And so it begins…my 542-mile walk across Spain on El Camino de Santiago. I am walking the Camino Frances, so named because it starts in France before crossing the Pyrenees into Spain. For the next 30+ days I will walk.
I’m hoping I will also blog, but we’ll see how that goes. In keeping with the title of our blog, I’m not putting pressure on myself. Some days it may just be a few photos, other days it may be nothing at all. Stay tuned.
El Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James) refers to dozens of ancient routes which criss-cross Europe, converging at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Spain where the remains of Jesus’ apostle St. James the Elder are believed to lie. Several of these routes traverse France, converging in Saint Jean Pied de Port (literally St. John at the Foot of the Pass), which is where most pilgrims start their Camino today. St. Jean Pied de Port is a beautiful little medieval town, its stucco and stone buildings so simple and pleasing, perfectly framing the Pyrenees to the west, providing a glimpse of the walk – and climb – ahead.
I spent the night in my first albergue (hostels dedicated to providing basic accommodations for pilgrims) near the St. James Gate and began my walk down the cobblestone street this morning thinking about the millions of pilgrims who have preceded me. I stepped into the small church at the bottom of the hill, just before exiting the walled portion of the city to set my intentions for the walk ahead. I felt buoyant as I walked out of town following the signs that bear the scallop shell (the symbol of the Camino).
The first day of the Camino Frances is considered the most difficult because of the elevational challenge of the mountains. I walked the lower route; the higher route (the “Route Napoleon”) is closed until next week due to snow. Even so, I climbed about 2,100 feet, most of which was at the end of the day. I walked through small villages, each with a few white-washed shuttered houses and a church.
A head wind blew for much of the day, which was refreshing at first, but became frigid and tedious as I crested the mountains at Ibañeta just before reaching my destination for the night, Roncesvalles.
So now I am sitting in my bed, exhausted, but excited to sleep in a monastery.
Today I walked 15.25 miles.