Walk of the Week - Camino Frances
As an inspiration for your New Year resolutions, we though that today we would focus on the mother of all inspirational trips, the Camino Frances. If there is one life changing experience to take, the Camino Frances is the one to go for. Everyone that walks the Camino has nothing but good things to say about it and indeed this blog post is far too short to mention every facet, so you are only going to get a very broad overview. If you need to know more, we have two dedicated specialists in the Macs Adventure office that you can call or email for more advice. The full trip takes over a month, so obviously there are many different stages you can choose from should you only have a week or two to walk. Many people choose to walk the full route over a number of years, doing it a stage at a time and despite there being some crazy thought about being a 'true pilgrim' and walking it all at once and only staying in hostals, this couldn't be further from the truth. Anyone who walks the Camino is a true pilgrim and it doesn't matter if you have your luggage transported or have a comfy, en-suite room at night, its all about the footsteps, the experience and the camaraderie of your fellow pilgrims.
In a Nutshell:
Distance: 113-754 km Grading: Moderate for the most part, Moderate, but Strenuous for the first stage. Yes, the first stage is a tough one, however it is absolutely beautiful and I wouldn't recommend missing out the tough part as I think when you eventually reach Santiago you will regret it. It is a tough climb for the first day and some rough tracks for the next couple, but after that the whole Camino follows intensely well-marked paths that are well maintained, wide and sociable. Even without a guidebook, it is more or less impossible to get lost with the trustworthy yellow arrows pointing the way at every turn. Even if the path is straight, you will find little yellow dots painted on rocks and trees just to remind you that you are on the right road. Also, the route is reasonably busy, so if you feel lost, just stop and in a couple of minutes someone will come along and you can talk it over with them.
Where is it?
The Camino Frances starts off in St Jean Pied de Port, in the southwest of France. It then crosses the Pyrenees and travels along the north of Spain until it reaches Santiago de Compostella, near the north-west coast of Spain. This means that not only are you getting to experience an amazing walk, but you are also travelling through some of the lesser visited regions of Spain, which in itself makes for a magical experience. What these regions offer is some of the best food in the world, some of the best wine in the world and hospitality that goes above and beyond what I have experienced anywhere else. This is almost another side to why most people do the walk in the first place, but it is a massive part of the memories and the life-changing experience that comes from having walked the Camino.
Why walk it?
There are so many reasons why people choose to walk the Camino Frances. Some are just to do it, to experience it, but many people have much deeper reasons. Some are for the religious attachment to the route, the idea of a pilgrimage to honour God. Others have suffered tragedy or experienced tragedy and want to get away from life and accomplish something challenging and immersive. Whatever the reason for initially walking it, the actual reason for walking it becomes apparent as you travel along the route. It really is a life-changing experience, the hype is true. This comes from many aspects, as many as the human brain can come up with, but there are some physical, tangible reasons to go along with it. Spending a month of your life focussed on something as basic as walking gives you time to think, time to focus on your past, your future or more often than not, time to forget all about real life and focus on what can be. The main aspect of this trip is the other people, the sheer amount of other people that you interact with, all with a different story or a different take on life. It becomes the most social experience giving you an understanding of so many different facets of life, just from walking and talking. I am the worlds greatest cynic and even I was drawn in by the charms of the Camino and for the small part of it that I walked it definitely changed me and I definitely will finish the route before my time is up.
Planning to walk the Camino
The Camino Frances is available to walk all year round if you want to go the hostel route. However, here at Macs Adventure we only operate it from March until November. This is because weather-wise, this is the best period to walk and also, the accommodation and luggage transfer services only operate in these months. May and September get really busy on the final stage, but because they are such temperate and beautiful months to walk. Because the route is so long and the stages so varied, I would highly recommend getting in touch with one of our specialists if you are thinking about taking the trip. You can get in touch with them by emailing one of our Destination Specialists or giving them a call on 0141 530 8886.