Our Virtual Camino

Our Virtual Camino

Like many other pilgrims last year, our plans to walk the Camino came to a screeching halt when the pandemic came along. We were packed and ready to head to Spain at the end of March, so cancelling a cruise, flights, and reservations instead was a huge disappointment. This was eventually replaced with a concerted effort to “be kind, be calm, be safe” while staying put here in Western Canada.

Dave and I got as far as Bilbao along the Camino del Norte in the spring of 2019 before taking a 3 1/2 hour bus ride along the north coast to Oviedo to walk the Camino Primitivo. The scenery along the north coast from the bus window was spectacular! We knew then that we would love to hike that beautiful coastline eventually. This year things will slowly return to normal or, as some say, “the new normal” with the rolling out of vaccines, but time will tell whether our wish will come true: to walk the rest of the Camino del Norte in the fall of 2021.

In the meantime, there are a lot of things we can do to prepare for our next Camino, whenever that might be, such as taking more Spanish lessons on Duolingo online, devising ways to make our backpacks even lighter, and walking here at home. 

For a little extra fun and motivation, we registered for the “Camino for Good” which kicks off today, January 15th. It is a virtual 780 km walk along the ancient Camino Frances pilgrimage route from St. Jean Pied de Port, France, to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. It is the same route Dave and I walked in the fall of 2015, so we are familiar with it and excited to revisit it. 

We’ll walk as far as we want at home and log the distance onto the map of the Camino Frances on the Camino for Good app. We’ll enjoy stunning scenery, visit lovely villages and breathtaking cities, collect stamps for our pilgrim passports, receive a Compostela when we reach Santiago, and meet old and new friends at the Camino for Good Cafe. Just like for real!

There are 3-, 6-, and 12-month challenge groups. We’re in the 6-month group: “These Boots are Made for Walking.” Our goal is to arrive (virtually) in Santiago by July 15th. Being part of a group provides an opportunity to connect with, support, and be supported by others. The group has 70+ members going approximately the same pace that we are. We will remind each other to keep on walking, just one step at a time.

Within that group, Dave and I are happy to be part of a little “Camino family” called “Our Meseta” for extra encouragement and camaraderie along the way. Members of our family are our daughter Tania, my oldest friend Bonnie, my newest friend Janine, and Bonnie’s friends, Sharon and Sheila. (“Buen Camino” everyone!)

“Camino for Good” donates a major portion of their registration fees to albergues in need – an excellent cause. Bruno who operates the Albergue San Bruno in Moratinos was one such recipient. He wrote that “2020 was truly a difficult year due to the pandemic. Despite this, we have continued to keep our spirit high, making our corner of paradise even more beautiful. Fighting against adversity we have continued to be optimistic and to welcome the brave pilgrims with our traditional warmth and joy even if the attendance has dropped by 80% compared to previous seasons …Thanks to your help and that of many friends, we continue to be optimistic for the future.”

Last night Mark Leblanc gave a very inspiring introduction to the Camino via Zoom. Mark has walked the Camino Frances three times: 2008, 2014, and 2017. Each journey was meaningful with lessons learned about commitment, consistency, and resolve. His book, “Never Be the Same,” is bound to be good, especially if he writes as well as he speaks!

I guess you might say that over the past few years we have become such Camino “junkies” that even doing a “virtual” Camino fills us with the sort of excitement that’s difficult to contain. Anyway, here are photos of where we walked today along with photos of where we would be if we were walking the Camino Frances for real. I bet you can tell which is which without the labels! Ultreia!!!

St. Jean Pied de Port
St. Jean Pied de Port
En route from St. Jean Pied de Port to Hunto
Judy and Dave, 2015
John Dean Provincial Park, Vancouver island
View from Pickles Bluff, John Dean Provincial Park
”I spy with my little eye…”

To see how our journey has progressed from St. Jean Pied de Port to Burgos, check out “Virtual Camino Part 1.”

12 thoughts on “Our Virtual Camino

  1. Hola! Enjoy your 2021 virtual Camino adventure, Judy and David. Hopefully soon you’ll be able to do the real thing again. Happy trails! Best, Vern and Maggie

    1. Thank you, Maggie and Vern! Dave and I seem to have withdrawal symptoms from having to cancel our planned Camino last year. Doing a virtual Camino is the next best thing! Hahaha… I hope you are both doing well.

  2. Ahhh this is great!! Such a nice surprise to get a notification in my inbox! Looking forward to being in the group. I sure hope I can keep up with you though 😂. Didn’t get to walk today but I’ll make up for it tomorrow perhaps along the Golden Mile Bench here in Oliver, Canada’s Wine Capital! Love Dad’s peekaboo photo 😄👏

    1. Buen Camino, Tania! This is going to be fun to see where you walk tomorrow. Maybe you will arrive in Orisson at the same time we are pitching our tent on the flanks of the Pyrenees with the sheep. Don’t forget your earplugs! Love, Mom.

  3. Hola Judy,
    whilst out walking this morning a thought came to me! I have no rush nor worry to get to a village walking on the virtual Camino as I always will have my bed to climb into at the end of the day. I’ve made it to Roncesvalle today after 2 days walking, I will look out for you at the bar 😊😊

    1. Hola Janine! Congratulations on making it all the way to Roncesvalles in two days. You are an amazing hiker! This is the most comfortable way to walk a Camino, isn’t it?! No earplugs needed! See you at the bar for a glass of vino tinto or two. It is so nice to get together like this. Buen Camino! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Denise. If the weather continues like it was today, we are in for a fantastic journey. You wouldn’t want to see pictures of the mud holes left by all the rain we’ve had lately. Just imagine!

  4. Hi Judy. What a wonderful way to make the best of things and reliving so many happy memories. I will enjoy following you and Dave on your “virtual” Camino. Happy travels.

    1. Thank you, Sue! I hope you and Ken are keeping well. This Virtual Camino is definitely the next best thing to walking in Spain. It’s fun to have a virtual destination that we can strive to reach there while waking here. It’s also fun connecting with others at the cafe and see where in the world they are walking. Will keep you posted as we reach memorable destinations along the way. Judy 🙂

  5. Hi Judy. Just wanted to let you know that you truly have a gift – your writing is beautiful and so descriptive. Thanks for sharing. Will be fun following you both on this virtual journey.
    Stay well.

    1. Thanks so much, Kathryn! I won’t be writing regular updates on the Virtual Camino as I did for the actual Caminos because walking at home is a bit repetitious and less exciting. What is most exciting is remembering how it actually was as we progress virtually along the trail. What is most amazing is how fresh memories of 2015 and 2019 can be when simply walking and being.

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