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#AtoZChallenge P for Pilgrim

April 18, 2018

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge is an annual challenge put out to bloggers to publish a post from A-Z every day in April, except for Sundays. April 1 is A, and so on throughout the month. The theme I have chosen for 2018 is The Story Of Me

In 2014, I was a pilgrim for six weeks, as I walked the Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage Walk   across Spain. The start of this epic pilgrimage trail is at St. Jean Pied De Port, in the South of France. It took me across the Pyrenees, and across Spain to Santiago. I then chose to walk on to the coast Finisterre, which in ancient times was known as the end of the world. The distance all up, including some detours along the way that were recommended as worth taking, was 1218k.

I started the walk with a friend, but it soon became obvious that our ways of tackling the Camino were different. We never walked together at all, but met up every night for the first two weeks, until we decided that it was too difficult. We decided to go our separate ways and catch up at the end. From then on, I really enjoyed walking by myself with no dead lines. l could stop whenever I wanted for the night without the pressure of knowing I had to get to a particular village.

To walk the Camino traditionally, it is necessary to use the albergue accommodation, which is very inexpensive and often only a donation is asked for. An albergue is a very basic hostel type accommodation, often run by municipal councils. Sometimes albergues are actually monastaries which are still operating today. There are also a network of private albergues that provide better conditions that the basic albergue. All that is needed, to stay in an albergue, is a Pilgrim Passport that is stamped at villages along the way.

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I had read up on the albergues before leaving home, but I hadn’t realised how challenging they would be for me. I am used to staying in fairly upmarket hotels when I travel, so the albergues, although quite good, were a shock to my system. Some nights, I would find myself sleeping in a room with 70 people, male and female. I will never forget the night I was given a single bed that was pushed up against another single bed. Of course, knowing my luck, there was a man sleeping in that bed. I didn’t get much sleep that night.

But having said that, albergues are great place to meet other pilgrims from all over the world. I soon got into the routine of leaving early in the morning, to arrive early in the afternoon, so that I could get to the showers before most of the pilgrims arrived. This way a perfectly clean shower was able to be used. This made a huge difference. The early afternoon finish also meant that I had time to look around the village.

After about a week, I gave no thought at all to albergues, and the discomfort, and just revelled in walking for hours everyday. I was fortunate not to have a single blister or problem with my feet along the way. I had done a huge amount of training and that training definitely paid off, meaning that my feet were well hardened before starting.

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Every day of the Camino was a huge highlight, but one day in particular was unforgettable. I was actually dreading the first two days as the Pyrenees had to be crossed.  For months, during training, I couldn’t stop thinking about these days. I have long term issues with my knees, and was afraid that they would cause serious problems, maybe even causing me to have to pull out. Day 1 finished with no problem at all, except for it being a steady climb with the heart rate up all day. On day 2, the higher we climbed, the more difficult the climb and  the worse the weather became, with rain, drizzle and very light snow.  When I made it to the top that day I was really elated and so proud of myself. I have written previously about my Memories of day 2. Whenever I think of my Camino experience, I think of this day.

To me, it was such a joy to have the opportunity to just walk, and to do it alone, and for six weeks. At the time, I was the owner of a busy cafe, so day after day of quiet time was a luxury. It gave me the opportunity to reflect, and by the end of the Pilgrimage, I was able to give thanks for my life and my life experiences, whether good or bad.

Many walk the Camino for religious reasons, but my reasons for walking were purely physical. The Camino was my celebration of turning 60. It made more sense to me to celebrate in this way, rather than throw a party.  Even though I had no idea of what I was going to think about, or reflect on, while walking, by the end of the Camino I realised that I had accepted all that had happened in the past and was open to whatever opportunities the future might hold.

Below are the certificates I received for completing the Camino. Note the way Jennifer is written in Spanish. The second certificate shows the distance travelled as 775k. This certificate only measures the distance to Santiago de Compostella. There is another certificate which can be obtained at Finisterre. I was unable to get that certificate, as the office is only open on certain days. My father passed away on my second last day, so I needed to get to Madrid to catch a plane home asap after I finished, leaving no time to hang around waiting for the the office to be opened.

Please visit again to see my story unfold. 

Jennifer

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12 Comments
  1. A terrific achievement. Jennifer in Spanish helps one to see the link to the name Guinevere

    https://ayfamilyhistory.com/2018/04/18/p-is-for-penelope/

  2. That is an amazing amount of walking Jennifer. To do it at 60 and to do it alone are also really remarkable achievements. The Camino trail certainly leaves its mark on anyone who has walked it and I always enjoy reading the stories of all the walkers who have conquered it.

    Leanne | http://www.crestingthehill.com.au
    P for Practice makes Perfect

  3. Antoinette Truglio Martin permalink

    Congrats on your achievement. I walked 60 miles during my spring break with my daughter. I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer and i needed to prove I was strong and my girl was willing to help.
    check out https://antoinettetrugliomartin.com/2018/04/16/o-is-for-octopus/

  4. Hi Jen, I read this yesterday when I wasn’t feeling that well and it was certainly an inspiring post. I would love to do something like this but alas my hubby isn’t keen and I don’t feel right spending money on an overseas trip that he isn’t part of. A wonderful way to celebrate turning 60 and certainly a learning experience for you. xx

    • My partner isn’t interested in this kind of thing either Sue so I understand how you feel about not going without him. I feel exactly the same.

  5. Wow, I love the fact you did this for your 60th! I have friends and relatives who have done this walk and all say it’s a life changing and enhancing walk. Great post for P 🙂

  6. Shirley Corder permalink

    I too love the fact that you did this to celebrate turning 60! Well done you! I would love to do something like this but I know it’s beyond my grasp now, both physically and financially. I’ll be back to read more. Stopping by from the #AtoZChallenge Road Trip! Loving my Fitbit

  7. That’s incredible. And what a joyous thing to look back upon, knowing you did it, and finished well.

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