Walk Time: 179 hours
Energy Burn: 236521 kJ (unfortunately I must have consumed around 236000 kJ along the way as I didn’t lose much weight!)
Average Daily Distance: 24.13km
Average Pace: 12m 21s per km
These are the stats from my GPS (iPhone) on which I recorded the whole trip apart from the odd stretch when I forgot to press the start button.
It’s now 3 months since we finished the Camino although it seems like a lifetime ago. Finishing off the blog today has really brought the memories flooding back and a chance to reflect on some things bigger than the day to day trials and tribulations of the road.
In our usual way, we did some very exhaustive research and planning for the trip. We read many books, blogs and web sites and at one stage I was even doing a digital plot of the route from the guide book to load into my GPS so that we always knew where to go…. although I did realise the foolishness of this a few stages in and abandoned it. I’m glad of that as finding your way on the road is all part of the Camino experience.
The first thing that strikes you when planning is how much conflicting advice and views there are on almost any aspect of the Camino. We took on board some things that turned out to be great advice and others that didn’t really work for us at all. Wiser for now having completed the journey, I would say that each person’s Camino is so different that it is impossible to give firm guidance on most topics although many people do voice very strong views on some subjects in the various forums and in books. As every pilgrim will walk at a different time of year, have different start and finish points and different routes, will walk different daily average distances, will have different levels of fitness and conditioning and will have different goals and expectations for the journey, their needs for equipment, clothing, food, accommodation and training will all be different. You are probably best to try and think about what you want your Camino experience to be and then look at all of the advice and options through that filter rather than taking on peoples golden rules or concrete advice. I saw one article where the author scoffed at hiking boots and said that as it was on paths all of the way, a pair of running shoes is all that anyone needs. This is actually true of much of the route but very bad advice for the week in the Pyrenees and foothills in late May/early Jun where we were clambering down rutted, rocky, washed away paths ankle deep in mud.
One of the bits of advice we read was that you should walk it alone. For us, doing this walk together was very much a part of the reason for doing it and it would have been a very different and much less rewarding experience for me to do it alone but that is my personal perspective. My only concern going into it was what would two people who have many married for nearly 30 years talk about while walking for 8 hours every day for 35 days! So, I loaded up my iPhone with music and language courses….. As it turned out, we barely ever listened to music or did the language courses while walking and that was only in the early part of the trip before we had settled into a rhythm. Somehow there was always something to talk about whether it was something we experienced on the journey or the other parts of our lives and there was always a chance to chat to other people on the road be they pilgrims or locals. We met some great people from all over the world, some you would have a quick encounter with and never see again, others we would keep bumping into again and again. Our Japanese friends who we had a coffee with on Day 4 were obviously on a very similar program as we saw them almost daily after that on the road, at hotels, in restaurants and at the sights. Unfortunately we never saw them in Santiago dC as we probably finished a day ahead of them with our big days at the end. The Spanish people all along the way were almost without exception friendly, interested and helpful and I will never forget some of the incredibly cheerful and hard working young people in some of the albergues. These encounters were for me a highlight of the experience.
Am I glad we did the Camino? Absolutely. For us the goals were to do something different and challenge ourselves, get fit, see Spain and learn about the history, food and culture, spend quality time together and do some ‘team bonding’ after 23 years of raising kids in a big city. We did all of that and got much more too like meeting great people from all over the world. I guess that puts us in the sometimes derided category of ‘tourigrinos’ i.e. people who are doing the Camino for reasons other than religion, but I’m sure all of the communities who benefit from or even survive on Camino traffic didn’t mind us being there. There were times when it was physically and mentally difficult and the odd ‘tense moment’ but without the challenge it would not have been the same rewarding experience. As is always the case with these things, its these moments that we remember most and talk or laugh about afterwards. But mostly, it was just great fun, laughs and hugely uplifting moments like when you have completed a huge climb and look back over the country that you have traveled on a beautiful northern Spain day. It teaches you to no longer take the simple things in life for granted and just how unnecessary most of the material possessions we accumulate really are. The act of emptying out your rucksack and sending away everything other than two changes of clothes, a pair of sandals and a warm jacket before you continue on your walk is symbolic of this. OK, we did keep the cameras and iPad so its not all unnecessary but I am glad to have the pictures and the blog which I am converting into a book that we can keep on the coffee table and pick up and remember our Camino with from time to time. It also teaches you just how much your body is capable of doing on a relatively modest diet and how much us mostly sedentary desk workers are overeating. After putting on weight after the first week having eaten anything and everything I could thinking I needed the fuel, I scaled back the intake, got rid of the Arroz Con Leche and probably was eating no more than I do on a normal day in Perth. On this we were able to walk over mountains with 10+kg’s on our backs for sometimes 11 or 12 hours a day.
Lastly, the experience would not have been the same without my beautiful companion and partner for life who’s idea it was to do this in the first place and who was such a trooper through the tough days. I am lucky to have someone to share the experience with as many don’t although that should never put anyone off as everyone seems to meet people along the way and it is unusual to see someone walking the Camino alone all of the way…