Sarah and I decided a while ago that we would like to walk the Camino de Santiago – a 769 km ancient pilgrimage from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France to Santiago de Compostella, Spain – before I begin my studies in Belfast in 2013. We’re aiming for summer 2013. I spotted “Buen Camino!” by father-daughter duo Peter and Natasha Murtagh while browsing around a bookshop in Clonakilty and bought it hoping to get some insight into what the Camino is like.
As I read the “Buen Camino!” I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Peter and Natasha are from Greystones: the seaside town in Wicklow where I worked for three years, the town where I met my wife and where we were married. I love Greystones and still miss it from time to time. It even turns out that Sarah’s younger sister is a former classmate of Natasha’s. I had no idea who Natasha and Peter were when I bought “Buen Camino!”, but the Greystones connection helped me to feel a sort of kinship with the pair. I’d have probably managed that anyway, without the Greystones connection – Natasha and Peter are a very likable pair and their father-daughter relationship and friendship is a beautiful thing.
This is not a guidebook (although it does help a little in planning), it is a testament to the deep thoughts one has and deep connections one pilgrim can make with another on the Camino.
With the Camino being a religious pilgrimage, the topic of faith comes up sometimes. Peter struggles with his faith and, while I’m trying not to be harsh or judgmental, because he is such a likable man, I have to admit some of his inconsistencies and his ideas on the topic of faith did kind of irk me a little. Peter admits that, although he finds what is said in church to be very moving and attractive at the time, “The rational in [him] wins out each time”. Need faith exclude reason? Must it be confined to the part of us involved in wishful thinking? Is the gospel irrational? I thank God that my faith does not ask me to leave the rational part of me behind, but in fact demands that I take it with me on my journey of faith and put it to good use. I don’t want to be too critical of Peter; I think he is seeking and wrestling with faith and he should not be criticised (least of all by me!) for just being open about his struggle. He’s a man I’d love to buy a coffee for at Summerville’s and have a good chat. I wish him well on his journey.
I said the Camino brings up some deep stuff. Peter’s reflections on his own mother and father are quite moving.
I enjoyed this book very much. Natasha and Peter share the writing and you get a good feel for their personalities. Natasha comes across as a thoughtful and bright young woman and Peter sees beauty in his surroundings and companions and is very knowledgeable – not just about the things he would have researched regarding the Camino, but about the nature around him as he walks. The relationship between this father and daughter adds a further layer to the book. They’re the kind of people who make for good company on long walks.