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For pilgrims, an encouraging account of the Camino from Sarria

Time of past OR future Camino
CF 2006, CP 2013, Salvador2017,
Inglés 2019
Moderator note: the text in this post is from an article in the Irish Times by Sarah Conroy

From the Irish Times, today.

What draws my fellow peregrinos to the Camino de Santiago?​

Perhaps some were, like me, on a personal mission, while I’m sure others felt they were on a mission impossible

For more than 1,000 years peregrinos (pilgrims) have walked in the footsteps of the apostle St James along El Camino de Santiago towards his final resting place in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Each year, this pilgrimage attracts hundreds of thousands of people from across the world, travelling the different routes by foot, bike, boat or horseback – that all ultimately lead to this Spanish city in northwest Spain.
Recently, along with five others, I travelled the 113.7km route of the Camino Frances from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela over the course of five days.
I had hoped that by the end of my journey to have determined the reason why El Camino draws so many people of all ages, faiths and backgrounds into undertaking what, at times, can be best described as an arduous journey – whether in the heat of the summer or the mixed autumnal weather.
Before my departure, one outcome my fellow travellers had guaranteed I would reap from the trip would be tired, swollen, sore and blistered feet. With plenty of blister packs and plasters of every size, well-cushioned socks and my “well-walked into” shoes, I felt ready for anything foot-related to be thrown at me.
Yet, the reaction I received from so many upon hearing of my forthcoming trip was so positive:
“The Camino? It’s on my bucket list would love to do it sometime.”
“I have been meaning to do it, if only I could get the time off work.”
“The Camino? Best thing we ever did.”
These reactions excited me because I began to believe I was embarking on a trip that many wanted to experience and yet for those that had, they could not explain to me clearly what exactly it was that made El Camino so special.
It did not take long before I realised I was joining a unique community, symbolised by a shell hanging on the backpacks of fellow peregrinos. Perhaps some were, like me, on a personal mission, while I am sure there were others who felt they were on a mission impossible as they struggled to navigate another steep hill in the Spanish countryside in the pouring rain. However, the pain was shared and everybody kept going, encouraging each other along the way. Wandering through the vineyards of the Galician countryside, meeting others from all across the globe – New Zealand, Canada, Korea and Peru to name but a few – conversation was easy to strike up with the all too familiar “Buen Camino!”greeting.
Brother and sister John Claffey and Mary Conroy from Ireland were on the Camino for their second time having completed an earlier part of the Frances route in 2016. The highlight for John was yet again being able to experience the “absolute joy and pleasure of walking the Camino with additional family members and friends while meeting and chatting with other peregrinos along the way”. Most people were open to talk about the reasons that had led them to the farmlands, forest paths and cornfields in the middle of nowhere, while other walkers were closed off, lost in their thoughts.
Janet and Dawn, from Toronto in Canada, were six weeks into their trek. Loving every minute of it, they disclosed their secret to sustaining strength on the long walks. “Bananas and Coca-Cola,” they laughed. As they continued on their journey with socks pegged to their backpacks drying in the early morning sun, Dawn proudly shouted back: “I beat cancer, that’s why I’m doing it.”
It was clear some people had a clear, particular reason for doing the Camino, while others often did not even know themselves until they had reached the end of the trip, looked back and reflected on what they had taken from the journey.
As easy as it was to become lost and content in your own company on the walk, it was equally easy to turn and find a companion, such as Janet or Dawn, who were willing to incorporate you into their conversations before moving on. After walking the first 8km of the day, I met Michael, “a proud Irish-New Zealander”, on a much-needed coffee stop one morning. “Mícheál is ainm dom” and dún an doras is what my late mother taught me” his opening line to me was upon hearing my Irish accent. Like many of the encounters I had on the Camino, formal introductions were never required and within two minutes of meeting Michael we were like two old friends as he reminisced about his recent trip to Ireland and his plans upon reaching Santiago de Compostela. It was clear that the fast pace at which Michael spoke mirrored the pace at which he wanted to visit and do everything he could in the time he had on this side of the world.
The days away made me reflect on the phrase “wellbeing”, which we hear increasingly often in the workplace and education sector. Personally, I felt walking El Camino would do more for people’s wellbeing than all related books on the market. With pressure from society or self-pressure to achieve certain things by definitive points in their lives, many feel judged on their career paths, whether they are a homeowner or not, have children or not, the number of extra-curricular activities their child is doing, how many play-dates their kids were invited on last weekend. The list is never-ending.
Over the course of the week away, not one person asked me a personal question. It was immaterial. It was going to make no difference to their lives what I did, where I lived or if I drove an electric car or not. My fellow peregrinos were more interested in my feet and if I had blisters yet. Of course, as an extended family of six travelling together, the next question was if “any of you had fallen out yet? Wait it will happen!” they would laugh.
Upon reaching the end of our road at the imposingly beautiful Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela, we gathered together and hugged. We had walked 113km in rain and sunshine, over some incredibly steep hills through cornfields, rustic villages and orchards. With no phones or text messages to interrupt us and a never-ending path, conversations were real: illness, losing family members and the impact these events had had. John had been accompanied on the trip by not only sister but his son David Claffey, who admitted “he wasn’t sure what to expect at the beginning of the week”. However, as the days drew to a close, David found he was unable to “say exactly what it has been that’s made the trip so meaningful... I think it was a combination of things that made it quite special to be honest”.
Inside the cathedral, time stood still. People sat in no rush to leave, gazing up at the magnificent altar; perhaps contemplating their journey to Santiago de Compostela, a journey that may have taken days or a lifetime.
As Mary took her place in one of the pews and looked back on the past few days, she felt “the Camino had brought calmness to busy lives and had for many provided the opportunity for reflection”. Indeed, El Camino had the power to knock down the physical and mental perimeters of our daily lives and show us that there is an incredibly large open world going on out there if we just stop and take the time to get out and explore it
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Get a spanish phone number with Airalo. eSim, so no physical SIM card. Easy to use app to add more funds if needed.
Thank you @Kirkie!
We who have walked longer caminos and less traveled routes can get blase or dismissive about those who 'only' walk from Sarria.

