The Camino de Santiago is an 800 km or 500 mile walk through France and Spain. It is a pilgrimage walk that has been around for thousands of years that has many trails originating around Europe. It was said that you could step outside your door and begin the pilgrimage from anywhere in Europe. During the time of occupation by the Ottomans in Jerusalem the Way of St James became a safer pilgrimage and acceptable in the eyes of the church for pilgrimage absolution.
St James was supposedly buried there after having floated there from Jerusalem on a ruder-less boat. I don’t know about that. There are many beliefs surrounding the pilgrimage that many believe or don’t believe but there is one binding factor with nearly all pilgrims who we encountered or spoke to had one thing in common: the sense of being called to walk The Way!
Many including myself when they find out about the Camino Way have a strong sense that not only would they like to do the long walk but there is a strong feeling of “having” to do the walk.
For me it started after I watched the movie, “The Way”, written and directed by Emilio Esteves and starring his father Martin Sheen. It is the story of a father who completes the trek after his son dies on the Way getting caught in bad weather: something that is a common occurrence as seen by the memorial headstones dotted along the pathways.
Once I saw the film I knew I had to do it. But at the time I was pretty much chair bound with illness and pain. However, within a couple of years I set the date to make the journey.
It was 2 years down the track, the year we celebrated 40 years of marriage and Paul turned 60. Also, it would give me time to gain my health back, while starting to train for the walk.
One of the first thing I did was buy a pair of comfy training shoes. They were light, a size larger then I needed (to help with blisters), and didn’t confine my feet and cause pain. The first pair of shoes that didn’t cause me pain!
I walked in rain, in the cold, the heat, the day, the dark, by myself, and with others. The time rolled by as the miles did.
So here are some of the preparations myself and Paul underwent to prepare for the Camino.
- Set a date – Setting a date brings the goal into focus and plans will begin to take shape.
- Train – Set up a training program and stick to it. I tried to do at least 6-8 kilometers a day more on others in any kind of weather, wet, cold, hot, everything except for thunderstorms – They were a no go! I would also recommend stretches to build strength. The one I didn’t do enough of was to door more hill climbs.
- Carry a pack – The more I started to walk I would add weights to a pack to increase my ability to carry a pack. I even used coral rock in the Philippines to get used to the added weight.
- Study – Increase your knowledge of the paths you will follow. Understanding the terrain and what is ahead in terms of weather, and accommodation. Also understanding how diet and water affects walking.
- Purchase the correct equipment –
– Pack – We changed Paul’s pack right at the end. It has to have a waist band to take the weight and not pull on the shoulders.
– Rainwear – A good rain coat is important. We will probably go with the Atalaa next time. Our ponchos were ok but not great. They needed to be longer although they were light weight – always a consideration. The Atalaa people seemed to just cruise by unscathed by the weather on themselves or their packs.
– Footwear – Of course it goes without saying – correct footwear is a must. I was told to go a size bigger and it worked. Two pairs of socks fill the gaps. Duct tape is a must. Prevents blistering!
– Underwear. We opted mainly for bamboo socks and jocks. I would hope for a better fitting pair next time that dried quicker. Also undergarments that wick moisture away from your body too.
– Poles – this is not last for any reason but they definitely were our definite bring along. Some did walk without them – good luck to them. I would never think of it! They were invaluable. Spring loaded were good but not particularly necessary. We didn’t go very expensive due to financial constraints and it really didn’t seem to make a difference, except the tips do wear out after 40 days of pounding. They can be purchased along the way.
6. Stay the course – There may be road blocks or at least detours so persevere. Keep focused. Don’t give up!