Paul Smart becomes the first British tetraplegic to Complete the Camino De Santiago
In 2018 Paul Smart, a 61 year old tetraplegic, and his Team of Pushers, Pullers and Carers achieved an amazing feat: They Completed the Camino Frances (The Way of St James) from St. Jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
Their journey involved crossing The Pyrenees from France to Spain and then via Pamplona, Estella, Logrono, Burgos and Leon across the wide seemingly never-ending plains of Northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela.
They are awaiting their inclusion into The Guinness Book of World Records.
Let’s look at some facts and figures:
- The Pilgrimage is approximately 730 kms long.
- The Way of Saint James has a total elevation gain of 18,666 meters (61,240 feet that’s over 2 Everests!) and a total elevation loss of 17,778 meters (58,328 feet).
- Normally able-bodied Pilgrims plan on 35 days to achieve this amazing Pilgrimage. Paul and his Team completed the journey in 38 days.
- Paul had to be pushed and pulled by his devoted team of friends and family, who gave up so much to help Paul achieve his dream.
- Paul also had a lot of other personal obstacles to overcome in terms of his handling his day-to-day medical issues, managing his temperature and general wellbeing.
- On the Pilgrimage the temperature varies from freezing to very hot and with rain and wind added to the mixture – managing your own temperature and survival is no mean feat in itself.
- Paul’s specially built wheelchair had to deal with everything and also had to be adapted so he could be carried when necessary. It also had to survive the whole journey.
- The trail consistent of rocks, flint, very poor paths with cranky wooden bridges, minor roads and footpaths as well major roads. Every bend they went around was like a mystery. What were they going to have to overcome next?
- The Way of St James is certainly not ideal for a wheelchair. A special one had to be built to cope with the conditions. Rivers had to be crossed, steep steps negotiated and there was even some downhill freewheeling!
But there were upsides: free wine in places; amazing support from other Pilgrims; life-long friendships created and an amazing £35,000 raised for SSIT.
Paul Smart is a Trustee if SSIT. He helps individuals who have spinal cord injuries. He helps process grants and makes sure, along with the rest of the grants team, that people living with spinal injury can have the best possible life.