My wife Ann and I are beginning a new adventure, that of hiking perhaps the most popular long-distance hiking trail in the world, and certainly the oldest: the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, aka the Way of Saint James. People have been walking one route or another to Santiago since the 9th century, and in more recent times perhaps you've heard of a Martin Sheen movie titled "The Way". Which btw, neither my wife nor I have seen yet; she's of the opinion that it's better to encounter these things without having first seen a lot of photos or videos, so that's how "we roll" on that issue.
Anyway, this trip is a bit of a happy compromise for us. I like long distance backpacking. Ann is a strong hiker, but doesn't sleep well out-of-doors and so has a preference for indoor amenities now and again. And I think we're both Europhiles (I at least definitely am).
This won't be the sort of long distance hike where one is braving various dangers (real or imagined) of the wild spaces --- snow, river crossings, lions/tigers/bears. It will be a much more social experience --- more so even than the Appalachian trail. And I hope to get a lot of practice at speaking Spanish, and perhaps to a lessor degree, German. But mostly just meeting and spending social time with a variety of people from all over, and experiencing the history, culture, people, and food (!) of northern Spain.
Ann is Catholic, and I am not, but I begin this adventure nevertheless with an open mind and heart. While I don't believe the things that Catholic pilgrims believe, I'm sure that this will nevertheless be at least to some degree a "spiritual adventure". While a skeptic in the confines of my own mind, I hope to have only open and accepting conversations about religion (and other things) along the way and listen at least as much as I talk (!).
In practical terms, our actual hiking will begin from the French town of St. Jean Pied-de-Port on Sept 3rd. We'll stay first in Bilbao (Spain,in the Basque country) for a couple of days and then one day in between at the coast town of San Sebastian --- to get over jet lag and get our feet on the ground as it were, and train schedule constraints dictate the stop at San Sebastian. My daughter has, however, said great things about her visit to San Sebastian so we look forward to that too.
From St. Jean we have no fixed schedule. One shows up in the afternoon at a pilgrim hostel and asks if there's room. Sleeping is generally done in group fashion, and while severe weather and wild animals aren't a danger, my understanding is that snoring by fellow travellers is a definite peril. Perhaps a glass of good La Rioja red wine in the evening will help in that regard. The other peril I have mild concern about is bed bugs!
My pack weight for this trip is pretty light --- about 12 pounds not counting food or water, but we'll not be carrying that much of either as we'll be eating in towns and villages along the way. Ann's pack is sadly heavier, 17+ pounds at last count. Comfort is a relative thing; for me, it's more about keeping the weight off of my back. Her choices lead her to carry more to be more comfortable in town along the way. Likely each of us will adjust what we choose to carry as we go.
What we're not carrying is sleeping bags nor tents --- we'll definitely spend each night indoors. At the height of the season (especially in a holy year) it can be challenging to get a place in a pilgrim hostel (Albergue). But we'll be hiking in September and into October, so we anticipate less problem there (fingers crossed).
If you want to look at the specific details of what we're doing, our particular route is called the "Camino Frances". You can find details of this at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Way
We're thinking about hiking this in about 5 weeks in total, plus we want to take an extra 3 days or so to hike on to Finnisterre
(the "end of the earth" at the farthest point west in Spain).
I hope to write up a blog entry for every day that we walk on the trail, and upload those to here in batch whenever I get the magic combination of time, electrical power, and decent wi-fi. Perhaps in Bilbao I'll purchase a SIM card or some other alternative to facilitate this with my smart phone.
I don't promise rapid response to guestbook comments, but please know that I (and Ann) will read and much appreciate these.
So --- let the adventure begin, ¡estamos listos! (we're ready)