Reflections on The Camino

Apologies  for taking a while to get around to writing some reflection on The Camino but my feet haven’t touched the floor since my return from Santiago nearly 4 weeks ago. 

I have certainly missed the daily routine of the Camino and it has take me a while to adjust back to my normal life , a great deal of which is spent sitting in front of a computer screen. For me the Camino experience was a joy and I returned from Spain as fit in body and mind as I ever have been. I cannot tell you how much of pleasure it was to know that all I had to do for 5 weeks was to get up every day , go for a walk and only have think about where you might eat and sleep during the course of each day 

For me the best thing of all was the Pilgrim camaraderie en route. I wrote in the blog that I couldn’t think of any other experience that would allow you to meet so many people from all corners of the globe and spend so much time walking , talking and eating together. The communal living thing certainly wouldn’t suit everyone and , reading back through the blog , I did a fair bit of moaning about the snoring but that is all part and parcel of the Refugio experience .Some Pilgrims stayed exclusively in B&Bs or hotels but If you can accept the lack of privacy and the odd bout of snoring-induced insomnia then staying in the Refugios/Albergues is certainly worthwhile. Aside from the fact that you meet many more Pilgrims , there were some really great Refugios run by volunteer ” Hospitaleros ” who were wonderfully welcoming and went out of their way to make sure the Pilgrims had a special experience. For me the best example was ” Refugio Gaucelmo ” in Rabanal del Camino. This place is owned and run by the London based ” Confraternity of St James ” and was my favourite Refugio of the Camino. It helps that Rabanal is a beautiful little village up in the mountains and the modernised , stone-built Refugio itself is lovely but the welcome and friendliness provided by the two English volunteers , Brendan and Dave , was something else. It inspired me so much that I have resolved to volunteer as a Hospitalero for Rabanal myself when our youngest has left the nest. In order to do this you have to be a member of the Confraternity , have walked the Camino and to have a working knowledge of Spanish. I can speak only very basic Spanish phrases and will have to take a language course at some point. The fact I had very little Spanish was a regret as many of the local people I met en route couldn’t speak English and being able to hold a basic conversation would certainly have enhanced the experience.

As someone who had never visited mainland Spain before the discovery of Northern Spain was a revelation. I completely fell in love with the place. A great part of the pleasure I had from the whole experience was due to the fact I learned so much about the culture and the history of this part of Spain. I particularly liked the Basque Country and Galicia. 

Luckily I only had one physical problem during the whole journey , the peroneal tendonitis that affected my right leg , and that cleared up fairly quickly with anti-inflammatories and some loosening of my bootlace. I think the tendonitis was brought on by walking over 30km on three consecutive days on The Meseta. It seemed a more common complaint amongst the men , who were more inclined than the women to push themselves to walk those extra 5 or 10 kilometres in a day. I had broken in a pair of these German made boots over a few Saturdays before leaving and wore them with two pairs of socks. I had only one very small blister on the whole walk and can only put that down to the quality and fit of the boots.

As GPs in training we were told to look at the physical , social and psychological impacts on health and some of my fellow walkers , like the Austrian guy who was suffering bereavement , were certainly seeking some therapeutic benefits from the Camino. There’s no doubt it ticked all the physical , social and psychological boxes , assuming you could avoid injuries. It’s well recognised that walking has beneficial effects on brain chemistry and research is revealing that if can create new brain cells , so called “neurogenesis” in areas of the brain that control memory . An interesting TED talk here refers to this. 

The other brain effect for me has been to create an addiction : ) I will be back …….

10 thoughts on “Reflections on The Camino

  1. Michael n Mavis

    Okay, good to see you today and thanks for everything, especially your time. Liked the tile and ‘stuff’! Try to write your feelings and reactions down now or asap. Then in a week or two have another look at what you have written and have another think. You may be surprised by what happens. The feelings are important. You might wish to keep this stuff to yourself, if only for a while. Think about how you have changed in yourself and possibly in your world view.
    As ever, ‘may the road rise to meet you’.

  2. Hi Danny, It’s Martha from the Camino here. I am now home in Durham, North Carolina. (I used to live in Arkansas.) I have had fun reading your blog. I really appreciate all of your photos. It is interesting to me how different our experiences were, at least in some ways. We walked the same path and essentially did the same things, but the towns and albergues where we stayed were often so different. It just goes to show that everyone has his own personalized Camino experience. I really enjoyed our interactions and especially appreciated your kindness to me when I needed a doctor’s opinion. I wish you every rich blessing. P.S. If you are in touch with Lou, tell her how much I appreciated my interactions with her too. She was lovely.

