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04th Aug 2019

My Camino with Maria Walsh Day 3: We begin walking – and talking

Leslie Ann Horgan

“Conversations between the Pilgrims and the locals are special.”

Maria Walsh is a newly-elected MEP. From Shrule, Co Mayo, she was crowned Rose of Tralee in 2014. This week, she is walking a stretch of the Camino De Santiago and chronicling the experience for Her. On day three, Maria and her friend Mary, begins their walk at Santiago de Compostela in north west Spain…

Mary and I made a pact to carry our bags. Some believe it’s the true Pilgrim way, but over the course of our 21km journey today, we both, at various points felt we should have allowed our bags to go their own way!

Today’s route took us from Santiago de Compostela to Negreira. We left the Pousadas de Compostela Hotel late at 8am. For some that may seem too early to be starting your day, however, if you find yourself walking Camino the ideal leave time is between 5.30-6.30am. This allows you not only to tackle your day as early as you can, but most importantly, it allows you to finish your Camino walk before 2pm, which has you retiring out of the blistering Spanish heat just in time.

Maria gets a (late!) early start on the walk

The route today was perfect. A gorgeous combination of small hills and flat terrain taking us into small villages, open fields, river walks, beautiful valleys and forest tracks, with only a short 3.5km uphill battle.  This is Camino at its best!

Along the route we stop for a cafe con leche and a freshly made orange juice. Small cafes are dotted throughout today’s route. I would encourage everyone to take five, relax, enjoy and meet fellow Pilgrims.

It’s evident from their souvenir-adorned backpacks that some of our fellow Pilgrims had journeyed many miles farther than Santiago de Compostela. Some travelled alone, some with youth groups and we even met a larger party of pilgrims who kicked off their morning with beers and wine! Camino welcomes us all.

Route markers along the Camino

Some may wonder what do you do while strolling a short 21km. Mary and I chatted for most of it. We talked about everything and anything, shared stories, reminisced on how we became friends in 2014 at the Rose of Tralee Festival. We discussed our experiences from our own previous Camino journeys, and what we hoped to gain from this ‘Way’. It’s amazing how much two people can chat once they get going!

Along the route we were greeted and we shared ‘Buen Camino’, a good wish and acknowledgement from fellow Pilgrims and locals. Mary seems to feel the need to be fluent in Spanish, announcing the many towns and villages we strolled through.

A little over 3km from Negreira we arrived in Pontemaceira Vella. It’s a beautiful small village connected by a stone bridge. Unbelievably tranquil.

The scenic village of Pontemaceira Vella

We arrived into Negreira at 1.00pm. A perfect time to check in, take off our boots, wash the 21km journey away, and stroll around the built up town. Truthfully, Negreira is not as picturesque as Pontemaceira Vella but for Pilgrims on day one, it has plenty of options for allergies (hostels), pharmacies, stores and restaurants.

We fell into conversation with Raul, a 40-year-old local. He was born in London but has been living in Negreira for several years. His parents still live in the UK and the conversation quickly turned to Brexit, love and what his town has to offer! He shared how his town benefits greatly from Pilgrims, with people walking through from April to October.

Taking in the view at Pontemaceira Vella

If you decide to include Camino in your life you’ll quickly find that conversations between Pilgrims and locals are special. You get a deep insight into the mindsets and the beliefs, and debate is second nature here. As the sun went down, I reflected on the many conversations we shared with strangers and how those are a special part of the voyage.

We also stopped to speak to a worker from the Tourism Office who shared her insights into the day ahead. Tomorrow is the toughest of the seven days, with over 28km to be covered – and the first 13km of that is uphill… If you get a short reflection on tomorrow’s journey, you’ll know why!

For now we rest our sore legs and sleep.

Buen Camino, Maria x

Maria is travelling with Camino Ways.