Walking the Camino: Shared images of journey

Crossing the Rio Minho we arrive in Spain – Galicia to be more precise where the language is more like Brazilian Portuguese than Castillano. We put our clocks forward one hour and now the sun sets at around 10.00pm. After walking long distance for several hours shared plates of tapas at 7.00pm are far more attractive than dinner at 9.00pm.

The days fly by and before we know it we near the end of our journey. Some collective images and photos from group members will give you some idea of this most memorable Camino experience.

Walking the Camino: Modern farming in Celtic ruins

Coming face to face with ancient cultures like Celtic and Roman settlements, and observing traditional land holdings and methods of cultivation. Walking ancient paths trodden by many others over many years. Reflecting on who I am, we are, our connections with each other and past dwellers. Balancing exchanging bits of life stories whilst walking companionably with my fellow travellers, and creating solitude for myself so that I hear the birds, take in the trees, the flowers, voices. The luxury of someone guiding responsibly and lightly who also leaves space for individual ways to experience. Ann R. Melbourne, Vic.

Walking the Camino: Caminoing through the forest

Forest floor
Leaf litter
Oak, pine, gum
Fragments
Soft underfoot.

Towns and paths
Blur into memory
Glympsing life
Through other’s eyes.

Camino
Sun and shade
Stories and silence
Crops and stone
Rural and village
Life.

Camino walking
In footsteps of thousands

Walking the Camino: Wild flowers in Spring

Of feet and years
Unique journeys
Shared humanity.

Camino Portugues
Pines and eucalypts
In rows and columns
March across hillsides
Reconquista.

Camino
Pilgrimage
Paths cross briefly
Lifetime journey.

Steve M. Melbourne, Vic.

 

Walking the Camino: Rich fertile farmlands near Muxia

Sun dappled track in a sea of green, with the ocean and a white sand beach sometimes visible through the pine trunks. Muxia is on a rocky peninsula with a lovely big protected bay on one side and the wild Atlantic Ocean on the other. Visible remains of Celtic and Roman occupation everywhere. Drystone walls marking out fields and what were once houses built right to the edge of the rocky shore. John D. Melbourne, Vic.

Walking the Camino: Snapped en route to Muxia

Today was special. The walk from Finisterre up over the hill in the cool of the morning towards Lires started confidently by all now we are so much fitter than at the beginning of the tour. The farmland gave way to the forest, then spectacular coastal views and then, more forest. We are all so much more aware of the sound of the birds now. Muxia was special for the rugged coastline and the history of the church on the rocks. The day finished with a swim in the Atlantic. Never thought I would be doing this on the Camino walk. Bernie F. Adelaide, Sth Aust.

Walking the Camino: Walking along cliff tops near Finisterre

Reflective walking. Deep green colours of pines providing welcome shade. And we journey on… Diana G. Melbourne, Vic.

Walking the Camino: Hórreos

So we have arrived in Santiago, a sacred place, a spiritual journey for each person in their own particular way.

Santiago, another Spanish town with a big cathedral? Yes but that’s not all! A magical place full of life, music and excitement. We were unprepared for the amount of music and dancing. On the Saturday night groups of people singing in the streets. Not busking, just singing together in the streets. Bands roaming from square to square with violins, guitars, Galician bagpipes and flutes. The unmistakable Celtic heritage of the area coming through with its own Galician flavour.

The next night, Galician dancing in the square, Galician pipes at the book fair with the player promoting his book. A Hurdy-Gurdy concert at a bar that would surprise you with its virtuosity, followed by an all-comers night that started at midnight and sounds and felt like an Irish pub.

No, the journey doesn’t necessarily stop at the cathedral!

Michael & Sue T. Hobart, Tas.

Walking the Camino: First glimpse of Santiago Cathedral from the Finisterre Way

Walking the Camino: With pilgrim friend in Padron

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Walking the Camino: Doing it Our Way in Northern Portugal

Walking the Camino: On the Way to Pedra Feruda

Includes written contributions from Diana G, Ann R, Steve M and Penny B.

