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Memory lane

J Willhaus

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2016, 2022, 2023, 2024, planned 2025
Got a notification from my Phone that we started our first Camino 8 years ago today...

We accidently left our phone charger and Kindle charger at Orrison along with our euro plug adapter and walked the first 3 days to Pamplona with essentially no electronics, so it can be done! As new pilgrims it never occurred to us to call back or cab back to see if they could be retrieved. Waited until Pamplona to buy a new charger for both.

We almost never argue and we had a real humdinger the second morning as I wanted to get started around 6:30 am and Phil sauntered out of the albergue around 8 am. I was so mad that all the photos of me that second day were of my back walking about 50 feet ahead.

My legs hurt so bad when I got to Roncesvalles that I started crying in the check in line. One of the volunteers asked me what was wrong and I told her that I was just SO GLAD to have made it.

Looking back, I am not sure now why the Camino calls me so strongly to return each year.

What are your memories of those first days? Were they good? Were you wondering if you'd made a good choice to walk a pilgrimage?
 
Get a spanish phone number with Airalo. eSim, so no physical SIM card. Easy to use app to add more funds if needed.
We accidently left our phone charger and Kindle charger at Orrison along with our euro plug adapter and walked the first 3 days to Pamplona with essentially no electronics, so it can be done!
I walked my first Camino from SJPDP to Santiago with no electronics. A couple of landline phone calls home. But these days I carry a mobile phone and I am grateful for it. A very useful tool in many ways.

What are your memories of those first days? Were they good?
My first day was long and hot and hard - SJPDP to Roncesvalles in August. Before Orisson or Borda were opened so there was little alternative to making the full walk if you chose the Napoleon route. I underestimated the amount of water I would need and was feeling a little dehydrated and nauseous when I saw two vultures circling overhead. An incentive to just get on with it! :) I do remember a very warm welcome in Roncesvalles and the pleasure of discovering new things each day as my walk went on. One of the intangible but potent gifts was a sense of the presence of many earlier generations of pilgrims in places like Roncesvalles. I don't think I'd ever had such a personal sense of connection with history before.
 
Our first day on the Camino was a Sunday in March 2014. We started in St. Jean like so many others have. I hadn't been to Europe in nine years and my wife had never been so it was all very exciting and so completely different than any trip before. We did the plane from the U.S to Paris, metro to Champs de Mar, TGV to Bayonne, and little train to St. Jean. I had a very fitful sleep in an albergue they opened up late the night we arrived. But our host Sabine set out a fabulous breakfast for us, and kindly shooed us out the door and on the way. It was raining and snowing heavily the whole way, but being from Colorado, we just thought it a treat. The pilgrims office had told us the Napolean was out of the question so we went via Valcarlos. Even then, the snow on the trail was pretty deep, and it was a heavy wet Spring snow, so the branches kept unloading "snow bombs" on us as we walked along. It was a bit hilarious, and took our minds off the tough going. We had our first jamon y queso bocadillo sandwich in Valcarlos, taking a warm break from the wet and cold inside a cafe and it was awesome. I've lost count of how many dozens we've had since then. We eventually got into Roncevalles, and they were very efficient getting us situated and even doing our laundry for us! Coming out of the forest and seeing the monastery all blanketed in snow was something I'll never forget. I wrote in my journal: "God was close today - not in a desparate sense, but in a nice I'm here and isn't this cool / beautiful sense." A feeling I've experienced many times since in our walks on the Frances and Norte. What a blessing.
 
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Got a notification from my Phone that we started our first Camino 8 years ago today...

We accidently left our phone charger and Kindle charger at Orrison along with our euro plug adapter and walked the first 3 days to Pamplona with essentially no electronics, so it can be done! As new pilgrims it never occurred to us to call back or cab back to see if they could be retrieved. Waited until Pamplona to buy a new charger for both.

We almost never argue and we had a real humdinger the second morning as I wanted to get started around 6:30 am and Phil sauntered out of the albergue around 8 am. I was so mad that all the photos of me that second day were of my back walking about 50 feet ahead.

My legs hurt so bad when I got to Roncesvalles that I started crying in the check in line. One of the volunteers asked me what was wrong and I told her that I was just SO GLAD to have made it.

Looking back, I am not sure now why the Camino calls me so strongly to return each year.

