El Camino de Santiago is an ancient pilgrimage route through Spain, ending in the historic town of Santiago de Compostela. The Path Towards a Cure will follow the last five days of this route, covering 115kms from Sarria to Santiago.
Did you know that breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in Australia? Or that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime?
In 2016, it is predicted that 15,930 Australians will be diagnosed with breast cancer. By 2020, that figure will be over 17,200. That is an average of 47 women diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia every day. Men can also develop breast cancer, and every year about 140 men in Australia will be diagnosed.
By fundraising for NBCF on this Path Towards a Cure El Camino, you are making a difference by funding research that changes lives. Funds raised on this adventure will help:
- Discover new genes that cause breast cancer
- Identify how breast cancer cells grow – and work out how to stop them
- Develop more targeted treatments for breast cancer
- Earlier and more accurate detection of breast cancer, enabling more effective treatment.
We’ve made significant progress over the last 20 years, but the work is far from over. We’re now striving to accelerate the delivery of research results and reduce the impact of breast cancer. Our goal is zero deaths from breast cancer by 2030 and we know if we work together as a community, we will move closer to this goal.
We’re here! In fact, many of the team flew into Madrid a day or two early to make the most their time in España. But this evening was special, as it marked the first time the entire team met; and it didn’t take long for tears and laughs to flow. It’s hard to put into words the emotion of the whole group coming together, sharing what made them take on the Camino and sign up for the NBCF’s Path Towards a Cure. So many stories of personal battles with breast cancer, chemo, mastectomies, lost loved ones and support for friends and family. 10 women, and 1 fearless man, raising nearly $75,000 ($74,457.95 to be exact) for breast cancer research – pretty amazing stuff.
But before we get down to the tough bit- that 115kms of ‘path’- we’ve got a few days in Madrid to see the city, hang out as a team, and enjoy our toenails while we still have them.
A dinner of calamari, croquettes, jamon iberico, lamb and, of course, sangria capped off our first evening together. Tomorrow, a city tour and one more evening in Madrid. Muy beuno!
Today we see the sights of Madrid!
Starting with a bus tour around the city, we glided above the streets and had great views of some of the main city sights, including the newer financial district. Afterwards, we hopped off the bus and let our feet carry us for a more up close look at some of Madrid’s most famous sights including El Puerto del Sol, Plaza Mayor, the Royal Palace, Cathedral of Madrid, learning interesting tid-bits along the way. All the streets in the old city of Madrid have ornate street signs with an image depicting the name, Bull Street, King Charles Street, Knifemaker Street, etc. When we came to the dark narrow Calle del Codo (Elbow Street) our guide explained it was thus named as knights in the 18th century would often gather here, to steal a kiss with their mistress and tuck her under their armoured elbow should anyone walk by. The more you know!
We finished the day off with a trip to the rooftop of Ciruclo del Bellas Artes, for a sangria and stunning vistas over Madrid. Today felt like just a taste of an amazing city, but the Camino calls and tomorrow we’re off on our bus journey to Sarria to begin!
You could say today was the first leg of our Camino Journey as we boarded the bus in Madrid for the 6 hour ride to Sarria, the gateway of our trek. We passed miles and miles of beautiful Spanish countryside finally arriving in Sarria early evening to meet Leticia, our guide for the trek. She gave us some info and practical tips on the Camino, and also spoke about the journey, in the spiritual sense we were in for. At that point the excitement, nerves, anticipation, gratitude, and emotion of it all really hit home and eyes welled up around the room. A delicious, not to mention gigantically portioned (pilgrim sized?) dinner followed. We toasted to the Path ahead and passed around a handwritten card from staff at NBCF to thank and inspire the team.
Tomorrow, we walk!
Today we trek!
It’s been good fun and some games but today we lace up our trekking boots and begin our Camino. Rain dampens the ground, but most certainly not our spirits and we practically bound out the door and down the street. A quick pivot left and we come to a narrow cobblestone street and steep set of stairs that mark The Way from Sarria. It’s slow going at first, only because of the photo opportunities at every turn. We cross creeks, climb hills, and walk under archways of mossy trees, the forest is flouro green and alive with birdsong. It’s not long until we’ve reached out first stop, for a cafe con leche, bathroom break and pilgrim passport stamp. We need proof of completing at least 100kms for our Compostela certificate in Santiago, and two stamps a day from cafes, churches, and hotels along the way will record our progress. Just as we’re heading off, the sky clears and it is a picture perfect spot for a team photo. Unfurling the NBCF banner and all kitted out in matching tops, it’s a vision of pink.
We march on, and as the feet begin to beg for a break, an albuergue cafe beckons us for lunch. Here we meet Wally, a lovely peregrino from Ireland, whose eye we’ve caught with our shirts and heart we’ve touched with the cause. With his 10 euro donation tips the team tally over $75,000 raised. Thanks Wally!