It’s a week since our intrepid band of Ozzies began to follow the Camino trail that winds through northern Portugal and Galicia to Santiago de Compostela. Rain did not dampen our spirits as we explored the sights of the fascinating UNESCO World Heritage listed city of Oporto home to the renowned Douro River port wine growing region. From colourful Rua Santa Caterina and the majestic Liberation square to the 12th C. Cathedral where a stamp on our pilgrim passports marked the beginning of our journey. Finally winding our way down steep stone steps to the bustling riverfront. 

Walking the Camino: Ribeira district in Oporto

Next day we walked in brilliant sunshine via flower filled country lanes and vineyards resplendent with new growth to coastal Vila do Conde. Old crafts such as bobbin lace making are still practised here and the sense of community is clearly evident. By accident we came across a shop front where a group of local residents are seated in a circle. Men, women and young girls with heads down cheerfully tearing fresh green leaves from  a pile of cut branches in the centre of the room. “We need help” calls a friendly gentleman and we are welcomed in. They are preparing for an annual celebration, laboriously making leaf and petal carpets to adorn the streets. 

Walking the Camino: Preparing for a festival in Vila do Conde

Then followed several days of reflective, quiet walking through small villages and farming communities.  Peaceful trails through forests, our pathway often framed by ancient stone walls. The peaceful sounds of church bells, cocks crowing, goats bleating and frogs croaking become familiar to us. How privileged are we to be gifted with brief glimpses into Portuguese lives. The essence of Portugal. A modern nation, a proud people, living close to the soil with a tradition as old as the bridges in our photos that date back to Roman occupation. 

Walking the Camino: Through Farmland

Walking the Camino: Pretty tiled church in Vilarinho

Walking the Camino: An unusual garden scene

Walking the Camino: Over an Ancient Bridge

Onward through the lively market town of Barcelos where local residents prepare for a medieval festival, to charming a Ponte de Lima.  This is a place where elderly gentlemen tip their hats and say ‘Bom Dia’ as you pass. Ancient olive trees sit proudly amongst the stones in the town square and if you are short of a few herbs to spice your cooking you can forage for bay leaves from trees planted in brightly painted red pots or pick the rosemary and mint that flourish in garden beds.

Walking the Camino: Barcelos Market

Walking the Camino: Barcelos

Too soon it is our last night in Portugal. There is so much that we will miss as we reach the Rio Minho border crossing. Not only the magnificent vistas and the gentle, fun loving people but the great coffee and the tasty food – not to mention the Portuguese custard tarts! But Spain is calling and so we walk on.

Walking the Camino: Looking good at the start of our Camino

Walking the Camino: Day 1 Lunch stop in Arcos

Walking the Camino: Pretty streetscape in Viana do Castelo

Walking the Camino: Evening falls in Ponte de Lima

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Walking the Camino: With a spring in our step we journey onwards to Santiago

Walking the Camino: Walking over the historic Riam bridge in Ponte Maceiro

Written contribution from Deborah R. 

After breakfast overlooking a calm blue sea we followed a stylish promenade to the outskirts of Ribadesella.  Soon we were in lush green countryside with happy colourful wild flowers along the roadsides.  Past apple orchards of pretty pink and white bloom we wound through pretty villages.  One village, Vega, caught our attention with its ancient horreos and striking trompe l’oeil painted onto an abandoned house. Windy and wet weather near the coast made walking a bit tougher today, with several muddy paths, but we soldiered on much further than planned.  Some enjoyed a cliff top picnic until a cold front made us retreat to a warm café bar beside the beach.  The stunning coastal views and meandering village paths were a great contrast.  The sight of our quirky ancient hotel in the small town Colunga was most welcome after a long but rewarding walk.

Walking the Camino: At the Sancturario de la Barca in Muxia

Walking the Camino: 9_The Oratory of San Salvador de Valdedios dates from 893 A.D.

Next day as we headed inland the scenery changed to more rural farmland, with yet more hedgerows of wild roses and other pretty perennials and flowering weeds. Interspersed with views of ancient churches we witnessed farmers tending their apple orchards and vegetable patches. We saw the pre-Romanesque Church of San Salvador consecrated in 921 and though it was locked up a friendly local showed us photos of the original frescoes inside.  Some were entertained by a few loud, defensive geese, but mostly we simply drank in the stunning countryside views and forest pathways, until we arrived in the medieval town of Villaviciosa and enjoyed hot baths in a 400-year old building recently converted to a super comfortable hotel. After 20km luckily we didn’t need to venture far to find a delicious meal.

