Every one of us was doing it for other reasons. Personally, I had never thought I would undertake such a journey though sometimes I had read up on it and was filled with a desire to attempt this. Since I started to get fitter in 2018, I thought this would be an amazing fitness goal to achieve plus having time to simply breathe and be. Hopefully, with some spiritual experiences on the way. I also knew that this would really get me off the computer and help to unwind.
Walking the Camino in Covid-19 times has indeed been not without challenges. First, our flights were cancelled two weeks before. We were also eagerly waiting for the borders to open and on 1 July 2020 the countries of Portugal and Spain did so. What the implications were we were about to find out. We had heard that hostels will only offer a 70% capacity. It also meant we needed to get sleeping bags, as blankets might not be offered anymore. Some of us doubted if we could pull through but in faith we went forward, hoping and praying.
We had chosen the Camino Portugues, as it was feasible to achieve within 14 days and because it is the flattest of all. In Portugal, it was all along the ocean, in Spain we chose to walk along the river and then headed into the mainland.
We had planned to walk from Porto to Santiago de Compostela (274k) and after reading various books and online resources, we had mapped out the road. We would walk for 13 days and have a slow start in Porto, Portugal exploring the city and finish in Santiago de Compostela, Spain with having time to spend there before heading home.
Here is my short diary of this amazing and packed 17-day journey. Enjoy and be inspired!
CAMINO DAY 1
After two successful flights (from Hamburg via Amsterdam), we arrived safely in beautiful Porto, Portugal. Full sunshine awaited us.
We made our way to our apartment by train straight from the airport and arrived just after 6pm.
We dropped our stuff and quickly refreshed ourselves. 30 minutes later, we were on the road again.
We immediately got a great introduction to the city through fantastic Neil Mason with OM (we had worked in Mission-Net together and he saw on Facebook we are coming his way) and enjoyed a delicious dinner and fellowship together. A wonderful start in sunshine and great company. Yes, 25 degrees in the evening.
He also briefed us a bit on the history of Porto and what to see the next day. Great to get these insider tips.
Some also tasted port wine. I mean, this is the most original place for it.
CAMINO DAY 2
Started into the day relaxed. First, we had breakfast near to our apartment. Then spent 6h sightseeing around this beautiful city of Porto. Walked many steps and saw many tiles on historic buildings.😀 We also got acclimatized to 33 degrees.
We also tried various national foods successfully. The best pastais de nata in this city. Also the fish, potato cheese thing.
We also collected our first stamp in our pilgrim´s passport at the office near to the cathedral (because of Covid-19 things are more complicated), bought the famous pilgrim´s shell and a pink hat for me.
After a siesta back at our apartment, we enjoyed a final dinner at the river preparing mentally for the Camino tomorrow. Slightly excited! 😀
Appreciate prayers for my Achilles tendons.
CAMINO DAY 3
After a very crazy night – it was hot, noisy birds or people fighting in front of our windows, we left our first HQ of Porto at 8 am. We went up to the cathedral, which sadly was not open (so glad I had the idea of getting the essential stamp already yesterday), gave ourselves the blessing and off we went on the journey.
We first went on the oldest tram from Porto to the Atlantic Ocean and enjoyed a 5km ride. Preparing mentally! 😀
Then we started the walk along the ocean for 21k. Except a few ugly industrial harbour sights, it was beautiful to walk.
We made it in one piece, survived 27 degrees, had lunch at the beach and found a beautiful camping site for 11,50€ each in a small bungalow for us three, including a swimming pool on the camping ground which we simply had to use.
We also found a washing machine and were lazy pilgrims tonight. 😀
I feel my back due to the backpack! Hoping that swimming did the trick. My backpack must have rubbed against my back as I have developed a wound. Still smiling!
CAMINO DAY 4
At 8 am I picked up freshly made bred rolls and soon after we left the wonderful camping ground. Very soon, I started to sense blisters. I tried to tape but unsuccessfully. The end result I proudly present: 4 blisters. The other two friends follow closely. 😀
We walked mainly along the ocean on great wooden bridges. We hiked from Labruge to Rio Alto. 26,5k in 32 degrees. It was hot but mostly with a fresh breeze. But yes, we sweated like crazy.
We had a quick lunch at a Portuguese bistro and enjoyed a cold coke in the afternoon. It felt like paradise watching the waves. While sitting!
Occasionally, you find someone wishing you “Buon camino”. We also saw a few willing pilgrims. They all looked so fit, sportive and well experienced. And here we were coming along! But I need to tell you, once we found our accommodation, they arrived an hour after us! 😀 It made us feel so good and we did not ask for their reasons.
