The decision to leave your house and walk hundreds of miles to do the "Caminho", is like a seed, once it's planted, it may flourish. The caminho is like travelling to the moon and contemplating the Earth. When you get away from home and see your life from afar, you'll see things with a different perspective and understand what's really important in your life. This could be the greatest challenge you ever embark on, so be prepared! When you decide to go on a pilgrimage, you're leaving your comfort zone and opening yourself up to what the caminho has to offer.
You can learn to go on a pilgrimage in two ways: “With pain or with love”. The caminho teaches with pain and leaves its unforgettable lessons imprinted on your body. This site has been created to help you prepare for your caminho with love and gather thousands of miles of joys, setbacks and shared experiences from other pilgrims. The more committed you are to your preparation, the easier it will be to accept the caminho, because you know that you have done everything in your power to have a Good Caminho (Bom Caminho).
"Where there is a will there is a way.”"
All those that are on a journey to a Holy Place on foot, by bicycle, donkey or horse, with a humble and open heart, are pilgrims because they are going to a Sanctuary. If they were going to a mountain, they would be climbers, and to the bottom of the sea, divers. Whether with or without faith, there is something that draws pilgrims to Sanctuaries.
The origin of the word “Pilgrim”, derives from the joining of two Latin words “Per” = through and “egre” = field/land, “One that goes through the fields”. "Pilgrim" also means foreigner, a person that goes beyond his border. (Example: the Mayflower Pilgrims)
The caminhos identified here are routes that go through the fields, marked by volunteers that believe in the importance of pilgrims’ reciprocity.
When looking for caminhos towards Fátima and Santiago, you will find other routes, created for tourists and lacking the Spirit of the Pilgrim, aimed for turigrinos” (= tourist + pilgrim) and these take long routes around through places for people to spend money, disregarding the physical effort of the journey.
On the caminhos page of this site, you will find detailed information, such as maps, guides and GPS tracks.
"A lot can be done by those who want..."
PLANNING THE CAMINHO
A normal walking day with a backpack is about 25 km, which is equal to approximately 50.000 steps.
While on a pilgrimage, you have to learn how to split: long routes into shorter stages and the short stages into steps; what you need for the day into essential items, food to share with others, your encouragement with those who are discouraged, and your strength with those that are weak.
At first sight, the caminho seems long but, if you divide it into slices, it is easier to disgest…
RECIPE FOR A ”BOM CAMINHO”
Plan your pilgrimage (maximum of 35km per day) and find out where the 1st arrow of your “caminho” is. (+info)
Get acquainted with the arrows of your “caminho” (+info)
Practise walking gradually, with your backpack, with the final weight.
Get in touch with the "albergues" (for sleeping plans) and prepare alternative sleeping places. (+info)
Don’t leave it to the last minute, before setting off, to request a pilgrim passport (+info)
Check the weather forecast for the next day. Avoid walking in high temperatures. Choose to start walking earlier.
Without water you cannot walk.
Without food you have no energy to move forward…
If you no longer see the arrows, return to the place where you last saw one and search, carefully, for the next arrow. Don’t make up caminhos.
In Portugal, if you ask for information regarding the Caminhos of Fátima, usually you will be directed to a national road (avoid this).
“Slow and steady wins the race.”
To know your walking pace, listen to your breathing. You should be able to speak without gasping while you walk.
The ideal walking stage: start at sunrise, end at lunch time, wash your clothes, take a shower, have lunch, take a nap, get to know the area, prepare for the next day, have dinner and go to bed.
If you consider giving up… sleep on it. The following day make your decision.
Besides the physical caminho, consider preparing and embarking on an Inner caminho (Spiritual journey).
Pay attention to the confusing routes created by the Portuguese Tourist Office (Route Carmelita and Caminho do Centenário). Read carefully the information on this subject, so that you don’t get lost in tourist loops (+info).
(Stanislaw J. Lec)
"He who limps is still walking."
When the urge to go on a pilgrimage arises, your thoughts change completely. From then on, you have the “pilgrim’s fire” affecting your decisions. Just as with real fire, you must be able to control it, so that you don’t get burned. The pilgrim’s fire helps us to carry on when we want to give up, to survive, to go higher and further. The mission of this website is to help you to choose and prepare your “caminho” without getting burnt in the typical traps; the dangerous national roads, the touristic routes, the decisions and planning beyond your capabilities and the wrong choice of gear.
The notion of the "pilgrim's fire" might sound a bit over-the-top to you at first, so to give you a better idea of what we mean by this, listen to these pilgrims recounting their first pilgrimage.
Those that want to walk will find the way, those that don't will find problems.
Living with a backpack on our back, is a great metaphor for our lives. When you carry too much, life doesn’t move forward… with too little, you'll go further, but you'll be cold at night. The secret is to find the balance between the two. Examine, in detail, the list of equipment that we provide. They are the result of the experience of many pilgrims. It is very important to learn to listen to the signs your body gives you so that you are able to adjust the equipment to suit you. (+info)
(Portuguese popular proverb)
"Light weight becomes heavy after a long distance..."
OVER AND ABOVE
When it rains, all pilgrims get equally wet… On the caminho all pilgrims are the same. Age and social status fall away, and what remains is the weight of your life on your body and the caminho.
By experiencing new caminhos, we learn to be humble with our strength, to get up and try not to fall as often, to wait for others, to turn weakness into strength and to open our caminho to other people.
Your preparation for the pilgrimage is going to help you determine your physical condition. Practising walking with your backpack on your back, allows you to understand how fit you are to be able to help others.
