Image: Author John Brierley with RAW Travel’s Sue Chater and Dave Reynolds
This weekend saw many of Australia’s most passionate Camino advocates, personalities and well-known authors come together at a conference organised by the Australian Friends of the Camino. A full program of interesting talks on all things Camino was well attended by people from right across the country and even as far as New Zealand.
Some well-known names such as Camino guidebook author John Brierley along with Dee Nolan gave excellent talks on their experiences on the Camino and reflected on its future as the popularity of the walk continues to increase worldwide. The conference was opened by Isias Calvo de la Uz from the Galician Tourist Ministry, the Spanish province where the various Camino trails converge on the city of Santiago de Compostela.
There were great stories and insights shared on what the Camino means to people and tales of kindness from ‘Camino Angels’ who had helped people along their journeys on the Way. A big topic of conversation amongst the attendees was how to preserve the spirit of the Camino and its ancient traditions in the face of increasing numbers and creeping commercialisation; balancing the opportunities for economic growth, in a nation that has suffered widespread unemployment, with not losing the essential values and spirit that has made walking the Camino such a unique spiritual experience.
As we were reminded, there are many great walking experiences throughout the world but there is only one Camino and we all play a part in ensuring that the values and spirit that make it so unique are kept alive.
Many people attending have done an amazing job of keeping the spirit of the Camino alive in their home communities, ensuring that what was learned and experienced on the trail, particularly the sense of shared connection and humility, is kept alive once they return home. These local ‘Amigo’ associations exist all over Australia and organise many walks and events for people to keep alive the Camino spirit. They offer excellent advice and training for people who either would like to travel to the Camino or who are already planning to go. With the former group, there are people who would love to experience the Camino but may not be able to afford to and the groups offer local walks to simulate the experience.
The Blue Mountains of NSW even have their own Albergue where you can stay and experience the spirit of community and a 5-day Camino walk through the Blue Mountains (see details below). We would encourage anyone to reach out to the Australian Friends of the Camino to find their nearest group and join one of these friendly local groups and indeed the national association. You’ll find a welcoming group of people always happy to talk all things Camino and support newcomers on their Camino journey both before they go and after they return home.
RAW Travel has been the biggest importer and buyer of John Brierley’s books, so it was a highlight for Dave and Sue to meet and talk with this charming Irishman whose guidebooks have long been the ‘must-have’ handbook for walkers on the Camino Frances particularly. John is touring Australia giving talks in various locations organised by the ‘Amigos’ groups mentioned above.
For more information see the Australian Friends of the Camino website: https://www.afotc.org/
For the upcoming 5-day walk in the Blue Mountains see: www.bluemountainscamino.com