At 11:55 am on 17 July 2017, we finally arrived in Santiago and made our way to the Pilgrim accreditation office to get our Compostela and the official certification.
We were officially entered into the Cathedral’s Camino de Santiago Pilgrim records as follows;
Walked the Northen route from Gijon to Santiago de Compostela, total distance covered 351km over 14 days.
IT IS DONE!
Thank you all for your support and well wishes, it has been a physically challenging and yet spiritually fulfilling undertaking. And doing it for a cause close to our hearts has been rather special, thank you once more for all your contributions and pledges.
I will post our credentials and Compostela’s as well as provide the final figure on
funds raised over the next few days,so look out for that.
The Camino atmosphere this morning was different; from getting up and departing earlier than usual. To the excitement, anticipation and eagerness of being closer to the finish line, to the increased Pilgrim traffic, which went up a notch with a constant chain like flow of Pilgrims. The walk was distinctly more faster ( with the Advocate doing his best km/hr ever, I have not seen him walk this fast), busier and noisier with a definitive commercial tone.
What is comforting is that we were pre-warned about the frenetic activity that typifies the walk as you come closer to the end. The primary reason being that, at about 38km to Santiago, two routes merge. The Northern route, which we took, also known as the primitive or Real Camino route, and the Frances the more easier and popular one.
Although the Camino seems to loose it’s serenity and calmness at this point, it remains nonetheless challenging, as we still have to navigate the last 20km climb and descent into Santiago. The anticipation and excitement is pulpable, making tomorrow’s walk a very important and significant one. The goal is clearly in sight.
Today the mercury clocked a midday high of 33 degrees. The hotest it’s been thus far. The last time we walked in such heat was on day three from Cudillero(El Pito) to Ballota. What saved us was first our relative fitness and second the shorter distance of 22km. As you get closer to Santiago you notice an increase in the Pilgrim traffic. Already from the last two days we have met even more Pilgrims, caught up with one’ s we have not seen for days, like Cheung Yick Tong (from Honk Kong) who we first came across I think on day 3. This evening we had dinner with Heiko and Doris from Germany, who we met earlier this week, and caught up with yesterday in Sobrado dos Monxes. What you notice is that the Camino is about people and people about life. Leading me to conclude or postulate that the Camino is about Life. So if you can, do walk it in your lifetime.
To pay tribute to our Camino people, I thought to mention a few of those we got to know by name or stopped to chat to along the way.
1. Yannick and Aline ( from France and Switzerland)
2. Allison and Larry Smith (from Alexandria, Va, USA)
3. Doris and Heiko (Bremen, German)
4. Anima and her Friends (Torino, Italy)
5. The two US Grannies ( sorry we never got your names or a picture)
6. Lotter (young German girl, we met sitting along the road, very tired)
7. Max (surfer dude from Germany, hope you enjoyed the detour to Tapia)
8. Armen (the 2500km walking machine, from Germany)
9. Cheung Yick Tong (Hong Kong)
10. Old Couple from Newcastle England.( also did not get their names)
Guess what? We are indeed stronger and fitter than when we started two Sundays ago. We did 61km without breaking a sweat, we arrived at both destinations with time to spare. Today (day 11) we did 33km with only a 30minutes break, courtesy of my friend and fellow pilgrim, Advocate Tsholanku. Who a few days back nearly strangled me for making him walk 4km over a mountain, to that one horse town. Walking the two longest distances, one after the other, got me thinking about things the Camino teaches you. Here are a few I could think of as I was walking today;
1. Practice makes perfect. It does indeed take seven days to form or change a habit. Walk, walk, walk, eat, sleep, wake up, walk walk, walk, eat, sleep, wake up, walk, walk, walk, eat, sleep….repeat 7 times and it becomes what and who you are.
