Friday, May 3, 2013

Going Our Way?: We're Walking the Camino!



If you have been following this blog, you might remember that I was entranced by the idea of walking “The Way.”  A few years ago, I first heard about Camino de Santiago de Compostela and wondered then if this super-long walk was something that would be appropriate for Will and myself.  We had researched best “easy” hikes in the world, and had already completed New Zealand’s Milford Track—which we enjoyed the luxury way with warm meals prepared for us at the end of each day, and private bedrooms and showers for our rest and recuperation.

Will had always been an avid hiker, but I was not keen on hikes that involved carrying a loaded backpack, eating indifferent processed foods, battling unpredictable weather conditions, encountering any insects…  In short, I was not that keen on hiking.  But I was struck by the “pilgrimage” component of the Camino, and the idea stayed with me.  Then, as everyone knows, the Martin Sheen/Emilio Estevez movie came out, and we—along with many others—started seriously contemplating walking “The Way.” 

After a lot of planning (getting Will’s sabbatical approved, finding a home for our dog Katie, arranging for flights, etc.), we also ran into some glitches.  Will had to have meniscus surgery on his left knee after having had the same surgery on the right knee last April.  So, it looks like we won’t walk the entire 490.3 miles between southern France and western Spain that comprise the most popular of the camino paths.  But we’ll do as much of it as we can.

Will is disappointed that he won’t be able to do the “whole” Camino.  Me, less so.  (Did I mention that I wasn’t that keen on hiking?)  I’m finding it easy to be philosophical about this since some of those elevation differences (the parts we should be skipping over) frightened me a bit anyway.  But, in addition to that, I wonder if successfully navigating the rest of our lives—the second “half” after our current “mid-life”—involves coming to terms with our failures as well as our triumphs.  It might be a cop-out, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Anyway, we are soon to embark on a kinder, gentler camino than we planned for initially.  We plan to head to Pamplona which would have been towards the end of the third day of the hike originally.  Then we will pick up from there and see how far we can walk each day.  Hopefully we will end up doing most of the remaining 450 miles or so, but it might just be 10 miles instead of 17 or 18 that we’ll complete per day.  Maybe we’ll take a train through the meseta region (the central plains area which offers no shade—or many services). 

It’s not impossible that I’ll get to the second day of the hike—I think I can last one day at least—and revolt: “I’m not carrying 20 pounds on my back, sleeping in hostels with hundreds of other people, sharing a bunk with bed bugs, urinating out in the open with no cover, and eating HAM for 33 days!”  I’m hoping that doesn’t happen, but I’ll report back.

In the meantime, please enjoy browsing through the blog.  For your ease, I am listing the top 10 most-visited posts:


I’ll be back in July and will let you know how we fared on the Camino!  Who knows?  Perhaps I might even be able to report on our progress along “the Way.” 


14 comments:

  1. Hello Everyone!
    We are in Pamplona and about to start our walk!

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  2. We are finally enjoying some sunshine today as we explore the tiny little town of Los Arcos after we got rain on our walk to Estella yesterday. Each tiny town seems to have a cathedral. Guess that's what it means to be on the route of a pilgrim saint...

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  3. We stayed in Viana last night and walked through Logrono which seemed like a hopping metropolis compared to some of the sleepy little towns we have been passing through. Tonight we are staying in Navarette in the Rioja region. It's fun to keep meeting up with people from other days of the hike.

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  4. A typical day on the Camino:
    --5-6am. Try to ignore sounds of other pilgrims as the early risers start getting prepared. Much
    easier to do if you were able to snag a private room somehow.
    --7am. Finally get going after being in line for toilet, shower, sink.
    --7:30am. Very skimpy breakfast of coffee and toast. Not nearly enough food to fortify our bodies for a long day of walking.
    --9am. Ready for first break at whatever town we might be passing through, hopefully.
    --11am. Time for a tortilla espanola break. Potatoes, onions, eggs, accompanied by dome bread.
    --1pm. Stop somewhere along the path for bread, cheese, a piece of fruit, and sometimes a chocolate break.
    --2pm. Get in town, sometimes only one with population of 30-50. Find a pilgrim albergue or a pensione that we reserved. Take a shower and try to clean off the sweat and grime.
    --3pm. Go to a cafe, get snacks and drinks.
    --4:30-7:30pm. Rest, get ready for the next day, pick up more grocery, and then wait and wait and wait, wondering why dinner won't start until 7:30 at the earliest.
    --7:30-9pm. Eat whatever menu del dia available, usually 3 courses for 10-15 euros, almost always accompanied by fried potatoes.
    --9pm. Try to sleep despite the snoring of other pilgrims, again much easier to do in a private room.
    --Repeat. In the meseta, follow the pattern but bring everything forward two hours to avoid walking in the hot sun.

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  5. Will took a look at the schedule above and reminded me that I'm missing two important items. During the interminable wait for dinner, Will handwashes our laundry each day and hangs them out to dry. In the meantime, I perform surgery on my various blisters with needle, thread, and Compeed.

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  6. One other comment. The stops during the walk usually include stopping at a bar (not for a beer) but for a juice, cafe con leche, or soda in order to use the servicio (restroom).

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  7. Hi Julie,
    I hope your feet are OK, the blisters sound mighty painful. The rest sounds like a great adventure though. We miss you guys and are looking forward to seeing pictures!
    Take care, and say hello to William too for us.
    Laura (and Phil)

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  8. Blisters are starting to settle in for the long haul and are less noticeable now. We've been having a lot of rain which forced a rest day in Santo Domingo. Otherwise, we've been walking through the rain. We entered the Meseta yesterday and have been battling the massive quantity of mud created by so many days of rain. Our shoes are caked in mud!
    We keep meeting nice and interesting people. These pilgrims sure are thoughtful and friendly!

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  9. We just finished our second consecutive day of walking almost 17 miles, and we are exhausted. Since these days also coincided with being in the dry meseta with little shade, we've started walking earlier in the day. We didn't want to be walking still in the heat of late afternoon. Luckily, mornings have been fairly cool--frost this morning!--but it has been getting sunny and warmer. Blisters have decided to become my constant companions.

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  10. From the Sublime to the Ridiculous!
    Using a great internet rate, we stayed at the San Marcos Parador in Leon. Even their standard double was fabulous, and their 108 different items at the included breakfast buffet were heavenly. I looked around for some "chocolate" to go with the churros they had out, and a server brought me a carafe of piping hot dark thick chocolate. Yum.
    Then, the next day we stayed at a place--really, there was no choice--where I thought I could see and hear and feel and smell the moldy germiness. I'll say no more about this place so that I can attempt to maintain the Camino spirit.



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  11. We passed the highest point in the Camino two days ago and descended 3000 feet all in one day and are finally nearing the last 7 or 8 days of walking, depending on how our weary bodies hold up. Tomorrow we go way up, and the next day we descend. All this going up only to come back down... We hope to be in Santiago by the 10th!

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  12. For the last few days we have been walking 15-16 miles per day and experiencing dramatic altitude differences along with some spectacular scenery in Galicia. Tomorrow is a tough day with more than 17 miles of walking! Once we get through tomorrow, the remaining few days appear manageable. We just passed Sarria this morning and saw for ourselves just how many more people join the Camino there--the last major place you can start the walk and still get a certificate. On the Meseta we didn't see anyone for 19 kilometers. Here, it's like a huge moving picnic of large groups enjoying themselves.

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  13. We are here! We rolled into Santiago around 1pm today and headed straight to the cathedral. With the help of some new walking buddies, we took some pictures of ourselves still sweaty from walking--and wearing the same clothes we wore almost every day for 33 days... Then we all headed for our hotels for food and showers.

    The Camino was an amazing experience, but someone should insist that I get some additional training before attempting the next 448 mile trek across a countryside. By the way, there was NO weight loss. Between prodigious amounts of meats, fried potatoes at every meal, desserts every day, and eating at 8pm right before falling asleep, the camino is definitely NOT something one should look to for a quick weight-loss program!

    Finistere soon--by BUS!

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  14. Congratulations to both of you! Well done :)

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