On March 12th, 2015 my brother and I boarded a plane in Dallas, Texas bound for Paris. We had decided on April 8th, 2014 that we were going to walk the Camino de Santiago, a 500 mile pilgrimage across Northern Spain. I started preparing for my journey that same evening. I began walking almost daily around town or on the treadmill. I bought the best hiking boots I could find, acquired the perfect backpack, and filled it with what I thought to be essential items. Keeping in mind that everything I packed I would be carrying on my back. I researched, researched, and researched. When the day came to leave I was as prepared as I was going to be. I knew it would be the hardest thing I had ever done in my life. I was not fooling myself. Realistically, I knew that determination was the only thing I truly had going for me.
We started in the very corner of France and quickly made our way into Spain. At first 7-8 miles was a huge undertaking. Muscles and joints you never knew you had became the only thing you could think about. After the first few days we were walking 9-10 miles per day. As days turned into weeks we found ourselves walking 10 and 12 miles per day and by the end it was 12, 14, 15, and even 16 miles per day. My muscles eventually stopped hurting, but were replaced with blisters. On the 16th day I developed a blister on the ball of my right foot and then on my left foot. I had to bandaged it and keep going. I'm going to show a picture of one of the blisters. I know it's not something you care to see, but I don't think, when I say blister, that you can really grasp the magnitude of it. I had one on both feet.
This picture is after I got back home and it was nearly well.
I don't really know how to describe it. Spain is beautiful, the people were exceptional, the walk was everything I thought it would be. We encountered rain, snow, sleet, and sunshine. The paths that we walked on were always different. They went from rough to smooth to jagged to paved to everything in between. I fell more than once, but only hurt myself twice. I wound up with two scars on my right elbow, a black eye, three damaged toenails, and some gray hair. I didn't start out with gray hair, but the stress on my body was so great that I literally have noticeably gray hair now. I allowed myself to become dehydrated a few times. The last time was severe and after that I was very careful.
Our maps would show the type of terrain we would be encountering each day and many times it would show it to be flat, but no matter what the map said there was always hills to climb.
At night we stayed in Municipal Alburgues or Hostels. You had to get a stamp at each place you spent the night to prove you were walking. If you weren't walking you weren't allowed to stay in the Alburgues, At the end of the walk you had to show your booklet full of stamps in order to get your Compostella. An Alburgue is a room full of bunk beds that are occupied by men and women. A Compostella is the certificate you receive for completing the walk.
Tomorrow night I will put some more pictures up and explain a little more about the walk. From start to finish I walked 546 miles. Beginning in St. Jean Pied de Port, France and ending at the Cathedral in Santiago, Spain.
TO BE CONTINUED...