Sixteen Miles and one blister — welcome back to pilgrim life


Pilgrim chic — road ready at 6:45 a.m.

When I got up this morning I wasn’t really sure I wanted to leave my bed, it being a national holiday and all that. But I’d already told Graciella and Luigi that I’d be heading out at 6:30 and I knew they’d think I was a slacker if I didn’t go. So…..out the door I went at about 6:45 for a day of adventure.

Today’s goal, of course, was to research this pilgrimage walking stage — Perugia to Assisi — for my upcoming book. That meant that I’d be walking and dictating in my iPhone while taking photographs and trying not to get lost.

Matter of fact, I didn’t get lost at all, mostly thanks to my GPS. I did discover, though, that I have much more to learn before I’ll be able to figure out the intricacies of this amazing little device. A big thanks to the folks at First Church Seattle who gave this to me as a going away present. I learned too that it’s a different way of walking when you’re walking as a pilgrim guidebook author rather than simply a pilgrim.

Anyway, I made it to Assisi by about 3:00. It’s a great town, truly beautiful. I’ll be back in mid-July to research and write my chapter on Assisi, so for now it was just get some photos and get back home.

Rather than entrust myself to the train schedule on a national holiday I opted to take a spendy ride back to Perugia by cab. As I was driven back to my temporary Perugian home I had time to reflect on the difference between walking 16 miles and riding the same distance in a car. The walk to Assisi was about smells and colors and discoveries and miniature hardships and thoughts of St. Francis who walked this way 800 years ago. The trip back to Perugia by car was mindless. And completely insulated from the world, which I sped through while gazing out the window.

Below: Photos of today’s walk

Blogging the Camino del Norte by iPhone

The screen is tiny. The keyboard is even tinier. Plus, I need my glasses in order to type. So why am I planning to blog my upcoming camino on my iPhone?
The answer is that it’s easier than the alternatives. Coin op computers in Spain usually don’t allow for uploading photos. I don’t want the weight of an iPad. And I want my blog to be as contemporaneous with my walking as possible.
Who knows, maybe Siri can help me find the best tapas each evening?


The Hunt for a Good Camino del Norte Guidebook

The great Consumer Eroski online Camino Guide

As I plan for my May/June walked along the Camino del Norte I’m looking through guidebooks and thinking I may abandon the traditional guidebook for an Internet guide instead. This great resource from Consumer Eroski, a Basque retail giant, helped greatly on my 2010 camino. Giving up the paper is easy. Trusting in my Spanish to interpret the directions is not. Still, in 2010 I used the daily itinerary as a Spanish vocabulary study guide and it worked out great. Even better, there’s an iPhone app that includes all the same info. If it included a GPS feature and local maps it would be spectacular.

My fall back will be the Walker guides, available at the online bookstore of the Confraternity of St. James in London. The two volume set for the Camino del Norte was last published in 2010, perhaps meaning it is based on 2009 info. So I wonder how accurate it will be after a few years on the shelf. Amazon seems to have it available through related dealers, but it’s unclear whether that includes one or both volumes.

It’s always possible to just walk without a guidebook, but I’d be anxious about missing available services in this particular camino that has such a thin infrastructure. Some of the walks, according to the Eroski guide, are in the 35-40 km range, the distance required to get from one albergue to the next. That’s a lot of miles to cover in a day with no guide.

Very happy to hear my buddy Sebastian, of Germany, will join me for the first few days of Camino 2012.

Good news came yesterday. Sebastian, my German firefighter friend from Camino 2011, will join me in Bilbao for a few days. That’s is great news! Sebastian is much fun and it’ll be great to walk with him again as a pilgrim brother. The pressure will be on for us to find a bottle of the infamous “Cilantro” liquor that accompanied us on our pilgrim way last year.