Over the last 10 days these amazing people have trekked the Camino for Parkinson’s. Together they have raised over $87,000 and had the adventure of a lifetime.
Read about their adventure
We’ve all arrived safely into Madrid for the start of the Shake it up Camino for a Cure Trek (even if all our bags didn’t!). It was with nervous chatter that we all gathered in the foyer of our hotel to finally meet face to face after months of fundraising in preparation for this moment.
Given this is Spain, we met late for our dinner prior to heading to the restaurant for a lovely introduction to Spanish Cuisine. Our team leader, Brent carried out an introductory brief letting us all know what to expect for the coming days. We are all super excited and can’t wait to get started!
It’s our first day together as a team in Spain! We were met by our city tour guide, Pedro, a Madrid local, outside our hotel nice and early to beat the heat. Pedro cut a dapping figure and was highly knowledgable about the history of Madrid as he took us from the 16th century through to modern day Spain. As we are in Spain to walk the Camino, it was only fitting that we headed off on a walking tour of the old city. In fact, whilst walking, we beat many of the buses that were busy ferrying tourists a short distance between sites.
We started off at the Temple of Debod, the only authentic Egyptian pyramid in Europe. We then wandered through some of the spectacular sites of Madrid taking in the Plaza de Espana, including the fantastic bronze statue of Cervantes and his important character Don Quixote. We then wandered down to the Royal Palace of Madrid before checking out the Cathedral of Santa Maria. We meandered on the Mercado de San Miguel, the Plaza Mayor, and the Plaza del Sol before finishing outside the Centrocentro.
From here we bid adieu to Pedro. With the afternoon to spare, we all headed in our own directions to visit the various spectacular history and scenic venues of Madrid. For some, it was all about art galleries with the Thyssen and the Prado high on the list to see. For others it was all about food and wine and taking in the sunset from the Temple of Debod. For the sport fanatics, the opportunity to witness the final stage of La Vuelta a Espana, one of the 3 Grand Tours of professional cycling was not to be missed. This was the first time that a grand tour had been won by an Australian owned cycling team, so witnessing one of Australian sport’s most important momentous occasions was not to be missed.
Tomorrow we face laughs as we head on the long transfer to finally start the Camino.
Today we were treated to a sleep in! With our bus not scheduled to collect us until 10:00AM, this would be our final relaxed morning before finally getting our walk on. We were relieved to see an extremely comfortable Mercedes mini-coach arrive at the allotted hour.
After a short drive out of the Madrid suburbs, we got on the A6 and began the 480km transfer to Sarria in the north-west of the country and the location of our final night before commencing the walk. We passed through country dotted with ancient churches and castle ruins, quaint villages and fields full of vegetables. By the time we had several ‘rest’ stops along the way to refresh on espresso and ‘glace donuts’, we arrived at our destination about 6 hours later.
We are now feeling like pilgrims as we explored Sarria’s old town, past the ancient church and the Albergues. We encountered pilgrims who had started their journey many weeks and hundreds of kilometres ago depending upon where they have come from.
Tomorrow we start our journey. The team is fit and feeling well. We are expecting a sunny day of 28 degrees. Our next post will be after we have completed our first 22km of walking!
Our first day of the 115km walk from Sarria to Santiago began in darkness at 7:45am. As a group, we walked through the cobblestoned streets, searching for the tell tale yellow arrows that guide the way. Geese paddling in the river marked the first of many animals we’d meet along the Camino, and we quickly met other travellers ready for the day ahead.
Sunrise in September begins at 8am, creating a halo of pink and orange hues through the grey morning clouds. We wandered through lush cornfields and across train tracks, through what seemed like rainforests and alongside paddocks. Our first stop was a local store, where pilgrim scallop shells were sold and we collected our first stamp of the day for our Camino passports.
At the 100km marker (signifying only 100km’s remaining to Santiago), we took a quick group snap to mark an iconic spot. A local busker wearing a traditional costume surprised us with Gallic bagpipes, his tune echoing along the path for a few hundred metres.
Passing a beautiful, ancient family home, our local guide Meri suggested we stop for lunch. For just a donation of our choice, we were provided with a Spanish feast of jamon croquettes, Spanish omelette, chorizo tapas and dessert, home cooked by an adorable Abuelita (grandmother). After resting our feet, we continued our journey. As our group split off based on pace, we came to a fork in the road offering either a short cut, or a historic trek. The shortcut saved some trekkers 100 metres, while the historic trek took others down a beaten and rocky path.
Finally, we regrouped at the entrance to the picturesque town of Portomarin, our first stop for the five-day journey. Here, we will reminisce, share photos, and sip Sangria before resting up for an early start tomorrow. It’s been a good day.
We began another day at the dark hour of 7:45am. Along with hordes of other Pilgrims, we filed out of Portomarin and onto the Camino.
Climbing over 300 metres to Castro Maior, we trekked up steep hills through heavy fog and explored ruins of a Celtic ring fort that can usually only be seen in Ireland. From there, we meandered through valleys until we reached Trisquel in the Ligonde region for lunch. We were lucky enough to sit outside in the shade and enjoy a drop in temperature while resting our feet.
From Trisquel, we wandered through dying sunflower fields, homely eucalyptus trees, and local veggie gardens where the berza (Spanish cabbage) plants grow plentiful.
