Tag Archives: Camino

Camino Day 6 – Writing from Santiago de Compostela.

Hola Amigos,

If you’re here to find the link to donate that’s here Do it in a dress – Camino Finisterre.

Here I am. Santiago de Compostela. Once again but this time different. This time complete. The final day in a trek that has added over 1,000kms to my legs, sent 28 girls to school and taught me about persistence, belief, charity, honesty, fear, bravery, courage, community (shin splints) and kindness. An adventure that asked me to stand bigger than I’ve stood in many years. An experience that has left a legacy, one that will shape every step I take as I move forward into the next chapter of this long life.

Today started early! We rose at 5.30am to walk through the early hours. After a mammoth 12 hour day yesterday we hoped to avoid this afternoon’s heat. Fortunately I lucked in with another dorm night where I could sleep through. This is no mean feat with at least 15 fellow walkers sharing the room. Thankfully there were no loud snorers or late night shufflers. I also had a bottom bunk and a night without a buddy on the top bunk eases the sleep situation. I’ve grown quite fond of the shared accommodation this camino. I’ve seen it as a personal challenge to be more amongst people. Also as a solo traveller the single rooms are not as affordable as they were when I walked with my sister and shared the cost.

As early leavers we do what is courteous for our fellow ‘roomies’ by taking our packs out of the room to organise them and get ourselves ready. There are a few things I’ve done differently this trip that I think are worth sharing if you’re reading and planning a camino! I have a small 40 litre pack. It’s enough, so much better in fact. The weight is about 5kgs. I have a sleeping sheet instead of a sleeping bag – brilliant. Less clothes, a truckload less toiletries and food wise I have an energy breakfast bar for each morning as well as regular salt stick tablets.

Another beautiful walk that started with hours of darkness. We walked under a sky full of stars, the Milky Way … it was magnificent. There was no need to break our stride looking for the ‘way’ today because it is well marked in reverse from Santa Marina. I’m glad yesterday’s hill is behind us. It’s a nice feeling to know that you took a few extra kms yesterday for today, those 46 kms mean only 43 today! Only – ha ha.

Breda and I walked together to our breakfast stop some 12kms from where we started this morning. It was the village and cafe where I first sat with Christian and wrote in his diary a few days before. It’s funny walking back where you’ve been as the villages already hold moments and memories. Breda and I swapped numbers here and arranged to catch up in Santiago for dinner. While we both like walking together the track is now light and on this last day I think walking alone is calling us both.

It’s quite magical to walk alone. To take the time to relish in being on the camino. To hear the sounds, feel the villages, smell the freshness – to simply be at one with yourself and the landscape. I had that also last time with my sister. We were able to intuitively know when and how to skip into aloneness or perhaps ‘oneness’ is a better description.

There was a great sense of accomplishment building as I walked closer and closer towards Santiago. Always mindful that I hadn’t quite made it … but deep down knowing I would. I felt the warmth of every ‘Buen camino’, ‘Buenos dias’, ‘Buenos Tardes’ … where else in the world will every single person you meet smile and wish you a good day or a good walk? It’s unique and I wonder what the world would be like if this courtesy was practiced daily. Smiles and greetings, no doubt they could change the world.

I’ve walked over 1,000 camino kms and 34 camino days and naturally there have been challenges. But I keep walking and step by step I walk through it or I walk into what I need. It’s a little how I feel about life right now. The stronger we walk the better we get at surrendering to the ‘not knowing’ of what’s to come, through those harder steps life sometimes chucks in our path and into what scares us. Finding trust frees us up. And when we free ourselves we open ourselves to experiencing pure joy and isn’t the experience of joy worthy of learning to surrender.

Casa Pancho: I should have stopped here to eat but I pushed on. I was walking a part of the trail that I had walked in the first few hours of my first day. I was fresh and full of beans then. Today my feet were not so fresh! I didn’t recall that there were steep hills from here and no food stops for another seven or so kms. I had run out of food and water. Luckily I had drunk enough litres and had enough fuel on board but I was silly to walk past a lone cafe when I was feeling the need to refuel. Nevertheless, I walked on …

… And found myself here, in this tiny cafe. The first place I stopped on my way out of Santiago six days before. No signs to warn me I just walked into it with its welcoming grape and kiwi vines. The perfect last stop to have a tortilla and a cold drink before walking the last 12 or so kms into Santiago.