2. Focus, commitment,repetition and consistency begets results.
3. Stick to the goal you have in mind.
4. To achieve anything the only movement you need make is forward.(from the Advocate)
5. What seems far, once undertaken, becomes within reach.
6. With the Camino you are never ahead or behind anyone. So stick to your plan.
7. When the objective is clear and shared, strangers become friends. And many we did make along the way.
8. What you see ( the distance) and feel (the sore feet and back) are less important than what you get done or achieve ( reaching your next destination).
Today we are 60km from Santiago our final stop and ultimate destination. It feels unreal!. As they say in this part of the world Buen Camino!
Yesterday we did the 13km without a break. Today we did the 23km walk to Vilalba with only a 30 minutes break, a first since we started. Today we also completed our inland descent and have walked 210km of the planned 230km distance. We certainly are feeling stronger and fitter. However the ultimate test of that fitness will be proven starting tomorrow with having to cover 61km over two days, I think we are more than ready for the next Camino challenge.
As we make our way to Santiago, one cannot help but notice the changing landscape as well as the swing back to the urban jungle and bigger towns with larger populations and morden facilities. Of special note is the incremental commercial tone the path starts to assume, with little vending stalls where locals are selling hand crafted Camino branded wares. The pilgrim hostels are more morden and attractive, connectivity to the everyday world improves, as we started picking up the 4G signal In Vilalba. I am sure more awaits us as we journey on over the next couple of days.
It has been a challenging as it has been rewarding.
A very..very..very short but extremely intense walk, total distance 13km and climbing up to 685m. The highest point thus far since we left the coast on Monday morning, making our way inland towards Santiago de Compostela. It seems there are even more peaks to conquer, but given our performance today, we are getting stronger, so we should be able to navigate any further challenging climbs on our path. The body is an amazing thing, it is just unfortunate that we are not always tuned in to how it works. I guess practice makes perfect.
As short as walk was so is the post today. However the pics are plenty as promised yesterday.
Buenas noches compañeros. Buenas noches mi gente.
Today we got a pass on the Ribadeo to Villamartin leg of the walk due to the heavy and persistent rain in Ribadeo this morning. The walk today assumed a definitive and totally Christian tone as we saw even more churches and cathedrals. The work of the many saints, envagelists, missionaries and volunteers from the Catholic Church that have selflessly contributed over centuries to spread the word of god and grow the church far and wide.
This culminated with the thematically apt check-in into a Monastery, our accommodation for the two nights in Mondonedo. The Monastery, which goes by the name Seminario Santa Catalina offers basic and functional accommodation with all the necessary facilities but no telephone and TV. The idea behind this choice of accommodation is to give pilgrims the chance to reflect and spend more quiet time away from the usual distractions. I will post more pics of the monastery in tomorrow’s blog.
Today’s walk and overall tone presented the opportunity to put the spotlight back into the other objective of this quest, that of raising funds for special needs education. Firstly I would like to thank all those who have made their contributions and pledges. I am happy to report that by the end of the first week, we were closing in on R 200 000 in funds raised for the chosen schools and institutions.
I know we can do more, so let’s push the fund even higher. For those who missed it or were still considering, find here below the pledge details and structure to help make that commitment and decision to support a worthy cause.
THE PILGRIMAGE AND THE PLEDGE
The Pilgrimage is a 348 km walk over 16 days from Gijon to Santiago along the Spanish North Coast. Through the pilgrimage we aim to raise R 1 000 000 (One Million Rands) for chosen beneficiaries in special needs education and broader. People and or organisations can pledge a minimum of R10 for every kilometer covered by choosing from the following options;
