My Camino Story Pt1

For many years I have wanted to write about my experiences on the Camino de Santiago de Compostella and have made many starts which never seem to get beyond a few lines or get lost in my internal (eternal) criticism….

So here goes this is the first day (with pictures and video) and no censorship.

My Camino Stage 1 St.Jean Pied-De-Port – to Burgos 22 0ct – 2 Nov 2009

The train from  Biarritz to St Jean gets us to this busy little town in the foothills of the Pyrenees at about 7 in the evening This is one of the traditional places to begin a Camino to Santiago which lays about 500 miles to the West of here.

My travelling partners, Matt and Paul, have less idea of what they are letting themselves in for, than I do… and I, as I very soon realise, have no idea of what is about to happen.   My “guide book” is Paulo Coelho’s  The Pilgrimage so I am on the lookout for the inevitable mystics and revelationary experiences that will surely be the hallmark of this journey (they do occur but not in the way I envisage) This classic is augmented by John Brieleys book of maps to guide us over the next 12 days.

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Matt…                                                         Paul…            the day before the mountain

I was aware of the concept of an Albergue or Refuges that will provide our accommodation but the experience of sleeping with 14 strangers combined with that mix or excitement and anxiety I feel about actually being here make sleep impossible.We eat our evening meal with another English man, Simon who is walking the Camino to explore issues relating to his experiences in as a negotiator in South America which left him unable work, he is the first of the many angelic presences I will meet on this journey, Simon helps me understand that I am not alone in walking this route seeking answers and healing, he suggests I take it a little easier and that I seriously consider lightening the load in my rucksack which at 70 litres and at 16kg  he felt to be a little heavy for the journey… this got me thinking about my preparedness… as always I had packed for emergencies (all of them) but had I packed for this journey?

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Matt with my HUGH rucksack on  the train to St Jean…

In the morning Matt, Paul and I begin the first of many “late” starts that will become notorious amongst those we meet along the way.  Despite getting up at about 7 am we are no nearer to setting off by 9 o’clock thanks to our trips to buy food, which includes the purchase of a whole cooked chicken, bread(s) and cheese(s) because “it is France… you have to buy cheese”  we manage to lose Paul while he nips to the toilet before we finally set of in the gentle drizzle (sure it’ll clear by midday) up the hill out of Saint Jean on the road, which will lead us 4750ft up over the Pyrenees along the” Col Lepoeder”, the spectacular route that offers amazing views and a challenging beginning to any Camino …

the route is not recommended in poor weather…

people have died…

we are drenched within half an hour

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…but not daunted

There is one Albergue  along the way at Orisson and we stop here and buy hot drinks and eat some of our food, I think shock is starting to set in a little, but I remember thinking it didn’t look so far now, on the map we were half way up and then it would be downhill … the weather would clear… easy…

There were a few other pilgrims in the Albergue but in retrospect I think they were staying there because we never met up with them again, by now it was about  1 p.m.  so we set of , into more drizzle, optimistic and soundtracked by our spiritual muse courtesy of Matts “sodcasting” phone…

(Click the Link to see the Video Dr  Dre on the Camino)

I  know how it looks… but this clip make me smile so much 🙂

Over that hill, in the video the walk gets steeper and  the rain got harder, by the time we reach the Cross which indicates the point at which you leave the road and take your chances on the mountain path there was a certain amount (a lot) of hysterical laughter about rescue helicopters and needing to spend the night in one of the sheep enclosures we huddle in for warmth (I had read about people doing this but never thought I would have to do it!).  The rods of rain brutalise our exposed, freezing  faces and  I turn back to the stone cross…

“this is no time for sightseeing!” shouts Matt

“I’m praying!”  I shout back

We head into the unknown, soaked not just from the rain but also from the exertion of the walk, I remember as we rounded thepic de Lezar Atheka,  the wind just tearing into me, wanting me off the mountain, gone… I remember the end of Samual Beckett’s The Unnamable

 “I can’t go on…………… I’ll go on,”

…and we do

there are no pictures or video of these events…  but  Paul has the best line on the experience…

“I thought we were going to die, I came on a nice walking holiday with my mates  and now I was going     to     die”

Somehow we cross the border into Spain, I remember just hoping the wind would  drop as we began our descent, there was no sense of achievement or progress, just a pure need to get somewhere, anywhere that held shelter, according to the map  we were only 5 or 6 miles from Roncesvalles but it was the longest part of the journey we had to stop to change out of wet clothes as the wind and rain had dropped, but by now it was about 4 or 5 in the afternoon, the light was dropping and we were exhausted, we even considered staying in a mountain rescue hut we found, but in the end we pressed on and eventually stumbled into the Albergue in Roncesvalles at about 7 in the evening.

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Camino waymarks on the way down…

I have never felt so tired but manage a shower and an attempt to dry clothes before we are reunited with Simon and meet Angela and Karen over first “Menu Pellegrino” I have never tasted such simple food so gratefully before or since.

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Angela, Simon, Paul and Matt… Alive

There is much laughter about our journey and then bed by about 9, I am so happy and exhausted I accidently take a self pic when trying to shut my phone down…

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My happy face 🙂

I sleep solidly without dreams and a strong feeling of rebirth and renewal. The experiences of this day will stay with me for all my life, the relationships and the issues that develop from simple things like my rucksack and my earnestness to have the “camino” experience, the people we meet and walk with and the places we go through have directed my life over these past years Including the development of the Walking Runes, I would love to hear what people think and I will post more on this topic as I get time to transcribe…

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6 thoughts on “My Camino Story Pt1

    • Hi Thanks so much for your positivity 😉 I’m still a newbie at this blogging so still finding my feet, your comments boosted me to start writing the next part right now … Are you making the whole Camino in Sept?

  1. Hi, I loved reading about your first day. my husband and I walked the camino the autumn of 2012. our first day was late in the afternoon from St Jean to Orisson, then next day to Roncesvalles. it was was hot, and hard, and everyone we met were grateful for the friends we made and the great meals we shared. I am looking forward to reading more of your stories.
    This year we are going to walk the Via la Plata, from Seville to Santiago de Compostela and we are looking forward to being in Spain once again.

    • Thank you so much for taking time to read and comment on my post…I hope you enjoy the rest of my story… It has taken my 3 years to complete my first camino and to write about ids very powerful even 5 years later… I wish you Buen Camino for the Via la Plata 🙂

  2. Pingback: Weekly Writing Challenge: Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction | andyarticles

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