Camino de Santiago – yes!

Camino de Santiago – we did it!

On Sunday 29th September myself and Den reached the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela – having set out 6 days earlier and walked the final 72 miles /117km of the Camino de Santiago to get there.  To get there was not just the culmination of 6 days walking, but also a year of slowly building up strength and endurance, after my spinal operation.

Over the course of 6 days we walked 78 miles (which included some detours to visit monuments), with a cumulative ascent of 7,871 ft (2399 m) and 8,201 ft (2499m) descent.  We clocked up 193,099 steps!

So we got there but how did it go?

Day 1: We set out from Sarria on 24th September with an early start in the dark and wet, which made it a bit slippery in places. Slowly it dried up and the sun came out. There was an ‘evil’ staircase at the end to take us up to the ‘Chapel in the Clouds’ at Portomarin.  We walked 14.6 miles / 23.5km and it was hard going in places and our feet were sighing with relief by the end.

Day 2: 18.2 miles / 29.3 km today, which included a little 4.6km detour we added on to visit a 13th century monastery! Getting the hang of this today. Good pace plus made sure we took on enough but not too much fuel and ‘listened’ when our feet told us to take a break. Arrived feeling better than yesterday even though there was much more elevation climb (over 2000 ft!). Said ‘Hola’ and ‘Buen Camino’ to most people we passed! Loved it! 

Day 3: Palas de Rei to Melide. ‘Short’ day – only 9.5 miles but hard on the feet and legs with a lot of steep downhill and loose gravel today.   Found ‘Jesus’ in a lovely church near Leboreiro. At least the American pilgrim thought so enough to take his photo – but we let him be.   Leapfrogging with a young girl walking it in Vibram 5 fingers barefoot shoes today which I though was amazing!

Still loving it – felt like we can keep on walking forever; was almost disappointed to stop.

Day 4: Another wet one! Melide to Arzua. Rained the whole way – which meant we pushed on to complete. 9.5 miles / 15 km. Again, lots of hills and steep downs – felt a bit tricky in the wet. Hardly saw a soul today – where did all the pilgrims go?

Day 5: Arzúa to Amenal – 14 miles. The sunshine after the rain! Started in the dark at 7:40 (UK 6:40) because we really like setting off early. Went from hearing an owl to listening to the dawn chorus. Fantastic!

Loads of walking in woods and countryside – even though the main road was never far away. Hip (arthritis) gave me some grief but ibuprofen helped. Pretty cold and misty at first but then the sun broke through and it was a lovely day! I thought, from what I had heard, it was going to be really busy but we had long stretches where we never saw anyone ahead or behind. It may be because we started early and didn’t stop too much.

Things we found today included:

  • What to do with old trainers and walking boots – flower pots!
  • A new take on ‘beer garden’
  • It only takes a beer and Galician tuna pie to make you feel like you can walk another 5 miles! 

Day 6: Amenal to Santiago de Compostela.
‘What would you like to do today?’
‘Go for a walk?’
‘What again?’
‘Why not?’

We started  in the dark again and after 10:8 miles, in the rain, we’d made it! We were there! The cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is a magnificent and emotional sight! 

Unbelievably when we arrived at the Pilgrims Office at 12:30 to get our Compostela– we were the 1210th and 1211th to arrive that day!  

Things I learnt on the Camino: 

  • I can do more than I think – I really wished I’d pushed on on day 3 and walked 19 miles through – but that’s hindsight!
  • I could have packed a lot less. A bit of soap and a hairdryer are amazing at freshening up clothes smelly bits!
  • Merino is amazing – 3 days in the same socks – it’s going to be merino pants, merino tops, merino everything – from now on.
  • Every day is different – weather, terrain, people.
  • Never judge a book by its cover – seen people of all ages, shapes and sizes – it’s amazing just how people push on!
  • How many different aches and pains I can feel in one day and keep going. 
  • It’s appreciated when you try and speak the language.
  • I love walking 🙂
  • I have the best walking partner 🙂

Thank you to everyone who donated to Aspire – helping spinal cord injured people to live independent lives; it is very much appreciated.

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