Thursday, April 16, 2009

El Camino de Santiago de Compostela -- Redux

We are going back to the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, the 1000-year-old, 1000-mile-long pilgrimage and hiking trail in France and Spain. Despite the French rain and mud, our experience last year was great. If you click on the "Camino Project" label at the end of this post, you will see all the posts we did last year along the route.

The map shows the main route in France and Spain in yellow. I colored over the yellow with blue in indicate approximately where we walked last year and with pink to show where we plan to walk this year. We will start in Leon and walk to Santiago. It is about 190 miles…assuming we don’t get lost and have to retrace any steps.

According to the Lonely Planet and The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago, there will be four types of landscape:

1. The Meseta…a high tableland called paramos with wheat, scrubby oaks, heather, broom, and sheep. There is clay soil and brick-making, sparsely shaded plains,and widely spaced hamlets. Here we are supposed to find a stone to represent life's burdens, carry it to the mountains, and then leave it behind. I think I will decide that my burdens can be represented by a very light-weight stone.

2. Montes de Leon…higher than the Pyrenees that we climbed last year. This area has fields of Mediterranean aromatic thyme, lavender, rockrose, and sage growing along the trails.

3. El Bierzo…a valley area nestled between two mountain systems. Here we’ll have cherry trees, red pepper plants, and red wine grapes growing along the trail. The mountains near this region had gold that was mined by the Romans.

4. Galacia…more mountains to start this section, but not quite as high. We’ll expect chestnuts and oaks, then pines and eucalyptuses as the trail undulates down to Compostela…a rich dairy and farming region with an inheritance practice that leads to continual division of the lands and unending stone walls. Abundant villages should provide lots of opportunity for stopping in cafes.

We leave in mid May and plan to walk for a month. We are heavy into our training routine now, walking 4 to 10 miles daily and carrying our packs to get used to them. We are ordering cool gear and surfing for the places we want to stay. We’ll try to share the experience.

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