It’s amazing how quick a week goes by…

Well it’s Friday again…where did that week go? I’m still trying to figure that out. Not that I’m complaining or anything! We have a Bank Holiday on Monday here in Ireland so that means an extra day rest and possibly a day’s walking with a full pack. I now have 30 days until I return to Madrid and on to Burgos.

This day last week I was chilling in Limerick on the west coast of Ireland with C & J whom I met on my 2013 Camino. I feel honoured to be still in contact with them and to have them part of my life. They very much live the peregrino way and every time we meet, we talk about our previous Caminos. There are so many good memories. We live in the moment, just like everyone does while walking on the trail. On the Saturday and Sunday, we walked a total of 45 kms despite downpours of rain. They weren’t a pleasent 2 days, but  I’m really happy with my rain gear. However, if the weather in Spain remains the same as it is now, I don’t think I will need them!

C & J are returning to walk the full Camino Frances the day I return to Ireland…so I can vicariously follow them as they walk to Santiago and on to the sea. My Camino looks like ending in Astorga but if I feel good and feet hold up, I may make it further..possibly to the Cruz de Ferro. But who’s rushing?! 🙂

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Your Stories, Your Camino – Peadar Costello

I was delighted to receive an email from Peadar Costello, a long time reader to this blog. He has been on the Camino Frances a number of times and has been been bitten by the Camino bug. He returns in September walking from St Jean Pied de Port to Belorado with a friend. Maybe he will write about this particular Camino when he returns? I wish him a Buen Camino either way!

Peadar writes…

I am blessed and fortunate to have been able to walk the Camino Frances. It took me three separate visits to complete the entire Camino and in classic Irish fashion I walked the last section first!

This is my first Camino story :

September 2011 : Astorga to Santiago de Compostela / Finisterre / Muxia

I was 50 in 2011 and had a long standing fascination with the Camino. My wife suggested that to mark this milestone, it was time to stop the Camino talk and start the Camino walk! So on a beautiful sunny Saturday evening I stepped off the Madrid bus in Astorga and headed for the Albergue Siervas de Maria to claim the last bed. Early the next morning I took my very first (nervous) steps on to the Camino but by the end of that first days walking I had secured a bed in the wonderful Albergue Gaucelmo in Rabanal del Camino and shared my first menu Peregrino meal with a multinational group of fellow Pilgrims.

I went to bed that night knowing that the Camino was to become a major part of my life from that day on.

From Rabanal I followed the following route :

El Acebo – Ponferrada – La Faba – Fonfria – Samos – Sarria – Portomarin – Palas de Rei – Ribadiso – O Pedrouzo.

After 13 magical days of walking I found myself in the Praza Obradoiro in Santiago staring up at the magnificent Cathedral tired, elated and emotional. My 2011 adventure continued further with a bus journey to Cee followed by three more magical days of walking from Cee – Finistere – Lires – and finally Muxia.

A wonderful end to a fantastic and life changing adventure . I had well and truly been ‘bitten’ by the Camino bug that resulted in further visits in 2013 and 2015 to complete the Camino Frances.

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My chat with Dan Mullins on My Camino – the podcast

I recently talked to Dan Mullins, an Australian producer and musician, about my experiences on the Camino and it has been uploaded for all to listen to. I had a blast talking to Dan as he has walked the Camino and is walking again in September. We touched on kit, blisters, the history of Irish pilgrimage and on giving back to the Camino through local Camino societies.

CaminoPodcast

If you have some time, give our chat a listen. By the way, Dan has interviewed a whole host of folks from all over the world equally as enthusiastic about the Camino. Go and listen to some of these podcasts as you are guaranteed to enjoy them. Dan is walking from Lourdes to Santiago in September and I hope to meet him while I walk the meseta. Fingers crossed.

Your Stories, Your Camino – Máire Keane

I have received quite a few e-mails from readers wanting to write a few words about their Camino experience. Thank you to everyone who has written or are considering writing. I hope to continue this series on a weekly basis. The first post comes from Máire Keane. Máire walked the final 100 km of the Camino Frances from Sarria in June of this year. It was her first time on the Camino and it seems like she had a really positive experience. Another Camino awaits 🙂

Máire writes…

I am a lady of a ‘certain vintage’ and decided to walk part of the Camino on my own in June 2017. Because I was a solo traveller with some health issues I travelled ‘self guided’ using a specialist company. This was a great decision because they planned my route, organised my accommodation and luggage transfers and were available for additional support should the need arise – thankfully it didn’t.

My camino experience was extremely positive but I would advise someone starting to plan a camino adventure to train – the whole experience is way more enjoyable when your feet are happy and your legs are tired but able.  I met some sorry pilgrims with blisters, with calf strain, with pulled hamstrings….. I suffered nothing worse than a few insect bites.

I have great memories from my week in Galicia – great views, early mornings, good food, laughs, stories, paddling in the stream, head space, digital detox, a lightening of the mental load, farms, lemon flavoured Aquarius, lanes, coffee, forests, towns, churches, prayers, aging stoners recapturing their youth, nuns, rockers, bell bottom trousers, bikini tops – the Camino Francés had it all.

No negatives at all although on my next camino I will plan more myself (now that I know the ropes) and will probably book on a b&b basis rather than half-board.

I did feel a bit of an anti-climax on reaching the square in front of the Cathedral in Santiago – the square was almost empty and there was scaffolding in front of the Cathedral.  I think I must have had ‘St. Peter’s Square’ in Rome in my subconscious but thankfully some new friends I had made on the way met me and ramped up the excitement.  The pilgrim mass at 12 was a highlight, not solely because of the religious aspect but also the community feeling of having completed a journey together yet apart.

