THE most memorable high-light for Marian Jordan, her daughter, Louise, and her granddaughter, Robyn Milner, when walking the 115km pilgrim trail of the of the Camino de Santiago together, wasn’t re-connecting with nature, body, mind and spirit.
“The real highlight for me was finishing it!” says Marian.
And the other stand-out memory that the trio enjoyed during their Camino adventure wasn’t the stimulating company of their fellow travellers or even the lovely experience of sharing the tasty local food and wine — it was when Marian got stuck in the bath!
“After walking all day, for 10 hours, I was looking forward to soaking in a hot soothing bath back at the hotel,” says Marian, 65, from Douglas.
“I had a knee replacement seven years ago, so it was being really tested over the week, walking 115km.
“I got into the bath, but I couldn’t get out! I threw a towel over me and shouted out ‘Hello?’ hoping somebody would come to my rescue,” says Marian.
“Louise and Robyn thought it was hilarious!”
The trio provided the entertainment later.
“At dinner, we were all laughing so much about my dilemma, the staff thought we were drunk!” says Marian.
“We never laughed so much before. The waitress came over and kissed me!”
Marian and Robyn, after seeing the film The Way, starring Martin Sheen, informed Louise that they were planning to walk 115km of the Camino, from Sarria to Santiago de Compostelo in Spain.
If Louise was up for it, then she could do the organising for the three of them?
“I felt like the third wheel!” says Louise, who is mum to Robyn, aged 18, and Abbey, aged three.
“I work as an admin manager so I was voted the best person to organise the trip.”
Louise was game ball.
“I liked the idea of the three of us doing it together,” adds Louise, who lives in Cobh.
The timing was right for the three generations to take off together.
“Mum was due to retire from her management position in the Tung Sing Chinese Restaurant, Robyn had done her Leaving Cert and got her Music Management course and I thought walking the Camino together was a good experience. We’ll always have it.”
Marian is well-travelled and well fit.
“I’ve been to Vietnam and the Camino was on my bucket list. I’ve taken part in the women’s mini-marathon most years, walking and running.”
The trio of women were travelling together, walking for days together, and eating and sleeping together. Was that challenging?
“Us gals get along very well,” says Louise. “Robyn and my mother are best buddies. They like spending a lot of time together.
“When my dad died 18 years ago, Robyn brought us happiness and she filled the void in both our lives.”
Louise got into organising mode for their journey.
“I knew my partner, John, would be quite happy looking after Abbey for the week we were away and she loves going to summer camp with her friends. So we were all set.”
And then there were three.
“Robyn is young and fit,” says Louise.
“And we all love walking.
“Mum was building up her strength and stamina every day. We walked five miles together a couple of times a week. So we felt we were getting well prepared for the trip. And living in Cobh, I was well used to climbing hills.”
They weren’t going to rough it.
“I booked through MAP Travel in Dublin,” says Louise.
“The hostels along the Camino route are comfortable and nice but we decided to stay in local hotels and to send our luggage on ahead.”
They were travelling light, with two basic essentials in their kit.
“Thousand mile socks and Vaseline!” says Louise.
“We were told from talking to people that the socks and Vaseline were very important and, of course, wearing the correct walking shoes for long distance walking was a no-brainer.”
They had another item from home in their kit.
”We brought a copy of the Holly Bough with us,” says Louise.
“Having our photograph taken, the three generations with the Holly Bough, would be a lovely memory for us to have forever.”
The excitement mounted as the women embarked upon a journey of a lifetime. Or was it?
“We got a shock with how tough it was,” admits Louise.
“The first day we were so excited; but walking 25km on rough, unknown terrain is a real eye-opener. It is really tough.
“Then you do the same the next day, and the next. You just give into the pain and go.
“You just keep walking. Everyone is in the same boat and the company keeps you going along the way.”
The threesome adopted another way of walking.
“We were so stiff and sore, we were walking like penguins!” says Louise.
“And we were walking with the dirt!” Marian quips.
Marian stayed with the flock.
“I am 65 remember!” says Marian.”
“Sometimes, I fell behind our walking group, but they held up and waited until I caught up with them. My knee was being well and truly tested, but I kept going.”
“I can’t believe I actually did it!” she adds. “I still can’t!”
Others were incredulous too as Marian kept up the pace and walked 25km to 30km each day, through valley and dale, uphill, downhill; through thick and thin.
“At the coffee stops, mum got a standing ovation when she arrived in after lagging behind,” says Louise.
“People were amazed she stayed the distance. She was asked, ‘did you take a taxi?’
Marian outdid herself in more ways than one.
“She snored for Ireland!” says Louise.
“But we were all so tired walking from sunrise to sunset we didn’t mind.”
They didn’t mind suffering the pains and aches, a well-known side effect of walking or running long distances.
“You’d be stiff and sore in the mornings heading off walking for the day again,” says Louise.
“My hips got very sore. But setting off for another day on the trail, enjoying the company and the craíc; you’d forget about the pains and aches. And we looked forward to dinner every evening with a welcome glass of vino. The Pilgrim’s menu was tasty and reasonable; three courses and a drink for €10. We went to bed happy every night.”
Other things went out the window.
“We forgot about hair and make-up!” says Louise.
Robyn had other priorities.
“Her Leaving Cert results came out while we were walking the Camino,” says Louise.
“She didn’t check them until we got home.”
Another important task was pending.
“Robyn was obsessed with getting our passports stamped each walking day in several places, churches, museums, monuments, bars and restaurants,” says Louise.
“Our Compostela Certs were issued at the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago de Compostela.”
Was that a happy day?
“It was a fabulous day, and very emotional,” says Louise.
“The atmosphere was electric with people from all over the world celebrating their journeys.”
The three generations celebrated their amazing achievement, walking 115km together in Spain, when they got home.
“I’m still wearing the same shoes!” says Marian, showing me her Brooks running shoes as we share a coffee after the family’s return from completed the mammoth trip together.
“Ours went in the bin!” says Louise.
Would they do the walk again?
“I would,” says Louise.
“Robyn is going to do another part of the Camino back-packing with her friends.”
Marian’s shoes might be made for walking, but now she’s taking a back seat.
“I’m going to enjoy my retirement, and I’m looking at buying a new car.”
What advice would the women have for other people considering walking the Pilgrim trail?
“Don’t think about it,” says Louise. “Just do it.”
And that’s exactly what the three generations of women did.
Last year 7,548 Irish people earned the Compostela certificate.