Physically this was the hardest part of the walk as my feet ached with each step but personally it was hugely rewarding. I knew I was nearly there. I was making the most of each step. I felt ready to finish and excited to make it to the cathedral without the trauma of last time’s injuries. I was also excited about this new feeling I was uncovering … that something was ending and creating space for a new beginning. With each step this camino, this hike for one girl was nearing its completion. This last week had given me the opportunity to finish of what I had started so bravely and provided the perfect setting in which to be able to let it go.

When I created this project I was disillusioned with travel and the form in which it’s often shared online. I wanted to know I was contributing to the travel ‘noise’ in a way that was true to her essence, that she gives and we shouldn’t use her to take from or to encourage a world that wants ‘more’ at any cost. Travel, when we become immersed in her with new people, cultures and landscapes usually encourages us to want less, to give more. I think I achieved that. I know sharing the beauty of the camino inspired others to also walk, to dream of reflection and simplicity – to take time in nature and to want to be a part of something that was contributing. We sent 28 girls to school, girls who had more chance of becoming child brides before we stepped in (or up) – that action my friends MATTERS. It matters a great deal. It was a call to action (to protect what’s vulnerable).

I hope it also encourages others to come to this beautiful part of the world and participate in walking across a country! Travel that is sustainable for the environment and for the communities it supports. Travel that you come home from feeling content and with new fresh and challenged perspectives. And lastly by standing for something along the way I hope it helped others to feel they too could be brave, that bravery is not only about hustle and being loud or by insincerely telling others how they should live or what they need at the cost of your own soul. It’s simply about being honest and having the courage to take the action you need to be true to yourself by knowing and standing for what matters to you, no matter how small or big. Tip toeing, stepping or striding forwards.

If something doesn’t ‘feel’ right it probably isn’t. It’s far more courageous to explore your own intention and live your own truth. I think that is bravery not the bullshit we are fed, a lot of that is really just packaged up marketing or the projection of someone else’s needs. Which if you also need – unreal. But if not … it’s extraneous noise getting in the way of living your own real connected life. On the trail it all feels so real … I’m looking to surround myself with even more people like that. People who are living and feeling ‘real’ and standing for something. And I’ll be tuning in with those daily camino’ism type habits that keep me moving in the right direction. Along my path, towards my truth.

Of course just as I was about to walk back into civilization, into what would be the final section of this trail I happened upon this little guy. A cotton tail rabbit. Happily munching away, not frightened of me and contented to let me stand and stare in wonder. Of course if you know me you’ll know that his presence will be taken as a sign. A coincidence of great importance. I don’t believe this bunny is my animal totem but I do believe he was there to celebrate my ending. In a read of rabbit symbolism I know why this rabbit was on my path today. How about you? Are you noticing what’s along your path? And are you taking the time to understand why? Tell me a story if you have one to share.

And then in one unexpected second this gloriousness happened. I walked up from the forest track and into a view of the cathedral of Santiago. It was one of the most surreal experiences. When you arrive in Santiago from the other more popular way you don’t see the cathedral. I was nearly there. For the last few kms I started to undo all the plans I had for arriving and decided to just go to the cathedral and sit in the square (plaza). No, I wouldn’t check in, shower and do things in any order, I’d simply arrive.

How did it pan out? Well I ran into Helen within two minutes of hitting the square. Helen is the Dutch lady I met who flew in on the same plane. We took a photo for each other. I lined up on my sore feet in my stinky hiking gear at the pilgrim’s office to get my compostella and guess who walked in? Breda of course :) after getting our pieces of paper we bought a beer and sat on the plaza together to drink it. Naturally we’d do that! She’s Irish and I’m an Aussie and a beer signals a hard day’s or in our case week’s work. It was pretty amazing to sit in the square for a while. Sure I was tired, sore and smelly but I was also contented and in the mood to linger in the moment. We talked to fellow pilgrims and met a couple who had walked twice a year for three years to finally make their way along the camino Frances into Santiago. Every story is different, but everyone has one.

