A long walk to Santiago de Compostela By Orlando Janes (BH, 2015)
I’d left College a couple of years earlier and had completed a BTEC in Information Technology at our local college. Various friends had gone off travelling (the usual; Thailand, Australia, etc). I wanted to do something different, and I definitely didn’t want to ‘find myself’. The previous summer I’d been with my family in Northern Spain and had seen people walking the pilgrim
So, I started. I walked towards Poole, camping in woods and fields. I stopped occasionally in pubs to wash and dry clothes, eat properly and give my blisters a rest. I began to enjoy the rhythm of walking, and the time to think and appreciate the beautiful English countryside. From Poole, I caught a ferry to the Channel Islands and nearly missed the onward boat to Le Havre, where I met my next challenge; I don’t speak a word of French. Everyone I met was exceptionally kind and generous to me, from a woman in a bar giving me food just because they thought I was doing something wonderful, to a driver who gave me a lift over a bridge for cars only, who then spent two hours describing the naval action that took place at Saint-Nazaire. France was beautiful, at times quite lonely, but I also relished the freedom and was beginning to get fit! I would sometimes take a couple of days off to recover in a pretty town, but mostly it was long days of walking down the west coast (there’s less map reading to be done if you just keep the sea on your right!). A wonderful group Soon enough I reached the Pyrenees, and the whole character of the walk changed. I found the first of many auberges set up specifically to cater for the needs of
In May 2016 I walked out of our home in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, and headed for Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain. It felt as though it might be a bit of a challenge, and I’d delayed my start for a couple of weeks while I plucked up courage to begin. For the next two days, it rained pretty much solidly, and my newish boots ripped my feet to shreds. I very nearly gave up there and then. I also realised that I was carrying far too much weight and started jettisoning kit; the expensive spirit stove, cooking equipment and dry food.
route to Santiago de Compostela, called the Camino de Santiago and felt that I wanted to give it a try – not through any religious conviction, but just because it was there. And rather than just walking the last 100 kilometres, I wanted to walk the whole way from home.
Orlando Janes, then and now
Orlando enjoying a well-earned beer pilgrims, and in the first few days on the official route I fell in with a wonderful group of people; Spaniards, French, Italians, Argentinians. As we walked together, ate together and slept in beautiful churches and hostels we became close friends – sharing music and songs, political and religious views. I learned a smattering of Spanish, but they all wanted to practise their English! Walking across the plains of Northern Spain was a high point for me; Pamplona, Burgos, Leon. These are incredibly wonderful towns, steeped in history, but seeing them as a pilgrim, staying in the local auberges some of which are freely provided by the townsfolk, was a magical experience. Finally, I made it to Santiago de Compostela – a beautiful and ancient city – where the whole place is filled with Pilgrims. Even there, though, no one could quite believe that I had walked all the way from Cirencester – 2,000 kilometres in roughly 100 days. ■ 53
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