Considering our path to the Camino de Santiago trail
This article is the eighteenth in our series of walking 500 miles on the Camino de Santiago with my husband Scott. Some articles will be only about one day of walking, and some may include a few days of walking, for the lengths will vary. To begin with the first article click here.
Eight months ago my husband and I made our decision and committed to walking 500 miles on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. We decided on the French Route, which we’ll begin in Saint Jean Pied de Port, France in just two months time after much soul searching and extensive consideration. POST-COVID……………….
The past eight months have involved many conversations about gear and what we need to bring along to make our journey comfortable without carrying too much weight.
Picking the perfect shoe has been a bit difficult. I really like my Oboz hiking shoes, but I still get hot spots after walking six miles, even with a wool sock and liner. My Oboz will be great in the rain or on muddy terrain. I hiked in the snow with them this past winter and my feet stayed dry the entire time! I have also purchased a pair of Hoka One One’s. They have been excellent so far, no blisters or hot spots, even hiking thirteen miles! The only issue I have with the Hoka, is they won’t do well in wet conditions. This all leads me to most likely bringing two pairs of shoes on my Camino.
Hoka One One
Scott has done well picking out his hiking shoes. He has the Hoka One One and loves them. He will buy a new pair just before we leave since we will be putting so many miles on them this summer. He may purchase a pair of hiking sandals in case of rain.
I was fortunate to be contacted by RideBooker, a company who provides ground transportation across North America. They will be providing us with our transportation to the airport in San Francisco and back home again. It will be great partnering with RideBooker because San Francisco is two hours away and leaving my car at the airport for six weeks is not an option.
Another positive thing to come out of our Camino preparation is that Osprey Packs has sponsored me with a beautiful 36 litre Kyte pack. This pack will be perfect to walk with and is light weight. I have used Osprey for years and own a 65 litre pack as well as one of their day packs.
Scott still needs to buy his pack. Of course it will be Osprey, but they have so many options he needs to make a decision soon! Click here for the Osprey Packfinder.
The last thing we need to decide before our trip is what sleeping bags we need. We would both love a down filled ultra-lite bag. They compress down and weigh under two pounds.
My full pack needs to weigh less than 13 pounds so I can manage it on my back every day for six weeks.
We have started our training this past month, hiking 10-13 miles once a week. We also take shorter hikes and practice yoga on a regular basis. Scott had ACL replacement surgery on his knee a few months ago, so he needs to gradually increase his mileage. A few weeks before our departure, we will hike with our fully loaded packs and work out any issues we may have.
Scott and I are so excited to walk the Camino and begin this crazy adventure! We will have no reservations, no hair dryer, make-up or work stress for six weeks! We will be leaving in about two months, our departure date is September 7, 2016.
Have you walked the Camino de Santiago or a similar long trek? Do you have any advice to give? I would love to hear it.
Camino de Santiago, Day 1
Saint Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles 17 miles
Sunset in Saint Jean Pied de Port
The day we had been waiting months for had finally arrived! All of our training, hiking, and preparation would be put to the test. It was day 1 of our 500 mile walk on the Camino de Santiago.
I’m sure you can imagine how we were feeling as we made our way in the dark to our first Pilgrim’s Breakfast at 6:30a.m. Our host from the hostel gave us each a cereal bowl, a cup and a spoon. We sat with two young Korean men and a man from the Ukraine. Our host gave us orange juice and bread, and then asked if we wanted coffee. I declined, as I was worried the coffee would bother me as we would be hiking at a higher elevation all day. The rest of the table said yes, and she proceeded to fill their cereal bowls full of coffee. Yes, their cereal bowls! Very little English was spoken, so the men watched Scott as he poured milk and sugar into his bowl. They followed suit and all drank their coffee from bowls. Scott and I wondered if it was the way coffee would be served on the camino. Lucky for us, it didn’t end up that way other mornings. We did learn along the way that we would be given one glass and it would be used for wine, water and anything else at our meal.
A bowl of coffee anyone?
We had a very minimal breakfast of juice, bread and jam with very minimal conversation with our fellow pilgrims. Scott asked the Korean men how to say hello in Korean. They wrote it down on a piece of paper which Scott kept in his pocket for several days, ready to greet them or any other Koreans we may see along the way.
We hefted our packs and made our way up the street to the first of many yellow camino arrows which would guide us the next 500 miles. Wearing long sleeves and shorts, we were comfortable in the darkness and fog.
[pic] The start of our Camino.
We followed the main road up hill for the next five hours. Some areas were very steep, sometimes it was a dirt path next to horses or cows, and sometimes just a trail near the road. We saw other pilgrims like us, carrying our packs, with the far away destination of Santiago de Compostela as our goal.
There were groups of pilgrims moving quickly without packs, they had shipped theirs ahead to be picked-up at the end of the day. We met several people and chatted as we walked, but mainly we all said “Buen Camino” in passing, as it was a greeting which covered all languages.
[pic ] Pilgrims along the way.
We were amazed at how far up into the mountains we climbed. It was absolutely beautiful, as the rolling hills were dotted with livestock and it was so green.
We were surprised at how many older people were walking the camino. Quite a few were between 60-80 years old! We walked with a little, old, French woman for a long time. Although we didn’t speak each other’s language, we did smile back and forth often. Scott and I stopped often to take pictures, or eat a snack. We saw the little, old, French lady pass us by. Eventually, we passed her again, until the next time we took a break or were sidetracked by a flower we had never seen before, or a horse walking by. Back and forth we went with the little, old, French lady. She took small steps and just kept on going all the time. I really admired her determination. Weeks later as we were walking the camino, if I became tired or was climbing a steep hill, I told myself to keep taking small steps, don’t stop, be like the little, old French lady. I may not have seen her again after this day, but she was often in my thoughts.
One highlight of our day as we neared the top of our climb, was a man selling food and snack out of his van at the edge of the mountain. What a treat to eat hard-boiled eggs and drink iced tea for our lunch, with the most amazing views! Days later we would find out the man with the van was near the unmarked border of France and Spain, and he would have given us a stamp for our pilgrim passport!
Ending Our Day
Several hours later, as we were melting from the heat we drug ourselves into the tiny town of Roncesvalles. This was about 17 miles and 7.5 hours after we had started our walk.
We didn’t have reservations for rooms on the camino, as we hoped to always find a place to stay each day. Unfortunately, we checked at a hotel and a hostel, but their rooms were already full. Luckily for us, we got one of the last rooms at the La Posada Hotel! Our host spoke Spanish and that was when we realized we weren’t even in France anymore! There was no noticeable border crossing or sign that we saw along the way. The hotel was very nice, and included an excellent Pilgrim’s Dinner of lentil soup, pasta and fish. In the morning we were served lunch meat and pastries.
