Ok, for those of you who had been following my blogs way back in the years prior to 2012 get ready to once again pop by and visit regularly - because I am going to make it a priority to do a blog each day. You may remember, I posted almost obsessively in my "Toronto is My Town Blog" for over 3 years and then in Apr - July 2012 I posted almost daily to this blog as I travelled through Europe and but sadly during my 2013 Peru trip I failed miserably to blog much at all... well since then my attempts at blogging have been sporatic at best while I travelled to Costa Rica in 2013 and Cuba in 2014. I could blame life events or just being busy with life... but no matter - today I turn over a new leaf as I sit in airports waiting for my flights - firstly Delta 3746 to JFK, which after a 3 hour layover will proceed to Madrid, Spain and arrive at 9:15 am local time.
In 2012 I flew to Seville with my friends Barb and Ian and we three walked the Via de la Plata route to Santiago de Compostela. The VDLP joins the Frances route (the most popular route) in it's last 3rd at Astoraga. In all, we walked about 850 KM, but we did have to miss a bit in the middle, about 250K, due to time constraints and injury. After the trip, Barb and I travelled to Finisterre ("The End of the World" - the most westerly point in Spain) and Ian headed to Bilboa before returning via Barcelona. When Barb headed to Madrid and then home, I flew to Barcelona for a few days then hopped a train and started my 2 month France / Italy wanderings. When I finished the Camino last time, I really doubted I would do it again. My feet hurt big time and I was thinking of other places which were higher in priority for me.
Well a few things have changed for me and I now hear the Camino calling. My feet are no longer hurting and funny - I seem to not remember how badly they did hurt - I guess a little like childbirth, eh? I decided I need to walk and meditate, walk and contemplate/think things through, walk and talk with new Camino friends and walk and listen to music, and walk and see beautiful Spanish countryside, and walk and decide what is next for me. I am at a bit of a cross roads - am I retired or not, new roles exchanged for old (my parents now gone I have a bit of caregiver fatigue or maybe it is a form of empty nest), once again single... (don't ask)... so just seemed right to start the Camino Frances from the beginning at Saint Jean Pied de Port and walk the Frances piece that I missed. There is a serenity that comes from a pattern of walk, shower and wash clothes, socialize and eat and drink wine with other Pilgrims, sleep and then repeat for 40 days which can't be obtained any other way.
For this trip I have an extra adventure in store. I have volunteered to be a Hospitalera at an Albergue from June 1 - 16. An Albergue is a special type of low cost hostel which is offered only for Pilgrims to stay one night while walking the Camino. The Spanish "Friends of the Camino" (Federacion Espanola de Asociaciones de Amigos del Camino De Santiago), and other Confraternities such as the Saint James Confraternity in Britian support various parochial and municipal Albergues which are staffed by Volunteers. For the most part, the volunteers staff albergues which are "by donation" - that is you are told to pay what you can. Private Albergues cost from about 8 - 12 EU and sometimes more. It is one of the things that make the 5 week trek affordable. Volunteers help to allow the donation Albergues to keep in operation and so make the Camino walk possible for those who just scrape by financially.
Here is a picture of the Albergue in Zamora where I will be a Hospitalera. The picture is quite misleading - it is built into a hill on the wall of the city and the door opens on the 3rd floor of the Albergue. You can read about Zamora and the Albergue in my 2012 Camino Blog here and see how wonderful the Albergue is inside. Note that I did two blog pages for this day as there was so much to see in this interesting City.
I have included a GIF of the elevation of the Camino Frances from the start at Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compestela. The first day is not included because it is in France and the software which generated the GIF does not include it. Suffice to say the first day is going to be the most difficult as it is the highest ascent of the journey in 25 KM without any stops along the way! You can click on the image to get a larger version. Of course the Project Manager in me has mapped out each day, distances and villages/cities to stay in all on an Excel spreadsheet. I will be updating it daily to reflect actual progress - if you are interested in this detail you can go here to see it.
Here is a picture of me at Finisterre taken at the end of May in 2012. While I will not be going to Finisterre this trip, I will be just as happy when I am finished my 2015 Camino!