Back home after their Camino Ingles adventure, Eamonn reflects on the friends made and laughter shared with Phil and the team on the #CawleyCamino 2016.
I had a dream last night. Dreamt that I was back in Spain with many faces around my bed trying, without success, to wake me up. On reflection now, in the cold light of day, it must be a deep seated fear within that I will miss something, so I’m really glad that I stayed awake a lot last week. Otherwise I would have missed quite a special week with an exceptional group of people on the route they call the English Camino.
In my daily blog I only got to record a small part of the interaction between the group and for that I am grateful, but so much more happened that probably will remain forever unrecorded. As I write this I see on my phone that the Cuddihy’s Crew WhatsApp is alive with people seeking bookings for Shane’s most worthy Manuela Riedo Foundation Ball in Galway in October, so it’s obvious that that the bond and camaraderie that grew between the group was exceptional.
As we gathered in Dublin Airport just weeks ago in apprehension, little did we know of the adventure that lay ahead or the friendships that would be forged. The wonderful sights and sounds of the Camino keep coming back to me in sleep and in my conscious hours.
Swiftly disappearing breakfast buffets, early morning shower water running in adjacent rooms. Misty early morning back streets as we strode up steep inclines to towns whose names we can’t remember. Dogs, thankfully on leashes, barking furiously as we passed farmyard gates on remote country roads. Raucous Kerry laughter ringing through verdant forests as the brothers regaled their fellow walkers.
The sound of singing from a small country church on a killer hill, as we surprisingly encountered 2pm Mass on a Sunday afternoon. Rising rocky terrain and temporary bridges over babbling brooks. Strange building projects on remote country roads that didn’t look like they would pass muster with H&S where we come from! So many strolling conversations, some jocular, others deeper, but always carrying that special growing bond that exists between Peregrinos along The Way.
And all the time I wondered who and how many like minded souls had passed this way …and passed away…before.
The names of the towns we stayed in are indelibly etched in my mind so great was our need to get there everyday….Ferrol, Pontedeume, Betanzos, Hospital de Bruma, Sigueiro…and of course the Holy Grail of Santiago.
And what a joy it was to emerge from that heavy early morning rain on our last day’s walk and gather at the edge of town for our triumphant arrival into the beautiful Cathedral Square in Santiago de Compostela. Different emotions for every one I guess, but the sense of achievement was palpable in everyone as we gathered to place our toes on that sacred shell.
Some stayed to savour the moment, some drifted towards the Cathedral, some to the hotel for lunch, some just stood there bemused, caught in the moment. You never really know what this moment will bring. Me, I thought of my long deceased father and my recently passed mother and how much I would have loved them both to be there.
After a short while I drifted away to my favourite tapas bar with some of the gang for a hearty lunch and a celebratory glass of Albariño and looked forward to two days of walking freedom in this wonderful city.
Having completed several Caminos on different routes I would say that this was a very tough but eminently enjoyable one with long distances most days and our 120 plus kilometre Odyssey condensed into 5 days walking. The general consensus amongst the group, elite walkers excepted (you know who you are!), was to spread the walk over more days,or maybe that was just an excuse for more partying on our nightly stopovers! Phil and I will sit down soon with our excellent tour operators CaminoWays.com and pass on your comments. We know them to be an organization that listens to its customers and staff…..hell we might even get them to flatten out some of those hills!
I can’t finish without saying ‘Muchas Gracias’ to our super efficient, caring and most patient guides Maria and Jaime, who integrated so brilliantly and became almost more Irish than us over the week. To Maria and Jennifer back at base, always faithfully reproducing my comments and pics and publishing the blog so promptly, sincere thanks. A big thanks to Dr. Phil also for interpreting my blogs at dinner every evening in the way only His Master’s Voice could! No thanks though for sharing that pic of your toenail on Twitter… ugh!
My abiding memory of this wonderful journey will be of a group of disparate strangers who came together with a common cause for a week in North Western Spain and bonded in friendships for many that will last forever. …..Buen Camino!
Aer Lingus operates up to five flights per week from Dublin to Santiago de Compostela from April to October.
Contact CaminoWays.com travel specialists for more details about the Camino de Santiago routes or to book your trip