When I first began to consider the Camino and the possibility of walking it, it seemed so unreal. I began to do some research and read some amazing accounts of pilgrims on the Camino and became entranced. The beauty of northern Spain, the spiritual journey that is the Camino. The history of the Camino itself. As I learned more I began to feel this deep sense of longing to walk my own Camino.
Once I decided that I would make my own pilgrimage the preparation began. I have always been a walker and had walked 2 – 3 miles most days as exercise. 2-3 miles however is a simple warm up for each day on the Camino. A typical day a pilgrim walks 10 to 20 miles.
Could I handle that type of mileage and more importantly could I do it for 30 or more consecutive days. I began to walk longer distances and even entered a half marathon in the Oregon wine country last July. the 13.1 miles was what I believe the Camino will be like. Steep up hill and steep down hill. I had four hours to complete it. Loaded with my pack and wearing my boots I made it in 3 hours and 46 minutes. Terrible for a marathon but awesome for a Camino. That event gave me the confidence that I could do it. Since then I have walked several long days in preparation for my Camino.
The next thing that I needed to decide on was how I was going to get to Spain, what I was going to take, and when I was going to go. At first I decided to go in September or October of 2013, but as I began to do more preparation I realized that I did not want to wait that long. As it was, I was planning almost a year before I was to leave. I finally decided on April 1st of 2013. That would allow me to spend Easter with my family and yet walk during what is supposed to be a cooler and less crowed time of the year. So I purchased my tickets for the flight which solidified the commitment to the Camino.
There were a few considerations when deciding how to get to the starting point of my Camino. I am walking the Camino Frances, which traditionally begins in Saint-Jean-Pied-Du-Port (SJPP) France. Getting from the US to SJPP is easy but you have to make a few routing choices. When I checked flights I found that it was substantially less expensive to fly into Madrid as opposed to fling to Paris. It is frankly easier to get from Paris to SJPP by taking the train from the Airport directly to Bayonne and then transferring to a local train in Bayonne to SJPP. All that being said, it was substantially more expensive to fly to Paris and I could not justify the extra expense. From Madrid you can either take a train to Bayonne and then SJPP or go to Pamplona by either bus or train. From Pamplona you can either take the bus if it is running or a taxi to SJPP. For scheduling reasons I decided to take the train to Pamplona. It saved me almost an entire day of travel. My flight arrives in Madrid at 8:35am. I will take the train from the Atocha train station at 11:35am and arrive in Pamplona at 2:40pm. The bus does not run in April, it only runs June through September, so I will take a Taxi to SJPP. I hope to arrive some time between 4pm and 5pm on April 2.