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The Camino del Norte runs past my in-laws’ place.

I had to renew my monthly train pass yesterday. No big deal (except that British trains are the most expensive in Europe) – and when I looked at the date of expiry, I realised I’d be two days into walking the Camino de Santiago when it ran out.

I was the most excited for this trip before Christmas, when I was booking the flights and working out logistics. I made a flurry of online orders, reading sleeping bag and backpack reviews like it was my job (admittedly, I was at work). A nice lady in my Spanish class even lent me her Spanish-language Camino guidebook. But since Christmas? Nothing. I haven’t even been thinking about it, much less training. I haven’t worn my boots since December. I’ve been caught up in making summer travel plans, and in wedding planning.

cherry jacket

This is the Uniqlo jacket I bought – handily, it folds into a tiny drawstring bag.

This trip has been on our radar for a long time, but due to work and other commitments, we just hadn’t been able to make it happen until now. Finally, it’s just around the corner – and I feel pretty unprepared. Does watching The Way or YouTube videos of Spanish pilgrims talking about their experiences count as preparation?

We’ve got 9 days over Easter for our walk. Of course, given that time frame, we won’t be walking the whole route from the Pyrenees as much as we would love to – just the final leg of the French Way through Galicia. We’ll be doing it “properly” though – carrying everything we’re taking with us on our backs, sleeping in the hostels, and walking every step.

boots

These are my boots.

April is the month for pilgrimages – I remember from my days as an English literature student that Chaucer’s pilgrims started out on their way to Canterbury during this month. And maybe the fact that we’ll be walking through Holy Week will add to the experience – the Camino’s religious beginnings still provide strong motivation for many pilgrims’ walk. Sometimes people make promises in their prayers, and carry out this pilgrimage (or perform other acts of devotion) when their prayers are answered. The husband of a friend of my suegra’s did such a walk over 20 years ago. This was because he and his wife desperately wanted a baby but despite trying for a long time nothing happened. Carlos says that they doted on him as a child and loved him almost as if he were their son. I suppose they must have prayed for a conception for themselves – and finally, it occurred, and the wife gave birth to a healthy daughter. In thanks, the husband completed a barefoot pilgrimage to a local church.

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I took this photo in Santillana del Mar. The Camino is marked by yellow arrows.

The pilgrimage spirit is still strong in Spain – apparently almost 50% of the pilgrims on the Camino are Spanish nationals. Of course, that’s partly because the Camino is actually in Spain, but it’s my belief that it’s also thanks to the country’s persistent Catholic culture and traditions (it’s telling that Catholic Ireland, a tiny nation, is #6 on the list of pilgrims – above the non-Catholic UK).

Our pilgrimage is being undertaken without a religious motive, but that doesn’t mean we’re not hoping for a meaningful experience. And walking the Camino during Semana Santa, then into the Praza do Obradoiro (there’s live webcam on the square) at Easter will undoubtedly be a moving occasion.