This is a quick post about Livio’s Camino De Santiago pilgrimage. I provide details that include maps, costs, logistical requirements and facts as well as links to additional details, photos and videos. This is a self-guided spiritual adventure on a shoestring. Follow the links to dig deeper into the pilgrimage.
A 30-day pilgrimage from France, and across the top of Spain to reach Santiago de Composella. More than a trek. It was an experience.
Walk the Camino de Santiago, the Way of Saint James in the fall of 2005. Enjoy golden fields, cathedrals, and the small churches of northern Spain as you walk the ancient pilgrimage way to the grave of the apostle Saint James and deeply into your spirit. On this pilgrimage you walk the same holy ground and, in places, on the same stones that Saint Frances of Assisi walked 800 years ago. You experience the mountains, plains, byways, and woodlands of medieval Spain as you move slowly from the Pyrenees Mountains to Santiago de Compostela and beyond to Finisterra on the Atlantic.
Maybe you have read about this pilgrimage and some of the wonderful things that can happen as you walk it. We cannot tell you what your real experience will be. That’s something that will happen only inside you. You walk around 525 miles (830 kilometers) in roughly 37 days. Walking so far and so long is a unique experience. In truth, the walk itself is the destination. The heart of this pilgrimage is the day-to-day encounter with yourself and your God as you walk step by step day by day.
Total Cost Range of this Activity is: $$$
Camino De Santiago pilgrimage Cost Details:
|31 Nights in Albergo accommodation ($ per night)
31 Breakfasts ($5 each)
31 Lunches ($5 each)
31 Dinners ($10 each)
Misc (mostly alcohol)
1. Complete a 500-610 mile ancient pilgrimage through the French/Spanish Pyrenees mountains and plateaus over a 4-6 week period starting in June.
2. Find peace and enlightenment.
3. Film the expedition for a travel related documentary.
Camino De Santiago Pilgrimage Route:
The Camino de Santiago (the Way of St James) is a 800-900 km (500-610 mile) hike across northern Spain, following an ancient pilgrimage route west to the cathedral at Santiago de Comopostela. The trail was braved as far back as the 10th century as a quest to visit the resting place of the bones of St James. The route starts at St-Jean-Pied-de-Port in the foothills of the French Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela and on to Finisterre.
My Camino De Santiago pilgrimage Video Episodes
Click to watch Part 2 Video
Click to watch Part 3 Video
Click to watch Part 4 Video
Click to watch Part 5 Video
Click to watch Part 6 Video
Camino De Santiago pilgrimage History:
Santiago, or St James, was one of Jesus’ apostles and after the Crucifixion spent time in Spain spreading the gospel. In 44AD he was beheaded by Herod Agrippa (becoming the first apostle to be martyred). His friends stole his body and had it secretly brought to Padron, on the Galician coast of Spain, where it was buried 20 km inland at Compostela after the local Queen witnessed a series of miracles and converted to Christianity.
In 813, a Christian hermit followed music and twinkling stars to a remote hillside in Galicia. The bones he found at Campus Stellae (Compostela) were identified as those of Santiago. A few years later Alfonso II, King of Asturias, visited the site, built a chapel and declared Santiago the patron saint of Spain.
Visions of Santiago began to occur and the saint became instrumental in the fighting with the Muslims. His most famous appearance was at the battle of Clavijo, near Logrono, where he rode high above the battle on a white charger and personally scythed his way through tens of thousands of Moors. This made him know as Santiago Matamoros (Moor-slayer).
Before Santiago’s time the ancient Celts followed the via lactea (Milky Way) towards the sea of Finis Terrae, the end of the known world. By the 9th century, Christian authorities encouraged the pilgrimage to Santiago as a way to drive out the Muslim invaders and to prevent the peoples of northern Spain from reverting to their pagan ways.
In 1189, Pope Alexander III declared Santiago de Compostela a Holy City, along with Rome and Jerusalem. Under his edict, pilgrims who arrive during Holy Years (when the Dia de Santiago, July 25th, falls on a Sunday – 2010) can bypass purgatory entirely, while those arriving in other years got half their time off.
Historically the reasons for the pilgrimages were varied. Some walked as a sentence for a crime while others walked on behalf of their villages in an effort to get rid of plagues, floods, or locusts, while others simply walked to escape the world for a while.