Age is what you make of it: if you create obstacles in your caminho, you may be old at 18. If you know how to adjust your pace to suit your capabilities, you'll only get old on the day of your final pilgrimage.
Having faith and believing, helps with the Inner Caminho (Spiritual Journey). There is no map showing you the way of the Inner Caminho, or tips from other pilgrims. It’s a personal jounrey that may take years to start and seldom ends. The Inner Caminho is a very intimate and delicate matter. We recommend all pilgrims to be vigilant, to pay attention to the signs of the Inner Caminho.
Prayers are a way of advancing on the Inner Caminho, a form of meditation, that helps you concentrate (focus) on your thoughts. When we succeed in finding inner peace, praying can be a deeply moving experience. We can pray alongside other pilgrims, but we must not impose our prayers to those who are not seeking an Inner Caminho. “There are no shortcuts to spiritual maturity. It takes time to be holy.” (Erwin W. Lutzer). In this site’s library you can find documentation if you want to explore the matter further. (+info)
Religious vows are a personal matter. The more we talk about this topic with others, the more burdensome the mission becomes. Your vow should be considered an intimate matter, to avoid raising expectations of family and friends: “Have you gone?”, “Couldn’t you do it?”, “Are you going on holiday for that reason?”, “You are weak, I got there faster.” Prepare your pilgrimage discreetly, walk your caminho and try to fulfil your vow. Once you get back home, you can share your experience as a pilgrim. If you are not able to fulfil your vow, it's ok. It is a sign that you may need to be better prepared for your next caminho.
Miracles of Fátima: start by giving yourself the importance you deserve for the fact that you managed to walk the Caminho, that you’re alive and healthy. Pay attention to the small miracles around you. If you are interested in exploring this topic a little more, please search this site’s Library. (+info)
We can say a thousand times that we are good, but that will not make us good people. “Facta non verba” – Deeds not words. Practise kindness, be generous, help and allow yourself to be helped, keep the caminho clean. Be a pilgrim and carry the Pilgrim spirit into your life.
Nossa Senhora do Rosário de Fátima
Santiago de Compostela
(José Tolentino Mendonça)
"Faith is not a podium: it's a road."
A BETTER PILGRIMAGE
Some walk their first pilgrimage a little blind, not observing what is all around: Our Lady of Fátima could be on top of one of the trees along the caminho, and you would walk past Her without noticing…” Try practicing these guidelines for a better caminho.
WAKE UP EARLY
Watch the sunrise on the caminho. You start the day early, with more energy and plenty of time ahead of you… (+info about sunrise)
The curve of a smile straightens many paths… Strive to maintain a positive attitude, to face the challenges of the caminho.
Whenever possible, stay hydrated and eat. Restoring energy helps to see the caminho with fresh eyes.
BREATHE IN THE CAMINHO
Close your eyes and breathe in: the morning dew, the plants, the fruit, the food, what you are drinking, the wind, the rain, the clouds, the stones, the animals, the temples, other pilgrims. Register all your smelly memories of the caminho in your diary.
Take a mat with you and rest wherever your body and landscape ask you to. Making short stops along the way has great benefits.
THE GREEN WORLD
Get to know the mountains and the plains, the rivers, trees, bushes, flowers, insects, fish and birds. Listen to their song… Pay attention!
FRUIT ON THE CAMINHO
Depending on the season of the year and the attention of the pilgrims, different fruits can be found along the caminho: blackberries, oranges, apples, figs, medronhos, pine nuts, grapes… Just taste, ask for permission and share your fruit with other pilgrims. Take the peel, husks and shells with you and put them in the bin. One orange peel is biodegradable, a hundred are bio-unpleasant.
HELP AND SHARE
Helping, sharing, accepting help, are actions that can make a difference between getting up or giving up. Change the old saying “every man for himself” to
“save whoever you can”, and be a good human being.
Take some time to learn about the local culture. Listen to the music, gaze at the architecture, taste the food, notice the pottery… You are going to fill your “cultural” backpack with good memories.
Gratitude is the prime objective that holds together the “Pilgrim’s Spirit”. Be thankful for the opportunity to go on a pilgrimage. Be thankful to strangers. Be thankful to those you love. Be thankful to God. Be thankful for the water and food. Be thankful for the bed. Be thankful for the light. Be thankful for the arrows. Be thankful to those who accompany you. Be thankful to be alive… “Gratitude” = give thanks.
Learn to listen to your body and know your limitations. Your will may be infinite, but your capabilities are limited. Sooner or later we all fall. As you get to know yourself better, you will learn to get up and fall less often.
On the caminho you will come across many different ways of going on a pilgrimage, with differences in culture, language, food, way of dressing, walking, origin, purpose, physical condition, age… It is in the difference that lies the opportunity of getting to know other ways of seeing the world. Open your heart. Learn, walk and socialise… this you you will appreciate the differences.
Pay attention to the small miracles on the caminho: water and food, arriving, the weather, resilience, friendship, sharing… For the most attentive and grateful, the small miracles transform your caminho (life) into a great miracle filled with light.
LOOK AFTER THE CAMINHO
Anyone can look after the caminho, stepping on or tearing up the weeds that hide the arrows…
CHECK THE WEATHER
Weeks, days and hours before your pilgrimage, check the weather. Choose the right clothes for the weather conditions that you will be facing. Be aware of your positive and negative thermal limits, and your ability to absorb solar radiation.
THUNDER = STOP
"Thoughts come clearly
while one walks."