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All the walking and physical training that the 8 sisters had been doing over the last few months was finally going to be put into practice. We met at Melbourne and Sydney airports and commenced our journey to the other side of the world to walk the Portuguese Camino. 

We commenced our adventure in the World Heritage town of Porto discovering this beautiful hillside city with its colourful buildings and lively atmosphere. On our first evening we enjoyed a dinner with traditional food and music. We were introduced to Portuguese Blues music known as “Fado”, these songs are full of sorrow, love and betrayal. The next day we did a full-day tour of the vineyard region of the Douro Valley, also a World Heritage listed region and famous for its port wine production. The sisters had a cruise from the village of Pinhao down the Douro River and today we also visited two vineyards before enjoying lunch at a restaurant tasting the local regional cuisine. 

The following day we depart Porto by train to Vigo and then transfer by road to the seaside town of Baiona, which is located on Vigo Bay in Spain. We enjoy exploring for the next two days the medieval town with its cobblestone streets and majestic coastline. 

The Portuguese Camino is 650km and commences in Lisbon, Portugal and travels all the way up to Santiago de Compostella, Spain. We are walking about 20 km a day and covering a 127-kilometre section of the pilgrim trail commencing in Baiona and concluding in Santiago do Compostella. 

Our trail takes us through hillside villages past aqueducts. We walk through chestnut, pine and eucalyptus forests, over medieval bridges, following local village paths and rural farms and family grown vineyards. We discover 13th century churches, watch locals taking flowers to the cemetery to pay their respects to their past ancestors. We walk along Roman paths and discover Roman influenced towns; we witness the oldest religious cross in Galicia. We taste the famous Padron peppers, cod fish patties, octopus, tuna, and sardines washed down with the local Alvarinho and Godello wines

On our last walking day, we only have 7 kilometres to walk into Plaza del Obradoiro (the main square) of Santiago de Compostella. Nothing quite prepares you when you first see the Spires of the Cathedral and the grandeur of the imposing St James Cathedral. It’s breathtaking and overwhelming, there is a steady flow of pilgrims arriving at the main square with mixed emotions. We are all speechless as we stand in Plaza del Obradoiro looking up at the Cathedral and taking in the atmosphere with everyone absorbed in their own thoughts. A massive achievement by all the ladies who chose to go on this walk. We made our way to the pilgrim’s office to get our Compostela certificates and then enjoy soaking up the atmosphere and a celebratory dinner. 

The following day we have time to explore the many sights and laneways of Santiago de Compostela and we go to the pilgrim’s mass held at Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world are lined up to get into the service. The priest welcomes the mass beginning with a list of each country that the pilgrims have come from who have arrived in Santiago and who have claimed their Compostela certificate in the last 24 hours.  As the mass continues the haunting sounds of the organ and incredible voices of the priests are mesmerizing to hear and the acoustics of the Cathedral is powerful. We all watch as the Botafumeiro; a 53kg silver thurible hanging from the main dome is filled with incense and coal and is moved into place by eight men (called Tiraboleiros), the fragrant smoke of the incense bellows out over the cathedral as the thurible swings from one side of the nave to the other. This was an incredibly powerful experience and we all felt privileged to have witnessed this at the Pilgrims mass. 

Our time has come to an end in Spain and so we travel back to Portugal with our last stop being Lisbon a vibrant city with a beautiful old town. We enjoy a city tour during the day and a foodie walking tour in the evening discovering the local cuisine, Prego a beef sandwich, the famous Portuguese tarts, Ginja a liquor made with cherries, and we visit Sol e Pesca, a Bar where we chose our favourite flavour of sardines in a can that is then served with bread and our choice of drink. There is still much to discover in Lisbon but with some leisure time the sisters enjoy their first chance to do a little shopping. Our last day is jam-packed with a full-day tour of the UNESCO World Heritage places of Sintra and Peña Palace. We continue to the most westerly point in continental Europe Cabo Roca and the coastal village of Cascais. Our day concludes with a cooking class at a private apartment in Lisbon, Ze our gracious host teaches us the secret ingredients in Portuguese cuisine, and we all get to enjoy some laughs and a delicious last dinner together. 

Hayley Morris's avatar

About the Author: Hayley Morris

The founder of Sisterhood Womens Travel and owner of an award winning travel agency - “I’ve been in travel for over 17 years and identified the need for a touring company to provide fully inclusive, interesting tours just for women". One of the things I love about travelling with a group of inspiring women is that we are all brought together to share a passion for travel and to see our amazing world in the company of friends, what better way to travel!

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