Churches and pilgrim hospices sprung up along the way to provide food and shelter for the multitudes that walked the long trail. The number of pilgrims peaked in the 11th and 12th centuries when about half a million people made the journey. The numbers then began a steady decline until the mid-twentieth century when only a few souls walked the camino. Then in 1960 a guidebook was created by a parish priest and popularity began to soar. In 1982 Pope John Paul II became the first pontiff to visit Santiago de Compostela, then in 1987 the European Union declared the camino Europe’s first Cultural Itinerary and UNESCO followed. Today the number of walkers varies between 60,000 to 150,000 a year.
Competing the last 100km (200km for bicyclists) entitles the pilgrim to a compostela (a certificate recognizing the completion of the pilgrimage).
Camino De Santiago pilgrimage Geography:
The walk begins in the high Pyrenees mountain passes via river valleys to the foothills. Beyond the mountains are the provinces of Navarra and La Rioja, which are dominated by vineyards and rolling hills. The trail winds its way between Sierra de la Demanda to the south and the Sierra de Cantabria to the north until reaching the 800 meter high plateau that dominates central Spain. The trail then crosses the Cordillera Cantabrica mountains that curve down towards Portugal. This area is dominated by oak forests until the downhill stretch to the Atlantic ocean at Finisterre.
Camino De Santiago Pilgrimage Summary
|Day||Start – End|
|1||St Jean P P to Roncesvalles|
|2||Roncesvalles to Zibiri|
|3||Zibiri to Pamplonaz|
|4||Pamplona to Obanos|
|5||Obanos to Puente la Reina|
|6||Puente la Reina to Estella|
|7||Estella to Los Arcos|
|8||Los ARcos to Viana|
|9||Viana to Navarrete|
|10||Navarrete to Najera|
|11||Najera to Santo Domingo dela Calzada|
|12||Santo Domingo dela Calzada to Belorado|
|13||Belorado to San Juan|
|14||San Juan to Burgos|
|15||Burgos to Hornillas|
|16||Hornillas to San Anton/Hero dela Vega|
|17||San Anton/Hero dela Vega to Carrion|
|18||Carrion to San Nicholas|
|19||San Nicholas to Reliegos|
|20||Reliegos to Leon|
|21||Leon to Hospital de Orbigo|
|22||Hospital de Orbigo to Rabanal de Camino|
|23||Rabanal de Camino to Ponterrada|
|24||Ponterrada to Villafranca|
|25||Villafranca to Hospital|
|26||Hospital to Barbadelo|
|27||Barbadelo to Ligonde|
|28||Ligonde to Arzua|
|29||Arzua to Guzo|
|30||Guzo to Santiago de Compostella|
|31||Santiago to Finnesterra via bus|
A list of other Long-Distance Hikes and Pilgrimages
Camino De Santiago pilgrimage Beginnings Narrative
May 31 – Lessons in Repacking
My departure actually began the day before my flight (Tuesday, May 31) when I unpacked all my gear for the umpteen time and repacked it in one last vein attempt to remove unwanted weight. My total gear weight had slowly crept up to fifty pounds. I was determined to remove some items and get the weight down. Especially since my London connection was on Ryan Air.
They are know for their cheap prices, but what is less know is that they restrict your luggage weight to 30 kg and your carry-on weight to 10 kg. It’s not that you can’t take more with you, but you simply have to pay a bunch more for that privilege. And the privilege has a very steep price in each case. It is probably the only place to make money in the highly competitive airline industry these days.
My gear was just a smidgen over the allowed weight, but I was sure I would squeeze by. Unfortunately I found nothing that I could remove (other than a pair of long fishing pants, and I’d learned my lesson the prior year about snow storms and short pants; so the long pants stayed). I gave up and repacked everything back into the backpack and daypack.
June 1 – Getting Out of Miami
Wednesday, June 1, was a typical hot, muggy and wet summer day in Miami. In the course of a simple day I’d been caught in two downpours, my running shoes and socks were soaked through and traffic was moving at in infuriating crawl. I got to MIA (Miami International Airport) around three, two required hours before the scheduled departure. Naturally the British Airways check-in line was long, slow and disproportionately full of people who looked as if they wealthy escaping refuges. Why, and for what purpose, do people fly with baggage that has a net weight greater than their body weight? But on this flight it seemed to be the norm for one in five passengers.
