As I write this I’m preparing (or rather waiting) to begin the Camino de Santiago. It is an ancient pilgrimage route from many different places to Santiago de Compostela, in Spain, where the remains of St James the Greater may or may not rest. It doesn’t really matter whether or not they do rest there. As ever, it is the taking of the journey and the confrontation of whatever comes that is important.
The Camino, traditionally, was a route that was taken by pilgrims. They often slept outside, or were kindly housed by locals. Before the church superimposed itself over the ancient Way it was not the Way of Saint James but the Way of the Stars, the Camino de Estrellas, and human beings followed the Milky Way to lands end, sleeping under the stars when there weren’t any buildings at all. Also, once the church had usurped the Way, many (in fact most) pilgrims traveled without money or means and often would not be able to afford to stay in guest houses, if there were even any. They relied on the generosity of local people. To this day many choose to travel this way.
I'm not walking the Camino for religious reasons and in fact I couldn't even tell you exactly why I feel compelled to walk 875km from St Jean Pied de Port in the south of France, across 3 mountain ranges and endless plains, to the west coast of Spain. All I know that ever since I first heard about the Camino 18 months ago I knew I had to experience it.
Ever the intrepid traveller I have no reservations about heading off on my own and in fact this is the one trip that I'm particularly glad to be doing solo. There is (in my mind at least!) something endlessly peaceful about doing nothing but tramping along and having as much or as little time to myself as I want...being the chatterbox I am I have no doubt I'll strike up many a conversation with fellow pilgrims on the way.
As I'm itching to get underway I find myself mulling over unanswerable questions. Poncho or rain jacket? Will I end up with hypothermia? How many toenails does one really need? Is 9kg too heavy? Can I walk that far? Will I be eaten by a shark?