Walking The Camino de Santiago

Spread the love
  •  
  • 2
  •  
  • 3
  • 4
  •  
  •  
  •  
    9
    Shares

Walking the Camino Portugues, Ponte de Lima, Portugal

Walking the Camino Portugues, Ponte de Lima, Portugal

I recently had a chance to photograph and walk the Camino de Santiago in Portugal & Spain with Backroads. Walking and hiking is something I enjoy doing but I’ve never experienced anything quite like the Camino de Santiago. If you’re not familiar with the Camino aka. The Way of St. James then I would suggest watching, “The Way“, on Netflix. Though much of that movie was based on the popular Camino Frances rather than from Portugal and coastal Spain Way that we did, I think the movie does a good job at capturing the essence of Camino de Santiago.

Private Wine Tasting at Carmo's Boutique Hotel, Gemieira, Portugal

Private Wine Tasting at Carmo’s Boutique Hotel, Gemieira, Portugal

There are many ways to walk to Santiago de Compostela, some people choose to backpack 500km from France and stay at hostels while others do shorter routes and drink Portugese wine at luxury boutique hotels. Both approaches are rewarding in their own right.

Walking Across Medieval Bridge, Ponte de Lima, Portugal

Walking Across Medieval Bridge, Ponte de Lima, Portugal

Ponte de Lima was the first town we encountered along the Camino de Portugues. It’s notable for being the oldest town in Portugal. The architecture was beautiful and the scenery around the Lima River was beautiful.

Lima River, Ponte de Lima, Portugal

Lima River, Ponte de Lima, Portugal

Gravediggers Along the Camino de Santiago, Portugal

Gravediggers Along the Camino de Santiago, Portugal

One of the things I really liked about walking the Camino de Santiago was seeing different slices of life in Portugal & Spain; from gravediggers to eating lunch with the Conde (Count) de Calheiros to buying souvenirs from small-town shopkeepers who don’t speak a word of English. Coming from the Bay Area, it was a refreshing change of pace. If we don’t travel and seek out new experiences then we’re just living in our own little bubbles. For every wealthy tech yuppie who got rich on IPO money there are many more people in the world who get by with much less material wealth. It’s good to get exposed to all walks of life.

Scenic Agricultural View, Rubiaes, Portugal

Scenic Agricultural View, Rubiaes, Portugal

Camino de Santiago Cross & Shrine in Labruja Mountains, Portugal

Camino de Santiago Cross & Shrine in Labruja Mountains, Portugal

I’ll admit to cheating a little bit during the Labruja Mountains route. It was a hot day with my allergies out in full force so I rode the support van up to the top then met the rest of the group 1/3 of the way down where I found this interesting Camino shrine along the hiking trail.

Hiking Monte Santa Tecla in the Fog, A Guarda, Spain

Hiking Monte Santa Tecla in the Fog, A Guarda, Spain

We had completely different weather in Spain; more along the lines of what I’m used to hiking in the Bay Area. The fog was very thick the entire hike up to Santa Tecla. Loved it! Perfect weather as far as I’m concerned and made for some atmospheric photography conditions.

Eucalyptus Forest in Fog, A Guarda, Spain

Eucalyptus Forest in Fog, A Guarda, Spain

The challenge for me as someone who enjoys landscape & nature photography more than anything else is wishing I could stop every five seconds with a tripod and photograph all day to my hearts content. But the nature of adventure group travel is being constantly on the move. It’s an acceptable trade-off though because I probably never would have attempted the Camino de Santiago on my own anyway.

Santa Tecla Chapel, A Guarda, Spain

Santa Tecla Chapel, A Guarda, Spain

The story of Santa Tecla is quite interesting. I’ve linked to Wikipedia for more info.

Couple Walking Under Arch at Parador de Baiona, Galicia, Spain

Couple Walking Under Arch at Parador de Baiona, Galicia, Spain

I honestly did not expect the scenery on the Camino de Santiago to be as beautiful as it was. Some of these places like Santa Tecla, Baiona, and the Cies Islands (the following photos) are world-class scenery in my opinion. I did a lot of walking on this day and concluded with photographing a beautiful sunset at 10 pm! on the scenic coastal bluffs of Parador de Baiona, an old forgotten castle or fort I think that was purchased by the Spanish government whom then turned it into a luxury hotel.

Parador de Baiona Sunset, Baiona, Spain

Parador de Baiona Sunset, Baiona, Spain

Praia Dos Rodas Beach, Cies Islands, Spain

Praia Dos Rodas Beach, Cies Islands, Spain

The following morning we woke up early and took a 45 minute boat ride out to the Cies Islands which is part of Spain’s National Parks system. I would describe the Cies Islands as the Channel Islands (a California National Park) but way more beautiful.