Despite a few tired walkers among us we took to the path next morning with determination, with warm weather predicted and a promise of a country house at the end of the day. The split in our pathway between the Camino del Norte and the Camino Primitivo was cause for one of several great conversations with locals.  Senora Patty not only told us the history of the shrine but donated a poem about it as well as inspiring words written on cloth and packets of sweets and nuts to help us on our Way!  Another meeting, this time with a fellow responsible for maintaining the yellow arrows, and his Cuban cigar-smoking friend, was most entertaining.  Some witnessed a cow in labour but the highlight was a successful ascent of a very long and steep mountain up to the village of La Campa, with stunning views from the top.  Lunch opposite the Church of San Salvador Valededios built in 893 A.D. and staying in a lovely rural house alongside the Camino were additional highlights.  Our host Belen cooked a fabulous tasty meal with local produce, to top off a very full day.

Walking the Camino: Local people paint Waymarkers along the Camino del Norte

Soon after setting off from our ‘casa rural’ next day we walked over yet another Roman bridge.  The grounds of the 15th C. Palacio Meres provided a luxurious location for a picnic lunch.  Our rich and diverse conversations continued despite the final stretch through relatively built up areas. Arriving in Oviedo we headed towards the Cathedral spire where we photographed its ‘crooked arch’ pointing The Way to Santiago. We stopped nearby at the statue of King Alfonso II who initiated the Camino in the 9th C. then placed our feet on a plaque that marks the start of the orignal Camino path, the Primitive Way.

And so the days passed by. Far too quickly we reached Santiago with its ornate 11th C. cathedral. Time to enjoy its special ambience and mingle with pilgrims from many different lands. Like us they had navigated diverse terrain and challenging climatic conditions over many miles. A celebratory group dinner hosted by our friends from the Camino Travel Center (who have managed all our tour logistics so well) was a culinary delight!

Walking the Camino: Commemorating the end of our pilgrim journey in Santiago

Then followed two memorable days of walking through the Finisterre peninsula. Particular highlights were the charming village of Maceiro with its historic Roman bridge; the tiny fishing port of Muxia with its dramatically sited Santuario de la Virgen de la Barca; and finally reaching the light house in Finisterre, known for centuries as the end of the earth. Our collective Camino at an end we returned to Santiago to reconnect with our individual life journeys. But the close bonds formed during the past two weeks suggest that it won’t be long until we meet again to share memories of our experiences along The Way.

Walking the Camino: Up at the Faro in Finisterre

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Walking the Camino: From Bilbao to Ribadesella along the Camino del Norte

Walking the Camino –
Just another magnificent vista along the Camino del Norte

Including written/photo contributions from Sandra E., Sydney NSW & Rob W. Melb, Vic.

It’s now a week since we commenced our Camino in the colourful north coastal city of Bilbao.  Here we see many different architectural styles.  The best examples include the Renaissance/ Gothic Cathedral; the neoclassical arcades of Plaza Nueva; and the contemporary, river front Guggenheim Museum of modern art.

Walking the Camino – The 12th C. Collegiate Church in Santillana del Mar

Walking the Camino – Guggenheim

Heading west we spent a night in the well-preserved medieval village of Santillana del Mar with its distinctive stone houses and the renowned 12th C. Collegiate Church and Romanesque cloisters.  Much lively chatter and laughter accompanied our first group dinner where we enjoyed countryside hospitality and high quality cuisine.

Walking the Camino – The beauty of the landscape never ceases along the Camino del Norte

Walking the Camino – Bufones de Arenillas on the coastal Camino del Norte

Then followed four wonderful days of walking through magnificent rural landscapes between the Sea of Cantabria and the snow capped Picos de Europa.  Although there are not many other pilgrims on this trail we have enjoyed daily encounters with people from many other distant lands.

Initially the weather was perfect – more recently we’ve had the chance to test the quality of our water-proof boots, clothes and day pack covers.  But the rain also had a silver lining!  A welcome opportunity to shelter in a café in the tiny hamlet of Naves where the friendly proprietor went out of his way to acquire some homemade crusty bread to go with local cheese and Iberian ham from his kitchen.


