15 JULY 2004

Wearing a khaki shirt and trousers and carrying a walking stick, Queen Sofia of Spain became one of the endless flow of pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago in the northwestern region of her country on Wednesday.

And the queen, who walked about three kilometres of the lengthy religious path to arrive at Santiago de Compostela cathedral, wasn't alone. The wife of King Juan Carlos was preceded by two royal agents on horseback, and accompanied by nearly 300 members of the Royal Guard as they marked their fifth centennary.

Queen Sofia, who described the experience as "fantastic and marvellous", surprised fellow pilgrims by taking time out to wish them a good journey. One traveller returned the unexpected gesture by playing an impromptu song in her honour on the gaita, a Galician bagpipe.

Photo: AFP
Queen Sofia, who was carrying a traditional St James staff, hiked about three kilometres along the famed Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, stopping to wish other travellers a good journey
Photo: AFP
At one point the Spanish royal, who described the experience as "fantastic", was honoured with an impromptu bagpipe performance by a fellow pilgrim
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