Camino de Santiago

Planning and preparing for the Camino de Santiago

The Camino de Santiago (Way of Saint James) is probably the trail with the most emotional weight of any trail I know. On one hand, it has been a red thread throughout my youth. Ever since I started hiking with my father and -later- with my father and brother, we hiked part of the Camino de Santiago. Starting in the Northern part of The Netherlands, we hiked all the way through the Netherlands and would hike parts of the trail through Belgium, Luxemburg and France every time we had the chance. On the other hand, every fiber in my body has difficulties with the sheer volume of people on the trail and the significance people attribute to the trail. However, in late 2019 we decided to be finishing what we started many many years ago – hiking the last part of the Camino de Santiago. So this is my Camino de Santiago planning and preparation.

Before we start: Camino de Santiago

Camino de Santiago in Europe
Camino de Santiago in Europe

The Camino de Santiago (known in English as the Way of Saint James among other names) is a network of pilgrims’ ways or pilgrimages leading to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain. Tradition has it that the remains of Saint James the Great are buried here. 

The most popular route (which gets very crowded in mid-summer) is the Camino Francés which stretches 780 km (nearly 500 miles) from St. Jean-Pied-du-Port near Biarritz in France to Santiago. This route is fed by three major French routes: the Voie de Tours, the Voie de Vezelay, and the Voie du Puy. The network is similar to a river system – small brooks join together to make streams, and the streams join together to make rivers, most of which join together to make the Camino Francés. 

Many follow its routes as a form of spiritual path or retreat for their spiritual growth. It is also popular with hiking and cycling enthusiasts and organized tour groups. And that is pretty much exactly what goes against my normal mode of hiking – I am not looking for a spiritual path, a retreat or spiritual growth in the trail. And I hate organized tour groups (of which I got a reminder during my recent Kilimanjaro summit).

Step 1: settle on the idea for my Camino de Santiago trek

The idea is still forming in our heads, but here are some of the outlines:

  • The last 120 kilometers of the Camino de Santiago (to qualify for a certificate and a dual pilgrim certificate in combination with finishing the Kumano Kodo Nakahechi trail in Japan)
  • Hike together with my father (who has his own hiking site) and brother. This already means quite some alignment as my father is in his late sixties and doesn’t have the stamina or speed from his earlier days. 
  • Hike approximately 20-25 kilometers per day. 

Step 2: validate my Camino de Santiago plans.

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Step 3: settle on a date for my Camino de Santiago.

We’re still discussing. Ideally, I would be able to hike the end of June, just before my annual family holidays (again in Hof van Saksen in The Netherlands). The last couple of years I have been to the Laugavegur trail in Iceland and the Kumano Kodo in Japan which proved to be perfect ways to reset from before going on holidays with the family. The Camino de Santiago should do the same for this year.

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Step 4: lock-in my Camino de Santiago.

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Step 5: create a rough day planning for the Camino de Santiago trek.

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  • Whatever happens, I think we deserved a stay at the The Palacio del Carmen Autograph Collection Hotel in Santiago de Compostela as soon as we’re finished.

Fallback options

Especially since my experience at the Iceland Laugavegur trail and it’s fast-changing weather as well as my illness and navigational error on the Jordan Trail from Dana to Petra, I promised myself to make a backup planning. We briefly talked about me proceeding alone in case my father would not be able to finish the trail. 

Step 6: creating a packing list for my Camino de Santiago trek.

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Budget for our Camino de Santiago trek.

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