We will jump on the plane to Bilbao in exactly three weeks from this hour and I’m already itching to get going. Melanie and I have both started to pull together all the bits and pieces that will go into our backpacks. I have done the usual planning in the greatest detail of getting to the beginning of the walk and the plans for getting home after it. The plans for the walk itself are much less detailed. And that is just the way we like it.
To get to the beginning of our walk in Irun, I have prepared a paper that has every detail of the trip there including flight details, options during the long layover in Frankfurt, hotel information in Bilbao near the bus station while getting over jetlag after a late arrival, the bus schedules and prices to Irun and hotel details in Irun for the final pain-free rest before walking. The same paper has all the details of our return in late May including flights from Santiago de Compostela to Bilbao, where to get packing material for our walking sticks, sharp stuff and liquids for our flights to Bilbao, hotel details in Bilbao and flight details back home. All of those hotel and flight reservations have been made along time ago.
I have looked on Google Earth to make sure I know how to get to / from the hotels / bus stations.
I have also downloaded maps of northern Spain as well as the tracks of the camino routes and options into my iPhone using maps.me – a fantastic, free, off-line gps system that does not require data or high battery usage.
I have my list of clothes and other things that I take on every camino handy and I’m crossing off the items already sitting with my back pack.
We have already ordered and received our credentials, the “passports” that we have stamped in every town along the way so we can stay in some albergues (hostels). These credentials will also be our proof of completing the walk that will allow us to collect our complostela (certificate) in Santiago.
As far as preparing for the walk itself, I have only made a list of the towns that we will walk through, the distances between them and a note, if they have places to sleep, what type of accommodations they have, e.g., albergues, youth hotels, pensions, casa rurals, hotels, etc. There are a few different options for this walk, ie, taking the whole Del Norte Camino, doing half the Del Norte then switching over to the Primitivo after reaching Oviedo, and, if going walking the Primitivo, there are also several ways to walk the last few days. I have the outline for the mileage and sleeping options for these routes as well.
That’s all, really, as far as the walking preparation goes. I haven’t planned any stages because we like to stop for the day when we are tired. We may aim for 22-30km per day but that’s just a guideline. The guidebook gives more details on the route, sleeping options and other things but we will likely look at those only the night before each stage. We like to see how it goes and find what we find.
We have both moderately increased our exercise routines but we also know that we are just walking. I hear of pilgrims preparing for Caminos by walking ahead of time, every day for weeks with a full packs and for more than 20km. If that’s what makes them happy or what they need, great but having done four of these walks, we know they are just walks. We know that if we get tired or hurt, we can stop. We have never had to use any other transport to skip parts of the trail but if we had to, we could. Our packs only weigh 9 and 13kg which is a lot less than our scuba gear so it is no big deal. It may be more than 800km but who cares? It’s just a walk. Now, I just have to keep repeating that last sentence to myself every few minutes for the next three weeks. I can’t wait.