What are your memories of those first days? Were they good? Were you wondering if you'd made a good choice to walk a pilgrimage?
Memories not of the first days, but the first day leaving SdC to Fisterra. We too almost never argue, but that morning we were just at odds with each other. I walked ahead (fuming) into a bar and ordered a coffee. The two men behind the bar had a box with a cake and I asked for a piece. It was only after my husband arrived that I realized that the cake was not for the public, but was for a celebration. They were however very generous and gave me a piece. We made up over coffee and cake!!
 
Hiking 20 km up to the 1060 meter Ibaneta pass via the Valcarlos route to Roncesvalles the first time in September 2004 at 65 was one of the most difficult days on the Camino and certainly the most physically exhausting day of my adult life then to date. I was pooped!

Although I had hiked throughout the summer along the Marne River here in France in preparation for the trip, nothing had prepared me for such an effort. Beneath a deep blue sky and brilliant sun I gasped and ached while my pack weighed like bricks.

After hiking about 5 hours I finally staggered over the pass into a picnic area filled with a munching mob; they had arrived by bus and cars! Never will I forget the look that one très correct French woman drinking champagne from a crystal flute, no plastic for her, gave me as I trudged past exhausted! ET would have been better received. A kindly couple from Scotland offered me the best ever cup of tea from their thermos. Refreshed I continued on to the monastery, happy that the path was now slightly downhill....Eventually I made it to Santiago wearing my pack and walking all the way.

On that first Camino I learned the hard way that this was NOT a walk in the park! For the next nine times what preparation mattered most was to keep moving daily. Each time I gardened on our hillside, carried a load of groceries, or stooped to make a bed, etc. I liked to think that such efforts would make it easier the next time climbing up passes or trudging through snow.

At any age what matters is TO CONTINUE to move.
 
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One of the intangible but potent gifts was a sense of the presence of many earlier generations of pilgrims in places like Roncesvalles. I don't think I'd ever had such a personal sense of connection with history before.
This was very much a defining feature of my first Camino. I think it is still present on the Frances, but pushed back a bit because of all of the current pilgrims. Maybe it would be different if I walked in winter, or maybe it was that my focus was different then. I haven't felt it as strongly on the other routes.
 
My first Camino was 18 years ago this month. My first day was memorable as the hospitalero at SJPP convinced us to cancel our booking at Orrison.

I cried every step into Roncesvalles and that walk almost ruined my entire Camino. Since then, I’ve always split it into two days.

My 3 favorite nights were at Monjardin, San Nicolas, and San Anton. All three had cold water and no electricity. At San Nicolas we had to pump our water with a hand pump.

No cell phones, no baggage transport. Locatorios and internet cafe’s and there was a wait for a computer. no washing machines. No dryers - everything was hand washed. No rolling suitcases. No fancy walking equipment or gear. No Compostella if you didn’t actually walk every step of the last 100 K.

We had so much fun and met so many wonderful people!

We shared language, food and laughter

I have walked almost every year since then, sometimes twice a year.

The changes have been interesting 🧐
 
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In comparison to the rest of you my first Camino was the Inglès. I'd first read about the Camino only eight or nine weeks before, and had been training for 7 or 8 weeks. A lot of my gear was new, predominantly because whilst I used to hike I hadn't been for some time. My pack was too big, and nearly everything else was worn out from simple daily use. I even bought new shoes, there was no way I was going to walk a Camino in my winter hiking boots. (I 'walk warm', boots are far too hot for me in summer).

That first day starting out from Ferrol with the water at my back was amazing. I'd been blessed with a Semana Santa Parade the night before, and whilst I was expecting eight or ten pilgrims on the trail I had 80 to 100. It thinned out over the next couple of hours and I had an incredible first day into Pontedeume. After the usual chores and a rest I then spent several hours exploring the town including the Camino Variant up the hill. Grilled Pulpo and a salad for dinner - superb.

Semana Santa was a complete surprise to me, I knew absolutely nothing about it. (I learnt fast!). I expected to walk in solitude (I was looking forward to it) but ended up walking with a number of others across that handful of days, and valued the friendship so freely offered.
 