But who walks 100km in this day and age?

And for each of us - even if it's a 'bucket list item' (we love to hate this attitude, don't we?) - it's a journey that rearranges everything, from the inside out.
 
A selection of Camino Jewellery
I'm sure the vast majority of pilgrims who walk from Sarria have an amazing time; that's not the issue. Undoubtedly there are many similar reports out there, and that's great.

The issue is that if you have walked from further away, the camino from Sarria is more crowded and commercialised than what you have experienced previously. Just when you're coming to the end of a long journey, it suddenly changes and becomes something different, and that can be difficult to adjust to.
 
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Thank you @Kirkie 🙏.

On thé subject of walking ‘Just from Sarria’, I had cause for reflection on this the last time I was on the Primitivo in October 2019. This is my blog entry from the day we joined the Frances at Melide …

Day 26 Camino Primitivo – A Ferreira to Boente, 25 kms​

After a restful night at Albergue a Nave, we set out just before 7.30 am in light rain, more of a mist really. A few hours later the rain was heavier and stayed that way until our arrival in Melide at around 12.30pm.

Melide is a significant town on the Camino Primitivo. It is the town where the Primitivo joins the Camino Frances – the most popular of all Caminos – at around 50 kms from Santiago de Compostela. To offer some perspective, we estimate that as we’ve been walking there may have been between 30-50 people per day on the various stages of the Primitivo. For the Frances, it’s more like 300-500.

For many people the Primitivo is their second, third, fourth … Camino. Almost all have walked the iconic Camino Frances at least once and, of those, many (us included) have walked before the numbers ‘exploded’ in 2014. And that trend has continued at what some regard as an alarming rate.

As the day approaches when the Primitivo joins the Frances, there is discussion about the shock of the number of pilgrims we will see. Though, of course, it is not a shock – we know this will be the case. There is sometimes discussion about the fact that a great many walkers are only doing the last 100 kms (of an 800 km path) the minimum required to qualify for the Compostela, the ‘certificate’ issued by the pilgrims office in Santiago. There is sometimes discussion about transport, luxury accommodation and day packs vs full packs.

