I did it again. I walked the Camino with another group of strangers. Sort of.
Let me explain.
In 2019 I walked the Camino Inglés with another Spanish teacher and a group of total strangers who wanted to improve their Spanish. The truth is, I hadn’t even met the other teacher in person until we both arrived in Ferrol the day before we started walking. Despite all my fears (and I had many), the experience was so amazing that we were planning to do it again in 2020. But we all know how 2020 went…
Fast forward to 2022. The idea was to give the plan another try. A different route, though. But, again, things didn’t go according to plan. This time it was the other teacher, who had to pull out of the project, quite unexpectedly, for personal reasons.
That left me wondering, should I go ahead by myself? Or should I just forget about the whole thing? So many changes of fechas (dates), cancellations, and other setbacks… maybe it was not meant to happen again after that first wonderful experience.
After much thinking and some ‘consulting with la almohada’* I decided to do it.
Since our original dates were too close, I moved forward to September. I also made the decision to take a smaller group (4 or 5 max.).
As you can imagine, the group changed a lot since we originally planned this Camino in 2020. And even from the time I decided to go ahead with it and the time we actually started the walk.
We ended up with a very balanced group: 2 hombres (men) and 2 mujeres (women); 2 with previous Camino experience and 2 who were walking their first Camino; 2 I knew, and 2 I had only met once briefly when they were inquiring about this experience. That would require some adjusting and getting used to each other’s quirks, I thought. But we got on quite well and I soon felt like we had all known each other for a while.
We all met in Tui, our starting point, on Sunday September 25. We started walking the Camino Portugués the next day. The plan was to walk for 6 days, and arrive in Santiago on Saturday, October 1.
It was still quite busy on the Camino at the end of September. We kept seeing other pilgrims along the way.
Our destination for the first day was Porriño. We didn’t know this, but there was a local festival there, with everything that entails: lots of people, busy bars and restaurants, loud music, etc. It was hard to rest after lunch, due to all the noise. And we were worried we would not be able to sleep at night. But we were lucky and they didn’t finish too late. Phew!
The weather forecast for the week wasn’t bad. The first 2 days, the weather was perfect for walking: dry and not too hot. The forecast for the third day was confusing. Depending on where we looked, we could make it to Pontevedra without rain… or not.
We made it to Arcade in dry weather. But when we left the café where we had stopped for a break, it was raining. The rain was light at first, but it soon became heavier. I had good memories of the section between Arcade and Pontevedra from the previous time I had walked it. But I can’t say I enjoyed it this time. The rain was relentless; I was roasting under the poncho; the group got split and I ended up in the middle, losing track of the ones ahead of me and not seeing the ones behind me either. Kind of stressful. We eventually got reunited, and at some point I decided to take off my hood. It was either getting my head wet or passing out from the heat. Getting wet sounded like the best choice.
It stopped raining a couple of miles before Pontevedra. It rained heavily that night and we feared we would have another very wet and miserable day, but it didn’t rain that much while we were walking between Pontevedra and Caldas de Reis. No more rain after that. We got loads of fog between Caldas and Padrón and the last day was just perfect!
As I mentioned above, we all had different backgrounds and interests. So, while I’m not too interested in data, we had someone in the group who gave us a daily report. That’s how I know we walked for 29h 44min in total. We covered a distancia (distance) of 121km, at an average speed of 4.07km/h. The day we walked in heavy rain was our slowest. The day we walked in the fog was our fastest.
The day we arrived in Santiago, 2897 Compostelas were issued.
Almost 30 hours spent walking, plus breaks, mealtimes, etc. That’s a lot of speaking time.
The good news is that we never lacked topics for conversation.
Some conversations were serious; some, funny (or even ridiculous! 😂). Some were happy; some, sad. Some were very informative; some, full of useless facts (thank you, Andy, for the ‘useless fact of the day’).
We talked about life, death and everything in between. We told jokes and scary stories. We discussed books and films, history, family, food, sports… even politics and religion! All in Spanish. All flowing naturally. It wasn’t perfect. In fact, we may have coined one or two new Spanish words… But that was not the point. Or the goal.
The point was to communicate, to learn new things, to make connections. And we certainly did that. We even had a couple of Camino moments!
And the connecting part did not just happen among ourselves.
Finding a place that was open for desayuno (breakfast) in Porriño was complicated. According to Google, there were many to choose from. The reality was that only one of them was actually open.
And that’s where we had our first encounter with a very lively group of Spanish ladies. They were sitting at this café, all wearing the same jackets and being quite loud, we thought, at that early time. The camarero (waiter) was reciting a poem to one of them, the others were recording with their phones and making jokes. In short, they were having a blast.
We met them again, later that day. Some of our group got to talk to them a lot (all in Spanish), learn about their story and bond -something they couldn’t have done if they didn’t speak Spanish.
We learned that these ladies were from Valencia and belonged to the Asociación Española Contra el Cáncer (Spanish Association Against Cancer). They took part in many activities together, like singing in a choir… and they did sing a lot while walking. It was their way of keeping the spirits up of those who were struggling with serious health issues. They were a lovely group, always happy and positive, and it was a joy to meet them day after day, including the day we walked into Santiago.
There are so many anecdotes and we shared so many moments (good and not so good) that I could keep writing and writing. But I don’t want to bore you. I may write another post about the experience. Or not. Can’t promise anything.
Anyway, the video below will give you an idea of some of the special moments we shared.