Walking the Camino: A unique experience for all who travel along The Way

Walking the Camino: Panoramic view, Douro River Oporto

Mid September marked the start of our long awaited European Autumn tour along the Camino Portugues. In Oporto a panoramic photo of the city skyline sparks memories of our initial day spent exploring the city’s fascinating medieval core.

Walking the Camino: Setting out along the Camino Portugues

Walking the Camino: Via rural landscapes we walk onward to Santiago

Next morning we set off under blue skies on our 10 day journey travelling in the footsteps of countless pilgrims past who walked this Way to Santiago de Compostela. Traditional scallop shells on our day-packs and pilgrim passports in our pockets we soon learnt to find and follow the emblematic yellow arrows. Our regular mantra of ‘Bom Caminho’ when in Portugal and ‘Buen Camino’ in Spain was eagerly reciprocated by all who passed us by.

Walking the Camino: Harvest time on the Way to Santiago

Our path in northern Portugal and in the Spanish province of Galicia led us through picturesque rural landscapes and via peaceful villages. Most days we walked beside late summer fields resplendent with colourful foliage and fruit ready for the harvest. As if by magic, just when shade was needed, leafy paths through forests of pine and eucalyptus trees provided welcome relief from the afternoon sun.

Walking the Camino: Walking through vineyards on Our Way to Santiago

Walking the Camino: The central plaza in Pontedevedra

Particular highlights included a chance encounter with hundreds of primary school children from Portugal and Spain who had gathered beside the river in the historic small town of Ponte de Lima. It seems that our visit coincided with a festival to celebrate the passage of the Rio Lima through both countries, this symbolising the friendship that now exists between these once warring nations.

Walking the Camino: Festival of children in Ponte de Lima

Mid way, a day free of long distance walking provided some interesting attractions of another kind. We enjoyed a bus trip to the mouth of the Rio Minho that marks the border between Portugal and Spain then travelled beside the Atlantic Ocean in the southern most part of Galicia. A visit to a highly sited ancient Celtic settlement called Santa Trega provided spectacular views of the township of A Guardia and along the rugged coastline. Further on at the historic waterfront monastery of Oia, a village band wound its way through the narrow cobbled laneways musically rallying local residents to Sunday Mass.

Walking the Camino: Santa Trega – An ancient Celtic site high above the Rio Minho

Walking the Camino: A Guardia at the mouth of the Rio Minho

Walking the Camino: All smiles on our day trip beside the Atlantic ocean

Walking the Camino: Yellow arrows show The Way in Oia

Perhaps an unexpected highlight was the chance to interact with like-minded travellers from other countries, sharing stories and sometimes songs created along The Way. With a spring in our step, we sang our own rendition of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ inviting others to ‘Come walk the Portuguese Camino with me’! As the days passed these and other recollections merged into a rich tapestry that represented our own unique pilgrimage experience.

Walking the Camino: View from a coastal pilgrim path near Baiona

Walking the Camino: A peaceful pilgrim pathway through northern Portugal

And finally, each one having walked more than 100kms, we reached the World Heritage listed city of Santiago! Here one can’t miss the buzz in the air as people from around the world celebrate the end of their journey. As if to further reward our efforts those who attended the Pilgrim Mass in the Cathedral joined in another special experience. They witnessed the ancient tradition in which a giant botafumeiro swings across the width of the Sanctuary spreading incense on the congregation. In earlier times this helped to clear the air of the smell of unwashed pilgrims. These days it provides a symbolic and often emotive end to a sometimes challenging, but personally rewarding journey.

Walking the Camino: The swinging giant incense burner in Santiago Cathedral

Walking the Camino: A window scene at our riverside hotel in the Portuguese countryside

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