The last 115km of the Camino de Santiago was recently completed by Probus Club of Locks Heath Members Derek Treagus, Jim Dodd, their wives and twelve other pilgrims. This narrative charts their walk day by day through to their final destination in Santiago de Compostela.
Departure Day – Up up and away in my beautiful…….. EasyJet plane
Early one morning a group of sixteen pilgrims meet up at Gatwick Airport to board their 6am flight at the start of their pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. A mixture of “overnighters” who had stayed at Gatwick and “very early morningers” who came up by minibus on the day of our departure, our flight departed on time and we soon arrived at Santiago airport where we waited for our transport to our first hotel sampling the first of many coffees to keep us awake on route.
The afternoon provided the opportunity to catch up on sleep before we enjoyed an an evening pilgrim’s meal which for nine euros which provided three generous courses as well as as much wine as we could drink! We were ready for the off.
Day 1 – The rain in Spain falls mainly on the……. pilgrim
A group of pilgrims gathered in front of our hotel early in the morning at the start of our adventure. Ponchos and good walking boots were to be the necessity of the day which started with our first stamp on our Pilgrim’s Passports.
“Buen Camino” is the standard message as groups of pilgrims pass each other en route, some walking the full distance of over 500 miles. You never know who or what you will meet, a group of walking Portuguese travellers provided entertainment on their bagpipes before leaving to complete their daily walk.
Today we also met an Australian family with their four children who we were to see on several other occasions. What a wonderful experience, although today with its rain is one they would probably choose to forget.
Day 2 – Stones and Noses (Guns and Roses)
A very early Early start today with mixed weather – will we remember our pilgrim’s passport as it is essential to get two stamps each day to obtain your certificate of completion?
One thing you notice as you walk the path are stones and crosses, pilgrims are encouraged to leave them to leave a little of themselves on the path – you choose a place that is special to you. We have decided that we will leave ours at the end of the trail.
However, one thing you would not expect to find is Red Noses……. we met a group of Spanish pilgrims at the 100km mark walking the Camino for a children’s charity. We wished them “Buen Camino” and as in so many cases with people you pass did not see them again.
Day 3 – Two loos are better than none
Another early start and a much brighter day (although not time to put the shorts on yet). As with the whole Camino path, loos are few and far between (do remember to bring your own toilet roll) and the queues for the Ladies can be rather long (hence you will often find them using the Gents).
The scenery is spectacular even if it does mean several steep hill climbs followed by descents and with three days now complete, we have developed names for each of the sub groups that have appeared as everyone walks at their own pace and we meet up at the final destination for the day.
Notably we have the Gazelles, first off, first at our destination and, no doubt, first to take a lunchtime refreshment break at one of the many bars en route
Day 4 – Bring me Sunshine
Having stopped at a hotel remote from the walk, the minibus which collected us yesterday comes to take us back to the point where we stopped last night so we can continue our journey.
Today starts with a heavy mist, some light rain and finally sunshine. We pass through rural communities collecting three stamps on our Passports at a small chapel manned (am I allowed to say that) by a blind parishioner. We also see our first calves.
The Camino is open to all and later we see two riders on horseback making their way along the route passing us as we take a well earned break at a local bar.
A fine sunset brings a terrific end to the day as we prepare for a long day tomorrow.
Day 5 – One step at a time
Today is one of steps, frogs, cuckoos and lizards. There is plenty of wildlife to see on the Camino and also plenty of hills as this is another day of ups and downs.
The temperature reaches twenty four degrees necessitating several stops at the local bars (for water of course), but as pilgrims we focus on our ultimate goal passing through the hamlet of Casanova and arriving at the end of the walk for the day.
Our overnight stop is in a small town, very different to what we have become used to and there is a further surprise for us due to the noisy pipes in the building. Fortunately everything was to settle down by the time we were ready for a replenishing nights slumber.
Day 6 – Lost on the Camino
Today was probably the hardest so far with several hills to contend with in the first really hot day of the walk leading to the appearance of several pairs of shorts! We meet an English ex-pat on the way who provides help to pilgrims on their walk.
Cuckoos can be heard in the woods as we approach the end of today’s walk and pass through a village called Trigas (for those who don’t know, our surname is Treagus, coincidence or what?).
More fun is to follow as having been divided into two groups, our party of four is dropped off at the wrong point in the middle of nowhere! Fortunately a local resident who speaks no English comes to our aid and not only manages to get our taxi back but also provides us with free liqueurs!
As we have been told, the Camino always provides.
Day 7 – A walk in the park
The title says it all, this is the shortest walk so far. We are fortunate in that we have no blisters, some of the other pilgrims are not so lucky. Hopefully today will give them time to recover before tomorrow’s long walk.
Along the path we come across a local craftsman producing walking staffs for sale to pilgrims. The intricacy of his work and use of natural knots in the wood is amazing.
We regularly meet “Alan the Geordie” en-route who is determined to finish his journey despite his Parkinson’s and bad back, today is no exception. Another group of walkers we see most days are fund raising for Motor Neurone disease. Many people do this walk for charity.
Later we merge with another part of the Camino path passing a novel form of Bottle Bank on the way. Things become busier and more commercialised as we progress to our next overnight stop.
Day 8 – the long and windy road
Today is the longest single distance on our Camino walk. As well as distance there are several major climbs and descents to deal with, But as pilgrims we are ready for the challenge.
As well as the usual scenery and smell of Eucalyptus, today we are treated to some fantastic street art as we make our journey along the path. We are also treated to some wonderful scenery as we watch the local farmers working their land. The distance passes quickly.
Our accommodation tonight is a little different as each of our rooms has it’s own kitchenette, but not to worry as our evening meal will be prepared for us as usual.
Today has been ideal walking weather – sunny, twenty degrees and a cool cross breeze. We can now relax as we have less than ten kilometres to go.
Day 9 – Certified at last
We are up bright and early this morning as we have only a short walk of nine kilometres to reach our final destination. After a hearty breakfast we start walking the final steps of our pilgrimage as a group. We stop at a local bar for a final coffee and as is traditional in this area are offered free food together with our drinks.
We walk through Santiago to reach the Cathedral (currently under restoration) and collect our Certificates of Completion. As a large group we are asked to come back later when the certificates will have been prepared for us giving us time to explore the city and find our hotel.
There is one last task to do which is to leave the stones (a tradition created by previous walkers – you see them everywhere along the path) we have brought with us from home, we choose a fountain near the end of the walk.
A final group meal after we have collected our certificates for a group of friends who will never forget this experience or each other brings the day to an end.
Day 10 – Back Home…….
…. they’ll be watching and waiting and cheering every move (anyone remember that as one of England’s World Cup songs).
An early start to catch our plane which will bring us back to Gatwick where we will part and return home. We (well some of us) have come back fitter, lighter and brighter with a new group of friends and memories we will not forget!
….. only to find that on the Sunday evening going for a curry to get back to “proper British food” on our return home, who should we meet in our local curry house but two fellow walkers – people who we would not have known about the venue before the walk.
Links to YouTube slideshows of our trip
Note these slideshows are large files, use only when network connected
Part 1: These boots are made for walking
Part 2: Walk 500 miles
Part 3: We are the champions