By Helen Hyland, Fundraising Manager, ME Association.
Some weeks ago, Sophie Breese set out on the walk of a lifetime – a pilgrimage no less. She decided to follow this ancient pilgrim route on foot for ME Association because when she had M.E., she was unable to walk at all.
Over 65 days, she and her partner walked the Camino de Santiago from her home in France to Fisterra in North west Spain. A total of 1,376km!
In the last few days of their journey, they found that the landscape still managed to surprise them. Gone were the dramatic mountains, they found themselves in woods full of giant oak trees and – unexpectedly – eucalyptus trees so tall it was impossible to see their tops.
Sophie writes: “The smell (and in the absence of my usual soaps, shampoos, creams, believe me, I have become sensitive to all smells) was wonderful: clean and sweet. And autumn seems to go on and on. Walking in forests with leaves falling around you is a pretty special experience.”
I get the feeling that their arrival in Santiago was perhaps a bit of an anti-climax. This is the finishing point for many pilgrims, although not strictly the end of the route.
They received their certificates of pilgrimage – their Compostela – and then went to the Pilgrims' Mass at the cathedral where they were treated to some exquisite singing. And, as promised to someone with M.E. who donated to their efforts, Sophie lit a candle in the cathedral for all those affected by the disease.
They then continued on – towards Fisterra which was firmly believed to be the Edge of The World in the Middle Ages. Fewer pilgrims traverse this last stage, but Sophie reports that they were happy to have the world to themselves again for a few days.
She writes: “The weather was wonderful: proper crisp autumn days heating up nicely by mid-afternoon; the light on the leaves magical. We walked through plenty of woods and one morning along a river; occasionally there was tarmac and one morning only roads. But on the whole it was stunning: huge skies all for us.”
“And then towards the end of the third day we saw the sea in the distance and I think it was only at that moment that I registered the magnitude of what we had done. I can't explain how it felt to see the shimmering light ahead, but it was certainly a much stronger feeling than I had had when we got to Santiago.”
“We walked to the lighthouse at Fisterra where the sea begins and the land ends. This, it turns out, was what we had always been walking towards…. the most westerly point of the Middle Ages. 1,377 km in total. I got my Santiago moment this time – a real sense of achievement.”
I’m thrilled to report that they are now safely home again, although exhausted. Their walk to ‘the edge of the world' is now over. Now they’re back to facing real life decisions again – like choosing what to wear each day. Sophie says that there was a freedom in not making decisions for those few months.
If you would like to read her full story, please visit Sophie’s blog.
We would also like to thank everyone who has supported this pilgrimage for M.E. – Sophie is hopeful that her fundraising page will hit her £4,000 target before very long.
Thank you Sophie for all you have done for M.E.
Fancy raising funds yourself?
If you are interested in raising funds for the ME Association, then why not give Helen Hyland, our fundraising manager, a call on: 01280 838964, or email: Helen.Hyland@meassociation.org.uk. You might also like to visit the fundraising section of our website.
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