On we go, passing hamlets with houses older than any building in Australia, churches from the 11th century and stone walls leading the way long overgrown with moss. It makes you wonder how many peregrinos have passed by, and whose footsteps were walking in. Giddyness and the gravity of it all come in waves. Finally, we see the town of Portomarin in the distance. One more river crossing and cruel set of stairs later, we come to the end of today’s path. We drop our bags, unlace our boots, and embrace, celebrating the completion of day 1 of our Camino.
Camino day two brings a few sore feet but soaring spirits. Our friend the rain is here again to walk with us today. At least we won’t be too hot! It’s a steep climb up out of the riverside town of Portomarin. We’re walking a little faster, and a little more determined today. Rain hoods up means more time for quiet reflection and we settle into a rhythm. We’re in rural Galicia, where ancient hamlets mix with modern agriculture – the smell of cow manure will now forever remind us of this stretch of the Camino! About midday we come to the highest point in today’s trek. Miraculously, the clouds soften, the rain stops, and for miles and miles we can see patchwork green fields, and a river of ant-sized peregrinos in the distance – it’s truly spectacular. At this place we pause, as Chloe makes a special ceremony for her grandmother, who died from breast cancer and in whose memory she walks. Its quite emotional, as each member of the team also has their personal journey and reasons for walking, and many in remission from breast cancer themselves.
By late afternoon, we’re really digging deep battling wind, rain, and sore feet. Before we know it, our lodging for the night mercifully appears, just off the path. Another day is done! That’s 46kms and we’re all feeling exhausted but so determined. Not to mention in good spirits, as most sit around celebrating today’s successful trek with a glass of vino tino or vino blanco, the cameraderie of this great bunch is so lovely. Tomorrow is our longest day of the walk, so it’s early to bed in preparation. Wish us luck!
And here it is, the day we’ve been anxiously awaiting, our longest yet. 29 kms to cover today to get to Arzua, says both the map and our Spanish guide Leticia. We get moving with gusto, and also with our friend the rain (who apparently doesn’t know when he’s overstayed his welcome). Not too long in, and blisters have also crashed the party which makes for slow going as the afflicted take it steady at the back of the pack. Suddenly, a giant scallop shell on the side of an albuerge signals the first rest stop, and it couldn’t have come soon enough. By midday stomachs rumble and the feet say no more, so we break for lunch in the town of Melide. It’s famous for octopus (pulpo en español) and we fill our bellies. Revived, onward we go. Another 13kms and Mr. Rain really does not know how to make an exit. Alas, it does keep us cool as we climb the rolling hills. Possibly the world’s biggest cafe con leche gives us a boost at the next pit stop, and we press on. Not long to go now, and we rally our collective strength for the finish. By the time we reach the hotel our fit bits say 33.3 Kms and 47,000 steps and we’re amazed they’re still counting up. We’ve done it! Biggest day done and we’re over the hump.
Ps. We don’t know her name, but thank you to the lovely lady who donated 5 euros after seeing all our pink hats! We’ve created a bit of a stir; as we leapfrog other groups we hear them say ‘oh, yes – there go the ladies in pink!’
Second last day of walking and we’ve got 25 kilometres to cover. We leave first with a hug to our new ‘abuela’ (granny) from last night who cooked us the most amazing roast beef to keep us going. Then it’s the same rhythm as the last few days, ponchos on, ponchos off, up a hill, down a hill, one foot in front of the other. Lunch was a fabulously delicious and cheap stop with some sangria to keep us going. At the end of the day, we rolled into our hotel having clocked up 24.9 kms.
Dinner was extra special tonight as we each toasted some part of the adventure. What started out silly or practical (ie. Compeed blister patches) soon turned heartfelt and many tears were shed. It’s the camaraderie of the team that’s carried us all through the tough patches and made so many laughs around the dinner table.
Tomorrow, we cross the finish line!
It’s the last morning on the Way! It’s seemed so long and so short at the same time and it feels a bit strange to know this is the last morning we lace up our boots. All decked out in pink NBCF gear, we set out for the last time knowing that it’s just 17 KMs to the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela- end point for the Camino . We count down the lasts: coffee stop, big uphill, photo op, until there’s nothing left to do but descend the stairs and enter Plaza de Obradoiro in front of the Cathedral. The big pink NBCF banner is unfurled and carried into the square, and if people wouldn’t have noticed the shirts and hats, the banner made quite an entrance. It was spectacular. There were hundreds in the plaza and many of them started cheering and clapping when we entered. A few girls we’d met along the Way were waiting and ran over to hug and congratulate us. It was a moment of elation, relief, accomplishment, and most of all teamwork. Cheers, tears, photos, and hugs were all in order. A special announcement was made during the 7:30 pilgrim’s mass (which is entirely in Spanish otherwise) to congratulate the “Pink Lady National Breast Cancer Foundation of Australia” – quite a special moment.
Tonight, celebrations and reminiscing, then tomorrow a chance to explore Santiago de Compostela. No bigger highlight than the moment the plaza erupted in applause however, and that’s the image we’ll leave you with. Thanks for your support and following along!
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