After much planning and many years of anticipation Dave and I set off on the Camino Frances in September 2017. We arrived at Saint Jean Pied de Port after a plane trip to Paris, a connecting flight to Biarritz and then a bus ride to Bayonne and train trip to SJPDP – about 33 hrs of nonstop travel and 1 lost and then found passport !! (not mine so that only leaves 1 other person !!). Saint Jean Pied de Port is a lovely little town on the French side of the Pyrenees well accustomed to Pilgrims starting the Camino Frances and we had 2 nights there.
We set off on our adventure through the Pyrenees and the first steps on the Camino were very steep and this didn’t change for about 26km! The scenery was spectacular but 30 km later we were glad to have reached our destination for the day. We spent the next 4 days walking until we arrived in Pamplona were we rested for a day then set off again. I was very surprised at the amount of hills we needed to scale and of course navigate our way down, in the first week or so……..probably best that I hadn’t done my research thoroughly! Dave scaled the hills like a mountain goat and I plodded on behind at a much slower pace. We walked an average of 25 km /day. Due to time constraints we needed to catch a train or 2 to ensure we completed the journey in our time frame and that had its benefits but we were always envious of the pilgrims who were able to walk every step of “the way”
We walked through so many small villages of rural Spain each different in their own way with many having local events for us to enjoy and we had amazing and interesting accommodation in each village, ranging from hotels to B&B to castles, monasteries and paradors. It was always nice to arrive at our accommodation and see our luggage waiting there for us!
Along the way we stumbled into a village called Estella to find they were celebrating September Fair and the main event was a bull run through the village and games with bulls in the centre square that had been transformed into a bullring for the 4 days of the fair. This was an authentic celebration and we were so lucky to be a part of it – a highlight of our village visits.
We arrived in Santiago de Compostela after some 500 km and 3 weeks of walking and very proudly lined up to receive our Credential – our certificate of being an authentic Pilgrim.
The Camino is so much more than a walk or trek. It is so important to all those that walk it and to those that understand its significance. The Pilgrims of old and current are all revered and well cared for along the way. There wasn’t a day where we didn’t want to walk and the first few hours of each day were our favourite when we could truly appreciate how fortunate we were to be Pilgrims walking through Spain.
The epiphany I was hoping for came as we were leaving a small town called Fromista. This town had such a great feel to it and we left it feeling rested and happy but quite weary. I realised that I didn’t actually need an epiphany as I had had many, many great moments of clarity already along the way and my epiphany was that I didn’t need an epiphany! We also decided together, that as we were weary we really just need to put one foot in front of the other and we would reach our destination …..and 27 km later that day we did just that!
We would absolutely recommend this experience to anyone who is interested. Many Pilgrims do the journey in shorter 1-2 week spurts. Or you could just choose a smaller part of the Camino if you think the length is not possible. I became a foot care/blister prevention specialist helping many pilgrims along the way! So if anyone needs some advice on foot care/blister prevention I am happy to assist.
Susan (and Dave)