Camino shell logo
Ian Whyte at home

HOME AT LAST: Back home in Dollar Ian Whyte puts his feet up for a well earned rest at the end of his long trek over the mountains

From Wee County News, Thursday November 10, 2005

In the footsteps of the pilgrims

Dollar man's 500-mile trek to help spur on his 'bionic' pal

OVER mountains, through valleys and criss-crossing rock strewn plains, a Dollar man has completed a 500 mile trek, all for a needy friend.

Following the footsteps of the famous Proclaimers' song, Ian Whyte (55) last month took on the challenge of the Pilgrim's Road, trekking between French town Saint Jean-Pied-de-Port and Santiago de Compostella, Spain.

A month on, Ian told the News he was "absolutely delighted" to put his feet up again.

"It's good to be home," said Ian, having just returned from the epic walk alongside an old friend with a bionic leg.

IT consultant Ian explained: "The reason I did it was for a good friend, Michael Tobin, from Lincolnshire, who had a knee transplant in March."

The two met 15 years ago doing voluntary work for the Duke of Edinburgh award at a school in Lincolnshire.

Ian has raised over 10,000 for charity on three cross-Britain walks already, but told the News this time it wasn't about money.

"Mike's always given me support by coming out to see me on the route and driving me home," he said.

"So I told him after his operation, 'if you can get yourself fit and you want to do it, then let's go for it.'

"I was just thinking, if we don't do it now then we never will." And go for it they did, setting off a month ago from the French- Spanish border and over the challenging Pyrenean mountains.

Ian, who also sits as vice-chair of Dollar community council, said: "We crossed three mountain peaks, each higher than 1,500 metres. So we were going as high as Ben Nevis, but in a slightly warmer climate!"

For centuries people have trekked from all over Europe on the Pilgrims' Road to pay homage to Apostle James the Great, whose tomb forms the 'finish line' of the walk.

Even the Pope did part of the trek a few years ago to build up awareness of St James' tomb, found in the ninth century.

"It's just a continuous flow of people throughout the route, and the spirit of everyone sharing the experience does spur you on," said Ian.

Last year 65,000 people completed the walk, but Ian reckoned there were far more this year. "It was closer to 80,000, and we met people from all over the world, from Brazil, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the US.

"We even met one guy who started the walk from his home in the Netherlands!"

While most people usually stay overnight in hostels along the route, often priced at a bargain 6 Euros per night, Ian and Michael preferred to "do it in style!"

"We chose to go upmarket by staying in hotels every night," said Ian.

"So with a shower every night it's not like we were suffering at all, though Mike and his leg did suffer a bit!"

"But for him to complete the trip, with a bionic knee really was a great effort."