Paul Kilfoil's World of Travel, Technology & Sport

Posted on  by Paul Kilfoil.
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I've had "Walking the Camino in Spain" on my bucket list for a long time. Finally, late in 2017, my wife and I decided that we had to do it. So we booked return flights to Barcelona for May and June 2018 and started planning [Aside : In case you don't know, the "Camino" refers to various walking trails that all culminate in the city of Santiago de Compostela in the north-west of Spain. These trails start from various points in Europe - France, Italy, Portugal, even Scandinavia. But the different trails eventually converge and the "pilgrims" walking on them all end up at the cathedral in Santiago, known as the church of St James because of the legend that James, one of the original twelve apostles, is buried there].

A pilgrim next to a typical Camino distance waymarker

The first thing we discovered was that it would help a lot if we joined the Confraternity of St James, a worldwide organization dedicated to promoting the various Camino routes in Europe. The confraternity has a South African chapter (see here), so Karen and I signed up and very quickly received a certificate attesting that we were bona-fide pilgrims and a letter addressed to the Spanish embassy that we could use when applying for a visa.

We went to one of the Saturday morning "Pilgrim workshops" organized by the confraternity and were amazed to discover how many people were planning to walk the Camino in 2018 - there were hundreds of people there, many of whom had done several Caminos before! We, who are seasoned travellers (I've been to 47 different countries, Karen only a few less), felt like total novices amongst the Camino veterans we met at the workshop. The workshop was very useful and helped significantly with our planning.

We had decided to walk the Camino Frances (French Way), the original and most popular of all the routes. The traditional starting point is St Jean Pied-de-Port in France; we will begin our trek from there on Thursday 31 May 2018, and hope to reach Santiago in Spain by 23 June. That isn't long enough to walk the entire 790 kilometres (we unfortunately don't have enough time for that), so we'll have to take a few buses and trains along the way. But we'll definitely walk at least the last 100 kilometres, the minimum distance required to be considered a real pilgrim.

The Camino Frances route from St Jean Pied-de-Port (France) to Santiago de Compostela (Spain)
Map © OpenStreetMap contributors (info)

Update : We eventually completed just over 300 kilometres of the Camino and reached Santiago de Compostela on 20 June 2018. The full story of our trip can be found here.

  © Paul Kilfoil, Cape Town, South Africa