There are dozens of ways to explore this beautiful planet of ours. Through the years our ‘world’ has gotten smaller in the sense that you don’t blink an eye when getting your trusty travel agent to book your seats on a plane, book you on a cruise, or an all-inclusive resort to relax on the beach or poolside with that book you have been meaning to read.
There are numerous ways to travel and explore our beautiful world; and there will always the be the trendy popular place that everyone says is a ‘must do’. Portugal had been this place until recently.
There will also always be the traditional get-aways: the family trips to Walt Disney World and Universal, the shorter trips to Las Vegas, gals’ long weekend on the beautiful Cabot Trail, country music in Nashville, or quick trips for sports or concert events. As the world gets smaller and more accessible, travelling to your bucket list destinations seems less and less impossible.
While Thirders still love those traditional spots and types of travel, the last few years has seen Thirders shift to visiting places like Ireland, Scotland, France, and Spain. All these places are great. Whether your travel agent has booked your first, third, or hundredth vacation you should really get out and explore the local scene.
One way that has become popular is to book a vacation where you are hiking and exploring the local area. Spain, Portugal, Ireland, England, and Scotland are some great places. While hundreds of people travel to our little corner of the world to hike, Thirders are now heading across the pond to do the same. Hiking is becoming the new way to travel and explore.
When travelling to these destinations, hiking and exploring local areas is one of my favourite things to do. These days life can be a little stressful. Getting out in nature can do a lot for not only your physical but also your mental health. For some it can be spiritual as well. Hiking is one type of travel that you can do for a relatively low cost and the whole family, often including your dog, can take part.
Here in the CBRM we have some of the most beautiful trails and hikes to explore. Even in winter there are organized hikes under the stars. While I am not a huge fan of winter, seeing the stars on a clear crisp winter’s eve is one type of hike on my bucket list.
Whether it is a local trail or something a bit further, like hiking the famed Camino de Santiago in Spain, hiking is a type of travel that appeals to many. There are 26 trails in the Cape Breton Highlands. Here in the Third there are 29 trails and beaches, where you can hike.
Personally, I have hiked a few local trails and my bucket includes some of local trails in and around the Third. But hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain has been life changing. So much so that I will be returning to hike it again with a team in 2024! I’ll have 16 spots if you are interested in joining - you will be glad you did!
Last year’s team was made up of individuals who brought various levels of hiking experience to the team. Some had done a lot of hiking, some had a few local trails under their belts, and others had never hiked but were walkers and runners. This proves you do not need to be an expert. What we had in common was being open to the experience that hiking such an awe-inspiring trail could bring us. We never would have guessed what an impact the hike would have on us.
Getting to travel to another country and experience the food, culture, and essence of said country is a great opportunity. Getting the chance to walk through the actual towns, forests and countryside is as they say priceless.
Our team will fly into Madrid where for two days we get to explore with our private tour guide. As we walk through this majestic area, we get a brief but entertaining history. For those who want, on day two I book ‘Hop on Hop-off’ tour bus tickets. This type of tour is probably the best way to see a city. You can stay on the bus for the entire tour or hop-off to see a few sights like the Prado Museum or get a bite to eat. then it’s time to make your way back to the closest bus stop to continue your tour.
The hotel we stay in is located next to the Puerto del Sol. This is one of the best known and busiest places in Madrid. There is an amazing restaurant, Majaderitos, that is walkable from the hotel. The food, drink, and service are nothing short of wonderful. You can try King prawns, spicy potatoes, fried squid, or a salad so fresh you wonder if the garden is out back. It has a fun wall where you can add your name to a large map of the world – and yes Nova Scotia/ Cape Breton has been added.
After exploring Madrid for two days the journey continues with a drive to Sarria. For lunch we will stop at a charming place where for only $11 euros you will enjoy a full meal with endless amounts of the best bread ever. Sorry mom. When we arrive, our hotel will be ready for us. We will take a walk to supper, enjoying beautiful views before returning for a good night’s rest. The next day is the first of six days of hiking.
Hiking through the most endearing towns, mystical forests, and beautiful countryside makes each day a new day. The team hikes together, resting and eating along the way. One of the best foods to try is the Tortilla. (Spanish omelet) This dish is made with 24 fresh eggs, potatoes and some vegetables.
Along the way we will see, hear, taste, and smell wonderful things. Because you are walking in the countryside you will see farms, an assortment of animals, and the people who live there. You also get to meet people form all over the world and the phrase “Buen Camino” (Good Journey) will be spoken by you and to you hundreds of times a day - at least it feels like that!
We might also laugh until our sides hurt. There are chances for group times and alone times, times to cheer another good day on the camino and days to learn from each other. We will also learn a few key phrases in Spanish and meet new friends.
Along the way we stamp our camino passport at various places. On the final day we have our camino passports stamped with the official stamp to show we completed the hike. After we complete the pilgrimage, we will have earned our official Camino de Santiago certificate. That evening we celebrate with a true pilgrim supper. After a good night stay and a beautiful breakfast, we make our way back via train to Madrid to explore a little more. We then say so long to Spain and make our way home to share this amazing experience with everyone.
Whether you travel to hike somewhere amazing like Spain or get in your car and travel to a beautiful local hiking trail, the choice is yours. Lace your boots, fill your water bottle, and embark on a journey which will keep you talking for years to come. It might just inspire you a wee bit to take a hike somewhere further from home, like Spain. Either way, hiking whether as part of a team, with group of friends or solo is an amazing adventure that can last one day, six days, or for weeks.
Look through the WGO section of The Third (just pages away – or a click or two if you’re reading this at thirdonline.ca) to see who is hosting hiking events this week. The Celtic Colours International Festival schedule includes seven events (at time of writing) that have a hiking aspect to them.
There are also some great local stores out there who specialize in helping you get outfitted in the correct gear. Escape Outdoors is one of those great local shops, and Sherry and her staff are very knowledgeable and supportive.
Safety is key with any travel or hike so do some research before you start your hiking adventure. My suggestion is to join a group like Hike Cape Breton or join a team like mine that works together with my travel partner to ensure your hiking experience is one you will never forget.
Hiking while travelling doesn’t have to be complicated. When the two are joined and you travel to hike your world opens just a little further and you never know where that trail will take you. Happy travels!