Our group had split up through the day, leaving us as traditional pilgrims on our journey to the hotel. When we reached our destination, Palais de Rei, we met at the bar next door for a well-earned glass of Sangria. Tomorrow, we head off on our longest walk of the Camino yet: a wince-inducing 29 kilometres to Arzua.
In our evening briefings, our group leader Brenton likes to tell us that the profile for the following day will include ‘a little bit up, little bit down’ followed by ‘a little bit up, little bit down’. We’d like to tell you that despite what Brenton tells us, the Way of St James, AKA the Camino Del Santiago is not flat. After leaving at 0800 this morning, we arrived around 1700 after only travelling 29km. It seemed like we spent the entire day climbing up hills.
Over the course of our journey today, we learnt some valuable lessons.
· Octopus does not go well with chocolate ice cream
· The Camino Del Santiago de Compostaela is not flat
· Anything that our group leader Brenton says, should be taken with a generous helping of salt! (Haha!)
· There are no swim up bars at our hotels.
· It is okay to hang your wet (but clean) granny pants from the back of your pack whilst walking to allow them to be air dried.
· Jeff’s step count was above 40000, despite “only” walking 29km. We attribute the extra 10000 steps to his return trips to the breakfast bar.
· Smashed avocado does exist in Spain. nom nom nom
· Some of us felt compelled to finish today’s ginormous walk even running on empty!
· Even when you think you can’t … more often
than not you can.
Today was taxing for some. For others it was taxi-ing!
Breakfast was earlier this morning and in another building – there are always surprises in Spain. With luggage taken to its designated place for pick-up, we all assembled in the lounge where there was a line up of pilgrims waiting for the Doc to render healing to their blister ravaged feet. We are experiencing a true pilgrim experience and are remaining stoic in our determination to reach Santiago victorious.
We were on The Way at 8am under a heavy sky with light and happy hearts, weaving our way through the countryside, inhaling the silage scented rural air and dodging the road splattered decorations. Several stops had to be made to photograph the cows, dogs, cats and sheep as well as corn fields, hay sheds and tractors because country life holds its own mystique and intrigue. Roadside bars offered refreshments and comfort stops as well as opportunities to have your Credentials (Passports) stamped. One such place today had a plethora of beer bottles decorating the garden, the facia of the building and even the trees – a great way of recycling – if you like that kind of thing.
We have been surprised to find several plantations of different species of Australian Eucalyptus during the last couple of days.
The Way was more forgiving today – not so many ‘little bit ups and little bits down’ and Meri, our Local Guide, made more frequent stops.
After our 9km lunch break we continued on under the canopy of chestnut and oak trees protected from the light shower of rain that the heavens delivered, and arrived at this destination at a respectable 15:00 hours having completed 20.9 kilometres.
Our group was split for accommodation this evening, so we were unable to dine together, but everyone was together in spirit. Although tomorrow’s trek will be longer than anticipated, but there is no doubt we’ll all be a united and emotional team for Shake It Up Australia Foundation when we walk in to Santiago tomorrow!
We all have a mixture of feelings as the end is looming fast, but without exception we wear a badge of pride within ourselves. We are thankful to both Shake It Up Australia and Inspired Adventures for providing the opportunity for us to tick one of the things off our bucket list.
Of course this is an ideal time to say a big Thank You to our wonderful Guides: Meri who lives in Santiago (and is walking home) helped us over the language barriers and mothered us, and our Doc Brenton who rounded us up and kept us moving. We’ve enjoyed their company & professionalism – Thank you.
And just like that, it is all over. After 120km of walking, we’ve all finally reached our destination of Santiago. There were ‘lots of up’ and ‘lots of down’. To date, as a team we’ve raised close to $87,000 for Shake It Up to continue their work supporting research into a cure for Parkinson’s Disease. For those that are still to donate, please keep those donations coming in! You can do so here: https://donate.grassrootz.com/…/camino-for-a-cure-trek-for-…
Today’s walk began in the mist as we struggled to get our boots on for the last time. A nice gentle start to the day through a tall eucalyptus forest had us all thinking of imminent departures home. The flat soon gave way to rolling hills and then with one final climb as we approached the Monument de Monte do Gozo, a famous Christian pilgrimage site with a chapel, large sculptures and a commanding view of Santiago and the surrounding valley.
Like many modernising European cities, coming through the outskirts of Santiago doesn’t really deserve much of a description. However, crossing into the old town revealed a magnificent city centre dating to the middle ages alive with Pilgrims from all corners of the world. We headed directly to the forecourt of the Cathedral where to the delight of car fans in the group, for some reason there was a classic car show full of European models from the 30’s through to the 80’s. After stopping for the obligatory photo of the 0km to go sign we headed to the pilgrims office to register for our certificate of completion. We had to provide evidence as to whether we were completing the walk for religious, spiritual or sport reasons.
Tonight we celebrate our achievements! Tomorrow we have a free day to attend the pilgrim service at the cathedral and then to explore Santiago. We’ll finish up with a celebratory dinner before we each head in our own directions on Monday.
The last 8 days have represented a culmination of up to 8 months of effort as we’ve trained hard and raised money in preparation for our Camino for a Cure. During our 8 days, we’ve developed friendships and blisters, we’ve seen sights and tasted delights.
Thank you for your support. Buen Camino!!!