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Pilgrimage bonds pair

Mother and daughter Pat and Renee Polaczuk on the trail. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

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For Carterton woman Pat Polaczuk, walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela with her daughter Renee Polaczuk was a dream many years in the making.

Traversing the French Pyrenees and meandering along the Spanish countryside, the 800km walk is a symbolic pilgrimage which ends at the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in a cathedral in Galicia, northwestern Spain.

Having been a keen tramper since her late teens, Pat is no stranger to the Tararua Range and life in the New Zealand bush.

But, the mother of 10 children said the scenery along the Camino de Santiago de Compostela was unlike anything she had seen before.

“All of the roads and forests were stunning,” she said.

It was initially something her brother talked about doing, but after retiring at the end of 2019, the 66-year-old decided to make the trip herself.

Her 30-year-old daughter Renee had left a fast-paced job in Australia and decided to join her.

Pat said they met many fathers and sons walking the trail together but no mother-daughter duos.

It took about 47 days for them to complete the trip, starting in St Jean and walking from 15km to 20km every day.

“The longest day we walked was 29km,” she said.

“I don’t think anyone can properly prepare for it.”

Preparation for the trip included walking several local trails and learning a bit of Spanish – she’s now also learning German.

Saving was also an important part – Pat estimated the whole trip cost her about $6000.

She said her favourite part of the trail was seeing the architecture and learning about the history of the places they visited.

“We don’t have things like that here.”

Her one regret was not having time to explore each village in more depth.

She said it was common for people to break up the trip into stages and it could take years to complete.

Each tramper who did though, was rewarded with an official compostela [certificate] – each stop on the trail earned them a stamp which served as a souvenir to look back on.

She hoped other people would be encouraged to give it a go.

“I’m just so glad I did it,” she said.

  • More information about the walk can be found online, at, santiago-compostela.net


  1. Congratulations for your superwoman style and accomplishments! I’d be honored if you looked at https://PyreneesPilgrimage.wordpress.com about my solo walk on the Camino towards the East, all along the Pyrenees Mts. My Mom, age 84 at the time, was with me by long distance phone and letters.

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