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Decisions: Bike / Walk; March / later? And some personal st

Bridget and Peter

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Home to Reims 2007
Reims to Limoges 2008
Camino Ingles 2009
Limoges to Gernica 2009
Gernica to San Vicente de la Barquera 2010
San Vicente to La Isla 2012
La Isla to Santiago Sept/Oct 2014
We are thinking ahead to our final stage of our pilgrimage from home to Santiago. As people probably know, we have been cycling by stages from home in Cambridgeshire in 2 or 3 weekly stints since 2007, through Holland and Belgium, the Ardennes and Champagne region to the Vezelay route and then via Dax and Bayonne to the Camino del Norte. This year we reached Guernica when the legs wore out on the climbs, (although the downhills were tremendous. I will never forget the downhill from Mt Jaizkibel between Irun and San Sebastian. Scary but wow - the views! Well worth the climb from sea level to 455 metres in something like 3 km!). We seemed to have spent an awful lot of time pushing heavy bikes up hill. (And we although we come from the flat fens and are in our fifties and not incredibly fit we have developed over the years a reasonable amount of stamina and ability to cycle up hill)

Also, as others have noted previously on this forum, in Spain we got more of a feeling that we were missing something by being restricted mostly to the roads that we did not get in France. So we have begun thinking about becoming walking pilgrims! (We are not completely unused to walking; we walked the Ingles in March last year and possess well worn-in walking boots. Actually I might need a new pair! So decision needs to be made soon!).

Another factor in our changed thinking is that I (Bridget) am probably having to quit my job as a social worker. I am signed off sick long term for the third time in six years - it was the tears the day before returning to work after our glorious time on the camino in October that most clearly indicated a Change was necessary, and I only lasted about 4 weeks before throwing in the towel. I think I have lost the emotional resilience needed to work in a resource-limited system with the ambition of actually meeting people's needs!I think it's what they call dramatically 'burnout'. So I will be needing to find a new career, and sorting out little things like how to earn enough money for us to survive. But we are lucky in that the children are grown and settled and there are just the two of us most of the time, and we like eating veg and buying clothes at charity shops!

At the moment I am not really in the right place to plan for the future and we are just letting things simmer and waiting for answers to become clear. (The Desert Fathers accompanied me on Camino and they are full of common sense wisdom).

BUT we can plan for next year's camino!! I keep reading blogs and postings and wanting to pack up Right Now and go walking or cycling Straight Away. (although I struggle to find the motivation to tidy the sitting room or finish something off the list-of-half-finished-projects-waiting-for-me-to-have-some-free-time). Isabelle and Lovingkindness's and others' accounts of La Plata are being especially seductive at present. (Or just walking out of the front-door and following some of those long distance routes Britain is full off!)

- back to my queries - any thoughts about the cycle/walking choice? Once we are past Bilbao or Santander will the cycling become easier? Or anyway, am I right in feeling we will feel closer to the camino and the places visited by past pilgrims if we walk?

And the question of when - we have always gone in September so far, because that's when I like taking my annual leave. But it's likely I will not be working in March, or anyway if it's already in the diary then I would have to plan around it! And I want to go as soon as realistic! Would we be wise to walk (from Guernica) in early March? (We found Galicia in early March wet, windy, hailing and misty, but interspersed with bright sunshine and we loved it.) (Although the albergue in Bruma was cold and I would definitely carry a hot-water bottle!) How long walking from Gernika to Santiago? Where for Holy Week and Easter? Anything else we should consider?

What a long post. And a bit of soul-bearing! And I do appreciate (bearing in mind other threads) how fortunate I am to work in a country where I get significant sick pay which allows me time to work myself out!!

Bless you for 'listening'

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First response! Work out where you plan to be for May Day weekend and book a room somewhere. (Even if you have to bus or taxi to it and back to pick up your Way again.) May Day was the only day Terry nearly didn't get a bed anywhere because of it being a national holiday on the 1st itself, combined with Spain's Mothers Day on the Sunday. He says he got 'the last bed in Llanes'. More thoughts later. Are you thinking of following the Norte all the way, and how long do you hope to take?
Every blessing on you both and your planning
Tio Tel and Tia Valeria
Second response! It took me 27 walking days to get from Gernica to Compostela, and I had lay days in Bilbao and Gijon as well, so 29 days all up. I would walk it a bit slower if I were to do it again. I did 40 km on the day I reached Bilbao, and 45 km from Sebrado to Arca on our second last day [ mostly flat going, and pretty fit by that stage]. So there were a couple of big days involved.

As to cycling, I can give no advice, as I have never been a devotee of that occupation. I am reminded though of brave Agnes from Poland, who we met on the del Norte. Each evening she would limp slowly in to the albergue and declare that she would have to get a bus the next day, her feet and legs were too sore, she could not walk any more. Next morning she would say that she felt a little better, she would try walking, and may be she would even make it the whole way on foot. Of course that evening she would again be talking of a bus, and so the cycle would repeat itself each day. The last time I saw her in the cathedral square at Compostela, where she had arrived after walking the whole way, she was adamant that she would be cycling her next camino! Walking was much too slow, she said, and you have to work just as hard going down hill as you did going up!

Thank you for sharing.

Alan Pearce

Be brave. Life is joyous.
Peter and Bridget,
How are your plans working out for this year. Walking or cycling again? etc
Every blessing on your planning
Tio Tel and Tia Valeria

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