Friday, 26 July 2013
on the camino de santiago
This was a while ago now, but I thought it might be of interest to those considering doing the camino themselves. Back in May, my sister Morna and I spent 8 days walking through Galicia, North-western Spain, on part of the ancient pilgrimage the Camino de Santiago, which starts in Southern France and ends in Santiago de Compostela.
We started in the village of Sarria, calculating it would take us about a week to reach Santiago. Our calculations proved to be wrong (aka, we didn't actually read the itinerary, just printed it) and it only took us 4 1/2 days to get there... so we caught a bus out to a point along the Portuguese route and spent three days walking back. All told, we walked 170 kilometres in 8 days, or an average of about 23 km a day.
Along the way we suffered strained knees and ankles, blisters, colds, rain, underwhelming food, and occasionally our fellow "pilgrims" but it was an amazing experience nonetheless and has really whetted my appetite for doing more long hikes--maybe across the UK next year!
(Photos are maybe not quite up to usual standards as left the big camera at home... and then just stole these off my sisters facebook).
Things to keep in mind along the camino:
1. It's cheap but it gets more expensive and more crowded the closer you get to Santiago. It's apparently exceptionally crowded in the summer... May was probably pretty perfect. If I was doing it again I'd probably do an earlier chunk (not the beginning as it's in the Pyrenees and I can't be doing with climbing hills all day). The section between Burgos and León is apparently flat and boring, but I heard the parts going through the Basque Country were pretty. On the other hand, it was exciting to get to arrive in Santiago. I even went to mass, voluntarily.
2. Don't overpack. I'm really content with Mo's and my packing job. I think my bag weighed 6 or 7 kilos, and hers maybe a little more but we basically didn't bring anything we didn't use. I had two legging/tracksuit bottoms things, maybe 5 t-shirts, two cotton dresses and two warmer layers, various hiking socks, plus a blanket I stole from the train on the way over which proved invaluable for a scarf, a sleeping bag, a pair of flip-flops (thank GOD), toiletries, a travel towel a rain poncho and not much else. It wasn't a glamorous trip by any means, but I had everything I needed. I didn't spend much money preparing either. I bought new boots and a few cheap things but basically just took ratty old clothes. Next time I would bring a book though. That was silly.
3. Break in your boots PROPERLY before you go. This was dramatic for me. I bought my boots about two weeks before, wore them on a bunch of hikes in Yorkshire and they seemed fine. After two days, the very slight pressure of one of them on my ankle caused internal bruising to the extent that I could hardly walk. Without the boots, perfect, with boots, agony. I walked (and sadly this is no exaggeration) 27 km in flip-flops and hiking socks that day. My hiking socks still have cloved toes and my feet took a long time to forgive me.
Toasting Morna with wine the waiter referred to as "the blood of Christ."
Beautiful rural Galicia.
Wet rural Galicia.
Friends encountered en route
...and Santiago! Which incidentally is a lovely city, full of good food and pretty corners.