Trekking across Europe was a goal Bonnie Rose of Arbuckle saw to fruition over the spring.
The adventure began in France, over the Pyrenees Mountains and ended at the Atlantic Ocean in Spain, a 500 mile long walk that Rose walked over the course of 43 days.
The trail that Rose blazed was the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. The Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) is a large network of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe and comes together at the tomb of St. James located in Santiago de Compostela.
Some people set out on the Camino for spiritual reasons; many others find spiritual reasons along the way as they meet other pilgrims, attend pilgrim masses in churches, monasteries and cathedrals, and see the large infrastructure of buildings provided for pilgrims over many centuries.
Rose dreamed of the trip for some time, for multiple reasons.
“There’s never one reason,” Rose said. “I think one of the reasons is that I really wanted to challenge myself.”
Another reason for Rose was the history.
“There, things are from the 1500s and there’s just a neat sense of connection with history,” she said.
Rose enjoyed getting to meet new people from all over the world. Some of the people she met were from Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, China, and a couple from Scotland whom she intends to keep in touch with.
“On the Camino, you can be by yourself, and I was by myself for part of the time, but there are people walking this all year long. You do meet people you walk with if you want,” Rose said.
Staying in alberques (hostels) in the evenings, Rose said she felt a camaraderie with the other pilgrims. While she was there, Rose celebrated her 71st birthday with a bottle of Spanish cava given to her by friends.
For the first month, Rose was without a mobile phone that chose an unfortunate time to break. Rose said, “I was panicked at first, I thought, what am I going to do? Well, one thing I’m going to do is write postcards, so I did.” She borrowed a phone to send a message to her husband so he knew she was OK. All by herself and without her phone might have been a good cause for concern but Rose did not feel in danger, rather, at ease.
“It’s so – in my opinion – it’s so minimal,” she said. “I used common sense, but there was never any hint of me feeling danger or nervous about things.”
Rose averaged 15 miles a day. She said it took a couple of weeks to get physically accustomed the the cardio and at first; all of her joints hurt.
“How much easier this would’ve been if 30, or 40, or 50, or 60, but I’m not. There were older people doing this,” Rose smiled. “So I definitely got stronger, day after day – it just happens.”
Rose walked through snow, rain, and balmy days. Following the path lined with a symbol of a scallop shell, or the ‘Vieira,’ which reassures pilgrims that they are headed in the right direction.
One place that Rose visited was the Cruz de Ferro, a large cross where pilgrims customarily add a rock from their home to a mound.
“It’s like leaving your burdens, putting them down and letting them go,” said Rose, who left a small part of Arbuckle there in Spain.
At the Atlantic Ocean in the town of Muxia, Rose threw her walking stick in the water because she was done with it. Then she wrote a love note to her husband in the sand for their anniversary.
Citing that her husband works full time and that the pilgrimage was “just not his thing,” Rose said she felt very lucky he was willing to let her go while he took care of things at home.
“It’s a lot of work to take care of… we have 12 acres and dogs and chickens and stuff. So he got it all by himself; I feel very lucky,” Rose said.
Rose’s husband, Noel Scott was happy for her return.
“It was fun being a bachelor for about two days and then I was really lonely,” Scott said.
But he was also happy he gave her room to follow her dream.
“I knew it was something she really wanted to do,” Scott added.
After seeing the sights in Madrid, Rose came back home to Arbuckle. On arrival, Rose said she felt, “relief, happiness, sadness, and wanting to walk more – a lot.” ■