• PLEASE NOTE: Please think twice before you travel to Spain now. More here.

Search over 55.000 Camino Questions

A donation to the forum removes ads for you, and supports Ivar in his work running it


Pilgrim report from New Zealand

  • Thread starter Deleted member 3000
  • Start date

Deleted member 3000

Walking 1000km across Spain
Last updated 14:30 02/09/2013

Walk of a lifetime

Jacqueline Gilbert at Cruz de Ferro

I packed my bag. In it I had enough equipment to last me on a month long journey. From jackets, to sunglasses, extra shoes to medical kits - I was prepared for anything. I packed for a journey that would take me on a 1000km hike from France, across the Pyrenees Mountains through the Spanish Meseta to Finisterre, literally 'the end of earth' in Spain. A journey called the Camino de Santiago.

I had first heard about the Camino Santiago in a conversation with a random stranger. She had talked to me of her great adventure hiking across the width of Spain on an ancient pilgrimage track, making new friends from all over the world, learning about a different culture and way of life, and about herself. She said to me that now I knew about the Camino, one day it would call to me to walk it. I laughed at the time. Three years later there I was, pack on my back, taking the first steps of what was a life changing journey. This is a snapshot of my journey on the Camino.

There are periods in our life where our self identity is challenged. Where our life as we had planned it, and the dreams that we have set, and even the people we think we will share those dreams with, become unstuck. Before I started to walk the Camino, broken dreams and hard worked for goals had left me feeling lost. Fellow walkers told me that my time on the Camino would help me figure out what I wanted to do "next". "The Camino is a metaphor for life" they said, "because life really is a path".

And so I started on this very real 1000km path through Spain with my friend Clementine. We would wake up every morning in an Albergue (walkers' accommodation) along with 100 or so other pilgrims, ready to take on another day of wandering in the sun. I typically walked the morning alone. We all did. These mornings were beautiful. Often I would be walking down valleys of green crop fields with distant windmills on the horizon. The way the crops were planted meant that as the wind hit each field, the crops would flex in a different direction creating a wave effect, literally making me feel like I was walking through the middle of an ocean on a golden pathway. Surrounded by space but with enough structure to have a destination, I had room to breath, and think. However I was not thinking about what was next, I was thinking about what had been. With only my thoughts for company, it was like I was charting a path through my maze of life memories until now. Each memory I walked through was like a piece of jigsaw that slowly clicked into some form of sense, and once addressed, melted away from importance.

My first piece of Camino magic, understanding who I was.

The Camino is a very simple yet addictive existence, you eat, you sleep and you walk. It has a rhythm to it; step after step. About 11am the merging of friendships would begin at tiny Spanish coffee houses (often just a lone table outside of a room with a coffee machine). It was after one of these coffee breaks that I first met Fabio from Brazil. A pivotal moment for me. Fabio and I were very much aligned in our love for life and friendships, and also in wanting to wrap ourselves up into this Camino experience. We were friends instantly, and he reminded me of what I wanted from life. Through him and through Clem, rather than rush out the door in the morning, we enjoyed the sunshine. We collected friends along the path, shared jokes, played stone-golf, sung our hearts out and embraced the experience. We shared our struggles and dreamed about our goals and I remembered what I loved about journeys - sharing them. Now that I was free from retrospect, I did not want to rush out the door alone in the mornings, but to share the depth, the inside jokes, the friendships and most importantly have fun.

My second piece of Camino magic, understanding what makes me happy.

When on the Camino you go from living life fast to living life slow. The Camino is traditionally a religious journey, but for most of us who were non-religious there is still a certain soulfulness to it. As our wandering continued, and the friendships grew stronger, so too did the feeling of humanity through the pilgrims. You will meet fellow travellers from every corner of the globe. By the end of the Camino I was fluent in Spanglish Sign Language and could toast drinks in Spanish, Italian and Portuguese.

With space to think, and happiness identified, my awareness of the world around me magnified and I noticed opportunities and learnings much more than I did in the busyness of my daily life. As all of our heads cleared, kindness increased and so did the openness of friendships. On the Camino you start to believe that each person you meet is for a reason, that you have something to learn from them. I clearly remember meeting one of my Camino friends for the first time. As we walked he shared with me all the things he believed he needed to change in order for him to get what he wanted from life. To be more successful, fitter, smarter, more secure, in order to be happy, adventurous, and loved. I was dumbfounded. See to me I had just walked the morning with an athletic, funny, successful, bold, world traveller, and yet he was so focussed on what he would be tomorrow that he couldn't see how cool he was today. The Camino is a great equaliser. You are only the sum of yourself and the few sportswear items you are carrying on your back. In that context, who you are starts to matter a lot more than what you are. And so when another of my pilgrim friends looked me in the eye and told me he adored me, for the first time in a long time, I let myself hear it.

