Around last December, I had got several emails informing me about the 2016 Camino Peace Pilgrimage hosted by the University of Edinburgh Chaplaincy. Most of them I ignored, until I realised this was just what I needed. My family follows the religious beliefs of the Hindus, but growing up in Britain meant that we also celebrate Christian traditions too. As such, we celebrate Christmas in much the same way as the majority of people in England: Christmas Dinner + Family + presents. Whilst I was living with my parents, I would just go with the flow with the religious aspects of life, doing just what my parents told me to do. Having fled the nest, I have not been carrying on this practice. Quite lost in my own beliefs, I relished upon the opportunity to meet people of different faiths and to just go away from my daily life for a week. With no expectations of actually getting a scholarship, I didn’t see the harm in trying and I was successful 😀 I cannot thank the University and the Heartbeat foundation for allowing me the opportunity to take part in this experience.
Now, there is so much I can say here about the week in Spain, the walking, the people, the experience, the food etc. etc. but I am really struggling to word it. To this end, I am going to try this in pictures.
This the group at a dinner before we started. Nobody knew each other. WE sang a song together: “Walk with me for journey is long” awkwardly, but we were all happy and excited for the journey we were about to take.
We walked straight out of the airport and this was one of the first views we had. I have tonnes of landscape picture and would have had more if I had a convenient pocket to keep my phone in. At the same time, the camino was a great opportunity to detach from our usual tech-heavy communication and feel grounded to the Earth.
Several times a day, we had group time. We checked in with each other discussing the day, how we felt and what we had learnt. Everyone had the opportunity to share something personal. This could have been a prayer, a spiritual practice or something about their faith background. Many people opted to tell their personal stories. It created a safe place for people to speak about their feelings, gain confidence and know that they are not alone.
Each night we ate at the hostel/albergue. The majority of them provided exceptional hospital, a beautiful place to stay and exquisite food. I found more types of cheese I likes and how a new found fondness and respect for bread.
Everyday we had a word to reflect on. During our times of silent walking, we would reflect on our lives and the lives of others based on given word such as violence, fear and hope. Towards the end of the week, it is here, near Pendueles, where we took two rocks. One to represent the things we want to keep hold of in our lives and one the things we want to let go off. We stood at the edge of the cliff and screamed with all our might as we through the rock we wanted to let go of. It was acknowledge that letting go of things in life is not as easy as throwing a rock into the sea but with time and perseverance it will happen.
These are the boots I walked in. After exploring the hidden little cave, they definitely looked like they had been on a little adventure! We walked a total of 85 miles over the week. The only time I felt any pain was when going up hill. The leader taught me to tie my laces around my ankle and that seemed to do the trick! 🙂
We visited the caves of Tito Bustillo and learnt about the the hidden painting that mark the vast dark walls,
There was a large map of the Camino de Santiago at the station. It was nine tiles wide and we covered exactly one, from Santander to Ribadesella.
This started as a blank canvas and over the course of the week we annotated it with our feelings.
We walked a portion of the Camino de Santiago or Way of St. James. A route often taken to retreat for spiritual growth.
We appreciated the architecture of Gaudi’s house
A final group photo. Here our smiles conceal the grief of our separation. In just 8 days we were a strong family that could not bare the separation. We shared our gratitude and delayed the inevitable for as long as possible before we returned to our usual life, but this time with a new perspective.