Two years ago today I started my forty-two day journey on the Camino de Santiago. I joined the ancient pilgrimage route in St Jean Pied de Port, in France, and six weeks later I arrived in Finisterre on the Spanish coast of the Atlantic Ocean.
|On the Camino|
The experience was life-changing in many ways and as I walked through regions and villages that had seemed near-mythical from my extensive research, I wondered if I would ever pass that way again. Over the Pyrenees, through the Basque country, across the beautifully barren Meseta and into the lush green rolling hillsides of Galicia; each day was better than the day before and I marveled at the varied landscapes and cultures of Spain.
Of course that was before I knew that just over a year later I would be moving to Spain. I had dreamt of a life in Europe, but I didn't believe it would ever happen. And so as I walked the 600 miles of my Camino, I wrote in my journal and took endless photos wanting to share it all with Sam, but assuming that he would never see any of it.
And now I live a road-trip away from all of it. In February we visited friends on the Meseta and I was able to share some of the route with Sam, and now we are just home from a trip to Portugal and Galicia where together we walked sections of the trail that I had enjoyed most.
The Camino consists of numerous routes and it seems that we run into portions frequently. In 2004 we were in France and unknowingly walked parts of the Le Puy Way (Chemin du Puy) before either of us had ever heard of the Camino.
|Conques, France - 2004 before I'd heard of the Camino|
The Camino Mozárabe passes through Granada and we have followed yellow arrows around town on several occasions, while running errands. In Seville we walked to a park and I discovered that we were walking on the Viá de la Plata.
|Marker in Seville|
Our recent trip to Porto, Portugal was to visit a group of five friends from my walk on the Camino. We had known each other for less than 24 hours, two years ago, but we've stayed in touch, and Sam and I were pleased to have a chance to visit with them in their lovely city.
|Re-uniting with Camino friends in Picturesque Porto|
I randomly chose an apartment to rent on the edge of Porto, in Foz, where the Douro river meets the Atlantic ocean. I had no idea that the coastal route of the Camino Portugués, the Caminho da Costa, would pass several feet from our apartment window! Each morning we watched as Pilgrims who began their Camino from the Cathedral in Porto, passed our window about an hour into the first day of their journey. I was delighted by this discovery but resisted calling "Buen Camino" to each one.
In Galicia we based our visit in one of the places I had stayed while walking the Camino de Invierno. The Invierno breaks from the Camino Francés in Ponferrada, and when I walked it I was the only Pilgrim for the (approximately) 230 kilometers of the route. The experience of walking that far alone was tremendously empowering. About half way along I stayed with Penelope and it was a joy to return and to visit with her again.
|The Camino just before arriving at Penelope's|
I was thrilled to show Sam stretches I had walked on the Invierno. Together we hiked a steep section that descends to the Miño river and we shared the view that took my breath away when the trees parted, giving the first glimpse of the steep hillsides covered with vineyards down to the river's edge.
|A view that took my breath away|
I drove him over mountains on deserted logging roads where I had walked for hours without seeing another human, and we wound along gorgeous river valleys; as we went he appreciated, even more, what I had done. He also noted that, had he realized I would be in such remote places all alone, he would have suggested I not take this alternate route! I will forever be thankful that I did.
Finally, as we drove back home from Galicia we paralleled much of the Via de la Plata. This Camino route stretches across the west of Spain from Seville following an old Roman road. We saw many Camino markers, and several Pilgrims as we whizzed past on the autovía covering in a day what takes Pilgrims weeks to walk.
It is unimaginable to me that I live where I can take a road trip from home to destinations like Porto, Portugal or to any of the Camino routes. I follow several Camino groups on Facebook and at any time there is someone I am aware of who is walking one of the routes.
I am certain that I will find myself walking again before long.
|The arrows are calling me|