The Camino Through My Eyes #4 – Maggie Woodward

The “Camino Through My Eyes” series is becoming a big success and I’d like to thank you all for stopping by. It’s interesting reading other people’s perspectives and it sure backs up the phrase “No two Caminos are the same”. Last week’s contribution from Terry McHugh has seen quite a bit of traffic since I posted it.

This week I am delighted to introduce to you Maggie Woodward. Maggie is just fresh from completing the Camino Mozarabe, and she has posted a YouTube video, so check that out. I asked for Maggie’s thoughts to the questions I posed to my previous guests. By the way, you can find Maggie over on Facebook so make sure you give her a “like”, and her website is packed with information for anyone about to take on the Camino. I’d like to thank Maggie for her time.

1) How did you first hear about The Camino de Santiago and when did you decide to walk it?

I’m not sure how I became aware of it.  I knew it existed but had no thought of walking the Camino until my daughter invited me to join her.  She wanted to walk the Camino to celebrate her 30th birthday.  I had never walked for pleasure before, so needed to do a lot of training.  So my first Camino was the Frances route from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago and Finisterre in April / May 2013.  I suppose I started to train seriously 2-3 months prior to setting off.

2) I find that planning for an upcoming Camino can be almost as enjoyable as walking it. How did you research and plan The Camino de Santiago? 

I googled and discovered two pilgrim forums where I could find every piece of information I needed.  I also searched for blogs of people who had walked.  My daughter and I had originally planned to only walk for a couple of weeks, but the more research I did the more I realised that I wanted the ‘real deal’ – to walk from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela and beyond to Muxia and Finisterre.  So yes, I have to agree with you that research is all part of the journey, and the planning for my first Camino was very exciting – I thought of little else for quite a few months.


3) What advice or tips can you give future pilgrims walkers who might be considering walking The Camino de Santiago? 

    • Try not to have any pre-conceived ideas.
    • Be open minded.
    • If staying in albergues, take ear plugs.
    • Walk your own pace, don’t try to adjust to someone else’s – you can always stop and wait for walking partners at certain points along each stage.
    • Be aware that you are likely to hurt, a lot, for the first couple of weeks, but it will all get easier as you go along.  Three Caminos down the line, I don’t even think about taking my boots off now when I arrive at my destination, whereas on my first Camino the thought of removing my boots was never far from my mind.
    • Seriously consider using trekking poles.
    • Turn around often and look back at the view from where you have walked

4) Did you face any challenges?

Knee pain on my first Camino – I took many painkillers (pilgrim’s candy), but on subsequent Caminos this has not been a problem. I have always stayed in Albergues and I was always more worried about the lack of privacy in dormitory accommodation than about the actual walking.  It can be difficult, especially when beds are pushed close together so that it is like sharing a double bed with a total stranger (and some pilgrims can be very strange!).  I still find this a bit of a strain, as I do like my own ‘space’, but I still choose to use Albergues rather than private Hostales.

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5) I’m a big fan of Spanish food and drink. What were your three favorite traditional meals along the route?

I have had a few exceptional meals along three Caminos, probably most enjoyable on the Portuguese – good hearty soups in particular.  But I am not a fan of the pilgrim’s menu, which is often poor quality, carbo loaded to fuel an empty tank.  I much prefer a single course of quality food or to make myself a lovely salad. I miss fruit and vegetables when I am walking – I eat a lot of fruit at home but surprisingly it is  not always easy to buy in small villages along the route.

6) Molinaseca and Belorado are favourite towns of mine along the Camino. Do you have a favourite spot?

I also loved Molinaseca but most of all I loved the tiny stone villages – most particularly Santa Catalina de Samoza, which has been tarnished now due to the murder of Denise Thiem in that area.  To be honest, on my first Camino I was too tired by the time I arrived at my destination to have any energy for sightseeing.  But I got to know and absolutely fell in love with Santiago de Compostela. On my second and third Caminos I had much more energy after my arrival at each stage and did plenty of sightseeing.  On the Portuguese route there are countless beautiful towns and cities to admire and enjoy and also on the Mozárabe.
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7) One can feel a range of emotions on arriving into Santiago de Compostela and seeing the Cathedral standing tall in he Praza de Obradoiro. How did you feel when you completed your Camino?
On arriving at the cathedral for the first time back in 2013 I was overcome with emotion.  I am not a religious person but something about this majestic place, coupled with the joy at having reached my destination, left me lost for words and only able to sink onto a pew and weep uncontrollably.  I am always drawn to the cathedral when I am in Santiago – it means a great deal to me.
My reaction on reaching the cathedral at the end of the second and third Caminos was not much different to the first experience.

8) Looking back, do you think you were prepared for your first Camino de Santiago? Have you or would do something different?

I was as prepared as I could have been, as a newbie to long distance walking.  I had researched and prepared very well.  There is very little I would have done differently – maybe I should have been more independent of my daughter, who is an experienced traveller and backpacker – I should have let her do her own thing a bit more.  But I couldn’t have been too overbearing because she wants to walk with me again next year.

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