So, it’s decided, the sleeping bags are ready (I slept in mine last night!), waterproofs are packed and all that’s left to do is get a Bla Bla Car into St Jean Pied de Port on Friday from Pamplona and we will be two of only a handful of pilgrims who start their Camino de Santiago on New Years Day.
The pilgrim passports are not numbered (I checked my old one last night) so there will be no official proof of our New Years Day start, no extra points for having passport number 2016-0000001, but even so, what better way to ring in 2016 and my 36th (OMG) birthday than walking across the first half of northern Spain… again? With the Christmas lights still up in each town and walking whilst the New Years and Three Kings celebrations are in full swing, even doing a 12 day walk, we will get to experience the festivities in 3 distinct regions, Navarre, Rioja and Burgos.
We’ll also get to experience a crucial lack of amenities. Looking at the albergue list handed to me back in July at SJPdP, 80% of the albergues will be closed, forcing us into long distances regardless of the weather situation. Most of the bars and cafes along the way will also be closed or operating limited hours, adding weight to our packs as we’ll need to ensure a ready supply of calories and carry a good number of rations with us.
But why would I do the Camino de Santiago again? Since I was knee high to a grasshopper I loved to do the same things over and over, watch the same cartoons again and again, eat the same foods in the same order and wear the same clothes until there were holes in them. This sounds like a mundane existence, but somehow new experiences, or new ways of seeing the same experiences have brought new insights or life lessons. I just don’t learn quickly enough to be able to take everything in by doing it once!
I really love to get to know something inside and out and this time endeavour to walk the camino, not only in gratitude, but to make time to attend Mass, especially in Pamplona, Logrono and Burgos. I’d like to learn more about those places I whizzed through the last time, I have no real idea of the history of Santo Domingo, Granon, Najera, Estella, Los Arcos or Puente la Reina and I still don’t understand the legend of Roland! As fast as we’ll have to go, I hope to take my time, I hope to worry less, I know I am far less emotionally burdened than the last time I went on Camino and mostly, I want to set about 2016 in the right way, begin it right, with the right attitude and give myself the best chance possible of achieving my aims in 2016.
To someone who has never walked the Camino, that may seem like garbled nonsense, how can wasting 12 days at the beginning of the year walking in the possible snow and ice set you up right for anything? The Camino lends terrific emotional and spiritual energy to those who walk it, it inspires creativity and it feeds the soul. Perhaps any 12 day walk in nature would do the same? Perhaps. But I’m not willing to try that! It would be like going to McDonalds and ordering the FIllet au Fish, why even risk it? I’ve plenty still to learn on Camino and she’s not done with me yet!
So, it’s goodbye to fresh fruit and veg, sound sleep and smooth, pain-free feet and hello to pilgrim menus, a cacophony of snores, alarms & hacking coughs and, my personal favourite, infected blisters (As long as they’re not mine). Awesome-sauce!