Saturday, May 06, 2017


Last year my younger brother and his wife Gail were supposed to fly to Rome with Finn in July to meet me after I'd lead my group on the Via Francigena. (Gail walked with my Caracoles group on a Slow Walk from El Ferrol to Santiago in 2014). The plan was to spend a night in Rome and get a train to Viterbo the following day.  We would then do a slow walk back to Rome on the last 100km.

My brother was unexpectedly diagnosed with an illness in May that required surgery and months of post-operative treatment, so he and Gail had to cancel their walk at the last minute. Finn, Jenny, John and I did the walk without them.  I promised them that I wouldn't book myself to lead any groups in 2017 so that I'd be available to walk with them on any route in Spain, France or Italy.  

Due to a heavy workload my brother has decided to wait until next year to walk the Camino but Gail, desperate to get away and walk the Camino again, decided that she would like to do a short walk before the end of May.    We leave South Africa on 9th May and arrive in Sarria the following day.  We will take 12 days to reach Santiago where we will spend 2 nights. We have booked train tickets to Ponferrada, Burgos and Logroño.  From there we fly to Madrid on 27th May for our flights home
This will be the 10th time I walk to Santiago.  I walked to Santiago in 2002, 2004, 2007, 2009, 2011 (twice) 2013 (twice) and 2014.  (In 2015 I walked the meseta with an amaWalkers Group, served at an albergue for 2 weeks then flew into Santiago.) 

This is the first time I'm not walking for me, or leading a group.   This is a special walk, for a number of reasons.  I am walking in memory of a wonderful woman who was, and still is, well-known on the Camino, who passed away at the age of 92 in 2002.  I will request a memorial Compostela for Felisa when we arrive in Santiago and will take it to Maria and her daughter Feli in Logroño.
Felisa used to sit under a sprawling fig tree outside her modest home on a sandy path leading to the outskirts of Logroño.  She offered passing pilgrims figs, love and water and her special stamp was much sought after.  Since she passed away her daughter Maria continued serving passing pilgrims and although not in good health and 83 years-old, she still sits under the fig tree offering pilgrims figs, love and water

I will also be carrying the photograph of Wayne - son of a friend killed by a hit-and-run driver a few weeks ago.  His mother, a Camino pilgrim, always hoped to walk the Camino with her son.  I will light a candle for Wayne at all the churches we visit including the cathedral in Santiago.

Gail and I will also be doing a recce walk in preparation for a family Camino next year.  Mark and Tammy want to walk the Camino with Emily in July.  Mark is in a wheelchair, Emily has fragile bones, so this is going to be a challenge!  Gail and I are going to write lots of notes about the route and where the difficult sections are for someone in a wheelchair.

Besides the fact that I am walking with Felisa and Wayne close to my heart, and doing a trial walk for Mark and Emily, this is primarily Gail's Camino. She has had a tough year and needs this time-out with nothing to do but walk, sleep, eat, drink and walk again!  We know that the Camino in busy, especially from Sarria, but we are going to embrace the crowds of pilgrims and if we get the opportunity to sing, or dance with groups of pilgrims, we will join in!

Counting the sleeps - 3 to go and we are off!

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