My husband and I recently walked 200 kilometers of the Camino Trail, in eight days, from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France to Najera, Spain. Although I originally had lofty notions of blogging daily ‘live from the trail’, creating an iMovie, or iMovie trailer, these plans were quickly dashed. Without my computer or iPad, and with infrequent WiFi connection (not to mention very full days and sheer exhaustion) I was left to journal with pen and paper (shriek here)! For any readers interested in getting a small sample of the Camino trail, I will do my best to transcribe my notes and post them daily for the next several days. Stay tuned—and feel free to ask questions—I will be happy to answer if I can!
Day 0: Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
The Camino de Santiago is a physical journey that people of all backgrounds have been making for over a thousand years. Some people make this trek for spiritual reasons, others for adventure, culture, fitness, enlightenment or different personal causes. Experiencing the Camino is an incredible way to immerse yourself in the local food, culture, and history of the area covered. It can also be done very affordably. There are numerous established routes leading to Camino de Santiago (where it is believed that the remains of the apostle, St. James, are buried). The Camino Frances, which crosses the Pyrenees Mountains, along the French-Spanish border, is a popular route that covers 800 kilometers. This is the path that we ultimately chose (albeit only the first eight days of it).
Whatever the reasons someone has for walking the Camino, the trek is tough. The pilgrimage from St. Jean-Pied-de-Port includes crossing a lower ridge of the Pyrenees, as well as climbing and descending mountain passes with altitudes of up to 1,500 meters. The weather has a huge impact and can vary remarkably from very hot and dry, to very cold and wet, depending on the season.
We began our journey in St. Jean-Pied-de-Port. Getting there was no easy feat (we took a train from Manchester to London, a plane to Biarritz, France and then a shuttle van to St. Jean (shared with one other hiker). Although you don’t usually need to book ahead at most auberges, we did book at Beilari in St Jean. (30 euros a person got us a full dinner plus salad, dessert and wine, a bed, hot shower and breakfast the next day.) As most guests were beginning their hike there, the hosts of this auberge, Joselu, Jakeline, and Elizabeth, successfully created a warm, communal atmosphere which was a terrific way to begin our journey.
The feature photo was taken outside of Beilari in the early morning of July 16 as we took the very first steps of our journey. Don’t I look clean, refreshed and ready to go? Spoiler alert: that all changes!
Beilari Aterpea, Gite du Chemin 40, rue de Citadelle 64220 St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France +33(0)5 59 37 24 68 email@example.com
Group photo sent from the hosts at Beilari. My look of surprise foreshadows many things to come.
The start to a most scenic journey.