The long wait was actually helpful in that it prepared me for the security check-in. It used to be that boarding a flight out of the UK (especially out of the London area) was an exercise in multiple and redundant checks. Some steps were as intrusive as carry-on luggage hand searches or even of your persons. But now all US airports are in a competition of escalating paranoia and self-interest (earning revenue from security taxes). So after another tedious shuffle in a snaking line I finally made it through security and to my gate, only to be informed that the jet had been hit by lightning on its approach so the departure would be delayed. As a result of the lightning strike engineers needed to go over the entire aircraft to ensure its air-worthiness.
Miraculously, two hours after our scheduled departure the flight was cleared for boarding and take off. This change in our fortunes seemed to happen when a local Miami airline sheet metal truck appeared with some workers. The workers attached hydraulic gear to hoses, began sanding the side of the plane, taping spots and spray-painting. It appeared as though they were repainting all the places along the fuselage that had been struck by the lightning. It has been my observation that having someone else (especially an independent contractor) do something always speeds things up since it shifts any sense of responsibility and liability to a third party. In this case all the British Air technicians walking around with clipboards or taking photos of the contractor’s work began to smile and act more jovial.
By 7pm we were locked, loaded and ready for takeoff. The flight over the pond was uneventful and comfortable (British Airways, as well as Virgin Atlantic always put on a better spread and service than their US counter parts). Through the seven-hour flight I mostly watched movies that I would never watch under normal circumstances and dozed from time to time.
See videos for the details…
June 2 – London to Biarritz, France
Upon reaching London’s Heathrow airspace we were ordered to do the mandatory two circuits around the lap before being allowed to land. This is standard operating procedure for Heathrow and it seems much worse for foreign airlines, especially if they arrive early. Noise restrictions restrict flights from landing before 7 am so early arrivals are sent to do circuits and wait in an orderly English queue until it is deemed appropriate to land.
I cleared UK passport control without incident. I think that they give you extra credit for quickly walking the cross-country equivalent from the gate area to their long snaking queue area. At least that is what it seems like to me. Why else wouldn’t they install public transport systems like all other major international airports? It seems so appropriately illogical for a country with a tradition in public mass transit to completely ignore all the old people, families and generally over-weight and unfit business travelers trudging for miles to exit the airport. Perhaps it is the lack of taxing options that airport commuter transport offers.
Full of excess energy (or calories from the flight meals) I made my way to the information desk across from the customs exit in Terminal 3 and asked about a bus to Standstead airport (the Ryan Air UK hub). They pointed me outside to a bus area and told me to take one of the National buses. I found the National counter and paid twenty UK pounds for a 30-minute bus ride between airports. That amounts to approximately $30 US dollars. A great writer once wrote that ‘a man who is tired of London is a man who is tired of life.’ In my case I thought that a man who is tired of having money should visit London. It is one of the cities designed around the consumption of your funds.
I paid my dues and then was told to re-enter the terminal and walk down a ramp and to follow the Central Bus Station signs. This I did for a very long time. I felt that I was perhaps retracing my long exodus from the plane and that I would soon surface and find myself back at the arrival gate. Fortunately, I eventually reached the station and not some parallel universe as my kooky sleep deprived mind had anticipated. When I did surface in a bus station, I have no idea where that station was actually located on the surface of the planet. The buses to Standstead run every hour and the trip didn’t seem that long. I couldn’t really gauge the length of the journey because I met a pretty young girl of Australian, Canadian and UK origins. This girl’s genes are almost as mixed up as mine and she has a wicked case of travel in her blood (always a good sign in my book). So we babbled travel stories on the bus, at the airport while we waited the four hours for our flight, and then sitting together on the flight to Biarritz.
We were both traveling to Biarritz on the same Ryan Air flight and naturally we were both doing the Camino to Santiago. However, she had booked a three-day stay in Biarritz while I wanted to get to St Jean Pied de Port so I could be rested before meeting my hiking companion (Shawnee) the next day. So we parted at baggage claim and agreed that we would try to meet on the trail if fate permitted.
