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Written by
Frances McCann
Frances McCann

Diary of a Pilgrimage

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Liz Gill began her walk of the famous Way of St James to Santiago de Compostela with Macs Adventure in April 2013. Liz and her companion Maureen (known as Mo) chose to walk the final stage from Sarria to Santiago through Galicia's beautiful landscapes. Walking the ancient pilgrims' path, the 8th Century Camino de Santiago, means following one of several routes to reach Santiago Cathedral. The various routes stretch for hundreds of miles from France, Portugal, Germany, or even England or Scandinavia. Walking the final 113km stage from Sarria to Santiago lets you achieve your "pilgrims passport"; more than just a certificate, but memento to treasure, reflect, and build upon. Your passport is stamped at an array of points along the way to track and commemorate your achievement.

Liz commented: "We stamp our credencial before we get in the car. It’s our 21st stamp: we’ve been pouncing on them with child-like glee!"

Liz's fantastic blog is a diary of her seven day walk, where she describes the pilgrims she meets, the highs and lows of the journey, the achievement of reaching Santiago "then we turn the corner and there it is – the colossal, astonishing cathedral", and the warmth and hospitality of the local people (despite the volume of visitors, Liz notes she never felt any economic exploitation was evident, with good value food, drinks, and friendly hospitality prevalent along the way). Modern pilgrims choose to do the Camino for a number of reasons; personal, spiritual or religious, or sometimes simply to take some time out from busy modern lives. Liz met a diverse range of pilgrims during her adventure, couples, groups, old, and young. "Since we began we’ve passed several memorials to individual pilgrims and crosses where walkers have left mementos – “some people walk to remember and some to forget” a passer by tells us."

Liz noted that an increasing number of unemployed people are tackling the Camino. With high unemployment levels in Spain, the resilience, determination and stamina demonstrated by walking the way can builds individual confidence and of course credentials to prospective employers. In fact, walking the Camino means something unique to every pilgrim, sometimes specific, sometimes abstract, sometimes the walk itself is to find the meaning. "I walk alongside one (pilgrim) and we talk about feet – a regular Camino topic – and the importance of doing things while one can. He says he’s recently retired and fears every coming year will mean “something breaking down or falling off!”"

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The sense of accomplishment at the end of the journey leaves pilgrims "hugging and kissing each other, doing star jumps, punching the air, applauding". "We’ve done it. Mo and I hug each other. We feel quite overcome with emotion and teary and we’ve only done the last part. Goodness knows how you’d feel if you’d walked for two months and a 1000 kilometres."

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