Like most things in my life I decided to be different and chose the Portuguese way. I had heard the French way described as a “highway of Pilgrims” and didn’t fancy that. I just don’t do traffic or small talk all that well. While the route I was on does start in Portugal I didn’t, I was only doing the last leg of the route, enough to qualify as a bonafide pilgrim! (115km)
When locals would ask me along the way where was my starting pointing for my pilgrimage I would reply in my best spanish accent “Baiona.”
“Tui?” (another town on the route)
“No Senor, Baiona, aqui.” Thank God for google maps, waving it under their nose I would zoom in and show them, there, on the coast, as plain as day, Baiona
“Agh! Bay-eee-ooona, si, si, si!”
“Si!” Pretty sure that’s what I was saying but obviously not. Note to self, work harder on Spanish accent.
So there it was, my starting point, a place called Baiona which I will pronounce my way. A lovely seaside town south of Santiago and just inside Spain from the north of Portugal.
I got there on the early bus from Santiago de Compostela for less than €10. Delighted with myself I enjoyed a lovely breakfast before I found the church to officially begin my ” Camino de Santiago”
Sure I am fit and healthy, carrying my own bag, in July, sure what could go wrong?
The best thing about that day was I found a lovely bay to have lunch in. It was like a picture postcard, boats bobbing around, long sweeping beach, sun shine, crystal clear water, a truly idyllic pit stop. I had to get my feet in the water of course, it’s a trademark of mine. I never pass the sea without getting some part of me wet. Cool and refreshing my little feet were very glad of the soak.
Putting back on my shoes and socks over by the wall I didn’t notice the great bog signpost and proceeded to bang my head off it! Another trademark of mine, I alway seem to crack my head off something. I got a Calypo ice pop and walked the next kilometer with it stuck to my head. Needless to say I ate it. I enjoyed it but not as much as the lovely bump on my head that I had for a week. Who need souvenirs?
(I did buy gel insoles that night and a glass of wine for medicinal purposes, I wasn’t doing a penance pilgrimage)
Each day on the camino is pretty much the same, you get up, you walk , you stop, have a cuppa, walk more, have lunch, walk more and arrive. Wine and dine every evening in my case. As I wasn’t staying in the official pilgrims retreats I didn’t need to be up mad early. You have to get to them a.s.a,p as beds are on a first come first served basis. Having done all my back packing years ago, I am little past all that and just booked budget accommodation along the way. Arrive to a bed and shower and none of this hanging about hoping to find a bed stuff.
The scenery was lovely though. Lots of meandering trails through fields, vineyards, over rolling terrain. The Portuguese camino way is not tough or hilly at all. It is is really very manageable in my estimation. I carried my own bag but then in the summer you really don’t need much and it’s only a few days anyway. I work on the principle of one to wash one to wear, was grand. It wasn’t too hot as that corner of Spain gets a lovely atlantic breeze. It was a manageable 24/26 degrees most afternoons.
So all in all my camino was a very civilised affair. I enjoyed the long walks, as I fast tracked it by one day I had to make up the milage. I did have a few shorter days where I got down time in the afternoons. I treated myself to a very nice hotel one night which had a lovely outdoor pool and garden. I enjoyed local wine and seafood.
Arriving into the main square in Santiago after five days of walking is exciting. The square is alive with pilgrims all reaching their destination. There is a definite buzz and excitement in the air, bodies are strewn around the ground, all just soaking up the atmosphere. Varying in levels of limps from blisters, sunburn and tan lines, everyone is smiling and feeling very proud of themselves. Quite right too.
I really enjoyed the accomplishment, the grand finale. I even went to mass that night as it is dedicated to the pilgrims. I enjoyed getting my camino passport stamped along the route, every time I stopped for coffee or food. It’s your proof that you completed the required 100km. I loved getting awarded my certificate of completion except that I left it behind by accident! All in all the camino is a nice thing to do. It’s by no means the most exciting or challenging thing I have ever done but that’s ok. It was lovely to ramble through a corner of Spain I would never have seen otherwise. It was heartwarming to meet others along the way and listen to their stories, reasons for doing it. I did feel a little bit unworthy in that I didn’t have a reason. I just wanted an activity holiday and to practice my Spanish. It doesn’t matter what your reason or lack of though, it’s about getting outdoors, seeing the world, meeting others and for me especially, enjoying the local culinary delights and vineyard produce!
So no matter which route you do, enjoy it and most of all, do it your way.
THE JOURNEY IS THE REWARD- CHINESE PROVERB
If Spain is not feasible for you this year why not join me on a wonderful Yoga Spa Break here in Ireland? Save the date, October 15th, this trip includes 2 Yoga classes, Dinner, Bed and Breakfast.
Hurry spaces are limited.
About the Author:
Sinéad Kennedy is a Physical Therapist, Yoga Siromani and Pilates Instructor, based in South County Dublin. She treats and teaches people from all walks of life, including many athletes, especially cyclists, runners and golfers. Recently featured in the Irish Independant, FIT Magazine, her Yoga 4 Cyclists class has gained notoriety. A keen cyclist and proud member of Orwell Wheelers she has completed numerous cycling events including La Marmotte Sportive. Sinéad has also completed three Dublin City Marathons, numerous Adventure Races, Half Marathons and the Camino de Santiago.