chilly , the sun came through much earlier than the last few days which made the walking much more difficult. We passed through some absolutely beautiful scenery & talked politics , community & church. Blessed by company & the shared experience.

We had the traditional octopus in Melide & on finding my hotel I completely crashed out. I was dehydrated & felt like I the train I met outside of Sarria on my first day had actually hit me.

I felt really bad for my Floridian companions as they had a further 9km to go! – I was delighted that they emailed me later to say that they had arrived safely!

I had little appetite in the evening for either food or even sharing much of the day’s journey & after only a few mouthfuls of v tasty dishes I admitted defeat ( mostly uncharacteristic ) .Returning to the bar for the customary bottled water for tomorrow’s journey I ended up having a wonderful conversation with one of the family who own the hotel. Wise beyond his years he said that the #Camino is really a reflection of how people lead the rest of their life but some, if they are open to it, are changed by the experience.

Time after time on this journey I have been so touched that by trusting and being open, God and the Way has provided. Whilst my feet maybe sore and my legs may ache , my soul is definitely lighter this evening. It’s a journey that is as much about going deeper into the heart of God, as it is about moving forward in our own lives . To me it seems to be about active trust , submitting but in action, stillness in walking and love in demonstration. #thewayofstjames #tobeapilgrim

Day 4: Ministry & lemonade

Today included waking up before the flies did (down side of rural living ! ) being shocked at how people rush past the things that make up the history of this walk & pilgrimage . Delighted to have great conversations with a ministry to #pilgrims over lemonade and rich tea , fortified with delicious home made apple pie for a 5k detour to see beautiful #monestryofviladedonas with great travel companions. I was shocked though that the worst paella I’ve ever had was in Spain ! #tobeapilgrim X

Day 3: Some days…..

Oh bother! I just wrote a long blog on today and it’s been lost to an iffy WiFi connection. 😕Let’s just say it involved a reluctant case, a hornet 🐝, lots of steep climbs , lots of people – some very noisy , some deeply moving & spiritual pre Roman ruins, a decision to go to the other cafe & the delight of meeting my New Yorker pilgrim friends from yesterday there , a blind chapel keeper and a friendly dog ( currently sitting at my feet- the dog ! ) #boncamino ! X

Day 2: Different ways , one day

Today proved to be very different from yesterday in many ways . As I was (mainly) descending towards a valley, the morning mist lingered for most of the journey, which made the early sunshine on the first stage all the more beautiful. Walking along I found myself singing quietly and the autumnal sunshine touching the landscape seemed to join in. Each day has its challenges, for me it was regretting coffee before walking (!) & climbing down a ravine towards the end of the final descent. I was blessed to share the last stage today with a fun couple from upstate New York. One of whom had survived cancer ( twice ) and was taking photographic evidence to send to her sceptical children of what they descended today! ( plus overcoming vertigo & walking along an enormous bridge into #Portomarín) #faith #sharingstories #todayschallengeisenough #morningprayer #thewayofstjames #journey #pilgrims

Day 1 : “Hello my names Christian…..”

Well I’ve survived my first day on the #Camino. I promised myself that if I was going to share this v personal experience I was going to be honest about it. With that in mind I’m crying as I write this . There are times today where I found it really tough, I had tears in my eyes but I kept going- immensely grateful that I did invest in some (more) trekking poles. The first hill of the day was by far the steepest. I was blessed to share it with a lovely couple – Christian ( no I’m really not making this up ) and Catherine. We shared a bit of our reasons for walking #elcamino and after climbing the hill, Christian told me I needed to slow down, I was trying to go too fast and that I shouldn’t be so tough on myself- I said I felt bad as they like many are walking the last 100 k to #santiagodecompostela in 5 days and I’ve opted to do it in twice that. Christian pointed out to me that it was enough that I was able to walk it and had chosen to. #pilgrimsprogress #elcamino #journey #faith #cardiacrecovery #vocation 😢😯

Finding your Way

As is often my way in life, I first thought that I needed to approach walking the Camino in the most extreme way: in that I wanted to try and walk it all. If you don’t know , the whole of the Camino Francés – there are paths that come from every direction in Europe and beyond- is 770 km and begins in the Pyrenees……..

When I tell you that it was only about April / May this year that I really started to feel like myself again after heart surgery in late January 2017, you will probably understand that it was with and through Grace and with humility that I revised my plan. Instead I decided to walk “the last 100km to Santiago”.*

Equally I realised that trying to carry my whole pack was a challenge too much at this stage and so opted to travel with daypack and have the rest of my stuff delivered from place to place.

I also realised that the standard 5/ 7 day itinerary offered by the numerous Camino specialist travel companies was possibly going to be a bit ambitious for me at my stage so with “Santiago Ways” I developed a 9 day schedule.

*Pilgrims receive a certificate for walking at least 100 km of the Camino. Sarria – the common starting point provides a 117 km journey. So 9 a day schedule works out about 13km a day- about 8 miles That Way would give me plenty of time too for it to be much more than just an endurance test. Of course with factoring in the terrain- whist its not a mountainous stage, Galicia (as I was to discover) is pretty hilly! – and the potential heat it would be challenge enough…..

The final part of “disclosure” is that I opted to stay in modest hotels and guest houses rather than Albergue – pilgrims hostels. To be honest, I’ve done my share of hostels and camping and as a number of friends pointed out , it would not be ideal for me to get sick ( which happens from time to time in such shared living ) and be putting my body under the strain and stress of walking.

So with all that explained , what follows is a series of posts of my experience on the Camino.

My table mat at a restaurant on my first night Sarria in Northern Spain , where I was to start my pilgrim walk the next day…..