Santiago de Compostela…I have arrived!

I walked into Santiago yesterday morning in very blustery, rainy and freezing conditions (memories of Maleny) The 20 km walk from O Pedrouzo was to be a joyful walk into the city that has been the focus of my forty-one days and 1200 kms on the road. My friend, Amanda, ( Brisbane) and I decided that we didn’t want to go into the dark, muddy forest at 5:30 am, so we decided to follow the bitumen road out of town. We were doing really well in terms of time and were a mere 3 kms from Santiago when  the Civil Guard (police) pulled us up. Our offence was not speeding,(although we were walking extremely fast) but walking along the main freeway into the city. We had to take the following exit, then wandered around farmland for awhile before arriving in time for the pilgrims Mass. The cathedral was icy but the service warmed the heart.

A fondness for good tapas, found mainly in the larger cities/towns, was a belated breakfast/lunch enjoyed with some local wine. For the first time in 6 weeks, I indulged in the Spanish tradition of siesta…wonderful! Even more wonderful was actually staying in bed for more the 5 hours a night and not having to rise in the dark to start walking…but I did wake at 5:00 am regardless!

Tomorrow is ‘put the pack on again day’ and I will walk to Finisterre on the coast. At the moment I am undecided whether to make it a 3 or 4 day trip, 88 kms or 116 kms. Weather watching has become a bit of a pastime and I am hoping for better conditions to walk out in tomorrow.

Looking forward to meeting up with Don in London on Monday when he arrives from South Africa. Don will be working in London for a month and I plan to do some serious relaxation. Perhaps we may even do some weekend trips out of the city…or even to the the Spanish Costa Brava!

I promise to fill in some of the most interesting stages of my walk when I have an opportunity but really just wanted to share with you all my joyful arrival in Santiago de Compostela.

Until again…

Annie

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

STILL WALKING…

Still walking….

I am in the beautiful city of Burgos about 485km from Compostela.

You may be forgiven for thinking that I am one blog wonder, but I must have been dreaming to think that I could have added regular posts along the way. I have walked almost 700km in the past 25 days and covered an incredible variety of landscape…hard, dry and difficult at times to the more recently soft green landscape of the La Rioja region which is fully under cultivation with a variety of crops, and , of course, the acres of neat rows and rows of grape vines. The Rioja region is well regarded for it fine wines. Knowing that today was a rest day, yesterday evening I tried some of the fantasic white wine with the most amazing selection of tapas.

Walking  from Barcelona was awkward as it is not really recognised as a pilgrim route, which ofically comes in across the French border at the northern part of the Costa Brava, so accommodation was a problem. However, I did climb the side of the mountain to the beautiful monastery perched on the top on the mountain at Montserrat. I stayed in pilgrim accommodation in the monastery and heard the resident boys choir sing in the evening…beautiful. As my walk continued across Catalonia and Aragon, the distances were long and very difficult (much climbing) in temperatures exceeding the mid thirties. I have seen and done some incredible things that really I could only have achieved by travelling on foot. When I have more time, I will include a detailed description and photos of the trip.

Meeting the French Way at Puenta la Reina was quite a shock as there were about 200 pilgrims in town. In two and a half weeks of the beginning of my journey, I only met 3 other walkers. The very popular French Way is certainaly a different story…

Planning a days walk and finding accommodation along the walk is a daily challenge. I have been walking in excess of 30 km daily which is probably a good thing as the lack of choice of wholesome food can be a problem. What I do really like is the insalata mista (mixed salad) full of good things including tuna, olives and boiled eggs as well as a wonderful selection of fresh salad items.  This surely must negate the breakfast offering of custard filled, chocolate coated croissants and fried potatoes (yes, fries) that come with every meal)

The last week of walking has seen a range of climatic changes. Just 5 days ago I was walking in 2 to 5 degree temperatures with sleet and rain to a very uncomfotable 30 degree temperatue yesterday. Perfect walking conditions are overcast skies but weather condtitions are not made to order.

When I can, I will make this blog a little more interesting with photos etc.

Until then…

Hasta la vista

Annie

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

My Spanish Heart

On the eve of leaving my beautiful rainforest environment in the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast, I am overwhelmed at how much I still have to do before I walk out of the door tomorrow and start the arduous plane trip to Barcelona via Singapore.

Arduous, I ask myself, as I am about to embark on a 1300 km walk from Barcelona on the Mediterranean coast of Spain to Finisterre on the Atlantic coast on the far western side of the country. Compostela is the capital of the province of Galicia; green, fertile, lush. High annual rainfall is responsible for its characteristic verdant beauty.

My journey will certainly be arduous, challenging, tiring (exhausting, at times) but unbelievably rewarding when I walk those last steps into Santiago de Compostela.

This is my fourth trip across Spain, following various routes that culminate in the splendid Cathedral of Compostela that skirts the medieval part of the city. It overlooks the grand Plaza where people gather to absorb the full magnificence of the cathedral.

For more than a thousand years, Christian pilgrims have made the long walk or “Camino” to Santiago de Compostela, whose cathedral houses the tomb of St. James. Construction of the cathedral began in 1075 and has been embellished and expanded between the 16th and the 18th centuries. It preserves its original barrel-vaulted cruciform Romanesque interior and through its monumental dimensions, is the largest Romanesque church in Spain and even one of the largest in Europe.

It is in this cathedral that pilgrims, walkers, cyclists and to a lesser degree, horse and donkey riders, aim to be. I’ll take the foot option any day!

On arrival in Compostela, one receives a credential that states the method of travel to the city and one’s name written in Latin…I am Annam.

To finally arrive at the cathedral, find a place to sit and inhale the spicy, potent scent of the incense as it twirls out of the great botafumeiro (a giant incense burner swung overhead in front of the altar by four priests) is one of the pleasures I always long to experience. To listen to the sweetest soprano voices of the nuns as they mesmerise with their chanting…the atmosphere is evocative and comforting and so appropriate as the grand parade of clergy winds up the main aisle.

People walk the Camino for various reasons; spiritual, physical, emotional. Of course, I love the physical challenges of the long distance walk, but have found from past experiences on the Way, when walking alone for 8 to 10 hours a day, the parameters of your world reduce and your clarity of thought can be quite astounding…it’s much easier to be creative, to have a different view of things.

John Muir, a Scottish born American naturalist claimed, ‘In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks’…. he’s absolutely correct!

So…for me, I could say that a part of me has remained in Compostela since I first arrived there in late October 2004. I am still trying to understand my need to walk alone for incredibly long distances, but do understand the reward and pleasure of arriving .

Khalil Gibran wisely said, ‘“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”

In anticipation of great things….

Annie

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments