All posts by Greg Scheaffer

pilgrimage

Clare Batty, USA

“I was stunned to find my mom and brother both vomiting and fainting with weakness on the bathroom floor. It was day three of our pilgrimage on the Camino, and we had just arrived at an albergue in Frómista after walking 25 km that day from Castrojeriz–the most distance in a day we had attempted so far.

We really thought we could push ourselves, but muscular overexertion had led to lactic acidosis and acute illness for my mom and brother. Not surprisingly, some sympathetic peregrinos stepped up to assist us by providing cold water and hot tea. As the only one still able-bodied in our party, I took responsibility to find a private room in this unfamiliar Spanish town, temporarily leaving my family to be safely cared for at the albergue. With tired muscles, I gingerly walked along the quiet streets to find a nearby casa rural. Luckily, using my advanced Spanish skills, the hospitalera warmed to me (I’m sure she could sense my anxiety) and offered me a good room where I was able to help my family recover. I enlisted some fellow American peregrinos to help transfer our gear and support the invalids across the little town to the serene hostel. One peregrino named Mike even shared a little prayer of healing over my family. It was a small moment of compassion that still moved and consoled us. We never saw Mike or his family again after that encounter, but I will always be grateful for their kindness.

Despite my own exhaustion and anxiety for my family, I embraced my unanticipated role as caretaker. Lying on the floor between the single beds, I was up all night repositioning my mom and brother. In their incredibly weak state, I would hold up their heads to sip cups of tea and even had to transfer them onto the toilet when needed. Seeing them in this incredibly weak state greatly concerned me. I asked myself, ‘Will they recover? Should we continue on this arduous journey? Where do we go from here?’

Ultimately, after two days of rest, we decided to continue on our pilgrimage, and try to persevere. My family and I had to reconsider our strengths and limitations as we continued our journey on the Camino. Even after this difficult speed bump, we remained steadfast with our goal to walk to Santiago.

With lighter packs and shorter distances per day, we were able to continue hiking, and finally reached Santiago de Compostela many days later. As I reflect on that trip, I see that it was both a geographic and an internal journey allowing us to find our own strengths and weaknesses within ourselves and as a family unit. It took teamwork and leadership. The pilgrimage tested our physical strength and mental endurance, and without the support from one another and other pilgrims, it would have been nearly impossible. In a foreign environment, we found it crucial to connect with new people in a respectful and understanding way. I am truly grateful for these encounters I made along ‘the Way’ that continue to inspire me on my personal life journey.”

– Clare Batty, USA

Compostella

Angela Lucas, England

“The Camino de Santiago de Compostella, or the Way of St. James, is an ancient pilgrimage route in the Galician mountains of northern Spain. It is many things to different people. Physically, emotionally and spiritually it is an amazing adventure that tests endurance and faith.

Beginning in the French Pyrenees the route stretches across the mountains to the city of Santiago de Compostella in north western Spain. The total journey can take between 5-7 weeks. My daughter, Sharon, and I chose to do the last 100 kms of the route and originally estimated it would take 13 days. However we completed in 9 days at an average of 10 miles a day.

Our Camino had taken two years of on and off planning. Initially meant as a celebration of my eightieth birthday, family bereavements meant we waited for two years. This gave us, and me in particular, time to research and choose equipment carefully. Having type 2 diabetes taking care of my feet was the priority. It took time, and mistakes, to find suitable walking shoes and, having bought them, for three months I wore them almost continuously, even in the house, until the shoes and I were well adjusted to each other!. Following advice I used the Vaseline and two pairs of socks method. First smothering my feet well with a thick layer of Vaseline I wore a pair of hiking socks liners then traditional marino wool hiking socks. This worked well and I had no blisters

There is a well-developed system of hostels, albergues, catering for the thousands of pilgrims. We walked from Sarria to Santiago and in this stretch albergues were about ten miles apart. They vary in size but commonly are large rooms equipped with bunks. Washing facilities may be very basic and most have showers. We stayed in one small albergue accommodating just eight people. Another had fifty bunks but only one toilet and communal showers. On some days, tired after a long day walking and not managing to find an albergue nearby my daughter and I stayed in a Pension with our own room – and toilet!

To my surprise the average pilgrim was between fifty to seventy years old. Many we met were at a reflective time in life dealing with personal issues. There were people grieving after a death. One man whose wife had recently died, carried a red candle which he would light at each overnight stop. Some pilgrims were dealing with serious illness but did not want that to define them.

