When I left home for my first Camino this time last year, part of me didn’t quite believe it was real. Was this magical path all it was cracked up to be? Could I genuinely just walk all day and, on arriving at whichever town I reached, find a hostel where I could sleep for the night? In a world of internet bookings and forward planning it almost seemed too good to be true.
The incredible support infrastructure really was there. But that’s not to say the Camino wasn’t without its challenges, some of which I didn’t expect.
One of which was just how hard it was going to be. I’m generally speaking pretty fit, I’ve run a few half marathons (and even a full one) and do lots of yoga. I thought my body could handle 20-30km per day pretty happily. Especially since I read a planning book which suggested you could train along the way, building up by starting with shorter days.
BIG NO. Partly because once you’re on the Camino you want to keep walking. I walked a super-long second day because I liked the idea of getting to the famous wine fountain in the evening (worth it).
My body wasn’t ready. Within the first week my knees were extremely painful and I had to stop for a few days to rest and recover.
That’s not to say I did nothing in advance. I did a few walks for training, and to break in my boots, and everything felt pretty good. I thought I’d sail along.
The thing I missed out training for was carrying weight. And even though I was pretty good at getting my things down to a minimum (the only things I took and didn’t use we’re antihistamine cream and antiseptic cream) the weight of a backpack really does put pressure on your body.
So that’s one thing I’ve done differently this time… As well as long weekend walks, I’ve been hiking the 10km between my house and my work most days, with my backpack on. Of course I look a bit odd walking through London in full Camino kit – one colleague asked me if I was planning to invade a small Scandinavian nation – but I’m feeling confident that I’ll be ready to walk much more happily this time.
I’m also planning to pack even lighter this year, more on that to come.