‘Laughing ladies’ beat El Camino
A 780-kilometre tramp is no walk in the park but Louise Hood and Claire Bryers prove anything is possible.
The bubbly Tokoroa locals in their 60s took on the famous El Camino de Santiago trail in Spain.
It was there they tramped through some treacherous terrain and idyllic countryside.
The best friends had never attempted anything like it and as an asthmatic, it was particularly challenging for Hood.
They were inspired by the 2010 movie The Way, a story of a father, played by Martin Sheen, who travelled overseas to recover the body of his estranged son who died while travelling the El Camino and decided to take the pilgrimage himself.
‘‘For us, that meant something . . . Louise and I are quite spiritual people,’’ Bryers said.
Along the walk they commemorated a friend with a clay pebble they left on the track.
Their first stint consisted of an 8km trip up their first of three mountains. To make matters worse, there was a storm brewing and the mountain was submerged in fog.
‘‘You couldn’t see far . . . You could hear cow bells on both sides and there were steep drops . . . I thought ‘oh my god, what have we done’.’’
A training schedule started over a year beforehand and consisted of up to 12km walks almost every day. A trek over the Tongariro Crossing was their final test.
‘‘We reckon if we could do that, we could do anything,’’ Hood said.
It was eight days into the trip and in a little bar called Jakue that exhaustion hit them.
‘‘We were in the bar and we were having a drink,’’ Hood said.
‘‘[I said] if Martin Sheen came in now, I’d stab him.’’
A joke, of course, but those little jokes are what got these ‘‘ schoolkids’’ through.
What would most probably split some people apart has only made them stronger, Bryers said.
The pair said they were even named ‘‘the laughing New Zealand ladies’’.
‘‘It’s only because we were constantly laughing, snorting and carrying on,’’ Hood said.
Their 45-day journey was spread over an average of 15km per day with some trying times.
However, they had prepared for an emotional rollercoaster.
‘‘We promised each other we would be honest and think about what we say to each other ... I really believe that if you have a friend, you share the best of yourself,’’ Hood said.
And though their main goal was to make it back in one piece, there was always time to appreciate their surroundings.
‘‘Every now and again we had to turn around and remind ourselves how far we had come.’’
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: Claire Bryers, left, and Louise Hood set out to do the 800-kilometre El Camino de Santiago walk in Spain and came back smiling.