Wednesday, 14 September 2016

The Last Post.

On the 7 September 2011  I set out to walk the 780kms from St Jean Pied Port to Santiago de Compostela which set in train a series of treks for charity which resulted in my covering over 2200 miles and raising through the kindness of others £25,000.  Today, I have reached the last mile of the final Camino and my mind wanders back to the first day of the first Camino.

Climbing over the Pyrenees in 30c heat that did not abbate for  the 21 days it took me to get there. There have been some experiences on the way, such as on my second day into the Camino Frances when I went into a small shop in  an isolated village with my rucksack on and managed to demolish the place by knocking over one shelf and, while swinging around to see what I had done, several other too. The fierce heat and strong wind of the Meseta has also burned itself into my memory, As has Finding a memorial in a wood to a man who had died on the Camino and taking a fir cone from his memorial stone with me leave at Santiago

My undying memory of the Camino Portuguese is the cobbles. Millions of them, that set my feet on fire. And sleeping in a hostel with  a room full of women, none of whom snored.

In the French  Cevennes on the Robert Loius Stevenson trail I twisted my knee sufficient to bring me to tears and was rescued by two elderly spinster twin sisters who found a doctor to sort me out and send me on my way. It was ironic then that later I ruptured my quadrecept and was forbidden from walking hills, which resulted in a mind numbingly boring walk along the Nantes to Brest canal to raise money.

The 1100 kilometres of the via de la Plata was an endurance test but the decision to cut to the north west and stay at the disintegrating monastery at Osiera gave a spooky and fascinating insight into the rapidly disappearing world of the dozen or so Benidicteen monks still there. But the first day out of Seville, when the rain had turned the track into a quagmire and the mud  stuck to my boots making them feel like concrete blocks almost had me looking for flights home.

On the English route when I presented my dead friend's stamped up pilgrim passport and asked for a Credentia for him. You would have thought I had asked to have tea with the pope. But I do pride myself that they did something they have probably never done in  fourteen hundred years. And that is  get two names on one credentia.

I have sleeped with a thousand different people in a hundred different beds, and navigated 1000"s of kilometres across  Spain with no map or compass but armed only with trust that the thousands of yellow arrows I was following would lead me to where I wanted to go.

And above all, when the spirits were low there were the FaceTime evening talks with my wife and my daughter that were jewels of light at the end of hot and exhausting days.

Now it is over and I have one more duty to perform.

For the last time I remove my friend's ashes from my rucksack and head down to the rocks at Cabo  Fisterra. I tip them out and they drift towards the sea. Soon the tide will take them to other oceans.

This was a man whose two most used phrases were, 'What's the problem?' And 'How can I help?'

I try to think of something to say. I know he would not appreciate a prayer. I borrow from the poet Rober Frost.

And now, my friend; you've no more promises to keep
Nor miles to go before you sleep
Nor miles to go before you sleep..

The chapter is now at an end and the book has been closed. I wipe the moisture from my salt stained cheeks, undoubtedly a bit of sea spray, and give him one final wave before turning away and starting the long journey back to my family.

You can see my video of thisxwalk at


  1. I am a bit stuck for words Roger, I can only say thank you from the bottom of my heart for those words. I hope they will inspire many more to walk the various Caminoes, they certainly helped me start out and return for the second time.Don't know about salt but there must be some dust in the air in Plymouth.

  2. Thank you so much for your kind comment. Now back in Santiago after a three hour bus trip tucking in to a bucket full of soup and preparing my next Womens's Institute talk.