Donal Creaton, HR Partner, in the spirit of sharing and inspiring wellness and personal development, takes us through his recent journey in completing part of the Camino to Santiago de Compostela (The Way of St. James).
After a long period of time I finally got the opportunity to complete part of the Camino to Santiago de Compostela (also known as The Way of St. James).
A lull in the courts meant that after a bank holiday weekend, I could see an opportunity to go and do this walk. I needed about five days to do a walk of approximately 120 kilometres.
The Camino to Santiago is on the go for a long period of time. It began as a pilgrimage route to visit the bones of St. James, one of the apostles, who is buried in the Church in Santiago de Compostela, a city in Galicia in Northern Spain. People do the walk for many reasons, spiritual, non-spiritual or simply just for the activity and time away – wellness.
There are many routes to take. I did part of the Portuguese route which runs from Lisbon, northwards towards Santiago. I walked part of the route between the town of Tui and Santiago de Compostela. The distance was 120 kilometres. I suggest you do a little training (most likely I did not do enough) given that you are walking between 20 and 25 kilometres per day over five days. A couple of long walks back to back would be sufficient to get one Camino fit.
On the eve of our walk, we arrived in the town of Tui in beautiful sunshine. Many people walk greater distances than our proposed 120 km and in the hotel where we commenced, there were already people who had walked a significant distance on their trip to Santiago. You can stay in hostels along the way but it is also possible to stay in small hotels and all of this can be arranged in advance and your overnight bags can be sent forward to your next hotel. This allows you to enjoy the walk with minimal bags to carry and involving a small rucksack with water, wet gear etc. if needed.
Our first days walk was from Tui to Porino, a distance of 18.7 kilometres and we certainly all looked forward to starting out on the trail.
Day one – Tui to Porina – 18.7 kilometres
The first days walk began in lovely bright sunshine and not too hot and we all walked with a spring in our step. There is a certain satisfaction in walking from one point to the next with nothing else to do but enjoy the countryside and engage in conversations (always optional) with your walking party. I certainly got some quiet time away from the hustle and bustle of daily and business life.
The Camino walk began as a pilgrimage from various corners of Europe and beyond. It has seen a resurgence in recent years and is popular as a pilgrimage, for personal or even just activity reasons. You meet many people along the way and some in fact carry their bags i.e. full kit including camping gear – which is only for the very active!
There are many signs along the way pointing towards Santiago and the shell sign points the distance to the next marker on the trail. It is very difficult to get lost and one tends to meet the same walkers travelling in the same direction and each making the journey for their own personal reasons. There is some deep satisfaction from putting one leg in front of the other with all day to do it, enjoying nature and conversations if they develop and it allows gives one time to sit back and contemplate life (whilst of course still walking). In fact today we would walk 36 kilometres not stopping at Porrino and continue on to Redondela where we arrive at our next venue to meet, clean up and prepare for the next day. Tui to Redondela – 36km.
Day two – Redondela to Pontevedra – 18.2km
We were all feeling muscle fatigue at the start of day two somewhat over enthusiastic after doing the previous days 36 kilometres (the downside of sitting behind a desk for five days a week and not doing enough training!). This day’s walk is uphill so silence pervades the group. The day is fine and sunny and the weather conditions are good for walking but the body is grumbling. At the end of day two we arrived in the town of Pontevedra.
Day three – Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis – 23km
We had a good days walking today. After a tough day yesterday, the legs felt stronger. We had a lovely days walk through woodland lanes and quiet country roads. We met some Irish people on route today and had the largest sandwich you ever saw! Just perfect to feed the hungry pilgrim. We also met a group from California, of various ages and walking the Camino. At the end of day three we arrived in the town of Caldas de Reis. By coincidence we ended up staying in the same place as the Californians and had some fun with them. It was great to meet an English speaking group and a text home brought the welcome assurance, that all was well in the office. Well done and thanks to all those good and conscientious people working hard in HOMS in my absence.
Day four – Caldas de Reis to Padron – 18.5km
Today’s walk would be 18.5 kilometres to the town of Padron. Yesterday I thought I had the Camino conquered but again today I found it a tough day, mentally and physically. There was some uphill which did not help the muscle strain. At some stage somebody suggested a taxi but we were never going to go for that! This is where the medication helps – so do not forget the anti-inflammatories. Tomorrow will be the final day and will be the last portion of the route into Santiago de Compostelo.
Day five – Padron to Santiago de Compostela – 25.2km
Today we would arrive in Santiago. I learnt on route today that St. Francis of Assisi did the Camino back in the thirteenth century so certainly this trail has been well used over many years. We start out early today and are on the road at 7:50am. We met a nice Italian family this morning including, Mama, Papa and three kids with the youngest child setting out on the Camino in her pyjamas! We met an old Galician man on the way in to Santiago who showed us the short cut into the town (2 kilometres v. 4 kilometres on the final section into Santiago). Muchos Gracias Senor.
We arrived in Santiago around 12:45pm at the square in front of the Church and with great joy celebrated with the other members of the group.
The walk is done and all are very happy.
I very much recommend this walk for whatever reason one intends to do it, all you need is the time and the opportunity and a little training.