I’m preparing for my next adventure, a pilgrimage. At least, that’s what the world calls the El Camino de Santiago. But I’m not going to Spain. I will be walking from Le Puy-en-Velay to St. Jean de Port in France just before the Pyrenees. You’ve probably heard of the more famous, more crowded Spanish section which ends at the cathedral.
I’ve been reading about the 440 mile trek and reviving my French. And I’ve also been attending meetings of the Western North Carolina chapter of the American Pilgrims of the Camino.
Last night, Lisa Signori of the College of Charleston and Carlos Mentley of Lander University talked about their trek through the section I’m going to do. They’re college professors so they gave a lecture on the history and geography of the Camino and showed slides of the hike. Churches, abbeys, convents … Wow, how was I ever going to absorb all of this so I knew what I was looking at when I passed it. How did they ever do it?
The route is on the GR 65 (Grande Route 65). Officially, it is a French hiking trail but it’s not the A.T. or the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. It goes through forests and tiny villages–sort of like the North Carolina Coastal Plains but with accommodations. Over 50,000 people start from Le Puy every year.
While Lisa and Carlos talked about the history and the importance of pilgrimages, the audience had other questions on their minds.
* How much money did you spend each day? Carlos could only give one number-$40 a day for food. They ate lunch out a lot and probably drank a lot more than I’m going to.
* Did you need reservations at gites (hostels) or Chambre d’Hotes (B&B)? Yes, they recommended that you make reservations and not just show up.
* Do stores take credit cards? Cash is better, and there are lots of ATMs.
If we treat each day as a day hike – rain gear, food and water for the day and low boots – we’ll do fine. Most pilgrims are not hikers. They seem surprised when it rains or when they get bitten by bugs. It’s not the A.T. but it’s still a trek.
More next month. Meanwhile back to my French homework.