Monday, June 4, 2012


After months of planning, many discussions of suitable shoes and equipment, shopping, watching the movie ‘The Way’, attending informative meetings at the Confraternity of St James, and changing plans a couple of times, the time has come.  Now, as I'm writing, the first two hikers are frantically busy with their last preparations.  Emilene Ferreira is boarding the plane to France today, where Eddie Waring is packed and waiting for her to join him.  Their 780 km pilgrimage will commence on Thursday the 7th of June at St Jean Pied the Port in the French Pyrenees.

Emilene Ferreira

Eddie Waring

Both Emilene and Eddie are well seasoned hikers and their preparation included regular hikes in the beautiful countryside around the Cape as reported in Emilene’s blog.

During the meetings with the hikers to discuss their awareness campaign for MSA, their enthusiasm was contagious.  Having done a couple of hikes myself, I have some understanding of how much careful planning goes into such a venture, but hikes of 500 km and 780 km over several weeks is a totally different kettle of fish.  The way I used to pack I would’ve needed a backup truck to follow me!  These hikers have to make do with whatever they can fit in a backpack that weighs no more than 10% of their body weight; that’s an average 6 kg for the ladies.  That leaves place for only the most basic necessities and even toothbrushes are sawn in half.

Eddie's backpack

The CAMINO DE SANTIAGO is a network of ancient paths through the Spanish, Portuguese and continental European countryside that ends at the magnificent cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, supposedly the burial site of the apostle St James the Greater, who was martyred around 44 AD.

The cathedral in Santiago
The route has been walked for centuries by thousands of pilgrims and is referred to as el Camino, which literally means ‘the way’.  The first pilgrims were recorded around 950 AD, and over the centuries, accommodation, churches, hospitals, roads and whole towns, were built to cater for the growing number of pilgrims.

The 1900’s saw a revival in the Camino and in 1937 Santiago was officially declared patron saint of Spain.  In 1987 the Camino was declared a World Heritage Site.  The most popular route, which starts at St Jean Pied de Port in the French Pyrenees and ends at Santiago de Compostela, is known as the Camino Francés.
The hikers need to walk an average of 25 km per day in order for them to achieve their deadline of arriving in Santiago on 12th of July.  The official Camino accommodation, refugios or albergues, is in simple dormitory-style buildings of various ages and designs.  Run by a host of oganisations, including local municipalities and Friends of the Camino groups, they mostly offer bunks and showers, some with kitchens and living rooms.  A few provide pillows and blankets.  Bathroom facilities vary quite a lot and if you arrive late there may be a shortage of hot water.  All expect you to leave by 08h00 in the morning, and you can’t spend more than one night in a refugio unless there is a serious reason.

Albergue de Bruma
As you can well imagine, walking 25 km per day in all kinds of weather, over all kinds of terrain and then having to find accommodation, and sharing it with strangers from all over the world, is not for the faint hearted!  Besides the obvious physical strength and endurance these courageous hikers need, they will also need to dig deep find the necessary mental and spiritual endurance required of them.  This is by no means a walk in the park!

Why do people walk the Camino?  The reasons are as varied as the personalities and nationalities; a time to think, to celebrate a new phase in life, to give thanks…But these hikers also have a very special purpose; to create AWARENESS FOR MSA

Thank you Emilene, Eddie for doing this for all of us who suffer from this progressive brain disorder that continually robs us of more of our abilities, like walking and talking.  May your pilgrimage be blessed and may you achieve all the personal goals that you have set for yourself.  We wish you, with Susan, Gerda and Esther (who depart here on the 15th of June), BUEN CAMINO!



  1. Hi dearest Sonja! I'm having a coffee at the airport in JHB, bag is checked in and I am SO ready to go!! So much for packing 10% of one's body bag weighs 9kg with another 2kg slung over my shoulder! Hope Eddie has space left in his pack! :) Lots of love to you all - will keep you updated!

    1. Hi Emilene, I realised you ran out of time during those last hectic moments of preparation! Hope Eddie can accommodate you with that load. Keep in touch as often as you can, but live in the moment and enjoy the experience! Love to you two.

  2. Sterkte vir die lang en belangrike tog . . !! Mag almal se voete en gewillige geeste hou!!


  3. Sterkte vir elkeen wat die lang stap aandurf. Mag ons Hemelse Vader julle dra waar julle nie meer kan nie. Kom veilig weer terug...Dankie vir wat julle elkeen doen..

    Linette Ras


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