The main tourist attraction in town was the Collegiate Church. Exploring the grounds we bought fresh cheese from a small vendor.
Day 1 was a great success and we couldn’t wait to see what other experience the camino would bring us.
DAY 1: 17 miles and 7.5 hours of walking
Camino de Santiago, Day 12
Agés to Burgos 13.5 Miles
Sleeping dorm style last night didn’t end up being as bad as I had imagined. Of course, I had to wander my way down the hall to the bathroom a couple times in the night, but there were no issues. It was warm, so I slept on top of my sleeping bag. The only negative I can think of, is when the first early bird pilgrim decides to get up and head out for the day, everyone else is woken up, even if it’s 6:00 a.m.
The Early Morning Start
Scott and I started down the road in the dark, carefully watching for the yellow arrows.
We saw the young school teacher from Belgium standing alone on the side of the road. Usually, she was with her friend, so we asked where she was. She explained that her friend was out of time on the Camino and had just left to hitchhike back to Belgium! Alone! Oh wow, we were surprised, but she was very nonchalant about it and said they hitchhike frequently and have never run into trouble. We decided to nickname her Miss. Belgium, since she was young, alone and from Belgium and her name was too difficult to say. We told her we would see her around, and we were on our way again.
The first hour was spent walking along a two-lane road, until we turned off and started hiking up a steep and rocky trail. What a great way to warm those muscles up! Part way up the hill, the sun began to rise and we tried to take a few decent pictures.
As we made our way to the top of the mountain, we saw a large cross on the crest of the ridge. The views on the other side were gorgeous and we could see the general area of the city we were walking toward.[pic Heading down toward the city of Burgos.]
As we slowly made our way down the rocky hillside, we came upon a cafe for breakfast. It was warming up, so we sat outside in the sunshine resting our sore feet.
Scott went inside to buy cafe con leche for us, and returned with two large cups. Usually, the coffees were much smaller, so this was a great treat. Scott said the food selection was the best he had seen, and he brought out a huge custard filled pastry for us to share![pic Breakfast of champions!] As we enjoyed our breakfast, pilgrims were coming and going. We saw the ladies from Canada, as well as Miss Belgium.
Scott: As we have been walking the Camino, many people have inspired us. Sometimes, it was because of their advanced age or, maybe a person’s determination fighting pain from an injury. Sometimes it was a person overcoming a physical disability.
We had heard there was a blind man ahead of us who was walking the Camino with his guide dog, as well as his wife. At breakfast they walked up and sat at the table next to us. We introduced ourselves and had a nice conversation, and he told us his story. He had suffered a head injury in the Vietnam War, which left him blind. Watching him walk with his guide dog was so inspiring; to have a goal to walk the Camino and not let anything stop him. It involved so much teamwork from all: man, woman and a dog.
After our quick break and one more pastry, we were back on the road…literally. Even quiet country roads took a toll on our feet and we couldn’t wait to arrive at our next destination: The city of Burgos!
But first, we walked many miles of pavement, passing near the airport, and finally along the beautiful river walk next to the River Arlanzón. We walked the last hour on the miles of riverwalk with a couple we had just met, who were actually friends with the couple with the guide dog. It was peaceful walking by the river, but our feet were killing us and we were ready to be finished for the day.[pic View along the river.]
As we crossed the river and entered the old town section of the city, we were impressed by the charm of Burgos. There were pretty bridges and elaborate statues throughout the town.
Scott immediately wanted to stop and find any hotel. He was finished for the day, but hadn’t told me that he was in pain because he had developed shin splints. I thought he was only tired, so we pushed on.[pic Entering the city.]
The Camino always passed by the church of each town. We liked to find it first to use as a base before finding a place to stay. The Cathedral of Saint Mary of Burgos was where we would stop to get our bearings, and then we could find a place to sleep. As we approached the cathedral, we were in absolute awe of it’s beauty. The gothic spires were so dramatic. It was amazing.
Scott and I had decided to take a full rest day in Burgos. We were going to spend two nights in the city! After checking a couple of hotels which were already full, we finally found one with a room available. Unfortunately, they were booked for the second night, so we would need to move hotels and make other arrangements. We didn’t care, we were just happy to have a nice place to sleep for the night. Our room was two stories and very nice! Downstairs was a living room and bathroom and upstairs was the bedroom with another bathroom.
The first thing we did was send our laundry out to be cleaned. The second thing we did was pull out everything we wanted to mail back home. The third thing? We got a map of the city and spent 30 minutes walking around town trying to find the Post Office!
The Post Office
At last, we found it, and with a little bit of help from the staff, we were able to send home four pounds worth of gear. My sleeping bag and hiking sandals were included, as well as a few items of Scott’s clothing. We were becoming very minimal.
It felt like a huge burden had been lifted, and it put my full pack weight closer to ten pounds, which was an immediate and huge difference.[pic burgos The Post Office!]
As we walked around the city, we found a small restaurant tucked in next to the cathedral. It was advertising margaritas! Scott and I were very excited! What a nice change from red wine. It was a gorgeous spot to sit, as it was on the patio next to the cathedral. We enjoyed margaritas, small cheese and ham filled fried dumplings. One of the problems I was running into on the Camino, was I felt I needed to reward myself (a lot) after all of the walking each day. So, we were eating, drinking and not making healthy choices.[pic camino-santiago-day-12.jpg] Time for a rest.
End of the Day
Later I was so wiped out, that I went to bed and slept 12 hours straight! I even missed going out to dinner with Scott!
Day 12, 13.5 Miles
Camino de Santiago, Day 13
Our Day of Rest in Burgos
Sleeping in on Day 13 was the best thing ever. Almost as good as having a nice breakfast in a normal restaurant, and enjoying two cafe con leches with our tortilla potata!
The staff at our hotel was very helpful. They knew we had to check out since there were no rooms available, so they found us a room at another hotel. We packed our minimal belongings and walked across town and over the river to our new accommodation at the NH Collection Palacio de Burgos. It was a beautiful hotel at an excellent location right on the riverwalk with views of the water, as well as the old city.[pic We had to pose with the pilgrim statue!]
Cathedral of Saint Mary of Burgos
Even though it was our rest day, we never sit still for long. There was so much to see in Burgos!
Our first stop was a tour of the massive cathedral. We rented the audio tour and walked from room to room admiring the architecture and stained glass. Ground was broken to begin the cathedral construction in 1221, and it was dedicated to the Virgin Mary.[pic inside the cathedral.]
