“Beginning is everything.” Spanish Proverb
I finished up my career of 13 years just before the Easter weekend after one of the toughest 3 month periods I have experienced. I was mentally exhausted and unfit. I had designed and scrapped dozens of Camino training programmes just because there simply was not time to implement them. So, I celebrated Easter with my family and on the evening of Easter Sunday, THE 31st of March, 2013, I flew to Paris to start the journey of a lifetime. When I look back I cannot believe how completely unaware I was of what lay ahead and being that unaware, I am quite impressed that I did not turn around and come home when I reached Paris. I arrived there at 06h00, survived being shouted at in French on numerous occasions (for the record, if you shout at someone in a language they do not understand, it does not improve their chances of understanding it), found my little “vacuum packed” backpack and made my way to the train platform. It was -1 degree C (after coming from an extremely hot SA summer), pitch dark, completely deserted and I had an hour to wait which is much to long to stop and think about where I was and why! Somehow all the reasons that I had come up with for making the changes I had and embarking on this journey simply vanished. I had left my family, friends, a great job, a home I love, a (warm) country I love and possibly the most difficult as it was impossible to explain to her, Gabi, my Labrador. Finally the train arrived and I climbed in. People have written that the Camino “calls” and I do believe that that is the only reason that I climbed onto the train that icy, lonely morning. I will be forever grateful that my courage held.
From Paris I travelled to Bayonne where I stayed the night and then took the first train to St Jean Pied de Port the following morning. On the train to St Jean I met my first two pilgrims, Dan and Kevin. We became good friends through the journey and amazingly I reached Santiago on the same day as Kevin.
We climbed off the train in St Jean and headed off to find the pilgrim office. When we did manage to find it we were told that the Napolean route was closed. In a way, I was glad not to have to make the call myself as I am not sure I would have made a wise one and as it happened the temperature plummeted later that day and the conditions going over that route would have been very difficult. Having said that, the “alternative” route is no walk in the park.
Once you have signed in at the pilgrim office you simply start walking, the first challenge being to get yourself out of St Jean with out getting lost.
I was privileged to spend a lot of time exploring wilderness areas in southern Africa from a very young age. I got my first camera when I was 6 years old and I have been passionate about wildlife and landscape photography ever since.