Planning the Way

So now I am in the planning stage… The bike route, is actually the less travelled pilgrimage route on my trip, and for me the most daunting part. My bike is my car, but I only ride the streets and back lanes of Bali. Okay, in the crazy traffic of Bali, but I’m generally the fastest moving vehicle. I’ve never had a puncture, and don’t know how to change a tyre. I am however used to riding 70 or so kilometres a day… sometimes. I own a mountain bike, it’s the only kind I’ve ridden since I had my Malvern Star Dragster when I was ten. My bike can’t fit racks for touring, and probably is too much of an inconvenience to take to France anyway (well to get it back again). I don’t need the latest fanciest bike, I don’t need to go that fast, but I would like to be able to carry my stuff comfortably. I’ve tossed this back and forth, and It seems buying a bike in Paris (secondhand?), then hopefully selling it at St Jean, looks a less expensive option than hiring one. I am hoping there are people wishing to buy a bike to travel the Camino Frances to Santiago, as for that part of my journey I would like to walk. Anyone reading this around the third or fourth week of October 2014, want to buy a bike in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port?

There is a Camino that starts in Paris ‘The Tours Route’. This is the path I wish to take. I like the idea of following a medieval pilgrimage, and feasibly my course can replicate that path. Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of information in English about this particular way. The main source seems to be out of print and, at least on my searches, unattainable. However I have managed to scrounge from the web, a list of towns that the Tours Way follows, so will probably rely mostly on Google Maps to get me there. I have ordered a French street atlas online, but that was months ago, and I’m still waiting for delivery. Everything takes longer than anticipated in Indonesia. Hopefully it will arrive with time for me to plan.

BrieleyLuckily my guidebook for the Camino Frances has already arrived, ‘The Brierley’, as it gets reverently referred to in Camino circles. I’m told it’s good, but I’ll probably just walk until I get tired or hungry. I believe it’s good for spotting English speaking pilgrims. I wish more were available as ebooks, as for me it’s not just a stroll to the local bookstore. I did find and read a recent account on foot by a South African Pilgrim who follows the Tours way, but it’s not a guidebook as such.

For me, Europe will probably seem incredibly expensive as I work in South East Asia. When I return to Australia I constantly annoy my friends and family by exclaiming in shock “You want how much for that?”. Ok, I do it here too, but it’s part of the regular bargaining process. I have saved some cash, and hopefully will be enough, as I’ve booked and paid for my flight. I found this handy Camino Calculator If I sleep under a bridge, eat sunshine and moonlight and don’t wash, it will cost me nothing! It seems that the Camino Frances can be done on as little as €25-35 a day, as there are pilgrims hostels (albergues), and set menú del día, available for very low prices. However, France will be a lot more expensive. I was rather shocked to see hostel beds for €50 – that’s a 3 star hotel here! I am taking my tent. I love camping, so that’s a good option for me. I will also take advantage of CouchSurfing.org I’ve been a member for a while, and actually love playing host, so hopefully I may get to be hosted along the way. I think it’s a great way to find the secret locations of an area, and truly hang out with the locals.

Once complete, I’ll share my planned route.

18,262 good days

“Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.” Unknown

This year I will turn 50, and by my birthday will have lived eighteen thousand, two hundred and sixty two days. Good days. I’ve long had a dream to drink champagne in sight of the Eiffel Tower for my fiftieth birthday. As that date is approaching I have began to think about making it a reality.

I’ve never been to Europe! I know, I know, I’m Australian… That’s what we do when we leave school… I even work in the travel industry (yes, I know…), but Europe is a place I thought I could go when I’m old, after all there are many wonderful and amazing places in this wide world, some of which I’ve actually been lucky enough to travel to. I figured at 50, I’m probably official ‘old’, well middle aged as I plan to live until 100, so time for Europe.

Paris, well it’s in France, which is near Spain. The Camino de Santiago goes through Spain. This is another of my dreams, albeit a more recent one. I think I first heard about the Camino maybe ten years ago – I recall reading about in in a book, but don’t recall the book. The author had started in France, which at that time apparently wasn’t a popular place to start. As I work as a tour leader in South East Asia, I get to meet many well travelled folk, some who have travelled the Camino. The first guests to tell me of their trip, a French and Canadian couple, enthralled me with their stories, I was hooked… I wanted to do it! Over the years (I’ve been in Asia ten years), I had more and more guests who had walked the Camino, but the clincher came last year when one mentioned that there was a town in Spain with free wine for pilgrims. I like wine.

‘Pilgrims’ or peregrino(a), in Spanish, is what people who follow el Camino de Santiago are called, as it’s a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, the place said to house the remains of St James the Great (San Iago), Jesus’s mate and patron saint of Spain. Apparently a grumpy fisherman before he became a fisher of men. El Camino de Santiago translates as ‘the way of St James’, of which there are many routes, all ending at the Cathedral in Santiago. This Christian pilgrimage has been followed since Medieval times. Some do it as a religious pilgrimage, some for other spiritual reasons, some for the culture, some for sport, and some for just a nice walk.

Earlier this year I had a Spanish guest who had done part of the Camino as a teenager, who said, if you’re going to do the Camino, you must visit Finisterre, ‘the end of the world’, well at least it was, back when the world was flat. That certainly sounded a romantic notion to me, yes, that will be included on my trip!

As a trip to Paris had originally been the main agenda for the trip, I planned to fly in and out of Paris. The Camino I wanted to walk (there are many routes), is the most popular (hopefully for a reason), it’s what’s known as ‘the French Way’ or ‘Camino Frances’, however it starts in the South of France, at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (Saint John at the foot of the mountain pass), not near Paris. As I always say, anywhere is walking distance, it can just take a bit longer.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really think I had ‘a bit longer’, and started to research trains, planes and ways to St Jean. My friend Steven Herrick wrote a book about cycling in France, which I read and enjoyed. It got me dreaming. I like riding bikes. I could ride a bike from Paris to St Jean, and have a nice cycling holiday in France too. So that is my plan.

Please join me on my journey on my blog.

Paris-GrandPalais-Louvre
A lovely old map of Paris

Cycling and Walking the Camino de Santiago