A Little Me Time – The Camino

I’ve always espoused the value of Me Time and today I had a lovely midday break  in amongst my busy schedule. I took time out to head to the cinema, unfortunately I couldn’t stretch to enough time for lunch too.

I went to see the movie 6 Ways to Santiago. It’s about 6 different people walking the Camino de Santiago and their experiences. Sitting in the darkened cinema with two of my fellow walking companions, we were transported back to our time on the Camino trail. Cows coming down the streetThe images were beautiful, so much so that we could almost smell the cow dung. As the pilgrims travelled their journey, I vividly recalled the aching muscles as I put one foot in front of each other.

Lucky for me, I didn’t suffer from blisters, but some of my fellow walkers did, however, we looked after each other and soothed our worries away together.

Sore feet
Soaking the footsies!

If you’re thinking of doing the Camino, I highly recommend this documentary. You can also read my blog entries about my experience here.

The Camino is a magical experience. I’m planning another walk in 2016. If you’re interested in joining a small organised group of women on the trip of a lifetime, I’d love you to hear from you.

Michelle

MY CAMINO Part 4

When I said I was going on the Camino everyone told me that it would be life changing. From personal experience I can now say that the Camino forced me to slow down and provided the gift of time for myself. In my regular lives the chattering monkeys of my mind are rarely stilled as there are constant outside demands on my time and even through I might have the very best self-care strategies in place I never have a whole week or more to indulge just to my own personal reflections.

Symbol of the camino
Symbol of the camino

On the ‘way’ the only really pressing concerns are where is the next coffee shop/bar, will my feet hold up for another day and making sure we do not get lost. However getting lost is not a major concern and even the route markers seem relaxed. Yellow arrows and the symbol of the shell are placed haphazardly, but always in the right direction, on items that range from stone fences, the road, house walls, gates, trees, and more.  Some are really easy to see, others are more faded and almost hidden, but they are there. Worst case just wait  a few moments and someone else will come walking along and together you continue. There are also the occasional marker stones counting down the kilometers and as my feet grew wearier these become a sight to look forward to – some come decorated with evidence of past walker with blown out shoes.

blown out shoe
A marker stone complete with blown out shoe

The Camino trek sees us traverse ‘undulating’ hills (well that is what we were told but some are more like great BIG hills and then we had to get down the other side too!), beautiful shaded wooded trails and across streams.  It is very rural, farming country complete with wafting farmyard aroma in certain spots.  We share the track with plenty of cattle, a few horses, ducks and more.

Some of the villages and tiny churches date back to medieval times and the yellow markers of the way lead us down cobblestone paths right through farm yards and past front doors and open windows from which locals pleasantly wave and wish us buen camino. The Camino is most definitely not commercial and those who live along the route genuinely welcome the perigrinos and we do not feel like intruders in their lives. Then again this has been happening for thousands of years so it is no doubt just a part of their lives.

Michelle

MY CAMINO Part 3

What should become part 3 of my Camino story? Food of course! It was very large part of the Camino Adventure as obviously we needed sufficient sustenance for our daily walks but we were completely delighted with the range of culinary experiences! Along the way enjoyed delicious trout caught from bubbling fresh local streams, delicate wild mushrooms, Iberian ham served for breakfast and lunch but always delicious, salmon cooked in a wood oven, Spanish omelette of various varieties, gorgeous pasties, Galician soup and chunky bread. In Melides we sampled the famous local fare – pulpo –  very delicious and tender which came as a surprise to some of our group who had never experienced octopus before.

Pulpo on display fresh from the pot
Pulpo on display fresh from the pot so all who walked by could see exactly what was on offer!
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Andres

Meals were accompanied by various wines, and on hot days, as we tramped the countryside towards our destination of Santiago de Compostela,  Galician cider or a cold beer went down very well.

Dinner was always eaten late – never before 8 pm as nothing was open earlier. A glass of cava offered a great start to an evening as we waited for meal time and in the cool of the evenings some of us accepted our hosts gracious hospitality and finished off our meals by enjoying a tipple of local ‘fire water’ thrown in for good measure and our guide Andres gave us an entertaining explanation in Andringlish – his version of English which I have to say was much better than any of our Spanish – about the qualities of ‘fire water’ and home-made liqueurs which vary greatly from place to place.

