With about a little over a month to go before we shove off to France, climb over the Pyrenees and thus begin our walk of The Camino de Santiago Compestella, (also referred to as The Way of St. James), we are in the final preparations for this adventure. We have secured out flights, hotels, guide book, and necessary gear. We will be traveling with Paul’s oldest sister (Sue) and her husband (Jerry). I have even purchased the Spanish version of Rosetta Stone, in an attempt to become somewhat conversational with our hosts (the Spainards) along the way. My only problem with trying to learn to become conversant in Spanish is that I was once fluent in German and my brain is having a hard time with the route of translation. I see, hear and recognize the Spainish, but my verbalization goes through German, to English and then eventually to back to Spanish with a touch of French and Italian sneeking in. This makes for a seriously delayed conversation. I am working on a stutter, so at least they’ll smile and think “poor American”. This next adventure, while it requires walking and carrying all our “necessary” belongings on our back, will be significantly shorter and an entirely different animal when compared to thru-hiking the PCT. The terrain will be relatively flat and our packs will be considerably lighter (10-15lbs). I would also consider this a more social and cultural experience than the PCT, even though I expect to be visually stunned, spiritually moved, and most likely challenged both physically and mentally. It will be significantly shorter as well, 800 KM (approx. 500 miles), and we will be staying in hostels or Albergues along the way, as opposed to camping in the elements or under the stars each night. While there are several routes to Santiago de Compestella, we will be taking the most popular route, the Frances route. Over a hundred thousand people walk The Camino each year from May to October. We have chosen to do it over the month of September in hopes of milder weather, and because we missed having a summer at the beach last year, hiking the PCT.
Each year over 100,000 Christian “pilgrims” walk The Camino. Quadruple that in a “Holy” year. Some are known to bike, and or travel like in medieval times via donkey or horseback. Seeing that we (namely me) are not really cyclists (I’ve gone down hard and over the handlebars one too many times), and the fact that we’re not sure where we would get said animals, we will walk it. There are many reasons to walk the Camino. Some are for religious reasons, while others do it for sport or to see the countryside. In some ways, I think it will be a little of both for us. The Way of St. James dates back to aroung the 1100, as the body of St. James (the patron saint of Spain) is said to be enshrined in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compestella. It was during this century the Pope essentially announced that if you complete one of the three pilgrimages (The Camino, Jerusalem, Fatima), you can be absolved of your sins. Ironically, the wealthy at the time were known to pay “others” to walk it for them, for their absolution. So far no one has taken us up on the offer to walk it for them. With the PCT you must have aquired the appropriate permits prior to beginning, and it is essentially an honor system that you have completed each section of the PCT when you file for a completion medal. For the Camino, you will need a “passport” of sorts before you begin. At the end of your journey you present your “passport” to the Santiago de Compestella office, and answer a few question in order to have a personalized completion certificate issued to you. The “passport” is a means of documenting your route as the Albergues and some shops in the towns and villages you pass through stamp your Camino passport as proof you were there. Of the 100,000 not all complete the 800KM route. You must however, hike at least 100km, or bike 200km in order to be granted your Camino certificate, thus having had your Camino “passport” stamped with the appropriate Albergues and towns. We have pre-ordered our Camino passports to avoid the “rush”, and/or the hunt for one once in France/Spain.
You may be wondering why we have chosen this path to walk on and what this adventure is all about. Well, since hiking the PCT we have caught the walking “bug”…and frankly all that wonderful weight we lost has done its’ best to sneak its’ way back “home”. We wanted to do a trip, but did not want to commit to a several month long journey. The idea of the Camino came to use whilst reading some blogs searching for a “shorter” trip. Lourdes and Fatima have always been the “bucket list”, and this way we can click off both in one trip. And better yet, we will be home in time to get our winter hunt in, to replenish the freezer. I will be re-purposing my Osprey Exos 58 for this trip as it weighs the same as a new smaller volumed pack, but I hope to only be carrying about 10-12 lbs, the heaviest item being my iPad with keyboard, so as to be able to write in a more fluid manner. Paul has purchased a new Osprey pack, the Temptest 44 and will carry a GoPro camera in hopes of capturing more video footage of our adventure.
Gear list, and travel plans to follow.