There was something surreal about walking the ancient route. Removed from the familiarity of everyday life people sometimes walked alongside others telling their stories and explaining their very personal reasons for doing the pilgrimage.. We heard stories of heartache, loneliness illness and loss.

A group of seventeen year old college students from Ireland were fun to meet. Their neat, tidy looks were soon changed as they had to walk through mud that reached their knees. But they did not moan, not even the girls who had started out with pretty pink trainers that soon got trashed in the mud.

An Australian lady, doing a gap year in Europe, heard about the Camino, thought it was a good idea, bought a pair of boots and the next day started walking. Without sensible preparation it only took four days for her to have palm-sized infected blisters that needed daily antibiotic injections.

We only met two English people, others were from Germany, Ireland, Australia, Italy, Sweden, Denmark and Bolivia

Firstly the challenge is physical. Guide books explained the terrain was hilly – it depends on what is meant by hilly! Walking in the mountains meant continually walking steeply uphill. We even walked up the side of a narrow waterfall. Thick black churned up mud took some negotiating. On our first day, trying to hold onto a tree while finding a firm footing I slipped full length in the mud. I broke the straps on my front-pac and redesigned the look of my clothes. The mud soon dried, we bought a new pac and the bruise on my hip is fading.

We heard tales of twisted knees, sprained ankles and infected blisters. Yet people dusted themselves down, bandaged themselves up and just continued.

The journey started long before we left home and at times I was anxious. I am not heroic or athletic and knew that I was taking on something bigger than myself. Just how big that would turn out to be only became obvious when I saw the first steep hill and deep trench of mud. Wanting to keep the backpack weight down my daughter and I had weighed everything on the kitchen scales – even our sox – choosing the options that weighed less.

We were so grateful to have been careful about the weight we would carry. Aiming for four kilos, the actual weight including water was nearer to six kilos. . For three days the temperature reached 80 degrees but we still had to walk carrying our backpacs. I poured water over my head to try and cool down.

We also used small front pacs. It was a convenient way to carry things used all the time. Things like water, paracetamol, tissues, camera and phone.

I could never have done the Camino without the help of my amazing daughter.
I am very independent and don’t like being helped. However I soon learned that to accept a helping hand when the trail was tricky was sensible. It was Sharon, who can speak Spanish, who did the hostel finding and ordered our meals and taught me how to order coffee in the evening cafes. The Camino showed me that I am capable of stretching myself way beyond my own limits. This is a lesson to take into other areas of life.

Would I do this again? I would love to, but won’t. Its an experience that can’t be replicated. However, there is a gentler route starting in Portugal. I would like to meet people who have started their pilgrimage there. It could be a possibility and I have started mentioning the idea to friends.

There were moments that had us helplessly laughing. My daughter was very proud to be taking her ‘old’ mother on the Camino. I would hear her saying to other pilgrims or to Spanish people “Madre mia…” and knew that she was about to say, again, “My mother is eighty two”
Sturdy men, usually American, wanted to have their photograph taken with us. One man, telling his friends he wanted to go home, that it was all too hard, was persuaded to continue when he heard about ‘that lady who is eighty two’.

When we arrived at one coffee stop, two Italian ladies came rushing to meet us. They smothered me with hugs and kisses, saying “We heard you were coming, congratulations, you are very welcome!” Well, Sharon and I laughed so much. I felt like an ancient monument.

The journey’s final steps are taken when walking into the ancient Cathedral of Santiago de Compostella. For me this was the culmination of an awesome pilgrimage. It was a sacred time of worship and of sharing in the Pilgrims Mass alongside people who had pushed themselves beyond fear, anxiety, blisters, wounds, and even serious illness and heartache. Nobody is free from pain on the Camino.

In the Christian tradition, a special part of the usual Sunday morning church service is a moment when people greet each other. Usually they will say ‘God bless you’ or ‘The peace of Christ’.

In the amazing Santiago cathedral as the priest announced the moment to share the Peace of Christ, it gave a whole new depth of meaning to the privilege of sharing the meaning of Christ. Pilgrims who were tired, elated and humbled hugged each other and even wept together at the awesome privilege of travelling a unique journey alongside very special people, yet ordinary people, who were true travel companions

Each pilgrim carried a large scallop shell on the back of the rucksac; it represents the changed life experienced on The Way and the realisation that each pilgrim would return home a different person. I came home fitter, slimmer, somehow different and realising that it has been possible to stretch myself beyond anything I thought possible. We did it!”

