Welcome to my blog of my 2013 thru-hike of the 1,000 miles route on El Camino de Santiago from Le Puy en Velay in France to Santiago de Compostella in Spain.
Ill be blogging each week along with photos and the occasional video. Stop by and say hello!
Some 11 years ago I undertook a walk on El Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrims route hundreds of years old. Beginning at Le Puy en Velay in France, it weaves through some classic French countryside to the Spanish border where I clipped the tail end of the Pyranees and arrived at Roncesvalles to begin a further 500 miles through Spain.
A (slightly) younger version of me taking lunch on the Camino in 2002
It wasn’t so much a walk but more of an experience and it changed my life more than I ever imagined or hoped. My life to that point was on a crash course to a dark place known as nowhere. I had no direction, had achieved little to be proud of, had no inkling of where I was heading and few ideas of what I wanted. I returned home a changed man bursting with ideas. I had focus, direction and a new outlook on life. El Camino took me to Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail and future hiking adventures yet to be experienced. It gave me material to write a book and more importantly the dedication to write it. It taught me not to give up, to always push through regardless of any odds stacked against me and to realise there is always success should I push hard enough.
This walk offered the opportunity to meet many like minded individuals, many in the same position as I and many who I still keep in touch with. I vowed that one day I would return to savour that walk again and in the past couple of weeks events have conspired in my favour to coax me back once more. I am more excited than I could possibly imagine, the prospect of El Camino has planted a wry smile on my face for the last few days, I have not even started walking yet and I feel amazing.
One of the great things about this route is how well catered for hikers are. Because El Camino is so old, most of the amenities along the route are there for them. There is an an abundance of establishments offering food so re-supply points are numerous meaning pack weight can be kept to an absolute minimum. More often than not all the food one needs to carry is lunch. Coffee addicts are spoilt for choice, bakeries dot the route spilling out the aroma of freshly baked baguette and pastries. In Spain refuges riddle the way, sometimes two or three a day where a mere donation secures you a bed and shower in modest accommodation. Discreet camping is also an option when solitude beckons.
The hiking itself is kind with minimum elevation change so couple this with a light pack and good mileage is easily achievable with minimum stress on the body and therefore reduced chance of injury. If its an introduction to long distance hiking you’re looking for there isn’t a better option than El Camino.
This means I also have the chance to walk with and test out some new gear. My pack is a new ZPacks Arc Blast which I have given a brief run in here in Switzerland. At an unbelievable 465 grs / 16.4 ounces I cannot believe how light it is. When I walked El Camino in 2002 my pack alone weighed 2.5 kilos! I will also be using a ZPacks Hexamid solo tent, even more unbelievable at around 300 gr. My sleeping arrangement consists of a Mountain Laurel Designs 28f Spirit Quilt and a Multimat Superlight Air. I have been using an MLD Spirit Quilt 48F for this summer and I have to say that the sleeping bag is officially dead, why everyone is not using these, or other quilts I don’t know. The Multimat is also genius, lighter then the Neoair, more comfortable with a smaller pack weight. I’ll be posting reviews on these items.
I’ll be blogging as I go so drop by and say hello.