No road is long with good company.
“Setting out is not covering miles of land or sea, or travelling faster than the speed of light. It is first and foremost opening ourselves to other people, trying to get to know them, going out to meet them… It is possible to travel alone, but the good traveler knows that the journey is human life and life needs company.” (Dom Helder Camara)
Our recent Caminos to the far outposts of Waterford’s idyllic countryside have reminded us that sharing a journey with people you may never have known previously can be such an uplifting experience. Everyone has their own story, often buried deep within. On the Camino, the pace changes, and we who stand still at moments on our way lie suspended between what has gone before and what is yet to come. In the calm, we begin to see more clearly.
It’s good to take time to listen, to absorb the experiences of others, to soak in the wisdom they have gathered along their path in life. It is humbling to occupy this shared space with people we have come to know as friends. Chatting as we walk, we discover our common humanity.
One traveller, Dennis, had a very gentle presence on our trails, always offering the encouraging word, and, with each new step, he became a guiding sage to those who walked alongside. Excerpts from a note he sent on his return to Dublin reveal just how much his Camino Experience meant to him.
“We arrived at the Tower Hotel in Waterford shortly after 12:30 on a cool, blustery Wednesday afternoon and we set off on a walking tour of the Viking Triangle. We journeyed back in time through Waterford’s oldest city passing the Viking Longboat permanently sited next to Reginald’s Tower and the 85 foot long Viking sword magically sculptured from a fallen tree. The sword was stunning in both its scale and its detail. The Viking origins of this city were etched in wood before our eyes. Mesmerising!…
“Our personalised guided tour with the captivating Donnchadh through Waterford Treasures museum was topped off by an Irish Tapas Experience in the 15th Century Mayors Wine Vault. The past and present merged in that moment. Maybe the wine helped. But the hushed tones of the music in this historic setting transported me to a new space. It is amazing to think that from this very building Mayor James Rice set sail to do the Camino de Santiago on 2 occasions in the late 1400s. Now, over half a millennium later, we had become the new wave of pilgrims…
“We took our first steps on the Waterford Greenway and followed the old railway line to the Suir Estuary. Early morning sunrise, waters glimmering, birds chirping and cyclists passing… it stirred something in me. The reflective ‘compass points’ led by Phil brought solace to all of us seeking inner peace and enlightenment…
“Then it was time to take a trail off the Greenway up the Comeraghs to a desolate reserve of stark natural beauty that I never knew existed. I couldn’t believe somewhere so barren could be so invigorating. As we gazed at the towering presence of the Mahon Falls and listened to the water cascading downstream, we stood still in awesome wonder. We paused to take it all in, surveyors of a mystical world that stretched out to the sea below.
Wordsworth once described poetry as a spontaneous overflow of powerful emotion. My wife Anne’s recollection of Brightly Rand’s lyrics were just that! “And you are so great, and I am so small, I tremble to think of you, World, at all; And yet when I said my prayers today, A whisper inside me seemed to say, ‘you are more than the earth, though such a dot: You can love and think, and the Earth cannot.”…
“The heat from the fire and the cuppa at O’ Mahony’s Pub was just what the doctor ordered. We re-joined the Waterford Greenway and made our way to the ‘golden mile’. The haunting stillness of Durrow Tunnel spoke to each one of us in different ways. Step by step, we moved steadily from darkness to light. The abundant foliage that greeted us soothed our senses beyond belief. Echoes of the deeper kind tend to linger…
“The next day’s trip to Dunmore East was equally memorable. The wind was very blustery but the rain stayed away as we huddled together under Dunmore East Lighthouse to hear Phil read a reflection before starting our walk which began on the 18 foot high wall that protects the harbour pier from the rolling seas.
We paused for a few moments by the ‘Lost at Sea Memorial Wall’. In silence, we remembered and prayed for the multitudes who were never to return home. The enchanting walk through the woods was something that came as a surprise. To have such a peaceful trail in the heart of the village is wonderfully peculiar to this quaint seaside village.
At the start of the Cliff Walk, we surveyed the amazing panorama that opened up before our eyes. Again, the vastness of it all, matched by the roar of the raging seas, was a humbling reminder that we are part of something greater than ourselves. In that space, on that day, we felt privileged spectators to something beyond us played out before our eyes…
“We enjoyed our sumptuous dinner together in the Tower Hotel on our return. A group hug in the foyer of the hotel afterwards signified the end to what had been a most satisfying and therapeutic experience for us all, the best of which was the friendship we had all created with one another.
We came seeking a few days of enlightened relaxation in the company of experts. We were not disappointed. Dr. Phil and Elaine are unassumingly wise and alert to what really matters. They both love what they do and their enthusiasm is infectious. We are looking forward to joining them again next year.”
No gratuities were passed on to Dennis for his kind words!! Joking apart, Dennis’ reflections sum up the enduring appeal of the Camino. There is a hunger out there for something different, for a temporary break from the treadmill of life to take time to re-charge. The ingredients are simple; beautiful trails, aesthetic vistas, stillness, reflective ‘compass points’, music and above all friendship. Mix these together and the magic happens. We do love what we do. At a significant time for both of us, it’s lovely to be open to what each new day brings.
I’ll finish with a wee text message that I just received from someone who was on our latest Camino last week. Thanks to the people who have shared the Waterford Camino with us. Ye have instilled in us a belief that the road less travelled may well lead us to where we want to be. For now, we are loving the journey.
“A huge heartfelt thanks to you both for the most enjoyable three day Waterford Camino experience last week. It was such excellent value but so much more than that; spiritual, connected with nature and with the rest of the group and so much fun. This 70 year old found the walks very ‘do-able’, returning home energetically uplifted beyond expectation. The sing song on the bus was great. You both put your whole heart and soul into it making it so successful. Wishing you all the luck in the world on your future Caminos in life and in business. Love and blessings. Rosemary.”
Special thanks to Dennis and Anne Reynaud, Lucan, Co. Dublin and to Rosemary Smith, Longwood, Co. Meath for their contributions. Featured image, Capture Me Photography by David O’Sullivan, Ballinakill Shopping Centre, Waterford City.
Dr. Phil Brennan and his fiancée Elaine invite you to share in one of their specially tailored Caminos through Waterford County during 2018. The Waterford Camino experience blends walks/cycles, motivational talks and music.