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This is how we came to our first caminho.
We were visiting my boss in Madrid in 2012 and he showed us pictures of his first
( and last) camino from SJPDP and immediately and spontaneously I called out “ I am going to do that too ❗️ My wife aggreed . So we gathered some information and booklets and bought our equipment, ready for the camino Francès.
However somebody gave me a Dutch magazine with information about all camino’s and as lovers of Portugal over the years we decided to walk the Caminho Português from Lisboa. In 2012 as a training we walked the Dutch Pieterpad and in May 2013 we began our first Portuguese adventure.we loved it. It took us 34 days to reach Santiago at a turtle pace.
The year after we did the caminho again, now from Porto and repeated it in 2015, 2018 and 2019.
Covid and a knee operation limited our movements but in 2022 I was happy to be volunteer at the Pilgrims Office in Santiago and I will be volunteer, Deo Volente, God willing in September coming.

We had a busy life, studying, working, starting and raising a family ,getting older , retiring, traveling around the Europe and the USA , cruising in South America and than discovering the Camino what is a part of our lives now.
Now we are at age with bad knees but live at a place at the seaside with year around holiday feelings so are happy to stay at home .
But I am looking forward to see my Portuguese friends Fernanda and Jacinto of Casa da Fernanda again and being voluntario in Santiago .
 
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My first day on my first Camino in April 2015 I was on "cloud 9" in excitement and enthusiasm, but also had a bit of fear which quickly melted away. I nearly had to "pinch myself" to believe I was actually in SJPdP after daydreaming of going for nearly a year after seeing "The Way" aand opting for early retirement.

Everything worked out well to wing every night in albergues all the way to Santiago, and I was not annoyed by anything or anyone as I recall, being happy to just be on the Camino. The weather was great and arriving in Santiago an emotional special ending, looking up at the cathedral.
 
2018 - Madrid to Astorga (arriving on Alsa) where I saw my first Camino sign and burst into tears; then walked all the way from Astorga to Murias de Rechivaldo (4.6 km!!!) as I consulted my Brierley every few steps and asked everyone I saw if I was on the Camino. I arrived at the most beautiful albergue, and everyone shared how far they'd walked - when I said I'd walked from Astorga, someone laughed, and an Italian came to my defense saying everyone has to start somewhere. The following morning I awakened at 7:30am - the dorm had emptied out - I was the last one out. Since then, there have been regular caminos and now hospitalera experiences. Every one of the Caminos have been just as memorable!
 
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My first partial Camino was on the Primitivo to see where @TerryB had walked and aiming to walk from Oviedo to Grandas de Salime. The weather had been bad and near Tineo the track was flooded out - knee deep. We climbed the bank and into the field - which meant hugging a tree, which felt warm .... Terry said he wished he had not brought me there but I thought it was wonderful. Next day there were snowflakes drifting in the air so because of the weather we returned to the coast at Ribadasella and walked part of the Norte. My first full Camino was the following year - the Inglés and walking into Santiago and the cathedral on a quiet Sunday afternoon was amazing. Terry's comment was that if I could walk that I could manage the Primitivo so the following year we returned to Tineo and walked on from there. The rest is history....
 
My first camino was 2017, I arrived I SJPP full of the joys of life and ready for the journey. I had spent a number of years thinking about the camino and I eventually got to it. I set off on my first day so excited,I got to roncesvalles that evening with a timber tongue as I had ran out of water early,my legs were killing me along with my back. The reality of how unprepared I was hit me,I rang my girlfriend and told her this trip was the stupidest idea I'd ever had and I was coming home,she listened patiently and told me to sleep on it. I went to bed and at 6:30am the next morning people started waking and getting ready for the day,I got up and dressed feeling sorry for myself,I followed the crowd out the door. The next 32 days became one of the greatest experiences of my life and I learned so much about myself,I'm glad I decided not to go home
 
My first Camino was also 8 years ago this month. But we left SJPdP on May 6th. I was with my 20 & 21 year old daughters. I wanted to be the first person to take them to Europe and this is what I chose that we would do. We will never forget it. It was a wonderful time. And to this day we still are in contact with friends we walked with along the way.
 
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Back in May of 2015, Porto to SdC, the first day with my friend, Jim.
1. We trudged through the lackluster suburbs of Porto.
2. I had suffered from planters fasciitis during training and was wearing painful inserts, feeling every step.
3. We got lost in big ways, twice, as soon as we were in the countryside.
4. We added about 5k to what should have been a 25k day.
And when I see the picture of me in flip flops with a glass of vinho verde at the end of the day, I remember being happy. Curious, that.
 
