Four intrepid walkers – all ladies over fifty. Fifteen unforgettable days. Some 340 km of long, winding and, hilly roads. Many yummy Spanish meals along the way. Interesting encounters on the road, with people from all over the world.
AutumnLife members got to hear the full story and more from Angie, Daphne, Maria and Tiew Kin at the Chit-Chat session on 28 August 2019. Together, the four walked the famous Camino de Santiago - the Way of St James – in May 2019. This network of ancient pilgrimage routes, bound for Santiago de Compostela, Spain has been in use since the 9th century. Thousands of modern-day pilgrims continue to tread these paths each year - for religious, spiritual and other reasons, or simply for the experience.
The ladies started off from León, a Spanish city located along the 'French Way'. This popular Camino route begins in St Jean Pied de Port in the French Pyrenees and heads westward across Northern Spain. The full route is over 800 km long. As seen from the photographs shared by the ladies, the 'French Way' passes through many scenic places. Some of these sights: a medieval bridge across the Orbigo River, the Roman ruins of Castro de Castromaior, the Samos Monastery, and pretty scenes of forests, hills and vineyards.
Equally eye-catching were the pictures of food enjoyed along the way: paella, Spanish tortilla, Galician-style octopus, Galician soups, white asparagus, Santiago almond cake...a sumptuous spread!
The ladies also told heart-warming stories about the fellow pilgrims they had met on the Camino. Their various journeys testified to the spirit of friendship, family bonding and love, and the opportunity for self-discovery, freedom and personal growth offered by the Camino.
Solo pilgrims Wu from Germany and Ton from Holland started walking from their respective homes, met by chance in France, and decided to walk the rest of the way together. Anna from Taiwan, on her fourth Camino, was walking with her daughter, while nine sisters from Argentina were journeying with their parents to mark their 50th wedding anniversary. Interestingly, a French pilgrim was collecting litter along the trail as part of his Camino journey!
The four ladies also gave useful tips on how to prepare for the Camino. (A few of the Chit-Chat participants evidently were planning for it.) The first step would be to decide on the route to take – whether the French Way, the Portuguese Way, or the Camino Nortre, etc – and how long a route to walk, and where to start from.
Another decision would be whether to do an independent or guided walk. A ‘true pilgrim’ might walk with a full backpack, booking accommodation on a daily basis. A ‘guided pilgrim’ can let a Camino agent pre-book all his lodgings, arrange the daily luggage transfer and meals, and provide a guide for the group. In between would be the ‘self-guided pilgrim’ who would get an agent to take care of some aspects of trip, but walk without a guide. The choice would depend on budget and the level of flexibility desired.
The lodgings available en route range from hotels and guest houses to different types of pilgrims’ hostels (albergues de peregrines.) The four ladies stayed in a mix of accommodation, from an 11th century converted monastery, to albergues, modern hotels and guesthouses, and even a farmhouse!
The ladies had trained for the Camino through weekly group and individual walks (8 km to 44 km each) in Singapore about three months before their trip. Of course, they also enjoyed shopping ahead for clothing and equipment, such as raincoats and walking poles. Decathalon and online sites are good bets for shopping.
The event was our best attended Chit-Chat session so far. Our venue host Real Food Novena (Slow Bakes) provided a spacious comfy area, where we could relax and enjoy our afternoon tea, and the informative and inspiring presentation.