The Adelaide hills were truly alive with the sound of music – and so much more – at the first national conference convened by Australian Friends of the Camino from 11-13 October at the Nunyara Conference Centre.
The weekend brought together over 100 pilgrims from across Australia and overseas for a program of inspirational presentations, workshop discussions, book and travel displays, a sing-along (in Galician!), a music performance, story-telling and lots of laughter and sharing of Camino memories. With sangria, vino tinto, hearty meals (and a few Spanish treats), participants joined together to share an action-packed weekend of “all-things-Camino’. Definitely the next best thing to being back on the Camino … without the blisters!
Titled El Camino: The Way Ahead, the conference explored what Australian Friends of the Camino, Groups around Australia and individual pilgrims can do to preserve and enhance the spirit of the Camino while recognizing the growing popularity of all the Camino paths and the challenges that may arise with ever-increasing numbers walking The Way.
Janet Leitch introducing musicians, Jessie Vintila and Dan Mullins
Musician Dan Mullin
In officially opening proceedings with a traditional Welcome to Country, Janet Leitch, AFotC Chair, then spoke of the value of taking risks, and the richness that flows from pushing one’s own boundaries in order to fully experience all that the Camino offers (see pages 2-3). The importance of the ‘journey within’ was also highlighted by Cameron West and Isobel Thomas in a presentation on spirituality and their own experiences along the Way. Cam and Isobel spoke of the deep friendships made, the opportunities to give and to receive, the time for reflection and sharing of ideas… the true concept of pilgrimage.
Inspirational, thought-provoking and thoroughly wonderful keynote speakers, Senor Isaías Calvo de la Uz from Galicia, Spain and John Brierley, guidebook writer and spiritual mentor, both spoke of the truly unique nature of the Camino as a means of bringing together, in peace and without judgement, people from every country of the world, all faiths, cultures and ideologies, every language, age and level of ability.
Isaías outlined the plans being undertaken by the Galician government in preparation for Holy Year 2021, when over 1 million people are expected to walk into Santiago de Compostela. And John spoke of the Camino as a ‘journey of awakening’, a path of enquiry and self-discovery. He stressed the importance of ‘bringing the Camino home’ and living its values in our everyday lives as our world continues to face profound political, social and environmental crises. In concluding his address, John invited representatives of all Australian Camino Friends Groups to come together to light a candle as a symbol of our Camino family and a reminder of our shared humanity.
Other speakers shared their knowledge and love of Spanish art and architecture, food, wine, and photography on the Camino. A special session was programmed to provide opportunity for representatives from all groups around Australia to share information about their activities, while another session enabled travel companies to talk about the values that underpin their guided or self-guided tours. All speakers spoke with passion and commitment about ensuring that the Camino remains a journey with special meaning for everyone.