The builders were inspired by French Gothic, which gives the cathedral the dramatic spires and facade. We loved the golden staircase, which was done in Renaissance Style by Diego de Siloé.
Scott and I also found it interesting that El Cid, who had been a famous military leader in Medieval Spain, was entombed in the cathedral.
Scott was amazed by the actual construction of the cathedral and was really into those details. At the end of our tour, we had our pilgrim passports stamped with the cathedral’s logo.
After touring the cathedral, we were hungry and ready for lunch. Fortunately, the patio was open at the restaurant where we had previously enjoyed the margaritas, so we had the same lunch again! Margaritas, fried cheese and ham dumplings.
After lunch, for just a few euros, we hopped on the tiny tourist train and went for a ride around Burgos. It was fun way to see the city and the important historical sites, without being on our feet![pic Seeing the sites on the tiny train!]
Burgos by Night
Scott and I did actually rest during the evening hours. Maybe we were adapting to the siesta lifestyle after all!
Later, we walked the old city enjoying the monuments all lit up. Everything seemed more dramatic by night.[camino-santiago-day-13.jpg]
We went to an Italian restaurant which had been recommended to us. When we were finally seated, no one would serve us. It seemed to be a restaurant serving locals and families and they were very short staffed. Finally, Scott was beyond annoyed….so we left.
Luckily, we had another Italian Restaurant on our list. It was down a narrow cobblestone street and as we approached it, we saw so many people enjoying cocktails out in front of the establishment.
We almost turned around to leave, but instead I went inside and asked if we could have dinner. The server took us to a table, and I saw that their clock said 9:30 p.m. It was too early for the Spaniards to eat yet. Lucky for us, because we had a delicious dinner of lasagna and pizza! The perfect carbohydrate fuel for the next day’s walk. As we finished our meal an hour later, patrons began entering the restaurant to eat.[pic Amazing dinner of Italian food!] Day 13 was excellent, and a much needed rest for our bodies.
Camino de Santiago, Days 14 & 15
Day 14 Burgos to Hotanas 19 Miles
Day 14 on the Camino de Santiago began with much excitement because we were entering a week long walk on the section called the Meseta. It is known for miles of wide open spaces and high plains. Some pilgrims choose to skip this part of the Camino and bus ahead. They aren’t interested in the wide open spaces and tiny towns along the way.[pic The lone tree ]
The 45 minute walk out of the city of Burgos was very pleasant. We walked through a beautiful park called El Parral, which is a great space for holding fiestas. For a few minutes, we walked with the couple and their guide dog. They were on a slower pace than we were, so we said our farewells, knowing we wouldn’t be seeing them again on the Camino. Scott and I had different mileage goals and a timeline to keep. In one week we would be meeting our friends from home in Leon.
Once we began walking on a dirt, farm road, our feet were happier. Scott’s shin splints were causing him some pain, but we were feeling good after lightening our pack load in Burgos.
We began walking through miles of farmland and it became very foggy. Just then, we met Jeremy and Katrina, a young couple from Ohio. We shared a similar walking pace, so it was nice to walk along and chat.
All of a sudden we heard a tremendous noise coming from the field next to us. We couldn’t see more than twenty feet ahead of us, due to the fog. Katrina thought it was a combine tractor. I feared for our safety because it seemed to be coming toward us. A few minutes later, we all laughed as we realized it was a freight train passing by!
After several hours walking, we all decided to stop for food. Scott and I had iced tea and tortilla potata. Jeremy and Katrina were serious about taking a long break with their meal. They had hamburgers and beer! Scott and I couldn’t imagine having such a big meal when we still had hours of walking ahead. Plus, Scott falls asleep after drinking beer, so that wouldn’t work!
It was a good test of our patience to sit through the long lunch. Scott and I didn’t usually take long breaks but we were really enjoying the company of our new friends.
As we rested our feet at the outside cafe, Jeremy took off his shoes and socks and covered his feet with vaseline and then new socks. It was a preventive technique for blisters. Maybe I should have done that a long time ago! The funny thing about this is it didn’t even phase us, foot care was normal restaurant behavior on the Camino.
Late in the afternoon we arrived in the small town of Hotanas. It was a relief to come upon this charming town after walking 19 miles.
We all went into a hostel to see if there were rooms available, and just our luck, there were! The owner was so friendly and asked if we wanted to sign up for the pilgrim dinner that he and his wife would be hosting that night. He said he would be serving “the best paella in all of Spain.” Scott was very excited and liked his confidence. I told him I didn’t like rice and he said he would make pasta for me instead. He was so sweet!
Socializing in the Afternoon
Scott and I cleaned up and washed our laundry. We were lucky to have a sun facing room, so our clothes would dry quickly while hanging from the window sill.
We went out to the patio between our hostel and the church and met our friends for a glass of wine. Brenna, a young woman Scott and I had met on our first day of the Camino (and never seen again in 14 days) passed by and spotted us. She joined us as we sat in the sun with our feet up, sipping wine and telling stories about our lives back home.
At one point, the church bells started ringing for about five minutes. We think it was calling the pilgrims to mass. The sound echoed through the small town and it was a special few minutes.
At our pilgrim dinner we met some new people; Lou and Helen from Texas, Axel from Germany, Serge from Alberta, as well as Brenna, Jeremy and Katrina.
It was a lively group and Manuel (the owner) told us the story of how he and his wife Svetlana had met as they walked the Camino and fell in love.
Everyone said the paella was excellent and I enjoyed my pasta a lot. It was so nice of Manuel to make it special for me.
The evening was one of our favorite pilgrim dinners on the Camino.
Day 15 Hotanas to Itero de la Vega, 14 Miles
Scott and I were up before the sun and on our way out of Hotanas. My feet were sore as I had developed two new blisters the day before. Scott’s shins were a bit swollen and sore as well.
We came upon the ruins of the San Antón Convent and passed through the tunnel. It boggled our minds to think of all the pilgrims who had passed through this very spot over the years.[pic 14 The remains of the convent.]
Scott and I stopped in Castrojeriz for coffee and ran into Jeremy and Katrina. We walked together for most of the morning. As we passed many fields of fresh cut wheat, Jeremy stopped to explain to us the process of wheat and the different parts of the grain. It was interesting, and being from the mountains of California we had no clue about wheat.[pic The markers always let us know which way to go.] Eventually, we saw a big climb ahead, so Scott and I stopped to tend to our feet. Jeremy and Katrina kept going and Scott and I talked to Lou and Helen who had stopped as well.
