I depart the warm hostel at 6.30am for the final 25km of the walk into the cold, chilly morning air. The route leads out of Padron, there are about 80 other pilgrims silently proceeding down a flat path, passing farmhouses and fields, it is very dark and there is not much conversation. About 30 minutes later we walk out of the darkness into light as the glorious sun appears above the farmhouses. We reach A Escravitude and delight in the splendid views of Padron. The way leads to traditional villages, historic places, rivers and towns, eventually reaching Santiago. The cathedral is under renovation, but still as magnificent with plenty to see inside as well as outside absorbing the atmosphere of singing and listening to the bagpipes as pilgrims congregate in the square congratulating each other on their journey.
Day 3 – Another 6.30am start as it is going to be a tough day walking in the heat. Passing through and leaving Redondela behind, there is a much to see to include the estuary of Vigo and its islands. I merge with a long convoy of walkers in good spirit who greet each other with ‘Buen Camino’. Continuing along the way there are quaint villages, cobbled streets, crossing the medieval bridge of Ponte Sampaio, a varied, hilly route, with numerous places to stop for rest where you can get a 3 course pilgrim lunch at most restaurants for 10 euros. Eventually arriving in the historic centre of Pontevedra, for a well deserved back massage with the local physiotherapist.
Vigo can be reached following the River Lagares which leads into Samil beach, there is much to see on this riverside walk. Vigo is a large town and perfect for an overnight stay. An early rise 7am to start walking to Redondela, it is dark and there are no arrows to follow, it can be difficult to get out of town. Eventually a group of us notice a faint yellow arrow, this leads the way into interesting streets and the old historic parts of Vigo and fishing areas of O Berbes, There is plenty to see in Vigo to include a Museum, the Church of Santiago and peaceful botanical gardens. There are many cafes offering great food and stamps for your passport on route. Many more walkers appear now and eventually after 5 hours, I reach the town of Redondela.
I started very early as this was a long day walking and wanted to avoid the heat of the day. Baiona is a pleasant, busy fishing town, with many Atlantic islands which can be reached by boat. On leaving Baiona the Camino continues across sandy beaches, over the River Groba passing beautiful Romanesque bridges. Here you can stop for a rest, where there are many cafes. A quiet, flat route with no other walkers in sight, it continues along the Foz do Rio Minor, surrounded by marshlands, an important ecological site which host many species of wildlife. The way displays interesting architecture and stone crosses, although peaceful, I am aware of the busy C-550 in the background. After 6 hours I approach the city of Vigo.
The route continued to Palas De Rei. After leaving Portomarin, crossing the River Mino we continued uphill steadily through woodland, the rain continued and got heavier and heavier. Continuing through small hamlets, passing the Hospital de la Cruz. Arriving at Vendas de Naron to get a ‘pilgrim stamp’ the old Romanesque Chapel, then continuing along the paved path, arriving at Sierra de Ligonde which offered fantastic views over the valleys. Particular parts of the route were isolated and quiet, apart from a rather large dog. The fog was dense and we were soaked through.
Approaching A Calzada the weather was so bad, we took shelter under a tree. There were other walkers, one an Australian man, we had met further back in other towns. After discussing the weather, our blisters, stories of one walker getting frostbite back in the Pyrenees, our conversation compared the weather to life and the Camino, there are good and bad times, but we must press forwards.
The Camino de Santiago builds resilience, both emotionally and physically, it enables us to develop a positive mind and can-do-attitude. We can integrate resilience into our lives on a daily basis, by being more active, getting more sleep and eating well, forgiving ourselves and resolving conflict. These small steps can help us improve our mental health and to face everyday challenges.
Camino de Santiago is an excellent reason to take time out and integrate some walking mindfulness into your Camino. Be aware of the sounds of nature, the wind, sun, rain and other people. How can we become mindful of our experience of walking? Start with a natural relaxed walking rhythm, keep your attention in the soles of your feet, being aware of the alternating patterns of contact with your foot as it makes contact with the ground, then focus on sensations in your muscles and joints, expanding that awareness into your posture and breathing.
Considering walking the Camino-Frances. Why not start in Sarria – known for its fabulous hospitality and local traditional food. As you begin your walk, you will pass through stunning scenery, picturesque villages, hamlets and many beautiful landscapes, in rural Galicia. The atmosphere is unique. Once you arrive in Santiago, a UNESCO world heritage city, visit the cathedral, claim your certificate from the Pilgrim office. There is plenty of time to explore, reflect on your journey and relax in this stunning town. visit http://www.fitness-excel.com/home to view our video of Sarria-Santiago.
Adventure education is a type of experiential education, it is based on theories that individuals learn through direct experience rather than classroom based activities. Having walked with my daughter on the Camino de Santiago, it was apparent to see the many rewards of learning outdoors. The Camino also develops skills of resilience as participants have to walk day after day, some carrying 8kg backpacks in all types of weather. Adventure education focuses on self-esteem development, problem solving and effective communication skills. Furthermore, learning to undertake risk management skills, making decisions, planning a daily route of walking and navigating offers increased participation, interaction, a sense of achievement and learning which is relevant and meaningful.
Having just completed the Camino de Santiago, 112 km last leg, embarking on a long walk can reap many benefits. The Camino gives many qualities such as physical fitness and wellness, mental stamina, mindfulness, social health of interacting with like-minded pilgrims also on the same journey. Equally important is being surrounded by nature and taking care of the environment. The physical and social environment in which we live is very different from the one in which humans evolved, there have been dramatic changes in our diet, a decrease in our physical activity levels, increased stimulation from social media which has been associated with poor health. Walking the Camino enables us to get back to the basics, regular physical activity, less processed food, travelling light and taken time out for reflection.