Cloister in Los Arcos on the Camino de Santiago

Cloister in Los Arcos on the Camino de Santiago

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Camino de Santiago - here we come!!

Camino de Santiago May 2011

Alea iacta est – the dice has been thrown – we have crossed the Rubicon

After six months wrestling with the idea of walking the Camino in 2011 – of walking the Northern Route, of walking the entire Camino Frances, of cycling, of being escorted, of being guided – I have made my decision. I have booked my plane tickets. Unlike Lot’s wife, there will be no looking back! I will start in France in St. Jean Pied de Port, travel through Pamplona, where I began a walk five years ago, and finish in Logrono our penultimate stop in 2006. All in all it’s a good walk of 160k – closer to 200k when adjusted for height and drink taken the night before.

I am flying out of Dublin courtesy of Mr. Michael O Leary (Ryanair) to Biarritz at midday of Monday 16th May and returning courtesy of Aer Lingus on Thursday 26th May DV (Deo volente...).

I have decided to raise money for an Irish Charity working in Haiti, called the Haven Partnership, chaired by Leslie Buckley who is a director of Digicel, one of the few companies making a difference in Haiti. The distance is approx 160km and I will ask people to sponsor me at 10c per km, or 16 euro. I intend following the progress of Haven on their excellent Blog . I may cover the journey on this blog en route, technology permitting.

Haven builds excellent low cost housing for the people of Haiti. Haven believes that by giving a family a roof over their heads, they can give people their pride back again. Haven is also training the local people to be able construct the houses themselves and pass on the technology to others.

Armed with the excellent guide to the Camino written by Johnny Brierley I have been planning my route. Johnny was a director of an auctioneering firm in Dublin in the seventies and early eighties before turning his back on Mammon and heading for the commune of Findhorn in Northern Scotland. Findhorn sounds like a fantastic community where people work for a living in sustainable jobs (no navel gazing, it would appear).

Here is the proposed itinerary:

Day 1 Fly to Biarritz. Take the bus to Jean Pied to Port. Remember not to eat or drink too much!
Day 2 Set out on the hardest stage - over the Pyrenees following the route of Napoleon – 24km but 30km adjusted for climb of 3,500 feet – I hope it’s not snowing!!
Day 3 Downhill from Roncesvalles to Larrasoana 27km – adjusted for climb 29km – not all downhill – obviously
Day 4 Gentle walk to Pamplona 16km
Day 5 Recover in Pamplona. I enjoyed my last visit to Pamplona in 2006 – a bit too much! At least this time we don’t have to try and wake the Cathedral sacristan to get a –‘passport’ or Credencial (hence the name). Pamplona is a good partying town, so early to bed.
Day 6 Another tough walking day to one of my favorite little towns – Puente La Reina – with a high pointb of 2,600 ft – 25km – adjusted for height – 29km. Puente la Reina is town with a Roman bridge where numerous Spanish trails meet and join on their way to faraway Santiago in the gentle green hills of Galicia.
Day 7 We leave the Province of Navarra and make our way to the little town of Estella. Did we see a corrida (bull stampede) the last time? Barry may help me out on this one. A modest 22km – 23.5km adjusted for height.
Day 8 We journey to another pretty town – Los Arcos - a distance of 21 kms (23km adjusted), passing through Villamayor de Monjardin.
Day 9 – Final walk – finishing with a big one – 29.4km to the city of Logrono – passing the marvelous and historic town of Viana
Day 10 – spent in either Logrono, quite nice, or Bilbao – more interesting.
Day 11 – Return to Ireland on the afternoon flight.

I hope as many people can join me for some or all of the way as possible. Some will want to support their own charities, some will support Haven and some may support none. Just because I am mad doesn’t mean that others have to follow.

A great website to join and find out more about the Camino is . I get an e-mail every morning at 6.00am. It is worth waking up to.

I propose to make the pilgrimage as civilized as possible. I found out Day 1 in 2006 that there is an excellent taxi service where for 10 euro a day they will bring your bag ahead to your evening destination. As before I intend to stay in one and two star hotels or guesthouses. I know true pilgrims stay in hostels and snore and wash socks together. I simply don’t want humanity to suffer too much at my expense.

I am looking forward to meeting other mad people (pilgrims) en route and where possible some of the locals. It is a very demanding and daunting itinerary but I would like to smell the roses too. Like Paulo Coelho I hope to find my literary and spiritual voice. Unlike Paulo who has no interest in retracing his camino steps - I am looking forward to seeing familiar places again. I just hope the reality lives up to my fond memories.

In conclusion

Air travel - planned and paid for
Itinerary - agreed, just about
Credencial - try and find edition 2006 or write to Society of St James
Companions - to be pressed ganged
Fund raising - to begin
Hotel booking - over the next few weeks
Physical training - starting Weds in Tenerife 4 hours a day
Spiritual exercises - Mainly Quaker spirituality – starting tomorrow!
Ambition - to fund the building of a house to be named 'Santiago' (cost c Euro 5,000)
Dedication Kevin A Murray 30th Nov 1920 – 9th January 1980

All suggestions will be welcome!