Scott and I made our way up the hill, it was steeper than it looked from far away. We enjoyed the gorgeous views it provided, but I mainly kept my head down and thought of the little old french lady and just thought, one small step at a time. It really got our hearts pumping, it was the biggest hill we had climbed in a while.
When we reached the top we saw Jeremy and Katrina had taken a break to wait for us, so we all continued on together. We went down the other side of the hill and all we could see for miles and miles was bare land. It was hot and there was no shade. Up ahead, we could see the dirt road was under the clouds and our path would be shaded. We hurried ahead to race the clouds and enjoyed a break from the sun.
A Stopping Point
Eventually, we came to the town of Itero de la Vega. We had only walked 14 miles but Scott and I were having trouble with our feet and shins. Maybe we had overdone it a bit the day before.
There was a room available at the hostel, which also had a great bar and was a popular spot for pilgrims to stop for a meal and refreshments along the way. Our friends had a big lunch and relaxed with us for a while, and then were on their way again. They were planning to walk for a few more hours before ending for the day.
We were bummed to see them go, as we knew we probably wouldn’t see them again on the Camino again. They were short on time and would need to bus ahead through a section soon.
Time For Rest
We enjoyed our rest that afternoon, and the bar served us soup, even though it was siesta. That was a treat!
The meseta was proving to be beautiful so far. Scott and I enjoyed the expansive views and being able to see for miles ahead. The city of Santiago de Compostela, our final destination, was coming to our minds more often as we made our way west, day after day.
Day 15, 14 Miles
Camino de Santiago, Day 18
Ledigos to Sahagún 10.5 Miles
We stood at the edge of town on the side of the highway, just as the sun came up. There was an arrow directing us straight and an arrow directing us to the right. I spoke with another pilgrim and she wasn’t sure which way to go either.
Scott and I decided to go straight since it looked to go through farmland and not along the highway. Hopefully we would end up in the town of Sahagún, which was our goal for the day. We were ready for a short walking day and thought it would be fun to stay in a bigger town.
Rolling Fields of Farmland
We walked along dirt, farm roads for most of the morning, passing through a few small towns. Up ahead was a hostel with a cafe, so we decided to stop for coffee and a flakey, chocolate pastry. The hostel was new and clean and we wished we had stayed there!
Just across the street from the hostel we saw several bodegas on a hill. Bodega definition per dictionary.com: From Spanish bodega, a wine shop;cellar.
The bodegas were built into the hillside in the shape of a circle. Each family had a door to access their own bodega where they would store wine and other items. Northern Spain is a huge wine region, and families have bodegas going back many generations.[pic Entrance to a bodega.]
250 Miles Down, 250 Miles to Go!
Just before we arrived at the town of Sahugún, we came to a monument dedicated to the pilgrims as the halfway point of the Camino Frances. We were so excited, and couldn’t believe we had walked 250 miles already. It was hard to imagine all of the places we would see and people we would meet in the next 250 miles. Not to mention, all the wine we would drink as well.
Now that it was Day 18, we were pretty tired. Our feet ached and we were ready for a short walking day.
After 10.5 miles, we entered Sahagún and went in search of lodgings.
Scott and I split up to walk the streets, and I found a small Hotel Rural. We met back up and went into the hotel to check it out. The host showed us a room, but we weren’t impressed. It was tiny, dark and had no character at all.
We moved on to a Hotel Rural that Scott had found and they had a wonderful room for us. It was on the second floor with french doors and a balcony looking out into town. We needed to return later because it wasn’t finished being cleaned.
Down the street was the main town square where we sat down to enjoy a cup of coffee and relax. I was looking at a map of the town and trying to figure out where the Arch of San Benito was. Scott had gone inside the cafe to find a snack, so I asked a local man to help me with directions. He was about 50 years old and smartly dressed in a black blazer and orange slacks. He didn’t seem to understand what I was asking him and he just stared silently at the map.
Just then our server came over and shooed him away. I had the feeling the man was a little bit off. He sat down at a table near us and started chain smoking.
Later, Scott and I went to see if our room was ready. I was standing on the street corner in front of our hotel, and as I looked across the street, there was the man in the orange pants watching me. Quickly I turned to see if Scott was around, but he wasn’t. I looked to see where the man was, and he had crossed the street and was walking toward me. I didn’t want him to know where we were staying, so I started walking down the street toward a group of people.
Scott joined me just then, and I told him about the orange pants man. We kept moving and didn’t see him following anymore.
Seeing a Bit of History
Because our room wasn’t ready, we did some sightseeing. We saw the Arch of San Benito, from the 12th Century. It was part of the remains of the Monastery of San Benito. The arch was actually the front door of the church originally. If the arch was this big, the church must have been huge!
We ran into Ted and Eve from Texas. They were taking a short day and sightseeing as well. Eve’s knee was doing a little bit better and she was going to get a massage to see if that would help even more.[pic 18 This arch is huge!]
Meat For Lunch
While we were walking the town, it became siesta time and the streets became deserted. It was so quiet, no one was around. We wondered where everyone went and if they were really resting?
Of course, this is the time we decided it was lunch time. Luckily, we found a bar serving a few food options. Scott and I enjoyed a plate of meat and cheese. It was delicious.
After, we went to our room, cleaned up and washed two days worth of laundry and hung it on our balcony railing to dry.[pic Meat, with a side of cheese!]
You would find us most afternoons with our feet up, checking in on Facebook to see what everyone was up to back home. We had to elevate our feet every day so they wouldn’t swell. We enjoyed the nice weather with the balcony doors open, even if our view was partially obstructed by our hanging laundry![pic Town view.]
Orange Pants Encounter
Later in the night, we went to a cafe on the town square for dinner. We sat on the patio and watched all of the small children playing, and families congregating on the benches, talking about their day.
The man with the orange pants sat down at the table next to us and stared at me while he chain smoked. I didn’t feel afraid of him, but I was uncomfortable. I told Scott that I wanted to eat inside the restaurant and I went to see if there was a table available. Thankfully, there was. We sat down and I looked out the window and the orange pants man had come up to the window and was peering inside looking for me! Yikes! How weird. He did leave and we never saw him again, so all was well again on the Camino.
Ted and Eve ended up joining us for dinner after they had finished mass. They tried to go to evening mass in every town they stayed in. We had good conversation, good food and good wine. It was a nice way to end Day 18.
Day 18 10.5 miles.
Camino de Santiago, Day 19
Sahagún to Reliegos 18.5 Miles
Scott and I left town on Day 19 while it was still dark. We stopped to take a picture of the Arch of San Benito all aglow with lights. We ran into Ted and Eve from Texas, and they said this spot was “also” considered the halfway point of the Camino Frances. They showed us a plaque commemorating it. The four of us crossed an ancient Roman bridge and began our 18.5 mile walk to Reliegos.[pic The Arch of San Benito and the other halfway marker of the Camino.]
Ted and Eve walked with us for a while, but they needed a slower pace, due to Eve’s knee issues. So, we said our “Buen Camino” and were on our way.
Scott and I seemed to really get into a groove while we walked, and enjoyed a similar fast pace.
Mid morning, after our coffee break, we had to decide which way we wanted to walk; on a dirt path along the highway, or on an old Roman Road with no towns or water for miles.[pic We choose the Roman Road!]
The Roman Road
We choose the Roman Road. It was definitely out in the middle of nowhere! We stopped to talk to three ladies from England, who were having a picnic on the side of the dirt road. Their guide book said we had many miles on the road before another town.
Bicycles on the Camino
Before we started out on our walk, I didn’t realize people also cycled the Camino. Each and every day of our walk we had been passed by pilgrims riding bicycles. Sometimes, flying past us and sometimes we passed them, pushing their bikes up rugged steep trails.
Cycling the Camino is a great option for bicycle enthusiasts, people not physically able to walk so far, or those who want or need to do the Camino at a faster pace. It can be done in half the time of walking.
Some cyclist use very good trail etiquette, and use their bells to alert us they are approaching from behind and need to pass.
Others however, have no trail etiquette at all. They sneak right up behind us, scaring us to death and causing us to jump and stumble as we try to get out of the way.
As we were walking in the middle of nowhere on the Roman Road, two men on bicycles stopped and started talking with us.
They were Australians, traveling with their wives who were busing ahead each day and meeting up with the men later in town.
Walking the Camino was not an option for these two older men, but cycling was.
We said our “Buen Camino” and as they started to leave, one of the men spun out and crashed right in front of us. As we helped him up, we realized he was riding a motorized electric bicycle and it had gone too fast for him at first. How cool is that? I want one of those.
More Roman Roads
Eventually, we turned off the Roman Road and entered a town. It was hot so we stopped to buy cans of iced tea.
There was a couple miles of pavement walking, it always seemed unsafe, and hurt our feet.
Finally, we were on another Roman Road for the rest of the day.
Roman Road per wikipedia: Were built from about 300 BC, through the Roman Empire.
The roads we experienced were raised up, but made of dirt and gravel. So, they were considered secondary roads.[pic day 19 All alone.]
Closing in on Reliegos
It was a long quiet day for us, each alone with our thoughts. There wasn’t much to look at, but bare farmland. Only one man passed us all day.
Way ahead, we saw a long row of trees. There was a break in the middle of the trees, so we knew the town must be on the other side.
One hour later, we made it to the trees and saw the road went down a hill, crossed a stream and went back up a hill. There was no town in sight. We walked along a ridge-line, very disappointed, thinking we had been almost finished for the day. Up ahead, we saw a sign saying Reliegos was 2k away. We groaned, signs always said 2k farther and it felt so long. Hot and tired we finally walked into town.
Scott and I went our separate ways to find a place to stay. I walked to the other end of town and had only seen one albergue. So tired, I just sat on a curb and felt sorry for myself for a few minutes.
I walked back up the street and found Scott. He had found a room for us in a new hostel with our own room! Happiness.
After cleaning up, we went to sit on the patio of a bar we had seen as we entered town. They served us delicious fried ham and cheese balls and wine. It was nice to relax and our spot was the perfect vantage point to see other pilgrims walking into town. They all looked as tired as we felt!
For our Pilgrim Dinner, Scott and I sat with a Frenchman who was cycling the Camino. Conversation was difficult because our only common language was Spanish.
Some people at the other table were talking about American politics. What a way to spoil a good meal! We were annoyed, but decided to keep quiet and not give our two cents.
After dinner we went for a walk to see more of the town. We wandered up the hill and saw a group of locals hanging out by the bodegas (wine cellars set into the hillside.) They were enjoying the last rays of light from the sunset.[pic Sunset over the bodega.]
A friendly man saw we were interested in the bodegas and walked around with us, telling some of the history.
He asked if we would like to go back into town to see the bodega of his family. We eagerly accepted his offer and off we went.
It looked like a door going into any house in town, but when we entered, it went down stairs and under ground!
It tunneled down quite far, and he told us about how his family had been working on it for years. He remembered helping his grandfather in the bodega as a small child.
It was the perfect temperature for wine and cheese storage. He explained how the bodega had a vent which went out of the top of the bodega.
We were so lucky we met this kind man who wanted to share a part of his life with us!
Check out the short video we made of our experience.
Day 19, was long but excellent. 18.5 Miles
Camino de Santiago, Day 21
León (Rest Day)
Waking up late in the morning of Day 21 was the best thing ever. No scrambling to be out on the trail before the sunrise. We slept in and were happy to have a rest day in León, as we waited for our friends from home to arrive.
It was so nice to enjoy a long, leisurely breakfast at our hotel. I think we drank three cups of coffee each! I noticed as we were sitting at the breakfast table, that I had several welts or bites on my arms and neck. Scott pointed one out on my forehead as well. Soon, I was itching like crazy.
We walked to the nearby pharmacy and bought antihistamine. I had given mine away to a fellow pilgrim earlier on the Camino. It seems to help relieve the itch, but didn’t stop my mind from going crazy and worrying they were bites from bedbugs.
We checked our bed again, and there were no signs or remnants of bedbugs. I had pre-treated our gear with Permethrin Sawyer Products SP657 Premium Permethrin Clothing Insect Repellent Trigger Spray, 24-Ounce (Spray Bottle Color May Vary) before leaving home, and hoped for the best.
Santa Maria de León Cathedral
Scott and I paid the small admission fee and picked up a handheld device for our audio tour of the cathedral. The Santa Maria de León Cathedral was stunning with its 1800 square meters of stained glass windows. We were in awe of the cathedral’s history, being built in the 13th Century in the Gothic Style. It was amazing to think of all the people who had come before us and spent time in the cathedral.[pic day 21]
We roamed the rooms looking at all the small details. Our favorite part was the stained glass windows, as they were so intricate.
After our tour of the cathedral, we slowly walked the town, listening to small bands of live music. We came upon an event which was just beginning: a wine tasting, with all local vineyards. Yay for us! Back home in California, we love wine tasting, so this was the perfect event for us.
