Friday, April 19, 2013

CAMINO CARACOLES on a Slow Camino to Santiago

In just two weeks I will fly to Santiago.  I've never flown to Santiago before - always walked there - so this will be a new experience.  Actually, everything about this Camino walk is going to be a new experience! 

Due to work and leave restraints, on my first Camino in 2002 my two companions and I only had 27 days to walk from Roncesvalles to Santiago (about 750km) averaging 28km per day.  The reality was that some days we walked less than planned and other days we had to walk much longer distances - over 30km and 40km. 

My second Camino (2004 Holy Year) Joy and I walked over 1 200km from Paris to Roncesvalles and from Sarria to Santiago. On that walk too we did a few marathon days of over 40km. 

Since then, I have walked the Camino Frances three more times, hiked on the Via Francigena from Lake Lausanne to Rome, done the Aragones route from Lourdes, the Camino Ingles and walked to Finisterre.  On all of these I averaged 25km a day.

Our group of Camino Caracoles (snails) will be walking between 5km and 8km a day for 17 days on the last 100km of the Camino Frances.  There will be 8 peregrinos on this 'Slow Camino' - 5 walkers and 3 helpers. 

One of the Los Caracoles is a veteran Camino walker who will be 89 years old in September.  He could turn out to be fitter than all of us!  There is a mother and daughter who have problems with their feet and can't walk long distances and thought they would never be able to walk the Camino.
A woman who had a tumour the size of an egg removed from her brain last year and has been left unsteady with occasional bouts of vertigo.  The possibility of walking the Camino was a fading dream she has nurtured since spending her honeymoon in Galicia 40 years ago. 

Another woman with post-polio muscle weakness who had a knee replacement on her good leg a few years ago has been dreaming of returning to the Camino for over 18 years.  She and her late husband did the Camino from Roncesvalles to Burgos in relays - he driving their car one day while she walked, and she driving the next day while he walked.  They always thought the they would return and complete their Camino but he passed away and she thought she would never be able to finish her Camino. She came across the amaWalkers Camino website by accident and by joining the Slow Camino group she hopes to finish the Camino for them both.  She will ask for a memorial Compostela for her husband when she arrives in Santiago.  To enable her to walk as much of the route as possible she will be using a cross-country walking aid which is being flown to Santiago. It has off-road suspension, climbing wheels and has been used in the mud and on difficult terrain.

The helpers have all volunteered their services and everyone on this journey is paying their own way.  Adrian, a peregrino from Costa Rica, read about the Slow Camino on a Camino Forum and contacted me to offer his help.  He will be a great companion for Bob.  My friend, and fellow hospitalera, Isa Gonzalez, will travel from San Sebastian to join the group.

I arrive in Santiago on Friday 3rd May and will travel to Sarria on Sunday to start walking back to Santiago.  Although I have walked to Santiago 6 times I've never really taken any notice of inaccessible sections or difficult terrain.  This will be a reconnaissance walk to check out the distances of the daily stages and that the stopping places are accessible for taxis to collect the walkers.  No good stopping in the middle of a farm track or in the forest! Adrian has translated the Cogami stage descriptions into English and has compiled a power point of the route with photographs of some of the sections we'll need to avoid. 

We will be staying in the same places that most pilgrims stay - Sarria, Portomarin, Palas de Rei, Melide, Arzua, Arca and Monte de Gozo.  But, we will spend two or three nights in each place and will have taxis fetch us from the path when we are finished walking, and take us back to that place the next day.  This way we don't have to carry our belongings or unpack and pack up every day. 

By hook or by crook we will walk into Santiago on Thursday 30th May and 6 Caracoles will earn a Compostela (1 being a memorial certificate).  Wish us luck - and watch this space!