I love to walk in Spain!
The quick links to each blog are below
‘I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” R . L. Stevenson, Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes
Time spent in Spain: 4.10.16 – 17.12.16; 12.5.17 – 24.5.17. Spring 2018. Autumn 2019.
Some of these blogs were written ‘on the spot’, some soon after the event, and others when I returned to Scotland. What a joy to compile them!
The origin of my decision to visit Spain (and walk) for the first time:
At the 2016 Edinburgh International Book Festival, I heard Jean-Christophe Rufin explain (and these are my own words from the memory of that event), that all the walkers he saw seemed to be scribbling or typing a blog at every stop of the way, but that he decided not to do that and to rely instead on his own memory afterwards. But I am a 53 year old woman who has had 2 kids and has a head which is already very full of experiences, so I didn’t want to rely on mine!
Writing has been a good way to assimilate and integrate my experiences, to make sense of where I have travelled, what I was thinking, and the conversations I had with people. It enabled me to tell my family, friends and colleagues what I was up to (similar to one of those newsletters you sometimes receive in Xmas cards!). I now realise that it also keeps the spirit of my wonderful adventures alive.
There were two distinct parts to my journey: one where I visited fellow Shiatsu (acupressure massage) and complementary therapy practitioners, giving sessions in return for bed and board. The other where I walked the Camino Frances and part of the Via de la Plata (‘o contrario’, backwards), staying in different hostels and hotels every night.
The former came out of finding a way to stay in Spain where I could offer something valuable in return for somewhere to lay my head. The latter was inspired by friends – Phyllis and Liz – and by books, programmes I heard on the radio, and the film, ‘The Way’. It turns out that walking the Camino suits someone like me, a normally busy person, active, and perhaps tending towards being workaholic or at least feeling full of responsibilities. I trained myself years ago to sit and meditate, but it could be that walking is more appropriate to my character.
“that fine intoxication that comes from much motion in the open air, that begins in a sort of dazzle and sluggishness in the brain, and ends in a peace that passes comprehension.” R.L. Stevenson, taken from various blogs (see below in English & French).
A walk, or track, often trodden for religious and spiritual reasons since the Middle Ages, by ‘peregrinos’ (Spanish for pilgrim). The best known is The Way of St James of Compostelle, or Camino Frances. All paths are signposted by the coquille Saint Jaques shell which walkers also carry to symbolise their journey. ‘The Camino de Santiago comprises a lattice of European pilgrimage itineraries which converge at Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain.’ (Michael Murray, for ref. see below). They can begin in Jerusalem, Rome, and Paris, famously at Sean-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France; and are travelled across Spain, Portugal, France, England and elsewhere in Europe.
This is where I went, in the order I visited: October – Downton (New Forest, Hampshire, England), Santander (by boat from Portsmouth), Salinas, Aviles, Oviedo, Bilbao, Egileor, Vitoria Gastiez, Feria, San Sebastian, Pamplona. Camino Frances 1 (Urtega (by bus from Pamplona) to Najera). Cortiguera, Aranjuez (via Madrid). Camino Frances 2 (San Juan de Ortega to Carrion). November – Madrid. Camino Frances 3 (Leon to Santiago de Compostella), Finnisterre, Santiago. There are links below, to the blogs I have written about each of the places.
December – Camino Via de la Plata (Santiago to Vilar de Bario). Xinzon, Ourense, Las Matas (via Madrid), Valencia (via Madrid), Olocau and Sierra Calderona, Barcelona, Edinburgh (by aeroplane).
Isn’t long distance walking very hard on your body?
I keep being asked whether I suffered from the walking, and I understand the question because I, too, was very worried about this, and allowed it to put me off starting. I did have a week or so of blisters at the beginning, but I had researched what to take with me before going, and had plasters, cream and a sewing kit with me (yes, we sew a thread through the part with the fluid and let it drain out over time to stop it getting infected!). The other pilgrims were really helpful and showed me how to look after my feet, so I didn’t have to stop, and my skin hardened up soon enough.
My main concern had been my back and the load. I carried approximately 18kg (which was more than the recommended 5th of your body weight) and although it felt very heavy after 32km, there was no pain. All that yoga before I left, my daily ‘Salutations to the Sun’ helped. I did have to pay to get it home on the aeroplane at the end, which was a nuisance and might have been avoided. Next time I will take a new-style, light-weight sleeping bag and towel to lighten my pack. See my What to Pack in your Rucksack blog for more details.
I trained as a professional dancer in my teens and early twenties, and am therefore used to daily class, working through the pain and stiffness of the night and previous day’s exertions. This probably helped me to deal with the numerous small physical difficulties which arose when I walked, especially at the start of the day. I used my Shiatsu and other training to identify the source, relax into the areas I was holding tension, and, lo! they disappeared as quickly as they came.
There were many other people who suffered and some who had to give up. I helped with Shiatsu where I could (feet, hands, ankles, backs etc) in the evenings at the hostels. It was good to meet travellers I had massaged later along the way, and particularly in Santiago on the final day, and discover that they had been able to complete the hike.
Kilometres walked between Portsmouth and Edinburgh
700+ (Caminos), not including Sierra Calderona, Egileor, Aviles-Salinas, walking friends’ dogs, walking to school near Valencia, all the cities…
The first part of this blog is a very long list of the places I have walked and visited in Spain – one per day of each Camino! If you would like to read the introduction, it is here
Here is my triumphant arrival at Santiago de Compostella after walking for 5 weeks from Pamplona. I write a little about what I got out of it.
Here are links to the main cities of Spain and other beautiful smaller towns and mountain regions which I have visited
Olocau Spain Mother’s Day Weekend
Olocau March 2018
Via de la Plata camino (The Silver Road, it is sometimes called)
Guillena to Castilblanco los Arroyos
Villafranca de los Barros to Torremejia
Salamanca to Calzada de Valdunciel
Santa Marta de Tera to Vilar de Barrio (coming soon!)
And the few days before that: Laxe – Castro Douzon – Cea – Ourense
The last few days, which I walked first going backwards from Santiago de Compostella – Outerio – Bandera – Laxe. In the direction of Seville (north to south)
Camino Francés walk (Pamplona to Finnisterre)
Castrojerez to Frómista to Carrion into Palencia