by Ted Daly –
I was approaching my mid-60s and I needed an adventure! I read an article about the Camino, followed that with a documentary at UVic and I was hooked! This old man decided to walk 552 miles across France and Spain. I said I was old … for you young ‘uns that’s 920 kilometres.
Most people know the Camino from the film The Way with Martin Sheen. The Camino Francés, or Way of St. James, has its roots as a pilgrimage that was started in the 12th century. The idea of a pilgrimage appealed to me because more than 12 years after I lost my wife to cancer, I was still dealing with her loss.
But the Camino can be whatever you want it to be. You can walk alone or walk with other ” pilgrims.” You can stay in large dormitory rooms in albergues (hostels), or in the hundreds of villages along the way you are able to find shared or even private rooms. Most albergues also offer “pilgrim meals” for incredible prices and the meals are delicious. Did I mention they come with fresh baked bread and all the red wine that you can drink?
The Camino is 790 kilometres from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. At the end of it, I didn’t feel quite done, so I walked another 130 kilometres to the edge of the Atlantic Ocean in Muxia. The entire journey for me was 33 days, walking mostly six- to seven-hour days. My pace was a bit on the brisk side.
There is so much information on the Internet on the Camino that it can be terribly overwhelming. I spent countless hours doing my research. The best advice I can give anyone though is don’t carry more than about 20 pounds in your backpack, a pair of trekking poles is a must and bring two changes of clothes. The most important thing is to choose the proper footwear. My feet at journey’s end had nary a blemish, while I saw many raw, blistered and bleeding feet.
There are so many villages along the way that within a reasonable distance you will always be able to get water, fresh fruit or some sort of nourishment. I passed through hundreds of quaint villages, saw jaw-dropping scenery, incredible old Roman bridges and astounding architecture.
The Camino can get quite crowded in the summer months and sometimes there is a scramble for beds. I walked in May and June when it was less crowded and the weather was mostly favourable.
The Camino met and surpassed all of my expectations. I can only describe it as life changing, and I will talk non-stop to anyone that wants to ask me questions about it. It was such a life changer for me that I shocked my kids and got a tattoo as a lifelong reminder of my journey. Walking is now in my blood: this year I walked The Kerry Way in Ireland and next year I am off to the Via Francigena in Italy.
You can read my blog at www. https://tedscamino.wordpress.com. I would be more than pleased to talk anyone’s ear off one on one or in small groups. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.