– Angela Lucas, England

Camino experience

Maria Macri, Australia

“I have dealt with a lot of changes in my life over the past 15 years. I moved out of Sydney years ago, but after my marriage ended, I moved back home. That was a tough transition. I felt stressed, and I really felt like I needed something to help me relax and find myself. So I began thinking about an overseas trip. My cousin Daniela asked if I might be interested in the Camino. At the time, I knew nothing about it. So, she suggested a few books to read, but what hooked me was the Martin Sheen movie, ‘The Way.’ I was sold and ready to go. I needed more of a challenge in my life and I really felt the Camino would provide that for me. With me on board, Daniela, I and two other cousins, Manuela and Barb left for St. Jean Pied de Port, off on our Camino experience.

As it was with anyone who’s started the Camino without much experience, the beginning of the trip was difficult. I had to get used to walking those long distances every day, dealing with the changing terrain, and coping with the snoring (and the lack of sleep as a result). It was hard to get into a groove for a while. Things did change though, in an unexpected way. One of my cousins was unfortunately only able to join for 2 weeks of the journey – it was sad to see her leave midway through the Camino as she really talked me through the tough times at the start. But, in the end, her departure was a good thing. I found my feet without my confidante.

The turnaround in my Camino came from our time at the donativo albergue in Grañon. Housed inside a church, It took in pilgrims on a donations basis. There’s no fee to stay, there’s a big communal meal included, and pilgrims make a donation if they can. My cousin Manuela suggested this place as it would be a different experience from the normal albergues we had stayed at thus far. It was a turning point for me because one of the hospitaleros – the volunteers working at albergues – there said something very significant to me. I hadn’t had a chance to speak to him at all upon our arrival and through much of our evening there, but he must have observed the dynamics of our group during our stay. During our time of reflection in the church after dinner, out of the blue the hospitaliero came over to talk to me, and said, ‘You need to make this Camino your own. It will help you be more strong and affirmative. Just by observing the group, you seemed to be struggling a bit, and if you want to make the most of it, you need to make the move to do so.’

After thinking about this advice, on many days I started to walk ahead of or behind people just to find my own time and space to myself. If that hospitalero didn’t say anything I would have just kept going the same way I’ve gone in the past, and my Camino would’ve been completely different. Around this time, I met Alberto, a Spanish pilgrim who spent 4-5 days with me and my cousins, and was a great help and a godsend at times. In one example, he suggested that we catch a bus into Burgos, both to avoid the more industrial path that led into Burgos, and to give our bodies a little rest. As we arrived into San Juan de Ora the bells are ringing our welcome. Here we are told of a bus you can catch into Burgos, though it was another 5km or so down the road, which we did not want to walk. As we are discussing the next plan of action miraculously a taxi pulls up behind us. Alberto starts to negotiate with the driver to take us into Burgos yeah! What a relief.

The food at shared meals was always great, but more importantly, it really brought us peregrinos together as a community. It’s the way life should be. And over time you meet more and more people, and recognize more and more faces during the weeks-long walk. We reached Santiago in about 5 weeks, and I was so grateful there to run into so many of those people I met along the way that I didn’t expect to see again. I try to remain in contact today with a lot of those great people I met. Talking to my Camino friends is something that brings me back to the experience. I really enjoyed the trip once I found my feet. My only major issue was weight of my bag. I honestly couldn’t tell you how much it weighed, but boy was it heavy. I may have packed a bit too much. Often, people would see that my bag was heavy and would offer to help me by carrying it for a bit… but the bag was my burden to carry.

After Santiago, we wanted to see Finisterre, but sadly, time was not on our side to walk there. We took a cab there so we could see the coast and the ‘end of the world.’ Our driver was a very nice man who took the time to show us around one of the villages before Finisterre. He asked me if I would come back next year and do the Camino with him, and at that point I said ‘No way! I’m done and that’s it.’ After 5 weeks, I was done walking! We enjoyed Finisterre and on leaving Santiago, Manuela and Barb went off to Switzerland and I still had another 6 weeks of travel through Europe. But, after being at home for a week, one day I thought to myself, ‘what am I doing here? I’d rather be walking!’ And now, I’m constantly thinking of when my next walk will be.”

– Maria Macri, Australia

Desi Phillips, Australia

“I decided to do the Camino with my husband Larry in May 2014 after he finally sold me on what seemed to be a crazy idea. I mean, it truly is crazy to think about walking 700+ kilometers in a relatively short time frame. To be honest with you, I went on the Camino because my husband wanted to. I went into the journey not expecting to enjoy it. I didn’t think I’d be able to do it either, and I was a little concerned about what I would do if a day came when I just had to stop and couldn’t walk any further. But I thought I could always take a cab or bus to the next place and wait for Larry to catch up on foot.

But over time, I discovered that it’s all a matter of the mind. If you say you can do the Camino, then you will do it! Take it one step at a time. Day by day. The Camino did get easier for me. I walked at my own pace, maybe not always with Larry, but it was still exhilarating to walk over these mountains and such long distances. At the top of each summit or at the end of the day, I was just sitting there thinking ‘Look at me! How good am I? Look at that mountain!’ I will say I did learn why humans have a ribcage. I’m pretty sure that my heart was beating so hard and fast so many times on the Camino that it would’ve fallen out if it wasn’t for those ribs!

It’s crazy to think about all these wonderful people you meet on the Camino. You don’t know them since they’re not a part of your life like your friends, schoolmates or family – you don’t always understand what drives them. But they become very, very important. Occasionally, you’ll walk with people who don’t speak a common language and yet somehow, you’re able to have a conversation for 3-4 hours with them. At the end of this conversation, even if it’s a short 15 minute chat, they’ve changed you. You get a different view of different nationalities and opinions. At the end of the days, you’re sitting in the albergue enjoying wonderful food and their company preparing for the next day. You’ve been through the same thing. Maybe all these different people aren’t so different after all. Maybe we shouldn’t always be focused on how we’re different. Still, ‘preparing for the next day’ sometimes becomes difficult with all the snoring in the albergues! One night, I thought the noise was in my head, but luckily I wasn’t going crazy – it was just the snoring. I remember one small albergue we got to with 12-15 beds. This one man walked in that a few of the people the room knew from before. They were excited to see him and he was just as happy to see all these people he had met over the past few days. But, one girl in there looked at him and said, ‘Oh no, not you!’ and I understood exactly why. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, but needless to say, that was a long night.

While the scenery and people were great, I really enjoyed walking from town to town and just being in the moment. I often found myself taking pictures of the doors and wondering, ‘What’s behind these doors? What’s the history of this building?’ The history on the Camino is just incredible! And I found the spiritual aspect important. Before the Camino, I heard that many people hike the Camino to try and become closer to God. I’m Christian and religious, but I’ll admit I don’t always go to church. So, I was walking around Spain and trying to connect spiritually along the way. I had this realization. I get it. I get why Jesus gave up his life for the children of the world. I really do. I’m not trying to compare the Camino to Jesus’ trials but I was hurting both physically and mentally – blisters, tendinitis, fighting with myself – and I was just beat. But, as much as I hated it, if you were to ask me to do the Camino again for my children, I would do it again in a heartbeat! You wouldn’t have to ask me twice. It makes sense why people do such hard and difficult things for the ones they love.

The Camino is truly a wonderful experience. It’s life changing. The people you meet can become great friends. When I talk to them, it brings up these feelings. I guess you could say it’s the sense of accomplishing something together. But, it’s much more than that. You just can’t explain it. The Camino brings an incredible and inexplicable feeling. Before the Camino, I don’t think I would’ve ever considered doing it ONCE, let alone twice, but the Camino is drawing me back. My husband and I are looking forward to our next Camino adventure in May 2016. We can’t wait to see what’s in store!”

– Desi Phillips, Australia

Camino

Larry Phillips, Australia

“I am a firm believer in the Camino being different for each person and each time you do it. ‘It’s your Camino, do it how you want to’ is what I tell people. The start of my Camino was after I completed the Oxfam Trailwalker, where my team and I had to walk 100 km in 28 hours. In the words of Martin Sheen, ‘it was a bloody long walk.’ But, I managed it and wanted more. I wanted to see what this old body could actually do, so I was considering walking the Camino. I had been telling my friends this for a while and everyone thought I was crazy, including my wife Desi. Funny enough, when I got home from the Oxfam Trailwalker, I decided to flip on the TV and lo and behold, ‘The Way’ was on and I took that as my sign to go on the Camino.

I was lucky enough to convince my wife to walk with me. She was reluctant at first, but eventually we were on our way in May 2014. Primarily, we wanted to find out what it was and to see if we could survive the journey. Neither of us felt we were mentally, spiritually, or physically strong so we had many challenges, from just organising ourselves and getting over the fear of what we were doing, to learning to understand and have belief in ourselves.

