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