Monday, 6 September 2021

Who is, what is a true pilgrim?

The cowgirl

"I sold my cattle and just came here", the woman tells me, while walking at a speed I can hardly keep up with. And she spoke about the blisters she has! It surely made me believe she was able to run a farm in Northern Canada on her own. "It was minus 20 just before I left. Maybe I should go and live in a warmer place, I have time to think about it now."

The surfer

The old hotel owner sits down and starts talking to me. It's not easy to follow his rapid Spanish. He points at a Japanese boy, surfing the net and typing on his cellphone: "That's not a true pilgrim. He's not really here." This man in his late seventies has walked the Camino many times. Meanwhile he has run a flourishing family business, offering all sorts of accommodation for poor and rich pilgrims. He is very dedicated to the Camino spirit. Is it true what he says?

Two out of numerous inspiring encounters with other walkers from all over the world.

Is it not possible to be a true pilgrim if you never walk alone, have your luggage transported, stay in hotels, when you cycle, and so on. Opinions that are frequently heard along the Camino (I'm not free of these sort of thoughts either!). But what could you know about someone's deeper thoughts if you don't look them in the eyes properly, and listen?

Monday, 7 June 2021

Entering another era

The world is as we see her. I felt like Frodo, or Sam, passing by the ancient Towers of the West that guarded the entrance to Santiago from the seaside for many centuries. Ah, travel adventure and imagination bring such moments of joy! 

The photo was made during the boat trip that is part of the Variante Espiritual, summer 2018, on the Portuguese Coastal Way. The way that according to the legends has been travelled by the body of Santiago. Towards Iria Flavia and finally to the town that has been named after him. 

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Finding a new old way

I am sitting on a bench, just off the Camino. Riego de Ambros in the mountainous area before Ponferrada. The bar I knew here is closed and I think about what to do. A car parks next to my bench. Two men step out of it. Right away there is a pleasant conversation. 
Chema and Manuel are waiting for their group of kids, they will walk to Molaniseca, following an old footpath. I'm all ears. We talk about the Camino. Then the group arrives. Chema asks me to walk with them. But first I have to ask the group permission. Which they grant me.

A half overgrown path leads us out of the village. The kids walk fast, they're often out of sight. Chema stops now and then to share about his observations in nature. Soon I am learning that this group of 23, aged from 7 to 17, is on a path, meant to learn about yourself. Full of rituals, and attention for anyone in the group.

It is a beautiful remote valley, and suddenly I miss something. In an impulse I ask the children to be silent and listen. And then... we hear the water of a nearby creek. The wind in the trees. The birds singing abundantly. Chema takes over and lets them walk in silence. 

In the quiet valley we approach an overhanging rock. Turn by turn we stand on it, look around over the green woods and shout our positive message into the deep. Coming from a deep sense of belonging here I don't need to think about my words: 'I am happy and this is what I want'.

Chema tells about the amazing history of this path. It has been used by Celts and Romans, and in the Middle Ages two bridges where built here for the pilgrimage to Santiago and trade. The bishop decided to change the pilgrim way towards where the present Camino is, when the area became to unsafe to travel. The path is steep and dangerous now and then. We don't meet other walkers. 

The path leads to the old church of Molaniseca. We swim in the cold river to cool down from the walk. I ask Chema if I can come along to their camp, in a village in the mountains. First he refuses, later the answer is: ja. So we drive out of town into the mountains. The beautiful old stone house where we stay is in Espinosa de Compludo. 

The next day another amazing walk. Our destiny is the next village, San Cristóbal de Valdueza, where an old templar chapel is, and the tejo milenario, a yew of almost 1250 years old. We meditate under this impressive tree and embrace it together. I felt an ancient presence in these silent moments. 

I tell Chema and Manuel about my work with young people in Holland for the Regenboog. Smiling recognition. Sense of destiny. The children come from all over Spain, and some from abroad. Most of them know each other from a previous camp. Some are with, some without problems or a history. But all, even from the age of 7, have no trouble telling about their feelings. It is amazing how easy they understand themes like 'the inner child', usually only shared by adults. They share rituals, learn their daily sayings, and it's all well organized and disciplined. And they say where it's at, if necessary. One of the assisting youngsters is sent home, he is not really ready for his task yet. 

Deeply grateful I feel for these days filled with joy and love. So as a goodbye ritual I sing the Ave M. for the group. Marco (11): 'Simon, you touched my heart.'

Ave. Aves. Plumas. Destino. 

>>> In preparation is a retreat I will organize in this region. Will be announced on my website. Please send me an email if you want to be informed.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

When shepherds meet

Bienvenido is dozing off, but sits right up when he hears footsteps. He is trading in Caminosouvenirs along the Way. We talk about his beautiful sticks. The wood is from the neighbourhood. He cuts everything himself.
He looks critical at my walking stick and commands me: walk a bit! Halt! Turn around! And tells me to use it the other way round.. the thin end under. Great fun we have- after all these hundreds of walking kilometers.. But of course you accept this from a pastor. He has been a shepherd all his life. He is here from March until October. Sometimes the tourist buses stop; all the drivers know him. He is 82. His name means: welcome.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Santiago blues

My works brings the privilege to be back in Santiago and Spain quite soon. But for most walkers in my groups a goodbye is for years or maybe forever. So this city is also a city of  melancholy.
Santiago blues. 
What to do, when you have walked your way?
Yes, it is beautiful how this city brings so many people together again. Unexpected encounters, sometimes late, sometimes even at the airport.
I see a lot of pleasure in this town, but also lots of lost souls wandering. I recognize the feeling... 

Your way goes on, or maybe has just started. 
Wait, rest at home, take time, and it will be revealed what the way has brought to you.

Camino siempre.


Wednesday, 28 June 2017

A rainy day in Santiago

Santiago blues. A last walk in Alameda, a last coffee. My plane leaves early tomorrow morning. 

I love and hate Santiago... After 800 kilometers of hospitality it is not easy to stay in the first town with grumpy waiters, with the highest prices of all, with so many beggars... with paying on the spot, no ordering at the bar but higher terraza prices... Santiago mi amor tourism has made you greedy.. It is a strange end for this beautiful road..or is it preparation for the real world again.... San Diego blues...

Thursday, 23 June 2016

An inspiring journey to find a beautiful way for you!

Just got back from Spain, to prepare the April and September 2017 walks. It will be so diverse, I've discovered so many treasures and beautiful places to stay for you. So...let's go!

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Do you want to share?

I published this story on my Facebookpage a few months ago. It happened in May this year; this touching, healing and in the end joyful ritual for all of us. I am convinced the Camino brings people together. I am convinced there are a lot of people who want to walk with a truly dedicated travel guide. I am convinced I can organize walking with groups of pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago. Next year I will start my own company. In your company? Let me know what your Camino dreams are, and let's realize them together.      Simon Wijma


Sunday, 1 November 2015


These five pictures symbolize most of what I want to share about Spain and the Camino de Santiago.
Being outside all day, in this wonderful countryside, the views and walking trails; the countryside life; the lovely and abundant food service and terraces; encountering the people of Spain; the spiritual experiences through it all.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Magic in the streets of Santiago

Video You raise me up in the streets of Santiago

all she asks is listeners
in the old town evening
sounds vie
with what moves most
history's shadow
day that cannot end
or she
budding woman

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Camino Portugués, Ruta de la Costa

Last summer I walked the Camino Portugues de la Costa - the Portugese Coastal Way from Porto to Santiago, because I wanted a quiet way and a more moderate temperature. It was a good choice. Although the coastal area is sometimes very busy, the walkways are pleasant and there is enough accommodation. What you can see is beach life, fishermen, nature, vivid cities and villages, and of course the ever changing mighty ocean. Again I noticed the difference between the Camino Frances and other ways: the coast way gives you more the feeling of walking through a country than walking a pilgrims way. Of course you encounter other pilgrims on the way or in albergues. And you can see and read a lot of the rich history of this Camino, esp. in churches. But its presence is never as dominant as the Camino Frances often is.
I also walked two days on the Variante Espiritual - see next article- between Pontevedra and Padron.
Beach life includes dozens of schoolclasses on day trips to the ocean

Portugal is a country of readers

This was my guide book. It is not as accurate as a travel guide should be, but you'll get there. The signage is very good.

Baiona, Spanje

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Water, Stones & Secret Agents

La Ruta de la Piedra y del Agua - the route of stone and water - is most certainly one of the most beautiful walks I've ever had, on the Camino or elsewhere. The first part is an unspoiled wilderness, a wild stream with lots of small old watermills, weathered, covered in green, most of them without a roof, but with the millstones still there. The path is green to, and part of it all.

Ingenious ways were found to create waterchutes to power the mills with water.

After a few kilometers downstream there is more civilization; a newer path, lit in the evening, a cafe, a parking place, mountain bikers on the path again. A somewhat threatening sign announces that the European Union supports restoration.Hopefully the balance between conservation and leaving things as they where for many centuries will be held.

A wonderful walk of 7,5 kilometers that ended on this particular day on a terrace with a special guest. There was some unusual activity- military motorbikes, lots of police. Joggers who weren’t joggers, these big guys talking into earphones. It turned out that the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy had also been enjoying some of the mills, and was having a drink now at the table next to me. Pontevedra is his home area. Nice guy, gave a very friendly greeting when he left. 

This Ruta is part of the Variante Espiritual, a new alternative for the Portuguese way between Pontevedra and Padron. Two wonderful, quiet walking days. Especially the second with the above part and a path along the Arousa river, is great. There are two municipal albergues with very nice and cooperative hospitaleros. Last year only 400 people walked this Variante. The last day can be done as a boat trip. Further details, information and background:  Variante Espiritual

Ria de Arousa

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Treasures of the Camino in Iria Flavia

An old abandoned house next to the church. The door was open. Inside, amongst  the mess... a pile of religious magazines. The oldest one I found was printed in Madrid in 1899. Nice discovery in Iria Flavia, where everything seems to be old, and yet older.

Made a sketch of the grave of Camilo Jose Cela, the famous Galician writer, born in Padron.

He is buried near the church Santa Maria de Iria, surrounded by old tombstones. It also preserves a necropolis of the Suevi (6th Century AD).

Friday, 26 June 2015

Portrait of a pilgrim

Obanos, Camino Frances, June 4th

We all walk together, on that way, more or less in the same direction. Who are they, all these people? Usually I leave my writers pen at home when I'm walking the Camino. That's for later. I made an exception the other day for Inez. Because the sun was shining and she was sitting there so quietly, drawing. 

For Inez,


The city became smaller and smaller
for Inez Katja Paul van D.

Those bright eyes
and the flowerhat
wanted to see the world
fluttering about a bit
but…where to?

A direction
became the Camino
where everyone wants the same
and you can share that joy
joy of life; to live

Knowing what you want
past your mother

your father
could walk along a bit
- towards the bisshop’s city -
but: in the rear

Amicalmente, Simon