Our Camino got off to a rough start. I have had issues with cramps for a long time and the Camino wasn’t any exception. I got sick and had cramps the very first day. We had sent a bunch of gear – including our medicine – forward to Roncesvalles since, like so many, we had packed too much. It got so bad that we considered cancelling the trip. Some time after Orrison, when the trail was still going uphill and seemed endless, like a desert mirage, there was a van with cheap hot chocolate, food, and bananas. These people always seemed to come out of nowhere, but always seemed to come at the right time, some of them selling at perfectly good prices, and others just giving food away for any donation you care to offer. One time during the trip I asked one of these perfectly-placed gentleman where this generosity came from and he said, ‘the universe.’ Something like that really makes you wonder about life.

Eventually I managed the aches and pains, not just with medicine, but thanks to some of the amazing things I was experiencing. I remember sitting in a church ruin and wondering how many pilgrims have walked past here before me. On the Camino, you’re in the essence of the old town just for a moment, but there’s so much history behind it. The people who live there, they don’t see the peregrinos as a hindrance or a curse, but more as a blessing. And then there’s the people.

People on the Camino are willing to share everything, whether that’s food, drink or simply knowledge. I had blisters from the get-go and didn’t know how to treat them. But, someone was kind enough to teach me how to treat them and share some supplies to do so. Beyond these acts of kindness, what really helped me get through it all was the interesting people you meet along the way. We’re walking with people with the same goal, and the idea is ‘if they can do it, so can I.’ So many of us were going through the exact same problems, which in a way helped to bring everyone closer. But you never know just who you might meet. One night in Albergue Vedre in Hospital de Órbigo, we attended a medieval festival and then came back to a communal gathering and singalong where all of us strangers acted like a family and shared a wonderful night. We jokingly asked one singing lady if she was published, as she was incredible. When we got back home to Australia, we looked her up and it turned out that she is in fact published and has two platinum records! As much as you think you know these people, you don’t always know them beyond the Camino.

In the end, one thing I found really remarkable about the Camino was how both I and my wife were just so doubtful about being able to finish the entire trip, and in the end, coping through all those challenges to complete it. Because of that, I have spent two years encouraging others to do the Camino. It’s something that sounds crazy at first, but when you’re done, it doesn’t seem that bad. I tell people to enjoy their own journey – a journey that does not end when the walk finishes. There are various reasons for walking the Camino, but these reasons often change as you walk. You start to rethink why. It was life-changing for us. When we got back, we changed our lifestyle to a simpler lifestyle. We still keep in touch with people from the Camino and have had quite a few come visit us.

If anyone tries to tell you what the Camino is, it’s got to be difficult to capture. It’s a personal experience that is bound to be different every time, based on the challenges you rise to, and the people you meet – even if the road is the same. For that reason, we are going back to walk the Camino in May 2016, almost the exact same schedule. We’re doing the same route, the Camino Frances, and starting around the same time. We want to see what the differences are this time and couldn’t be more excited for it!”

– Larry Phillips, Australia

Joshua Collinsworth, USA

“Many people have amazing stories and incredible memories from their Camino. I don’t want to minimize anyone’s experience because they are all truly special… but my experience was a step beyond.

My 2014 started chaotic and stressful after discovering my fiance had been cheating on me. It was revealed a month before our fully planned, March destination wedding to Cinque Terre, Italy. After finding out, the relationship was finished in my mind. However, if you have ever experienced a break-up of this kind you know that there is a long process of moving on. Going in and out of depression, I decided to walk the Camino to help clear my head and jump start recovery. My fiance and I had said about a year earlier after watching The Way, that the Camino was something we would like to do someday. Of course at the time her nor I were all that serious about it, but fighting depression, I decided that now rather than later was the time. I left for Santiago from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on May 21st, 2014.

Like most, I started waaay too fast and then had to deal with the consequence of incredibly sore feet. My body wasn’t happy and simply couldn’t recover each night. Luckily, through some real-time conditioning combined with a daily dose of ibuprofen, I was able to maintain a 35km per day average (yes that is fast, but I have one speed). Three weeks later I was in Santiago. I had a wonderful time meeting new people and learning more about myself along the way. My mission to clear my head was successful. I felt rejuvenated and ready to go back home. But I didn’t know my story was only about to begin.

The day before I walked into Santiago I woke up ill. Like many along the way, I had fought-off a couple of head colds already, so although feeling terrible, I dealt with it and made my “victory stroll” into Santiago with only slightly less optimism. Naturally, I treated myself to a hotel room and rested for a couple of days. Once I started feeling better (although still a little weak) I decided to walk the three days to Finisterre and meet up with some friends. We enjoyed an unusual warm and sunny set of days on the beaches in Galicia. Calm before the storm was an appropriate description in hindsight. After three days of laying around in the sun, Marjorie (a friend I had met around Ponferrada, an Emmy nominated actress and producer, Puerto Rican queen and all around kick-ass person) and I boarded a bus heading back to Santiago. After that bus ride was when everything changed.

Arriving in Santiago I felt like death. I could barely walk… each step was a chore and I was continuously out of breath. My heart was pounding. Not knowing exactly where we arrived in the city, Marjorie and I opted for a cab to take us into the city center. Once there I tried to break back towards the hotel I had stayed in earlier. Marjorie objected, insisting I join her and some other pilgrims for a traditional pilgrim lunch. After a harsh but short argument, I caved and decided to join her and the others.

It was there where I met a Polish doctor (who’s name I was never given), and with him noticing my extremely pale face and deathly demeanor, decided to diagnose my symptoms. Just about the time he said that I was very ill and needed to get to the hospital ASAP, I fainted. I came back into consciousness with the help of a feisty Flemish woman literally slapping me in the face each time I began to fade away. It worked, and I was able to get back on my feet for when the ambulance arrived.

It was at the hospital where I learned that the combination of walking 35km a day, chorizo, vino, cerveza and heavy doses of ibuprofen didn’t make for a good daily cocktail. Almost as soon as I entered the hospital they were giving me a blood transfusion. They didn’t know what was wrong, but they new I needed LOTS of blood, so they placed me in a room for staging an exploratory endoscopy the next morning.

Later that day, the last thing I remembered was the room full of nurses calling for the doctor. I passed-out again. When I finally awoke around noon the next day, I was in the intensive care unit. The nurses noticed my eyes open and they rushed over. They wouldn’t tell me then, but a week and a half later when I checked-out of the hospital, I learned that everyone was bracing themselves for my death that night. I learned that the ibuprofen ate away my stomach lining, and when combined with stress on the body from the walk, I developed three ulcers. Two were bleeding profusely. They were trying to staple them shut. After the second attempt they were successful. I recovered very quickly once the bleeding stopped. I am lucky and I am forever grateful.

About a year after this ordeal, I randomly met a gastro surgeon on a plane. Telling him about my condition, he was listening with astonishment. After pausing for a bit, he said most people wouldn’t have recovered… that the amount of blood loss and the risks of the procedure would have been too much for the body to handle. He told me my age and physical health were in my favor, as well as what sounded like a quality procedure. However, there was probably something else that saw you through.”

-Joshua Collinsworth, USA

Marcela Hernandez, Colombia

Spanish


“Viví en España por la universidad en España y cuando estaba ahí, descubrí el Camino de Santiago. Estaba pensando en cuando puedo hacerlo. Mis amigas Españoles lo han hecho y me dijeron cosas increíbles del Camino. Lamentablemente, no había tiempo a caminarlo mientras estaba en España. A pesar de eso, siempre quise caminar el Camino y estaba esperando por el momento “perfecto”. Adelanta algunos años y ya he regresado a Colombia y “mi vida”, estoy en un mal periodo de mi vida entre el divorcio del mi marido. El divorcio estaba muy difícil y estaba muy triste durante esto malo tiempo. Aunque era un mal tiempo, fue ascendido en mi trabajo y necesité un descanso de la vida. Y por eso, finalmente tenía el tiempo y además el dinero a regresar a España a caminar. Soy católica y me pareció como una señal del Dios. Había un sueño a hacer el Camino y en ese momento el Dios me dijo, ‘Caminar.’

Era un tiempo en mi vida en que quise paz. Durante este tiempo, quise a recuperar el alma sino no estaba una persona aventurera. El Camino pareció como una cosa locura con los albergues y la distancia. Tenía mucho miedo del viaje solo así que mis dudas del Camino como mucha de la gente que empieza el Camino, estaba preguntándome, ‘como puedo caminarlo,’ ‘porque me voy’ y ‘que me quieres de este viaje.’ Pero ya estaba, no había más que hacer y me fui a Madrid a empezar mi Camino. Decidí a caminar durante el Semana Santa del 2013.

