A year ago, I was walking the Way of St James (Camino de Santiago). I loved the feeling of waking up each day not knowing exactly what was in store.
I think I share a joy of hiking and walking with many people. Endorphins are probably a major culprit of the enjoyment, that and a sense of accomplishment. But there are things that special about the routes of St. James.
Breakfast is never an issue when you are walking a Way of St. James. Whether you are on the road north from Sevilla, walking north through Portugal or walking west from France you know you will find a bar/cafe to enjoy breakfast. When I woke in an albergue (bunkhouse), one of my first thoughts was “I can’t wait until breakfast!”. I would usually start the day eating an apple or banana, and then take off walking – knowing that within two hours I would be seated at a table ordering breakfast and drinking at least one cafe con leche. That is a delicious feeling not worrying about breakfast. Just walking, looking, listening, smelling and more walking.
Once you are finished with breakfast, then you can start thinking about supper. Heeheehee, I am mostly joking. But again, one of the nice things about walking the Camino de Santiago is that you don’t have to worry about supper, unless you want to. You can be assured of finding a nice bar/cafe at your destination (usually) and count on a warm, delicious meal with a glass of beer or wine and also usually in the company of friends.
During my two week walk, lunch was very important on several occasions. One lunch stands out especially for me. I was somewhere in Galicia and had been walking all morning in the rain. My hands were very cold. I arrived at a major town and sought out a hardware/clothing store to buy gloves, but they didn’t have any my size. I have rather wide hands and a large head. I don’t fit the clothing profile of Spaniards. So, unsuccessful in my search for dry, warm gloves, I decided to eat a big lunch. I asked around and ended up at a very nice sit-down “menu del dia”, where all the local businessmen ate. Upon entering, I had to stand in a corner to shed my rain poncho, backpack gloves and polartec while all the business people watched me. But I got a table and ordered the daily menu with a soup/bread, main plate and a dessert which probably cost around 10 euros (12$). I remember the soup and bread though. The soup was a Navy bean soup with garbanzos, chunks of chorizo and onion. Just what the doctor ordered.
I usually ate a sandwich on the trail for lunch just because I hated the feeling of being full and walking. But on some of the especially rainy, cold days, I took time for lunch and it set me up for another four hours of walking.
A Bed at Night
One of the unique features about walking the Way of St. James is that you can usually count on finding a bed at the end of the day with a hot shower. Since the Camino de Santiago passes through so many villages, you can plan a route that starts and ends at specific village/town destinations. At each lodging you can find information about the next stop down the trail and there are usually several options. I walked the trail of St. James during January and February when the number of people on the trail is the lowest, so the choices were fewer. But still, I knew where I was going each morning and I knew that I would have a bed to throw my sleeping bag on. And that is wonderful.
A Comfortable Framework
A comfortable framework, that is what the Way of St. James offers hikers. I love hiking up mountains and backpacking into campsites. I don’t get enough of it. But something special about walking the Camino de Santiago is that you know you will find a nice breakfast and supper, and you know you will be sleeping in a bed or cot. There is much to be said about this. It provides a framework that addresses the necessities. You don’t have to worry. All you have to do is walk. You can make friends along the way. You can get off the beaten track. You can stop off at churches, museums or what have you. You can take time out to chill,… you just don’t have to worry. All you have to do is walk.
I love to walk. But it can be a real pain in the “arse” because there is no shortcut. I am reminded of my daughter who is an outdoor leader of activities at a Virginia university. On one particular hike which was a three day trip, one of the participants had a melt down. From what I understand, the young lady got almost two days into the hike and decided that she didn’t like it and threw a tantrum. She said she was not moving from that space and that she was unhappy (even angry :-). My daughter had a hard time convincing the young lady that the only way out was walking. There was no simple solution such as a helicopter arriving to take her to a five star hotel. It was not happening. She had to get on her feet and walk. She had to get herself out. I love that.
And that is true about the Way of St. James. You have to walk. Each day is filled with walking. Walk, walk, walk. No excuses. But you do have breakfast, supper and a bed to look forward to. Hahaha.
I missed this season. I got too busy with GringoCool – shipping garden pots, and preparing orders of boxes, hand painted pottery and extra virgin olive oil. I had hoped to walk part of the Portugal route this winter but that will have to wait until next season (hopefully).
For those readers that want to learn more and read about other “pilgrims” experiences a google search will reveal a ton of information and apps. However, I can recommend a blog by LAURIE A. FERRIS (The Camino Provides). You have to check out a map she listed of more than 50 routes through Spain and Portugal to Santiago de Compostela. You can see her post here.
Thanks so much for reading. I welcome comments or questions. Steve