The moment has all but arrived. This time tomorrow I’ll be on my way to Spain (after a very long eight month stint away) with my backpack bulging, ready to embrace the 311 km-long challenge that is El Camino de Santiago, a.k.a. The Way of St. James. Well, just under half of it anyway – I neither have the time nor stamina to complete the full route, which starts in St. Jean Pied de Port in France.
Instead, I’ll be starting in León, aiming to reach Santiago de Compostela in 12 days for a pre-booked flight back to London. To save you all that mentally painful arithmetic that means I’ll have to walk at least 25.9 km per day, unless I take the bus for the first 30-40 km which will relieve the pressure a bit. But that will feel like cheating, so I’m still undecided. Any camino veterans out there ever been in this position?
Why am I doing el Camino de Santiago?
Above all, I’m doing the Camino because I turn 30 this year, and I wanted to mark the occasion with a momentous life event. But there are other reasons…
El Camino has been on my bucket list since I found out about it not long after moving to Spain. I am neither religious nor spiritual, but I do enjoy walking, talking, meeting people from all over the world and hearing what they have to say. Plus I really want to get the hell out of London for a while – I enjoy the city life but it becomes exhausting after four months without a holiday.
Along for the hike will be one lucky amigo, who happens to share a lot of my interests – namely doing second-rate impersonations of Michael Caine, Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, Mick Jagger, Roger Moore and Sir Davos Seaworth. Maybe that last one is just me, but the point is I think we are able to tolerate each other for 12 days straight – and we’ve a fine playlist to keep us going when the impersonations and any other whimsical conversations dry up. We also both speak Spanish, and are eager to get some practice in. The sense of camaraderie is what the camino is all about for us, and we’d love to experience that speaking the local tongue.
What do I hope to encounter?
As I have said, I’m not a particularly spiritual person so I don’t hope to ‘find myself’ as such, but I do hope to be enlightened in some way. I suppose mainly I want to meet new people from totally different walks of life, and further broaden my horizons and understanding of the world and the people in it. There’s only so much you can glean from reading edited information. The real and raw stories are in people’s heads, and you have to meet those people and earn their trust to hear them. I also hope to encounter lots of lovely, fruity Spanish red wine.
Where will I visit along the way?
Here is my rough itinerary between León and Santiago de Compostela, and the estimated distance between each stop:
- León to San Martín del Camino, 26 km
- San Martín del Camino to Astorga, 24.5 km
- Astorga to Foncebadón, 26.1 km
- Foncebadón to Ponferrada, 27.9 km
- Ponferrada to Villafranco del Bierzo, 22.3 km
- Villafranco del Bierzo to O Cebreiro, 29.7 km
- O Cebreiro to Triacastela, 21.1 km
- Triacastela to Sarria, 18.3 km
- Sarria to Portomarín, 22.4 km
- Portomarín to Palas de Rei, 25 km
- Palas de Rei to Arzúa, 28.8 km
- Arzúa to O Pedrouzo, 18 km
- Arca to Santiago de Compostela, 22 km
So 12 days is cutting it fine! Probably going to take the bus for the first leg or two. Hangs head in shame.
My bag is almost packed (but will, inevitably, be unpacked and repacked at least three times between now and leaving tomorrow) and I am raring to go.. Next update in five days! (with any luck)