A few days of rest and the first post camino test.

“It’s your road and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you.” ~ Rumi.

I haven’t read back through my camino posts but I imagine there’s a thread of the camino imitating life. In the simplicity of the routine, moving, way markers, eating, space, outdoors and community there is a guide, a way to live with ease.

My initial arrival into Santiago was an emotional one. Aside from the phenomenal outcome of educating 25 (nearly 26 girls) for One Girl I was unsure how my legs would be. Could I continue on to Fisterre, to the end of the world? This was always my intended end point. After receiving my compostella for walking the 799km pilgrimage along The Camino Frances I still feel the pull to walk on.

One Girl update!

Total funds raised so far – $7,790.00. Goal achieved, and then some! Thank you.

If you’d like to contribute it’s not to late you can do so here.

Frances Antonia – Do it in a dress.

There are many reasons I want to continue on. Mainly because I want to walk across the entire country! Also the history of the the walk towards Fisterre appeals to me on a personal level. And lastly because after such a brilliant first 26 days of walking like a mountain goat I wanted to finish like that and to finish with my sister walking strong (my damn ego).

A few days rest and a check with the local Dr and tendonitis has been confirmed. The treatment – rest, ibuprofen gel and tablets.

So we’ve eaten out way around the tapas bars, drunk a few beers and Rioja reds. My favourite tapas bar if you’re in Santiago is A Taberndo Bispo. Friendly service, tasty tapas, local seafood, smooth house wine and locals galore!

On this third day of rest the pain has disappeared and I think I could walk tomorrow. Except I’m not going to, I’m on the bus. I decided not to let my ego win! I think most of us battle with our ego along the camino as it teases and tests our purpose as we walk. I chose another camino lesson and that was to simply move.

What I needed most today was to move. It doesn’t matter how I move just that I do! Arriving in Santiago was a place to land, to rest, to await a few of the friends we met along the way. But it wasn’t where I was going. Sitting idle, dwelling never is … it’s one my biggest camino lessons and the challenge I’m taking home with me. Dreams and living them takes work and challenge (and the ability to adjust).

I’ll finish my walk across this country! It may be one I’ll do with my family later this year or maybe just one of my older two. It’ll be slower, less busy and more historically relevant than the last 100kms of the camino. I’m no they’re big they can choose if they want to walk their own camino. Find their own way along this spectacular path.

But today we’ll make our way by bus and to spend some days on the coast. Returning home well and ready next week and able to move with vigour is more important than stepping into an ego driven walk tomorrow. As hard as that is!!!!

So we move … to the beach, the end of the world and towards a gentle 6km hike to enjoy tonight’s sunset over the Atlantic Ocean.

Writing from Santiago de Compostela – Day 28

We awoke after a deep sleep ready for our final trek into Santiago de Compostela! The end of this grand 799 km hike adventure and my One Girl project. It was the perfect day to end the walk being Mother’s Day. I’ve always thought that educating girls in Africa was my way of supporting another mother’s daughter. What a beautiful thought as I entered Santiago – 25 Mother’s daughters will be safely in school next year.

Days on the Camino – 28

Kms – Today 33 kms. Finished (28 days)!

Starting point today –Salcedo, Spain.

End of the day – Santiago de Compostella, Spain.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 25

Total funds raised so far – $7425.00. Goal is $10 per km so $7,690.00 just $165 to go!

If you’d like to contribute you can do so here.

Frances Antonia – Do it in a dress.

Thanks for the help Kimmy from the Women Who Hike team.

Dedicated to – All of you who read here and follow on IG. You have supported me every step of the way in you own beautiful ways. This was always more than walking the camino, this was about adventure, kindness and humility. I’m proud I walked the camino but more than that I’m proud of putting myself out there to create change. Thank you for being my safety net.

I’ve written these blogs on my phone and often tired late at night – so despite the errors and diary type writing it’s overwhelming how many of you have been so excited and followed along.

Accommodation – We checked into a hostel/hotel for 3 nights! Can you believe it. No backpack on tomorrow. I don’t fly for a week so lots of time to take in what we’ve just done!

