Last year I walked the Camino Frances by myself.
I found it to be a profound and transformative experience. The resonances remain with me, even now.
This year I walked the Camino Portuguese with a group. In fact I led a group.
I found it to be no less a profound experience. But It’s interesting to now look back and compare the two pilgrimages.
Firstly, the Camino Frances was a longer distance – some 800kms – and it took longer. For me, including rest days, 31 days. The Camino Portuguese is shorter – 240kms – and it took us 13 days, including 1 rest day.
You’d think that the Camino Frances, because it’s longer and tougher, would provide you with all the ingredients to induce change – a greater change than a shorter pilgrimage.
But I didn’t find that to be the case.
The Camino Portuguese packs a lot into its 240kms. (That’s from Porto to Santiago.)
There are some long tough stages, and some climbs that really push you hard. After climbing to Roncesvalles, and to O Cebreiro, I didn’t think the Portuguese Camino could throw anything at me that would be as difficult as those stages.
But I found the climb to Rubiaes tough-going. As well, there were many stages which were predominantly on hard surfaces – bitumen, cement, and often cobblestones. The cobblestones were a killer on the feet. They induced blisters on many of those on the tour.
The stage from Vila do Conde to Barcelos was particularly difficult – a long walk, and largely on tar or cobblestones. We were knackered at the end of it. And that was day 2.
Also, there were sometimes fewer options on the Camino Portuguese to shorten your stages. The Camino Frances, because it’s so popular, has albergues most of the way along. You can choose to walk a shorter distance if you want.
The infrastructure on the Portuguese Camino – accommodation and cafes etc – isn’t so well developed, particularly for our tour group which required hotels, not albergues. (Yes I know, we’re not true pilgrims. To you I say bah! 🙂 )
So we had a few long stages, particularly early on.
But this I think intensified the experience, and began the transformation process in a few of those in the group after only a couple of days. I noticed this, I read the signals, but I was always a distant observer. I never wanted to pry. I just saw changes starting to happen…
You can have a transcendent experience in a flash. In a moment. You don’t need to walk 1000kms from Seville to have a life altering experience. That’s what I learned from the Camino Portuguese – and I have to say it surprised me.
I didn’t realise it would be as intense, both physically and spiritually, as it turned out to be.
The Camino Portuguese is not a “mini-me” Camino Frances. It has its own history, its own culture and food, it has very potent links to Santiago – St. James and his relics – that are unique to that part of the world.
It is a very special pilgrimage, and it can be as transformative, as spiritually awakening, as the longer Caminos.
How true it is, this “shorter” pilgrimage was no less transformative or spiritual than the Francés.
As you know, I’ve walked the Francés twice and yes, both of those Caminos brought changes; the first was a lesson as to the necessity of material possessions and the second held a deep spiritual transformation for me.
The Camino Portugués left me with yet another life altering lesson. A lesson that has reaffirmed my dream to move to Spain and open a Casa for pilgrims. I’ve been researching my options since I returned home.
All this makes me wonder will I have another revelation on my upcoming Camino Inglés – Finnesterre – Muxia routes. I do know I will be looking at opportunities along the Way to achieve my dream.
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Hi Arlene – you always leave yourself open to revelations… and it would be wonderful for you to open a Casa in Spain. But try and find a region where it doesn’t rain!! 🙂
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I think we had that discussion while cold and wet in Santiago. Good luck. Steve
Like I said I will think about the south of France possibly on the Arles route. In fact I may just walk that in 2015 to check it out.
My research so far has revealed all of the countries in Europe on the Atlantic as well as France have had an unusually wet winter and spring this year. So I must take that into consideration.
I think the closest place that doesn’t rain much is La Rioja and maybe the Meseta. That climate is too much like where I already live!
Hi Arlene – what about considering the area around Rabanal? As you know, Rabanal is an easy 22kms from Astorga which has a fairly good infrastructure in terms of shopping, services etc.
Rabanal and Foncebadon are the two closest villages to the Cruz de Ferro. Rabanal has a good choice of albergues etc and I think one casa rurale, but something that really strikes me is the need for a sanctuary for pilgrims just before they have the often very emotional experience of placing their pebbles and rocks on the Cruz de Ferro. I know that the albergues at Rabanal (particularly the hospitaleros at Refugio Gaucelmo) do a wonderful job here but at the same time I think there could be the scope to do something along the lines of Rebekkah Scott’s Peaceable Kingdom and Tracy Saunders’ Little Fox House in this location. It seems to have a drier climate and it’s close enough to the major services which would have to be tapped into as part of running your Casa Rurale.
BTW – you would have a long list of PGS volunteers to help you! Count me in!
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Oh Jenny what a great idea! I absolutely love Foncebadon, it had such a magical essence to it. I do recall there being many properties for sale when I passed through last year. A definite place for me to check out.
I am hoping to stop by The Little Fox House while on my next Camino. Actually Ingrid (from the blog) is a friend of Tracy’s and has offered to put me in touch with her.
I have much to learn but I truly desire to fulfill this dream of mine.
Thank you so much for the suggestion and thanks for the offer to volunteer.
My absolute pleasure Arlene – very best of luck with your research. The property that is meant to be yours will come up for sale at exactly the right time for you.