Richard Camino Reflections

We, the Band of Brothers, following in the footsteps of millions of pilgrims, over more than 1000 years have finally completed our epic journey.

From a discussion between Mark and myself over breakfast one morning, 488 miles later we arrived at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela on Friday 15th April 2016.

The original group of Mark, John, Geoff, Davin and I well remember the excitement and anticipation of setting out from St Jean Pied de Port in the French Pyrenees on 6th April 2013, a cool damp Saturday morning.

Over five trips totalling 33 days of walking we have completed our adventure. At various times 3, 4, 5 or 6 of us followed “The Way” (Tom gave us the pleasure of his company for the final week) The scallop shell and the yellow arrow becoming symbols, now hardwired into our minds, to follow.

Always staying in albergues and carrying all our belongings on our backs we tried to replicate the true pilgrim spirit of deprivation. We trekked through every kind of weather, through every type of scenery, across this wonderfully simple and rural part of northern Spain. Along the way we enjoyed the great cities of Pamplona, Burgos, Leon, and of course Santiago. Along the way we also encountered many fellow pilgrims, falling into step, meeting at night, and forming enduring friendships.

Friendships of our own were also forged and I am now delighted to count John and Geoff as firm friends. John’s stoicism under suffering was an example to us all and the world must surely be a better place since Geoff and I spent so many days putting it to rights!

Being “on Camino” is an immersive experience of now familiar routine; up early, on the road, following the arrows, through tiny sleepy hamlets, splendid picnic lunches, more walking, fatigue, choosing an albergue, shower, change, then out for the evening, finally crawling into a sleeping bag for a disturbed night’s sleep. Repeat every day for six days. I can thoroughly and enthusiastically recommend it (and also wonder at the stamina of those who walk the entire way without a break!)

It’s not all about deprivation though! Everynight is Saturday night and the lageraramas on first and last nights are epic. The food, wine and company have made this an immeasurably pleasurable experience.

Arriving in Santiago would, for me, have been a bittersweet anticlimax if it were not for the fact that we have it all to do again on the Camino via de la plata.

We all now have our treasured Latin Compostela certificates that attest to our being faithful, devout pilgrims, but above all we have such fantastic memories of an adventure shared by good friends.

Dr John’s Camino Reflections

For me the Camino is mostly about privilege…

 Walking the path that, over the hundreds of years, millions of pilgrims would have trodden;

 Sharing this journey with a great bunch of blokes: humour, hardship on the journey and even harder drinking J

 Discipline:  getting up and walking, step after step, day after day to the next waystation;

 Simplicity: that every day challenges were reduced to ‘where’s the next meal, alberge and beer. ‘One’s whole world in is one’s rucksack’

 Getting back to, and enjoying, nature: part of the simplicity and privilege is the ‘ all senses experience’ :  seeing, smelling, touching and hearing things that we would not normally see: streams, trees, mountains & meadows animals…

 Meeting people from different lands: Australia, France, Holland, Germany, South Africa, …. People we will never see again but with whom we have shared some time as fellow pilgrims; sharing a snapshot of their lives….

 …and finally reaching Santiago: the Pilgrims’ Mass…. the Botofumerio…and bringing ‘The Way’ to life…

Mark’s Camino Refection’s

C is for true COMPANIONSHIP enjoyed with my friends every day

A is for ADVENTURE and the fun I have had along the way

M is for MIND – the Camino really makes you think

I…Its all about me!…The band of Brothers and sharing a drink

N is for NEED –  which is fewer ‘things’ to be happy we now know.

O is for OTHERS I care for – the Camino one day I hope they go.