A Norfolk woman and her companions venture on an ancient European trail – The Virginian-Pilot

For four women, this was the time to physically challenge themselves, connect with nature, listen to their innermost thoughts, and be a part of history.

Millions have made the same pilgrimage as millions over centuries, Sherry Silesia, Jane Krueger, Cathy Sykes and Laurie Vogel Thomas traveled 165 miles on the famous Portuguese Camino trail in 13 days in late May and early June.

After leaving Porto, Portugal, the group used rocky paths, sidewalks, boardwalks, cobblestone streets, and a boat to receive a certificate of completion in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. The four women, who had met years before during their days as contestants, ranged in age from 62 to 75. Celia and Thomas are former residents of the Hampton Roads area, but both now live in Florida.

“We started out as distance runners, but we found a new adventure,” Krueger said.

Planning for the trip began before the pandemic spread, with training beginning in earnest in April. Norfolk-based Kruger and Norfolk-based Sykes-Sykes, who stay active year-round, pack loaded backpacks and hike up to 15 miles a day in First Landing State Park.

“We were physically ready for the camino, and we didn’t train too much or untrained,” Sykes said. “Although we had no way of simulating very steep terrain.”

“We didn’t have any surprises,” Krueger said. “We trained the right amount, we wore the right shoes, and our backpacks fit just right.”

Sykes carried all of her gear, while the other three wore daypacks and were transporting some of their belongings between towns. The daily distance ranged from 8 to 18 miles per day.

The group had to stop several times for directions, but never got lost. Despite the language barrier, the locals were always happy to help.

“Small towns have a lot of character,” Sykes said. “We have never met an unfriendly or local pilgrim.”

Thousands of people from all over the world ride the Camino de Santiago every year. Many find peace, and for some, finishing in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is spiritual.

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The various roads date back to the 9th century, and each has its own unique history and landscape. The Portuguese Camino Trail is known for its picturesque fishing towns and views of the Atlantic Ocean.

“We didn’t have a lot of companies on the road until we got to Spain and started merging with other roads,” Krueger said.

The trail had its share of downhill and dazzling downhill slopes, but the group made plenty of time sightseeing, enjoying local food, and stopping at cafés for espressos and beer.

Krueger said the path is possible for most people, and she hopes to encourage others to take on similar adventures, regardless of their age. Regarding future adventures, the group had no plans but says they will.

“This certainly wasn’t one and it was done,” Krueger said.

“There are a lot of adventures to be had,” Sykes added.

Eric Hoodies, [email protected]

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