A few pilgrims we’ve met in recent days are so concerned at the ‘change’ in the nature of The Way on the Camino Frances that they choose to finish the Primitivo Way in Melide. They have been to Santiago on at least one if not many Caminos and have no wish to join the crowds.

We are not immune from these thoughts. We get it. And while we might also wish that the Camino Frances remained as it was when we walked together in 2013, or when I walked for the first time in 2011 – we know that people continue to be drawn to walk for all sorts of reasons and in all sorts of ways. The Camino belongs to no-one.

So, as we walked out of Melide this afternoon, we found ourselves walking among a group of women from the south coast of England. We each started chatting to different members of the group. Though we walked with them no more than 10 or 15 minutes – then pulled ahead – here’s what we learned.

This group of 16 women are not walking the ‘full Camino’. They are walking the last 100 kms from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela. No they are not staying in pilgrim dormitories (neither are we), and yes they are carrying small day packs and having their luggage transported.

They are walking for 5 days to cover the 100 kms. Four day of around 18 kms and one day (today) of 30 kms. That’s a very long distance any way you look at it. They have been training for many months to make this walk. One I spoke to told me she was ‘a complete couch potato’ before then.

These 16 women – some already friends, others who met just a few days ago – are walking 100 kms to raise money to renovate a hospice in their community. Some work or volunteer in the hospice. They look to be in their 60s and 70s. The oldest is 77. Her husband was cared for by the hospice before he died.
Many are finding it hard going – especially today with 30 kms to walk. But all we spoke to are thrilled to be here and loving the experience.

The Camino is for anyone who’s drawn to it. We’re doing it our way and these 16 women are doing it their way. What an inspiration.’
 
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The issue is that if you have walked from further away, the camino from Sarria is more crowded and commercialised than what you have experienced previously. Just when you're coming to the end of a long journey, it suddenly changes and becomes something different, and that can be difficult to adjust to.
Absolutely.
And that adjustment is an inner thing, up to each of us. We can hang on to what we prefer or open out to something different. Hang onto and cultivate annoyance or put our petty preferences aside, relaxing into letting the camino be what it is in that place at that time.

Admittedly, that can be a big piece of work.
One thing that's been a huge help for me is to connect with the excitement and joy of all the newbies on the way. Thinking of SJPP, and how all of us starting there would be ferling to folks starting from Le Puy. Now the shoe's on the other foot. And learning people's stories can be downright inspiring, as @Pelerina describes.

Edit. After posting this remembering an encounter after Sarria with an exuberant crowd of students who were from a deaf community in Ireland. It melted all the annoyance. They were so excited to finally be on their way to Santiago, and it was impossible not to be swept up in that joy. I prefer walking quietly on my own, but this got my heart into a big place immediately. Those last more crowded days were so much better than they had been in memory and imagination.
 
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From the Irish Times, today.

What draws my fellow peregrinos to the Camino de Santiago?​

Perhaps some were, like me, on a personal mission, while I’m sure others felt they were on a mission impossible

