Sunday, March 25, 2007


How does one prepare for a 35 dayish walking journey across 750km in a foreign land?
A list might include logistics, physical & cultural.
Logistics: How to get there, what to take (and what to leave), communication.
The Airline tickets are booked to Madrid, then Pamplona. In Pamplona, I need to post travel clothes and stuff to Santiago. Everything I don't wish to carry. Then take an evening bus to Roncesvalles. Some where along the way, I need to get a Credencial to allow me to stay in the albegues or refugios, the pilgrim hostels. I have no bookings at the other end, who knows when I will get there, my best guess is about 35 days later. I have a friend meeting me in Santiago if all goes to plan. Supposedly pilgrims get a half cost plane ticket back to Madrid? Failing that, then it will be the train. See some sights, then back to Australia. Wisdom has it that the pack should weigh less than 10kg or 10% of body weight (must try to put on some weight :<) ). Mobile phone number is to be arranged, possibly a pre-paid spanish card, but I am aiming to try to get net access to keep this blog updated. Still some clothing to be sorted out, but at least the boots are worn in. Physical: Been pretty slack with the training. My longest walk in preparation has been about 12.5km. I will need to do about twice that each day. Training walks have included, Kadina to Wallaroo several times, Banksia Park to Campbelltown a few times, numerous local walks, and more recently several hikes up and down Anstey's Hill with a full pack. I am finding trekking poles a great asset climbing the hill. Anstey Hill - This might also work,+SA,+Australia&ie=UTF8&t=h&om=1&z=15&ll=-34.830837,138.734922&spn=0.021594,0.048494&iwloc=addr Google Earth gives heights as a function of cursor position, but I have not worked out how to link to it yet.

Cultural: Plenty of guides to the Camino, the problem is choosing just one to take (it is all weight!). My daughter and I have been doing a WEA Spanish for Fun and Travel course. It has been fun. When it comes to Spanish, I hope they speak good English, por favor y gracious.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Why am I setting out on this strange journey?
It is a long story, with a detour ...
Many years ago, in my 20's, I read a book by James A. Michener, 'The Drifters'. In it was described, the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain. It became an ambition of mine, to run with the Bulls when I turned 50. I knew it was a seemingly pointless act, but something about the irrational, senseless act was attractive, especially to a logically driven engineer.
Fast forward to a new century, I am divorced, re-married, and the father of 8 year old twins. It is not reasonable to risk life and limb for an irrational goal with young children, so scratch that ambition.
The detour, well my wife was born in Portugal, and comes from a family called Coelho (Rabbit). Browsing in a bookstore, I came across a Brazilian author called Coelho, Paulo Coelho (see . On a whim, I bought one of his books. 'The Alchemist' if I recall correctly, and from there a succession of his books. They are mystic/spirtual books with a message, and a good read. One of these books, I read 3-4 years ago, is called 'The Pilgrimage', and describes his journey along an ancient Pilgrim's trail in the North of Spain to Santiago. This started an interest in the Pilgrim's Trail known as the 'Camino de Santiago de Compostela'.
It is trail across Spain ending in Santiago de Compostela, and there are many variants, the most popular being the Camino Frances, originating in the Pyrenees. It has been a Pilgrim destination for over 1100 years, and some guides say it goes back to pagan times when the trail ended in Finisterre (literally end of the earth). Santiago is spanish for Saint James, and this is where the remains of Saints James (the Greater) are reputed to be buried. Compstela means 'Field of Stars'. For the connection see Though in general it is described as the 'Way of St James'.
That covers the what more than why. The why is probably a combination of physical, cultural, emotional and spiritual factors, but over ridden by a strange drive or a calling to to do it. The last I do not understand, but it is as if it is destiny. Strange reasons to set out on 750km walk from Roncesvalles to Santiago de Compostela., but folklore has it to open your self to the signs and go where it may lead, and I have felt that. I might expand on that sometime ...