My 250 km Island Walk adventure didn’t start when I arrived in Charlottetown last October 2021. It began 8 years earlier when I set out from the town of St Jean Pied de Port to start the Camino Frances, the first of many caminos. I had hoped to walk again in the spring of 2020 but world events interrupted any possibility of this happening. What to do? Little did I foresee that a different camino would entice my feet over hard packed red soil, kms of wet sand, and many footsteps of the Confederation Trail of Prince Edward Island. Yes, these caminos had their differences of language, food, accommodations. But I found a common thread that wove both locations together, and it’s what I felt most strongly and stayed with me most deeply.
The people. The many instances of kindness and generosity that were offered to me every single day, some fleeting, some lasting, all leaving their imprint on me. It started before I even arrived. People I had met online arranged for me to be picked up in Charlottetown and for somewhere to stay that night. I was travelling on my own and knew nobody along the section I was walking. Not knowing is such a delicious place to start a journey from. I encountered such a feeling of community. People knew other people and someone would know or know of the person I had just met.
The trail was often long stretches of trees, blueberry fields, streams, and the occasional cluster of houses. Spanish caminos generally have a little more infrastructure, the Island Walk less so, being in its infancy. But I never found myself without somewhere to sleep, food in my pack, and a welcoming smile at the end of my day’s walk. Random strangers struck up conversations as I passed, I was once offered a ride, and I saw parts of PEI that were not part of the trail, because people loved where they lived and wanted to share that with me. I felt cared for and very much “on camino” even though I was still in the country of my birth.
I found out that mosquitoes were alive and well on parts of the trail, I discovered a connection to my graduating class of 1980, I wrapped my arms around a guitar on three occasions, I was accompanied for the last eight kms of my walk into Charlottetown, I met someone who knew where the island I live is located, I saw a tuna being brought in and weighed, and I shared oh so many meals. But the moment that seemed to encapsulate the simple joy of this camino was me sitting at the side of a gravel road, hungry and thirsty, when in the midst of brewing my coffee I saw a van approaching. It stopped, revealing the driver to be my host of the previous evening. “Hey Donna, we thought you might be along here about this time. Want to come up to the house and have a real coffee?”
Why yes, yes I do.