Food highlight – There are no food photos on my camera roll from yesterday! Perhaps I’ll change it up and say eating a bag of chips and drinking a bottle of wine with my sister in our beds was pretty darn special!

Word/s of the day – Time to soak it all in.

Last leg of the trek! On my last legs :). We did our usual morning things. Eat our bananas, pack our packs, fill the water bottles, start the gps and the room check. As we’re getting tireder it feels easier to leave something behind. So far we have left two things. Kris a power adapter, me a hair comb. So we share.

The signs say just over 28kms but my GPS always takes us there in 3-4 more kms. My shins feel ok as I potter around the room. I’ve used some anti inflammatory gel and taken some ibuprofen.

The first 800 metres were tender going so we stopped for breakfast! Ha ha not even 1km into the day – it might be a long one. Bacon and eggs, coffee and fresh OJ – our standard breaky.

After breakfast I feel ok, the right leg feels good. It feels like I’ve walked through that one! Honestly what we can walk through astounds me. I’m currently walking through physical pain but others on this trail have walked through addictions, break ups, transitions, loss. Where else in the world can you walk for 30 odd days and have all your needs met (carrying the basics in your back) and meet kind, honest caring people every step of the way. The camino is a special trail. And I think most people walk into themselves not Santiago de Compostella.

It’s the down hill that seems to trigger the pain and thankfully today was a beautiful track mostly surrounded by woodlands. Walking into a city can sometimes be arduous as you pass through industrial estates. Not today, it’s country life – I can hear the birds singing and see the cows feeding.

Had this day been earlier in the trek I would have taken a break for sure. But now we’re so close. I want to push through.

The last 100kms feels different, our friends from the beginning are either behind or in front. We’ve met a couple of nice Andy’s. UK Andy and German/Irish Andrew, both always just around the corner. We can’t wait to catch up with them in Santiago.

Andrew you didn’t have to carry me in! I made it. But thanks for the offer. I’m a lot heavier than that back pack of yours so I’m not sure you would have pulled it off! Even with your gutsy strength :). Not only a super new camino friend but a super hiker – a 22 day Camino from St Jean.

Many new sprightly trekkers join the camino for the last 100kms. It’s time to reach the end and wind it up. Time to celebrate what an amazing adventure we’ve been on and what we’ve achieved.

So we walk, forward, just as we have every day for the past 27. Laughing at ourselves and each other. It wasn’t quite as slow and excruciating as yesterday but for sure a few of days rest will be welcome.

We didn’t make it to the cathedral for our official ending, nor did we collect our compostella. We opted to go straight to the hotel, in all honesty it was all I could manage on my painful shin. Edit: I’ve had them checked and it’s tendonitis so a few days rest, all good. So that means your inboxes will still bring you news from Santiago for a few days yet, plus you know I love a good reflection.

As we were walking into Santiago I knew in my mind that this wasn’t going to be a moment that made the adventure! It was simply the end of the trail. All the moments, the memories, the meaning … that all happened along the way.

Lovely friends who have come along for this journey! It’s not the end just the beginning.

Buen Camino,

Fran xx

Writing from Salcedo – Day 27

My post is a day later because I was utterly drained last night, both physically and mentally. It was the hardest day of my camino and one where my coping skills were tested like never before. It would also bring delicious homemade treats, another girl educated in Africa, kindness, spectacular countryside and a lesson in perspective.

Days on the Camino – 27

Kms – Today 33 kms.

Starting point today – O Cota, Spain.

End of the day – Salcedo, Spain.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 24

Total funds raised so far – $7225.00. Goal is $10 per km so $7,690.00 just $465 to go!

If you’d like to contribute you can do so here.

Frances Antonia – Do it in a dress.

Thanks for the help Kimmy from the Women Who Hike team.

Accommodation – The most delightful Albergue. Albergue Turístico Salceda. This is a family run Albergue and they are the best cooks, hosts, publicans … you name it! I had the BEST pilgrim meal here. The rooms are clean, modern and spacious. You’ll probably need to book this one. They have private rooms and dorms. We took a twin room (€23.50 each).

Food highlight – Finding a German bakery on the camino! I’ve never called myself a sweets person but on this camino I’m becoming one.

And then there was that dessert that was part of the three course pilgrim meal … lemon mouse with quince.

Word/s of the day – Exhaustingly challenging.

Last night I went to bed early feeling tired and a little fevery. I’m starting to feel a bit washed out and perhaps I had a little heat stroke from the day before.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to sleep well in our O Coto accommodation on account of another attack of bed bugs! Lucky this time we were in hotel sheets and our packs were far from the beds so no chance of taking them with us. That saved us hours of drying sleeping bags and washing everything in heat like last time. I explained to the owner via google translate in the morning but I’m not sure she took it seriously. I might have to leave a google review, it’s not fair to fellows hikers/pilgrims and hotels need to have responsible practices. So for now I’m back on the anti histamines.

That was the least of my worries though because before we’d even walked a few kms a niggle from the day before in my right shin was starting to annoy me. Within a few hours the left shin started too and quickly became worse than the right! Every step was like stepping into daggers. It was excruciating.

A walking day of 30kms that normally takes us 6-7 hours took us nearly 11. It was slow going, we were forced to take many breaks. I was close to tears a few times – sheer frustration (and pain). The panadol and ibuprofen wasn’t holding it. I didn’t feel like myself and I didn’t know this body I was walking in. I’d been walking so strongly and now all of a sudden my capacity was completely restricted.

At about 5pm I checked my inbox and look what I found from my dear friend Liz!

Today was dedicated to Fran.

An adventurer.

A free spirit with nomadic tendancies.

A great advocate for social justice.

A mother of four fabulous kids.

A fabulous mum (happy mother’s day).

Lover of great food.

A pretty damn good hiker with great legs.

A wondrous spirit.

Great blog writer.

A Camino walker … smashed it

I can’t tell you how beautiful it was to read Liz! It’s hard to remember how far you’ve come in the days past when you’re in the thick of pain or discomfort. You reminded me that this was just one day! I need this sometimes in normal life too.

My sister was ever so supportive. Kind soul that she is. Trying to distract me with million dollar questions and hand feeding me chocolate. White choc. of course!

As we were getting close to our Albergue me at a snail’s pace, wincing with each step (I’d even pulled the sticks out to try) a couple of young Spanish guys passed us. I thought oh gosh I hope they don’t give our room away to these guys, it’s getting late!!

As we neared the street where our Albergue was I said to Kris to go ahead and check in. When I saw her coming back out towards me from the Albergue gates I thought oh shit they’ve given our room away. My plan was to cry and ask them to take me somewhere with a bed. I wouldn’t have been turning it on either. Those tears were at the ready … I was spent!

As it happened those Spanish guys had just arrived and had been given our room … but not in time to unpack so the owner told them they couldn’t have the room. Don’t worry they were fit and moving fast they would have found a new room no problem. Never before have I been so grateful for my sister and her pre-booking of our accommodation!!

I don’t write this for you to feel worried or pity me – I’m fine. Truly. I have walked over 600 kms without a break. Something gave. Many hikers have walked through pain much earlier than me. It was my turn. We all get a turn at pain on the camino and in life. Physical and/or emotional.

That doesn’t mean it was easy, today was hard, bloody hard and that feeling of being in a different body on the trail is weird. I was so frustrated and at times disappointed with myself. But that’s pride right? And now I realise I was looking at it the wrong way. I shouldn’t let my pride make me feel less … but I should let it feel like more. I should feel proud about how far I’ve come not let my pride allow me feel disappointed in myself because I couldn’t walk at full capacity today .

Tomorrow is a new day and the one where we will walk towards Santiago. Towards a break!

Buen Camino,

Fran xx

Writing from O Coto – Day 26


It was a tough day today, I’m tired after yesterday’s big one. With just 60kms to go I’m having an early night with croquettes in bed. Tucked in since 5.30pm so yes I’m dedicating today and tonight to me! Why not, we have to know when to give to ourselves also don’t we. Wow I’ve already walked over 700kms over the past 4 weeks, raised enough to educate 24 girls and created something with my sister that’s priceless. That’s a great BIG awesome month.

