- meeting a wonderful array of people. Fr. Pierre in Arundy, Chris the maths teacher (and his wife, who's name escapes me), Ron and Kibben the Canadians, Ray the Irishman - we never swapped contact details alas, Jaume the Spanish guy who I spoke to in French for an whole day, David and Haia, and Brenda and Laurel from Texas. And then there were the guys who I ended up walking into Santiago with for the last few hundred kilometres with. The German speaking contingent: Emma and Helga, Nikolaus and Werner; Nicole, Sami and Tommy; and last but not least Team Somerholter - Kurt and Kim, Jonas and Connor. Alas only Werner of the above is close enough for a regular catchup - we've already met up at the Roastery on Wandsworth Road.
- walking over the Meseta. It wasn't as blisteringly hot as I'd feared, and was wonderfully remote. It was about a fortnight into the walk for me so I'd dealt with most of the niggling things like muscle pains and the one blister I had.
- being healthy. 27km a day and eating reasonably decent food was a nice detox from the destruction of exams and essay writing, which are inevitably fuelled by chocolate...
- La Faba - one of the most beautiful parts of the Camino. If you're planning on walking or biking to Santiago make sure you stay there. The Galician mountain stages were stonkingly beautiful.
- knowing I've walked an awfully long way (647 miles or 1042km). It was also really satisfying starting in a place that felt relatively 'home'-like, and every time I go to Lourdes I'll know that in 2013 I walked from there to Santiago.
- being with Rupert on a grand adventure. I always tease him in an overly affectionate way that he is my favourite cousin, and it was pretty amazing being able to do the walk together.
- the first week walking across the Pyrenean foothills. It poured with rain and my only interactions were in French, but the solitude was magnificent.
- equipment-wise, two things stood out: the 'Worldview' shirt I bought from Rohan, almost as an afterthought, but which I ended up wearing (and washing!) every day. Long sleeves were perfect for keeping the sun off my arms, and left undone at the cuffs they actually kept me rather cool. And my Sigg drinking bottle. Very simple - every time I stopped at a tap I drank it empty and then filled it up. Much less mucking around than a camelback.
- and finally the support from everyone who sponsored me. This really did make a difference when the chips were down. Nothing helped me more when my feet were sodden and muscles aching, with unrelenting rain than knowing people back home had given money to charities so close to my heart. Thank you.
|Rupert boarding the flight back to England|
- mountain bikers zooming past at top speed leaving centimetres to spare. Really inconsiderate - just ringing their bell would help enormously.
- taking too much gear. I didn't need a thermarest or sleeping bag, and could have pared things down a bit more. In the end my iPad really wasn't that useful. Mind you, Rupert wins the Beast of Burden Prize - he had his GPS (total waste of time), digital camera, iPod Touch, iPad, Blackberry and Kindle - and all the cords and plugs to charge them. Crazy. (And I don't even want to start talking about why he bought a winter weight insulated jacket with him for a walk in Spain in the summer...!)
- not having a full length Goretex jacket. Not a disaster, but it would have made life much more comfortable during the wet days if my jacket was a fraction longer.
- Terradillos de Los Templarios, which was a a complete dump.
- my feet and knees feeling sore for the first couple of weeks.
- saying goodbye to the Somerholters.
|Rupert with the 1989 Camino map Kurt managed|
to find online - his next framing challenge!
Would I do it again? If you'd asked me that when I got back to Stansted on July 10th I'd have laughed and given a straight refusal. But two months on, I probably would be up for it - maybe on mountain bike from London, or something like that: the memories of walking day after day need to recede a little more before I sign up to doing it all on foot again!