That means I’m a pilgrim. – writes Ann-Marie
It’s come as something of a surprise as I’d never been drawn to other pilgrimages throughout my life. No Croagh Patrick, no Lough Derg, no Lourdes, not even that most modern one-off journey to see John Paul II.
I couldn’t quite believe it when I found myself at the bus station in Santiago waiting to go to Sarria.
I couldn’t quite believe it when I found myself walking through the darkness on the misty Spanish mornings.
I couldn’t quite believe it when I found myself in Santiago, in front of the cathedral of St James.
The journey was a mixture of old and new. We could book our alberque stays on the internet, but the paths to reach them were medieval at times. Pilgrims talked about how much they’d spent on their shoes, but many used simple wooden staves as aids up and down the hills.
The hills….best walked in the dark so you couldn’t see how persistent they were, but by the end of the five days, I’d found my pace and just kept walking.
Gallicia is a stunning part of Spain. It rains in Santiago on average 142 days of the year – but that’s why the countryside is so green. At times I could have been in Tolymore Forest Park, or on the North Down coastal path (without the sea, of course). Actually I came home with a pilgrim’s tan – my left arm browner than the right because when you walk the Camino the sun is always to your left. Into the West.
There are fields of maize in the autumn and dark green cabbage patches. Beige cattle watch as you go past and sweet chestnuts fall so thickly that they hide the path. It’s a deep, luscious green countryside, completely different from the fragile greens of the olive trees in the hot south. The Gallician people are as sturdy as their land – they laugh a lot. They’re getting over Franco.
And their spirit is infectious. They welcome the walkers from all over the world – literally – who stay and eat and drink and move on. The communal meals at some alberques become mini United Nations summits – except everyone is equal.
And all the way, by my side, the brave and beautiful boy.
He’s written so gloriously about his experiences and explained so much of why he – and then I – kept putting one foot in front of the other I don’t need to add anything more.
But thank-you Campbell, for giving me a joyous uplifting, perfect ten days that I’ll never forget.
Honestly x x x x