I first heard about the Camino de Santiago from a friend whom I went on a yearly trek with. We had climbed the peaks Mt. Chirropo in Costa Rica, went to the depths of the earth together to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and hiked the ancient Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
I retired on the 1st of September 2008 and I wanted to celebrate my new life and new freedom. The Camino de Santiago was the challenge and adventure I needed. So in late September, like children going on a school tour, myself and my fellow retiree Pat McEvoy arrived in Dublin Airport with our rucksacks packed. We flew to Biarritz and two hours later were in the beautiful village of St. Jean Pied de Port on the French side of the Pyrenees. Our adventure had begun.
To be honest, I wanted to get your attention with the title of this blog post. I guess it worked if you are reading this now 🙂
Great. Now that we are here I would like to clear something up which is of high importance to me.
The word “mistake” in the blog title is not really right. I rather try to see things as experiences and experiments instead of mistakes. This gives more space and helps us to go out and try more things because we are not so afraid of failure.
A quick trip is not something you can expect from Camino de Santiago. With routes going up to several hundred kilometers, a pilgrimage typically lasts 4 to 6 weeks on foot.
If you don’t have the luxury to travel for extended periods, or if you’re unable (or don’t want) to walk long distances, you can still do the Camino.
Beautiful and unique gifts for pilgrims-to-be and memorabilia for pilgrims already finished with the Camino.
Buying presents can be hard especially for pilgrims. Many peregrinos while walking realise that they need very little in life. They live off a backpack for several weeks and stick to a routine of the Camino — wake up, eat, walk, sleep.
Thus material things are no longer as important as before.
If you can afford and plan to use hotel accommodation, restaurant meals, and luggage carried then this route report is not for you. In our five Caminos between 2006 and 2015, we stayed in albergues, cooked our own or shared meals and carried our own backpacks. Our last Camino we were 72 and 77 years old and it took us 44 days of walking compared with between 30 and 33 days earlier.
I have been thinking, dreaming, and planning for this for nearly 20 years. I first read about the pilgrimage to Santiago Compostela in a 14th century biography, The Book of Margery Kempe. Margery, a quirky English mystic, took several pilgrimages over the years, including Rome, and Jerusalem. The medieval and ancient concept of pilgrimage fascinated me.
What’s the most common injury experienced on the Camino de Santiago? Without a doubt, foot blisters!
They take precious time, effort and skill to look after.
They make you walk differently and that can stir up other aches and pains.
They can get infected, and wind you up in the hospital!
Blisters have the potential to spoil your Camino experience!
12th August, 2017: Leaving Santo Domingo at 7.45 am, we thought we had made a good head start on the sun.
Fools! We should have left at least an hour earlier. We walked 23 kilometers today on a fairly easy route of gravel paths, tarmac in places, which ran most of the way parallel to the N120. There were no major height differences; 240 meters in ascent, 100 meters in descent. Easy peasy, apart from the fact temperatures hit 38 degrees, and we were walking in an area with absolutely no shade.
‘Many people avoid the Meseta, catching the bus from Burgos to Leon’, I heard on my first day on the Camino de Santiago. I was shocked. I thought most people were keen to walk the full route, either in stages or as a single pilgrimage. Whilst setting out to walk and enjoy the whole 800km, the Meseta was the section I was looking forward to with anticipation. I became curious as to what my experience would be.
In May 2012, I clicked SEND and put in play a turn of events and a journey that would change my life forever. In my sixth decade and in good health, I knew this was the time. With that SEND, I purchased my air ticket to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago. While I had heard a little about the Camino over the years, it was a book by Guy Thatcher called A Journey of Days that really whet my appetite. I thought “I can do this!” and I promptly began reading and researching everything about the Camino. With each new piece of information, I knew my fate was sealed and I was compelled to go.
“Hey man, is there any way you can come hike with me on the Appalachian Trail?” I anxiously asked all my close friends.
“No, I’ve gotta’ work,” was the response I invariably received.
“Well, how bout’ just going for a week or two,” I virtually pleaded with most of them.
