Happy Easter! It has been a few weeks since I last wrote, and that is because I have been super busy ticking off activities on my 30 at 30, so I have lots to update you on.
I’ll start with my latest adventure. My friend Anita and I decided that for Easter we should go on a walking holiday in Spain. We had both walked the Camino de Santiago before, so chose the quieter Portuguese route. For those of you who haven’t heard of ‘the Camino’, it is a series of routes that go along Northern Spain, and conclude in Santiago de Compostela. Thousands of pilgrims walk it each year.
I’m feeling pretty tired now, and that is because I got back from Spain on Tuesday and was straight back in to work on Wednesday. But the tiredness is so worth it. Our trip started in Porto, where we stayed in a great little hostel and enjoyed a night in Porto. Early the next morning we took a bus to Fatima, as this year is the centenary of the apparition of the Virgin Mary at Fatima. The sun shone the whole day, and as it was a Monday we were fortunate that it was very quiet so we were able to enjoy a peaceful day before starting our walk.
From Fatima we had to take 2 buses to get to our start point at Valenca on the Portuguese border. The bus due to depart from Fatima had a ripped tyre, so we had to wait nearly 2 hours for a replacement bus, meaning we missed our connection. However, the Portuguese bus company was brilliant, and put on a mini bus for us and another person. We arrived late in Valenca so headed straight to bed. Our first day on the walk took us over the Portuguese border in to Spain, and slowly we began our walk up Northern Spain. On the first day the sun was strong and the thermostat read a scorching 29 degrees. At a couple of times we had to take shelter to escape the burning sun.
Conscious that we needed to avoid the midday sun we set off when it was dark and cool the next morning. As we walked 120km over the 5 days we passed through hamlets, hills and woodland. It was a tough walk, but we really enjoyed it, and meeting people along the way. I found that on this route not many people spoke English, and so I was able to use my Spanish. When enquiring about accommodation and ordering food I found the Spanish to be so friendly and helpful. I think they appreciated me trying to communicate with them, rather than just expecting them to speak English. My limited Spanish and their limited English gave us some laughs as together we attempted to patch together conversations. I loved being able to connect with people in a foreign tongue and it has really inspired me to continue to learn. I’m going to get a Spanish tutor so that I will continue to build up my vocabulary and hope to be fluent in a couple of years.
Arriving in Santiago with tired feet, but with our pilgrim passes full of stamps, marking each leg of our journey, we found the Cathedral (the final stop on the Camino) and lay down on the ground before it. We enjoyed the sun on our faces, and staring up at this magnificent building, a sense of accomplishment passed over me. There was some pretty tough days, like when we walked 35km, and there was times when I felt my legs could barely move, but all of it was worth it when we reached Santiago.
Over the next couple of days we enjoyed soaking up the city, with its narrow streets, drinking cheap, but delicious wine and making new friends. On Easter Sunday we went to Mass, and then went out for dinner and drinks with a girl, Sarah, we met in our hostel. That’s what I love about travelling, you get to meet people you would never have met in day to day life, and to talk politics, travel and everything else in between. Our final day in Santiago was spent in the company of friends who had also walked the camino, but through a different route. Our last evening was spent eating dinner and enjoying a few glasses of Spanish wine. Oh and we also collected our ‘compostelas’, the certificates which recognise you have walked over 100km to reach Santiago.
This was a fantastic trip, and it was with a heavy heart that I said goodbye to Santiago. I took lots of photos, and kept a journal, so I hope this will help keep this holiday alive and next time I’m in Spain while I might not be fluent, I hope to have added a few more words to add to my vocabulary.