Inspired by a Transformative Experience – The Pilgrim Trail Story

The Pilgrim Trail was inspired by a transformative experience. The 200-kilometre trail from Subiaco to New Norcia was the brainchild of Dr Duncan Jefferson. In a recent interview, WA Parks Foundation discovered the health benefits and history of the Pilgrim Trail.

In an interview with the founder of the WA Pilgrim Trail, Dr Duncan Jefferson shared this story, “After 34 year of being a general practitioner in my adopted country of Australia, I ran out of emotional “petrol” and “burnt out”. For a number of years prior to this, Maggie – my wife – had been saying, “Why don’t we do that Camino pilgrimage in Spain, the Camino di Santiago?”.

Dr. Duncan Jefferson, mapping out the Pilgrim Trail in Julimar Forest National Park (Photo: L-A Shibish)

“Suddenly it seemed to make an awful lot of sense, so I said “Yes,” which was why a few months later we found ourselves walking along a goat track on the side of a steep valley somewhere between Leon and Santiago Di Compostella in Spain.

“It was a particularly beautiful day and looking at the blue sky, then down across the valley and then behind to where Maggie was standing I said to her, “This is the first time I have felt normal for ages” and we both hugged each other and cried some very happy tears. As the days wore on and we were approaching our destination, I began to wonder to myself whether we could create a similar trail back in Perth, Western Australia. My idea was that if we could replicate the “Pilgrim Experience” back in WA, then we could help others who, like me, were suffering emotionally and spiritually. Then they wouldn’t have to travel to the other side of the world to discover the healing power of a Pilgrimage.

“The problem seemed to solve itself. Santiago di Compostela was where Dom Rosendo Salvado entered the monastery. He later came to WA and founded the Benedictine town of New Norcia and was also a Bishop of Perth. We attend St Joseph’s Church on Salvado Road, Subiaco and in a flash we had a start and a finish and all I had to do was join the dots!

“That proved harder, but by then we had some great helpers who formed a committee and we held the First Camino Salvado Pilgrimage in 2009. The following year we began work on establishing The Pilgrim Trail – a permanent walking track from Subiaco to New Norcia. It has been an amazing journey, which has not only renewed our zest for life, but helped many thousands of others to re-connect with land, with heart and to rediscover their own spirituality.”

Many have now completed the 8-day walk and two of those include the Hon Kerry Sanderson AC and WA Parks Ambassador Eva Skira. This is what they share about their experiences.

“Walking the Camino Salvado helped me to focus on the trail itself and to forget any other worries we had when we started. Getting to know my fellow pilgrims was another blessing, and we helped each other when help was needed. It was a wonderful and uplifting experience for us all. Despite experiencing several days of heavy rain when walking, it is a walk that I hope to do again someday because it helped me to be thankful for the opportunity to hike outdoors with such a wonderful group of people.” said Hon Kerry Sanderson AC.

“When I did the walk, I was very conscious of all those who have trekked the same walk before me. Not only those in the 1800’s but also in the immediate few years on the new Pilgrim trail established in 2009.  I had a great group of pilgrims and just recently I caught up with a couple of them on a social basis.  We shared common experiences, blisters, tiredness, enjoyment of the food and wine and daily reflections. It was great fun and a wonderful opportunity to experience our WA parks.” said Eva Skira

Next year will mark the 10thAnniversary of the Pilgrim Trail’s first Camino Salvado. A special event is planned to mark the occasion and information on how to sign up to be part of it will be available in the new year.