Thursday, July 12, 2012


These were Susan’s words sent to me via a text message when she, Gerda and Esther reached the ‘end of the earth’, Finisterre, where their pilgrimage ended.  Their Camino was filled with many happy events and new friends made along the way.  They have since taken the bus back to Santiago to rendezvous with the other hikers before their return. Karin and I watched via a webcam when they gathered on the plain in front of the cathedral this morning, and although the quality of the image was poor, we saw them waving and dancing! 

Esther, Gerda, Emilene, Eddie and Susan in Santiago this morning

Gerda, Emilene and Susan dancing for the webcam so we could see them

Today, Emilene’s 50th birthday, was supposed to be the end of her Camino.  But her feet wouldn't stop walking when she heard that her husband was waiting for her in Santiago and she hastily ended her pilgrimage yesterday afternoon!  Despite suffering physical hardships, my friend found the courage necessary to persist and complete the gruelling 800 km.  From her posts and photos I deduct that she has managed to make many friends on ‘The Way'.

Emilene receiving her Compostela at the Pilgrims Office in Santiago

Eddie also hiked to Finisterre after reaching Santiago last week.  Physically he had no problems and pushed himself to do up to 40 km a day and still had enough strength to carry a hiking companion's backpack for a couple of kilometres.  He too returned to Santiago yesterday.

I can’t help but wonder how this journey, also called ‘The Way of St James, or simply ‘The Way’, as in the movie with the same title, has affected them?  From observing this journey over the last couple of weeks it seemed somewhat like life condensed into a couple of weeks.  Bound together by their struggles and hardships to reach a common goal, hikers make friends across the barriers of different nationalities, languages, age etc. I know some have learnt that we tend to carry too much luggage with us in life and we can happily live with a lot less.  All of us get unexpected aches and pains along the way.  This is part of our journey and we must learn to handle it with patience, taking a rest day when necessary.  Perhaps a pain or two is needed to help us to grow more compassionate and understanding of those who suffer constant pain because of disease.  But I’m simply speculating here, for the Camino is a unique experience for everyone, teaching every pilgrim the lessons they need most.

Congratulations to Eddie, Gerda, Esther, Susan and Emilene on successfully completing your Caminos.  Thank you all for spreading the word about MSA - you were all worthy MSA warriors!  

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Today four of the five hikers, Eddie, Susan, Gerda and Esther,  have arrived in Santiago de Compostela!  Eddie was the first to arrive with 28 days and 800 km behind him.  At 13.16 - I received a text message from Susan to confirm their arrival in pouring rain.  I hope for a photo of them sometime in the future.

At the end of the pilgrimage in Santiago, the hikers will take their Camino passport, which by now has been stamped at all the places they had visited, to the Pilgrim’s Office.  Here they will receive their Compostela, the certificate of proof that they have completed at least the last 100 km of the Camino. 

At noon everyday there is a Pilgrim’s Mass at the Cathedral.  The highlight of the Mass is the incensing of the Cathedral with the 1.5 meter tall silver botafumeiro, which, attached to ropes yanked by monks, swings across the cathedral in a dramatic arc, leaving a trail of swirling smoke.  In the old days this served to fumigate the smell of the pilgrims!

An announcement is made of how many pilgrims had arrived in Santiago the previous day, as well as their country of origin.  This news is received by loud cheering and clapping.

But Santiago is not yet the end of the journey for our hikers.  They want to continue on to ‘the end of the world’, at Finisterre.  This small outpost 90 km west of Santiago is the final destination for many of the pilgrims travelling the Way of Saint James.  In ancient times when the earth was believed to be flat, this rocky peninsula on the outer limits of the Galician coast, was believed to be the end of the earth. 



SUSAN tells of happy reunions with fellow hikers in Finisterre  - people who have become friends along ‘The Way’.  They hiked to the lighthouse and celebrated with a delicious seafood meal afterwards.  Tonight they will enjoy their soft beds, private bathrooms and fresh towels in a hotel.  They will travel back to Santiago by bus today and hope to meet up with Emilene and Eddie at the cathedral tomorrow.

Yesterday our RUNNING BULL, EDDIE, was back in action and hiked 40 km to end 10 km from Finisterre.


SUSAN confirmed the arrival of the Three Chicas in Finisterre.

EMILENE has less than 40 km to go to Santiago.  The three Chicas will hike from Cee and will God willing reach Finisterre today. 


THE THREE CHICAS spend the night in Cee and will reach Finistere tomorrow.

EMILENE passed the 40 km mark! It was her grandson's 4th birthday so she stopped for a cold beer shandy and to communicate her best wishes to him via the computer.

Something pretty noticed by Emilene earlier on the Camino

EDDIE, our 'RUNNING BULL' has now been 'demoted' to 'PACK DONKEY' when he lent a helping hand to his hiking companions! 


EMILENE'S feet behaved so well that she considered hiking further when she reached Palas de Rei.

EDDIE'S first day to Finisterre was a 24 km uphill battle.

SUSAN, GERDA AND ESTHER have been walking in the rain for the past 3 days, but this she claims, is NO PAIN!  They relaxed with some G & T's and a game of cards in Moranos on Saturday night.  Gerda took a wrong turn and got a little lost, but in true Camino spirit was helped back to the albergue in Olveira, where they spent a relaxed Sunday evening.


Gordon Bell of Casa Banderas has confirmed and Emilene is looking forward to a night of comfort and a bowl of soup at this well run private albergue.

EMILENE has reached to 100 km mark...

100km to go - 690km behind me!

Yesterday - 6 July - the three chicas disappeared off the radar and although Eddie looked out for them at the pilgrim's mass in the cathedral yesterday, he couldn't spot them in the crowd.  They were there Eddie - right in the front since 11.00, and enjoyed the service, the beautiful singing by the nun, and couldn't find words to describe their emotions during the swinging of the botafumeiro.   


After the three chicas attended the pilgrim's mass in the cathedral, they took the bus to Neigrero. from where they intend to hike to Finisterre in five stages via Moranos, Olveiroa, Cee and then Finisterre.  They will return to Santiago by bus on Wednesday.

Eddie is enjoying two days of private lodgings and attended the pilgrim's mass at 12.00 today.  He has been looking out for the three chicas since yesterday and hoped to run into them at the service, but they have disappeared off the radar.  I can only assume that they have started to hike on to Finisterre...

Emilene spend the night in beautiful Sarria after walking for two days in the rain.  These cows where her company and she seriously contemplated feeding them some immodiums...

She has a little more than a 100 km to go and her feet are doing okay.  I made a reservation for her in Casa Banderas in Vilacha for tonight and we are waiting for confirmation from Gordon.


Eddie up to 'monk ey' business on the last stretch to Santiago 

EMILENE climb the hill with this chicken leading the way...

SUSAN said that the last stretch reminded her of the beautiful Knysna area and she and her sister Gerda stopped at many plum and cherry trees to gorge themselves with fruit.  Fellow hikers now had little time for chit-chat and the click-clack sound of their walking sticks told of their haste to reach Santiago.

EMILENE posted this photo of the area around O'Cebreiro and Linares, where she stopped to enjoy a hot chocolate.  She has two new blisters, but assures us that this will not hold her back.

Emilene's supper last night
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