Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Camino de Santiago... In the beginning...

This time, 3 years ago, I embarked on perhaps one of my most difficult adventures... You see, I was backpacking throughout Europe and I was fast running out of cash. I was only 5 months into my year long stint, but too long in China, Austria and England, threatened to cut my trip short!

Au Pairing in Italy staved off the financial doom and gloom, but winter in the Dolomites affects your spirit due to the freezing short days... Not to mention the weight I packed on from the prosciutto, stracceno, coffee flavoured yoghurt, farfalle pasta... Damn! I'm drooling again!!!

Anyway, I escaped heaven and traversed central europe when I heard about a pilgrimage across the north of Spain, Camino de Santiago. The long walk that has been made since 840AD. Thousands have walked across Europe to Santiago de Compostela, believing the remains of the Apostle, St James, to be there. The north of Spain basically came into existance from feeding and housing the many hundreds of thousands of pilgrims (cheaply I might add). 

Being the non-religious type, I let these stories of a long walk across Spain leave my head without much consideration at all, except for a small nagging curiosity. Paulo Coehlo mentioned it in his book Eleven Minutes and that twigged my mind initially, but it wasn't until I was walking in slush in Vienna - the final remnants of the coldest winter felt by Austrian's in living memory, that I realised that Spain is A LOT warmer and cheaper to live in!

So I booked my ticket and flew across the land to the southern most point I could get to by plane, Jerez de la Fronterra.  It was a stifling 13 degrees celcius as I madly stripped off as I walked to find my hostel. Blue sky, palm trees and oranges literally falling along the sidewalk from the heavily laden orange trees, I was sure I had made the right decision!

I had to make it north though by April/May so I could take part in the pilgrimage after the rainy winter and before the dreaded Spanish summer. Money was becoming increasingly a problem and promise of food and accomodation for just a few euros a day, just for walking a path, was just too good to ignore. So I lapped up the warmth of the Andulcian south and the Portugese waters to the west for 3 months.

I picked up the language and also picked up a friend along the way who happened to be a skilled hiker from New Zealand... So by the time it was April, I was at the starting point of my camino, Burgos - A cool 530km from Santiago de Compostela! 

More to come soon... 

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