This trip was a bit about me being open to people and while I quietly harbored the desire to hibernate in my hotel room, I decided to go out and share a meal with Breta to celebrate finishing. I’m glad I did as again we met pilgrims with stories. A man (72) who just walked his first camino. He plans to do one a year ‘why not’ he says ‘I can still walk’. Why not indeed?!

There’s more I could write about my camino but then I’d never get this published! Do know I ate Santiago tart for breakfast (yum) … and I did run into Helen again at the airport (camino community and coincidence are always around the next corner). And we all know I’ve been back over a week now and am actually already living in the next chapter of my story (I’m keen to live in that, many unknowns but I’m sure it’s going to be a good one).

My camino Frances is over but don’t for a minute think I’m not on the camino. Don’t for a minute think you’re not on the camino either … every step we take is along our very own personal camino, our walk through life. What a privilege. I’m trying to not waste too many seconds by not remembering that – it goes fast, gosh my kids are growing. And boy do I love being a part of and awake enough to be sharing and present in that.

Again it’s time to say buen camino dear friends. Thank you from the depths of my heart for all the support and donations along the way and a special thanks to Sherilyn for the painting you did for me. I received it at the airport and have been profoundly moved by your sentiment. Of course Sherilyn I also see this as a great coincidence as it came at exactly the right time. And I want you to know that it was the moment that officially finished this last leg of my Camino Frances (hike for One Girl), the moment it all made sense. Thank you for creating an artwork (a gift) that helped me realise the importance of being proud and aware of the legacy I will leave for my children. That my life will stand for something important because I stare at the things that didn’t sit right inside and answer the call. That’s my personal truth and I will continue to build on that … for now by remaining close to home. The equinox has blown in and her timing is quite perfect. Time now to do small things with BIG love. But we know it’s the small, simple things done with love that are really the big, brave things don’t we ;)

Talk soon.

Fran xx

Camino Day 5 – Writing from Santa Marina

Hola Amigos,

If you’re here to find the link to donate that’s here Do it in a dress – Camino Finisterre.

Sometimes I underestimate how hard something may be … it’s my nature and probably why I can take huge leaps of faith and am prone to rather BIG adventures. Lucky for me the luck of the Irish tends to be on my side! And today my luck literally came from meeting three Irish walkers from County Kilkenny.

An early start out of Muxia at 7am and the fiesta was still in full swing. Not kidding. The streets were full of people dancing and partying. They’d been there since the night before and it didn’t look like it was ending anytime soon. Oh the energy of young people. Me? I was happy to get out beyond the gaiety and into the bush under the moonlight.

As I mentioned I wasn’t super prepared given that I thought it would be a case of (simply) following the arrows backwards. Of course that sounds easy in theory except when there is a junction! And there were many. Thankfully, I had my friend Breda who I’d met the night before. She had a guide book that described the return trip and a head torch. We had to look for footprints, banana peels, toilet paper and any signs of the pilgrim path.

It was slow going as we had to take our time, not discounting any path that may be ‘the way’ and stop at each way marker. We knew we were on track when we came across this landmark, one of the longest hórreos in Galicia. A hórreo is the Galician style granary and the symbol of the Galician landscape. Every farm has one and often urban dwellings as well. They are spectacularly traditional and beautiful.

As the day got lighter we found a few more Irish hikers on the return walk to Santiago! Patrick and Catherine. They had taken three hours to find the trail out of Muxia. I think they nearly divorced in the process ;) joking. But getting lost hiking or not finding the trail is probably like navigating a car for your spouse … a recipe for niggling at each other. I really enjoyed walking with this lot and because the craic was so good we all found ourselves stopping to share breakfast together. Mine as always looked the same. Bacon and eggs. Camino routines, we all have our own.

