Walking the Camino de Santiago in Northern Spain has easily become perhaps the best experience of my lifetime. Everywhere I turned I met someone new. Rick, from Australia, wanted to do the Camino as a religious pilgrimage. Stacy, from Reno, Nevada , wanted to do it as a personal challenge. Peter, the crime detective from Germany, saw the Camino as his last hurrah before he settled happily into old age. The list goes on and on. On the Camino, you didn´t have to worry about finding a place to stay because you were welcome everywhere. On hot days locals stopped to offer us grapes literally picked fresh off the vine, or olives grown right in their back gardens. The Camino de Santiago is the epitome of what the Walk in Europe is all about. It was on this leg of the trip that I fully appreciated all that Spain had to offer.
We have moved from the aridity of Spain to the clouds and fog of Ireland, and I have to say I appreciate it. Spain is beautiful, but Ireland is gorgeous. Ireland is full of lush green grass, houses covered in ivy, and the kindest people a walker could ever meet. The woman who offered her land to us for the night just insisted we all shower inside her house, stating simply that everyone needs a hot shower. The countryside surrounding us is spotted with cute cul de sacs, all of which have even cuter puppies just itching for someone to play with. The walks have become easier and easier. My feet don´t hurt anymore. My eyes aren`t tired. Thirty kilometers is a welcome walk day for the group. It just means that we have more distance, more time to gaze at the Ireland we´ve come to know and love.
Many people have read about the Tuscan countryside, or perhaps seen it in a movie, but we, the walkers, have actually seen it. We have hiked up its many mountains and gotten hopelessly lost on its winding trails. Most of all though, in between taking gulps of water after hiking up an especially steep hill, we´ve seen its beauty through our own eyes. Tuscany in autumn has made me miss home more than ever, not because I miss my actual home itself, but because I wish I could take everyone who is dear to me and bring them here. I wish I could share Tuscany in autumn with them, the rolling hills, the dusty mountain trails, and the changing leaves. If I could share any one vision I´ve seen so far, it would be Tuscany in autumn.
As we near the end of this trip, I can´t help but feel as though our leaving is bittersweet. I have enjoyed my time here so much, yet I´m so excited to return home. However, I both fear and appreciate many things that I know will occur upon my return. I suppose I fear and appreciate most that no one except fellow walkers will truly understand this experience. The bond we have formed here is everlasting. Yes, we sometimes fight. We argue like cats and dogs, but no matter how much we think we hate each other, we know that there are only 17 people in this whole world who know what we´ve been through, and in truth, that sole fact makes us love each other. It makes us family.
Today, our leader Rich announced that we would have a 26 kilometer walking day. Thinking it was no big deal, we started off walking another beautiful, slightly cloudy morning. Little did we know the surprise that awaited us. It was a hill. No, not a hill, but a mountain. The mountain weaved in and out through fields of grass and cattle. The switchbacks took us left and right over and over and over again. By the time Stefanie, Pat, Sylvia, and I got to the top of the mountain, we were losing sunlight, our bodies were aching, and our stomachs were rumbling. It was at that moment that we turned around and realized that everything we had just done was worth it. It was at that moment that we turned around, saw the horizon, and realized that Ireland has the most breathtaking sunsets any of us had ever seen.
Finding the right path to take every day was one of the mot exciting moments. There was one day in spain where all the guys were walking together and we took a turn and wondered down the road for a couple of kilometers. then we found our that we had gotten no where but a giant field. so turning around was the only option. Except for Rich, Pat and myself we choose to walk through the woods and see where it took us. Lucky us it took us right to a river and we needed to be on the other side of that river. Strait across was the final choice good thing it was hot cause that water felt wonderful, deep and strong Rich went first then myself an half way across i lost it trying to stay afloat and hold my backpack over my head was to much so rich had to jump in and save me. as did e with Pat. We all made it to the shore and continued our journey of the day.
Almost four months has passed since I began this trip . I am filled with so many mixed feelings. I am happy to home, happy to see those i haven in the longest time. Yet at the same time i want to explore more. The life that I have been a part for this time is something that i will miss. I will miss being to pack up and finding something new the day. I will miss having few worries. Yet I will take this trip and apply every thing that has happened into the rest of my life. I will want use this as a stepping point for exploration of the planet. I now want to see every thing and pretty much go everywhere.
Being in Europe away from civilization has given me plenty of time to think. Being under the tent with the same people also makes you grow more patient about a lot of things. Stuck with the same people everyday teaches me how to observe details better and the smaller things in life that people neglect. Learning how to live off the wilderness for a long time and only depending on a mobile shelter is a rough time. I definatelz want to travel a lot more now because of thie trip. Walk In Europe has opened my eyes to the rest of the world, and I hope more people will apply to this program. Walk In Europe makes you find out more about yourself in ways you can’t imagine.
standing atop Mont Blanc looking out over the horizon seeing all the peaks of the french alps. as they dissaperd in the distance I took a deep breath and felt the crisp cold air penatrate my lungs. so fresh clean and cold i could feel it bitting my cheaks as i climbed to the different platforms i could really feel the difference in alttude now with every berath came a bit of dizzness and my heart would beat faster and stronger. my adrenalin was pumping strong now looking over the edge of the ralings looking staright down a rock face hundreds of feet. after a cupple of hours atop the mountian i started the descent a quick and easy 3842 meters.
Well, another week into the Camino de Santiago, the group has grown accustomed to following an endless trail of yellow arrows. Campers and Camino-ers from all over the world have endured the hot weather of northern Spain and stuck it out to complete their journey. People starting from France, Germany, and even as far as the Czech Republic have all gathered together to see the beautiful city of Santiago de Compustella, where St. James was buried. The credentials of all the pilgrims have numerous stamps and a different story behind every one of them. We arrived just in time for pilgrim’s mass at the Catherdral, and I was amazed by the beauty of it. I wasn’t religious or anything but I respected what they did in mass, even if I didn’t understand a lick of Spanish. Spain has been an amazing trip, and the Camino de Santiago is a must walk for backpackers around Europe. It is truely and amazing sight and experiance for all eyes regardless of religious views.