June 24, 2004
Dear friends, I’m back home after a couple of months in Europe, and I’m glad to tell that the pilgrimage was well accomplished.
I did El Camino de Santiago along its most classical route, called El Camino Frances (The French Road). This route is about 750 Km. (465 Ml.) and it goes along the north of Spain, from Roncesvalles, close to the french border, to Santiago de Compostela, near the atlantic coast. It was a month of magnificent walking, with a daily average of 25 Km. (15.5 Ml.) The first stages were in the Pirineos mountain range, in Navarra, then there is a long stretch of flatlands across La Rioja, Castilla y Leon, after that the camino crosses another mountain range, la Cordillera de Cantabria, and finally it arrives to hilly Galicia. There are some main cities along the way, Pamplona, Burgos, Leon, Astorga and Santiago, but most of the time the camino goes through open country with only tiny villages on the way.
The surfaces are all you can imagine, with the exception of sand. I met rock, snow, mud, grass, gravel, packed earth, water streams, and a little asphalt. All pilgrims use some kind of shoe, usually hiking boots, and ALL of them get blisters ( I gave medical help to many of them) Obviously that was a problem I didn’t have, but I don’t want to be misunderstood, going barefoot is not a magical recipe, your soles must be well and long trained, the camino is hard, in some stages very rough, with gravel similar to that used in railroads. Anyway, the advantages far outweight the difficulties and pleasure the pains, as all of you well know.
The first ten days were very cold, with rain, snow, wind and mud, The other pilgrims, struggling in their mud caked boots, discovered that bare feet are self cleaning. My only problem was with vegetation, because, not knowing the local poisonous varieties, suddenly discovered the upper part of my feet red and swollen, but mud was a good treatment and soon were back to normal. From then on, temperature started to rise and it was much better.
There it was two little negative incidents, in Galicia I was refused service at a restaurant, but I got it at the restaurant across the street, and in Madrid, at Atocha railway station, a chorus of security guards told me I could not be barefoot at the station, but a quick visit to the client’s attention office proved them wrong, anyway, I stamped a complaint note for them to learn.
I was very surprised when I found myself turned into a kind of celebrity, I believed that to do the camino on bare feet was not common, but not so unusual as to attract the attention of radios and newspapers! Many people didn’t believe it could be possible, and they prophesied that my soles will succumb to wounds and ulcers. When they said that, at the beginning, I was a little worried, but after a week I was sure that my confidence was well rooted and I was enjoying all textures. In fact, I did the last stages singing and dancing, happy because the dream was been accomplished, but wishing the road not to end. It was wonderful, I made many good friends, there was people from all over the world, and every one sharing a charming goodwill that made each day the most beautiful discovery.
Now I’m thinking of doing my own web page, so I can show you the photos, with an english version of the chronicle I wrote.
Dear friends, I highly recomend El Camino de Santiago, at least once in your life. It’s big effort for the body, and a great challenge for the mind, but it’s a fantastic pleasure and luxury for the spirit.
From the rainy midnight of Patagonia