This is a chronicle of a long walk taken in the spring of 2013. Today marks the one-year anniversary of that adventure that started in St. Jean Pied de Port, France and ended in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. This is the Camino de Santiago, and it is the oldest Christian Pilgrimage, dating back to the 9th century. The total walking distance was 816 kilometers (510 miles). It took 38 days to get from the start to the finish. Three of those days were spent “resting and sightseeing” in large cities along the way: Pamplona, Burgos, and Leon. I took an extra two days at the end also soaking up the wonderful atmosphere of Santiago, Spain before getting on the plane back to Sacramento, CA. Along the way, I was accompanied by a good friend, Greg, who provided a great deal of support and encouragement. At times the trek became so arduous that I have often wondered if we could have made it all the way without each other.
Each day for the next six weeks, I will be posting the notes I made on a daily basis as well as including some pictures taken along the way.
Long before leaving, Greg and I spent months preparing for the trip by training to walk long distances. We logged many hours on trails around and about the American River and Lake Natomas in the Fair Oaks, Orangevale and Folsom, California area. This was an attempt on our part to simulate what we expected to encounter along The Camino in Spain. As it turned out, we were both right and wrong about some of our assumptions. While we found that we were prepared to walk long distances, we discovered at the same time that we were not fully trained for the many “ups and downs” that we actually encountered. On Greg’s part, he was able to handle the strenuous uphill portions much greater than I, but was struggling with the downhill parts. I was the opposite. The downs were easier for me. The result of this was that, although we walked at different paces going up, I was usually able to “catch up” on the down. By the time we arrived in Pamplona, we were both suffering from calf muscle pain that made it very painful to go down stairs in the hotel. Within a day or so, we were able to walk this out, and we were not bothered by it again. We know now that there are “techniques” of walking up and down hills that will greatly alleviate or prevent pain and injury. The biggest issue that faced us was the problem with blisters. For the most part, we were both plagued with bad blisters at some point along the way. For me, this turned out to be a major story. I talk about this later in the narrative. Suffice it to say, at this point, one should not minimize the vast importance of blister prevention and treatment before leaving for a 500-mile trek.
We set out from Sacramento on April 21 and flew to Paris via Dallas, TX. There was a long hold-over in Dallas, waiting four our connection to the Paris flight, and we used this time to eat a good lunch and then walk a couple of miles in the terminal. The flight over the Atlantic occurred mostly during the night, and we tried to get as much sleep as possible in our cramped seats on the Boeing 737. I actually did get some zzzz’s, and when I poked my head out of the blanket, I saw the sunrise.