600km Walking Pilgrimage through Spain

Written by Denise Chng Lisan & published on September 2 2008

From the moment I discovered an ancient pilgrimage path in Spain in June last year, the attraction of walking hundreds of kilometres towards an assured destination grew on me daily. My eagerness to go on a month-long journey on foot across the steep slopes, lush valleys and forests of the Pyrenees, and through countless small towns and villages, was part of a subconscious quest to find depth and meaning in my life. At the age of 33, I was approaching – prematurely, perhaps – what seemed to be a mid-life crisis.

Straits Times Life! Article,Denise Chng Lisan,Camino de Santiago,Camino Frances

Letter from Quebec: Preserving Heritage

Written by Denise Chng Lisan & published on November 8 2008

'TRAVEL is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living,' wrote Miriam Beard. Life in Quebec is now my teacher, pointing out my knowledge gaps and honing my ideas of living - be it language, culture, life-skills, or the environment.

Denise Chng Lisan


Posted by Denise CHNG Lisan On Saturday, September 22, 2007
I did it!

I just climbed the Pyrenees across from France to Spain, climbing a total of 1,300m elevation and walked 28km (32km including elevation) from St Jean Pied de Port (the last town on French side of the Pyrenees) to Roncesvalles (the first town on Spanish side of the Pyrenees) on the Camino Frances.

There were three possible routes one could take: hard, harder and hardest. While I was trying my best to avoid this stage, I found myself with no choice when everyone at the pilgrim´s office is gearing me on to take the hardest route - because it is the road less travelled, and the most beautiful.

I can only thank God for leaving me with this route to take, because it was a breathtaking experience - to be on top of the Pyrenees looking over France, and then looking over Spain. It was surreal to be in the mountains walking along side herds of sheeps, horses and cows, and eagles sweeping across the sky. The weather was a blessing and the view was glorious.

There were fellow pilgrims on the same way, and some did it faster while some others took it slow. I took it so slow that it took me 12 hours to complete it, stopping every 2 hours for a break. But I had so much fun, because I started to walk with a couple other pilgrims who walked the same pace as me.

I met Richard Aubut who is a guitar-maker from Montreal, Canada. He was also slowly climbing the mountain, and we found ourselves walking the same pace. We sang all the songs we could remember to keep our spirits up, and took as many pictures and photos as our cameras could take. We knew we would be last getting into Spain, but it is the journey that matters.

Alas, there was one last pilgrim after us. Joon, who is a Korean American lawyer from New York, looked like he was taking a walk in the park, and looked like he didn´t know what he got himself into, came in last after the sun went down. He had to use his torch light to look for yellow arrows in forest to get himself out to the Abbey refuge.

Joon turned out to be a savior because he picked up my jacket, which slipped off my backpack around the last peak of the mountain. If he had left it there on the camino, I´d be freezing my ass off now. As I ran back into the dark forest looking for my jacket, he came out with it. I guess we were both relieved for different reasons. He got out safe finally and I found my lost jacket.

I thank God I had someone to walk with me, or I´d be anxious as the sun came down, and we were tackling the steep slopes of the Pyrenees for several hours. What goes up must come down. It was equally tough and dangerous coming down as my knees were already weak, and blisters were forming.

I thank God that I had enough advice from fellow pilgrims who had been walking to buy two walking poles before I started the journey. They became my two other legs, and helped me when I was weak and when I needed balance.

At the end of the day, I thanked my feet, my toes, my calf muscles, my hips, my shoulders, my back and every part of my body that carried me through this journey. They didn´t give up on me and we all came out of it safe (and sore). I gave them all a good massage, as best as I could before I put my tired body to rest.

This is just the beginning of my 600km walk, but I´m learning everyday what my capabilities and limits are.

The camino I am on is like the camino of life. It strips away all the distractions and luxuries. It is teaching me slowly who I am as I face the challenges and joys which each day brings.

6 Response to 'I DID IT!'

  1. Phelim Said,'> 23 September 2007 at 11:00

    Congratulations on your good start! Keep it up. :)


  2. Lamees Said,'> 24 September 2007 at 23:04

    Glad you made it. The journey has just started. I am so thrilled that you are doing this. You will learn more about yourself. I have to quote you a line I read in this book, Balthasar's Odyssey, which lingered on my mind. "If you want to know the world, all you need do is listen....The roads and the countries teach us nothing we don't know already, nothing we can't hear within ourselves in the peace of the night". Enjoy.


  3. Denise Said,'> 27 September 2007 at 09:13

    Thank you! It´s awesome to hear words of encouragement. =)


  4. Sharon Said,'> 6 July 2009 at 10:06

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  5. Sharon Said,'> 6 July 2009 at 10:14

    Hi Denise, chanced upon your blog while researching for the walk. I will be doing the walk in 5 days' time, starting at Leon. A pity I can't afford the time to do the whole trip. Feeling excited but apprehensive too. Such great comfort to know there are other Singaporeans who have done the walk!


  6.'> 6 July 2009 at 12:25

    Hi Sharon,
    It's nice to hear that you are going to embark on the road in 5 days' time. There really isn't an official starting point...some people start from the doorsteps of their home.
    Here's a video that inspired me before I started....hope it inspires you too.

    Buen Camino! All will be well.


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