I walked the last 112km of the Camino de Santiago in six days at the beginning of June. Talk about a tiring but amazing start to the summer!
We started our journey in Sarria and walked to Santiago with our 6kg bags on our backs from the 3rd of June to the 8th. It was such a different experience; living out of a bag, walking for hours each day and staying in hostels - I'll never forget the week. It was a terrific way to end Transition Year
We did the Camino with the help of Follow the Camino. Before we left, we were given an itinerary of the locations we were stopping at, and it also said how long we'd be walking for each day. The first two days were the longest, 22km and then 25km, and that took about 6 hours each day. Following that, we walked 13km, then 14km, 17km, and on the last day about 21km.
We began in Sarria, a very small town with tiny little streets and alleyways. Portomarin was the next stop - this town was my favourite. Located up high on a hill, Portomarin was surrounded by beautiful views, and the vibe there was just so peaceful. There was a gorgeous church there too. After Portomarin, we walked to Palas De Rei. Following that was Melide, then Arzùa, Rùa, and finally we arrived at Santiago de Compostela.
We had a tour guide called Fransisco that organised the hostels for us and decided when we'd stop where during the day, and was our general guide in telling us what we were to expect in the day. I must say he wasn't the most accurate - he'd say there wasn't going to be much hills sometimes, but what followed usually was a series of, well, hills, or paths with some just enough incline that can wreck your legs. I guess he didn't have us dreading any parts of the walk! He was a great help and a really nice guy.
The walking was not near as hard as I thought it would be! Yes, there were times when I was sweating loads (TMI), and my legs were aching from going uphill, but other than that, I got used to the long distance pretty quickly. I did get more and more tired as the week went on, and sometimes when standing I had a bit of muscle pain in my legs, so the first two days, though they were the longest, were actually the easiest for me!
I invested in very good shoes and extremely good hiking socks for the Camino, so I had no blisters at all throughout the whole walk. My bag (that had ALL my belongings in it) was a bit over 6kg; under 7kg was recommended for comfort, but it did still feel a bit heavy on my back when in the airpot flying to Spain - that got me slightly worried. Luckily, the more we walked, the less I noticed the weight on me. In the airport on the way home, my bag didn't feel near as heavy as it did the first day. It was still always an amazing relief taking the bag off, of course!
When walking, I was either with some of our group who had a speaker and music blaring, and we'd jam out and request songs, or I was with others and we just talked, or I was walking on my own with my earphones in. It was nice having a mixture. We'd always stop at a restaurant at about one for lunch, and every now and then we'd take a break - but not that often.
Whenever I'd pass someone on the route, I'd say to them 'Buen Camino', basically wishing them a good journey. Sometimes I'd get an enthusiastic 'Buen Camino' back, other times just an 'Hola'. I talked very briefly to two people on the walk, one was a Californian, and another was a Canadian, who was walking with a Lithuanian. It's so amazing the amount of people walking, and the number of different nationalities you'd pass.
To ultimately prove we walked the last 112km of the Camino, we had to carry 'passports' with us, basically little booklets for stamps. We had to get 3-4 a day in this booklet in restaurants we were passing and in the hostels we were staying in. I got way more than 3-4 a day - who knew stamping could be so satisfying?
In case you can't tell, I brought a selfie stick, and I used it a lot.
The Camino actually consisted of a lot more walking through woods than I thought - at some stages I was questioning if I was walking in Ireland. Other than green trees and forest floors, the scenes also included lots of farms and fields, passing tiny farm villages with stone houses, walking along roads and motorways, mountains and lakes, roads, so many gorgeous flowers...
Usually mornings were grey and cloudy, still warm, and afternoons would be pretty sunny and that bit hotter. One time arriving at our hostel one evening it was boiling hot and we were all so red in the face and out of breath! Sometimes the lovely weather wouldn't do us justice, but it certainly helped our photos look incredible!
|shells in one of the shops we passed by on the first day - I love the vibrancy of them!|
Oh, and the sunsets, and the 7 am sunrise we had on our last day, were all so aesthetically pleasing.