We bought a pass, which included several tastings and a glass. Then we made our way around the portable tasting bars. It was fun meeting some local people who were in town for the festival. They were excited to hear about our pilgrimage to Santiago.
At 2:00 p.m. the event closed for siesta time. We were shocked as they closed up the wine bars and everyone left. Feeling a bit tired ourselves, we went to our new room at the hostel to rest.
Blythe and Jenn
At around 4:00 p.m. we went to the plaza in front of the cathedral to wait for our friends arrival. I was feeling nervous we would somehow miss each other. A few minutes later, there they were! They had made their flights and bus rides, and were finally in León.
We took them straight to our hostel to drop off their packs and rest a bit. I showed them my miserable feet, which were finally healing up. Although, I suspected one toe could have a stress fracture and two toes were numb. I was showing them what they had to look forward to as they would be walking the next two weeks.
I gave them Camino bracelets with little arrows, and we gave Jenn her birthday gifts as well. It was fun to catch up on life with our friends.
Eventually, we set out to find some food and show them part of the city.
We enjoyed tapas and wine in one of the plazas and caught up on stories of life from back home.
We told Blythe and Jenn about how much fun we had at the wine tasting event earlier in the day. It was opening again soon, and they were up for sampling some wine!
We spent hours at the wine event with our friends. There were plenty of different growers and we were able to talk with some of the winemakers. Blythe especially loved one wine and bought a 3 euro bottle to take along on the Camino. The price was so low, and the wine so good she couldn’t believe the price. Little did she know, wine was plentiful, cheap and delicious all along the Camino de Santiago.
After a while, we had to stop and think about food. We had yet to have a big meal and we needed something to absorb all the wine.
We decided to go back to the Italian Restaurant we had enjoyed so much the night before. It was getting chilly so we stepped inside and were seated. The smells coming from the kitchen were making our mouths water. We enjoyed another delicious, leisurely meal, and made our way out the door at 11:30 p.m.
As we walked out, we were surprised to see the entire plaza packed with people. There was a light show going on which was covering the entire front side of the Basílica de San Isidoro. You never know what festival days will bring, and this was an awesome way to end Day 21 on the Camino.
León rest day
Camino de Santiago, Days 29 & 30
Triacastela to Sarria 12 Miles
Day 29 began in the dark, as usual. The four of us made our way out of town quietly. Soon, we were hiking on dirt roads, gradually climbing uphill.
There were many pilgrims around us. The closer we were getting to Santiago, we noticed more pilgrims joining the walk.
The Land of Fairies and Hobbits
The terrain was changing. The trees above gave us the feeling of being in a tunnel. It felt like a fairy or hobbit could live in such a mystical setting.[pic 29b]
Since we were getting closer to the coast, the marine layer of fog sank into the little valleys we walked through.
We spotted a cafe and stopped for breakfast. There seemed to be better breakfast options for us the farther west we progressed on the Camino. There were a couple of cute dogs hanging out, so I spent some time with them after I finished my breakfast. It sure made me miss my dog, Joby, back home.[pic 29a]
One of my favorite things about the Camino was seeing animals along the way. We really enjoyed seeing cows, horses, sheep, cats and dogs.
I told Blythe how I would love to do another walk someday and see a lot of animals. She said “that would be a safari.” Yes, I think she was right, and now I need to add a safari to my to-do list!
One unusual thing we saw as we walked along on Day 29 was a group of albino cows! They were pure white.
Downhill we walked with many other pilgrims into the city of Sarria. It was important for Scott and I to stay in a hotel for two nights to get some rest and have our laundry cleaned. We had been walking 29 days and it was time for another break.
Finally, we found a hotel with room available and we were so relieved. Blythe and Jenn chose to look elsewhere and had their first experience at an albergue.
The first albergue we saw, which is on the trail, was Albergue Casa Peltre. I loved the red building and am instantly drawn to it while praying they have a couple of beds for us. They do and we were the first ones in so we can choose our bunk. I chose the corner against a wall with a window seat so I had room for all my stuff. The room had 14 beds downstairs, two bathrooms, a room upstairs with 4 more beds and a large living room area with kitchen.
Hotel Alfonso IX
Scott and I checked in, cleaned up and sent our laundry out to be cleaned. Good thing we didn’t have to wash our own clothing because our hotel didn’t allow hanging laundry out the windows!
We met up with the girls for a lunch of cheese, bread, salami and wine. It was a relaxing afternoon sitting along the riverwalk.
Day 29, 12 miles.
Camino de Santiago, Day 30
Sarria, Day of Rest
Believe it or not, I slept 12 hours straight and woke up on Day 30 very well rested. It was such a nice change not to have to be on the trail at all.
I had my first experience sleeping in a room with many people. I tried the earplugs, but they didn’t stay in my ears. Instead, I just put my buff over my face and hoped for sleep. It actually wasn’t too bad.
We were able to sleep a little bit. That was the hardest part about sharing a room with everyone getting up early and making a ton of noise. Blythe and I decided to stay here another night and requested the upstairs room which only had 4 beds. We were kind of hoping for a private room that way, but found ourselves bunking up with a sweet girl from Ireland.
So for my first albergue situation and actually my only one on this trip, we could not have picked a nicer one.
After drinking a couple of cafe con leches and eating pastries for breakfast, Scott and I set out to explore the town.
We stopped at a pharmacy to buy a few things and Scott weighed himself on their scale. He had lost 15 pounds while walking the Camino! And that was while drinking wine and eating pastries!
Next, we went to the barber shop so Scott could get his hair cut. Since he couldn’t explain the exact cut he wanted, he pointed to a poster of a model on the wall. So, the barber cut his hair just like the model. It looked very nice and clean.
Sarria has a wall of cool pilgrim murals, so we spent some time checking them out.
It was time for lunch, so we sent a text to Blythe and Jenn to join us. We enjoyed a long lunch of pasta and wine. It was so nice not to wonder where we would be staying the night.
After eating, we explored a little bit more and walked up the many stairs through town on the Camino path.
After our relaxing afternoon, we sorted our clean clothes and repacked our backpacks so that we would be ready for the next day’s walk.
Jenn and Blythe relaxed with massages before meeting us for dinner.
Later, we met Jenn and Blythe at a cool hippie restaurant called Matias Locanda Italiana for dinner. The temperature outside was comfortable and we enjoyed a nice meal on the patio. I even tried sangria instead of my usual wine.
We made our plan for the next day’s walk and finished the evening with anticipation for what the next day would bring.
Day 30, Much needed rest day.