For more than 1,000 years peregrinos (pilgrims) have walked in the footsteps of the apostle St James along El Camino de Santiago towards his final resting place in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Each year, this pilgrimage attracts hundreds of thousands of people from across the world, travelling the different routes by foot, bike, boat or horseback – that all ultimately lead to this Spanish city in northwest Spain.
Recently, along with five others, I travelled the 113.7km route of the Camino Frances from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela over the course of five days.
I had hoped that by the end of my journey to have determined the reason why El Camino draws so many people of all ages, faiths and backgrounds into undertaking what, at times, can be best described as an arduous journey – whether in the heat of the summer or the mixed autumnal weather.
Before my departure, one outcome my fellow travellers had guaranteed I would reap from the trip would be tired, swollen, sore and blistered feet. With plenty of blister packs and plasters of every size, well-cushioned socks and my “well-walked into” shoes, I felt ready for anything foot-related to be thrown at me.
Yet, the reaction I received from so many upon hearing of my forthcoming trip was so positive:
“The Camino? It’s on my bucket list would love to do it sometime.”
“I have been meaning to do it, if only I could get the time off work.”
“The Camino? Best thing we ever did.”
These reactions excited me because I began to believe I was embarking on a trip that many wanted to experience and yet for those that had, they could not explain to me clearly what exactly it was that made El Camino so special.
It did not take long before I realised I was joining a unique community, symbolised by a shell hanging on the backpacks of fellow peregrinos. Perhaps some were, like me, on a personal mission, while I am sure there were others who felt they were on a mission impossible as they struggled to navigate another steep hill in the Spanish countryside in the pouring rain. However, the pain was shared and everybody kept going, encouraging each other along the way. Wandering through the vineyards of the Galician countryside, meeting others from all across the globe – New Zealand, Canada, Korea and Peru to name but a few – conversation was easy to strike up with the all too familiar “Buen Camino!”greeting.
Brother and sister John Claffey and Mary Conroy from Ireland were on the Camino for their second time having completed an earlier part of the Frances route in 2016. The highlight for John was yet again being able to experience the “absolute joy and pleasure of walking the Camino with additional family members and friends while meeting and chatting with other peregrinos along the way”. Most people were open to talk about the reasons that had led them to the farmlands, forest paths and cornfields in the middle of nowhere, while other walkers were closed off, lost in their thoughts.
Janet and Dawn, from Toronto in Canada, were six weeks into their trek. Loving every minute of it, they disclosed their secret to sustaining strength on the long walks. “Bananas and Coca-Cola,” they laughed. As they continued on their journey with socks pegged to their backpacks drying in the early morning sun, Dawn proudly shouted back: “I beat cancer, that’s why I’m doing it.”
It was clear some people had a clear, particular reason for doing the Camino, while others often did not even know themselves until they had reached the end of the trip, looked back and reflected on what they had taken from the journey.
As easy as it was to become lost and content in your own company on the walk, it was equally easy to turn and find a companion, such as Janet or Dawn, who were willing to incorporate you into their conversations before moving on. After walking the first 8km of the day, I met Michael, “a proud Irish-New Zealander”, on a much-needed coffee stop one morning. “Mícheál is ainm dom” and dún an doras is what my late mother taught me” his opening line to me was upon hearing my Irish accent. Like many of the encounters I had on the Camino, formal introductions were never required and within two minutes of meeting Michael we were like two old friends as he reminisced about his recent trip to Ireland and his plans upon reaching Santiago de Compostela. It was clear that the fast pace at which Michael spoke mirrored the pace at which he wanted to visit and do everything he could in the time he had on this side of the world.
The days away made me reflect on the phrase “wellbeing”, which we hear increasingly often in the workplace and education sector. Personally, I felt walking El Camino would do more for people’s wellbeing than all related books on the market. With pressure from society or self-pressure to achieve certain things by definitive points in their lives, many feel judged on their career paths, whether they are a homeowner or not, have children or not, the number of extra-curricular activities their child is doing, how many play-dates their kids were invited on last weekend. The list is never-ending.
Over the course of the week away, not one person asked me a personal question. It was immaterial. It was going to make no difference to their lives what I did, where I lived or if I drove an electric car or not. My fellow peregrinos were more interested in my feet and if I had blisters yet. Of course, as an extended family of six travelling together, the next question was if “any of you had fallen out yet? Wait it will happen!” they would laugh.
Upon reaching the end of our road at the imposingly beautiful Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela, we gathered together and hugged. We had walked 113km in rain and sunshine, over some incredibly steep hills through cornfields, rustic villages and orchards. With no phones or text messages to interrupt us and a never-ending path, conversations were real: illness, losing family members and the impact these events had had. John had been accompanied on the trip by not only sister but his son David Claffey, who admitted “he wasn’t sure what to expect at the beginning of the week”. However, as the days drew to a close, David found he was unable to “say exactly what it has been that’s made the trip so meaningful... I think it was a combination of things that made it quite special to be honest”.
Inside the cathedral, time stood still. People sat in no rush to leave, gazing up at the magnificent altar; perhaps contemplating their journey to Santiago de Compostela, a journey that may have taken days or a lifetime.
As Mary took her place in one of the pews and looked back on the past few days, she felt “the Camino had brought calmness to busy lives and had for many provided the opportunity for reflection”. Indeed, El Camino had the power to knock down the physical and mental perimeters of our daily lives and show us that there is an incredibly large open world going on out there if we just stop and take the time to get out and explore it
Thank you for capturing the beauty and essence of the Camino which is beyond words. The opportunity now is to let the joy of the Camino be reflected in our daily thoughts and actions being a blessing each day.
 
