A Derry firefighter who has just finished walking the Camino pilgrimage trail has revealed how she got caught up in a hostel fire during her travels.
On the last week of her journey, Aoibheann Carlin was in the hostel icing her sore legs, when the kitchen burst into flames.
“I could see an orange glow in the kitchen,” she said. “And I could see a gas canister in the middle of the flames.”
The Derry woman managed to evacuate the lower section of the building and raise the alarm, before going back inside to clear the upstairs dormitories. Thankfully the fire was put out before anyone was hurt.
For Aoibheann, the 33 day trek was an experience she will never forget. The 38 year-old was walking for the Alzheimer’s Society as her dad Tommy suffers from the condition.
She raised just over £3,000 thanks to the many family and friends who kept an eye on her adventure through regular updates on facebook.
It helps to put a lot of things in perspective. I’m glad that for the first experience I did it on my own.Aoibheann Carlin
But Aoibheann revealed that her Camino journey was almost over before it began when she came down with back and neck problems.
“I did everything to get it fixed. I went to the GP and chiropractor. But it wasn’t until I got on the Camino and put that rucksack on my back that I began to feel ok,” she said.
Although Aoibheann was a solo traveller, she said she never found the journey isolating.
“The majority of people are walking on their own and people are doing it for different reasons. I got caught once or twice landing at villages and had nowhere to stay. I soon learned that if you are not at your destination by 1pm you need to phone ahead and book. But it then became a vicious circle because so many people were ringing and booking ahead.”
“I got off light when it came to blisters,” she revealed, “but on the fifth day I ruptured my Achilles. That day as I stopped on the road to rest, every person who passed stopped me to ask if I was ok.”
Medics told Aoibheann that an infection in one of her blisters had spread to tissue on her foot and gone septic. She was sent on her way with antibiotics, told only to do a little and avoid hills.
“It’s a little difficult to avoid hills on the Camino,” she said. “But, the foot held up.”
While she didn’t go for a religious experience, Aoibheann said religion did help and she prayed the rosary while walking.
“I couldn’t hold the beads my mum got me because I walked with two poles,” she said. “But I gave one away to another girl and was able to hold my rosary after that.”
The final stage at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela was an emotional one, but Aoibheann said for her, the Camino was more about the journey, than its end.
“It helps to put a lot of things in perspective,” she said. “I’m glad that for the first experience I did it on my own. But I’d like to go back next year with friends and share the experience I had. My parents Pam and Tommy are very proud, but they did worry about me when I was away. Thanks to so many people who supported me and sponsored me.”