Camino de Santiago, Days 32 & 33
Day 32 Portomarín to Palas de Rei 15 miles
Scott, Jenn, Blythe and I set out on Day 32 in darkness. We took an alternate route out of town and went back down the stairs we had entered town through. The stairway and tunnel were lit up in the darkness and made for a dramatic exit as we left.
We enjoyed the rolling hills and very small towns we passed by every few kilometers. At one point, we stopped for breakfast at a cafe, and it was completely packed with pilgrims. Alone time on the Camino, as we previously knew it, was gone and that was for sure.
Scott and I tried to be open minded about the crowds of pilgrims. We all have our own Camino to walk for different reasons. Some people may not have the time, money or energy to walk 500 miles. It just gave our days a different feel and made us appreciate our earlier days all the more.
As usual, I sang a few lines as we were walking of my favorite Camino song “I’m gonna be,” by the Proclaimers. I’m sure you know the lyrics, “But I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more.” I felt this song related well to the experiences we were having.
It was one of those catchy tunes that could stick in your head all day. I usually sang a few lines when other pilgrims were nearby, so they could get it stuck in their heads, as well. My friends just shook their head at me. If anything, it gave us a laugh.
Palas de Rei
It was pure luck we weren’t rained on before we made it to Palas de Rei, as dark clouds threatened the entire walk.
Jenn picked up her backpack at the albergue they designated for people who didn’t have reservations for a room ahead of time. Luckily, we found a hotel called Casa Benilde with rooms available. The staff was so nice and helpful. They recommended we make reservations for the next night at the next town we had hoped to end up. They called for us and set it up, so it was nice to know we had a place to stay.
After cleaning up, we walked around the small town. Just across the street from our hotel was Restaurante Castro. Even though it was only 5:00 p.m. and we were the only patrons, they served us dinner! Blythe decided on the pulpo (octopus) again, but to her surprise, this time it wasn’t chopped up.
After a delicious meal with local wine from Galicia, our server gave us ice cream with whisky poured over the top. What a treat! Then, as an extra special treat, he brought us out shots which tasted like chocolate milk! He was so sweet and seemed to enjoy spoiling us since we were the only people there so early.
End of Another Great Day
Later, we played cards at our hotel for a while and then turned in early. We had a big day ahead tomorrow.
Day 32, 15 miles.
Day 33 Palas de Rei to Arzúa 18.5 Miles
Feliz Cumpleaños to me! Day 33 on the Camino and I was celebrating my 46th birthday.
I knew while we were in the planning stages of our walk, I wanted to be walking on my birthday or just finishing.
We walked through tiny villages in the foggy mist. The walking wasn’t strenuous, and there was always something to look at.[pic Always follow the yellow arrow.] Mid-morning, we crossed a beautiful Medieval bridge. The bridges on the Camino were always so interesting and contained so much history. We tried to imagine all of the pilgrims over the centuries who came before us! [pic 32]
Yes, we stopped for the one and only real lunch break during a walking day on our entire Camino!
Since it was my birthday, I wanted to change it up a little bit. We found a great cafe patio. It was full of pilgrims, but we got lucky and got a table. We proceeded to enjoy; soup, fries, croquetas, wine and coffee. Just as we suspected, it was tough to get walking again with full stomachs.
After 18.5 miles of walking, we arrived at our pension in Arzúa. We checked into our rooms, cleaned up and while everyone was resting, I went downstairs to the cafe and sat quietly, enjoying a glass of wine. I checked in with my family and friends on Facebook. It was so nice to connect with everyone at home in that way.
The four of us walked the highway further into town for dinner. It was cold and that end of town was unremarkable. Eventually, we found a restaurant and enjoyed a delicious meal. I had pasta, as usual. It was the best food to fuel my body for the walking each day.
Later, we ended up at our pension lobby in the leg massage chair. What a treat!
Jenn and Scott researched online for places to stay the next night and Jenn made a reservation. There were too many pilgrims now and we wanted to have a nice bed to sleep in.
Day 33, 18.5 miles and a birthday to remember!
Camino de Santiago, Day 34
Arzúa to O Pedrouzo, 12 Miles
Day 34 began with a long walk on sidewalks and pavement in the fog. You would think we’d be used to the hard concrete and pavement walking, but we weren’t. The hard surface was much tougher on our feet than dirt trails and roads.
We only had 12 miles to walk to reach our next destination. Then, tomorrow would be our last 12 miles to Santiago. I told Scott that if it were up to me, we would suck it up and muscle through 24 miles to Santiago and be finished.
It was good for me to practice my patience though, and I did end up enjoying the day.
We began walking on dirt roads, passing groves of eucalyptus trees and beautiful farmland. Sometimes, even spotting a few cows.
We came upon the “Wall of Wisdom,” which had quotes on construction paper attached to the wall of a building. Of course, we spent a few moments reading the quotes. It was food for thought and something to think about as we continued on.[pic 34a]
As we entered town we found the pension Jenn had reserved the night before. Or, so we thought. I was excited because it was across the street from a field of cows.
When we tried to check in, they said we didn’t have a reservation, and they had no rooms available.
Jenn checked her phone and realized she had reserved a place with the same name but in a different town.
The staff was friendly and they told us to sit tight outside, and they would find us rooms somewhere else.
A few minutes later a woman drove up in her car and told us she would take us to a different place to stay, which was just across town. Blythe, Jenn and I piled into her car and Scott decided to walk.
The woman was so sweet and dropped us off at a pension. We checked in to our new accommodation and went to our rooms to clean up. Later Scott joined us, as he had been wandering around, unsure of where to go!
After cleaning up, Blythe and I sat downstairs by a wonderful fire and warmed ourselves up. Scott went into town to enjoy some alone time and have a beer.
The girls and I joined Scott later for our last dinner on the Camino. We enjoyed another delicious meal and Scott even had a hamburger! I must say we had no complaints about food during our Camino trip.
When we arrived back at our pension later in the night, a couple was standing outside the main entrance. Their key wouldn’t work in the door. I tried my key and it wouldn’t work either. Jenn tried her key, but had no luck.
We all walked around to different entrances on the pension, knocking on doors, but no one was there.
A neighbor came out and yelled at us, so we figured that wasn’t very good. Blythe called the proprietor of the pension and she couldn’t help us, as she was out to dinner. She said our keys should work.
The couple who was there originally, tried the lock again, and it worked! Good thing, or we would have been freezing on the porch all night.
We were all very tired and looking forward to the next day, and our arrival in Santiago.[pic 34b]
Day 34, 12 miles.
