The journey begins

The journey begins

For many years I have walked all over Europe with a group of friends and have long harboured the desire to walk the Camino to Santiago de Compestella with them. I guess I grew impatient waiting for them all to retire and have the time to commit to the five or six weeks needed to complete the Spanish section of the walk. When my friend Mike suggested he would like to do it as a way to gather his thoughts on what impending retirement might mean to him and as a spiritual and religious act I jumped at the opportunity. Initially we were planning for two weeks but as we researched the various options we decided to bite the bullet and looked at completing one of the Caminos that start on the borders with France and we booked flights to allow just over five weeks of walking.

Up until the very last moment we are undecided whether to take the Frances Route or to walk the less trodden route of the Norte, perhaps joining the Camino Primitivo after Oviedo. With our flights booked we are still consulting guide books at Bristol airport as we wait to board for the journey to Biarritz via Dublin.

I also have personal doubts at this stage as to my fitness and capability do such a relentless walk of over 800kms. As well as being a couple of stone overweight, I have recently pulled my back decorating my daughter’s flat and my doctor suggests that the walk with a pack would not be wise. However, with the help of a local osteopath and some acupuncture and a few long range walks around Cornwall and Somerset I have got myself as ready as possible. Mike has also sustained an injury that will slow him down somewhat and as he is a bit younger than me and a lot leaner and fitter that would not be a bad thing as far as making our walking rhythms more equal. This is quite important to consider if anyone is walking with a friend. We have decided that we should not be joined at the hip and , if necessary we can separate for sections. We have a couple of guide books that Mike has got from the Confraternity of St. James along with our pilgrim ‘passports’ that we must get stamped along the way and which will allow us to stay at the pilgrim auberges along the way. We have managed to get our packs down to about 10kgs which all our research tells us is still too heavy.

Across the water into Spain. We climb those hills tomorrow.

Across the water into Spain. We climb those hills tomorrow.

We are ready for the adventure.  The flights to Biarritz all go very smoothly and it is here that we leave the handful of other walkers who are headed for the start of the Camino Frances at St. Jean du Port.  We board a bus for Heyandaye on the Spanish border.From there we can start our walk in Irun  –  just a short walk across the bridge will take us to the Auberge in this border town – or we can take a quick ferry to Horrandiba and start our walk from there. We opt for the latter option as the idea that we will have travelled by car, plane, bus and boat all in one day appeals and Horrandiba looks like an interesting and pretty port town.

We settle in a little hostel in the old town before making our way to the auberge in  Irun to collect our first sello , the first passport stamp along the way, and now we know we are on our way. We are aware that tomorrow brings a steep initial climb out of town on our way to St Sebastienne and so a supper of Marlin soup, paella and a local red wine is needed to stoke the boilers.

Horrandiba in the distance

Horrandiba in the distance