This is not a travel log of where to go and what to do on the Camino. Rather it is a story of why I walked. It will give you some of the emotions involved in walking the Camino.
When you see passages written in italics those parts are quotes out of my book. “A Camino Addiction”.
I live in New Zealand I am 72 now I was 69 when I walked my first Camino. My name is Terry.
My life had been like walking down a beach kicking over stones, shells and logs finding , anger under some depression under others and temptation under many more. All the time hoping the tide would one day change and wash the beach clean. Letting me just sit and watch the sunset in peace, one day it did. In a place called the Camino.
We sat in a coldly comfortable lounge, just our parish priest and I. “Terry I want you to read the writings of St James”. “Yes father”. That was the only answer you gave a priest after 66 years of being locked in a Catholic body.
I tried to read it once but the words were so small, I will do it one day, i will, I thought to myself. It bugged me for two years, that I had not made more effort to read St James. Then one night I watched the film “The Way” I was home on my own. The film starred Martin Sheen walking the Camino. The Camino is also called the way of St James. As the credits came up my tears came down. I told myself out load,
Terry you were to bloody lazy to read St James now you’re going to walk it all 800 kilometres of it.
So what is the Camino. It is an 800 kilometre walk/stagger crawl across northern Spain. It is also a pilgrimage, to the tomb of St James in the Santiago Cathedral.
Only a month after committing to walk, our granddaughter died of Cystic Fibroses at the age of seventeen. Now I had two reasons to walk, for myself and for her.
On a hot sunny day in August 2017 I found myself sitting in a cafe in St John Pied De Port, contemplating tomorrow. The start of my 800 kilometre walk to the Cathedral in Santiago.
I had never been out of my home country (New Zealand) on my own. My wife and I were married in 1972 and this was the first time we had been separated for more than a few days. Terrified is a very good word to use.
That night I tossed and turned letting my dreams go ahead of me exploring the way that I would walk in the morning.
Morning cam sooner enough, a breakfast of dry toast and jam hardly the bacon and eggs I am used to back home. Then pack on fill up with water and off I go. Once on the cobble stoned street I realised I was not the only one in this universe there were many other people on the street making their way to the bridge that signifies the start of the Camino. I felt like a lamb to the slaughter, unsure of anything, but I was here and I was doing it.
I momentarily stopped at the bridge and quietly spoke to myself “God I will do the walking but you will have to get me through I can’t do this on my own”.
The first day route Napoleon 1250 metre climb in 33 degrees, by the time I got to Roncesvalles I was so shattered
I was spotted by an official and told to sit down right then and there and when I got to my bunk a staff member came past my bunk three times in half an hour I latter found he was keeping an eye on me. He said to me, people have died here and they looked better than you did.
The next morning I was nearly sick with fear, how was I going to walk another twenty or so kilometres. Others were doing it and they had the same amount of arms and legs as me. So off we went again.
Like a bunch of lemmings looking for a cliff to jump off.
Day after day in the hot sun, Spain was having a heat wave. Yes it was day after day walking with yourself talking to yourself asking lots of questions of yourself and surprisingly getting lots of answers. Here you have the time to think things through again and again and it all sinks in over a period of some thirty five days..
If you can’t get yourself right in your head, your heart and your soul in thirty five days of walking, then you never will.
The Camino is like some giant washing machine that grabs you washes you rinses you then spins you dry and spits you out to air dry in the hot Spanish sun. It washes everything away and leaves a new you.
I have walked the Camino three times this is the first one 2017 the next one was when I was asked to join a film with some others walking the Camino. 2018 The film is called “Camino Skies.”
Then with my daughter 2019.
Three very different Camino,s.
I toured New Zealand speaking at the theatres after each film session and I was asked often, how much training you need to do. Here was my answer.
If you do all the training in the world you will hurt for about seven days then you will come right. However if you do very little training then you will hurt for about seven days then you will came right. It doesn’t seem to matter every one hurts for a while then you turn into a machine a walking machine.
At the end of any one day you will almost stagger into a village where you will stay for the night , you find a bed fall on it and wish you could die then an hour latter you decide maybe I will go and have a beer in that cafe then I will die. It does not take long to recover.
You form friendships that will last a life time even after the first day you earn the right to lean on your sticks and look at a fellow pilgrim and without speaking say “are you ok “ usually “yes i am is the reply” but not a word is spoken. There are three rules for the Camino .
1 you never walk past some one that needs help.
2 You never walk past someone that is offering you help. You may not know you need it but they often can see it, before you can.
3 You never walk past a toilet.
You will walk through towns of one or two thousand people but then you will walk through a village of one hundred. Burgos one hundred and ten thousand people sporting the most amazing Cathedral I think I have ever seen, it took three hundred years to complete. We can’t comprehend that these days.
Right at the start when you register to walk, you are given your credentials this is a fold out passport with about forty spaces on it . Each time you stay somewhere they will stamp it as proof that you have been there this is so important, when you get to Santiago if you can’t produce your credentials with all the places shown proving you stayed there, then you don’t get your certificate ( The Compostella).
This passage is from the last night before walking eighteen kilometres into Santiago.
There was an uneasy atmosphere amongst us as we sat down to breakfast. I pushed my guide book over to a fellow pilgrim pointing to the word at the top of the page our final destination Santiago. He acknowledge me with a yes I know. There was an awkward feeling in the air.
This was something that had been bugging us all for a few days, we felt down, it was nearly over. We didn’t want it to be over I don’t want to go home this is my home now. Yes completely irrational, but that is how we felt.
So yes there was a sense of achievement and pride in our self with hugs and handshakes all round we had just survived 800 kilometres as we all walked into Santiago and found the office and lined up for an hour and a half to get our Compostella’s . I was not to know at this moment, but I would find myself back here twice more making it three Camino’s in twenty two months.
So would I go back? In a heartbeat. Why? Unfinished business.
When you walk out of the office in Santiago with you Compostella. You realise one thing. It’s over! Ten minutes ago you were a pilgrim and part off a team walking 800 kilometres.
From this moment on your just a bloody tourist.
God Bless you. Terry Wilson author of A Camino Addiction
If you plan to walk the Camino de Santiago, check out my book, A Wild Woman’s Guide To The Camino de Santiago. I share everything you need to know before you begin your Camino. Read at A Wild Woman’s Guide To The Camino De Santiago or click the link below.