Away back in March my wife happened to mention that it was our 20th wedding anniversary this August and that we should think about doing something to mark it. I thought of a hotel break and a nice meal for two but no, having done her thinking prior to mentioning the subject and having been gracious in allowing me the belief that I had some input in to this process, she brought up the subject of walking the Camino.
The Camino or The Way is a system of pathways that begin in France and cross the Pyrenees into Spain, at times overlapping, and converge in Santiago at the shrine of St James the Apostle in the cathedral of Santiago de Compestela in Galicia, northern Spain. There is historical doubt over whether the relics are actually James the Apostle but nevertheless this network of routes has become synonymous with him.
For many, walking these routes is a kind of spiritual retreat to which they hope to strengthen their beliefs or simply take time out to reflect on their existing beliefs. A contemplative moment. For others it is popular as a hiking or cycling trek and over the years the spiritual aspect has come to share its position with the route's popularity with hikers, cyclists and organised tour groups.
Now, we had watched films and TV programs on the subject and long before the large and small screens had made it popular we had discussed the possibility of walking a section of it … the last section into Santiago being the most preferred.
So, still deluded by the thought that my input was being considered we booked our trip. It would either strengthen our relationship after 20 years or possibly it could lead to divorce by the end!!!
We would be walking from the small Galician city of Sarria to Santiago which was a distance of 115k and this would be achieved over 6 days of walking with resting on the 7th … mmmm … someone else once did that after another task but the name evades me!
The walker must complete 100k before they will be issued a certificate at the end. Cyclists must cover 200k and you can do it by horseback also but I have no idea how many Kilometres a horse has to cover to qualify.
We would not be hostelling it as hostels are for young people and as we are on the downward slope moving away from ‘young’ we thought that at our age a bit of comfort after a day's walking would suit us better. So we booked a series of 2 star hotels along the route with the 6th and 7th days in a 4 star hotel in Santiago. The 7th being free courtesy of our booking agent. Our cases would be collected every morning before 0800 and taken on to the next stop. Breakfasts and evening meals are all inclusive except for the first night and the last night where we have to buy our own evening meals.
And so we set off on our journey armed with advice given to us by those who had walked various sections of it before and our itinerary and a large clam shell on a red string sent to us to by our booking agent. It is intended that the shell is to be tied to your backpack as you begin your walk.
We packed cases that contained items that we have never taken on holiday to Spain before such as fleeces, waterproof rain coats, and blister and bandage packs … loads of those! This was walking in Northern Spain after all and not lying on a sunbed on the Costa del Sol.
Our children we left locked up in the garage with 10 days’ worth of Pot Noodles and a kettle … they’ll be fine!