Skip links

Camino Royale

Three Soroptimists head off for Santiago de Compostela

Firstly, a confession: our bags were transported so, unlike the pilgrims of old, we just carried our needs for the day.

This had been a plan in the hatching for a long time – the three of us and a friend. We’d hoped to go in April 2020 but Covid put paid to that.

An early start, long security delays at Manchester, a flight and a bus eventually saw us arrive in Tui, Galicia, on the Spanish/Portuguese border. That’s some 117km from Santiago de Compostela.

We started walking the following morning after a breakfast of too many pastries and fabulous freshly squeezed orange juice.

The ‘way’ is generally well marked. This route is very popular so we weren’t always alone. All sorts of people from all over the world do the Camino. We were particularly taken with a Venezuelan mother and daughter and a Danish family – parents and two young boys who were having a great time. I’m not so sure about the wisdom of the Czech couple pushing their 6-month-old in a pushchair. Long days to be strapped in!

Reasons for doing it range from the religious to ‘because it’s there’. Whatever the motivation, though, a spirit of some kind stays with you.

Blisters were battled and, Soroptimists to the core, treatment given to others. We administered ‘Compeed’ and donated walking poles to those who were really struggling. Ankles can easily turn on the dappled-light woodland paths strewn with tree roots. They’re a trip hazard if ever there was one.

Although it was lush and pretty, the rolling countryside sometimes made a ten-mile walk seem a long one. We had a couple of longer tiring days when the only appropriate medication was gin and tonic once we reached our destination.

Days got into a rhythm pretty quickly – basically we’d walk until we got to the next night’s stop. There were breaks for drinks, food, visits to those churches open along the way and chats to locals kind enough to stop and talk. To prove that we had walked the last 100k we had to collect stamps (‘sellos’) as we travelled.

Walking north,  we passed through Pontevedra, Caldas de Reis and Padron (of the peppers!) The six days went by and on the seventh we finally saw the spires of Santiago in the distance.

Arriving in the Plaza de Obradoiro is just stunning – the tall, ornate façade of the newly restored and cleaned cathedral shines golden. Inside people gather for the pilgrim Mass. Traditionally prayers are said to St James for taking care of pilgrims on their journey. Sadly, we didn’t see the Botafumiero lit and swung – the  huge 58kg incense burner. Will have to return !!

We proudly received our ‘compostelas’ – the certificate of our completed pilgrimage. A reminder of memories that won’t erase.