Thursday, 28 April 2016

Carry your home on your back,
dear peregrino. The blisters on your
feet eagerly ooze the desire to wander 
through a place that is not home.

Tongues of unfamiliar lands

melt together with whistling
Spanish birds under the rising sun.
Clusters of sun smeared faces 

light up the Camino's trail. 

Words fail to feel the emotions
in the hearts of those 

follow the signs under the stars of 

Santiago de Compostela.

The Dream Have you ever wondered what would happen if you woke up one morning and decided to follow the dream you had the night before? If you followed all the signs the universe sent you?
I did.
I am going to walk 500 miles.

I knew nothing about Camino de Santiago, a Catholic pilgrimage that has many routes. For my Camino, I planned to do Camino Frances or The French Way which requires 800km/500miles of walking. I am not religious however the Camino came to me for reasons I don't know yet.
I am a very active young woman in Trinidad, I spend most weekends hiking in de bush. It’s safe to say, I was very intrigued by the Camino because of the nature, weather, and culture. The Camino is active year round but some Albergues or Hostels won't open until their designated time. 

I decided to venture off in mid-March to see the seasonal shifts as well as experience Easter in a new country. This would be different. A foreign country, a young woman, and a different  language - am I crazy?! Yes, a little but I was safe and well assisted by the locals. During my first night in Spain, one group of people stopped what they were doing to walk me to a hotel before my next day journey from Spain to France.  
On arrival to St. Jean Pied de Port, France, the sky was a sour grey with light to medium rainfall. I politely asked a woman, whom I saw at the bus station, for help , little did I know, she and I would walk the entire Camino together. 

The First stop

In the south of France, visited the Pilgrim's Office; this is where a Pilgrim's Passport is issued. This is used throughout the Camino by collecting stamps along the route as proof you've been walking. Each stamp is unique, so you have a collection of all the places you've walked to. 

We stayed at the only available hostel which was cheap, cold, yet owned by a warm old couple who were thrilled to have an "island girl," the only one they'd seen from Trinidad (let's change that). Here,  I quickly formed friends all who I walked with on the next day.  I did not sleep that night. Sleep is precious on the Camino - it is very rare due to jet lag, snorers, and those who speak and scream in their sleep - yes, scream. The only thing to comfort me were the soft purrs of a cold cat sitting on the step outside.
The public Albergues don't usually provide breakfast or dinner but some do as well - just look for them. We sipped tea from bowls and ate whatever fresh and dried fruits we bought at the supermercado the day before. 

Now....AH READY!

The walk began at 7.30 in fog and a drizzle of rain. Then by mid-day, we were pushing through the mountain of snow, snow, and more snow. My brown fingers became swollen, red, and could not move; my gloves were useless. The Island girl was now frozen! 

At 4pm, we saw the first sign of Roncesvalles, a little happy village dance took over our bodies. We were officially in Spain and day one was finished. I was starving. One of the things I didn't know about Spain is that dinner is late. That evening, I ate so many sunflower seeds I must have a blooming flower garden in my stomach by now. Nevertheless, I got the “pilgrim’s menu” which is the same at most places and difficult for a variety if you are a vegetarian like me. The menu consists of three courses, like any other restaurant but is cheaper - you are a pilgrim, after all. I later discovered cooking as a group.

That night, back at the Albergue, the dream of the Camino manifesting into reality slapped me in the back of my head when I tried climbing up onto my top bed bunk and fell right off. Day one and I’m down, good sign, right? This was my life for the next month. 

As the days went on, the trail changed constantly: snow to rain to mud to sun to dirt to sand to powerful wind; sometimes all in one day! The trail shifted constantly. For the first few days, there was snow, which was expected due to the season and being closer to the North.

Later, sun, mud, stone, and low temperatures married. The animals began coming out of their slumber as the end of March neared and the Camino was decorated with snails, slugs, and many worms. Butterflies and ladybugs began to visit me on a regular basis.

Each day, we walked between 18-25 km, with the exception of four days where we accomplished over 30 km. Every day had it's own challenge from climbing up hills to monotonous flat without seeing villages or fellow pilgrims for hours. I still believe it is more comfortable to walk the Camino in the Spring or later in the year. The summer time is usually too hot and there are too many pilgrims. Some of the trails are mainly dried dirt and it can be difficult to be on the path with the heat of the sun.

As I look back now, the weather changes challenged me the most. Imagine waking up to a voice, "Good Morning. It is raining." It rained all day and then there was hail accompanied  by the echoing sounds of a cuckoo bird - because he just had to chuckle at this tropical lady being tossed around by the 30mph winds.

A Few days later..
It took us 32 days to make it to Santiago de Compostela. The last morning was the first time I'd walked 15km without stopping for a break. I did not care. Nearing the town of Santiago, the Camino is designed in such a way that there are minimal bars and cafes; it forces you to push until the end.

Miraculously, the sun cleared the rains that Sunday morning. It was the first time the locals saw the sun and a blue sky in a very long time. Goddess earth gave us the best welcoming gift. 

Although I started alone, I was now in a family of five entering Santiago de Compostela. When we entered the town, no one said a word. We looked at each other and smiled. We hustled into Santiago limping, with blisters on our feet, filthy clothes, over grown hair, and utmost joy in our hearts.
As we neared the Cathedral, we slowed down as the bagpipe player infused the air with beautiful sounds of music.  Emotions ripened, we held each other, and at the same time, took a step into the Centre of Santiago de Compostela. 

At the end of the Camino, you can receive your Compostela or certification at the Pilgrim's Office and submit your now fully stamped Pilgrim's Passport as well as your Official Passport. The Compostela is written in Latin and your name is translated into Latin (if it can be translated). Excitement spilled as I filled out the Pilgrim's Form: REGION: Caribbean, COUNTRY: Trinidad & Tobago.
I did it. No, WE did it. 
I walked outside with my Camino sister, who was once a lost stranger at a bus station, and ran up the street. Pounds lighter, she danced and jumped around on the ancient stoned floors as my laughs penetrated the walls of Santiago.

Taking the risk and accepting a greater challenge such as the Camino has helped me remember one thing: how to be a child. We ate too much sugar, had too much energy, complained about ALL our aches and pains. But laughed, smelled the rain seeping into the wood of Galician trees, lost all negative judgement against others, and most importantly - we loved. 
"I dream of painting and then I paint my dreams." - Vincent Van Gogh

Feel free to comment below with any questions or comments!


  1. Thank you for sharing some of this life changing experience with us. May you always be a pilgrim child in life and in awe of all its beauty and lessons xx

    1. Thank you. I will forever be a pilgrim :)

  2. I love how Sharon (above) called you pilgrim child....for that is what your spirit. Congratulations!

  3. I love how Sharon (above) called you pilgrim child....for that is what your spirit. Congratulations!