Such great memories – making me hungry!

Michelle

MY CAMINO Part 2

All walkers are issued with a Credencial which is like a passport into which perigrinos need to collect two sellos (stamps) per day to verify one has walked the minimum of 100kms to qualify for the Compostela which is th certificate issued on reaching Santiago de Compostela.

Sellos are issued in all kinds of places from cafes to churches with each being quite unique. Some individually go quite mad collecting the various sellos with it becoming a bit of a competition to see who can collect the most.

The most memorable sellos I collected was at the monestry in Samos which was founded in the 6th century.

Walking in single file along a very narrow, lush and verdant trail through the woods on a somewhat overgrown, muddy path flanked on the left by a crystal clear running river we emerged to the impressive rear view of the imposing monestry which dominated the landscape.

20130529_193144 20130529_185350 20130529_182036Following our guides Andres and Simon – more about them in a later blog – we entered the monestry ready for our official guided tour.

The tour was all in Spanish and we understood not a word but it was worth paying the adminission for the tour just to get inside the cloisters and see the treasurers of the church which included impressive books.

The inscription about the library door read ” A cloister without a library is like a castle without an armory.”

The monk who stamped my credencil , spoke only Spanish but was extremely forward and had clearly been imbiling a little too much of the liquor for which the Benedictines were famous!

In fact the monestry caught fire twice during its history as, according to the story we were told, the stills exploded and caused considerable damage. There is a gallery of pictures in the cloisters that tells the story of the fire.

Today, they no longer make Benedictine but it was for sale in the gift shop. Our monk was no doubt doing some quality control to ensure it was up to scratch or perhaps he was trying to keep warm as those old stone walls are definitely very chilly?

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MY CAMINO Part 1

It’s been a while coming and so many of you have been asking when I am going to put up my Camino blog – you have been very patient! To tell the truth it has been hard trying to put it all into words and decided how I should write the story about such an incredible experience.

Hobbit trails, magic places, celtic mysticism, stone crosses, white rabbits, ancient trees with secrets to tell, rushing streams and gorgeous wildflowers are just a small part of walking the Camino.

This is a unique journey on a mental, physical and spiritual level. The paths have been travelled for centuries and it is easy to picture what it was like in those bygone days.

 So what kind of individuals tackle the Camino de Santiago?

All kinds –  from all walks of life – just like our recent group of Dragon Sisters who comprised individuals whose age ranges were between 52 and 75 with the vast majority in their mid sixties.

Religious beliefs ranged from atheist, agnostics, Protestants and Roman Catholic. We were drawn from two sides of the globe – Australia and Canada – with very different upbringings and beliefs. Some knew each other and for others it was the first time they were meeting. I was the only one who had met everyone before.

The common denominator was a spirit for adventure.

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As I meandered along I did, fleetingly, wonder did one need to be of a certain age to appreciate the uniqueness and beauty of nature that lined the route?

Definitely this was not the case as the peregrinos (pilgrims) were  all ages and each seemed to appreciate the beauty by which they were surrounded although our younger friends were only walking about 15km a day compared with our longer distances.

Susanna, a pretty blond 24-year-old, German lawyer commented “I don’t mean to say that you are old but old people are so strong! Much stronger than me.”  Definitely a back-handed compliment from Susanna who was walking alone to fulfil a vow that she would undertake the Camino pilgrimage if she passed her bar exams. Her worried mother had insisted on pre-book all accommodation and a nightly check in but as Susanna progressed along her walk everyone back home in Germany had become reassured that the Camino was safe.

The Camino felt very safe, a complete contrast to most other places where women often need to be careful of where we walk especially if alone.

I must admit I was rather surprised to encounter so many young people, including several Japanese and South Korean university graduates walking and cycling the Camino.

Everyone looked out for one another, offering to freely share supplies of band aids, painkillers, anti-inflammatories and offered advice on how best to deal with sore feet and tired muscles – but more about those in following instalments.

Michelle