Homer's Travels: Camino De Santiago - Epilogue ... And Prologue

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Epilogue ... And Prologue

The return home was incredibly uneventful especially compared to the ordeal of getting to the start of the Camino.  I got home around 11:00 PM and sat talking with the Wife until 3:00 AM.  I was still a little pumped from the Camino.  I even managed to pull off another toenail while I was talking with her and showing her all my Camino treasures - my shell, compostella, and Fisterra certificate.

So, what did I end up doing?  A few numbers ... Since I am a numbers kind of guy:
  • Total distance was 513.61 miles (826.58 km) walked in 36 days.  This does not include all the walking I did in each town I stopped at.
  • My average daily walking distance was 14.27 miles (22.96 km).
  • The longest stage was 21.40 miles (34.44 km) - Arzua to Monte de Gozo ...
  • ... which was followed by my shortest stage of 3.12 miles (5.02 km) - Monte de Gozo to Santiago de Compostela.
  • My average speed was 2.77 MPH (4.46 km/hr).
  • My maximum speed for a leg was 3.36 MPH (5.41 km/hr) - Frómista to Carrión de los Condes.
  • Total elevation up was 83,022 ft (25,305.10 m). Down was 83,006 feet (25,300.23 m).
  • The average elevations up and down per stage were essentially the same, 2,306 ft (702.87 m).
  • Most 'up' in one day was 5,450 ft (1,661.16 m) - Saint Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles.
  • Most 'down' in one day was 4,852 ft (1,478.89 m) - Foncebadón to Ponferrada.
  • I took three breaks along the way: a two day break in Burgos, a bus ride between León and Astorga, and a day in Santiago de Compostela before going to Fisterra.
  • I ate roughly 23 ± 2 tubes of Principe (or equivalent) cookies (368+ individual cookies)
  • I ate an ice cream every day starting in Pamplona including two per day while I was in Santiago de Compostela meaning I ate at least 41 servings of ice cream while on the Camino.
  • I bought 5 rosaries and 1 Mary bracelet (in O Cebreiro) for the Wife, 3 t-shirts for me, and 14 magnets.
[Click on map for a larger version]
They say that the Camino changes people.  People talk about not being able to sit still, of having another outlook on the world, of changing in unpredictable ways.  I feel different.  I definitely feel more confident.  I went to Spain thinking I might last three or four days before giving up.  Giving up turned out to never have crossed my mind.  Getting up each day, hoisting your pack on your back, and heading out each morning just became part of the routine.

I discovered a routine that sounds monotonous to some - getting up each day, walking 14 miles with a backpack, checking in to an albergue, taking a shower, shaving, brushing your teeth, washing clothes, finding a place to eat, napping, finding another place to eat, going to sleep, and repeat - takes on a whole other dimension when you are walking the Camino.  The daily routine simplifies you life to its bare necessities and sometimes, in this modern world of ours, simplification is what we all need but rarely have.  The monotony simplicity gives you time to think about a whole lot of things.

I discovered that I can be quite happy away from the trappings of civilization and that sleeping in albergue bunk beds isn't that bad.  Staying away from guided tours, American-style hotels, and other travel comforts often leads you to more interesting places and people.

I discovered that I was a much more social person than I thought I was.  The Camino encourages the quick formation of friendships.  I met and talked with KSam for ... probably less than an hour total and now she feels like an old friend.  Facebook has helped enormously to keep in contact with my Camino friends.

Despite all the things I have learned about myself, I feel like the Camino gave me a test and I came up incomplete.  I still have more to learn.  I hoped my pessimism would not make an appearance on the Camino.  I thought I might become all Zen and positivity would rein as I walked - that didn't happen.  The Camino often brought out the curmudgeon in me.  So I didn't pass the test - at least not the one I gave to myself - and I can't help feeling like there was something else I was supposed to learn.  When you get an incomplete on a test there is only one thing to do - take the test again.

When I said goodbye to GV, I told her, when either of us got the urge to go back and do it again, we would email the other.  I was a little surprised to receive an email only eleven days after I'd returned saying she was going back to the Camino in 2013.  My first reaction was it was too soon but, after mentioning the email to the Wife and having her say "I told you so", I thought about it and decided that I needed to go back and 2013 was as good as any to 'retake the Camino test'.

GV and I have already started to plan our next Camino.  Facebook have been very helpful in this.  Our plans are still very tentative.  We seem to have tentatively agreed on a few things:
  • We both agree the route will follow the Aragonese way.  We are thinking of starting it a few days into France along the Arles way ... possibly Orolon-Sainte Marie.
  • We will probably do it in September-October.  While Spring was beautiful, I want this Camino to be different and going in the Fall will add some variety.
  • We also agree that we will stay away from the big cities this time - Logroño, Burgos, León, etc.  The small towns have so much more character.
The rest of the route will take some work.  We want to make lists of places we want to stay at, places we want to avoid, and then somehow reconcile our two sets of  lists.  I actually think it will be fairly easy.  There will be some places that just won't work.  La Faba and O Cebreiro, San Antón and Castrojeriz - these places are too close to each other to stop at both.  I'm sure some of the decisions will be heartbreaking.   We still have a lot of time to put a detailed plan together which is good as I haven't really even started to think about the details yet.

A day hasn't gone by since I've returned home that I haven't thought about the Camino.  It's become somewhat of an obsession.   It was hard and yet so easy.  It was one of the best experiences I've ever had and I can't wait to go back.


  1. I have loved reading about your adventure. I hope it gets published-it's just so good!

    Thank you for sharing this with us!

  2. Congratulations on finishing this journey in one piece (well, minus your toenails). With you narrating the trip, it did sound very interesting. I would like to ask you a question though : how important is religion in the whole matter?

    Did your faith "drive" you and the others through it? Was there a strong emphasis on it? Or else, was it more subdued?

    The second option would be fine but I most likely wouldn't be able to stand the former.

  3. Hello, Gany. I'm Gv and I'd like to answer your question. I am an atheist and I found that the religious aspect was not really talked about. The Camino is much more of a personal journey than a religious one except for a very few people.

  4. Miss McC: You are welcome. Still not sure about the whole publishing thing.

    Gany: While the Camino was originally a religious pilgrimage, religion only plays a tiny role. I could have easily walked the whole thing without talking about or hearing about religion. If you asked about it you were told but I was never preached at. I think you would enjoy the Camino. You meet so many good people, see a lot of history, and give yourself a good workout all at the same time.

    GV: I agree with your answer to Gany. A personal journey is exactly how I would have put it.