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The Quest...
My husband Rick asked me how I would
like to celebrate my 60th birthday,
meaning what type of party did I want. I,
however, did not want a “party.” Instead
I wanted to mark my 60
th
in a way that
showed the age which I actually felt.
Forty-five, maybe, certainly not 60! How
about trekking a substantial distance, I
thought.
The Path...
I had known for years about the Camino
de Santiago de Compostela, the Way
of St. James, a pilgrimage trek across
Northern Spain. The history dates back
to the Apostle Saint James who, after
the death of Jesus Christ, travelled along
this path, trying to convert the people to
Christianity. There are many pilgrimage
walks around the world, but this Camino
covers more than 790 kilometres and
sounded like a challenging way to
celebrate turning 60. My family and
friends were skeptical – I was not a
hiker, nor a long-distance walker. I am
a writer, an author of children’s stories
and I am enjoying tai chi and yoga. This
trek would be challenging, beginning in
southern France (the start of the“French
Way” of the Camino) and crossing over
the Pyrenees Mountains into northern
Spain on just the very first day. I asked
Rick if he would like to join me and he
agreed, taking over the booking of
the air travel, buying the right gear,
ordering guide books and doing the
general planning. I began to read the
guide books to plan our daily route from
hamlet to hamlet, or to village, to town
or to city. We would need to walk from
18-26 kilometres per day and the trek
would take between 33 and 40 days. We
would be on our own, making our way
without the help of a tour group. 
Training...
Rick and I began to seriously train for
long treks, increasing our daily walks,
at first from three kilometres, working
up to 17 kilometres. We read up on
what would be the best hiking gear and
took heed of any advice which previous
trekkers had to offer. We learned about
using two pairs of socks and rubbing
Vaseline between our toes and on our
heels. However, within weeks, my walks
up and down hills had done serious
damage to my two big toenails. The
doctor said that I had blood blisters
under the nails from jarring my toes
against the front of my boots, but
that I was not to worry as they would
reabsorb. They did not. About a year
after I returned home, I lost both nails;
thankfully, new ones re-grew.
Adding pressure....
As the date to set off for Spain neared,
I added pressure to my trek by publicly
announcing that I would raise funds
for the South Okanagan Raise a Reader
program, a program which I organized
locally with The Penticton Herald
newspaper. Many kind people donated
to the cause and I was happy to have
their faith in my ability to complete the
trek. Their belief would get me through
some tough times ahead.
And, we are off...
September 8. Rick and I travelled from
Penticton to Madrid, via Vancouver and
Toronto. As we approached the Madrid
airport on the morning of the 9th, from
my window seat I saw wonderful views
of large olive groves. I felt excited; below
me was just one part of Europe steeped
in history. We arrived at 11:10 a.m. local
time. From the airport, we rode the
Madrid Metro train underground to
the hotel. The September weather was
welcoming and the traffic was busy
Snowbirds on
a Pilgrimage
Trekking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela
Story by Yasmin John-Thorpe
Photos by Rick Thorpe and Yasmin John-Thorpe
Snowbird
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