'Camino de Sydney': Couple create Sydney version of Spain's epic walk

When Giselle Oscuro and Brent Clark's dream trip for 2020, walking the gruelling Camino de Santiago, was thwarted by you-know-what, just like so many other overseas holidays, they weren't willing to allow it to completely impede their pilgrim's progress.

Instead, the couple have been redirecting their energy and enthusiasm during the pandemic into creating Camino de Sydney, an epic 600 kilometre walk that seeks to capture the spirit of the popular original.

The Sydney version is divided into 29 walking days and passes through 164 Sydney localities. It can be undertaken as a continuous journey and can be accomplished by secular types.

It is in effect a tribute to the original, temporarily unattainable, ancient religious walk that has various routes ending in northern Spain. In 2018, the Camino attracted nearly 330,000 foreign pilgrims, many from Australia's religious and secular communities.

For the truly devoted there's the option of staying in accommodation, such as Airbnbs (rather than albergues or now non-COVID-19 safe dormitory-style hostels in Spain) along the Sydney walk or it can be undertaken as a series of day trips. There is no time limit to completing it, but there's even more to the story. Let's walk you through it, as it were.

Mr Clark had secretly planned to propose to Ms Oscuro, who had completed the Camino de Santiago in 2016, on the steps of the famous St James Cathedral (opened in 1211) in Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain, the traditional end-point of the pilgrimage.

But Mr Clark, who has visited Spain though not tackled the Camino de Santiago, had another, more local, and frankly cunning, solution for how and where to pop the question.

"Instead of St James in Spain I proposed to her on the steps of St James church in Forest Lodge (in Sydney's inner west, opened in 1879) on the Camino de Sydney itself," he said. "And it was on the same day we would have arrived at St James Cathedral in Santiago, had we been able to go."

Fortunately, Ms Oscuro, 34, accepted the 45-year-old Mr Clark's proposal but, in another setback, the wedding at a Catholic church in Chatswood had to be delayed as her close sister, Carla, is under lockdown in Melbourne, where she lives.

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In the meantime, there is the distraction of the Camino de Sydney for which they've even devised their own pilgrim's passport so participants can record their progress.

Similar to the Camino de Santiago, where each walker carries a Credencial del Peregrino (Pilgrim's Credential), Sydney walkers can keep track of their progress using their own Camino passport. They can simply stamp or tick it when each day of the walk has been completed.

"Our own plan is to walk the whole thing and not drive it, as we've had to do in order to fully research it," said Mr Clark. "But we still hope to do the Camino de Santiago together one day."

Considering the Camino de Santiago is ostensibly a devotional undertaking, with as much as 20 kilometres covered each day, the couple have been mindful of ensuring the Camino de Sydney passes through every Sydney suburb prefaced with "Saint" such as St Clair, St Ives, St Leonards, St Marys and St Peters.

Earlier this week, they stumbled across Pope Paul VI Reserve in Glebe, commemorating his visit to Sydney in 1970. And, of course, they report that when they got home the first thing they did was add it to their Camino de Sydney map. See caminodesydney.wordpress.com

See also: Inside Sydney's dark, disease-ridden past

See also: Regional hotels booked out as Sydneysiders rush to escape the city

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