1. Pledge to sponsor the entire walk
2. Select a leg/s of their choice.
3. Pledge a once off lump sum donation of a minimum R 3 000.
Gijón to Santiago de Compostela: Pilgrimage
02 Jul DAY 2: Walk to Avilés – 25 km (completed)
03 Jul DAY 3: Walk to Cudillero – 30 km (completed)
04 Jul DAY 4: Walk to Ballota – 27 km (completed)
05 Jul DAY 5: Walk to Luarca – 23 km (completed)
06 Jul DAY 6: Walk to Navia – 21 km (completed)
07 Jul DAY 7: Walk to Ribadeo – 22 km (completed)
08 Jul DAY 8: Rest day Ribadeo
09 Jul DAY 9: Walk to Villamartín Grande – 20 km (pass)
10 Jul DAY 10: Walk to Mondoñedo – 19 km (completed)
11 Jul DAY 11: Walk to Abadín – 17 km
12 Jul DAY 12: Walk to Vilalba – 21 km
13 Jul DAY 13: Walk to Sta Leocadia – 28 km
14 Jul DAY 14: Walk to Sobrado dos Monxes – 33 km
15 Jul DAY 15: Walk to Arzúa – 22 km
16 Jul DAY 16: Walk to Rúa – 19 km
17 Jul DAY 17: Walk to Santiago de Compostela – 21 km
EFT into the below account;
Camino For Special Needs Education
First National Bank Killarney
Account Number: 62703100032
Branch number: 256205
or email your pledge, with your stated donation for collection and or payment later, to our independent auditors CHF & Co for attention of;
Tel: (011) 483 4160
This is a rather delayed post, largely because we walked the whole daily distance some 21km without a break. So on arriving in Ribadeo, our weekend stop, we were really tired and had covered 150km of our targeted 348km. The stop was a much needed one, as we used it at leisure and to rest our sore hips and metatarsals. The walk itself was relatively easy and gave us the opportunity to take in more of the surroundings and points of interest. The work of Saints James’s and other missionaries spreading the word is there for all to see, with a church in about every little town we went through. There was also some interesting little installations aimed at making the pilgrims walk a bit bearable, like a chair made from a tree trunk and another from stone (see pics and images).
Thus far the Camino has reinforced my belief that patience, focusing on moving forward, and being steady are good things, as ultimately they get you to the goal. On reaching Ribadeo we met with most, if not all, the many other pilgrims we passed or who passed us on the way over the past week. We all reached the same point, Ribadeo, on the same day, having left Gijon last Sunday. A small but important lesson. So it is not about speed or about who is ahead and or behind we all are here to walk the way and do it to the best of our abilities. And that is true of life itself.
Today was one of the shortest ( no more than 20 km) and easiest ( no forests and steep mountains) walks so far. Once again the weather was overcast, cool and comfortable, we had out tees on all the way.
Pole.. Pole.. was indeed the way to do it, allowing us to smell the roses and take a closer look at the finer but important things along the way. We noted and had a closer look at artifacts, churches (several) dotted along the way which is to be expected as this is the way of Saint James. We were able to also appreciate the several shrines and pilgrim installations you find along the Camino path, these are meant to provide rest and shelter for pilgrims during the walk.
Navia, our destination for the day, is a well built fishing town and port which is critical to the Asturias economy, as is it almost at midpoint between Santiago to the west and Gijon (our starting point) to the east. We made it to Navia with enough time to spare and we took the opportunity to do a quick unsupervised town tour.
Tomorrow we are in for the big one thus far, as our next destination is 31km away. This is going to be challenging, so we are bracing ourselves for a bruising. We have stocked up on all things energy giving.
Pole…Pole or slowly..slowly was the order of the day. The weather was kind as it was overcast all the way, with a slight drizzle in parts. Patience is key and the Camino forces that on you. The walk started with some steep climbs which were soon replaced by criss-crossing the big Northern freeway that dominates these parts, linking the small and major towns.
Today’s walk was less demanding but still a challenging one nonetheless, as the feet and glutes made themselves felt, perhaps more from yesterday’s gruelling walk. Surprisingly at a leisurely pace we still made our destination half an hour ahead of schedule. So sometimes, as in life, being steady and patient yet determined is key to making real progress. Luarca our destination for tonight is another Spanish seaside or coastal gem a stark contrast to yesterday’s one horse rural town. It has all the morden conveniences, good enough for refueling and touching base with the real world. All in preparation for the next 41km or so to our halfway point, which we should reach on Friday.
So henceforth steady and patient is the way and the method.