El Camino de Santiago – The Path that Still Calls
I was contemplating the hike from Land’s End to John O’Groats in the UK but I’d left it too late in the year – winter lay just ahead. My attention swung to other options abroad where the elements would be kinder.
My thoughts turned to El Camino de Santiago, which I had walked ten years earlier, and had promised to walk again someday. I didn’t give it much thought, just packed my bags and headed off to catch a flight to France.
The route I originally took was from Le Puy en Velay, near Lyon in southern France, to Santiago de Compostela, the end of the trail in North-West Spain. It entailed around 500 miles to the French / Spanish border, and then a further 500 miles to Santiago.
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Not blessed with time before the weather turned in Spain, I decided to return to the Spanish section to enjoy one of the world’s greatest and oldest trails.
Houses in the Basque region of France and Spain are painted in a claret red and white, including those of St Jean Pied de Port. This unassuming little town lies in the creases and folds of the Pyrenean foothills and is the starting point for the Camino Francais all the way to Santiago de Compostela.
It is the most popular walking trail in the world. Last year alone, according to the records kept by the authorities in Santiago, 120,000 people took it on – and that’s just those who had registered their adventure.