I'm sure the vast majority of pilgrims who walk from Sarria have an amazing time; that's not the issue. Undoubtedly there are many similar reports out there, and that's great.

The issue is that if you have walked from further away, the camino from Sarria is more crowded and commercialised than what you have experienced previously. Just when you're coming to the end of a long journey, it suddenly changes and becomes something different, and that can be difficult to adjust to.
I was resentful and scornful of the people I saw in a cafe outside of Sarria, with their shiny shoes and Instagram moments. I quickly got over myself. I do understand how difficult it is to have the time and money to walk for month or more. It is jarring though to suddenly be in a traffic jam.
 
The 2024 Camino guides will be coming out little by little. Here is a collection of the ones that are out so far.
I'm sure the vast majority of pilgrims who walk from Sarria have an amazing time; that's not the issue. Undoubtedly there are many similar reports out there, and that's great.

The issue is that if you have walked from further away, the camino from Sarria is more crowded and commercialised than what you have experienced previously. Just when you're coming to the end of a long journey, it suddenly changes and becomes something different, and that can be difficult to adjust to.
Yes... I didn't see any of us "long distance" Pilgrim's as feeling " blase or dismissive about those who 'only' walk from Sarria.", but rather frustrated with the changes in the Camino that we experienced during those last 100km.

Walking 100km is surely an accomplishment for most people, regardless of their motivations. The people walking the last 100km are equally welcome to participate in the Camino, and their experiences are just as valid as those who walk 500km or more.

But indeed - walking the last 100km is a different experience than walking prior to the last 100km. And yes - the crowds and the businesses and the "commercial feel" is simply unsettling to many. The only valid complaint I had regarding the folks doing the last 100km was in those who didn't have an awareness/understanding of how their actions affected others in communal settings. But those people were by far a minority. Most interactions with them were just fine. And these clueless people were simply people who had likely never experienced sharing a dorm with a communal bathroom before and thought it was acceptable to turn a communal bathroom into a private one. My only "petty" complaint about the 100km was they all seemed to be taking forever getting their "milestone" photos i.e., at the last 100km marker. They all seemed to take so long and taking many multiple poses at the marker for every group before me... to the point that I decided to skip it, even though I was excited I was FINALLY reaching that last 100km after a month of walking and I wanted that photo too haha. Oh well... monitor and adjust... and even though I didn't get some of those final milestone pictures, "I" know I was there!

@Kirkie Thank you for sharing your experience! It is great that there are opportunities for those to participate even if they don't have the time or money or home support to do a longer Camino.
 
I was resentful and scornful of the people I saw in a cafe outside of Sarria, with their shiny shoes and Instagram moments. I quickly got over myself.

I met a guy who told me that after walking from St Jean Pied de Port he was feeling a big smug when he met a pilgrim with new shoes just past Sarria. He was humbled when he found out the the pilgrim had had to replace his shoes, since they had carried him from Le Puy.
I do understand how difficult it is to have the time and money to walk for month or more. It is jarring though to suddenly be in a traffic jam.

If you prepare yourself for the difference in the Camino and look for the positive aspects of meeting pilgrims full of excitement and just starting on their journey it's easier.
@Kirkie Thank you for sharing your experience! It is great that there are opportunities for those to participate even if they don't have the time or money or home support to do a longer Camino.
As @Kirkie wrote at the beginning of her post, this was an article published in the Irish Times.
 
