There’s nothing ‘easy’ about the Camino de Santiago!
Not even planning for this epic walk is as straight forward as it may seem. While your feet may be your primary mode of transport, don’t think the visa authorities don’t want to know the ‘where’ and ‘when’ of your trip. A detailed itinerary, indicating every planned stop on the route (I suppose to satisfy them that you actually know what and where the Camino is), needs to be submitted.
In addition, membership of the Confraternity of St James is highly recommended, as these good folk, once you sign up as member, provide you with a letter to present together with your visa application to verify that you are indeed a bona fide pilgrim.
As I’ll be walking in the peak Camino season, I also consulted as many guides as possible – especially the last stretch (100km’s) before Santiago de Compostela (one needs to walk at least 100km’s to get the official Compostela) can get very crowded, and I do not want to end up in a small little village without any available accommodation.
I only booked accommodation for two of the nights.
Leaving Johannesburg on 29 July, I’ll arrive in Paris at 05:35 (after an 11 hour flight), and then catch the TGV (train) at 09:47 – finally arriving in St Jean Pied de Port at 15:50 on the 30th of July. I simply cannot imagine feeling like a shared bunk bed in a dormitory after such an epic journey. So, for my very first night, I booked a room at Maison Simonenia in St Jean Pied de Port.
Besides the long journey time to reach St Jean, I’d also like to explore St Jean a little upon my arrival (after a shower!), and as Albergues (pilgrims’ hostels) serve meals quite early (and have a 22:00 lock-out policy), I thought it wise to book private accommodation for my first night.
For the same reason – to do a bit of sightseeing in St Jean – I decided to book accommodation for the following night at Refuge Orrison, a mere 7km’s out of St Jean Pied de Port. Though most pilgrims travel between St Jean Pied de Port and Roncesvalles on their first day (a 25km walk taking you from France, over the Pyrenees into Spain), staying over in Orrison will allow me some more time in St Jean on 31 July, as I will not have to leave so early. It will also, undoubtedly, ease me into the walking by cutting my second day (crossing the Pyrenees) to around 17km.
For the rest of the trip I won’t book any accommodation and, like most pilgrims, take up whichever bed is available at the end of each day.
By the way…do you know where the word Camino comes from?
Let me tell you…
Long ago, centuries ago in fact, a lone stranger walked the route that’s now become known as the Camino Frances. It was terribly cold, and the rain pelted down on him. Exhausted, near frozen, he decided to seek shelter, and he walked up to the nearest house and knocked on the door.
The owner of the house opened the door, and, completely shocked and amazed at the state of the poor man at the door, he said, “Hell, come in ou!’
And that’s where the word Camino (Come-in-ou) originated.
(Okay, it didn’t, but it’s a joke that’s served me well for many years!).
If you’re interested, this is my itinerary for the trip – besides a few changes, I basically stuck to the itinerary followed by journalist Erns Grundlingh (read his book, Elders (or Walk it off, the English version), it’s magnificent!).
I’m currently busy finalising my packing list, and will share more info once done. My budget too, I’m sure, will provide great amusement, as I’m really doing this on a shoestring – in fact, I don’t know if I’ll be able to afford bloody shoestrings!
Walk it off!