Having just returned from 6 months solo travelling across Europe Ive returned to Australian shores overjoyed for the sun, sea and goodtimes that summer has in store. One major part of that being Festivals. But as any traveller will confess, despite being glad to be home, I have well and truly caught the bug. I cant wait to get back out on the open road, overseas, chatting to interesting individuals with stories completly foreign to my own. During my travels I spent a great majority of my time in the jewel of the european crown - Spain. Like most people's travels OS trips mine has shaken how I see the world and provided hands down the greatest life experiences thus far.
Id like to share with you a tale of my unique adventures
I started off completing a month long walk across the Spanish countryside in a pilrimage trek called 'Camino de Santiago'. Having heard about it for years, it was great to finally cross it off my 'Things to do before I die' list. The walk is so unique as arrows and signs cover the walk but it remains without guides or a commerical focus. Starting at the French border, Saint Jean Pied De Port, you trek across the mountainous Pyrenees, down to Pamplona, reknowned for its 'Running of the Bulls' festival. At this point you enter wine country, walking through romantic villages with tiny alleys ways which wind in and around the local homes. The trek dates back to hundreds of centuries ago as an endevour warriors within small villages would complete, proving their agility and worthiness. I cant imagine the incredible pain caused by their footwear back in those times! As a symbol of respect villages you pass through on the way, although entrenched in poverty for generation, give to the camino walkers endlessly, usually in the form of homegrown fruits, vegetables and beverages. At many points locals invite you in for salted tomatoes and glasses of homebrewed vino. The walk moves out of wine country and across baron deserts and then into breathtaking mountainscapes. In these parts many lodging you stay at run without electricity & fresh water, mostly run by buddist monks and people seeking simple living. You walk through rivers, dense forrest, farming estates and on the way encounter many of the crazy spanish fiestas in all their charm. Fiestas (aka parties) begin at 11pm and run right through to the early morning, including every man, woman and child ranges all ages 1 to even 99.
The walk turns down all the static of citylife as each day your only focus is on the road ahead and reflecting upon oneself. Intensely spiritual, was never something I saw as myself but the great mixture of the social journey makes it a wholistic experience. As you move across the land so to do many interesting people from all over the globe, all walking to their own unique beat and purpose. After a hard days walk of 8 hours in the intense spanish sun groups sit around and share bread, pastas and vino and exchange stories in the evening. And so after 30 days you reach your goal Santiago De Compostella, the holy town in which so many before and after you have fight their way to reach. Although personally I didnt walk for religious purposes I could see people who did really finding the experience meaningful on a whole different level. For me, I walked on three days to a place called Finisterre. Finsterre meaning 'End of the earth', as historically the spanish believed the world was flat and this was the edge of the earth at which the world stopped. At this point you reach the coast, which is a sight for sore eyes after such an experience. Being Australian too I became quite overwhelmed at the sight of the ocean, having grown up by the sea my whole life in Newcastle, NSW. After the 900kms in total I walked into the ocean and felt utter euphoria, the feeling exceeding anything else I had experienced in my life at this point.Finisterre is a free-living, hippy haven as groups flock in across the summer. As horses freely gallop around the beach we would lay our tents together on the beach and sit around bonfires in song each evening winding down from the whole experience.
Aside from the memories which will burn inside me for the rest of my life, Camino has taught me so much about humanity, the power of giving and again enforced the importance to live each day to the fullest. Ive returned knowing what I want out of life. Thats to follow my dreams and do as much as I can to improve the lives of those around me. Its all sounding very la-di-da and that the way I intend to keep it. Buen Camino!