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Camino 2018

Camino 2018

By Cathal Ahern, Syntax Loyola

During the middle of third year, we were advised by our form tutors and teachers to begin thinking about which trips we would like to go on in Transition Year. There was an extensive list of trips on offer, ranging from exchanges to Boston, China, Vienna and Seville. However, among the list of trips available was the Camino Pilgrimage, and for some reason this trip jumped out at me. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure they're all great experiences, but there was a certain uniqueness to the Camino that drew me towards the trip. I'd heard many people rave about the trip and what it had to offer, and heard many people say that they would love to do it someday. I think that hearing so many good things about the experience helped me to choose the Camino, and so I put it down as my first choice trip ahead of the others. When our trip allocations were announced and I was given the Camino, I was very happy. A number of meetings were held, most of them with Mr. McCarthy, about exactly what the trip would involve and the preparation involved, such as sorting out passports and EHIC cards.

One of the main features of the Camino is the fundraising aspect. Money raised from this trip goes to the Belvedere Youth Club. The Belvedere Youth Club is an organisation that aims to provide a comprehensive youth service to young people in the North Inner City, to organise social, educational, and recreational programmes for members, to prepare those young people for their future and to organise programmes that benefit the wider inner city community.

Although the Belvedere Youth Club is not directly linked to the Belvedere College S.J., it was set up by past pupils of the College and works closely with the College in many ways. In the months preceding the trip, we all fundraised vigorously, doing anything to raise money from washing cars, hosting coffee mornings and mowing lawns. Personally, I raised most of my money through busking and applying for sponsorships from credit unions.

To begin our trip, we met on the 18th of October at Terminal 2 in Dublin Airport. We checked in our luggage, said goodbye to our families and boarded the plane to Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain. I was very apprehensive about the trip as I didn't know what to expect, but I was also looking forward to it at the same time. When we arrived in Santiago, a bus was waiting to bring us to the start of our pilgrimage at Léon. We had some McDonald's that evening and went to bed in great anticipation of the journey ahead.

We woke up at 7:30 A.M. on most of our seven days of cycling, and although it may seem monotonous, every day brought something new. There wasn't necessarily a so-called 'easy' day of cycling, but some days were certainly more challenging than others. For every uphill, there was a downhill, therefore, although there were many challenging moments there were just as many easier sections, in my opinion.

One of the main draws of the Camino, as many will tell you, is the beautiful scenery, and this certainly did not disappoint. We were often surrounded by towering wheat fields, picturesque country Spanish villages or looking down upon sheets of white cloud. Another highlight for me was the collection of stamps for my Camino Passport, as it gave the sense of the journey that I was on, as collecting the stamps at each small town or village was almost reminiscent of following a treasure map!

We were also very lucky with the weather on the Camino as there was plenty of sun to follow us on our travels, with pleasant temperatures of 20°C-25°C every day, perfect weather for cycling in! Every evening we went to check out the town or area we were staying in for the night as they were all unique and different in their own way.

Meeting other pilgrims, or 'perriguinos', on route was also enjoyable, as it gave a great sense of a community with so many different people on their way to achieving a similar goal, albeit all for their own personal reasons. The satisfaction and sense of achievement at reaching our final destination, Santiago de Compostela, was unparalleled in my opinion, and it was amazing to eventually get there after a week of cycling.

As the Camino drew to a close I was very glad I had picked this trip as it was great fun and a great experience. I was a little sad that the trip was over, but I left with many amazing memories from my time.

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