Monday, 25 November 2019

Day 2 On The Camino: Portomarin To Palas De Rei

Into the misty mountains portomarin camino frances

A Busy Morning On The Camino

After all the walking from Day 1 on the Camino Frances from Sarria to Portomarin, muscle pain and no chocolate, I thought I'd wake up on Day 2 and finally have the shape of a top model. It isn't the case, but the muscle ache is still there.

I check out at 8am and get a lift into town by the guesthouse's owner Mario. He speaks no English, but he is a friendly local and we manage a basic conversation. Mario kindly drops me off at Portomarin's Church of San Juan so I'm spared of walking 1km uphill. 

Unfortunately, the church is closed so no sello for me this morning. I also get a novella text from Jorge, my host for tonight, asking me lots of questions. When will you arrive? Do you need dinner? What do you eat? Do you need pick up? - Ahhhhh, this is information overload. I've not even started the day so I have no idea how fast I'll make progress today. I reply with a short text that I'm just about to leave Portomarin and aim to be at the guesthouse before it gets dark (8pm). I'll text him when I'm closer to Palas de Rei. That should do, right!?!

Portomarin church of san juan camino frances

It is approaching 8:20am. Sun's not up yet, but everyone else is. The village is super busy. Like London rush hour busy. Everyone is out and about. Pilgrims join from every corner of the small village to tackle today's route to Palas de Rei. 

Some check out of their hotel, at the other end of the road, are pilgrims taking pictures with the Portomarin sign. A Chinese couple shoulder their backpacks, others quickly drop into the tiny supermarket by the church to buy last-minute snacks for the day. The chatter, laughter, and clicking of Nordic Walking sticks create a buzz in the air which is inspiring and infectious. We can do those 30kms, off to Palas de Rei we go!

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Day 1 On The Camino: Sarria To Portomarin

sarria welcome sign on the camino

Getting To The Camino: Travelling To Sarria From Santiago De Compostella

My first day on the Camino starts early: after a quick shower and little faffing about, I'm ready to leave my hotel in Santiago at around 7am in the morning. I'm glad I've ordered a taxi for the ride to the bus station as it is pitch black outside and it would have been quite a walk - and I'll be doing lots of walking later.

I've pre-booked my bus ticket with Eurolines for the 8am service from Santiago to Lugo. There's a good chance I will miss the connection bus to Sarria which will leave when I will arrive in Lugo. In that case, I'm planning to spend the 3h gap for the next service for some exploring in Lugo, but we'll see.

The bus station has a huge underground terminal with several platforms. I do worry that I'm lost but eventually one of the bus drivers tells me to wait at platform 20, right at the end of the terminal. I check the ticket again and again but slowly, other pilgrims join me so I'm feeling less lost. I guess they are pilgrims as they wear big backpacks and are dressed in professional hiking gear. Surely, they will travel to Sarria today too and begin their pilgrimage.

By 7:50am, the bus arrives and we're on the way to Lugo. It is super modern and comfy with aircon, blacked-out windows, free WiFi and a screen for watching movies. Whilst I put Pitch Perfect 3 on I do doze off a few times. I notice the lush landscape that the bus is passing. Cities that lie in the morning fog are starting to wake up. 

If you wouldn't know you're in Spain, you wouldn't expect it, as none of the scenery outside looks typical Spanish. The sunlight only breaks through shortly then disappears behind a thick carpet of clouds. It gets cold, dark and rainy and I'm putting on my rain jacket to keep warm. The prospect of hanging around for 3h in Lugo doesn't look too appealing to me.

Into The Wild: Embarking On A 120km Journey Through The Spanish Countryside

Luck is on my side though, as my bus pulls in 2 minutes ahead of schedule and I catch the connection to Sarria. It's a very quick in-and-out situation but 30 minutes later I arrive in Sarria. Now I need to find my way to the Camino so from the bus station I head North to the Monastery of Magdalena. 

I walk uphill for a while until I reach a small alley which is seamed with Albergues - the typical pilgrim accommodation. I can feel I'm heading in the right way and tadah! there's the first Camino sign showing the way forward. I'm excited and buzzing. The Monastery comes into sight and for the first time, I draw my Pilgrimage Passport and get my first sello (stamp). My adventure on the Camino has officially begun!

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

The World Is Calling Me Again

jason-blackeye-out into the world

One afternoon in late August it just happened: I decided to go on an adventure.

My mission: fly out to Spain, become a Pilgrim and complete the final 100km of the Camino de Compostela to acquire the Compostela certificate.

A typical Carolin Let's Do This impulse, but that was the plan. To be honest, I secretly wanted to do this for a while... but you know... it was one of those flighty ideas that had been in and out of my mind on some days more present than others. Around Easter though, I ventured out for a mini-pilgrimage to Canterbury and the trip had given me the final push to actually do the pilgrimage to Spain. The question was: when to do it?

Fortunately, the opportunity for the execution of my plan came around a few months later, when I decided to leave London and spend some of my new found freedom on travelling.  

My Motivation To Walk The Camino De Compostella

In my culture, the pilgrimage way to Santiago De Compostela in Spain is very popular. I can't say why that is, it just happens that most Germans - even the nonreligious ones - have heard of it or done it. It has a noble reputation and is seen as one of those things that "you should have done in your life".

The Camino De Compostela is, in fact, a wide-ranging network of hiking trails in Spain, France, and Portugal. The longest at 800km and most famous one is, Camino de Frances, followed by Camino de Portugues which can either be started in Lisbon or Porto. 

Shorter ones include Camino de Norte in Spain and Camino de Ingles which are less known and travelled. If you complete the final 100km of the Camino you’re entitled to receive the Compostela, a certificate issued by the Catholic church to acknowledge your pilgrimage. It is a beautiful certificate with medieval embellishments issued in Latin that also dismisses you of all your sins. 

I’m not religious at all nor do I believe in God, however, I am spiritual. I read that spirituality is one of the five pillars that make up your personality. Next to love, work, money and health, which all need to be in tune for a happy life. 

All of my five pillars have been shaken up in the past years and are imbalanced. Now I'm working on them to improve myself and rebuilt my life. I can't also shake off the feeling that there's something else out there and refuse to accept that the 9 to 5 grind is IT. I'm a firm believer that everyone in life has a POE (purpose of existence) or your life goal sort to say and by venturing out and getting to know oneself you become a more well-rounded you which gets you closer to your POE, leading you to a meaningful and satisfying life.

I was hoping the Camino would give me some clarity and guidance, which I'm seeking. The solitude of the journey would help to reconnect me with my inner self (hope that makes sense). Plus the Camino runs parallel to the Milky Way, so the Universe, which brings me back to the spirituality aspect. It was just an obvious sign that I was meant to do it and for the first time in a while, my intuition felt that "this experience would actually do me some good".
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