Walking the Camino de Santiago: Days 7 and 8

It was still cool and dark when we left Los Arcos on our long 29-kilometre journey to Logroño. Soon the blackness gave way to deep blue skies, criss-crossed with orange contrails as the sun made its way over the horizon. Continue reading

Walking the Camino de Santiago: Days 5 and 6

It was the type of day on the Camino that you wish would never end. The sun soaked us in warmth, demanding that we remove our zippered pant legs as we plied the gentle slopes on our walk to Estella. Along the way, history entertained us, first with the medieval hilltop village of Cirauqui, its streets lined with elegant stone mansions. Soon after, we found ourselves crossing a Roman bridge and treading on paving stones from the original Roman road, Via Traiana, which the Camino follows for most of its length. Next comes the medieval Villatuerta  and its late 14th century Church of the Assumption.

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Walking the Camino de Santiago: Day 4

The 24 kilometre walk from Pamplona to Puenta La Reina illustrates the ongoing significance of the Camino to Northern Spain.

It begins with the exit from Pamplona, a contemporary, well-maintained pathway through the suburbs of the city that, at its edge, bids farewell to pilgrims with a modern multi-lingual signpost. It is a sign that, in equal measure, acknowledges the continuing importance of pilgrim traffic to the the character and economy of Pamplona. Continue reading

Walking the Camino de Santiago: Day 3

“Pilgrim, you are in the Basque Country”

So proclaims an anonymous tagger on the sidewalk leading into Pamplona. It was not the first or the last scrawl of graffiti we would pass on this portion of the Camino. We were in the heart of  a proud and independent-minded Basque culture, one we first encountered well before starting the Camino in St. Jean Pied-de-Port, further back into France, in the city of Bayonne. Continue reading

Walking the Camino de Santiago: Day 2

Our second day on the Camino was one of spiritual opposites.

Arriving in Roncesvalles, after having crossed the low Pyrenees, we jostled among the hordes of arriving pilgrims for two beds in the church refugio. We queued in line for a short while before presenting ourselves to reception, humbly asking for a private room. A rolling of eyes and dismissive snort later, we received our assignments of bunk beds, paid our modest fee, got the first stamp for our crisp, new pilgrim passports, or credencial, and trundled off to our garret. Continue reading

Walking the Camino de Santiago: Day 1

It starts with a steep uphill grind, a small test of our mettle as long-distance walkers. Can we survive this first day, a 25 kilometre climb over the Pyrenees, taking us from the quaint Basque village of St. Jean Pied-de-Port in France, across the Spanish frontier into the province of Navarre and ending in the small pilgrimage outpost of Roncesvalles?

This was the first day of what would be a 38 day, 926 kilometre walking journey across Spain on the ‘classic’ Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, known as the Camino Francés. There are numerous pilgrimage routes, all leading to Santiago de Compostela near the west coast of Spain, but the Camino de Francés is by far the most popular. Continue reading