As you can see it was a beautiful day for the senses. These past few day have been extraordinary in every way. Today the words are few, I’ll let the photos do the talking.

One quick food highlight … when your sister brings you custard with a Maria biscuit in bed!

More words tomorrow!

Buen Camino,

Fran xx

Writing from Portmarino – Day 25

A day to test our capabilities! Every now and then it’s good to push a little harder. Extend a little more. Today was one of those days. While decided we’d walk a marathon after 24 days of practice and we’d do it with vigour as we cracked the 100kms to Santiago mark. Along the way I was quite privileged to meet Al. Al with his kind smile and lovely words ‘everyone feels connected on the camino’.

Days on the Camino – 24

Kms – Today 44 kms.

Starting point today – Trìacastela, Spain.

End of the day – Portomarín, Spain.

Number of girls in Africa educated – 23

Total funds raised so far – $7140.00. Goal is $10 per km so $7,690.00 just $550 to go!

If you’d like to contribute you can do so here.

Frances Antonia – Do it in a dress.

Thanks for the help Kimmy from the Women Who Hike team.

Today was dedicated to – My friend Kir from Travel with Meraki. For all your support, belief and encouragement right from the beginning. Possibly dreamer even grander dreams than me! You’re a beautiful community builder Kirsty and always so gracious and kind. So lucky to call you a friend.

Accommodation – Pensión Mar a pre booked twin room (€20 each). Beautiful host, gorgeous homey feel i.e. pegs on a washing line! Such a difference. An honesty fridge, snacks and free fruit and cakes.

Food highlight – Sometimes I forget how much I eat until I start posting here.

Today was a day of big kms and frequent feeding! I love, love eggs. They weren’t on the menu but our delightful breaky cafe owner was happy to cook them for us. Protein!

On the way to lunch we found a lovely local gent selling homemade treats! Of course we sampled them as well as the cheese and we bought an orange. ‘Donativo’ as is often the case with these driveway stalls.

Another highlight was a cream of broccoli soup. The first course on the pilgrim menu. So good to taste veggies.

Word/s of the day – Vigour.

Meet Al! He’s Canadian via Irish descent. His accent is still of the Emerald Isle and his kind character also. We walked together a while and talked of the joy of the camino, the mountains we’d recently climbed and of our shared interest in social justice. We talked of the Church I spoke of yesterday at O Cebreiro. He had attended mass there and had been asked to give the priest’s homily in English. An experience he was glowing from and would treasure.

Al’s camino started in Azorga, home of a Gaudi Church and well over 200 kms from Santiago. He walks with vigour this gentleman with grandchildren aged from 4 to 18. Honestly if there’s one thing that makes my heart sing it’s meeting busy people like Al! Busy giving life a good crack. I hope to see Al in Santiago and in the meantime I’ll send him his photos … like me he has some people at home who love living his adventure with him. He can add the photos to his facebook for them.

Remember the super hikers? The Germans? I was at a crossroad today and thankfully there was a German couple! Of course their guidebook was up to date, accessible and they knew the crossroad was coming. We took the shortcut … we always choose the least kms! We’re doing enough. We had one scary incident with some unchained dogs with a ferocious bark. It seemed their bark was worse than their bite. So glad, was scared for a few moments.

I’m pleased with how well we walked today. We are finishing stronger and feeling like we could hike further. Of course not today, no further than 44kms! I popped my feet in this bliss we found at our accommodation. First one I’ve seen. So good.

Another day of walking … now I know we say waking but don’t let that make it sound easy, it’s a very physical undertaking but oh so worth it.

It was a beautiful trail to hike a long day. We spend the day on country lanes. Again walking through working farms with spectacular views and beautiful skies. The birds were particularly on song today. And Al’s right we are all connected, to each other and the environment we live in. The people we smile at, the chats we fall into, the birds and the trees they remind us of that every day.

Buen Camino,

Fran xx

A commitment to kindness, adventure, travel and charity

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