Preparing for the Camino De Santiago Del Norte by a 14 year old Pilgrim

By: Reka Kaponay

The Camino De Santiago is an age old walk, stretching out before the tired feet of pilgrims making their way along the 800 Kilometre path through northern Spain - The Way of St James. While the pilgrimage was named after a Christian Saint, its origins date back far beyond the 12th century, transcending the barriers of religion and offering solace, reflection and renewal to all. The path has been known to transform people entirely, giving the precious gifts of inspiration, creativity and imagination as day by day the landscape around you changes. As you put one foot in front of the other, you rediscover what it means to be quiet, peaceful and free, and the pilgrimage gives you the chance to re-member your purpose on this Earth.

I embarked on this walk to discover myself, to take the threads of the sky, the hues of the wind and weave them together to create one incredible masterpiece woven on the loom of life. I wanted to draw breath from the world around me and pour the inspirations and musings into a hot casket and then mould them into words. I wanted to better my writing with the sun as my teacher and the moon as my mentor and contemplate the true meaning of me.

I am one of the many who ventured out into the unknown in the summer of 2015 on the Camino de Santiago Del Norte. I was surrounded by many others, some young, some old, all wanting to have the adventure of pioneering to discover their own new world. All of us had to be prepared for the walk physically and mentally, but, also practically. Remember that what you decide to bring, you’ll most likely be carrying on your back for as long as your walking journey lasts. You don’t want to end up packing too much (like we did) and then facing the complications of having to leave things behind along ‘The Way’. You want to be able to have the perfect balance so that you can enjoy the sun on your face and the wind in your hair but also have the essentials that bring a smile to your eyes when that rainstorm is about to hit, like a heavy duty vinyl poncho that covers not only you, but also your backpack.

To make sure you have the perfect kit, I recommend doing a test run. Find a long hiking trail close to home, pack what you would bring and set off. Packing our things into our Black Wolf Backpacks, strapping our Quechua Pop Up Tents on and tying our rainbow medley of Asics walking shoes on our feet, we embarked on a 22 Kilometre round trip walk to our favourite Andalusian beach on one of the hottest days of the early summer.

I’d only wish we had stayed true to our test run as we gave in to packing extra non essential things. Actually, 10 kg of extras that we had to leave behind at our first night’s accommodation. That first day on the walk taught us so much! In terms of clothes, in summer, you need only two pairs of shorts, two tops, three sets of underwear, a warm top just in case and that’s about it. Most important in these are a couple of pairs of good blister-proof socks and as I said, a good heavy duty poncho, as you never know what the weather will bring through the Bay of Biscay.  

I would also suggest (if you are to be camping along your journey), to take the tent out of its case and try putting it together a number of times. Since we camped in separate two-person tents, my brother, Lalika, and I, were responsible for the care-taking of our own tent, and that included the setting up and striking of it in a hurry. We spent a couple of afternoons practicing, suffering through the minor injuries we received from being careless and allowing the pop up tent to explode out in what resembled a bomb eruption. But in the end, it was all worth it, for our final time to pack away our Quechua pop-up dome tent was a mere two minutes and 14 seconds!

Many people, bloggers, and experienced hikers have written that it is also extremely important to have a plan when embarking on an adventure like this one. Our plan was that we would rise by 8, start walking by 9, walk 25 - 36 kilometres a day, finish by 2-4 pm, find a place with WiFi to work until about 6pm, eat dinner by 8 and sleep by 10. I can tell you right now, that plan blew away in the hot Spanish summer breeze on the very first day. I do think that if you are walking in a group, it is good to have a general discussion on the things that will work for you all, but leave it as flexible as possible. What I almost forgot to mention is, on a journey such as this one, time fades away and there is ample opportunity for you to transcend the barriers of your own mind, that is revelling in the freedom of choice that this pilgrimage will bring.

What is extremely important to remember is that you will make memories as you walk, so many memories. Some good, some not so good. All will be remembered though. Just keep in mind that while it may get tough and while there might be some points where you will want to put your head in your hands and quit… Don’t, because this is the chance you have been waiting for to reflect, revitalize, and renew! This is your chance to pay homage to the beautiful planet that we call home; to give it your all, to accomplish a dream and to celebrate yourself. So take a leap of faith and remember that no matter how dark the night, the sun always rises.

You can read all about our Camino journey on my website: http://www.dreamtimetraveler.com/dreamtime-walkabout/my-camino/

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