I then spoke to the Information Desk in the Biarritz airport lobby (it is a small airport so finding it isn’t an issue). The helpful girl told me to catch the number 6 bus to the train station of Bayonne (a 15 minute ride) for This ride cost only 1.20 Euro rather than the UK equivalent of 10 pounds. A bus leaves once an hour for the station and I could easily make the scheduled 18:10 train to St Jean P P if the bus was on time. It was on time so I entered the train station with a purpose. However, the station ticket windows were all closed and only confused tourists milling around seemed to be in attendance. No one knew why the station was closed and why almost all the trains were not running. The bottom line was that I had no ride to St Jean that day. I also had no accommodation or a clue about Internet cafes, hostels or campgrounds.
I asked various people for the Tourist Office and any that knew where it was located indicated that it was closed. I persisted and made my way to its offices (across the town’s main bridges and across from the cobbled shopping district). It was closed as promised and no hostels were to be found within the town. St Jean P P is approximately an hour’s train ride southeast of Bayonne so I tried to hitch a ride in that general direction, figuring that I could always sleep in a farmer’s field once I got out of the populated areas. It seems that French drivers don’t pickup hitchhikers (a novel discovery since I have gotten rides in the most unlikely places in the world and southern France seemed as though it would be amendable).
Failing at hitching I spent a considerable time waking and studying the bus route maps at the numerous bus stops that I passed. Then finally I noticed a small hostel symbol on the furthest opposite side of the bus route from where I was. I could catch a number 5 bus at its southeast terminus and ride it to the northwest terminus and then walk a short distance to the hostel. This plan was short lived as a young girl informed me that the last bus had just left that stop. She pointed out, via hand signs and noble efforts at English, that it would take me at least two hours to walk the desired distance. Two hours didn’t seem that daunting so I turned around to cover all the ground I’d previously walked and then some.
Two exhausted and sweating hours later as the sun was beginning to set I remembered an old rule I had formulated while riding a bicycle across Florida. Whenever I’d asked a person on foot for directions they always under estimated the distance by 50% and people in cars were worse, they usually under estimated by as much as 75%. So when the pedestrian said it was two hours walk, it was really more like four hours. So I looked at another bus route map and found that I’d only covered half the required distance in the last two hours of trudging. There was no way I was going to make it to the hostel since it was already 10:30 and the sun was setting. So with a half hour of twilight I began looking for an alternative.
The area I was walking was mostly industrial along the winding river. Next to the industrial areas was a wide swath of railway lines and facilities. On the other side of the tracks were some small farms and scattered homes. I backtracked to a pedestrian ‘flyover’ and crossed to the farm side. I immediately spotted an old church that looked abandoned, even thought the grounds were well tended. I walked to the rear of the church and found a small haystack and darkness from the overhanging trees. It was ideal for my purpose. I hid my gear in the hay and then walked around the area to look for alternatives and assure myself that I wasn’t going to sleep in the open next to an insane asylum or woman’s prison. The area looked like mostly small farms and dark old homes. I returned to the churchyard and fluffed up the hay before lying down for the night. I used my day bag as a pillow and put on my windbreaker to keep warm. I didn’t want to dig around in my pack to find my sleeping back since it was already dark. I’d already dropped and lost my sunglasses and didn’t feel like losing more items in the dark hay. So I lay down to the sound of night creatures and bright stars as my companions. I quickly fell asleep. If you wish to buy more sunglasses, you can https://icueyewear.com/collections/reading-glasses-for-women check this website and get one!
My sleep was short lived as the church bell sounded off the eleven chimes to announce the hour. The strange part was that it repeated the eleven chimes about five minutes later. I went back to sleep and spent the night sleeping in short deep intervals as the church chimed out each hour twice and the half-hour marks. Each time I awoke to the bells I found myself feeling colder. The temperature had steadily fallen through the night so I finally got up to dig my poncho out of the pack. I rapped myself in it to cut the effects of the cold wind that had risen around the 4 am chimes. I guess the neighbors had all gotten used to the sound of the church over the years, just as people who live next to train tracks or highways do. But I certainly was not acclimated as I awoke at five bells feeling cold and tired.
See videos for the details…
June 3 – Biarritz to St Jean Pied de Port
I was determined to reach St Jean before this day was out. I sorted out my gear and made a half-hearted attempt at finding my dropped sunglasses and just as I was giving up the search I found them. This raised my spirits and I set of to retrace my tracks to the train station so that I could catch an early morning train to St Jean. I got to the station very early and saw that the first train was at 8:55 so I went for a walk to find something to drink and to kill some time.
