My wife Heather and I are beginning the serious preparations for our Camino that will be starting on August 30 and ending on September 22. Due to time constraints brought about by Heather’s work schedule, we will be walking from Leon to Santiago over about 16 days and spending 3 days in Santiago at the end with a day trip to Muxia and Fisterra via bus. This will be the first Camino for Heather, and she is really excited about going. Our plan is to stay at a combination of albergues and hotels/casa rurales. Most of these have been booked ahead of time where possible. We have our plane tickets to Madrid and will catch the train from there to Leon and spend a couple of days in this marvelous city, curing the jet lag and seeing the incredible sights there. Then, it’s off to Villar Mazarife and Tio Pepe! Having walked the entire Camino Frances two years ago, it was really a snap to plan where to stay, and a challenge at the same time. While pulling this together, I was torn between two extremes — the desire to repeat the things that I really loved (primarily so that Heather could experience them) and the equally strong desire to try something new. After a lot of thought on this, I struck a balance somewhere in the middle, I suppose.
What I tried to do was break up some of the longer days into intermediate stops that would not stress us too much physically. For instance, two years ago I can still remember an agonizing 19-mile walk in the pouring rain from Palas de Rei to Arzua that was torturous and strength-sapping. Never got dry, not even by the next morning! Of course, this was made worse by the fact that I caught a cold and was up all night in Arzua. No sleep after that long day and then out at the crack of dawn to walk to Arca! This time we will stop east of Palas de Rei and then spend the next night in Melide. Same with Villafrance to O’Cebreiro. This time we will stop at Las Herrerias for the night and then walk to Fonfria the next day — so the big climb up over the mountain will be an event early in the morning instead of at the end of the long day.
Our training regimen has been simple thus far. We are taking regular trail walks with backpacks about three times a week that go about three or four miles at a time. These walks are on trails that mimic the Camino and also have some aggressive hills that challenge our quads and calf muscles. Next month we will do a weekly 10-mile hike around Natomas in Folsom, CA that should indicate if we have any blister issues with our gear — a subject near and dear to my heart as the reader of this blog might remember! As we get into July we will most likely increase the 10-milers to twice a week and the daily walks to at least 4 miles at a time. We’ll be ready to go with this.
I’ll be nearly 73 by the time we walk in Spain, but I still feel strong and ready for the challenge. Heather is 14 years younger than I am and is a runner, to boot. She’s in great shape but has had some health challenges with immune deficiency issues over the years. There is some trepidation on her part in this regard, but I am certain that she will be fine. So, now, the real count-down begins. We’re six months out and getting really excited.