Camino de Santiago, Day 35
O Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostela, 12 Miles
Day 35, our last day on the Camino. We were happy and sad, as there were so many mixed emotions going through our minds and hearts.
It was necessary to begin our walk even earlier than usual on our last day, so we could arrive in Santiago de Compostela in time for the Pilgrim’s Mass at the cathedral at noon.
Walking in Darkness
For two hours we walked in darkness with only Scott’s headlamp between the four of us.
I was so slow. Walking in darkness had been an ongoing challenge for me. My eyes struggled with depth perception and I tended to shuffle my feet. I couldn’t see very far ahead, so it skewed distances in my head. It was almost like tunnel vision. I tried not to squeak or squeal every time I stumbled or tripped.
After we were out of the woods and on the streets, the full moon was there to guide us, which was perfect.
We were all quietly walking, each in our own thoughts.
I thought back on the last 400+ miles; the wonderful people we had met, locals and pilgrims, meals we had eaten and delicious wine we had enjoyed.
I appreciated Scott so much for being my partner on the longest, craziest adventure of our lives.
Sharing such a special experience with our friends was something we would never forget.
We took a quick break for breakfast, so sad, my last Cafe con Leche on the Camino. Then, it began raining. We covered our backpacks and put on our ponchos and rain gear and continued on.
Walking into Santiago de Compostela
The four of us walked through the rain as quickly as possible.
At one point, a bus load of pilgrims began walking ahead of us. As we passed them by, we could hear them chanting in prayer together.
The rain was really coming down. As we walked along the city streets, we dodged getting splashed by puddles from the trucks passing by.
There was another bus group ahead, filling the sidewalk for a long ways. We had to cross the busy street to get around them.
It was a long walk through the city before we came to the old section and our ending point. The Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela.
I am feeling very good as we walk our final few miles. Physically, I feel very strong and fit. Mentally, I feel clear and healthy. My mind is full of thoughts. Retracing the steps of our Camino, but also thinking of home and getting back to normal life again.
I feel I was really able to slow down and enjoy each and every day as it came. I feel so fortunate to have been able to share this experience with Jaynie. Our Camino was not easy. It took a lot of time and effort to go from talking about it, to getting here. And, it took a lot of mental and physical work to finish.
I am very proud of us as we walk into Santiago.
We Have Arrived!
We were all so happy and excited to be finished. Of course we took pictures in the rain, and in front of the cathedral to document our achievement![pic 35]
Then, we went to find the Hotel Montes a couple of blocks away. We left our packs in the lobby as it was too early to go to our rooms. We raced back to the cathedral to get seats for the Pilgrim’s Mass.
We had the perfect seats and soon the cathedral was full with standing room only.
The mass was conducted in Spanish and Latin so we didn’t understand anything. It still felt important and special to be there, as this final destination was for pilgrims from around the world.
We were especially lucky to see the Botafumeiro swing at the end of the service. It’s not an every mass occurrence. The Botafumeiro is one of the largest in the world, weighing in at 80kg.
Pilgrims have visited the cathedral and the tomb of St. James the Great since 1075.
After the service, we stood in line with hundreds of people to walk past St. James’ tomb.
Walking 500 miles to our destination of Santiago de Compostela was such an accomplishment. We had talked, planned, and prepared as much as we thought we could to get ready for this adventure, but none of it came close to the actual experience which we will always remember.
Day 35, 12 miles. It was one day to remember always.
Post Camino Thoughts…
Six Months Later-
I thought it would be fun to do a little roundup of our post Camino thoughts after being home for six months. Here is what we are thinking:
Now that some time has passed, my blisters have healed, and my feet don’t ache every morning, I can look back on our Camino experience in a new light.
The Camino was better in so many ways, than I had even imagined it could be. The terrain was steeper, both uphill and downhill, and the landscape more beautiful, even the Meseta. The food and wine was delicious and there were always plenty of options, except during siesta. The locals were more welcoming, and the majority were friendly and would always take a few moments to chat.
My one piece of advice: Don’t walk the Camino for anyone but yourself. It is a tough journey and there are bad days when you need to dig deep within yourself to keep walking. If you aren’t committed 100% for yourself, your struggle will be even greater.
I’m so thankful to have had my own unique experience on the Camino. I knew I was a strong person, but once I put it to practice, I was able to prove to myself that I can do most anything and after walking 500 miles, it’s a reality.
It’s really special to be able to re-live the Camino through my writing and our blog.
The Camino is something that is hard to describe to someone who has not walked it. That is why, I am so glad I was able to share it with Jaynie. We had so much time to talk about everything, and so much time to be comfortable in our silence. We pushed each other physically, and were there for each other mentally. I saw how very strong and determined my wife is and it made me very proud. I am very thankful Jaynie led me to this journey.
The Camino really helped me look at my life and see things that I was happy with and things I needed to improve upon. It helped me know what is important in my life and how to focus on those things. I definitely want to continue on our walk…in many other places.
Looking back on my Camino experience I am filled with joy. I have a huge sense of accomplishment and feel so lucky to have been a part of this incredible journey.
Lessons I learned through my Camino consisted of, invest in a newer, lighter backpack, get orthotics before I decide to hike 200+ miles, and always have a snickers bar in your bag just in case.
I loved our daily routine of getting up early while it was still dark, hiking for a couple of hours, grab breakfast in a cute village, and then hike on until around 2 pm, take a shower, and meet up for wine.
My only regret on this trip were my feet and not having orthotics yet. Some of my days were extremely hard and slow. My feet were hurting me so bad, I could feel every pebble I walked over. I was not only in pain but so frustrated because the rest of me was feeling great and I’m not one to give up. So, when I had a breakdown one evening, I discovered that I could send my backpack ahead to our next destination town for only 3 euros a day. I went ahead and did this for the last 3 days of my Camino. This was a wonderful solution to help me finish my journey.
Would I do this again? Yes, I actually would. It was an amazing experience and I loved all of the people we meet along the way, the delicious food, and excellent wine.
While it was not religious for me, I did find a certain spirituality in the whole experience. I was humbled by painful blisters, sore muscles, fatigue, by not speaking the language as I well as I had hoped I would. Several days early on were very difficult for me, and I had to pull strength from deep inside as well as count on my companions (as well as fellow pilgrims I encountered along the way!) for encouragement.
The reward was simple though, in that each night I counted my blessings and knew I could face the challenges of the coming days and prevail.
It was one of the most challenging and yet rewarding experiences of my life. I feel the pull to go back someday, to the absolute simplicity of putting one foot in front of the other.