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Camino Information Centre – First day proper….

I had such a great time today and the time I was there flew by. I could have stayed much longer, you know?

Today was my first day in Camino Society Ireland’s Information Centre in St. James’ Church. The centre is open from Thursday to Saturday from 10.30am to 3.30pm but I can only take on Saturday due to work. There was myself and another volunteer there for the day and we are there to try help any visitor who had queries about the various Caminos to Santiago. We also sell pilgrim passports, guidebooks and badges for backpacks.

We had a whole host of visitors today. Some walking from Sarria to Santiago, others starting in Astorga and a few taking on the Northern and Portuguese ways. I find that the Portuguese Way has increased it’s popularity.

One future pilgrim is taking her child with her on the Camino del Norte, starting from Bilbao and they hope to walk to Santander. Short and sweet. The little girl must not be over 10. I think that’s brilliant if she is used to walking.

Another future pilgrim is walking from Le Puy in France all the way to Spain and will then continue on the Camino del Norte to Santiago. Once that route has been completed, the plan is to walk from Lisbon to Santiago. This is all for a worthwhile charity – to help Syrian refugees. Truly amazing! I have no idea how long that will take but I’d love to take it on someday. Unfortunately, I have a mortgage now and my pilgrimages will be much shorter for a little while to come.

We finished up at 3.30 and I am back again in the Information Centre in August. I look forward to it and I look forward to continuing to give something back in whatever way that may be.

Camino Society Ireland hike – Ticknock Woods – 1st July 2017

65 days.

The countdown to my next Camino continues and I long for the day I throw on my backpack and find the first arrow. I can then let the simple life take over and let the walking do the talking. It’s not long away, that’s for sure, so any practice hike until the 4th of September is a good one. Camino Society Ireland held their third hill walk today for members and friends. After last month’s washout in Bray, I was hoping that the weather would be a little kinder to us. A little sun even?

We weren’t disappointed however as the forecast was for variable cloud and sunny spells. I’m not going to argue with that. That said, I did bring along the rain gear, just in case the folks in Met Eireann were passing on false information!

Ticknockmap

Ticknock Forest is located to the very south of Dublin and in the Dublin Mountains. Now, being from the north-side of the city, transport was always going to be an issue but the Camino Society posted directions on Facebook and Google Plus a number of weeks beforehand so all was well. A quick journey on the Dart and following a cross-Dublin bus trip, we were collected and brought to the start point in Ticknock Forest. It is also the site for Biking.ie, a Mountain Biking Company, so we would be sharing the trails with bikers. The word “bicigrino” flashed before my eyes!

I had decided beforehand to invite members of our Camino Prep meet-up group along as it might be helpful to them in their decision to walk the Camino. Eight came along and I was delighted with that. We started off, after some safety announcements, shortly after 11am and it was uphill from the off. The numbers were close to 30, most I knew, some I didn’t. So I wanted to get to know the folks I hadn’t met before. We varied our walk between sections of the Dublin Mountain Way, the Wicklow Way; all the while taking in the best views of Dublin. Naturally, the higher we climbed, the colder it got, so I was glad to bring along a fleece! We reached the top of our climb within an hour and decided to stop for some lunch. Una sabia decisión!

The terrain varied from clear rocky trails, boardwalk, loose gravel, to a particularly dodgy descent through boggy marsh. But maybe that was me taking a wrong turn! Hmm! Highlight of the day was descending through a pine tree forest and spotting an arrow on a tree. It reminded me of the descent to Roncesvalles on day one back in 2014. All in all, we walked close to 10km however, it is one part of Dublin I want to return to. There is potential to walk for longer and there are many trails. An enjoyable day. Thanks to Bernard and Jim for organising.

The next walk will be at the end of August, so if you are interested and live close to Dublin, keep an eye on www.caminosocietyireland.com. If you have an Instagram account, make sure you follow the Society also, there are plenty of exciting things in the pipeline. Below are just a few photos that myself and my fellow peregrino Oihana took today.

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Howth Head – A Camino on my doorstep…

I can’t praise Howth Head and it’s various loops high enough. I live 15 minutes on the train from this great town and it’s impossible not to get tired of this beauty of a walk. The Bog of Frogs Loop – it’s longest walk at 12km – has many surprises and I’ve often described it as Camino in one day. It has everything – uphills, descents, bright colours, smells and of course, the sea!

I walked it on Sunday with the Camino Prep / Training meet-up group, starting out just after 10.30. Howth was pretty quiet at this time save for a pipe band that were setting up, possibly for a competition later on that day. Before arriving at the head, there is a gradual ascent on footpath – a little like what it’s like coming out of St Jean Pied de Port, until we arrive at the cliffs. A decent climb up rocks leads us to the cliff face and you can see all of Dublin at this stage. On busy days, people from all over the world visit this area to take in it’s views. I don’t blame them.

Onwards we walked with the strongest walkers at the front and myself and fellow peregrino Oihana at the back. Three hours later we arrived back to the village and devoured a well deserved cafe con leche. It was also great to meet new members to the group, some of whom are planning their own Caminos in the coming months.

Next Saturday, the 1st of July, I walk through Ticknock and the Dublin mountains with Camino Society Ireland. If you are in the area and want to join us, more information is here

Below are some photos of the walk on Sunday, many thanks to Oihana for taking such great pictures.

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