West London Free School 2018

Simon Mendez, James Owen

Pilgrimage in Spain

Their story, in their words….

James and I set out to complete the final 215 kilometers of the “Camino De Santiago”. We started from Ponferrada and ended up doing the whole walk in eight stages. The average distance between each stage was of about 28 km. As well as distance we had some challenging inclines, specially on our first day in which we walked 30 km from Villafranca del Bierzo and O Cerbeiro and reached an altitude of about 123 stories from our starting altitude. The constant change of altitude and various inclines were present through the whole trip. The weather was quite challenging during the first few days too as when arriving to Villafranca we reached 37 degrees, but it did become more bearable towards the final stages (around 28-31 degrees). Because of these high temperatures we decided to wake up much earlier than our planned 6 AM morning, and decided to wake up at 4:30 AM instead to avoid walking in the sun and also to get a head start and arrive first to the hostels. Other than that the journey was quite pleasant, we had the opportunity to meet many other pilgrims of different backgrounds and different countries. We would usually arrive around 12:30, which always secured us a place in a hostel and gave us lots of time to recover. We spent the evening by first having a nap to recover from the early mornings and then going out to eat, either in a supermarket or a restaurant if the location didn’t have one. We would walk around the locations to see what we could find and we discovered places such as, the Templar castle of Ponferrada, the river swimming areas of Villafranca and the Hill of the cross in O Cebreiro to name a few. We preformed well and we where happy about our main plan since we didn’t run into many issues. We have also learned that the end of the stage was rather harder than we expected since around the final 60 km the route was packed with many more pilgrims joining in the walk, this made it harder for us to find a hostel with spare beds on the final night, however, we overcame this by walking an extra few km to the council set hostel in O Pedrouzo, which was 10 km away from Santiago. Food and water weren’t an issue since there was at least one water fountain and somewhere to eat in nearly every village that we went through (around every 4 km). In terms of injury we didn’t experience any major problems other than feet pain but no major injury. We arrived at Santiago at around 9:30 AM and with another group pilgrims, we where amazed by the old area of the town. We queued up in order to gather our “Compostela” (the certificate of achievement) which took us some time since many had arrived by the time we got to the pilgrim center. We both had an amazing time, while James managed to practice Spanish and learn about the culture of the region we would now want to attempt the primitive path.

James and I took the challenge to discover more about the culture of the historic hike, we discovered amazing areas of the region we had never been to before, James took the time to practice Spanish which was great for him since he had never been in situations were everyone around him spoke in a different language forcing to try to communicate. As well as that, the challenge made us more self reliant since we were able to decide were we would go and how much we would spend everyday without any incidents, we would arrive at all of our destinations without getting lost or needing the help of others to get back on track, our timing was impeccable. Our endurance also improved during the trip since we were able to travel faster and take less rests. One of the main things we also got out of the experience is that doing a small part of the hike has made us want to do the hike over again from a much larger distance.