You may recognise these sculptures if you’ve seen the film, The Way. I had this weird moment of, Wow, I’m really here doing this, here are the sculptures!

My pilgrimage

I walked for 8 & half weeks, covered about 1500km, took 4 rest days, hitched once, caught one bus, had a few chunky blisters and one hangover – in France, Champagne was opened late one evening in my honour, I could hardly decline. I met wonderful people, many whom I remain in touch with. I even received a commission from someone I walked with which is now hanging in a home in Vilnius, Lithuania. Pretty happy with that!

Cathédrale Notre-Dame du Puy holds a Pilgrim’s Mass early each morning. I was the only Kiwi setting off on the day that I was leaving. It was great meeting up with people along the way who had started on the same day – Oh, yes, that was you from the Netherlands at the Mass, I remember!

I began in Le Puy-en-Velay and for the first three weeks I loved Every. Single. Step. Though I was also questioning the ease of my ‘Way’, wondering if I wasn’t testing myself enough – shouldn’t the Camino be harder than this?!  Perhaps I should be walking alone? I spoke to my daughter, she asked me, “Is that what you’d say to me, Mum? Leave those friends you’ve made and walk by yourself?” Of course, I would not.

Annelise and Pierre, our art loving gîte host on the fateful night – a very interesting character. With Pierre and the other Pilgrims staying, we’d walked to an exhibition opening before dinner. It was a wonderful and very funny night of celebrations all round in Condom, (that’s a silent ‘m’!), home of delicious Armagnac.

As things went, I’ll be eternally grateful for the company of Annelise during the last week in France, because that’s when I had a call from my sister, our darling Dad had died unexpectedly.

No more questioning ease after that.

On my brother’s advice, ‘Don’t come home. Walk it out, Sis, walk it out’, I continued as planned.

Cropped agriculture in Spain, beautiful yes! Now tell me that again at the end of a long day under the beating sun, looking at nothing else while on your feet. I do it again tomorrow!

There were some tough times. I was glad to get to the Pyrenees, through no fault of it’s own France had been tainted and I wanted a fresh start. Alas, coming out of the Pyrenees and into Spain was no reprieve at all, it was beautiful yet vast and monotonous – there was nowhere to hide, I was with myself all day long. By comparison walking in France had been an intimate affair. I was tired by then, too, feeling a long way from my family. I hit the wall and landed in a crumpled heap.

Shame our photographer cut the top off the Cathedral! Represented are Barcelona, Lithuania, Belgium, NZ Aotearoa and Denmark.

After a couple of rest days in León I walked on. I was still tired and my feet were hurting but the landscape changed and I met a new group of Pilgrims who were great company. The days and kilometers passed until we were entering Santiago de Compostela. The final destination for many.

My shoes held up really well. I think I could get another Camino out of them yet!

From there I continued on another few days, walking out to the coast. There was relief that the big job had been completed and this felt like the icing on the cake. It was quieter with less Pilgrims, though I had joyous reunions with people I hadn’t seen for weeks and it felt amazing to see the sea, then to get my bare feet in the sand – heavenly! Once I arrived at ‘Lands End‘ there was nowhere further to go. I went to bed a Pilgrim and woke a Tourist. It was time to go home…

I’ve had a fellow pilgrim from Barcelona stay, when we walked my morning track, with arms wide he beamed and said, “No need for a Camino!” It’s all relative, right?

My pilgrimage homecoming

…has been tough, far tougher than the walk itself. My house felt very empty – I longed for my Camino Community. There’s been some big stuff. I’ve been very uncomfortable, come up for air, gone back under, resurfaced again and repeated. Yet now, (finally!), I feel a shift in myself, a re engaging with Life and it feels good, really good. A blessed relief. I can feel the very best of my Dad close to me.

The sunset from my accommodation in Santiago, an old Nunnery – I loved it, despite feeling like I slept in an original bed!

Santiago was my favourite city, not too big with beautiful vistas out to the countryside. While there I read that in days gone by it was not the end of the walk, but the halfway point for Pilgrims to turn around and journey all the way back home. This allowed them the opportunity in integrate all of their experiences on the way to Santiago de Compostela. Perhaps that’s what I’ve been doing, though without the benefits of ‘The Way’ it just took a little longer.

Time now to focus back in earnest on my work – I have an exhibition booked for December with Artbay Gallery. This will be a new series of work inspired by the patterns of the incredible stain glass that I admired while walking. Being outside all day made entering the sanctum of each Chapel or Cathedral all the more potent. I’m ready for these pieces to start flowing, they feel important, like a beautiful way to honour my Dad and that journey.