Our Camino de Santiago
After a day and a half in transit we arrived in Paris. Pauline had never been to Paris, so we spent a bit of time looking around. We stayed at a hotel overlooking the Eiffel Tower.
I managed to book a bus from Paris to Bayonne, then a train to St Jean (du Port) early the next morning. We were both very eager with anticipation.
After obtaining our ‘Passports’ we set off over the Pyrenees. This was 25km of almost constant uphill before a decent to Roncenvalles where we planned to spend our first night. Alas we were to be disappointed as the monastery/albergue was full. We trekked onwards for another 3km before we found a hotel with accommodation. The next day after walking for over 30km we had a similar experience and finally reached Pamplona, were again the alburgues were full and we stayed in a hotel.
We decided that after 3 days of no official accommodation, that we would start looking a bit earlier in the day. On our third day we were successful in finding a vacancy in an albergue. At the pub on this evening we joined a table of a dozen or so pilgrims which included an elderly Dutch couple, the ‘Norwegian Guy’ and three recently retired firefighters/mountain rescuers from Slovenia. These people we meet quite regularly over the next 4 weeks.
We settled into a pattern of getting up between 6 and 6.30am and stopping between 1 and 2pm. We would walk for about 2 hours before breakfast (Pauline’s fit-bit said she was an overachiever by this time) and then take whatever opportunities to look at churches and cathedrals as they arose.
Ending each day was a big decision. Firstly, and most importantly, we secured accommodation (dos (two) habitations (beds)? Was our first question when entering a village. Then the dilemma; shower, or beer. At this time of day food was generally unavailable (siesta). The good bit about this was that with every drink (beer/wine) you got complimentary tapas. This could be anything from coleslaw, olives (oh the olives) fried chicken, Galician pie or chips.
We both went through high and low points on this most challenging walk. However, we both had our highest point on the same day at a different point. Pauline’ was at ‘the Cross’ at the highest point of the Camino. We both had our low-point 2km down the track when the alburgue we planned to stop at was not there, followed by my emotional highpoint that evening with a sole guitarist at Aceto singing ‘Let it be’ and ‘Alleluia’. I still cry just thinking about this day.
We made it to Santiago de Compostela after 29 days after stopping just 10 km short the night before so we could arrive, complete our accreditation and attend the pilgrims’ mass at midday. Evidently it is normal for the queue to be about 3 hours. We got through in 90 minutes (praise the Lord).
Next day we continued to Muxia and the to Finsterre, where we spent a day.
We had walked for 33 days, averaging 29km a day; it was done. We had endured steep climbs, rough descents, smooth tracks and rough tracks, 35 degree temperatures, snow and rain. We have met some great people along ‘The Way’. But most of all we spent time with each other and God.