I’m Going to Do the Camino de Santiago!!!

May 4, 2013 • Galicia, Spanish Traditions

I'm Doing the Camino!My excitement can hardly be contained. In 28 days I am strapping on my boots, cinching down my pack and setting a westward trek towards Santiago de Compostela! It will be 6 days of walking (theoretically) along the gorgeous Galician hills with my best friend by my side and the world ahead of me. I. Am. Stoked.

Catedral en Santiago de CompostelaThe camino de Santiago or Way of St. James is a pilgrimage to the catedral in Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Spain’s northwest province Galicia, where according to legend the apostle St. James is buried. Nearly 200,000 pilgrims walked the route to Santiago last year. (Interesting fact: 281 of those pilgrims did the camino on horseback. 22 did it in wheelchairs.) Many people walk the route for religious or spiritual reasons, many make the trek during a turning point in their lives. I’m not 100 percent sure what my motivation will turn out to be, but I have no doubt that somewhere between the blisters and the vistas I will find out. 

I’ll be starting the camino from my front doorstep here in Sarria. As fate would have, Sarria is the closest starting point for pilgrims to begin and be considered true peregrinos (yes, there is an official certificate of completion for this walk!). My pueblita is almost exactly 100 km from Santiago along the French Way, one of six main routes. The Camino Francés  actually begins nearly 600 km east in a town called St. Jean Pied de Port along the French-Spanish boarder, although about 20 percent of last year’s pilgrims began their journey, like I will, in Sarria.

Galicia is Gorgeous

My seed of camino intrigue that is now flourishing into action was actually planted long before the fates that be (in this case, the Spanish Ministry of Education) dropped me at head of the trail. In fact, the ganas to do the camino began growing before I could even point out gorgeously green hills of Galicia on a map. This crazy adventure came about, as many of my adventures have, because of brunch. It was a marvelous sundressy day and I remember it perfectly. I rolled out of bed and over to my favorite D.C. brunch hub/coffeehouse/cerveceria/happy place, Tryst. Upon discovering that half of Washington shared my desire for bathtub-sized coffee and labneh baguettes, I strolled next door to peruse a sun-filled bookstore while I awaited an open seat.

Until that day I had never realized that a bright green neighborhood bookstore stood next to my go-to coffeehouse (apparently my perception skills aren’t as keen as I thought), let alone that it was stocked with a decent-sized travel section (lo mejor genre en mi opinión). At the time, my application to spend the following year teaching English in Spain was still pending and my desire to jump ship and move overseas was nearly at the breaking point. Within 15 minutes I had singled out every travel book having anything to do with Spain and narrowed down my purchase to an intriguing-looking specimen with a doodle-style map blanketing the jacket cover. 

The book turned out to be rather whiney, but the storyline was fascinating: a American man took a month-long leave of absence to walk across Northern Spain along with thousands of strangers. I immediately added “Camino de Santiago” to my “want-to-do” list. Four months after starting the book, I received my teaching placement in, of all places, Galicia — the Spanish province where the majority of his book (and thus the majority of the camino) took place. Coincidence? Quizas.

Scallop shell decorations

If the camino was flitting around the back of my mind if America, it was drenching my field of vision here in Galicia. Scallop shells — the symbol of the pilgrims — decorated the sidewalks and fences; bright yellow arrows were sprinkled like breadcrumbs across the city; tales of past pilgrims were told and retold by teachers and amigos. Within weeks of arriving I had resolved that one day I would do the camino, but only if the right circumstances (read: the right compadre) arose.

Enter: Jenny. A bakers’ dozen of days ago I floated the idea to mi mejor amiga of filling the gap between my last day of classes and my flight back to the states by walking the camino. It was a long shot at best. Jenny has a grown-up job, a new house and a new husband and I was asking her to drop it all, fly across an ocean and walk through the rural hills of Northern Spain with me for 10 days. Who does that?!? Apparently, we do.

Spring in Galicia!

Thus far we don’t know how we are going to do the camino, only that come hell or high water (read: airline delays and customs controls) we are throwing on backpacks and boots on June 2 and hitting the trail. I imagine this new adventure will be a lot like eating an elephant; we’ll take it one bite at a time.

Have you ever walked the camino? Do you have any tips or suggestions?!?

Tags: , , , , ,

8 Responses to I’m Going to Do the Camino de Santiago!!!

  1. Your Camino starts when you make the decision to walk the trail. I have 19 days left before I take my first step and I cannot wait!

    • bitesofspain says:

      I think you absolutely right David! I already find myself staring longing into the green fields around Sarria. Good luck on your Camino! Be sure to stop and have a pizza at Matias in Sarria. Best food on the trail! Buen camino!

      • Hi there 🙂
        I’m walking up to Leon this year so unfortunately I won’t make it to Sarria. I miss Galicia though. It is just like where I am, Ireland 🙂

  2. I’mhoping to make it there in the next couple of months! I can’t wait. MY advice is obvious advice: pack light 😛

    • bitesofspain says:

      Great advice!! I kept my pack as empty as possible and it made a world of difference. The trail as infinitely easier without a huge weight to lug around! Good luck on your camino!! It’s a truly amazing experience. I miss the trail already!

  3. I did it in winter…. it was the best experience ever! I only did it from Leon, I got lost because it snowed and I couldn’t see the yellow arrows. In 10 days I walked 350 KM…. the best 10 days of my life. I have a post about it http://icveritas.com/buen-camino-peregrino/ feel free to pop in and leave a comment! buen camino peregrino!

    • bitesofspain says:

      I heard some pretty crazy stories on my trek about a couple pilgrims who hit a snowstorm coming over the Pyrenees from France on their camino. I can’t imagine doing it in the winter!! After my short 5-day stint on the trail I’m not itching to do it again from Leon. I’ll check out your post! Thanks for sharing!

      • When I did it there was a nasty snow storm, and because the days are short most of the I finished at night. One day I heard an austrian guy was coming down the picos de Europa and he didn’t see the black ice and he broke his leg. That was the same day I did the same part. Scary… but its amazing though! nice blog!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge