Blog

Walk, rest and play - the Camino way
13 Jan 2024

In May 2023, a group of Self Help Africa supporters from the UK & Ireland took part in a walking challenge, completing 100km of the Camino de Santiago, over five days. Steph Smith, a member of the fundraising team, shares her experience...

For centuries, pilgrims from all over the world have walked along Spain’s Camino de Santiago, following the many paths to Santiago de Compostela and the tomb of St. James.

We walked the last 100km of the Portuguese Way, starting in a town called Tui and finishing in Santiago de Compostela, as all the Camino routes do. This region of Spain is called Galicia and it has prolonged rainy periods, but we were lucky with the weather - every day the sun was shining, not a poncho in sight!

A group on last year's walking challenge

We walked through beautiful forests and countryside - saw goats, horses and even a pig on the loose (as an urban dweller, this caused much excitement). Occasionally you’d come across a stand in the middle of nowhere, selling cold drinks, fruit or trinkets - never did I think I’d be buying a pair of earrings in the middle of a Spanish forest!

"Being on the journey with so many genuine, like-minded, kind, caring (and hilarious) souls - restores your faith in humanity!" said another member of the group.

Walking 100km in five days is no easy feat, but you don’t have to be an experienced hiker or super athlete, anybody can take part. Our group all walked at different paces, but everyone we travelled with and met along the way were so genuine, supportive and kind. There is a like-mindedness and camaraderie, as you’re all on the same path, working towards the same destination. Amidst the crazy world we live in, it restored my faith in humanity.

A walker and a sign on the walking challenge

Whether walking the Camino for religious or spiritual reasons, or to discover its natural beauty and heritage, it’s a trip of a lifetime. It genuinely felt like being in a bubble of joy for the week, where all you were thinking about was getting from A to B, enjoying the scenery along the way. You felt a real accomplishment at the end of each day - it was so nice to slow down, switch off, meet new people and spend time outdoors.

"Impossible to put into words how much this week meant to me, and on top of what I got out of it - I met so many fab people." said another team member.

I managed to finish up pretty unscathed; a little bit of heat rash and blisters were starting to show on the last day, and my feet were aching - but legs up the wall (of the hotel room) helped to relieve them. I also learnt that zig-zagging your way down hills is nicer on the knees!

Santiago de Compostela, where the Camino finishes, is a beautiful city and it’s tradition to finish the walk by attending the pilgrim’s mass in the Cathedral. Having completed 100km, and getting our Camino ‘passport’ stamped in each town along the way, we were delighted to receive an official Compostela certificate from the Pilgrim’s Reception Office, as recognition of our achievement.

We’re proud to have collectively raised over £11,000 for Self Help Africa and grateful to all who sponsored us and sent words of support and encouragement along the way.

The Camino is a truly unique experience that inspires many, even after their journey is over.

    

If you’re interested in walking the French Way for Self Help Africa in May 2024, e-mail steph.smith@selfhelpafrica.org to find out more.