What is the famous “Camino” or the pilgrim journey – as we say in English – leading to Santiago de Compostela in Spain?
The historical origin is tightly bound with Christianity. Santiago de Compostela belongs to the most sacred places as there are resting, supposedly, the remains of St James, one of the apostles.
Today there are around 300 thousand pilgrims every year, starting the journey for many different reasons, not just religious ones. Walking such a big distance on foot with all your things packed in one backpack that you carry all the time… It might sound challenging. But it is also one of the coolest experiences you can get.
Veronika Tousek was one of the eager pilgrims back in 2017. She didn’t walk the path all alone as most people do. Instead, she was accompanied by her greatest friend – her dog! How did they manage to accomplish this month-long journey? What did they enjoy the most and what challenges did they face on the way? And finally, what they both take from this journey? Listen to our new OutdoorLivers podcast episode to find out!
Why did you decide to go in the first place?
Unlike many people, there was no spiritual background behind my decision. Since I started working in tourism in the winter of that year, my life has been pretty wild – I was surrounded by a lot of people all the time showing them the beauties of my beloved city and I loved it! I was guiding beer tours for Spanish tourists the whole summer, so we drank quite a lot. I enjoyed it but after a while I knew I needed some silent time to reconnect. And I also wanted to have a holiday with my dog and take him for a walk. Camino seemed to fit both of these needs.
That was a pretty long walk, wasn’t it?
I chose Camino del Norte – one of the five most popular routes to Santiago. It leads along the north coast. In my head I saw my dog swimming in the waves every day. He loves water. Unfortunately, as it turned out, he doesn’t love salty water so much and he refused to swim. It was still a nice path to choose. We walked around 27 kilometers per day. That was the average. The whole journey took us 30 days.
Did you meet a lot of pilgrims on the way?
Sometimes you walk a whole day without bumping into anyone. However, the closer you are to Santiago, the bigger the concentration of people. Since
you don’t meet many people on the majority of the route, and suddenly, there are hundreds of them on the last 100 kilometers, the final part feels a bit overwhelming. But as you get closer to the end, it gets more and more crowded.
What about your interactions with locals? Were they friendly? I suppose they must be quite used to the thousands of pilgrims wandering through their villages.
Absolutely. I met many nice people, some of them even let me sleep in their garage and fed me dinner. All for free. Not that I asked for it to be for free but I guess the people who live on the Camino somehow enjoy the adventure coming right on their doorstep and a storytelling over a modest dinner feels more valuable for them than charging you a couple bucks for sleeping in their garden shed.
How do you make something like that happen? You just ring someone’s bell and ask whether you can crash their garage? That sounds a bit random to me!
Find out more in the podcast!