The Revd Roxanne Hunte, Priest-in-Charge of South Norwood, Holy Innocents and South Norwood, St Mark writes…
Wednesday 29 March
14 pilgrims set off from their various homes to gather at London Gatwick North Terminal to board a 6am flight to Santiago. Everything went well though hanging around outside the stairs before boarding the plane was new to me.
We arrived in Santiago safe and sound and I was well-rested having had a nap during the 90 minutes or so flight from LGW. We were greeted by lovely weather and the equally lovely Alissa, our guide. We headed off by coach to visit the monastery in Samos. We enjoyed a very informative and enlightening tour by one of its 8 monks. Following the tour, we had lunch where we received our Fresco’s welcome pack and all we needed for our Self-Guided Walk to Santiago – this included our ‘Passports’ in which we would collect stamps at churches, bars, hotels, etc. as we passed through the various town, villages and regions. The aim was to collect at least 3 stamps per day.
We then travelled on to Sarria to rest for the night, before we begin the first stage of our walk the next day. We did have a little walk around the shops to get a few last minute stuff – guided by Alissa.
Day 1 Walking the Camino
We literally ‘climbed out’ of our hotel via some very long and steep stairs. I guess it did wonders for the ‘glutes’ which were being strengthened.
We walked our 22.3km to Portomarin as we plodded through steep inclines and descents while enjoying the lovely countryside. Our guide walked with us as far as Barbadelo, the first 5km then we were on our own with our new friends, ‘the yellow arrows’ which kept us going in the right direction.
As we were spending each night in a new place, I guess we were learning how to live out of a suitcase in a new way – packing rucksacks with essentials for the day while leaving the rest in our cases to be transported ahead of us to the next place where we would spend the night.
Day 2 Walking the Camino
Today we would walk 25km to Palas de Rei. Well, we walked through heavy rain and hail storms and as we neared our hotel for the night, some of us were asking ourselves, why did we agree to walk this Camino? That’s because 20 out of the 25kms we walked through the rain and hail – some were partially wet, others were wholly wet as the rain soaked through all the layers. We stayed at a B&B that night. The accommodation was fine but there weren’t enough radiators on which to dry all those wet clothes. Anyway, after a good night’s sleep, we were ready for the first of the shorter walks.
Day 3 Walking the Camino
Today we walked 14.4km to Melide. It felt good to give the feet a rest. The Scouts arrived around 1.30pm – having set off at 9am from Palas de Rei – and the others around 30minutes later or so. No rain today, hurray! Melide is a lovely little place. While visiting a church today, I dropped my phone which resulted in a smashed screen – I could no longer see what’s on the screen though I could hear the phone receiving messages, etc. I thought I might get it repaired in Melide but the manager at the Charlie Chaplin restaurant said that the shop would only send off the phone to Madrid to be repaired ðŸ˜„.
So, onwards and upwards.
Day 4 Walking the Camino
Again, we set off for today’s 14.3km walk from Melide at our now usual 9am and made good time to Arzua via Stone Bridge, Boente, Castaneda and Ribadiso de Baixo – to give a flavour of points along the Camino. I can’t believe, we arrived at our accommodation, Casa Teodora slightly earlier than yesterday, having stopped for coffee twice and stopped at a church also. We must be getting the hang of this walking lark. So, in the future, walking from South Norwood to Croydon and back should be a doddle, while carrying my shopping in a rucksack.
Day 5 Walking the Camino
Today’s walk is 17.6km to O Pino. We started off at our usual time and brisk-ish pace. As we walked those undulating hills and valleys with various levels of steepness and rocky surfaces, we also enjoyed the countryside and farming animals in the way. Lots of local people weren’t around as I guess the farming-day has a different schedule to ours. However, those whom we met along the way were always courteous and of course wished us ‘buen camino’.
We met lots of other prilgrims along the Camino, from various parts of the UK, USA, Spain, France, Norway, Hawaii, Finland. There were walking quickly, slowly, even-paced as solo, groups of two, families with small children, groups of students – they were all there. It was great to catch up at various points with these new ‘friends’ of ours.
By the time, the Scouts finally arrived at O Pino, we were convinced that today’s walk was more than 17.6km. Turned out it was actually 18.3km which felt to me like 20km. Maybe the ‘short’ walks the days before lulled us into a false sense of security – who knows?
After long hot baths and a rest, we later enjoyed a lovely dinner and a good night’s sleep to be ready for the last day of walking.
Day 6 Walking the Camino
Last day of walking, hurrah! And it’s an almost 21km walk to Santiago where we will end at the Cathedral de Compostela then to the Pilgrim’s office for the final stamp in our passports! We were quite excited on this last day as we set off from O Pino around 8.45am - that’s how keen we were to finish. Despite the aches no pains, we were determined to finish even if we had to crawl into Compostela but luckily, no one did.
We walked and walked and walked. We didn’t stop for lunch as we couldn’t find the recommended restaurant where we wanted to have lunch. We made stops to collect stamps, have coffee and loo breaks, then plodded on.
We were really excited as we got to the sign which says Santiago – see our joyful faces in the picture. A few Kms later, we arrived at the end of the Camino with joyful hearts, weary feet and a real feeling of ‘Well done us’ as we thanked God for journeying with us on this Camino.
Our personal Caminos were completed in various ways – most walked all of it, others part of it, one pilgrim got ill on the day we arrived and couldn’t walk any of it.
As we worshipped together every morning, fellowshipped together during the Camino and in the evening, and celebrated Mass on Sunday 2 April with Mother Angela Gbebikan, we are truly thankful for the experience, whether the terrain was what went was a robust and envisaged or not or we thought it a romantic idea at the beginning. It was robust and demanding Camino during which, corporately and individually, we looked for a deeper encounter with God.
We completed our last day by attending the Pilgrims 7.30pm Mass at The Cathedral de Compostela where thanks to Mother Angela’s gift to her pilgrims, we were treated in fine style to incense from that enormous and beautiful thurible swinging to and fro over us, as we received yet another blessing on this journey.
With grateful thanks to Mother Angela Gbebikan for organising this Pilgrimage with Fresco Tours. For her company and that of her wonderful parishioners from St Michael’s and All Angels Beddington.