May 2001: Patrick and I took a cab up to Roncesvalles in a whirling snowstorm. I had planned this trip for years. Paddy came along for the beginning bits, because he spoke Spanish and I did not. He was sure I was barking mad. We stayed at the hotel in Roncesvalles, because Paddy was "on his holidays, and not prepared to live like a pig." The following morning we set off downhill, in stretches of ankle-deep, boot-sucking mire and fragrant cow poo. The sun came out, the world was glorious, we made it to Zubiri, where the albergue was closed... but the friendly cab-driver from the night before was sitting at a cafe nearby, and showed us to a hostel. There I took the most divine hot bubble bath of my life! We carried our own bags, but lived high on the hog til Logrono, when Paddy went back to USA. I continued onward on my own... staying in proper pilgrim albergues and taking it all very seriously. I believe my Camino started from there. It changed my life forever.
Paddy returned the following year and walked it himself.
We got married in 2003. We moved to Spain in 2006.
He still thinks I am mad.
 
My first camino August 2001, mom and me arrived to Roncesvalles from Pamplona via taxi.

We were the first in refugio. At some point between now and then refugios have been renamed as albergues.

We took two bottom bunks in a cavernous room filled with rickety metal bunks.

Next group of pilgrims who arrived consisted of two guys and gals. The guys proceeded to disrobe as my eyes and mom’s got bigger and bigger and bigger. We were not prepared for shared dorms. Our Lozano guidebooks never mentioned that.

We attended mass as well. Nice! Nice! Nice!

Mom refused to take a backpack instead she took a heavy rolling pack.

Next day: Day one Roncesvalles to Larrasoaña. We ditched her rolling pack less than a kilometer from R. Her contents were divided amongst a few pilgrims and myself all heading to Larrasoaña.

In Burguete we stopped at a store. While my 70 year old mom took care of nature’s call the female proprietor told me mom was too old for camino. My mom had insisted upon coming with me. Insisted!

Proprietor called a cab for mom. In Larrasoaña bit by bit as pilgrims arrived mom was reunited with her possessions, purchased a backpack, and awaited my arrival.

We experienced so very many miracles on that camino.
 
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My first Camino was 18 years ago this month. My first day was memorable as the hospitalero at SJPP convinced us to cancel our booking at Orrison.

I cried every step into Roncesvalles and that walk almost ruined my entire Camino. Since then, I’ve always split it into two days.

My 3 favorite nights were at Monjardin, San Nicolas, and San Anton. All three had cold water and no electricity. At San Nicolas we had to pump our water with a hand pump.

No cell phones, no baggage transport. Locatorios and internet cafe’s and there was a wait for a computer. no washing machines. No dryers - everything was hand washed. No rolling suitcases. No fancy walking equipment or gear. No Compostella if you didn’t actually walk every step of the last 100 K.

We had so much fun and met so many wonderful people!

We shared language, food and laughter

I have walked almost every year since then, sometimes twice a year.

The changes have been interesting 🧐

Oh my goodness!

I had forgotten about the Internet cafes. Between our Lozano guidebooks and e-mail mom and me were able to communicate along the way meeting up daily or every few days.

She took taxis, buses, and trains Roncesvalles to Santiago while I walked.

I also used a calling card to phone my dad back in USA. Cards were purchased at the Tabaco stores.
 
Oh my goodness!

I had forgotten about the Internet cafes. Between our Lozano guidebooks and e-mail mom and me were able to communicate along the way meeting up daily or every few days.

She took taxis, buses, and trains Roncesvalles to Santiago while I walked.

I also used a calling card to phone my dad back in USA. Cards were purchased at the Tabaco stores.
Such special memories for you and your mom.
 
Got a notification from my Phone that we started our first Camino 8 years ago today...

We accidently left our phone charger and Kindle charger at Orrison along with our euro plug adapter and walked the first 3 days to Pamplona with essentially no electronics, so it can be done! As new pilgrims it never occurred to us to call back or cab back to see if they could be retrieved. Waited until Pamplona to buy a new charger for both.

