Two years ago this week I heaved on my pack, left St Jean Pied de Port in France and set off on a track over the Pyrenees. I walked for 500 miles, all the way across Spain.
Or almost. Five hundred miles took me no further than Santiago de Compostella. In my mind it had always been the final destination, the culmination of my month-long pilgrimage along the paths and roads of rural Spain and its villages, meseta, woods, towns and cities .
Some of my friends rested a day in Santiago then carried on walking and many others took a bus trip to the coast. I did neither. I just needed to absorb the atmosphere of the ancient place after the weeks of sweat, pain, heat, friendship and laughter involved in reaching it. I felt that rushing on and doing something else would diminish the pilgrimage experience that had been a month – or indeed years – in the making.
I knew I wanted to go to Finisterre one day, to experience the “end of the world” like so many pilgrims had done and the only way I wanted to do it was on foot. I knew it would happen, when the time was right.
And in exactly four weeks I’ll be meeting up in Santiago with a few of the people who became my Camino family in Spain in the autumn of 2012.
Irish John, and Doug and Pam from Perth, Australia will be waiting in Cathedral Square (having done parts of the Camino again) when Helen from Sweden and I arrive. And after a vino tinto or two we’ll pull on our boots and set off walking next day, for Finisterre, Muxia and the sea.
Other old friends will be sadly missing but we’ll toast them. Suzanne, Ramon, Donald, Elaine and Bill, Anna and Nikolai, Tasmanian Scott, Lisette, Andreas, Bibi, Ada (although she might turn up too) Carmen and Nathan and so many others.
Many of these people have influenced these past two years of travel, fun and adventure. I’ve seen Western Australian beaches with Doug and Pam; skated, skied and explored Ontario with Donald, celebrated Canada Day thenBurns Day with him in Scotland; I’ve hunted kilted Jacobites, walked the West Highland Way, drunk tea and whisky with Helen all over the Highlands; shared beers and stories in a Copenhagen park with Bibi and Lisette; seen Denmark by bike and at speed from Anna and Nikolai’s perspective and had lunch with Ada in Glasgow.
My Camino didn’t end in late September 2012; it just keeps on developing. And I’m impatient now to walk again, to renew these friendships and maybe to forge new ones; to discover where the Way will lead me next.