Sin duda, mis dudas y los miedos des antes salí regresó durante el viaje a O Cebriero en autobús. Ahí, escuché algunos muchachos hablando del Camino. Por supuesto, toda la gente tenía las mochilas y estaba pensando, ‘todos están peregrinos sino no puedo hablar con ellos.’ Sin embargo, conocí a Carlos y su amigo Zaragozano quien ya les conocieron. Le pregunté, ‘¿caminarás el Camino y puedo caminar contigo?’ En este momento, me tranquilicé porque estuvimos el mismo – peregrinos – y todo lo haremos el mismo. Eran mis angelitos porque desde este momento hasta que llegamos a Santiago, lo hicimos juntos. Era una cosa especial porque en el Camino no importa si empiezas sola, no llegarás a Santiago sola.

No tuvimos el mejor tiempo durante el Camino. Hace mucho frio y la combinación del frio y la lluvia añadieron a las dificultades del Camino. Me parecí que llovía por todo el día. Por algunas personas, ellos no les gustaron. Pero a mí, la lluvia me purificó y mi alma también. Empecé el camino para ayudarme en mi vida y para dejar las cosas de mi vida atrás. Yo había hecho lo que pude por esa aventura. Solo podía relejar y desfrutar el camino. Tenía tiempo de solidaridad y silencio en que pude respirar en la naturaleza y con el Dios. Me tranquilicé muchísimo.

Como dije es imposible a llegar a Santiago solo y me encantó esto aspecto del Camino. Sentí como estaba en casa – aprendiendo, compartiendo y tapeando. Los problemas que tenía era el mismo como los otros peregrinos. Tenía botas nuevas porque no era una muchacha aventura y no hice muchos senderismos. Me dolieron mucho mis pies y tenía muchas ampollas. A causa de eso, mis pies me chalaron mucho. Piscamente, sufrí mucho con mucho dolor pero era bueno porque cuando llegue por la tarde, logré y tenía la satisfacción en que lo hice. Cuando empezamos el próximo día, sufrí pero aprendí que en la vida solo se puede pensare en hoy en vez del futuro. Vivir en el día sin duda y no se preocupe en el futuro. No importa el cuesta ni el dolor, sino tienes claramente el meta logrará y tienes la satisfacción.

El camino sentí como una fraternidad compartiendo la experiencia, las adversidades y se apoyan. Lo que no tienes tú, puedes tener el mío y al revés. Como dije, tenía problemas con mis botas. Y en el último albergue, una señora me preguntó si tenía otros zapatos y claro, no lo tenía. Como un milagro, la señora tenía tenis de 38 que llevo yo de una peregrina que no necesitaba y los dejó. La señora me dijo ‘tómalo’ y los tenis me salvaron. No se puede preocuparse en el camino. Tiene que tener la mentalidad de ‘no pasa nada.’

Al final en las últimas etapas no pude quejar porque todos caminaron con ánimo y cantando. Ya está, llegamos y lo amaba. A veces, éramos enfadados con el tiempo, los dolores y lo que sea. Pero, cuando llegamos a Monte de Gozo, fuimos animados y feliz porque estábamos acá. Santiago era en el horizonte. Sentí como no era caminado un más kilómetro. Quitó todo el dolor y le di muchas gracias a Dios porque busque la paz que necesité y como alegría a recuperar. Era muy lindo porque soy Católica y llegamos el Viernes Santo. Fuimos al servicio del Semana Santa. Sentí como la lluvia me limpiaba y estaba hablando con un sacerdote y empecé a llorar cuando me senté y no pude parar. El sacerdote me dijo, ‘Hija, tranquila. Dios ya ha perdónate.’ Pensé que muchas veces queremos quejarse a Dios sobre injusta de nuestra vida y nuestros problemas, pero nunca he tenido una falta de comido y lo he hecho todo lo que quiero hace hasta este viaje. Pero el Dios nos da muchos regalos que no vemos al principio.

El camino era un tiempo en que quité todo de las cosas malas del mi vida a eso momento y le dé mucho gracias a Dios. Después del Camino, estaba en paz con mi vida y las cosas que quise a quitar. Era una experiencia muy linda. Hay tanta diversidad en el Camino en que se puede aprender, compartir y desfrutar.”

