Back in 2011, my eldest daughter Ella proposed two exciting projects. She had been living in Sydney, Australia since November 2009 and was planning her return to the UK in early summer 2012. Her first suggestion was that I meet her somewhere midway and spend a few weeks travelling together. The second was that I join her in her quest to walk part of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela during her thirtieth year, in 2013.
Ella did lots of research relating to the first expedition and we duly met in Bangkok in July 2012, where we spent a few days before travelling to Sri Lanka and finally to India, taking in the 'golden triangle' and travelling between Delhi, Jaipur and Agra.
I was tasked with researching the Camino de Santiago trip and discovered that The Way of St James has been a major pilgrim route since medieval times. There are many routes with various starting points, all converging at Santiago de Compostela in the north west of spain. Our original, very loose, plan had been to walk perhaps the minimum distance necessary in order to be granted a 'compostela', the certificate awarded to pilgrims who have walked at least 100 kilometres to reach Santiago, and have an appropriately stamped pilgrim's passport indicating the starting point and places visited en route.
However, having been inspired by the accounts of pilgrims who have walked the entire Camino Frances, commencing their journey in St Jean Pied de Port on the French side of the Pyrenees, crossing into Spain on the first day of their pilgrimage, and taking approximately 30 - 35 days to complete their trek, I now feel it would be cheating to claim a 'compostela' without walking the full Camino. As neither of us has commitments at our start date in mid April, we both feel we should face the challenge and walk the full 800km, plus an additional 80km to Finisterre if we have time.
I have never been a walker and for the past five years have been wandering the local tracks on horseback, so it has been necessary to start training to build up some strength for the journey that lies ahead. I started off with walks of 6+km and have so far built up to 25km. We will be walking an average of 25-30km per day and I am hoping that my ageing joints will see me through and that I don't suffer with painful blisters.
Although I seem to have spent a fortune kitting myself out with the necessary hiking paraphernalia, the actual journey is relatively inexpensive, as there are pilgrim hostels all along the route where we can stay for between 5-10 euros per night, albeit in huge dormitories with no privacy and a lot of snoring to contend with.
One reason for writing this article is to say that I am hoping to raise some sponsorship money in aid of Cudeca (all money raised will go to the charity, none towards funding my trip). The other reason is that by broadcasting my intention of walking 800km, I will be more likely to complete my journey and not give up if the going gets tough.