We’ve been asked this more than once, usually along with, “How many times HAVE you done this?”
Here’s the answer to the second question:
We all – as in all eight kids, Mum and Dad and Grandpa all did the blue route in 2012, partly as a “probably our last trip together as a family”, partly to see if we liked long distance walking (and if it turned out we didn’t it was only two weeks sandwiched in between weeks in Paris and London, which we knew we’d love). Turns out all of us enjoyed it at the time and some liked it enough to continue.
The four youngest and Mum did the red route in 2014 – a 1,500km fundraising walk for charity: water. We enjoyed it, but that does not mean there were no hard times. Days on end slogging through rain and mud, and the occasional times with Youngest Child screaming along the trail come to mind.But it wasn’t meant to be easy. It was meant to be sacrifice as we thought about those without access to clean water every day we walked.
Last year Rob and I did that little green route in Portugal to celebrate 25 years of marriage.
And now, God-willing, we are about to hit the purple one.
Why do we go back to Spain? Why not trek in the Himalayas or do some hikes in England or Scotland?
You can only walk one trial at a time. I’d LOVE to walk them all, I really would. Right now the Camino calls as it is an easy option – easy in the sense that there is very little planning to do ahead of time as there are reasonably frequent and inexpensive accommodations along a usually well-marked trail and scrummy food to boot. It’s also good for practising Spanish, and this trip in particular will be an educational field trip with a special focus on architectural history.
Even the youngest kids are probably strong enough now to manage enforced long days (40km or more) that seem to be part and parcel of less structured hikes, so maybe Canterbury to Rome along the Via Francigena or Rome to Jerusalem – or even Canterbury to Jerusalem could be on the cards next. Or the Iron Curtain Trail, 7,000km along the border that started disintegrating nearly 30 years ago (I’ve got my sights on that one for a thirtieth wedding anniversary adventure – back to the place we started our newly-wed adventure!) Or the Himalayas…or South America…or North America…or Africa to visit our sponsored children…or the Great Walks of New Zealand. There are lots of places to walk.
My Mum and Dad like to follow along vicariously on our journey so I put together a quick little map for them. It’s always tricky because we generally don’t know for certain when we’ll be where. However, this time is a little different, because we have Daddy, Grandpa and Uncle coming to join us partway through so we have a definite timeline for their arrival and departure dates at least. Click here if you’d like to take a squiz at the map – see if you can spot the bit where we hop on a bus. The purist in me doesn’t like taking busses and skipping sections, but The Men who are joining us have only a limited time with us and we’d like for them to be able to see both Merida and Salamanca and so we’ll do what we need to do to make it work for them. At the end of the day, relationship is more important than Walking-The-Whole-Way-Every-Step-Of-The-Way!
If you are interested in even more detail – or if you just like maps because maps are cool, there’s a really funky website with zoomy maps that you’ll love to have a look at. Click right here to see what I mean. Each stage (or Etapa in Spanish) has its own map below the main one – click on the place names in bold orange and you’ll be in for a real treat. (Go on, do it, even just once!) That link takes you to the first part of the route, the Via de la Plata. If you get become khooked and want to follow the whole way, you’ll need to CLICK HERE for the last part, the Camino Sanabres. If you’re thinking of walking yourself, you’ll find the site to be most useful. There is information about the route and accommodation and services along the way. It’s in Spanish, but you’ll work it out, and if not, then googletranslate is your friend. The gronze site is similar; again in Spanish, but with much lower tech maps and some people find it easier to navigate. If you prefer English, German, French, Italian, Portuguese or Japanese then mundicamino is the site for you.
In one week I won’t be lying here in bed checking Facebook and thinking about getting up to make pancakes. I’ll have said good-bye (oh how I hope it gets easier!) and will be sitting on a plane with four kids waiting to taxi and take off.
Five big bags of refugee gear will be tucked away in the hold. Five small backpacks containing all our gear for the next two months will be stowed in the overhead compartments.
When we drove out to the airport on Friday to pick up Eldest Daughter and New Son (-in-law), the kids admitted to flutters of excitement in their tummies. One even said his stomach had felt “all squeezed tight” during the week when he had thought about the upcoming adventure.
We have had a very full few months since deciding to take this trip and the focus has very much been on the “here and now”, living in the moment, one event at a time….one child getting engaged, another off to China on a scholarship, one starting university, another starting full-time work, Christmas, birthdays, Shakespeare production, wedding, triathlon, graduation, another wedding….and now we’re on the final countdown.
But first I need to make some pancakes.
We have a baggage allowance of 115kg between us. We weighed the bags yesterday morning and guess what they came to. Yes, that’s right, exactly 115kg. Not a kilo more, not a kilo less. Five big bags of clothes and shoes and blankets for refugees. Thank you to everybody who knit, crocheted, donated. * thank you * thank you* thank you *
But that’s not all. There’s more good news. A gentleman from Madrid is going to meet us at the airport so we don’t have to lug those honking great bags across town on public transport. You can imagine how relieved we are at that!
- Confirm passports are still valid ~ check
- Take packs out of cupboard ~ check
- See if Ella-Rose is big enough for a real pack yet ~ check, YAY she is!
- Try on hiking clothes ~ check (see next point)
- Replace boys’ jackets and a pair of jandals ~ check
- Buy universal plug and some more nappy pins ~ check
- Decide who will carry the “laundry” (items from above point plus a bar of Sunlight soap and a few metres of cord aka washing line) ~ check (it’ll be Micaiah)
- Decide who will carry the “kitchen” (five small plastic bowls and titanium sporks) ~ check (Levi has the pleasure)
- Pack teeny tiny toiletries selection ~ check
- Pack miniscule medical kit ~ check (and more muscle cream has been ordered because we have not been training and I guess we’re going to be sore!)
- Collect art supplies and journals ~ ckeck
- Make a scallop shell for THIS camino~ check
(embroidered shell for first camino, water canister for second walk-for-water, little brass shell for little Portuguese camino…bell in ball handmade by fellow pilgrim)
- Fill freezer for stay-at-homes ~ check
- Download route app to phone ~ check
- Print off accommodation list ~
- Pack refugee gear ~
- Pack breakfast to eat at the airport ~
Looks like we’re very nearly ready…
Just a month to go now.
Almost all the last little bits of wool have been made into Useful Objects….
Slowly, slowly, little by little