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I walked from STJPDP (Sept-Oct) and found it as busy up to Sarria if not busier, than the walk from Sarria to Santiago. We stopped in Sarria for a bite, which became a dinner in the early afternoon and from there on it was very quiet. I had a discussion with a few fellow pilgrims and all commented on how quiet it was as we had expected more pilgrims to be seen.
 
My most recent Camino this past September thru October was quite busy at times and when I got to Sarria I was sure finding accommodations every night would be a challenge. When I stopped at the tourist office in Sarria the woman working there highly recommended I make reservations all the way to Santiago so that night using booking. com I did. Later as I arrived at each place I found out I didn't need to and none of the albergue were full. In fact one night I was the only pilgrim in an albergue I had pre booked.
No worries as it was nice having a reservation each day but it just goes to show you cannot predict.
 
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The first edition came out in 2003 and has become the go-to-guide for many pilgrims over the years. It is shipping with a Pilgrim Passport (Credential) from the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.
Th
Thank you @Kirkie 🙏.

On thé subject of walking ‘Just from Sarria’, I had cause for reflection on this the last time I was on the Primitivo in October 2019. This is my blog entry from the day we joined the Frances at Melide …

Day 26 Camino Primitivo – A Ferreira to Boente, 25 kms​

After a restful night at Albergue a Nave, we set out just before 7.30 am in light rain, more of a mist really. A few hours later the rain was heavier and stayed that way until our arrival in Melide at around 12.30pm.

Melide is a significant town on the Camino Primitivo. It is the town where the Primitivo joins the Camino Frances – the most popular of all Caminos – at around 50 kms from Santiago de Compostela. To offer some perspective, we estimate that as we’ve been walking there may have been between 30-50 people per day on the various stages of the Primitivo. For the Frances, it’s more like 300-500.

For many people the Primitivo is their second, third, fourth … Camino. Almost all have walked the iconic Camino Frances at least once and, of those, many (us included) have walked before the numbers ‘exploded’ in 2014. And that trend has continued at what some regard as an alarming rate.

As the day approaches when the Primitivo joins the Frances, there is discussion about the shock of the number of pilgrims we will see. Though, of course, it is not a shock – we know this will be the case. There is sometimes discussion about the fact that a great many walkers are only doing the last 100 kms (of an 800 km path) the minimum required to qualify for the Compostela, the ‘certificate’ issued by the pilgrims office in Santiago. There is sometimes discussion about transport, luxury accommodation and day packs vs full packs.

A few pilgrims we’ve met in recent days are so concerned at the ‘change’ in the nature of The Way on the Camino Frances that they choose to finish the Primitivo Way in Melide. They have been to Santiago on at least one if not many Caminos and have no wish to join the crowds.

We are not immune from these thoughts. We get it. And while we might also wish that the Camino Frances remained as it was when we walked together in 2013, or when I walked for the first time in 2011 – we know that people continue to be drawn to walk for all sorts of reasons and in all sorts of ways. The Camino belongs to no-one.

So, as we walked out of Melide this afternoon, we found ourselves walking among a group of women from the south coast of England. We each started chatting to different members of the group. Though we walked with them no more than 10 or 15 minutes – then pulled ahead – here’s what we learned.

This group of 16 women are not walking the ‘full Camino’. They are walking the last 100 kms from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela. No they are not staying in pilgrim dormitories (neither are we), and yes they are carrying small day packs and having their luggage transported.

They are walking for 5 days to cover the 100 kms. Four day of around 18 kms and one day (today) of 30 kms. That’s a very long distance any way you look at it. They have been training for many months to make this walk. One I spoke to told me she was ‘a complete couch potato’ before then.

These 16 women – some already friends, others who met just a few days ago – are walking 100 kms to raise money to renovate a hospice in their community. Some work or volunteer in the hospice. They look to be in their 60s and 70s. The oldest is 77. Her husband was cared for by the hospice before he died.
Many are finding it hard going – especially today with 30 kms to walk. But all we spoke to are thrilled to be here and loving the experience.