As we were hiking the coastal way, at one point we looked on the map and realized we had gone too far for the Camino road more into the interior. Due to Covid-19, many hostels are not open yet. We prayed, continued the journey and arrived at another camping ground. 11,50€ for each person, again in a bungalow but a bit smaller than yesterday, got food from the supermarket and enjoyed a cold beer.
Yes, there was another swimming pool included (like yesterday) but we opted for the Atlantic Ocean nearby. Well, Claudia made me to. Cold and refreshing! Then for a warm shower and a relaxed evening in front of our accommodation. Time to sit, write and plan for a new route as our old plan did not work.
What a day! So grateful!
CAMINO DAY 5
After another night not sleeping well, the hot shower on the camping ground did the trick.
As the local shop was not open, we left at 8 am, walked a few km and then had breakfast at the beach. Well, it contained a cup of tea, Melissa 😀, and a packed piece of cake. But hey, you take it as it comes.
We walked only 15k today and our feet are very grateful for this. Yes, and an addition of 2 more blisters. This sucks. Indeed, today was mainly painful in a beautiful surrounding.
Walked the coastline further up, also partly along a river. We had 25 degrees and a very strong headwind. This was another challenge. It even made Claudia put on her jacket.
We got to Marinhas and took the first hostel we found. Costs are 16,50€ each. We have a 2-bed room apartment near the ocean with a very kind landlady. Even got blankets, towels and a cold coke. Luxury!
We then hunted for a restaurant and fed our hungry tummies. The two older pilgrims went for a nap and I to the beach. You just have to. But it was too windy to swim.
Tonight is time to pray over my feet. With fresh washing behind me
CAMINO DAY 6
At the hostel we got breakfast for 2,50€ (bread roll with cheese and coffee) and off we went at 8:30 am our way. Last night we decided we will opt for the crazy independent version. We will make our way along the coastline. Navigating ourselves. We wanted adventure and we wanted a 20k adventure. Well, yes, great plans.
We listened this morning to Matthew 6:33, “God will not let us thirst or go hungry”. Well, we saw this happen today.
So off we went and it became such a hot day. We hiked across fields and through forests. Sometimes we felt like being in a jungle. Sometimes the road just ended in nowhere. Komoot and neither Google were the best friends. It got above 35 degrees and we suffered. Always again finding a new way.
Twice we stopped for water and a cold coke. We should have eaten something but the heat made us not. A big mistake.
I finished my 2,5 litres for the first time during the hike and went thirsty.
When we thought there is no end in sight and some of us started to feel weak, a car pulled to the side and handed us three bottles of cold water. An angel with a German number plate. 😀 Absolutely amazing! We took a selfie as a proof, but nothing for publicity. Hot red sweaty faces!
After nearly 11h of hiking and one of us having an allergic reaction, we arrived in Viena do Castellano and found a pilgrims hostel in a convent. The three of us in good pilgrims’ manner share a room. Most expensive so far, 20€ each.
We hiked for 34k today and got our adventure. But we made it, praise God.
After a bit of rest we went off for a pilgrim´s meal next door. The restaurant owner looked well after us and even here provided us with free bottles of water. He must have seen our despair. 😀
At lunchtime, I readjusted some band-aid and with a painkiller life felt better again. I was so glad I felt well by the end of the day. Better than yesterday. Dead in bed and glad for some rest. But it is so hot to sleep. And while in bed, a mass is taking place outside our window. Great timing!
CAMINO DAY 7
After a rough night with the three of us sharing a room in a convent hostel (with very noisy people outside our window and once they ended, the seagulls started), we left at 8:15 am. Of course after band aiding our feet. 😀 This ordeal can take up to 20 minutes.
We went for a couple of miles before we had breakfast at a local café in the beautiful city of Viana do Castelo.
After yesterday, we were not sure how we would cope today with having to walk for 30k but in faith and good spirit, we went and walked.
Today we intended to strictly keep to sign posts and follow the track. We mostly complied with our idea. 😀
We met a few Northern German pilgrims today and overtook each other or shared a coffee break together.
Over the past few days, we in addition twice met Manuela from Germany. At the first meeting, we were her answer to prayers as we helped her with 4 painful toes. Today we talked about her and soon after, she walked up behind us.
She had hoped to meet us and share her birthday with us. We decided to accommodate ourselves on the same camping ground for 11,50€ tonight and shared the evening together, also praying for her. She totally loved this birthday present.
Though it was over 33 degrees, we coped ok, had lots of amazing scenery along the coastline, shared and laughed.
We also ate and drank better. Yes, we learned out of the crisis yesterday. Even in our older age. 😀 Our feet also hold up for which we are extremely grateful.