    1. Hi Martha , great to hear from you and glad you had fun reading the blog. It was a real pleasure meeting you on The Camino and I was very glad to be able to help you in some small way. I am really missing the walking and all the people I met along the way. I will send a message to Lou for you. She is planning a trip to Africa soon so she most definitely has the travel bug. I will read your own blog when I get some time at the weekend. Take care. D x

  3. Catherine Seagrave

    Hi Danny, well done on completing the Camino! You must just feel fantastic with the acheivement. I am only getting around to reading the last week of your journey so apologies. It has been such a wonderful journey for you (and all of us who have had the pleasure of being able to read it). It has me so excited for our trip next year and the blog will be getting much more detailed analysis next year for tips on where to stay etc. I hope you are settling back ok, I can only imagine how difficult it must be. Keep in touch and take care and hope to see you when you visit Ireland. Catherine

    1. Thanks Catherine. Yes it was fantastic and , like a lot of others , I can’t wait to get back ! I’ll be only too happy to give you some advice for your trip next year. It was difficult adjusting to normality for a couple of weeks after my return and I still think about the Camino every day . I’ve put a bit of reflection on the blog tonight and will add a bit more later this week. I’ve also added a Youtube slideshow of some of my photos ( you will see yourself on there ) with a backing track ( 500 miles of course ! ) . I’ll be over in Ireland for the annual fishing trip in May 2013 and will be taking the ferry to Dublin so a few beers and a catch up would be great. D x

  4. Forrest

    Hi Danny,
    I still love coming to this blog to remember those times! I’m studying Spanish in earnest now. Hope you are well.
    Forrest

    1. Hi Forrest ,
      Great to hear from you ! I too will regularly look back at the blog to remind myself of those blissful weeks on The Camino. Have you any more walking plans ? I’ve been looking at some of the other routes , in particular the Camino Norte and Portugues. We had a week’s holiday in San Sebastián recently and saw plenty of Pilgrims on the Camino Norte, made me want to sling on the rucksack again. Little Felix told me it was a great City and he wasn’t wrong , highly recommended.
      Open invite to you and yours if you’re ever in the UK. Keep in touch !

      Danny

  5. Julia Trow

    Hi from a total stranger – but I just wanted to say I found your Camino Experience online and have read every stage.I have really enjoyed reading it, you write very vividly, and your photos bring it to life. I will begin my Camino in April 2016 – but I will only have a week and will not be able to walk the full traditional stages each day. 10-15km will be enough for me, but I am so excited to start. What have you done since your return? Have you walked any more Caminos?
    Whatever, all best wishes, and thank you so much for posting. It has been inspirational. Julia

    1. Hi Julia ,
      Thank you for your kind comments and glad to hear you enjoyed reading the blog. I really enjoyed writing it and it’s proven to be a great way of retaining the memories of what was a wonderful experience. You will love it and I have no doubt you’ll want to return and complete the journey. I booked 2 weeks leave last September with the intention of walking the Camino Primitivo but then my 18 yr old daughter said she fancied joining me. I thought she would probably enjoy the Camino Frances more because of the social aspect ( there are far fewer walking the Primitivo ). She loved the experience although we had to stop after 8 days because she developed tendonitis in her foot ( we decamped to Barcelona for a few days which was also much to her liking ! ) . I am contemplating doing the Primitivo later this year or in Spring next year.
      I can give you some good tips on places to stay depending on where your starting point is going to be , feel free to ask.

      Buen Camino !
      Danny

      1. Thank you Danny. Sorry you didn’t get to complete another Camino, but that time spent with your daughter must have been very special, and yes, I bet she loved Barcelona! Both my daughters did – it’s a city like no other, with the fabulous Gaudi architecture, the museums, the contrast between the Barri Gotic and the Eixample districts, the beach, the shopping, the bars and tapas…And hopefully you will get many more chances to spend time with her. And good luck with your Primitivo plans, will you write a report for that too?

        Back to the Camino Frances, I have problems with a foot, sore knees, currently tendonitis in one heel/ankle and intermittent sciatica! Getting older sucks, all those old riding and skiing injuries come back to haunt me! But I know I will be able to walk 10-15k a day so am planning my stops to fit with those distances. I only have 5 full days/6 nights, so am thinking Roncesvalles – Viskarret – Larrasoana – Pamplona – Zariquegui – Puente la Reina as my initial plan. Accommodation tips for any of those places, or nearby to them?

        I was interested to note your fascination with horreos – last October I did a road trip through NW Bosnia and the northern counties of Croatia and saw so many of those structures – I believe they are called (h)ambars (a Turkish word because the region was once part of the Ottoman Empire). They’re used for storing corn cobs and almost every house out in the villages and countryside has one.

        With best wishes
        Julia

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