"I had the privilege of being part of 48 supporters that biked and hiked the Portuguese Coastal Camino" - Irish Community Air Ambulance

“I had the privilege of being part of 48 supporters that biked and hiked the Portuguese Coastal Camino”

“I had the privilege of being part of 48 ICAA supporters that flew to Santiago to bike and hike the Portuguese Coastal Camino into Santiago de Compostela in Spain. I along with 26 walkers enjoyed over two days walking along the coast, across beaches, over boardwalks and along walking paths before crossing to the more traditional inland Camino path. The entire trek took six days and we covered over 140kms according to my Garmin watch”

“The distances were long, but the weather luckily was on our side and the sites and views amazed us each step of the way. We had the pleasure of walking by crashing waves, peaceful beaches, and winding eucalyptus forest trails passing by Spanish vineyards. Everyone spent a little bit of time walking with each other, there were no set times to stick to and we all enjoyed the Camino Trail at our own pace. Some took half the time of others to finish each day, and that was fine. There was lots of craic and fun as we all ate dinner together each night at our destination. It was an amazing experience walking to several towns and cities over the week. We were steered by the most dynamic and entertaining guide Silvia each day. She advised what was ahead, gave us local tips on what to look out for such as quirky stone masons or interesting cafes. The group bonded quickly, and firm friendships formed, with plans to meet up again soon”

“The cyclists had a completely different experience covering longer distances and starting further down in Portugal. They were set up with quality bikes that were suitable for the different trails they encountered along the way. There were plenty of challenges, but cyclists being cyclists they banded together and travelled in groups. They carried bikes over sand dunes, enjoyed road and boardwalk spins and navigated the small cities along the way”

Like the walkers the craic started at dinner ending with some pretty competitive sing songs!

As an organisation we had set a fundraising target of €50,000 for the week-long event but that has well been surpassed. A large group from Kerry, Cork, Mayo, Wicklow, Limerick, and Dublin joined forces and covered over 140kms walking and almost 400kms cycling and have funded over 20 missions for our charity Air Ambulance service.  

One of our cyclists George Blackshields entertained the group at night with songs and kept everyone positive with his sunny disposition.  George, from Cork City had raised almost €6,000 before the trip. He told the story of his and his wife’s experience with the Air Ambulance. “We were on holiday in Kerry in June 2020, spending the day at the beach with family when my wife collapsed. 

“There was a huge emergency response. It was a relief to hear from the ambulance paramedics that the helicopter was on its way, I knew that it would be important to get Jean to hospital quickly.

“The crew did everything they possibly could to bring Jean back but sadly it didn’t work out for her. We really appreciate the efforts they took.

“The Irish Community Air Ambulance is badly needed, it’s an essential service, especially in rural parts of the country. I cycle regularly and the Camino is another adventure for me and I’m so grateful to everyone who has donated over the last few months.”

Both groups finished in Santiago de Compostela around the same time on Saturday 30th April. This was a really moving experience, finishing the distance covered, meeting up with group mates and seeing all the other pilgrims was exhilarating. Visiting the cathedral, enjoying some tapas and taking photos is absolutely a great finish, but it truly was the journey there that made this trip so special, in all different ways for us all.

Personally, I can’t wait for next year to see what the Camino brings and meet another group of Air Ambulance Camino Crew Pilgrims!

To register for next year’s event, click here

or email lorraine@communityairambulance.ie


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