Showers on camping grounds are not my favourite, but yes, it gets better when you sing out load. Really!
CAMINO DAY 8
This morning, just after 8 am and a rather bad night, we left the camping ground and said good-bye to Manuela.
We walked for a couple of miles and then found a café for a delicious breakfast. The croissants were simply the best. To our surprise, Manuela found us. 😀
We then hiked off, mainly joined by her.
We had planned to walk for 15k and we had to also stop after reaching this goal.
It got up to 38 degrees and we simply melted away. Water got very scarce and twice we had to stop for a break under trees. O my, it was so tough in addition to facing our physical pain.
Today we started the journey along the river Minho. Some beautiful scenery.
We arrived in Vila Nova de Ceveira at 4:30pm. The recommended hostel was shut. I saw that building and prayed that it might not have rooms. 😀
Before deciding further, we had lunch and joined Annika from Germany who we bumped into a few times today.
A woman in the tourist office pointed us to a hotel, though it was already shut. We got a room for us three for 20€ each, even including breakfast. And sheets, towels etc. Luxury! All three of us went for a nap straight away. 😀
We got up at 8 pm and went into the old town for a good dinner.
It slowly cools down and we prepare for another heat wave tomorrow.
Thanks, God, for a hot but good day. Self-discipline, determination and having a goal in mind got us through.
CAMINO DAY 9
We have managed another day in great heat of 35 degrees. However, it was more bearable than yesterday.
We slept ok though the beds were great. 😀
We even received a beautiful breakfast, where Manuela already enjoyed hers. We left the nice hotel at 8:30 am.
Off we walked today along the river in wonderful scenery and did 20k today.
We met Joe from Germany today and bumped into each other 3 times. 😀
And saw Manuela again as well. Too funny these encounters as there are hardly any pilgrims. If we meet some, they are mostly from Germany.
We stopped at a recommended selfie café and got our selfies, too. Just what you have to do. As we left, the owner shook all our hands (this was surprising to us as the Portuguese are really good with Covid-19 measurements) and put a little white plastic cross into them. A sweet gesture!
Today we crossed the border from Portugal to Spain. Hooray! Another milestone. And it was simply walking across a bridge.
We got to the city of Tui in the afternoon and found a hostel for 15€ each.
Sadly, we all received new blisters. Incredible, how much time you can spend on caring for your feet. 😂
After some rest, we went out for dinner right in front of the old cathedral from the 12th century. And as it was planned, a traditional folk music band with bagpipes played right in front of us. Absolutely beautiful and in a stunning location.
CAMINO DAY 10
What a night we have had. The selfie café man had told us, the downtown area of Tui is very noisy at night. But hey, we are from Hamburg! We can do this.
O my, we simply could not sleep. There was a party in front of our window until 7 am, just when we needed to get up. (Lesson learned: listen to the locals. Always!)
We were half-dead. The heat and the one off bed sheets did not help. Claudia said, “it feels like pulling a condom over the cushion”. Truth spoken. I took out my own inflatable cushion. However, it is a great practical response to Covid-19.
But hey, no time to lament, we needed to get going. The hostel offered breakfast and had placed it in the kitchen for us. Wow, finally a black tea with milk. 😀 Earl Grey tea is simply overrated.
We started at 8:30 am and it was wonderfully fresh. Only 18 degrees Celsius. Heavenly! In addition, it only went up to 27 degrees today. Such a relief to our bodies.
We also only walked for 17k. It was such a lovely walk through forests, along vineyards etc. We also met more pilgrims today. Moreover, they were even bagpipes played on our way!
Alongside us, a trail run took place and at a refreshment stop, each of us got a bag with a drink, fruit and some cake. This walk today contained very few stops for drinks and food, so this was a perfect gift. God looked after us once again!
Now that we are in Galicia (Spain), masks are required everywhere. Much harder trekking like this. Let us hope for more forest tomorrow to hide away.
We had pre-booked a bed in a hostel today, as yesterday it seemed it might become scarce. Our most costly option: 22,50 Euros. Nevertheless, guess what, it was quiet! 😀 And includes breakfast and our own shower. Luxury!
We looked after our blisters and then headed into a nap plus washing our clothes.
Afterwards we headed out for a pilgrims meal for 6,50€.
Grateful for this day!
CAMINO DAY 11
Our hostel was indeed kind to us three and we all got some sleep. Breakfast was included. Well, it meant a cup of tea or coffee and bread toast with cheese. At least we got some needed carbohydrates, though not very tasty. 😀
As it was expected to be hot again today, we started at 7:45 am.