In the words of another member of our group:

Walking the Camino – Time to ponder life’s wonders along the caostal Camino del Norte

Day 5 and some of us have walked around 70kms.  Our journey so far has taken us on a path that engulfs the traveller in snow-capped mountains alongside wide empty beaches nestled in small fishing villages.  We have walked along narrow pathways in over grown forests; pebble roads with abandoned 16/18 Century washer rooms to the side; and across farmland overlooking the sea.  Animals are abundant with horses, sheep, goats and cattle grazing, cow bells singing and dogs barking.  We have stumbled upon 15th Century Monasteries that once showed hospitality to earnest pilgrims seeking the will of God. 

Walking the Camino – Is it really that far to Santiago?

Today our earnestness rests with the search for a good coffee along the road. We converse in a way that is free of some of the constraints that might be there back in Australia.  The Camino – the Way – evokes conversation around the past, the present and the future.  It is about storytelling and there are many stories to be told and heard in this very supportive environment, walked upon over the centuries by other curious seekers. 

We meet fellow pilgrims along the Way who freely share their intentions; one French women working through a difficult time in her life.  Another seeking clarity around her future career, yet another, just enjoying the countryside without a goal in mind.  Whatever the intention we notice a respect for the pilgrim from the locals as we walk through their villages with our packs on our backs, Camino shells clanging and walking sticks in hand. 

Walking the Camino – Day 1 Setting off to Comillas

Approaching a hilltop Church near Santillana del Mar

The contrast in terrain is as startling as the change in weather.  But what is a genuine surprise to many is the smell of eucalyptus.  For some locals, a pest, an introduced species, but for us an amazing sensation that we are not far from Belgrave in the Dandenongs or Katoomba in the Blue Mountains.  What messes with our heads is that no sooner do we feel we are walking through Australian bush than we are confronted with, say, a stone wall belonging to a large Spanish villa from centuries before.  Tomorrow we walk along the coast to Colunga and whilst the weather might bring rain we are comforted with the knowledge that unlike the pilgrims of past a hot shower and comfortable bed await us. 

Rob W, Melbourne, Vic.

Walking the Camino – Under the Medieval bridge in Cangais de Onis in the Picos de Europa

Walking the Camino – A wayside chapel on the Camino del Norte

Walking the Camino – Enjoying desert at our first group dinner on the Camino del Norte

Walking the Camino – Did I just hear Ozzie accents passing my patch of the Camino del Norte

Walking the Camino – Time to smell the nasturtians on the coastal Camino del Norte

Walking the Camino – Camaraderie along the Way

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Walking the Camino: Very soon we will be on Our Way! 

Walking the Camino: The views along The Way!

Plans are now in place for our four European Spring Camino Tours, the first of which commences shortly in the Basque capital of Bilbao in northern Spain.  Each tour follows one of the many ancient pilgrim pathways that lead to Santiago de Compostela.  Three tours provide opportunities for long distance walking.  The fourth tour, by bus, shadows Camino trails from southern Spain and beside the Roman built Via de la Plata leading to the mountainous Picos de Europa and visiting traditional coastal villages overlooking the Cantabrian sea.

This year has seen a significant increase in bookings from people recommended to Travel Enriched by previous participants.  As well as this we are receiving much more ‘repeat business’ with several people asking us to design a Camino tour especially for their networks.  Furthermore some participants are extending their Camino experience by combining two of our tours in the one trip; and there are many instances of small friendship groups joining us.  We are

Walking the Camino: Along the Camino Portugues in Spring!

delighted with these developments that indicate that our way of designing and conducting tours is responding effectively to the interests and personal needs of independent minded travellers, especially those in the 50 – 75 year + age category.  We hope that this momentum will continue in the year ahead.

Increased demand to participate in our tours has enabled us to boost our annual social responsibility commitment to the two Australian based non-government organisations that we support.  Both of these NGOs are engaged in grassroots community development projects that endeavour to address social injustice concerns and enhance cross cultural engagement and learning:

Indigenous Community Volunteers provides opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to develop human and community capacity to improve their quality of life, health, social and economic wellbeing and participation in Australian society.

