Have you ever had a full month of holiday saved up and thought to yourself what would be a getaway that I would remember for the rest of my life? Well, I’m sure every person you ask would tell you something different, but for me there’s one, epic adventure that begs discovery. It has several names but the main name associated with this trail, or set of trails rather, is El Camino de Santiago.
El Camino de Santiago commemorates the path that the martyred Saint James took through Portugal and Spain spreading the gospel. Throughout the centuries Spanish, French, English and Portuguese pilgrims have worn paths through the countryside connecting the beautiful Cathedral town of Santiago de Compostela, where the saint is said to be buried.
Hiking trips can be among the most strenuous and difficult journeys you may ever undertake. However, this trek through parts of France and Spain is very well-maintained as well as sprinkled with rest stops, accommodation, and food. Not many 500 mile walks are paved let alone have access to farm fresh produce within arms reach.
This journey through the mountains was dramatised recently in the film titled ‘The Way’ starring Martin Sheen and his son Emilio Esteves. While the film added to El Camino DeSantiago’s popularity the pilgrimage has been in constant use for over 1000 years. Just 30 years ago there was a danger that the towns along the Camino would not be supported due to lack of tourism traffic. However now with the foot traffic topping hundreds of people a year. A greater concern is litter and damage to walkways.
A great way to reduce your wear and tear on the path and environs, is to pack lightly and efficiently. Disposable products are not advised, because litter bins are few and far between and create logistical problems high in the mountains. Bringing a sturdy water bottle, backpack, sleeping bag and dried snacks (fruit, nuts, jerky) should get you along to the next village without much added weight or strain. Additionally, because the path is well-maintained, rugged hiking boots are only necessary for a short part through the mountains. Many walkers bypass those parts and are able complete the journey in light trekking shoes or sandals.
The one remaining essential on this trip would be a guide. Now a living breathing tour guide would certainly be one of the best ways to get to know the stories history of El Camino, but the costs associated with hiring a guide make it out of the range of most people’s holidays. Use a guide book as your portable font of knowledge that you can tap into at your discretion. Choosing a guide book can be a challenge, but for this specific track, the newer the book, the better it will be. This is an ancient journey that’s been written about for generations. But with each passing year there are new stops and attractions along the route and only the latest updates will get you the best info.
Oh, and look after your feet!