We only needed to walk 15k today to reach Redondela, Spain, so even including two breaks, we reached the town already at 1pm. Especially the feet were grateful.
While it got up to 30 degrees Celsius, we enjoyed a salad downtown and refreshed.
We found a bed for us tonight in a hostel, which can host up to 48 people. Though it is an open room, some wooden partitions and curtains separate it. The real thing tonight for 15€ each. It was the choice by my fellow pilgrims. Majority rules. 😀
Imagine how much our feet smell after a long walk in the sun and then multiply this by 500 percent. Yes, then you have the right kind of smell. Even a dog might faint.
Got some rest in the afternoon and time to reflect on the past very full days.
Sometimes next to walking, heat, food and some needed nap, time can become too scarce to reflect. On the other hand, when you can, you are too exhausted.
Yesterday and today, along a sermon by Pastor Francis Chan, I was meditating on Ephesians 3, on receiving the fullness of God.
“… so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, and to know his live that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Understanding his love is sometimes so difficult and at the same time the best thing ever. People cannot meet my needs but God can. I long for this fullness of God and this independence of what other people might think or do. Even here on this trip.
CAMINO DAY 12
Though the pilgrims in the hostel tried to be quiet, it was a rough night. Some came late, some already left at 5 am. I think we were glad to leave at 7 am. 😀
Today, temperature went up to 34 degrees again, so early mornings are great for walking.
We had to do 21k today to reach Pontevedra. It was a very hilly journey today and we sweated like crazy. Again, along beautiful places, vineyards, Roman bridges, old roads, along some rivers and creeks…
Twice we stopped for a break and collected our stamps, too. Filling our pilgrim’s passport nicely. 😀 I mean, what else to collect!
And bumping into some other pilgrims as well.
I took some time this morning to listen to leadership podcasts by Craig Groeschel and found them immensely inspiring as I dream up future steps for my new organisation.
Mainly though I am very focused on walking step by step and not let my amazing blisters win the bad of me. It surely is painful. Needing to master all my self-control to not lose it. But we made it all in one piece again.
As we walked alongside vineyards over the past few days, I was reminded of John 15 and listened several times to this chapter. Abiding in God and bearing fruit. So praying that I will continue to abide and even more. We saw various kinds of fruit. Some crippled, eaten up, some flourishing and full of grapes.
We found a beautiful little pension for 20€ each. Real beds, no bunk beds, with our own shower etc. And quiet! A double win!
In the afternoon, we all went for a most enjoyable nap and washed our clothes. Housekeeping really. 😀
The other two are out for dinner and I enjoy some down time to reflect and fill my diary. Praying for speedy healing for the most painful blisters while thanking God for such great band-aid. Compeed is to be praised!
CAMINO DAY 13
Time flies and sometimes it is hard to even remember what you did in the morning! 😀 It must be the heat, not that I am getting older…
This morning, after a good night rest (yes, slept more than 5h) we started at 7:15h in wonderful fresh air and 17 degrees. Just these crisp mornings make it all worth it.
Today we walked for 25k and it got so hot. Up to 35 degrees. Why is it that we walked all morning in amazing shades and when it got so hot, we had none? Must be a test to our endurance!
We walked along creeks, beautiful vineyards, met some more Spanish pilgrims on the way and had two lovely breaks. We also took a little detour to visit the recommended waterfall.
At 2pm we arrived at our hostel for 22,50€ each. It was recommended by the wonderful landlady yesterday, but not as nice as hers.
I washed my socks in the sink and created a soupy waterfall on the bathroom floor. Secondly, I turned for toilet paper and the whole case dropped. I am now afraid to touch anything else in this flat.
We had lunch nearby and then went for some rest.
In the evening walked around downtown, got some stuff from the supermarket and had dinner in our room. Including a cold beer for the electrolytes. I learned this from Thorsten B. Any excuse really serves.
CAMINO DAY 14
This morning at 6:30 am we looked at each other and wanted to eagerly destroy the church bells. Our recommended hostel was only about 3m away from the church and its bells, which rang twice each hour – all through the night. We were dead this morning. Honestly not in a good shape.
Nevertheless, we got ready and left the house at 7:15 am in a chilled and wonderful temperature. On the walk, we had two stops and at 9:30 am the desired coffee was found. I had a Coke. It helped.
It was mostly another beautiful walk along creeks, through forests and along fields.
Due to a construction, we needed to walk along the main road for a bit, which was tremendously narrow and scary. And yes, it got up to 34 degrees again.
We bumped into quite a few pilgrims and met the couple who had walked the Spanish coastline. Not to be recommended! We were assured once more we had taken the best road.