We almost never argue and we had a real humdinger the second morning as I wanted to get started around 6:30 am and Phil sauntered out of the albergue around 8 am. I was so mad that all the photos of me that second day were of my back walking about 50 feet ahead.

My legs hurt so bad when I got to Roncesvalles that I started crying in the check in line. One of the volunteers asked me what was wrong and I told her that I was just SO GLAD to have made it.

Looking back, I am not sure now why the Camino calls me so strongly to return each year.

What are your memories of those first days? Were they good? Were you wondering if you'd made a good choice to walk a pilgrimage?
Ahhh....that first Camino. Also nearly 8 years ago for me in Sept 2016. I was a naive 56 year old who had never hiked more than 10 miles in a day, so I trained extensively before going. After checking in at the Pilgrims office in St Jean, I got an auberge with 4 person room. Somehow that day I confused kilometers with miles, so loaded my already heavy 25 lb pack with 10 more pounds of food and water for the long 27 "mile" hike to Roncesvalles. I carried tent, lots of clothes, 30 degree F rated synthetic sleeping bag, extra shoes, hat, gloves, Brierley guide along with Rick Steves guides to Spain and Portugal---but no trekking poles; perish the thought! Even though there were no snorers, I did not get a wink of sleep, I was so excited to start.

I was out of the auberge at 0700, not waiting for the breakfast included with the price of the bed. After all, there was a very long day ahead, and I just hoped to get to Roncessvalles before darkness at 2200. I powered up to Orrison in less than 2 hours where I got coffee and breakfast, then onward at a rapid pace. Hit the cheese wagon before the pass. Somewhere along the mountain path a woman said there was only 6 km to go. No, I argued, we had another 10 miles. I got to the bottom of the steep portion with Roncesvalles in sight and took a long break. The joke was on me. I rolled into the large monastery albergue just as they opened at 1400. I had eaten only one of the large bunch of bananas, 1/2 a chocolate bar and a couple granola bars. The pack was still loaded with food I would eat over the next 4 days, plus unopened 1 and 2 liter bottles of water.

Great memories and the right choice!!!!

These days my pack base weight is a bit under 8 lbs, I usually carry 1/2 liter of water and I would not think of walking a Camino without trekking poles. I just returned from Spain this week after my 12th Camino, which as usual, far exceeded expectations.
 
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Ahhh....that first Camino. Also nearly 8 years ago for me in Sept 2016. I was a naive 56 year old who had never hiked more than 10 miles in a day, so I trained extensively before going. After checking in at the Pilgrims office in St Jean, I got an albergue with 4 person room. Somehow that day I confused kilometers with miles, so loaded my already heavy 25 lb pack with 10 more pounds of food and water for the long 27 "mile" hike to Roncesvalles. I carried tent, lots of clothes, 30 degree F rated synthetic sleeping bag, extra shoes, hat, gloves, Brierley guide along with Rick Steves guides to Spain and Portugal---but no trekking poles; perish the thought! Even though there were no snorers, I did not get a wink of sleep, I was so excited to start.

I was out of the albergue at 0700, not waiting for the breakfast included with the price of the bed. After all, there was a very long day ahead, and I just hoped to get to Roncessvalles before darkness at 2200. I powered up to Orrison in less than 2 hours where I got coffee and breakfast, then onward at a rapid pace. Hit the cheese wagon before the pass. Somewhere along the mountain path a woman said there was only 6 km to go. No, I argued, we had another 10 miles. I got to the bottom of the steep portion with Roncesvalles in sight and took a long break. The joke was on me. I rolled into the large monastery albergue just as they opened at 1400. I had eaten only one of the large bunch of bananas, 1/2 a chocolate bar and a couple granola bars. The pack was still loaded with food I would eat over the next 4 days, plus unopened 1 and 2 liter bottles of water.

Great memories and the right choice!!!!

These days my pack base weight is a bit under 8 lbs, I usually carry 1/2 liter of water and I would not think of walking a Camino without trekking poles. I just returned from Spain this week after my 12th Camino, which as usual, far exceeded expectations.
I remember always converting km to miles in my head and saying… only 17 miles today and one of my new European friends finally asked me why I kept doing that. lol! Why did I keep doing that??? I always wondered if other Americans were doing it too. Haha!
 

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