Our plans for everything have always been written in sand. We never count on anything until it is happening. Camino plans are no different.
In 2012, as soon as we finished walking the Camino Frances from St. Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela (the Yellow Route in the map below), I immediately started thinking about the “next” walk to do. I fell in love with long-distance trekking and everything associated with it. In 2014, we walked the Caminho Portugues from Lisbon to Santiago (light Pink) and in 2015 we followed in the footsteps of St. Ignatius along the Camino Ignaciano (darker Pink) from Loyola in the Basque Country to Manresa, near Barcelona. In 2016, we decided that Spain had enough of our footprints so we walked the Via Francigena (Red) from Vercelli, near Milan, to Rome.
After last year’s walk, my original thought for this year was to continue along the southern portion of the Via Francigena, from Rome to Brindisi, in the heel of Italy’s “boot”. It was the journey that many pilgrims made a millennia ago when they travelled to Rome, then continued on to Italy’s southern port to catch a boat to Jerusalem.
After plotting the proposed 2017 pilgrimage, as well as our past walks, on Google Earth, I started to dream about connecting our different walks together. I dreamed of future walks from Vercelli to Manresa along the Via Domitia (to Arles in brighter Green, Arles to Spain in pale Green) and the Camino de Girona (dark Blue). With our completed and planned routes, we will have walked every step of the distance from Lisbon to the northeastern corner of Spain, east across northern Spain to Manresa, northeast along the Mediterranean coast to Montpellier in France, east to Vercelli in Italy, then southeast through Rome to the easternmost tip of Italy (Orange).
Again, that was revised plan, the one we are definitely sticking with in April… at least it was the plan until 3 January 2017 at 3:15pm. On that day, I learned of a movie being released in the US over the next couple months. It is a documentary about several men making a pilgrimage on the beautiful Camino del Norte (muddy Green) along the northern coast of Spain. This route is one that I heard was one of the most beautiful Caminos and the first one we would likely do after the pan-Southern Europe goal was complete. With the movie coming out though, that might just mean a lot more people walking the currently quiet del Norte. I would rather walk it without the new crowds. Also, we are taking Spanish lessons in Guatemala next month and we might just be able to practice our new skills in Spain, better than Italy and France. Finally, we just miss Spain.
Within two days of the latest change in plans, I have already researched the logistics of walking the Camino del Norte, scheduled the timing, plotted out the route on GPS, ordered a guidebook, made plane and first night hotel reservations and printed out instructions for getting the trains we will need to get to the starting point. We are still considering whether to walk the entire del Norte or only walking to Vallaviciosa, then head southwest along the Camino Primitivo (light Blue) through Asturius / Oviedo, Lugo and Melide to Santiago. We might only make that decision when we get there. Who knows?