On we walked, through the beautiful varied countryside, passing local camino characters along this ancient trail and past the 17th century church Iglesia de Santa Baia in Dumbria. Along the way we walked on from our new friends the Irish couple. They stopped for their next food break. Breda walks a bit like me, more walking less stopping. We all have different styles … it’s important to know yours, perhaps take the time to find yours but always to be walking yours (however that looks at any particular time on your camino).

We made it to Hospital. The 30km mark today and a bloody AWESOME milestone. Remember last time I was here, a few days ago? It was in the dark … I had to decide if I’d follow the guy with the head torch and go right or go left on my own. I went left. Today I returned via the trail the right (the road less travelled, cliche but true of this route). It’s also the point on the trail that someone started spray painting return arrows to Santiago. Life was about to get a whole lot easer. Well navigation wise! We still had 16kms to do today. First some chocolate and a cold drink to celebrate.

On we walked! Or perhaps plodded is a better word. The day was going to be a long one. We’d started at 7am and it was looking like a 7pm arrival in Santa Marina (SM) the village we were aiming for. It would take us just over the half way into Santiago. At about 5.30pm we stopped for another cold drink. The sun was harsh today (I drank at least five liters of water), the hottest so far and my feet were beginning to feel each step. Choice time. Do we stop here and put our feet up or make our way over the next hill towards SM?

We walked on. One of the great camino’isms for me was not to put off to tomorrow what I can do today. Especially if I’m already in flow and not harried, step by step, keep walking forward. I was hot, sweaty and yes my feet were sore but I knew I had the last 6kms in me to make it to SM. And if I’m honest I love to hike and I wanted the challenge. If I stuck with the flow I’d wake up tomorrow without a big hill to climb first up. Remember this is not a ‘normal’ camino. I’d made it to Finisterre and Muxia thus completing my walk across Spain to the sea. These last two days were purely about physical and personal challenge … could I walk back to Santiago? In a dress for One Girl?

One of the greatest sights on the camino are the plastic chairs! Seriously. When it’s time for a break or that time to hang your backpack for a night … those chairs are home. Oh man I was overjoyed to see ‘Casa Pepa’ in Santa Marina. We arrived after 12 hours of walking and there were two bottom bunks free. WINNING. There was really only time to shower, drink a beer (or two), eat a pilgrim meal and marvel at the day. We made it! We didn’t get lost and we were over half way back to Santiago. The WiFi was non existent so I excused myself from writing this blog post ;) We can’t do it all friends … can’t mess with flow. That would be counter productive. Right sleep because Breda and I have planned a 6am start tomorrow to find our way into Santiago.

Buen Camino dear ones … catching up now and a snap from dinner that I think shows my (big day) tired but happy eyes. Till tomorrow from Santiago (hopefully ;)),

Fran xx

Camino Day 4 – Writing from Muxia.

Hola Amigos,

If you’re here to find the link to donate that’s here Do it in a dress – Camino Finisterre.

Another day another 30kms! I earnt myself another Compostela today by walking from Finisterre into Muxia. A small coastal town with a long, long history! The Virgin Mary, Napoleon’ forces, Germans, Moors, Saxon’s, Norman Pirates, the remains of St. John the Apostle a few of those who it’s said have been here.

An early start with my new friend Jisca. And yes she dunks her croissant into her hot chocolate for breakfast. She also always asks when someone moves house or talks about where they live ‘how far is it to get a clossant’? She figures if she knows how long it takes you to walk, ride, drive to get a croissant she can create a picture of the kind of life, village you live in. Oh the French and their obsession with the boulangerie (bakery). Today Jisca finished her camino in Muxia … one she started in Paris six years ago. What an incredible commitment. Each holiday walking a little closer to Santiago.

