Memories of an Amazing Adventure
This is the first in a short series about my experiences of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage walk. In 2014, I turned 60, and to celebrate reaching this milestone, while still being fit and active, I decided that the Camino would be a perfect celebration for me. Much better than having a birthday party, as that really isn’t something that I would enjoy.
This year is the five year anniversary of my Camino walk, which began on 1st June and finished on the 7th July. I hope you will enjoy the series, and I particularly hope that anyone contemplating the Camino will find these posts helpful. Buen Camino!
About the Camino de Santiago
The Camino de Santiago is a network of walking paths, leading to the shrine of the apostle, St.James in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, where tradition states that the apostles remains are buried. For centuries pilgrims have been walking to Santiago to visit and pray before the remains. The Camino de Santiago follows the route that pilgrims have been walking for centuries.
There are many reasons today for people undertaking this pilgrimage walk. Some do it for religious reasons or spiritual reasons. Others do it simply because they enjoy walking. I enjoyed walking as a form of fitness, and at the time, often walked long distances. But I really didn’t know if the Camino would be too much for me. I had read about it, and knew there would be challenges other than the challenge of walking long distances, day after day. Eventually, I made the commitment and chose to do the Camino as a challenge, to test my fitness, endurance and resilience. These three traits are essential for anyone who wishes to to complete The Camino de Santiago.
The Camino de Santiago starts in St. Jean Pied de Port, a beautiful village in the South of France, crossing The Pyrenees and continuing on across Spain, ending officially at Santiago. I chose to walk on, as some pilgrims do, from Santiago to Finisterre on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. In ancient times, Finisterre was considered to be the edge of the world. I considered this to be an appropriate place to end my adventure.
Originally, my plan was to walk the Camino alone, for no other reason than that no person I knew had any interest in coming with me. About one year before the date, I met Nadine who asked if she could come with me. We lived almost 400 kilometres from each other, but tried to co-ordinate our training days, so even though we weren’t able to train together, we were able to follow a similar training plan, with the intention of walking on the same days. By the time our departure day arrived, we had become good friends and were looking forward to our adventure together.
For reasons that will become clear, Nadine and I didn’t have the Camino experience we had planned. After the first week we went out separate ways, but caught up with each other from time to time,
Other than training, our preparation involved getting our gear together. We would be carrying our own packs, which could weigh no more than 7.5k. That weight had to include all that we would need for about 5-6 weeks. It was impossible to keep to such a small weight when including our sleeping bags, so we decided to leave them out. It would be summer in Spain, and we decided that they wouldn’t necessary. This was one of the best decisions we made as only a sheet was needed for the Spanish summer nights.
I’m not sure how many times, I packed and repacked that bag, trying to get it right. But it was many, many times. We spent a few days in Paris before starting the Camino. After days of walking around Paris with our backpacks, we decided they were overweight and too heavy to carry up and down mountains and over rocky terrain. Before leaving Paris, we both sent excess luggage home. The main question prospective pilgrims ask is how much can we take in our back packs. My advice now, would be to decide what you would like to take and then cut it down by at least half. It is surprising how little ‘stuff’ you will need as a pilgrim.
St. Jean Pied Du Port
On the day before our Camino started, we had a five hour train trip from Paris to Bayonne. This was followed by an hour on a bus packed full with excited future fellow pilgrims. It was raining heavily when we arrived, and we weren’t sure what to expect when were told we were fortunate to have good weather, which was expected to worsen over night! As soon as we arrived we headed to the Pilgrim Passport Office to collect our passport which is a booklet that pilgrims have stamped along the way to show that they have actually walked the entire distance. At Santiago, this passport is checked before the much longed for certificate is handed over.
Due to circumstances that you will read about in future posts, I didn’t get to celebrate what I considered to be a huge achievement. It is only now, five years later, as I look back, that I am beginning to appreciate the enormity of my experiences and to understand what I gained from those experiences. I would love you to join me, as I relive this amazing and unforgettable adventure.
Fitness – Endurance – Resilience
If you would like to get notifications of future posts, just pop your email in the box on the right. I would love you to join me on this journey