A year ago, I sat in a train heading to Porto.
I’d just finished the Camino Frances, and I could barely walk. I was in a huge amount of pain from a damaged knee, and the last thing I ever wanted to do was walk another Camino.
I’d scratched my irrational itch that was the Camino Frances, and that was that. I’d done it. I’d had enough.
The train stopped for a moment, to allow another train to pass as I recall, and while waiting I looked out a window and down on a small lonely wooded lane.
Way below me a pilgrim stood at a crossroad. She had a backpack on, poles, and I could see the scallop shell hanging off her pack. She had a guide book out, and she was trying to figure out which way to go.
At that moment my heart leapt.
I wanted to be down there on that wooded lane. I wanted to be wearing my backpack again. I wanted to be lost, trying to find my way to The Way.
At that moment I knew I had to walk the Camino Portuguese, even though only moments earlier I had vowed to myself I would never walk a Camino again.
And so here I am, twelve months on, having not only completed that walk, but I had the privilege and honour to lead a wonderful group of pilgrims too.
And what a time I had!
What a time WE had!
I will remember it always as being one of the most enjoyable times of my life. To walk a sacred path with friends. To share stories, meals, to share unforgettable memories.
How lucky am I?
And then Ireland. I don’t know what drew me to Ireland, but it reeled me in and landed me flapping and smacking on its decking, in awe and wonder at the power and magic of the place.
I want to go back. I need to go back. For some reason it holds a spell on me that I just can’t explain. I need to know all about that spell. I need to feel that magic deep within.
I’ve shared this walk, these walks, with my wife Jennifer who each day seemed to glide along the paths as though she was transported on wings. Perhaps she was.
She made every stage of the Camino Portuguese look effortless – with her relaxed easy gait and her readiness to help others. She showed me what it is to be a true pilgrim.
And so it comes to an end.
But there’s never an end, is there…
There are more paths I want to walk, more mountains I want to climb, more rivers I want to cross. The act of walking is a powerful statement. There’s something inherently honest about the simple act of walking.
It levels you.
It elevates you.
It heightens you.
And walking towards a higher purpose –
Well, what can be better than that…