We usually arrived at the towns in the mid-afternoon, so we had lots of time to roam and explore. We would visit the supermarket and stock up on food and water for very cheap prices - food for me meant Milky Bars and Oreo Milkas... oh, and sometimes apples. Breakfasts were pretty small, just one croissant and juice (that ain't enough for my energy!) , so I stocked in unhealthy junk to keep me going (and an apple a day kept the doctor away) until my first sufficient meal of the day at lunch.
All the hostels we stayed in were actually pretty decent. Most of the time, us girls would have the room to themselves, but in the last few days we were in the same room as strangers, which was pretty weird, but fine. We were always on bunk beds, which were pretty comfy. There were no major problems with bugs, except one night there was this huge thing that kept flying around, and I defended myself with my insect repellent on my top bunk like a ninja.
Dinners were pretty repetitive - usually it was spaghetti in tomato sauce for starters (I know, for starters! I didn't complain - I got even hungrier than usual on this trip, unsurprisingly) followed by chicken and nice homemade chips. The first night was very off-putting, with weird soups and chicken with cheese oozing out, but after that it improved!
THE CAMINO PLAYLIST
The xx - Sunset
Electric Light Orchestra - Mr. Blue Sky
Rivers - Thomas Jack
I'm Born to Run - American Authors
I Wanna Know - Alesso ft. Nico and Vinz
I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) - The Proclaimers
The Days - Avicii
The Nights - Avicii
All I Wanna Do - Martin Jensen
Boulevard of Broken Dreams - Green Day
Waiting for Love - Avicii
Walking in the Sun - PANG!
Hundred Miles - Yall ft. Gabriela Richardson
Hurt Me - Lâpsley
Ships in the Night - Mat Kearney
If I Were Sorry - Frans
Human - The Killers
Catch & Release (Deepend Remix) - Matt Simons
T-Shirt Weather - Circa Waves
Miracles - Martin Jensen ft. Bjørnskov
Africa - Toto
Brick by Boring Brick - Paramore
Just My Soul Responding - Amber Run
These Days - Take That
Lay It All On Me - Rudimental ft. Ed Sheeran
We arrived in front of the last stop of the Camino, the beautiful Santiago de Compostela Cathedral at around midday on the 8th of June.
Finally finishing the Camino was such a relief. We were all delighted, but we couldn't show it much. We didn't jump and hug each other in happiness; we just kind of slumped on the ground, tired and hot.
We had to get up at five in the morning that day to walk and arrive in Santiago in time for our guided tour of the cathedral rooftop. We arrived just in time, but after dragging ourselves out of bed half asleep and walking without a proper breakfast for hours, we weren't very awake for the tour. The views were beautiful though.
As soon as the tour ended, we went quickly to get lunch, as we were starving, and then we had basically the whole day in Santiago de Compostela!
EXPLORING SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA
For the rest of that day, and the next morning before we left, we had free time for shopping and exploring. Our hostel was a good fifteen minute walk away from the cathedral, so we were allowed use the taxis. It was the weirdest feeling being in a moving vehicle after travelling only by foot for a whole week!
In the area near the cathedral, I picked up some souvenirs for myself, including a really comfy University of Santiago de Compostela jumper, as well as little trinkets. I got presents for my family and friends.
We found a shopping centre near our hostel called As Cancelas that had a ton of amazing shops - two in particular I looked in were Kiko and Flormar! I might have picked up quite a few things in those shops, especially Kiko since it's not available in Ireland!
I didn't get to see much of the city in such a short amount of time, but the bits I did see were beautiful. Between the two days, I had two fro-yos in the adorable Smöoy which were delicious!
Our teachers gave in our stamp passports for us and got our certificates. We each received one in Latin and one in English (my name in Latin is Joennem!). I got mine when we arrived at Dublin airport before heading home - it was nice way to finish the trip.
(only available to watch on non-mobile devices)
I was so excited to get home by the end of the week so I could get back in my own bed and watch Netflix all day, but now, looking back, I really miss it. The vibes, the #scenes, the funny moments - the Camino trip really was such a unique experience.
Who knows, maybe you'll see me walking the rest of the Camino in years to come!