camino de santiago: top 10 most memorable
It’s almost been a year since we embarked on the journey of a lifetime.
Before we started the Way of St James (also known as The Way or the Camino de Santiago), we had no idea what impact it would have on us; almost 365 days on, we can tell you.
Each and every day since we returned, we still think about our time walking the 790-odd km from the south of France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Anything related to the Camino still pulls at our heartstrings and stirs up the urge for us to return.
We may have completed it but it never leaves us, not even for a moment. Today we read an article over at Camino Adventures where the author shared his top 10 things about the Camino de Santiago. And maybe it’s because we are almost celebrating our Camino anniversary that we shed a tear.
We were inspired by that post to share our 10 most memorable things:
- Fellow pilgrims – hands down – our Number 1 most memorable! Being on the Camino is like being on an alternate world. A world where kindness is normal and so is sharing blister stories. The camaraderie along the way is like nothing we have experienced before. People do the Camino for all sorts of reasons, come from all different backgrounds and have different beliefs and values yet on the Camino everyone can get along. The tales of friendships and generosity are not myths.
- Sunrises – waking up and starting the walk before the sun came up meant we were able to witness some striking sunrises. We were always sunset fans but after the 40 days of walking, sunrises mean so much more to us.
- Crossing numerous medieval bridges to enter and leave the villages – we are big FANS of anything historical so to enter a village looking for the basics, usually food and water, we felt like pilgrims from back in the day. It truly felt like we had been sucked into a time warp. The bridges also proved to be stunning structures for photographs.
- Burgos and Leon Cathedral – as we pass through so many villages and towns, we see plenty of churches. Most are part of small villages or towns and are rather modest. Burgos and Leon Cathedral, on the other hand, are the complete opposite. They are lavish and are the centre pieces of their cities. The constructions of these cathedrals would be a history lesson in themselves. Plus the added bonus of seeing Burgos Cathedral on our wedding anniversary is a memory for us for always.
- Beautiful countryside – not a day went by where we weren’t in awe with the scenery around us. Every single day we would soak up everything around us. We captured what we could on camera so we could relive it afterwards. We do that often still to this day. There were mountains, rolling hills, green fields, fields of sunflowers and vineyards. There was NEVER nothing to look at.
- Feeling free and humbled – it was just us and the path. Our biggest concern was when we would eat next. Other than that, we had no worries and nothing to stress about. We did a lot of soul searching and reflecting. We learned a lot about ourselves and about life. We were so humbled to think that we were walking in the footsteps of millions of pilgrims from hundreds of years before us. We were also walking on ancient Roman roads. It really put lots of things into perspective.
- Little surprises along the way – we went rather unprepared for the Camino. We trained little and we read very little because we didn’t want to experience the Camino before the Camino. When we stumbled across fiestas, we were excited. When we stumbled across the many different snails, we were excited. When we stumbled across a yellow rubber ducky race, we were excited. There was plenty along the way that we will never forget.
- Clam shells and arrows – these were creatively displayed along the way to point out where we were to go. Sometimes they were found in the most unassuming places. Seeing a shell or arrow during our lives before this long walk meant nothing, but seeing them nowadays means a completely different thing. It immediately serves as a reminder of our time on the Camino; that we are never lost and that we should always look for the signs, that we should have faith in ourselves and what we are capable of doing.
- The hills – crossing the Pyrenees was meant to be the hardest day of all the Camino; 20-something km all uphill on Day 1. It was unforgiving and brutal but we would do it again in a heartbeat. You see the Camino does this to those who have walked it. It keeps drawing us back no matter how hard it felt. Every day felt like we had a hill to climb up or down with varying gradients. They’re not all hard but they did test our endurance! But yes, we will go back to climb every one again.
- Entering Santiago de Compostela – after 40-odd days of walking through dramatic scenery, a maze of streets, roads and “civilisation” welcomes us. It’s nothing like we imagined where the clouds open up and sing “Hallelujah”. The feeling of arriving at our destination; the cathedral of St James is one we can never truly describe. It was one of sheer disbelief that we walked almost 800 km. It was one of pure happiness and such a sense of achievement. It was also a feeling of the reality that our journey had come to an end. With this much overwhelming emotion, what does one do? One cries! And that is what we did: we hugged each other and cried!
This journey helped us grow in so many unimaginable ways. We are different because of it! We see life and the world through different eyes. We will go as far as to declare it our BEST travel experience ever. We will walk it again some day.
If you are interested to see any more of our photos from the Camino, check out our photo essays: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
Have you walked the Camino? What would your top 10 be?
Leave us your comments.