The buildings in this countryside blend so beautifully with the landscape. I never tire of admiring them and taking yet another farmhouse photo. Every farm currently has at least a field of corn and a patch of some sort of cabbage. I’ve seen many a skythe being sharpened, beans laid out and onions hanging to dry. You get the sense that seasonal traditions are how life is lived here. Farmers farm as we wander through narrow lanes that pass alongside their work sheds and homes. Old metal beds are repurposed as gates and the unmistakable Galician granary’s with their unique architecture never get old. We walk under washing lines and smell the tortilla cooking (or the over-riding smell of cow shit). Sorry! did I just take away a little of the romance … there’s a lot of cow shit in Galicia.

There’s a fiesta in town and it’s party central … in Spanish style it’s only kicking off now at 9.30 pm. I ate in tonight … pasta for the long day tomorrow. I start walking back to Santiago. As luck would have it I met an Irish girl who is also attempting to walk back over two days. Some may say that’s the camino providing! I literally ran into her at the tourist office as she walked into town. Aside from the distances walking back with the arrows pointing the other way it going to be a tad challenging (my sense of direction is not always trustworthy) … I seem to enjoy sitting these for myself! I walk for the solitude and spirituality but also for the physicality. Hiking is my love and my sport.

And again I’m loving how the camino unfolds with each unknown step. The people, the landscape, life along the trail, the lessons, the challenges, the character strength you can’t not develop. My feet are beginning to hurt but any discomfort is far outweighed by how much the experience gives.

On the camino yesterday’s long gone and tomorrow is an unknown exciting promise.

Buen Camino and thanks for writing back! I love reading your thoughts. I’ll reply when I’m not walking, sorting food, washing clothes, hanging with a fellow hiker or writing here. Probably at the airport on Monday ;)

Fran xx

Camino Day 3 – Writing from Finisterre.

Hola Amigos,

If you’re here to find the link to donate that’s here Do it in a dress – Camino Finisterre.

And here I am! Finisterre. Where the Roman’s considered the world to end. If you see a sunset here and you’ll understand why. This final leg that had taken me across the country! I’ve literally walked across Spain.

I hiked out early under the moonlight! It was something … spectacular. It was much darker than yesterday and I may have walked a bit slower knowing there was a pilgrim with a head torch 200 metres behind. Walking in the month where daylight savings is ending – a head torch is definitely worth packing.

BUT! So you know I practice what I preach … I stood at a crossroad this morning. Finisterre to the left and Muxia to the right. I will hike to both this trip so the order didn’t matter. The ‘head torch’ pilgrim was going to Muxia. Do I take the scarier path on my own in the dark or do I follow the head torch? I nearly followed the torch and then I turned walked my own walk. Fear did not make my decision. I think when your ‘adulting’ you need to know when fear is stealing your freedom. Somewhere along the way we get some conditioning and it’s nice to stare in the face and consider if we need it. (Fear of security, change, image, failing, control, trust ya da ya da.)

I walked 15kms without a soul in sight until I hit the town of Cee where I stopped for breakfast. It’s quite something this contrast on the camino – to walk hours through the country side and then all of a sudden to be wandering through a charming village. How about those bench seat tiles!

At the 28km or so mark there she was … the ocean. Staying on the path was not a consideration, not for me and not for any pilgrim walking the camino. Zero consideration was given … taking your shoes off to walk with your feet in the water was instinctive. A celebration of feeling alive and connected with nature. Did I even mention pagans once walked here to worship.

Ok so for those of you who love the people I meet along the way story … here you go. Once in Finisterre I found a bed at an albergue. I have to say (and there’s a photo up there, it’s dark I just took it) this is a luxury. That’s my bed with the light. Each bed has its own light, power supply and locker. Also sheets, a towel and a doona are supplied. No chance of bed bugs here. And all for €13 per night.

Sorry digressing. After securing a bed I walked in to get my Finisterre Compostela and who do you think I saw? Yes, you’re correct – Christian. We had a beer and and chat about our walk. He hadn’t yet found someone to write in his diary. And then … Jisca walked past. She was the French lady from the pilgrim meal at A Pena. She joined us and of course wrote in the diary.

Eventually a German girl from the next table also joined and also wrote in the diary! And then three super interesting Portuguese women sitting at the table behind us joined the conversation. They had just completed a different camino – the primitive way. I WISH I’d hiked a day with these adventurous women! There are some people you meet that you wish lived in your hood or that you’d see on the trail the next day so you could talk more. These three were those people.