I was distraught. Fortunately the story has a happy ending. For the minute I stepped foot onto America’s most popular footpath, it became clear that the Appalachian Trail Community runs wide and deep. Approximately 3,000,000 hikers per year hike some part of it each year. Amongst that three million are approximately 2,000 thru-hikers. These are people attempting to hike the entire 2,181 mile trail from Georgia to Mount Katahdin in northern Maine in one hiking season. Thru-hikers usually begin their hikes in late March or early April. Anybody beginning in that time frame is virtually assured of being in the midst of a ‘bubble’ of hikers for the entire fourteen states.
It’s easy to find out how to start off on the trek along the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. There are lots of inspiring pictures showing happy pilgrims making those final steps toward the Cathedral’s double stairway at the end of their pilgrimage. What happens between those two milestones? I’d like to tell you how to handle that intermediary period, the days when you are working toward your physical, mental, and spiritual goals.
This section wasn’t strictly the Compostela/ Camino. One of our hosts who only allowed you to stay if you carried your pack the whole way told us it would be fine to do this by train, but while we intended to take it a bit easier we walked.
The weather was extraordinary. An early summer had hit the region. No snow and brilliant blue skies and 28 C (75 F). In Biddarray on the first night, we went to Hotel Ostape (amazing. We did take the golf cart down the drive) and I even went swimming. Lush green pasture, rugged mountains and people that seemed to think we should speak Basque. Certainly, if you strayed a meter over the border they no longer spoke French and we hadn’t got our Spanish phrase book yet.
It seemed we were destined to walk the Camino. Well, in retrospect. I had six months long service leave and we had a house in France. Okay we could have stayed and enjoyed the local food, wine and terroire but from the first time we saw the scallop shell on a lamp post in Tramayes, which our house is on the outskirts of, we were hooked. Enough to do a one day course back home that told us the dos and don’ts of the Camino, to buy some books and watch a video or two.
I was three weeks into my Camino from Le Puy when I first considered giving up. On a cobbled road outside an organic snack shop in rural France, I pulled out a rickety iron chair set out for patrons and started taking off my shoes. Slowly, slowly, using both hands, I lifted them off my feet and peeled off my socks. I hadn’t fully understood the severity of my predicament until my feet were out of my shoes, which were far too tight and damp.
This is the third post of three and it cover the last section of the French Way, the first is Walking the Camino Frances, and the second is the middle part of the Camino Frances. These are the last of the email compilations from Douglas and Christine Ball’s journey on the Camino Frances during 2015. The text below cover the last section of about 155 miles.
In 2015, two pilgrims to undertake the Camino Frances walk were Douglas and Christine Ball, from Gateshead in the north east of England. Here is their personal story of ‘Walking the Camino’. (I have split this into three parts as it amounts to 20,000 words and would make for a very slow loading and long page). The next two post are the middle section of the Camino Frances and last part, the last section on the Camino Frances.
Many are aware that the Camino de Santiago is an ancient Christian pilgrims route with Santiago de Compostela as its final destination. What most folk don’t realise until they’ve been and walked the Way, is that it’s only one of many pilgrimage route to Santiago.
Each Camino de Santiago has its own name; thus the most popular route which enters from the SW of France is known as the Camino Francès.
Brittany formed an important stage on the journey to Compostela for medieval pilgrims travelling from Ireland and southern England or even further afield. The main points of entry were Le Conquet on the Atlantic coast in the west, and on the Channel coast, St-Pol-de-Léon and Locquirec in Finistere, Paimpol in Côtes d’Armor and Mont St-Michel, which is now in Normandy but was once within the Breton boundary before the course of the river Couesnon changed.
In 2010 a new Camino to Santiago has been restored and marked with 1000 stickers in Italy by the small association “Amici del cammino di Santiago da Venezia”. The idea was to give the same spirit as on the camino de Santiago .
The new pilgrimage route is a connection into old pilgrimage routes in the perspective of walking about 2500 km… a very long and lonely distance to Santiago.