Australia Pacific Islands Disability Support contributes to improving the lives of people with disabilities and their communities across the Pacific Islands.

Walking the Camino: The village church in Arcos, Camino Portugues

During the next two months we will post brief accounts and photos of our four very varied Camino journeys – a record of the highlights, joys and adventures that we experience along The Way.  For an idea of what is in store for us scroll down to see some of the photos taken on previous tours along these fascinating routes.  Although 2017 tour bookings are now closed (including our September tour along the Camino Portugues) plans for next year are underway.  If you would like to know what’s on offer send us an email or check this website in August when the new itineraries will be posted.

Walking the Camino: Grape Harvest

University students in the centre of Oporto

Via vineyards and bushland on the Camino Portugues

The familiar Camino sign posts

 

An arrow to show the way

Fishing boats in the small town of Finisterre

The Camino Portugues in Springtime

The Picos of Europa are a wonderful backdrop to the Camino del Norte

 

 

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Walking the Camino: Update on 2017 Tours

In 2017 we offer five itineraries along different Camino trails in Portugal and Spain. Four tours provide an opportunity to walk long distance on ancient pilgrim paths to Santiago de Compostela.  These tours also include the chance to visit the remote Finisterre peninsula beside the rugged Atlantic coast. The remaining tour, by bus, is more focused on the rich history of Spain, especially the 8th – 15th centuries.  This includes a lengthy period of significant cultural and religious tolerance between Christians, Muslims and Jews.

Walking the Camino: The scenery along the Camino del Norte is simply stunning!

Walking the Camino: The scenery along the Camino del Norte is simply stunning!

Three tours are almost fully booked. If you want to join us walking on a) the Camino del Norte in May; b) to travel by bus from southern to northern Spain in June; or c) to participate in our September tour along the Camino Portugues, act fast!  To cater for the increasing number of people who want to walk through northern Portugal we have added a new itinerary along the Camino Monacal, beside the Atlantic coast.  Further information about all our 2017 tours is provided below, with links to the individual tour itineraries.

Walking the Camino: The historic town of Viana do Castelo, on the Camino Monacal.

Walking the Camino: The historic town of Viana do Castelo, on the Camino Monacal.

Our first tour takes us along the Camino del Norte. Commencing in Bilbao mid-May we walk through the attractive Asturian countryside beside the Cantabrian Sea. In sight of the snow-capped Picos de Europa we turn inland to Oviedo. The tour ends in Santiago de Compostela and includes three days walking through the rugged and picturesque Finisterre peninsula.

Walking the Camino: World Heritage listed Oporto, on the Camino Portugues.

Walking the Camino: World Heritage listed Oporto, on the Camino Portugues.

Our second Camino tour is being run jointly with Australian based travel agency, Aurora Travel. Commencing in Oporto in late May we follow the traditional inland route of the Camino Portugues. Two side trips are included to some of the prettiest coastal towns in this region. Before reaching the ancient pilgrim city we enjoy two days walking through the more remote Finisterre peninsula.

Walking the Camino: The Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, the palace-fortress of the Christian monarchs, in Cordoba

Walking the Camino: The Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, the palace-fortress of the Christian monarchs, in Cordoba

Our third tour also commences in northern Portugal in late May. This has been designed to cater for those who would prefer to take the coastal pilgrim path from Oporto.  The tour includes walking for the first week via colourful fishing villages and towns along the Camino Monacal.  In week 2 participants join up with those who have followed the inland Camino Portugues. In the final days both groups walk together through the Spanish province of Galicia to Santiago.

In mid June we have a 15 day bus tour from Andalucia in southern Spain where we will visit the three medieval jeweled cities of Granada, Cordoba and Seville.

Walking the Camino: The ancient Pilgrim city of Santiago de Compostela

Walking the Camino: The ancient Pilgrim city of Santiago de Compostela

From here we travel north beside the historic Via de la Plata to explore Roman archeological sites in Merida and Caceres. Our onward journey takes us to Salamanca with its pioneering university; the strategic walled frontier city of Zamora; and Oviedo, the cultural capital of Asturias. The tour ends in picture perfect small town of Santillana del Mar along the northern coast.  Transfers are provided to Santander international airport or Bilbao.