Indeed the pilgrims have multiplied on our journey.
We are all in pain regarding our feet. I was in such bad shape that until 2 pm I was already on three painkillers just to make it.
And we did. After 20k we made it to Padron, our second last leg. Tomorrow is the day!
We got to Padron at 1:30 pm and immediately found a lovely hostel. Once again a room for us three for 22€ each. For the first time, the landlady took our temperature.
Luckily, from our foreheads only.😀 My friends went shopping for lunch while I rested my feet and we enjoyed picnic in our room.
Afterwards we all three went for a nap. Wonderful to put your feet up and let the blisters catch fresh air.
In the evening, we went to the botanical garden across the street from the pension and enjoyed dinner and a cold beer.
Oh my, we are so ready! Only 26k to go and the place for the weekend is already booked. 😀
CAMINO DAY 15
We reached our FINAL DESTINATION after walking 12 days! O yeah!
After 270k of walking the Camino, we made it from Porto to Santiago de Compostela. We did it! 😀 In total we even walked 380k with getting lost, sightseeing, going for dinner or finding accommodation. What a long journey!
And of course catching some more blisters today! As one would have to!
After a good night sleep (earplugs are essential) we started at 7:15 am this morning. It was the coldest morning with only 16 degrees and it only went up to 30 degrees today.
We had 26 final kilometres ahead of us and walked along fields, vineyards and also some not so nice streets. At one point, we got lost but a lovely Spaniard put us back on the right track.
At 4 pm, we arrived in Santiago de Compostela and needed to wait for 1,5h in front of the pilgrim´s office to get our final stamp and the desired certificate. This was a bit nerve wracking, as our feet were hurting so much and there was no clear communication and if, only in Spanish. It seemed the city does not like pilgrims too much!
We arrived at our pre-booked hotel, got some rest and then celebrated with dinner, which sadly ended up in the toilet after I have had three sips of Sangria. Maybe it was all a bit much!
CAMINO DAY 16
Today was a day of resting, re-energising and sightseeing.
Last night we wanted to celebrate our success with a good Italian meal in Spain. 😀 We did!
In great celebration mode, the girls ordered Sangria. After 3 sips I was so sick that I needed to jump to the restaurant’s bathroom and emptied myself successfully. Maybe painkillers, Sangria, and heat were not the best combination. 😀
However, it meant I had the best night in my total Camino adventure and neither did I hear my friends enter the room nor the very loud fireworks in honour of St. James being celebrated today. I nearly had 8h and felt much better again.
We started with a wonderful breakfast at the hotel and in due Covid-19 manners.
Then we headed into town to explore the historic places, had coffee and beautiful cake, were finally allowed to enter the cathedral and shopped around.
In front of the Pilgrim´s museum is a two feet sculpture with the following inscription:
Camino recto, camino erguido, camino buscando un sentido. Camino porque tengo un objetivo, y no pararé hasta alcanzar mi destino.
(I walk straight, I walk upright, I walk looking for meaning. I walk with a purpose and I won’t stop until I meet my destiny.)
A great encouragement!
The prince and princess of Spain were around today but sadly had no time in their schedule to meet and greet.
Instead of meeting up, we enjoyed some downtime at the hotel and put the feet up. Such a wonderful leisure. I also took the time to open the final blister. May it be so!
For the final evening, we went back downtown to enjoy dinner. No, we did not go back to the one from yesterday. 😀 They might not let me back in. Even with a facemask. That’s life!
We found the Café Casino to be a great historical building for our final dinner.
CAMINO DAY 17
After a good night rest and a wonderful breakfast, we took a taxi to the airport and flew home via Bergamo, Mailand. It was via Ryanair as Lufthansa no longer flew the day we needed it. While we waited at airports or in the air, I caught up with my diary and created some lists of things to remember, to pack differently, my 5 most essential things to take etc. Great time to reflect and debrief myself.
My 5 most essential things to take:
- Band-aid (Compeed) for blisters
- Drinking bag
- Walking sticks
What a lifetime experience of walking, enduring pain, getting out of bed even when you are so tired, of staying focused and determined and this all in amazing countries and fantastic nature. God has been incredibly faithful.
I warned by aluminium boss that flip-flops will be my shoes this week, hoping for speedy healing for my feet. Too many blisters and at the brink of losing two toe nails.
Got to Hamburg at 21:10h. Sadly, our checked in luggage (my walking sticks and our knives) did not make it to Hamburg and seem lost. Lisa picked up Micha and myself as we are conveniently neighbours. She even had a cold Becks Ice beer for me. Great ending to an incredible adventure.