Being inspired by my adventurous wife I finally decided to make this outstanding family trip – the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Although there are multiple ways to Santiago, we took the main one, from the border with France. The total length of the Camino is slightly more than 800 kilometers, or 500 miles. It is a walking pilgrimage (although cycling is also popular). So it took us 36 days to make it to Santiago de Compostela. Then we turned South and walked the Camino Portuguese to Porto (another 100 miles).
Not surprisingly, because of its nature and length, this pilgrimage became very meditative for me.
The Camino de Santiago is the name of pilgrim ways to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried. Many follow its routes as a form of spiritual path or retreat for their spiritual growth.
The main route we took is also the most popular one. Even during our perfect timing in October it was easy to meet over 100 pilgrims on the trail daily.
Originally this pilgrimage had religious reasoning. Today tourism around the Camino de Santiago is a huge help for Spanish economy. It attracts millions of people, who are driven not only by religious motivation, but also for cultural exploration, sport, history, photography, socializing etc. In those, and many more areas, the Camino de Santiago is a generous and endless source.
Our purpose was cultural, spiritual, and family oriented.
If you are interested about the physicality of our trip, here is our setup data. It is totally doable.
- There were three of us: me, my wife Meghan, and our almost two-year old Oliver.
- I carried Oliver, diapers, and daily food in a Deuter carrier-backpack (40 pounds total).
- Meghan carried all our clothing (20 pounds total).
- Understandably, I only brought my mirrorless Fujifilm.
- I had very nice boots and socks set, which worth a separate article.
If you’re interested about the packing list, and strategies for a family trip like the Camino de Santiago, check Meghan’s blog article at oliverstravels.us. Day to day Meghan’s journal of the Camino you can find in this article. I’m going to concentrate here on my personal experience during the trip.
The Camino in reality is a well-marked trail, which sometimes blends with roads, and goes through streets in little towns, villages, and big cities. There is no shortage of places to eat or stay overnight along the route. The accommodation range runs from pilgrim’s albergues for 5 Euro per bunk bed, to simple hotels for 40 Euro per double room.
There is an endless opportunity to meet people from all around the world on the Camino de Santiago: from Korea to New Zeland, and from Norway to Brazil. It is such an incredible cultural bouquet! I love it!
The entire route is subdivided by two major big cities: Burgos, and Leon. Together with terrain diversity it creates three parts of the Camino with similar length, but very different by sensations it evokes. I agree with some person on the way, who described those three parts as Physical, Mental, and Spiritual, which is very close to the stages of long-term meditation process.
The first part from the French border to Burgos starts in the mountains, and runs through beautiful green areas. When you look through the photos, you see many church interiors. Indeed, the churches along the Camino are as frequent as 3-5 miles, and they are incredibly beautiful regardless of how little the village it is in.
During this part we would wake up early, and leave for the trail when it is still dark. It was reasonably cold, but only in the mornings. This stretch is named Physical for a good reason. Our main concerns were:
- How many new blisters did we get?
- When will we finally get in shape?
- Do we have enough food?
- What the earliest should we leave, to make enough miles today?
- How to adjust backpacks to suffer less?
My mind was completely preoccupied with physical stuff. Only the most striking subjects could catch my eye, or motivate to stop and photograph. Below you can see some photos from this part of our Camino de Santiago.
To be continued…