In mid September we offer our flagship tour along the Camino Portugues finishing in Santiago de Compostela. This 10 day tour includes five days in northern Portugal and five days in Galicia, Spain. Those who are interested can extend their journey with extra time in Santiago and take a day trip to the Finisterre peninsula.

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Walking the Camino: Lasting memories of our Autumn 2016 tour

Our final days in Portugal were a rich kaleidoscope of colour – walking peacefully on forest tracks and beside vineyards and cornfields ready for harvest. Our last night was spent in a small family run guesthouse located right on the Camino trail. After a welcome swim we enjoyed pre-dinner drinks al fresco followed by a delicious meal of local delicacies prepared by our generous hosts.

With our host family in Rubias

With our host family in Rubias

A colourful scarecrow along the Camino Portugues

A colourful scarecrow along the Camino Portugues

Up early next day to avoid the late afternoon heat our forest track led us to the border crossing into Spain – a high bridge with magnificent views of the countryside along the River Minho. First stop, Tui with its sympathetic mix of architecture from centuries past. Some of us had the good fortune to spend the night in the oldest Jewish house in this historic border town.

Our way to Tui beside aromatic native herbs and waterways

Our way to Tui beside aromatic native herbs and waterways

The medieval border town of Tui on the River Mino

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 7 provided a break from long distance walking. Traveling beside the river we then climbed up through the early morning mist to the pre-Celtic archeological site of Santa Trega. How fortunate that our Guide is an Anthropologist who has studied Archeology. Morning coffee in the pretty coastal town of A Guardia and a short stop at the historic waterfront monastery in the tiny seaside village of Oia provided some insights into daily life. It was unanimously agreed that a long lunch of tapas washed down with Albarino wine was a highlight of the day.

The pretty seaside village of Oia

The pretty seaside village of Oia

Walking through shaded woodlands along the Camino Portugues

Walking through shaded woodlands along the Camino Portugues

Since then the days have flown. Our daily routine of: luggage down by 8.00am (to be transported to our next hotel); a continental breakfast; walking at 9.00am for 1.5 to 2 hours then a café stop; more walking until lunch around 1.00pm; and walking the final stretch to our next destination, hardly varied. Shorter walking distances and transferring by vehicle to our hotel was always an option.

Despite the routine the content of each day continued to afford us with new experiences.

Capturing photos of Vigo bay

Capturing photos of Vigo bay

The pretty coastal village of arcarde

The pretty coastal village of arcarde

When the mist rolled in at the mouth of the Rio Mino

When the mist rolled in at the mouth of the Rio Mino

At last, with tears of joy, relief and amazement at our individual achievements we arrived in the World Heritage listed city of Santiago de Compostela. A group dinner of fresh seafood in an atmospheric setting was a fitting end to a most memorable experience. Next day we joined the midday mass with pilgrims from all over the world who congregated in the 11th C. cathedral to celebrate the end of a unique journey.

Arriving in Santiago after a 25km walk from Padron

Arriving in Santiago after a 25km walk from Padron

A celebratory group dinner in Santiago de Compostela!

A celebratory group dinner in Santiago de Compostela!

Our last days together were spent visiting the picturesque Finisterre peninsula. A trip to the famous lighthouse situated on a point once thought to be ‘the end of the earth’ provided fantastic vistas along the Atlantic coast. The final stage took us along secluded forest tracks towards the small coastal town of Muxia with its dramatically sited sanctuary of the Virgin of the Boat built on the rocky headland.

At the end of the earth

At the end of the earth

And so to our collective memories that will be long lasting. Grey and white churches, some with a Romanesque past. Roman bridges, stone walls, grottos and blue tiles. Many varied pathways: including cobbled, earthen, pine needle covered and river stones. Spring waters, babbling steams, traditional communal washing troughs and water fonts. Canopies of lush vegetation, native trees, colorful flowers and plants as well as Australian Eucalyptus and flora.

With pilgrim feet we arrived in Santiago

With pilgrim feet we arrived in Santiago

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Walking the Camino: Our September 2016 begins!

Before starting our September Camino tour some group members spent a few days in Lisbon. As summer ends the city is abuzz with visitors from all over the world. It seems that this year Portugal is the preferred destination for many travellers. According to locals in the tourist industry, the Portuguese economy is doing well, unlike that of some neighbouring countries. We experienced this first hand joining long queues for the rollicking No. 28 tram ride to the Castle of St George, situated strategically at the top of one of Lisbon’s highest hills. Our journey down was cut short when the tram malfunctioned giving us no option but to travel the rest of the way down hill on foot.

The day the no.28 tram broke down

The day the No.28 tram broke down

 

Lucky for us! We arrived in one of the city’s most beautiful plazas where we enjoyed a delicious pastela de nata (Portuguese custard tart) with freshly brewed coffee. Our café was right in front of Fabrica Viuva Lamego an historic tile factory with its façade completely covered in colorful tiles.

Viuva Lamengo tile factory in Lisbon

Viuva Lamengo tile factory in Lisbon

 

Next stop Coimbra – a couple of hours from Lisbon by train and Portugal’s third largest city. What a joy to wander through its winding narrow streets and following a steep climb to visit one of the University of Coimbra, founded in 1290 A.D., making it one of the oldest universities in Europe. A highlight was the chance to visit the world-renowned Joanine Library (commissioned in 1717). This magnificent building houses thousands of ancient books and manuscripts that can still by accessed by researchers today.

The University of Coimbra central plaza

The University of Coimbra central plaza

A pre-dinner drink at the Cafe Majestic in Coimbra

A pre-dinner drink at the Cafe Majestic in Coimbra

After this enjoyable sojourn the train took us onwards to Oporto to join the other members of our group. The extraordinary beauty of this medieval city beside the river Douro never ceases to amaze. Our first day together was spent visiting the most significant city sights before having our Pilgrim Passports stamped at the 12th C. Cathedral. Sampling port wine in one of the historic bodegas and dinner on the balcony of a riverside restaurant was a fitting end to a wonderful day.

Transporting port wine barrels in Oporto

Transporting port wine barrels in Oporto

 

Arriving in Oporto by train

Arriving in Oporto by train

Since then the time has flown! We have enjoyed four wonderful days walking long distance along the Camino Portugues, through charming villages and beside fields filled with crops ready for harvest. One kindly farmer invited us to share a ‘pilgrim gift’ – a basket of fresh ripe tomatoes. Let the pictures tell the story…

 

In September the corn is ready for harvest along the Camino Portugues

In September the corn is ready for harvest along the Camino Portugues

19_harvest-time-is-a-family-affair-along-the-camino-portugues

Sharing our camino path

Sharing our Camino path

Starting our camino at the 11thc cathedral in Oporto

Starting our Camino at the 11thc cathedral in Oporto

Keeping the tradition a gift of ripe tomatoes

Keeping the tradition a gift of ripe tomatoes

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Walking the Camino: What lies ahead – September 2016 – 2017?

September 2016 along the Camino Portugues

In less than one month we commence our September Tour along the Camino Portugues. First up we explore the magnificent UNESCO World Heritage listed city of Oporto and have our Pilgrim Passports stamped to mark the start of our journey. Highlights include: the tranquility and splendor of walking long distances on forest tracks, beside vineyards at harvest time; experiencing the friendliness of local people and learning about the history and culture of this fascinating region; and joining countless millions of people who have travelled this path over many centuries.

To give you a flavor of what lies ahead you might like to read the following journal extracts from one of the participants in our May 2016 Camino tour.


On Wednesday we embarked on an 18km walk to Barcelos… home of the legendary cockerel (that) each Thursday hosts a large, lively market… (A) cafe run by Antonio was a beacon and gave us a chance to rest our feet, dry off and sample home-made vegetable soup and delicious cake… Little settlements between bigger villages with churches, shrines and town squares where people mingle and chat, were a constant. Whether chatting or silent, we helped each other, our conversations at pit stops sometimes about sore feet, blisters and distances ahead… It didn’t seem long before we’d arrived at (our hotel)… Later, walking around the village meant visiting churches and significant buildings. And we found a sports store where we bought their last set of walking poles. Gold