Scenic Mountain Views on the Cies Islands Nature Reserve, Spain

Scenic Mountain Views on the Cies Islands Nature Reserve, Spain

Hiking the Lighthouse Route, Cies Islands Nature Reserve, Spain

Hiking the Lighthouse Route, Cies Islands Nature Reserve, Spain

The one downside to this excursion was that my trusty travel camera, a Fujifilm XE-1, drowned in the Atlantic Ocean during a sneaker wave. The camera no longer works. Thankfully the memory card was fine otherwise I would be really depressed but what I was most frustrated about was missing out on two potentially great street photography scenes. I had what I thought was going to be a really intense up-close beach rugby action photo framed up but my shutter wouldn’t fire on me. It turns out that the photo below was the last photo I was able to shoot on this excursion (my Sony A7R was with my luggage on the mainland). Later as I was walking dejectedly back to the dock to meet up with the rest of the group, a group of young women playing in the ocean were insisting that I photograph them with my camera. Unfortunately the camera was no longer functional so I had to explain to them multiple times (they spoke broken english) that I couldn’t because the camera got wet so they were disappointed. I’m always looking to add to my “editorial portfolio” but no such luck on this day and totally my fault.

Beach Rugby, Cies Islands, Spain

Beach Rugby, Cies Islands, Spain

On the next part of the trip, we walked the last few stages of the Camino Francés (French Way) which is the most popular route of the Camino de Santiago. There were many pilgrims on this route from backpackers to cyclists and musicians. It was quite an eclectic mix of people.

The French Way Mural, Spain

The French Way Mural, Spain

Married Couple Walking Camino Frances, Spain

Married Couple Walking Camino Frances, Spain

Camino Francés Pilgrims, Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Camino Francés Pilgrims, Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Santiago de Compostela’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is definitely a happening place. There’s a certain energy here that is quite alluring. I can see why some people trek a very long way to do this pilgrimmage. I walked about 60 miles in total during my trip but that is nothing compared to 500km. 60 miles was enough for me to get a taste of the Camino de Santiago. During the first night in Santiago, I was able to attend the Pilgrim’s Mass which featured the famous botafumeiro, a swinging cauldron of burning incense. See the video below (not mine).

Santiago de Compostela (Old Town), Spain

Santiago de Compostela (Old Town), Spain

I’m actually not religious at all and do not believe in any specific faith but I’ve visited two of the three holiest sites (Vatican City & Santiago de Compostela) in the Catholic religion now. I’ve also photographed all 21 California Missions. I find religious artwork and cultures to be fascinating perhaps in part because I don’t really understand religion. The other holy site, Old Jerusalem, is also on my bucket list.

Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Scallop Shells; the Iconic Symbol of Camino de Santiago, Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Scallop Shells; the Iconic Symbol of Camino de Santiago, Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Though most pilgrims end their Camino journey at Santiago de Compostela, the traditional pilgrimmage route actually ends at the Atlantic Ocean via Camino Finisterre aka. The Finisterre Way or The End of the World.

Camino Finisterre - "The End of the World", Spain

Camino Finisterre – “The End of the World”, Spain

See more of my Camino de Santiago photos.


Spread the love
  •  
  • 2
  •  
  • 3
  • 4
  •  
  •  
  •  
    9
    Shares

6 thoughts

    • Thanks Gary. I had my Sony A7R and Canon lenses at the hotel which I used on the easier hiking days and for evening shoots. The Fuji is much easier to hike with since it was so much lighter.

  1. This blog post was an experience in and of itself for a number of reasons. I’m very glad I stopped back here and took more time to look through these compelling images and your excellent accompanying written story. I also took the side trails of reading the Wiki about St. Tecla and watching the video. A friend of mine walked the entire Camino from Spain a number of years ago. Apparently another aspect of the route is that it aligns exactly with the Milky Way, not sure of the details of how that works, but it is what I have been told. My friend’s experience was otherworldly as well in that there were many wildfires all along the way and a number of places where the foliage around the trail was all on fire. Reportedly a number of hikers died that year and my friend suffered third degree burns, but she stayed on her pilgrimage even with burned feet and legs. It took her more than a year to heal. She had a real-w0rld martyr-like experience. Her many stories and reports from the Camino along the way, combined with your spectacular imagery here have me wanting to visit Northern Portugal myself to give a few limited portions of the route a go, while of course stopping frequently for photographs, probably lingering all day, as you said you would have liked to do, but perhaps if possible extending it to many days or even weeks. I like how you included people in many of your photographs. It seems to me a very human experience, as well as a historical one and of course religious one above all for many involved.

    • Thanks David. I’m glad you enjoyed this post. My original intent for creating this blog 13 years ago (yikes!) was to take people on a journey through my lens and words. I’ve more or less tried to stick to that concept this whole time regardless of social media trends. Trends come and go, stories last a lifetime.

      I’m sorry to hear that your friend had to endure all those hardships while hiking the Camino. Hopefully she recovered from her injuries.

      If you have the time I’d recommend hiking the Camino for sure if even parts of it like I did.

Leave a Reply to Richard Wong Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *