I hope this finds you well. I have one more sleep until I board the plane at Stansted to fly to Biarritz and I am starting to get excited. I have that ‘resfeber’ feeling, a Swedish term that perfectly captures that heady mix of restless anticipation and nervousness, before I set off on an adventure.
When I reach Biarritz in on Thursday afternoon, Express Bourricot will pick me up from the airport and take me to St. Jean Pied de Port, the starting point of my pilgrimage. Express Bourricot specialises in transporting pilgrims and their luggage, and is run on a type of car pooling system, so the more people who book to share a vehicle the cheaper it is for everyone. My plan is to spend two nights in St. Jean de Pied Port at Le Chemin Vers L’Etoile to soak up the atmosphere, potter around and wait for my good friend Alan, from my University days, to arrive. When I put the word out that I was going to walk the Camino de Santiago, a few friends contacted me to see if they could join me along the route. Two of my friends, Alan and Fiona are definite pilgrims. Alan will join me at the beginning of the journey and Fiona intends to meet me around Leon, to begin her pilgrimage there. Another two friends are contemplating coming along for a few days.
On 19th September we will set off from St. Jean Pied de Port, equipped with our essential kit and our scallop shells (the scallop shell is an iconic symbol for the Camino de Santiago) and hike upwards until we reach Orisson, where we will stop over night. The next day we will go on to Roncevalles. As you have probably guessed, I will be walking along the Camino Frances route or the French Way. It is the most popular path, which passes through St. Jean Pied de Port at the foot of the Pyrenees, to Pamplona, Logrono, Burgos, Sahagun, Leon, Astorga, Ponferrada, Melida and ends in Santiago de Compostela. According to my camino guide book, the Camino Frances is 776.2 km in length or approximately 809.5 km if I take the scenic or more contemplative routes. When I reach Santiago de Compostela, I intend to walk the Camino Finisterre/Muxia, which will mean another 200 km or so of walking. Golly, I expect my legs and feet will be aching by then!
My good friend Jules kindly sent me this handy map to help me on my way! Thanks Jules.
So I think I’m pretty much all set. All that remains for me to say right now is that my heartfelt sympathy, thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Denise Thiem, the pilgrim from the USA, who disappeared, while walking along the Camino in April. Sadly police discovered her remains this week and have arrested a man in connection with her death. It must be heartbreaking for her family after so many months of anguish. The Camino Documentary Facebook page posted up a poignant passage in her memory and encourages peregrinos and peregrines to “walk this day as best we can” in honour of Denise. I will endeavour to do so as I begin my pilgrimage and I will light a candle along the way for her.
Peace, love and light.