Walking the Camino: A colourful streetscape in Barcelos

Walking the Camino: A colourful streetscape in Barcelos

Walking the Camino: The sound of distant church bells are ever present along The Way

Walking the Camino: The sound of distant church bells are ever present along The Way

Monday’s… walk followed the Camino across the Ponte do Burgo beside the remains of an original Roman bridge, meandering via the peaceful villages… to historic Caldas de Reis. A small spa town… once occupied by Celts. It has botanic gardens and thermal springs, so we took the time for foot and back massages and spas. The day’s… walk was fairly flat, but hot. Refreshment breaks had been most welcome, giving us a chance to have a spell, take off shoes and socks and cool down… Chatting as we walked, Michael took lots of photos, often joining Heather and I in solving many of the world’s social and political problems. We also took time to admire the magnificent wildflowers scattered around and across fences and walls. There was time for contemplation too. Tony Kevin’s Camino experience* “…the pilgrimage takes your mind into new territory and encourages bold, lateral thinking [and]… can offer a piercing clarity of vision of the world, as well as sharpening appreciation of our common humanity…”, had some resonance for us. *Tony Kevin (2007). “Walking the Camino. A Modern Pilgrimage to Santiago.” (Scribe Publications, Melbourne).

 

Walking the Camino: The ancient bridge in Pontevedra

Walking the Camino: The ancient bridge in Pontevedra

(Next day) we were excited to be on the home run… We trekked through woodlands dappled with sunlight and shade… But sections of deep green rainforest had a sub-tropical appearance. We walked on country roads alongside the picturesque Rio Valga to San Miguel, and along the banks of the Rio Sar, enjoying ever-changing rural landscape and wildflowers. Villages were dotted randomly throughout valleys, with a mixture of agricultural, residential and commercial properties and ever-present churches and religious shrines. As with previous days, many farmers waved as they toiled in fields. Others drove past with their families in heavily-laden tractors, greeting us, their trusty little dogs wagging their tails ‘Buen-Camino’ style. It’d be easy to think of these Camino locals as having very simple and unsophisticated lives. But given the fast pace and complications of many richer societies, it’s debatable just who’s the more sophisticated. Geri Bryant-Badham (published on her blog ‘Canberra Snippets’)

Walking the Camino: Our Way through the rainforest is littered with Wildflowers

Walking the Camino: Our Way through the rainforest is littered with Wildflowers

Walking the Camino: An encounter with a tractor along The Way

Walking the Camino: An encounter with a tractor along The Way

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Walking the Camino: People you meet

There are many reasons why people travel to Santiago. For centuries, the Camino has been seen as a religious or spiritual journey. Along The Way one can see plenty of evidence of these historical links with Christianity. But today the Camino also attracts people from many different religious traditions, as well as those with a secular perspective. Some are seeking temporary release from their busy lives, others want a healthier lifestyle and to extend their level of fitness.

Walking the Camino: Meeting fellow pilgrims and locals along the way

Walking the Camino: Meeting fellow pilgrims and locals along the way

The potential to meet interesting people from near and far is a great attraction. People come from over 100 different countries, the vast majority from Europe, with over half from Spain itself. Numbers have increased considerably in recent years. In 2011, nearly 150,000 people received a Compostela (i.e. an official certificate that show they walked at least 100 Kms or rode 200 Kms to get to Santiago). Ten per cent (10%) were 18 years or less, 5%, 65 years or more. In addition, each year millions of people visit Santiago by train, road and air. All sorts of people come: teachers, students, employed/ unemployed, retired, farmers, artists, homemakers.

Walking the Camino: Walking with like-minded travellers and taking time to chat with locals too!

Walking the Camino: Walking with like-minded travellers and taking time to chat with locals too!

As well as pilgrims and other travellers, many local people live beside the Camino trails that wind through farming regions, hamlets and villages. There is often an opportunity to engage with them and to witness aspects of their daily life. Galicia is overall a poor, rural area, with fishing a key industry. Today many men and youth have been forced to leave their homes in search of employment, with women and older men left to tend family homes, farms and vineyards.

Walking the Camino: A glimpse into the lives of Galician farmers

Walking the Camino: A glimpse into the lives of Galician farmers

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