My third piece of Camino magic, taking the time to remember to live in the moment and understand the "when" of life is right now.

"1000 kilometers on foot. Bunk-beds. Blisters. Stunning landscapes. World-class snorers. Hot searing sun, freezing cold rain. Kindness from strangers. Debilitating injury. Unexpected romance. No toilet paper when you really need it. Profound grief and deep doubt. Hunger. Laughing with new friends. Total exhaustion. You are guaranteed to experience all of this when walking the ancient pilgrim path, the Camino de Santiago."

According to Catholic tradition, if you faithfully complete this arduous trek, your sins were forgiven. We took this to mean that we could sin as much as possible right up to Santiago, at which point we would be magically transformed into angelic versions of ourselves. Towards the end of The Camino we all had embraced the spirit of the journey in full; with big campfire parties at night, moonlight trekking, poker nights and gourmet cook-offs. My favourite form of sinning was the discovery of the red wine fountain, where you can fill your bottles with free wine. mmmmmm deeeelicious.

At the end of the journey on the cliffs of Finisterre we all congregated to burn our clothes and swim in the ocean to wash away the journey. It was a solemn moment. We had all come so far on our journey, both in distance and in strength, lived through each others highs and lows, and learned more about ourselves than we perhaps knew at that time. My favourite spanish phrase "estoy perdido" was no longer true. I was not lost. I might not have known what was next, but I was no longer looking backwards.

My fourth piece of Camino Magic: I now have a place in my dreams where I can go whenever I need my own version of Zen.

On the Camino each person must determine why they want to make the journey and find their own way - what is right for one may not be for another. There is no single right way to do the Camino, just as there is no right way to live life. I don't think the Camino is for everyone or that everyone should do it, but it was right for me, and maybe it is right for you.

And, that pack I had at the start of the journey, by the end of the Camino I had stripped my pack down to the bare minimum, carrying only 5 kg of equipment, making my journey light and free. But the real baggage I'd disposed of? Fear.

The Practical Stuff:

The path I had chosen to follow to Finisterre is called the Camino Francés. For over 1200 years people have walked from all over Europe on this path; a 1000km journey that started for me just over the border of Spain in a little town called St. Jean Pied de Port, France. To get there I caught a flight to Paris, and then a train from Paris to St Jean. From there you hike through snow over the Pyrenees Mountains and drop down into Navarra, home of Pampalona and the running of the bulls. Then you wind through the wine region of La Rioja (where I first learned to like red wine), and into Castilla y León where you are faced with the challenge of the seemingly endless rolling hills of the Meseta, a mountain pass, and a descent into the lush lands of Galicia to the ocean.

It is clearly marked, and easy to follow with both painted yellow arrows, and signposted Camino shell signs. All along the Camino de Santiago, there are special pilgrim hostels, called "albergues". Albergues can be found nearly every five kilometers and are varied in type, from genuine Monasteries to newly built hostels. Costs to do the camino are restricted to your food and accommodation, and both are very economically priced.

If the Camino is of interest to you, I recommend watching an exceptional 2012 movie about the Camino Santiago, starring Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen entitled "The Way"
This is a wonderfully written piece and captures the spirit of the Camino. The single photo you posted was outstanding, perhaps more would be the icing on the cake. Any plans to make a roadshow of the trip? Joe



Similar threads

Camino Conversations

Camino Conversations

Forum Rules

Forum Rules

Forum Donation

Forum Donation
For those with no forum account, it is possible to donate here as well. Thank you for your support! Ivar

Follow Casa Ivar on Instagram

Most downloaded Resources

When is the best time to walk?

  • January

    Votes: 16 1.2%
  • February

    Votes: 10 0.8%
  • March

    Votes: 57 4.3%
  • April

    Votes: 202 15.2%
  • May

    Votes: 330 24.8%
  • June

    Votes: 96 7.2%
  • July

    Votes: 25 1.9%
  • August

    Votes: 27 2.0%
  • September

    Votes: 386 29.0%
  • October

    Votes: 160 12.0%
  • November

    Votes: 17 1.3%
  • December

    Votes: 7 0.5%

Camino Forum Store

Camino Forum Store