El Camino de Santiago de Compostela came into my awareness in 1995 as I read Paulo Coelho's book ‘The Pilgrimage’. His book ‘The Alchemist’, my favourite book, led me to read ‘The Pilgrimage’. The Road to Santiago found a place in my heart, and the desire to walk the Camino began to grow.
Over the years I read more books about the Camino, and saw the touching movie ‘The Way’. I am grateful to the Pilgrims who shared their Camino stories, each in their own way inspired me to follow my heart to Santiago.
I finally set foot upon my first Camino in October 2015, placing a heart-shaped stone with the word ‘love’ written on it at Cruz de Ferro. I walked from Sarria, along the Camino Frances to Santiago de Compostela ‘the field of stars’. Two ‘pilgrim shells’ were on my backpack - one bearing the red Santiago Cross, and the other, a thoughtful gift, a seashell from Broome, Western Australia. It did not take too long for the Camino to call me back. In late September 2016, I walked along the Camino Portuguese from Ponte de Lima.
Of many things that touch me along the Way to Santiago, are the smiles exchanged with other Pilgrims.
There is also nothing quite like the smiles on the faces of Pilgrims as they enter Praza de Obadario, in front of the statuesque Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela. This scene is something beautiful to behold. As is the swinging of the Botafumerio after the Pilgrims Mass and seeing the stream of arms hugging the statue of St. James.
The photo I am sharing was taken at St. Irene Church, along my favourite stage along the Camino Frances, between Calzada to O’Pedrouzo. In front of the church is a ‘miraculous water font’.
Earlier in the day, on the crest of a hill, I had a touching encounter with a 93 year old Galician gentleman. We spoke for a few moments in Spanish. I noticed he only had three front teeth, yet the warmest smile on his lips and in his eyes. As we shook hands, he wished me a ‘Buen Camino’. He happened to notice my Rosary beads around my wrist. He lifted my Rosary beads up, and kissed the Cross, ever so gently. I was so touched, that as I stepped away from him I burst into tears. I called him my ‘Camino Angel’.
An hour or so later I got completely drenched in a relentless patch of rain. I had placed my rosary around my neck when the rain started to fall hard. Once in shelter, as I looked down, I noticed my Cross was no longer there. Momentarily I was disappointed I had lost my Cross, but then this thought came to me “maybe one day, a pilgrim will find my cross, and for them it will be a sign of faith”.
The blue poncho I had on was now life-less. I was kindly given a bright yellow poncho – the same colour as the yellow arrows that guide our way, and yes, as the saying goes, ‘the Camino provides’.
The day’s walk was completed along a path lined with Eucalyptus trees, the seeds of which had found their way from my place of birth, Western Australia, here to beautiful Galicia, where along the Camino I felt very much at home.
That night, I penned this verse
'One day the Camino will call to your soul. The day you find the soles of your feet on the Camino, is the day you were destined to be there. On some days there will be laughter, and other days tears - but much more laughter and smiles than you can count. Somewhere along The Way, the Camino will reveal to you, why it called you. Listen with your heart. Buen Camino'.