I am told – the real Camino is about walking out of your front door, placing your house keys into the post box and off you go – back pack on your back and that is it!

There are a variety of reasons why one would take off with very few worldly pocessions and spend anything from a week to 2 months to walk the Camino Santiago de Compostella. The Camino Frances is the most popular of all the Camino Routes. It traditionally starts in St Jean Pied de Port, in France and runs for 780km west through Northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela. It is considered the original walk of St James (who spread the gospel thoughout Northern Spain and who was the brother of the Apostle John). It is also said that St James’s body has been laid to rest in Santiago de Compostela (However no one is really sure). The other routes are the Portugese route, the Northern route, the Via de Plata route and the English Road.

We all at one time or another feel it would be great to simply “take off” – at least this way you have a chance to take time out from a hectic life and crazy schedule – walking will give you the opportunity to think and hopefully gain perspective on your own life. Alternatively it is a great way to spend a holiday enjoying the countryside and the cuisine offered by the various routes.

The Camino really starts with good preparation and training, Debbie and I have covered on average 7 to 15 km a day with either one or two day break over the past 3 months. One needs to remember your Camino starts with your training and preparation. So here we are, my sister Debbie, and I will give you our perspective and insight to our experience of walking the Camino Santiago de Compostela.

To be honest – I don’t think I ever stopped to consider how a mere “ramble” through Spain would require such precision when it comes to packing. Every tiny extra has been taken into serious consideration especially when you are trying to stick to your 10% of your body weight – that leaves me with a mere 6.5KGs. Today I can honestly say I have successfully made the weight requirement!! NO IPAD!! Time to take time out!

After a very long trip from South Africa, and loads of delays – We now have been joined by our dear friend Brenda Wille from New Zealand. We enjoyed a great nights sleep and a great cup of coffee. Now to find our way!

The day has been absolutely beautiful – sunshine all the way. Today took us through winelands with the most spectacular views in the distance. What a privilege to be able to enjoy such views and peace. The only noises one hears are the crunching of our feet and the birds twittering around us.After a really good night sleep in Villafranca, we took an unanimnous decision, out of 3 routes 1) on the main road 2) up mountain of 800 meters or 3) up mountain of 1200 meters Having chosen the middle route we set off not realizing it was just upwards. The clouds above were thick and misty and was a rather chilly 5 degrees morning. A Canadian lady, Kathy,had decided to join us and shared her walking pole with me. The walk upwards was really slow. After trudging up the long path for about an hour we suddenly realized the mist was lifting revealing the most spectacular views and the vegetation was a mass of color. I was amazed at the varieties of different types of heather, as was the vegetation. We walked for a good 2 1/2 hours enjoying the contrast of the beautiful lush valleys and the snow capped mountains in the distant. I felt if only one could drink it in and keep it for later.

Well, when you go up, you definitely need to come down which was very slow and rather difficult. We stopped at an auberge below for breakfast, which was a rather large bocadilo (baguette) with 4 slices of cheese and a really welcome cup of a double espresso (first for the day!). We were all feeling rather stiff after the high climb. There were other pilgrims at the auberge talking about continuing to the top of the next mountain – definitely not on my to do today’s list ! Lucky for me Debbie and Brends felt the same way!

Our trip continued along the road, which did concern me but realized that the beautiful looking freeways above us ,were definitely taking care of the traffic! We had the odd car pass us but nothing major and no trucks!

After walking along the road which took us next to the river – I found myself enjoying the sounds of the gushing water, and the tinkle of the cow bells was quite mezmerising that if I closed my eyes I could have a little sleep and my legs would keep moving forward (if only!)

Suddenly out of no where after 4 1/2 hours of walking we realized we had reached our destination. There in front of us was a welcome sight a beautiful place to stay – Paraiso del bierzo.

I really enjoyed my stay in the farmlands, mostly because it was beautiful but also because there was no chance my feet were going any further. After having our Camino passports stamped we offloaded our backpacks did our washing and had a shower before heading downstairs for a well earned glass of wine and a great meal of soup followed by steak and salad. Up until this point we all felt that the only thing we had eaten was bocadilos and thin slices of cheese- it was great to eat something different

Reflection sounds of gushing water and tinkling of cow bells snow capped mountains.
High point of day staying at Paraiso del bierzo.


A Guide to Exploring the Dordogne

Most visitors to the Dordogne enjoy visiting the surrounding villages, all within a good walk or cycle distance away. To make your stay more enjoyable we have created a guide to exploring the area with les Chouettes, The French Country Cottages as your base.