I am excited. REALLY EXCITED. I have just booked my flights for a European trip later this year. But it’s not just any European holiday – no sunning it up in the Greek Islands, no David Hasselhoff gigs in Berlin, no Portugese tarts in…um, Portugal. Not this time. Not for me and my friend Steph (you may recall her as one of the Color Run Stephs). We are going to walk the Camino de Santiago – starting in France, popping over the Pyrenees and then trekkin’ across northern Spain. Because, why not?
If you’re not down with the Camino (a.k.a. the Way of Saint James), it was a super-important medieval pilgrimage – with many different ways to walk (as in different paths, not different walking styles) to reach the Spanish town of Santiago de Compostela, where the remains of Saint James are reported to be buried. Apparently, the route was very popular in the middle ages, but numbers dropped due to things like the outbreak of the Black Death pandemic and the Protestant Reformation. Pesky little things like that.
But in the late 1980s, the Camino was declared one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites and the tourists came back – undoubtedly a lot of religious and spiritual pilgrims, but also a lot of people looking for a unique physical and psychological challenge. Apparently tens of thousands of peeps walk the Camino every year (with an increasing number of cyclists too), generally starting from somewhere in France, Portugal or Spain. If you walk at least 100km (or cycle at least 200km) of the Camino, as evidenced by stamps collected in your Camino passport along the way, you get a special certificate when you reach Santiago de Compostela.
Steph and I are walking the Camino Frances, which starts on the French side of the Pyrenees. Reports vary, but from start to finish, it’s approximately 800km. We’re hoping to walk it in around 30 days. Which means getting up and walking every day with our backpacks, regardless of the weather, regardless of our mood, regardless of our aches and pains. Needless to say, I’ve never done anything like this before, but I’m really excited about the challenge ahead. We will get into training shortly and I’m looking forward to getting my walking poles and hiking boots like a real trekker. Well, like a real trekker or like the 250 year old man who uses walking poles to walk along the path near my home. The countdown has begun!