Gayle Johnson vuelve al Camino

22/06/2020 6:57

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Six months in the planning, a long walk (20km plus) once a week, numerous packing lists written and re-written to get to this point – alone in a hotel room in Lisbon about to start on a dream which a few short months ago I would have thought well and truly outside my comfort zone – did I say alone? Yes, I left my husband in Auckland – he will join me in Porto by which time I will have walked over 300 kms and spent 3 weeks getting to know ‘me’. They say on the Camino you are never really truly alone – well yes and no – the section from Lisbon to Porto is not as popular as from Porto to Santiago and I often went entire days seeing no one but the owner of whatever small café I stumbled across for a much needed ‘Pasteis de Nata’ – the Portuguese custard pastry that became the lifeblood of my daily pilgrimage. I have chosen to walk my Camino using the services of ‘Camino Ways’ an online tour company that after much research and reading of reviews I settled on to help with my bookings along the trail – while the Albuquerque’s (hostels with shared dorms) are favoured by many at 57, I am not prepared to compromise on the relative luxury of my own room and ensuite at the end of each day.

They also arrange luggage transfers so that I am able to carry only a minimum load of around 8 kilos in my day pack. Purists might have it that it is not truly walking a Camino unless you carry all that you bring. I have had a hip replacement barely 10 months before embarking on my Camino so for me at least it has been a challenge to get to this point.

Camino Ways looked after me admirably and with a 24/7 phone number if you have any issues also put my husband’s mind to rest knowing I had someone to turn to should the need arise. The ‘trail’ is marked with yellow arrows so in theory you are hard pressed to get lost. In theory. Many a time I got very lost and being alone, unable to speak the language, and never being much of a ‘people’ person this was a challenge! I thought I was lost on day 1 and very definitely got lost on day 2. The plus side was it could only get better and I could only get more adept at handling it. Those pesky yellow arrows, often illusive, are painted on everything – lamp posts, rubbish bins, the sides of buildings, gutters – some are bright yellow while others faded and a challenge to spot. Walking alone presents other challenges as with two of you, you have double the eyes and less chance of missing an all-important arrow. You only need to miss one and you can spend hours back-tracking and second guessing your directional abilities. So it is here that I find myself on the 8 th September 2019 at Hotel Botanico in Lisbon about to commence on a month of walking, for what will turn out to be, anywhere from 19kms to nearly 42 kms per day – often in 38c heat and at times alone with just me for company. I make my way to the Igreja de Santiago, the small church which for many is the official start of the Portuguese Camino and then to the Cathedral itself – the more common starting point where my first yellow arrow, faded but visible is on the bottom of the Cathedral walls pointing to the left. And so it begins.

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