I watched the sunset on today across the Atlantic. For many that sunset signifies the end of the camino. Not yet for me … I’m only halfway. Tomorrow I’m meeting Jisca early to begin walking to Muxia together. She started her camino in Paris seven years ago and each year she does a little more. She also speaks a number of languages, I don’t know much about her but I like that we ran into each other again … I’m interested to hear some of her stories. Tomorrow.

Buen camino friends,

Fran xx

Camino Day 2 – Writing from Logoso.

Hola Amigos,

If you’re here to find the link to donate that’s here Do it in a dress – Camino Finisterre.

When we travelled our big camper trip last year I remember writing about how I was growing strength. Growing by running in each new town down unfamiliar paths in unfamiliar countries. I didn’t want to be scared anymore. It has taken me a long time to realise what facing fear means. But I’m getting a grip on mine … the more I practice the more I understand where it’s coming from. It takes a lot of our energy this fear, being scared caper … and honestly who has spare energy to give away?

Like anything we don’t learn without trying, living, practicing. Holy crap look at me now. Solo hiking in the darkness of the morning, on an unfamiliar trail, in an unfamiliar country – IN a dress. True, there were a few people about, people who had already left the albergue but in this morning’s darkness I walked alone. Alone without fear.

Hmm perhaps that’s the theme of this camino? What am I scared of? What is it in life that I’m wasting my energy on because deep down fear is driving how I act, respond or make decisions.

I walked to my first coffee stop this morning at the 4.5km mark. Christian the German hiker I sat next to last night’s pilgrim dinner was there. I ordered my cafe con leche and sat with him. It would have been easier to sit on my own but hey it’s the camino and I’m doing that thing where I make an effort. It turns out Christian has kept a diary and each day he asks someone to write some words in it. He has entries from all over the world and I think a wonderful book of both his and others thoughts documented – his camino experience. Clever! Obviously I could never do it … ask someone everyday, ha ha no way I have trouble enough asking for what I need (there’s some scared for you right there). When he asked me to write in it of course I was awkward but I decided hey what does it matter! I wrote a page.

We ended up walking the entire day and in true German super hiker style he walked fast and referred often to his guide book often ;) I now have a grip on the distances and towns along the rest of this trail. In one town we walked past Skye from yesterday. It’s happening, the random familiarity and coincidences that the camino brings. We talked a lot of the day and while part of me missed the solitude of walking alone it was nice to share some camino thoughts. And our walking pace matched.

At the 32km mark I decided I was done and stopped for the night. Christian walked on, he’s walking 45kms today. I was first to arrive at the Albergue (€12 per night/€9 three course pilgrim meal) which is always a bonus because I got to choose the first bed! I chose the only non bunk bed. I also got to indulge in some introvert time after the jobs were done. It’s always the same routine shower, rinse the clothes, roll the feet, offload photos, write in my journal … eat a banana sometimes a beer although not today, I want an early night.

When it was time for dinner I ventured out into the cafe. The albergue is now starting to fill. I noticed a lady I was sure was on my plane from Amsterdam … we got chatting and shared a table for dinner. She had walked the camino from Porto in Portugal last year and is also here to finish the walk the the coast from Santiago. Actually she is from Amsterdam and we’re on the same flight home. We will probably have a coffee and a debrief together at the airport on Monday. I had an early dinner and as I was finishing Skye walked in! There’s a big group of pilgrims but I’m ‘people’ spent. I need some introvert time. So here I am updating y’all and getting cosy on my own for an early night.

That’s the thing about the camino and challenging ourselves to do scary things and face what makes us nervous. We can’t change ourselves and become someone we are not … that will never work. It’s about striking the balance. Knowing where we need to try a bit harder, do a little more, or perhaps a little less, the areas we need to put some effort in but ALWAYS keeping it at a pace we can manage. Walking our own walk. Building our strength, our character.

Buen camino,

Fran xx