Monday, April 13, 2020

Camino de Santiago - The Way of St. James

In my post last Thursday on 'Hiking Videos' I mentioned that I had hiked the Appalachian Trail three times, and almost finished the Camino pilgrimage in Spain (by watching videos here in my wheelchair).  In a comment DJan asked if I enjoyed the Camino.  That got me thinking and reading a bit more about it so I could provide a good answer.

The video I watched was by Jessica ('Dixie') Hill, an Alabaman who posts on YouTube under the moniker Homemade Wanderlust.  She has hiked and produced videos on the Triple Crown of American trails, not only the Appalachian, but the Pacific Crest and the Continental Divide trails.  Her videos tend to be personal stories, with a lot of her talking and sharing stories as she walks along the trail.  I've watched quite a few of hers now, so I've gotten to know her personally and for that reason I enjoyed her video on the Camino where she took her sister along to hike the pilgrimage.

But I already new about the Camino from other reading, and from friends who have walked it.  It is an ancient 500 mile pilgrimage route across northern Spain, dating back to the beginning of Christianity, and popular during the Middle Ages.  St. James is said to be buried where the cathedral of Santiago de Compostella was built, so that is the destination of the pilgrimage.

Santiago de Compostela Cathedral

There are actually several different routes to these trails, but the most popular today is the Camino Frances, starting at Saint-Jean-Pied-da-Port in extreme southwest France.  This is not your typical North American 'hiking trail', you can easily walk side by side, and there are villages with hostels every few miles, so there is no need to carry either a tent, a stove, or food beyond your daily snacks and some water.  It's a wide, relatively flat gravel pathway often running beside modern highways (the pilgrimage path was there first), a far cry from the Appalachian Trail!  It would be a walk in the park for serious long distance hikers!

The best description I've read of it was in a series of blog posts by 'The Chouters', an American full-time RVing couple (now hiding in a quiet campground in France) who walked it in June 2019.  Their description is more nuanced than others, and Steven is an outstanding photographer.  (I also followed their trip to Alaska a few years ago).  You can easily scan through a few of their blog posts and get a good sense of 'The Way of St. James'.

One of Steven Chouter's excellent photographs

The pilgrimage attracts over 300,000 travellers today, though you only have to walk the final 100 km. of the pilgrimage to get your certificate of completion or compostela.  This being said, I have read blog posts quite critical of this walk.  The criticisms centered around the fact that the Camino de Santiago is not a narrow trail through the mountains where you only rarely meet another person, like the Pacific Crest Trail, which only attracts 100 thru-hikers a year.

I personally think this reflects a bad misunderstanding of what the Camino is, and poor advance research.  If you check the HikerJournals website for example, you can find 20-30 hiker journals of this walk for each of the past few years.  If you google .Camino de Santiago you will also quickly discover the Camino privitino, a route which does follow a narrow trail away from roads through the mountains and which might require you to carry a tent and food.

The Wikipedia article on the Camino is actually quite good, giving a good introduction to the history of this ancient pilgrimage.  It's easy to do advance research before tackling this pilgrimage.

And you can always do the walk in your mind today while we're all isolated and sitting at home!


  1. Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Wow that sounds like an amazing place to walk.
    What an impressive building and the scene is gorgeous.

  3. Those "in the know" tell me that there are many places where alternative, unofficial variations exist which are taken by more ambitious walkers. Are there any videos of Le Tour Du Mont Blanc, that's a fantastic walk?

    1. There are lots of videos on the 'Tour du Mont Blanc'! The third one listed described it as the 'Best High Altitude International Hiking Trail'!

  4. I’ve known people who took a week every year to walk part of the trail to Santiago de Compostella. I have never been mad about walking, possibly because I was made to go for a walk every afternoon with an aunt who didn’t really like me and I didn’t really like her. I have done a little walking with my partner 30/40 years later but sadly he now has a lung disease and can’t walk very far at all. So we potter gently instead.
    NB I am sorry to report that I have never tried a Canadian crisp. My step-son lived in Whistler for 5 years but conspicuously failed to bring any crispy snacks home. He claimed he bought them for me but somehow the packet was always left on the kitchen table. Such a pity.

  5. There are so many resources to learn about fabulous places like this. Thanks for sharing. Take care!

  6. Hi There, You are making the most of 'traveling from home' these days... I had a Blog Friend many years ago who walked the Camino --and she blogged about her amazing experience.. Wish I could remember her name.. I think she quit blogging after that big experience....

    Stay HEALTHY and Stay SAFE.

  7. My son wants to hike the Camino someday. I told him if he does, I want to join him!