I was back at the station by 8:15 and joined a small assortment of travelers as we climbed aboard the two-car train for a one-hour ride through green country filled with streams, small farms and rising hills. The ride reminded me so much of a similar one-hour ride that I’d previously taken from Wells Austria to Grunau (another small end of the line picturesque town). At the small station at the end of the line I followed the sign pointing to the town center, walking 10 minutes to reach a main street and then turned right to walk a short distance to the tourist office. They provided a free and simple map of the town with accompanying historical details in French (sorry no English version).
The town consists of two fortified high enclosures separated by a river. The main cobble stone road full of tourist shops and a grocery store runs through these old battlements. This road is called Rue de la Citadelle (since a citadel is located on its path naturally). It also houses the official office of the Camino (number 39, just up the hill from the first narrow side street wall entrance) and a number of official and private refuges, hostels and hotels.
I found my target, L’Espirit du Chemin (number 40 Rue de la Citadelle) easily and checked in. I’d previously made arrangements for two so that Shawnee and I could meet before setting out on the Camino. They had been expecting me so a bed was waiting. I talked to the hospitable volunteers for a bit and then turned in for a few hours of catch-up sleep. The hostess apologized because a construction crew was working directly outside my ground floor front room. I assured her that it was not a problem and then went to my bed where I fell soundlessly asleep for the next five hours.
I awoke with an hour to spare before I needed to meet Shawnee at the train station so I reconnoiter, finding the grocery store, park, and batteries for my GPS etc. I’d naturally forgotten a number of small items even though I’d repacked my gear at least a dozen times. I was thinking I should have forgotten a few more items. That morning I had vowed to lighten my load after the previous day’s two-hour painful walk in Bayonne. So I sorted out all my gear again and removed anything I absolutely didn’t have to carry. In the end I removed about 10 kg of items that I’m sure I will need, but must give up anyway. Tomorrow I intend to ship them to the Santiago post office to be held until I arrive in about a month.
I then ate some sandwiches in the park and then met Shawnee at the train station. We spent the remainder of the day planning, walking and taking photos. We agreed that tomorrow (Saturday) would be a rest and filming day (even though she had originally stated that it had to be out departure date). The long flight and multiple legs have taken their toll on her and the forecast of a cold-rainy day also helped her decide on the one-day delay.
We returned to the hostel as it got dark outside and then mingled with the other guests and the staff for a while. Everyone turned in at 10:30 (official quite time) and I stayed up an extra two hours to do my notes, photos and contemplate my day.
See videos for the details…
June 4 – Day Off in St Jean
I have very little to say about this day off. It seems kind of silly to have taken an entire day of before even starting an adventure, after all, aren’t all the days before an adventure days off? But it was the agreed upon plan and the plan has to adhered to, at least in the beginning of a venture. I slept late and then made my way to the post office to buy a shipping box. I got the largest available international box (about one foot square) that cost 28 Euro. Basically it is a flat rate structure in which you can put as much as wish in the box, as long as it fits.
I returned to the refuge and went through all my stuff again to try and find heavy or bulky items that I could live without for the next month. In the end I found very little to remove, but managed to fill the box by adding things that I did really need (like the small battery charger for my camera and GPS as well as my tiny air mattress). In the end I filled the box with 3.3 kg of gear (about 5 lbs). I returned to the post office and shipped the box to the post office in Santiago for pickup in about a month. The weight loss didn’t amount to much since my full gear weight was 40 kg before shipping, but it did give me a little more room in the pack for someone else’s gear.
I then spent most of the afternoon napping and wasting time. I did go out and film for about 15 minutes, but just couldn’t get into it.
The evening meal at the refuge is a communal event with everyone sitting at two large tables. Our hosts were volunteers from Holland who spent six months of the year running the refuge for free. They spent the winters back in Holland earning enough money to volunteer the following year. They were a close knit group of kind people that made us all feel as though the world could be a kinder place. It also set the tone for friendship and spiritual comradely among we pilgrims.
Lights were turned out at 10 pm and we all returned to our bunks to contemplate the adventure that would begin in the morning. Watch the videos for more details…
Start June 5 – End July 4