My Camino Way

The Camino Way 

I was asked by a very good friend of mine if I woud be intereted in walking the Camino Way in 2015 and thought, I really dont know anything about it even though I had booked it in the past for some clients. I got interested and decided yes I will do this as another tick on my bucket list. My friend was unable to do it so I asked my sister-in-law would she join me and so the plan was made. 

We decided to do it in the Autumn so as to avoid the immense heat and avail of the beautiful autumn colours of the countryside. I contacted Camino Ways and was very impressed with the service they offered. So finally I was booked and confirmed to walk in the footsteps of St James. 

I must say it ws booked so far in advance that I didnt really think about it until September and decided I better do a bit of training but like most things I didnt really train hard just a few walks each week to get myself fit.

So finally on 10th Oct 205 we were on our way to Dublin airport for our flight to Santiago de Compostela, I was a little nervous and didnt know what to expect. We booked a guided tour which included airport transfers, hotel accommodation, meals (breakfast and dinner), luggage transfers, expert guide and our customised holiday pack (walking notes, guidebooks, pilgrim passport and maps)

On arrival in Santiago we were met by our rep and transferred to our first hotel in Sarria where we met the other pilgrims on our trip.Our walk started the following morning after breakfast and so we began our 130kms trek over the next 6 days.

Day 1 we walked from Sarria to Portomarin which was the longest days walking but I must say it was great fun and I found myself relaxing and talking to people along the way. The weather was lovely and mild and we stopped along the way for coffee and lunch. Overall we as a group were getting to know each other and ourselves. The time just flew by and before I knew it I had arrived in Portomarin feeling quite tired but no blisters thanks to the tips we got from our co pilgrims. We even managed to finish in time to watch teh Rugby match in a local bar and saw Ireland win the game. Sleep was very welcome as all the fresh air was taking its toll on me.

Day 2 took us from Portomarin to Palas de Rei a distance of 23kms. We passed through some beautiful woodlands and crossed the river Mino and saw beautiful churches along the way. The weather was not so nice today with a mist and some rain during the day but the chat and banter kept us going throughout. We arrived in Palas De Rei late afternoon and today my muscles really ached but thanks to a lovely young chap I felt so much better after an hour long massage. We had a lovely dinner that evening in our hotel and everyone was so friendly sharing their views on the days walking.

Day 3 we walked from Palas de Rei to Melide which was one of the shortest walks as we decided to split the journey so we only walked 17kms this day. One thing that struck me along the way was how easy it was to find your directions. The entire route was marked with yellow arrows and yellow shells on the stone markers which made it very simple and difficult to get lost. Along the way we would stop and place a small stone on top of the stone markers and offer up our good intentions for people. I know they work as I got proof when I returned home. We did experience some hills on this part of the journey but we took our time and managed away. The very important thing is to walk at a comfortable pace as its not a race and no medals for 1st across the line. We usually walked in small groups and helped each other out when needed. We took lots of photos and chatted and laughed so the time flew by. On this part of the walk we came across a medevial bridge the oldest on the French Way and also a church in Furelos which housed a particular statue of our Lord unique in the world. This was a lovely experience.

Day 4 we started our walk at 9 am as we did each morning after breakfast. Our luggage was always taken to the hotel reception for 8.30am and it would be transferred to the next hotel for us. This was a fantastic service as we only had to carry a little back pack with us for water and essentials throughout the day. Today we walked from Melide to Arzua a distance of  15kms again a pretty easy days walking. The hills were quite steep today and I had to take a breather a few times but we all struggled on knowing the end was in sight. We ate the local Galicia dish called "Garnacha" or Octopus to us in one of the restaurants. What a strange texture but a lovely meal was served to us as a group and we all enjoyed the fun.

Day 5 we were walking from Arzua to Amenal total of 22kms. This was a beautiful walk as it was mostly through woodlands and Eucalyptus forests which allowed one to reflect on life and take stock of ones own intentions and wishes. We passed through some really interesting places with old church ruins and monuments along the way. We stayed in a lovely hotel in Amenal this night and since there was not much to do in the area we had a great catch up with fellow pilgrims and chatted into the night.

Day 6 the last walking day and now the excitment was building as we were nearer to our final destination. We departed a little earlier today to make it to Santiago by early afternoon so as to give us time to rest before attending the evening Pilgrims mass in the Cathedral. Today started with a steep uphill climb for about 3kms but then the land levelled out and it was pretty easy going. Of course like every other day we stopped for refreshments along the route and met some wonderful people from all over the world all with the same thing in mind "walking the Camino" We came to a place called Monte do Gozo which is home to a big bronze monument. In the middle ages this is where pilgrims used to see Santiago for the first time after weeks of walking. This was the last stamp on my pilgrims passport which I obtained at the little church and I said my prayer of thanks for completing the journey to this point. Of course it was time for a group photo now to put on the walls of fame for all of us. We arrived in the old square of Santiago de Compostela about 2.30pm, each and everyone of us thrilled with our achievment.

We stayed for our last night in a beautiful hotel which used to be an old pilgrims hospital and the architecture was amazing. A few of us decided to take advantage of the free time and took what I call the "Noddy train" around the amazing city taking in the sights. I find these trains are a great way to get an overview of a city in a short space of time. I must say I was very impressed with the mixture of the old and new in Santiago and it is definately a city I will return to for a long weekend. 

We went to the Cathedral at 6 oclock for the pilgrims Mass at 7.30 and despite being one and a half hours early we were unable to get a seat with the huge crowds that attended the Mass. It was a wonderful experience but the Mass was not in English so I couldnt understand it but went through the motions. Aftewards we strolled around the cobbled streets of the old city and I was amazed by the fantastic buildings and little Tapas bars. We returned to our hotel for evening meal and finally headed to bed for a good nights sleep.

On Saturday morning we had a few hours to go exploring before we headed to the airport for our flight back to Dublin. An idea came to mind that maybe we should get a bus to Finisterre to complete the journey like in the movie The Way but we quickly realised that the distance was over 57 miles and since our time was limited we wouldnt be able to get there and back in time for our transfer but that did give us food for thought and I have decided that my next walk on the Camino will in fact be that stretch from Santiago to Finisterre.

Overall and to sum up I would say it was a wonderful experience. I tell my friends that I took a week out of the rat race just for me to think things through. I have made some great friends along the way and experienced a different and simple way of life. While the walking was tough sometimes the satisfaction I got from the whole trip was fantastic and of course "I DID IT MY WAY"

 

I am now in a great position to offer my clients first hand advice and experience for walking the Camino Way which has become so popular for Irish people in recent times. If you or somebody you know have any questions or would like to book your own Camino Walk I will be only too happy to help plan and book it for you. You can contact me by email or phone.

I have attached some pictures of the journey have a look at the link below. I welcome all feedback on this blog

Buen Camino!

Linda Mc Namara

 

See my Camino Pics here

 

 

 

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