Taking on a new challenge #CaminodeSantiago

On this day, nine years ago, I was flying home from Santiago de Compostela having successfully walked the Camino Ingles (the English Way). It’s known as the English Way because it starts at the port of Ferrol, the traditional arrival point for those pilgrims arriving by boat from Britain and Ireland. It’s one of many popular routes that now see both believers and non believers walking, cycling or even horse riding to the destination point of the Cathedral in the city of Santiago de Compostela.

The Cathedral has been an important pilgrimage route since the 9th century as it is home to the shrine of St James the Great, one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus and now the patron saint of Spain. I’ll leave the story of St James for a later post, as well as my journey from Ferrol as my focus today is the Camino Frances.

Many of you will know of my love for Spain, thanks to my favourite Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull. It’s eruption in 2010 left me stranded in Seville and began an obsession with all things Spanish, including the idea of walking ‘El Camino’.

When I say walking ‘El Camino’ (or ‘the way’ as in ‘The Way of St James) it was my dream to walk the Camino Frances, so called because it starts in France and crosses into Spain via the Pyrenees. Of course the original pilgrims started their pilgrimage from their own doorsteps, wherever that might have been, but today there are numerous popular routes, called after their starting point or route, with the exception of the Camino Finisterre which starts, not ends in Santiago de Compostela. However, walking the Frances was not a realistic option for me, fitness, time and money being major factors. That was why the Camino Ingles was more realistic, shorter and yet still a full Camino in it’s own right, rather that walking the end section of one of the others. To receive your ‘Compostela’ you have to prove you have either walked 100km or cycled (or travelled on horseback) 200km to Santiago de Compostela.

While the Camino Frances still remained a dream, an option for when I could finally retire, life had other plans. It’s unlikely I’ll ever walk the Frances, as the nerve damage to my feet following chemotherapy makes walking long distances difficult. Would I ever cycle it, highly unlikely, or hang on maybe I could – just not actually on the ground. What if I could ‘virtually’ cycle the Camino. It might sound daft but there’s a growing number of virtual challenges you can sign up for via the internet and the Camino is one of them.

I don’t actually intend risking life and limb by getting out on the roads, my bike has long fallen into disrepair (a bit like me) after it served it’s purpose in training for cycling through Rajasthan (yes, I’m not a novice at signing up for doing daft things). However, we bought an exercise bike after Christmas and this would be the perfect motivation to get me on it more. I won’t be attempting to replicate the distances each day that would normally be cycled, or even walked – I think the ‘boss’ might have something to say about that as I still have work to consider. But the way these challenges work is that any activity you undertake, walking, cycling etc., as long as it’s quantifiable, counts towards your goal. So El Camino is on!

I haven’t got a formal plan – no news there. I seem to go through life doing things on a whim and appreciating what I’ve started after the event – Jill’s Book Cafe started in pretty much the same way! All I know is that I intend following the 772km route, at my own pace, to hopefully ‘arrive’ before 25th July which is the Feast Day of St James and the most iconic day in the Camino calendar. It also marks the final day of Theakston’s Crime Festival at Harrogate (if it actually happens) so a momentous day all round.

I shall track my journey and read about the places I’m passing through, and ‘virtually’ stopping in, so I can at least get a flavour of my journey, albeit from the comfort of my dining room. That said, I undertook a trip through Northern Spain several years ago that visited some of the places en route so I have my pictures to share. I’ll be accompanied on my trip by several authors who’ve already completed the route and I’ll be sharing their experiences with you along ‘the way’. So wish me Buen Camino and I’ll update you soon – I have to go an see a man about a bike!

36 comments

  1. My friend at writers’ group has just finished the first draft of a novel based on the Camino Way. I knew little about it until she read us extracts from her work in progress. Of course writers group hasn’t met for over a year, but I have been proof reading the first chapters. Her three main characters have very different reasons for being on the walk. It’s a fascinating idea treading a path that so many are also following or have followed.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s a great experience and I’m so pleased I’ve walked one of the ‘Ways’. It’s a great way to discover an area and it’s people. My trip will always remind me of how friendly, kind and helpful the people that we met were. As the ‘Ingles’ is not the most popular route I think we benefitted as people were perhaps less jaded and inundated with pilgrims. In fact we never met another pilgrim until we reached Santiago.

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  2. Well done Jill. It’s such a great idea – in so many ways. It will keep you fit, provide material for the blog and entertain and educate those of us who frequent Jill’s Book Cafe. Good Luck and Happy Pedalling. May your saddle never be sore. Linda

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Linda, I’ve been mulling this over as an idea but prevaricating so now I’ve said it, I have to do it! It was 8km this morning before breakfast to get me off to a positive start to the day! Not sure how long that will last xx

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  3. Jill I wish every success. I only mentioned it to Vince (my one!) that we will walk it together in the next few years, date to be decided. It’s always been a dream to do it. I can’t explain the draw but it’s there. x

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, fabulous, Jill. Looking forward to future updates – and maybe hearing more about the route you did complete. I’ve read various accounts recently and have been fascinated and wished I could do it. Buen Camino.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Janet, beginning to think I should have done a lot of my daft things virtually – all far easier when you’ve got a comfy bed and 3 square meals a day! Only joking, I’ve loved my adventures, especially with a bit of added distance.

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  5. You cycled through Rajasthan???? Did I read that correctly or were my eyes playing tricks. Having experienced the roads in India, the idea of being on a bicycle would petrify me!

    Love the idea of this virtual walk – 700+k in three months will be going some. You’ve given me an idea though for a smaller challenge I could do just by walking. I desperately need to get rid of some of this lockdown induced flab.

    How do you know where all the stopping points are and where you will be each time you do some distance?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Karen, your eyes did not deceive you. In 2005 I cycled from Fatehpur Sikri in Uttar Pradesh through Rajasthan via Jaipur to Pushkar as part of a charity challenge. You’ve never experienced fear until you’re stopped at a railway crossing as the traffic just lines up right across the road! For my latest insanity I signed up with Conquer so I use their app to record my distances and plot my distances on the map. I use the standard accepted Camino stages as my guide and generally aim to cycle each walking stage in two stages (if that makes sense) Have a look here as they do shorter challenges. The time frame is purely down to yourself, you set your own targets. If you use the attached link it should give you 10% off should you decide to give it a go. I will admit it is working as an incentive for me, but then I definitely work better if I have targets. https://www.theconqueror.events/r/JD4799

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      • I was petrified enough being in a TukTuk in the middle of Mumbai surrounded by five lanes of traffic (on a two lane road) at a junction where it was essentially no-man’s land. The M25 is a walk in the park in comparison!

        I looked at Conquer but am not inclined to pay for every challenge. Will just rely on my Map My Walk app and find a way to manually mark my location using Google maps. I’ve embarked on a walk along the 174mile Pembrokeshire coastal path. Have done the grand total of 10 so far so I shall have to up my game

        Liked by 1 person

      • I did think of doing it myself as well, but part of it was also needing the outside intervention to motivate me. I’m not intending to make habit of it, so I didn’t mind paying just this once, plus it was a long challenge. Appalling value for the shorter challenges. Good luck with your coastal path challenge.

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