My Way to Santiago
Enthusiasm - my only preparation
It is time to tell you about my trip along the French Way to Santiago de Compostela in the distant 2012. I took advantage of some days off before Easter to do the last 112 km of the Camino from Sarria to Santiago. It was a great experience and I hope to walk it again from the very beginning in France. The curious thing is that I didn't have any special preparation and yet I did not any muscle fever after walking for 5 days.
I decided to walk, following the classical French Way, or rather the very last part of it, starting in Sarria, Galicia. I decided to improvise and decide along the way if I would walk the distance for 4 or 5 days. Eventually, it occurred that 25 km a day was good enough for me, so I finished my pilgrimage to Santiago for 5 days. I started at 9:30 AM on Saturday and I arrived in the Cathedral of Santiago at 1:30 PM on Wednesday.
On the first day, I walked from Sarria to Portomarin, 22 km. The second day was a track from Portomarin to Palas del Rei., 24 km.
The third day was a trip between Palas del Rei and Ribadiso do Baixo, 25 km. Only 2 km further down the road, I could reach Arzua but I decided that this extra 2 km distance was too much for me, especially because it was uphill.
On the third day, I walked from Ribadiso do Baixo to Pedrouzo, 25 km again and on the last day, I had only 17 km left to Santiago de Compostela.
The Way to Santiago is very well marked with yellow arrows and seashells, so it is pretty much impossible to get lost. The route to Santiago is also very picturesque, winding as a narrow path among green fields, beautiful hamlets with rivers and stone bridges and friendly locals who wave at you and wish you buen camino!
Baggage and a typical day
I had a backpack with no more than 6-7 kg of basic necessities, including as well my pilgrim passport, the so-called credencial in which I got stamps from all the hostels and bars along the way, which I visited to prove that I have done the Camino on foot. I tried to wake up every day at 7 or 7:15 AM and to start walking at 8. I would have a break every two hours for 10-15 minutes. My lunch would be at 2:30 PM and usually but 3:30-4:00, I would be in a hostel/albergue in Spanish. I would talk to other pilgrims and explore a bit the local place, dine at 8 and be in bed by 11.
Food and accommodation
The food in Galicia is great! The prices are decent, almost East European. You can have lunch or dinner on a daily menu, including a three-course meal and a bottle of wine or beer for 8,50-10 euros. The entire Camino is dotted with bars, restaurants and hostels. There are subsidized local hostels which were as cheap as 5 euros/night but I preferred the private ones, which were usually 10-12 euros/night but with much better conditions - cleaner and smaller so that you do not need to sleep with 50 other people in a huge dorm.
I did this pilgrimage to think about my primary goals in life, to think about the past, the present, and the future and of course to talk to other pilgrims along the way. I met very interesting and sometimes really inspiring people. There were pilgrims who walked for recreational purposes, especially South Korean and Japanese pilgrims. There were others who did it as a vow to God, as a prayer or just to express their gratitude to God for their lives. As a 57-year-old Basque pilgrim put it: "There is an old Spanish song that you need three things in life to be happy - health, money and love. I am healthy and I have a loving wife and a wonderful daughter. I can't complain about money either. Hence, the only thing I need to do is to thank God for everything I have." This Basque pilgrim had walked all the way from Roncesvalles in the Pyrenees to Santiago, 700 km for only 27 days! I was really impressed with his attitude and his spirit. Talking to him and a number of other amazing people and listening to their stories made me realize that happiness depends primarily on our attitude to life.
Finally in Santiago de Compostela!
Five days later, on Wednesday, at 1:30, I managed to climb the stairs of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela and to get my certificate in Latin, called la Compostela from the nearby office confirming that I have officially fulfilled the requirements of a pilgrim by walking at least 100 km from the Way to Santiago! To this day, it is my best Spanish traveling memory! I wish to all of you one day to set your feet on the Camino de Santiago and find answers to all your questions! Buen camino!