-Marcela Hernández Cely, Colombia

English


I was living in Spain going to University there when I first heard about the Camino de Santiago. My Spanish friends had walked it and told me incredible things about it. From then on, I was trying to figure out when I could do it. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to walk it while I was in Spain. Still, I wanted to experience it and like so many I was waiting for the perfect moment to go.

After a few years, I had returned to ‘my regular life’ in Colombia and was having a tough time. I had just gotten a divorce from my marriage and I was very saddened by it. Though it was a hard time for me, I got promoted at my job and was doing well there – but I needed a break. I needed to find peace after a difficult time. I wanted to rekindle my soul but I was not normally an adventurous person. Everything about the Camino seemed crazy, from staying in albergues to the long distance of the trip. I was very afraid of traveling alone like many of the people who start the Way. I was thinking, ‘How can I walk it?’ ‘Why am I going?’ and I simply told myself, ‘Because I want this journey.’ And I could swear that around this time, one day, I heard God say to me, ‘Go and walk.’ I’ve had a dream for years to walk the Camino, I am deeply Catholic, and I took this as a clear sign from God. So finally, I put together both the time and the money to return to Spain and walk. I decided to make the journey during Easter 2013, and I headed off to Madrid to begin my Camino.

As I was on a bus from Madrid to my starting point, O Cebreiro, all those little fears returned and I had no idea how I would manage this journey. On the bus, I heard some guys talking about the Camino and realized nearly everyone on the bus had backpacks  – every single one must be a peregrino! At O Cebreiro, I met a guy named Carlos, a friend of his from Zaragoza, and another guy from the Madrid bus who joined them. I didn’t want to go alone so I just asked if I could walk with them. It seemed at first like I was asking something strange, but I was calm about it because we were peregrinos walking the same path. And eventually I called these guys my angels, because from this moment until we arrived in Santiago we would experience everything together. This was special to me because I had heard that even if you begin the Camino alone, you will not arrive in Santiago alone – and now I had people to share my journey with.

Our Camino was difficult for all of us. It was very cold, and that plus constant rain made the walking even more difficult. It seemed to rain all day and every day. Some people might find this really miserable, but for me, I found the rain to be purifying for me and my soul. I walked the Camino to help start a new life and to leave behind the worries and scars of my old life. I had beautiful moments where I was completely alone and in silence. I could breathe in nature and be with God. It calmed me very much. But I also had great moments with my new friends, learning, sharing stories, and eating Spanish food.

My struggles were the same as many other Pilgrims. I am not an experienced hiker, I had new boots, and I developed many blisters – my feet hurt so much, they drove me crazy! I suffered on many days, but when we arrived at our albergue each night, I always felt very satisfied. One morning as we were about to start walking, I realized that the pain helped me live in the present and not in the future. This made the pain I had tolerable and in a way, satisfying.

I loved the sharing that takes place on the Camino. My Angels and I shared experiences, adversity, peace, food, and we all supported each other along the way. There was so much generosity between all the Pilgrims we saw. As I said, I had many problems with my boots. In one albergue the host asked if I had other shoes, and of course I did not. She said that another woman had left behind tennis shoes in my size – she just gave them to me and I was so thankful. I realized from this experience that we have to trust that life will find a way, and that we can be resilient until it does.

In the final few stages I could not complain at all. We were all walking with strength and we seemed to always be singing. It was a very fun time and we enjoyed it. Of course we dealt with our pains, or how long a day might be, but for the most part, it was fun. When we arrived in Monte de Gozo we were so happy to be there! We could see Santiago on the horizon. I remember that being a long day, but it felt like I hadn’t walked even one kilometer. With God’s help my pain was gone and I was at peace. And when we arrived in Santiago, I felt pure joy. Arriving as a Catholic on Good Friday was really special. I went to the Easter service at the Catedral de Santiago. Inside I sat down and began to cry uncontrollably. Seeing this, a priest came up to me and told me, ‘my daughter, be calm. God has already forgiven you.’ I thought about how often we complain to God about all kinds of little problems, and how we so often think life is unfair. And then I remembered that during this entire trip we never once lacked food. In my life thus far, I had accomplished all that I wanted to. God gives us gifts that we don’t always see.

My Camino allowed me to remove all the negativity from my life, and to give thanks to God for everything he had given me. After the Camino I was at peace with my life and what I wanted to move on from. It was a wonderful experience and I learned so many new ways to learn, share, and to enjoy life.

-Marcela Hernández Cely, Colombia