Galicia is a very special place that holds significant meaning for many people.
We are starting our Camino here in O’ Cebreiro and we did not have to climb the infamous hill to get here. We came straight from the airport and arrived in this age-old village made of stone.
We are instantly transported back in time…
We are eleven pereginas between the ages of 50 and 70 years. We are meeting each other here for the first time and introductions are made over “Tarta de Santiago” and cervesa.
I look at all the mountains surrounding us and feel on top of the world! We are so fortunate to be here for sunset as well as sunrise.
Our backpacks are packed and we are ready for this adventure so many pilgrims have undertaken through-out the ages. After breakfast it is time to go…
How do you start such a journey? After all that planning, organizing and training I am actually here at the start of my pilgrimage. I put on my backpack and pick up my trekking poles. The moment has arrived! I look around and notice the mountains again. I almost missed the picture I wanted of the sunrise!!
The wind is blowing pretty strong and it is cold enough to make your eyes water. Two old pilgrims are just coming up the hill. I put my trekking poles down again and they nestle against the stone wall. There I meet Nancy who is also waiting to see the sun rise. I tell her that I am starting my pilgrimage right at this very moment and she explains that all I need to do is to follow the yellow arrows all along the way. The markers will guide you. No need for maps. Be open to what will happen and who you will meet. I also think about the song on Tanja’s phone that woke us up this morning: Amy Grant singing “Don’t try so hard, God gives you Grace. You don’t earn it.”
The sun streaks golden over the mountain tops and I look at my first arrow leading me back into town and see some of the ladies from our group. They also seem to be waiting for the right moment to start. They tell me that some people have already left. I don’t see Tanja, I will just have to do it by myself… The thought makes me sad. The road splits in two and I take the right side which looks like it is going to follow the highway. Luckily the actual path turns off to the left and there is an old peregrina zig-zagging very slowly down the steep hill. I follow her example: don’t rush, you’ll get there. I use my trekking poles in front of me to brace myself against the gravity and on the uphill sections I let them match my stride while giving myself a little push.
I am so pleasantly surprised when I meet Tanja with her (Mom’s) pink jacket where the two paths meet in Liñares. I have no idea how far apart we started, but I know that I am not as fast as she is and we still walked into the first town together. Even though we started at different times and followed different paths and walked at different speeds, of all the people in our group I met up with Tanja. It made me feel that I was supposed to be here with her. That I was needed. That I belonged here. I was really thankful for that revelation. Tanja believed it since she asked me to come, but I needed proof…
We still walk our own individual journeys – stopping to take pictures or have a coffee; getting to know other people along the way, whether they are part of our group or strangers we happen to meet. Everybody has their own camino, even though the direction is the same. We will all get there in the end, but with unique experiences.
The yellow arrows reminds me of the white blases on the Bruce Trail in Canada. I also recognize a lot of plants here that grow in South Africa. Lots of bougainvilleas, geraniums, roses and petunias. At the same time it feels like I am in Germany with the farm smell in the air. The heather reminds me of Ede in The Netherlands, where my parents went to school. It is as if all the places where I have been are coming together as one!
We are just about to leave Filobal, when the people who just arrived wish us a “Buen Camino” with the Afrikaans accent I had been hoping to hear. They are done walking for the day and I spend the next hour or so with Jan and Estie from Polekwane. I have not spoken Afrikaans for so long, it is like rain after a drought. So welcome!! They are from the same area in South Africa that my husband comes from and they feel like family to me. Jan tells me that his friends were wondering why he is going on this walk. He says that he told them that he is going to find himself. So they asked what he was going to do with himself when he finds him? He says he doesn’t know yet whether he is going to take himself back home or whether he is going to leave himself behind in Spain… We talk about how safe you feel walking here in contrast to South-Africa. They were missing the “pap en wors” really badly though😊
By the time I leave, my feet are not tired any more and I am smiling the next 5 kilometers all the way into Triacastela.