The Camino is for anyone who’s drawn to it. We’re doing it our way and these 16 women are doing it their way. What an inspiration.’
Thanks for your most thoughtful reflection. Veronica
 
Thank you @Kirkie 🙏.

On thé subject of walking ‘Just from Sarria’, I had cause for reflection on this the last time I was on the Primitivo in October 2019. This is my blog entry from the day we joined the Frances at Melide …

Day 26 Camino Primitivo – A Ferreira to Boente, 25 kms​

After a restful night at Albergue a Nave, we set out just before 7.30 am in light rain, more of a mist really. A few hours later the rain was heavier and stayed that way until our arrival in Melide at around 12.30pm.

Melide is a significant town on the Camino Primitivo. It is the town where the Primitivo joins the Camino Frances – the most popular of all Caminos – at around 50 kms from Santiago de Compostela. To offer some perspective, we estimate that as we’ve been walking there may have been between 30-50 people per day on the various stages of the Primitivo. For the Frances, it’s more like 300-500.

For many people the Primitivo is their second, third, fourth … Camino. Almost all have walked the iconic Camino Frances at least once and, of those, many (us included) have walked before the numbers ‘exploded’ in 2014. And that trend has continued at what some regard as an alarming rate.

As the day approaches when the Primitivo joins the Frances, there is discussion about the shock of the number of pilgrims we will see. Though, of course, it is not a shock – we know this will be the case. There is sometimes discussion about the fact that a great many walkers are only doing the last 100 kms (of an 800 km path) the minimum required to qualify for the Compostela, the ‘certificate’ issued by the pilgrims office in Santiago. There is sometimes discussion about transport, luxury accommodation and day packs vs full packs.

A few pilgrims we’ve met in recent days are so concerned at the ‘change’ in the nature of The Way on the Camino Frances that they choose to finish the Primitivo Way in Melide. They have been to Santiago on at least one if not many Caminos and have no wish to join the crowds.

We are not immune from these thoughts. We get it. And while we might also wish that the Camino Frances remained as it was when we walked together in 2013, or when I walked for the first time in 2011 – we know that people continue to be drawn to walk for all sorts of reasons and in all sorts of ways. The Camino belongs to no-one.

So, as we walked out of Melide this afternoon, we found ourselves walking among a group of women from the south coast of England. We each started chatting to different members of the group. Though we walked with them no more than 10 or 15 minutes – then pulled ahead – here’s what we learned.

This group of 16 women are not walking the ‘full Camino’. They are walking the last 100 kms from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela. No they are not staying in pilgrim dormitories (neither are we), and yes they are carrying small day packs and having their luggage transported.

They are walking for 5 days to cover the 100 kms. Four day of around 18 kms and one day (today) of 30 kms. That’s a very long distance any way you look at it. They have been training for many months to make this walk. One I spoke to told me she was ‘a complete couch potato’ before then.

These 16 women – some already friends, others who met just a few days ago – are walking 100 kms to raise money to renovate a hospice in their community. Some work or volunteer in the hospice. They look to be in their 60s and 70s. The oldest is 77. Her husband was cared for by the hospice before he died.
Many are finding it hard going – especially today with 30 kms to walk. But all we spoke to are thrilled to be here and loving the experience.

The Camino is for anyone who’s drawn to it. We’re doing it our way and these 16 women are doing it their way. What an inspiration.’
So lovely to hear a positive story about pilgrims walking “only” the last 100kms. Thank you for sharing this. I walked from Valenca with friends this year. Next year I want to walk on my own and probably from Sarria because walking alone is a challenge for me and I want there to be lots of people around me.
 
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I'm sure the vast majority of pilgrims who walk from Sarria have an amazing time; that's not the issue. Undoubtedly there are many similar reports out there, and that's great.

The issue is that if you have walked from further away, the camino from Sarria is more crowded and commercialised than what you have experienced previously. Just when you're coming to the end of a long journey, it suddenly changes and becomes something different, and that can be difficult to adjust to.

Indeed, But just another challenge to be faced ;)
And a joy of a different type.......once faced.
 

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