For a short while there I was a pilgrim. I even carried a passport that identified me as such.
A peregrina with a heavy pack on her back and a pair of ugly – but sturdy and trustworthy and supportive – hiking boots on her feet.
And that was what defined me.
For 14 days in September my life took on a simple rhythm: Walk. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. As someone had so eloquently carved out on a Galician forest pine we passed.
(Side note: why do humans always need to leave their mark?)
The goal was Santiago de Compostela. The Way was marked with yellow arrows. And all we had to do was follow them closely.
I realised quite early on that no one stumbles onto the Camino by accident.
Just like the penance-seeking pilgrims of old, each of us had some ache, some question, some burden that nothing but a very long walk could soothe.
And soothe it did.
In the almost 240km between Porto and Santiago, everything that had become so tightly coiled over the years, so cramped and confined, so afraid, started to unfold and there was space again. To breathe and to dream, to hope and to accept.
At an albergue in Tui my face wash started leaking, so I threw it away.
On hot days I wore shorts and didn’t care about the way my legs dimpled and drilled, as I always do back home.
And whenever I encountered a mirror, I tried not to find fault, but instead smiled at the way my face and arms and hands had rekindled their infatuation with the sun.
It was a sense of freedom that drew me to the Camino. And it was freedom that I found. In a pack that routinely chafed my shoulders and hips, in feet that cramped and blistered, in the simple act of taking one step and then another and then a thousand more.
Of course the journey wasn’t easy, but as with all pilgrimages, the real challenge lies in the return. Clinging to the Truth you walked so far to find.
Knowing that memories fade all too quickly these days, get lost on our phones and in our feeds, I decided to take an old Pentax film camera with me and fell slowly, but deeply in love with that characteristic click-and-whirr that came with every moment captured.
The anticipation. The delayed gratification. The knowing that they will be far from perfect, but that that’s okay too.
Here are a few of my favourites:
Words & Photos: Nadia Krige