550-mile pilgrimage from Alps to the Atlantic Ocean

Joyce Payne of Eyemouth on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, northern Spain
Joyce Payne of Eyemouth on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, northern Spain

An Eyemouth woman has just returned from walking one of the world’s most famous pilgrimage routes across the width of Spain.

Joanna Payne, a pain relief therapist, runs The Payne Clinic from Redhall, just outside Eyemouth. She completed the 550 mile Camino de Santiago, a route first traversed in medieval times, from the Alps to Finisterre on the Atlantic coast, taking in Pamplona on the way.

The trip involved walking an average of 15 miles a day for 36 days, staying in pilgrim hostels with dormitories of bunk beds.

“My trusty old walking boots didn’t last the distance,” she said with a wry smile. “10-year old technology and a good deal of use couldn’t withstand the wear and tear and I had to abandon them for a new pair of hiking trainers after roughly 90 miles!”

Blisters and aching feet were a problem, as well as afternoon temperatures of 33 degrees in the shade.

“We cursed the ‘6am bag rustlers’ in the dorms at first,” she explained, “but then we decided that if you can’t beat them join them! Using head torches when we needed to check the route, but mostly wonderful moonlight to guide us until sunrise, we found we could get the necessary mileage under our belt before the afternoon’s blazing sun and heat made it too uncomfortable. An afternoon siesta became a blissful routine when we got to our destination each day!”

Joanna was keen to experience the spiritual sensation of walking in the footsteps of centuries of sandalled pilgrims. “There were places along the Camino where I definitely felt a historic presence, especially along narrow donkey tracks, or smooth cobbled streets.”

She put her skills as a therapist to good use along the way, once helping a young German girl who limped into a hostel in agony with acute achilles tendonitis. Joanna treated her with Myofascial Release Therapy, and was thrilled later in the journey to bump into the same girl walking without a limp.

“My girlfriend joked ‘you didn’t think I chose to walk with you because you were my friend, did you? It was really because you are a massage therapist!’”