A few years ago I staggered into the albergue at Orrison and met my first Camino angel. Those of you who have read my book will know of Colleen. When I said my teary farewell to her at Logroño, I never thought I would see her again, but Camino friendships are like no other. We had crossed the Pyrenees together, through wind, hail and snow. We had shared our bocadillos and shared our water, blister remedies, and fear of heights.
The shared experience of walking a Camino is unique. It is not something that is easily explained. It is so much more than just a long walk on the countryside. There is a power along these trails that engulfs us all and calls us back over and over again.
My FB feed keeps showing me photos and memories of the Via De La Plata, the longest Camino in Spain. (It goes from Seville in the south to Santiago de Compostela). Colleen and I had stayed in touch and we walked this route together in the autumn of 2016. Six and a half weeks with someone you barely know, can be disastrous, but we didn’t kill each other and in fact became very firm friends instead.
Earlier this year, I visited Colleen and stayed in her beautiful French cottage in the Dordogne. We set foot on both the Vezelay and Le Puy Caminos in France, did a little road trip and realized that we were sharing a room again just like the old days. It was so natural and easy….as if we last saw each other just the other day. I treasure this friendship deeply. We have been through much together, especially on the Via de la Plata. It was a rugged and raw Camino, and we had to deal with illness, getting lost once or twice, extreme heat, being chased by pigs and dogs, climbing massive mountains, hunger..I could go on.
Anyway, through all of this, with Colleen comes Gerry, her wonderful and hilarious husband. It is his birthday today and we thought it would be fun to surprise him, so as they are walking some of the Norte Camino, I did the 10 hour train trip up to Santander on the north coast of Spain to surprise him.
This morning, I found him on the beach and he got such a shock to see me. After recovering from a near heart attack, we spent the day together wandering and exploring the coastline here. It is so beautiful. It does look very like the coast of Australia, complete with surfers and rugged cliffs.
The highlight of my day was visiting the palace on the hill in the distance. It was used as a movie set for the Spanish TV series called The Grand Hotel. I have watched it twice and it was fun to walk around remembering the different scenes. What a magnificent building.
So today I have walked nearly 20,000 steps just in Santander alone and I’m not even on the Camino. Tomorrow we will walk a bit and see some more of the coastline so I’m excited about that. In the meantime, it’s Gerry’s birthday and there is some celebrating to be done!!
Happy Birthday mate!