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Walking the Camino … Again!

May 26th, 2018 · No Comments · Barcelona, Pilgrimage, Spain

We are doing the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.


Once could have been enough, but we are giving “the Camino” another try, a year and a month since we first did it.

Why? Because it’s there? A little.

But mostly it is about offering some companionship to two of Leah’s dearest college friends. Devout Roman Catholics, they have hankered to walk the Camino for years and years, and here they are, ready to go.

One of them had never been in Europe till they landed in Paris yesterday. The other had not been for 31 years. They are keen to see some sights — and take some walks — and their enthusiasm is infectious.

As always, lots of logistics. As usual, with Leah handling most of them.

Two days ago, we drove down to Barcelona, where our friends were arriving via St. Louis, Chicago and Paris. A full 24 hours of air travel. I expected them to be melted zombies. Instead, they were smiling and happy to be on the other side of the Atlantic for this test.

After a fine tapas meal at a clearly aspirational little place — named “Le Petit Paris” — near our regular near-the-airport hotel, we stayed the night in Barcelona, then took a very early (and very bumpy) Vueling flight (what a battered old plane!) yesterday from Barcelona to Santiago.

The four of us were met at the airport by a representative of the travel firm we are working with, and he drove us back (east) the 75 miles or so that we just flew over and to the town of Sarria — where we will stay the night before beginning a second walk to Santiago.

It was a deeply daunting, even depressing ride in the speeding car. Not because of the people and not (yet) because it was overcast, with rain forecast for the next week. But because our ride seemed to go on and on, and it made our upcoming attempt to walk to the cathedral in Santiago seem so, so, so long. Preposterously long.

And we are not nearly as prepared, physically, as we were a year ago. Not close. We may not make it on foot. We may not make it past the first batch of hills that bring us out of Sarria and to the Camino.

It is 8 a.m. today, the rain has stopped for a bit and we feel a pressing urge to grab a small breakfast from our one-star (but nicer than that) hotel and get on the trail. We can hear the Englishwomen across the hall leaving their rooms, headed for the next stop on the trail. Everyone in the place is a “peregrino”, far as we can tell.

Today is Day 1 of our six-day Camino walk back to Santiago. This is happening because Leah’s friends inspired us to give it another shot. They also are celebrating their 30th anniversary on the trail — and they looked at a map of southern Europe and thought it would be convenient to pair the Camino with a visit to the south of France. It is convenient, actually.

Daughter Drew will remember this as a five-day walk, and it was, last year, but Leah’s colorful recounting of her near-collapse near the end of Day 3 deeply impressed Leah’s female college friend, and the latter decided to break the 30k (18.6 miles) leg from Palas de Rei to Arzua into two legs of 15k. Requiring an extra day on the trail and another li’l hotel.

Meanwhile, her ex-Marine husband, whose birthday is on Day 5 on the trail and who is in his 50s, not only wanted to do the walk, he wanted to carry his own pack — but he was talked out of that and all luggage (aside from the smaller packs our friends are carrying) will be shipped from one dinky hotel to the next by a company van.

We are skedded to reach Santiago on Thursday, May 31.

A couple of unknowns: 1) Will Leah and I make it on foot? We resumed walking regularly a month or so ago, but we have not done more than 5k in one go, and the shortest day on the trail is 15k (and the longest 25k).

I am at maybe 60 percent of where I was a year ago, and we have given ourselves permission to fail.

If one of us cannot make it up a hill or to the end of the day’s walk, we will drop out and look for a bus or cab to take us to the next town, where we will await our visitors.

And this is way-too-far-ahead thinking, but if we all complete the six-day trek, can we get to Santiago early enough on Day 6 to attend the noon Pilgrim Mass? That is the one at which the botafumeiro typically is swung? It’s a big deal to most walkers.

Day 5 of Our Camino: Our Triumphal* Entry into Santiago … and the Botafumeiro

Leah has not yet seen it. Neither have our friends.

To get to the church on time, we will have needed to start at 7:15 a.m. and walk at a pretty high rate of speed. Drew and I made it, in April of last year, but by about a half hour, and other walkers were referring to us as “rapidos” as we powered past. (In the whole walk, that day, we were passed only once.)

Also, the forecast for Santiago calls for rain nearly every day we are on the trail, and if it the rain gets heavy or threatens to overpower our low-rent ponchos …

We will spend one night in Santiago, then fly back to Barcelona, and spend two nights, visiting the Sagrada Familia (another visitor request), then drive up to southern France, where they will be two nights before we take them to the train to Paris for their final two days.

So, back in the south of France on Sunday, June 3. God-willing.


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