It might be of interest to describe what a day on the Camino is like for me, but I have to stress that every day is different — one’s decisions are completely at the mercy of the weather, the distance and difficulty of the day, and the company one is keeping. However, what I have observed is that, the longer I spend on the Camino, the more structured my day is, even if on the surface none day has no resemblance to another.

Unless there is some great urgency, usually because I want to cover a great distance or I have to be somewhere at a particular time, I get up at 7.15 am. There is no point in an early start, although I will on the day we head into Santiago, because it is dark and getting out of some towns and villages requires good eyesight. Everything on the Camino comes down to following the yellow arrows and signs, and you quickly learn to respond to them and thank the Lord for the kind hands that painted them, so daylight is essential. One companion talked about travelling at night, but I’m not so fearless.

Most albergues insist that you are out by 8 pm, so the 45 minutes pass quickly in packing your gear (sleeping bag, then waterproof bag with tightly rolled clothes, pillow slip, ipad against the frame, sandals in their bag, pullover, and toiletries last; chargers in the top pocket, waterproofs and spare socks in front pocket), toileting and foot management. Good feet are eternal life on the Camino, and I have used nothing but talcum powder, although everyone has their magic, some with more success than others. A shower in the morning is usually more trouble than it is worth at this time of year, because microfibre towels can’t dry you completely and it is unpleasant to start walking when cold. Peregrinos dream of bath towels and shower curtains, and get very down when the shower is the push button sort and you have to keep turning around to hit the switch to keep things running.

Sore muscles and joints are rubbed with Voltaren, with Panadol for real aches and the odd hangover. A litre of water hoovers down the morning multivitamin, fish oil and joint pills. Any clothing not worn on the day goes on the pack in case of rain or cold, and a decision must be made — breakfast now or later.

This is actually strategically important, particularly if the weather is foul or the countryside lacking in facilities. If you decide to have desayuno to the first village, and hour into the walk, and it doesn’t have an open auberge or cafe, you will often not eat all day. I can go 20 km on a cafe con leche and a muffin, but then I need me something substantial at 3 pm or I fade. On big days, I eat a bocadillo or tortilla by 2 pm, because I will be walking into the evening.

Whatever, one hits the road. If alone, I usually say a prayer on starting or at a cross or shrine to Santiago. If I share the walk, it is usually the beginning of a conversation. The first hundred metres, you shift hour pack and make sure all the straps are correct — hip belt sitting in the right place and tight, shoulder straps tight and then pack straps tightened (it’s only taken me a week to work out the best way). Poles out and straps on the right way, then it’s the road, Jack.

I’ve learnt to walk with my gut as much as my head. If I need company, it will be there. If I need to be alone, then one says Buon Camino and walks on. You stop when you need to and if that doesn’t suit the company, then you do what you need to do, without any feeling of being let down.

If there is a good bar at lunch, or five km out, you stop. Any time after 2 pm is beer o’clock, with cerveica con limone a distinct preference. If nothing good is around and you are having a light day, walk on and have something when you arrive at 3 pm. Tasks is Spain and dinner will not be until after 8.30 for many.

It is amazing to be how full the hours of walking can be. Sometimes one just has to concentrate on your feet, because the path is fraught and unforgiving. Sometimes your feet sing and walking is a joy. As I get stronger, my poles are put away and the tapping of the tips on hard surfaces gives way to the crunch of my boots, so I can hear more and even see more of the countryside. Observing, considering, reflecting on my life, singing, praying, talking to spiritual heroes and having a rather one-sided conversation with God, never the need or the inclination to listen to music or a podcast. To walk well requires concentration, and to make a real pilgrimage means focusing on what you are doing and where your real goals are.

The end of each day means wandering into town with sore feet and muscles — less and less and Santiago gets closer and one becomes fitter — and looking around at the available accommodation, food and drink. Once your bed for the night presents itself, you grab credencial and passport and however many euros are required and get a bed ticket, a sello on hour credencial, in Galicia disposable bed covers, and you walk into the dorm and try to grab a bed with a powerpoint.

Some things take priority: unpack, put covers and sleeping bag on bed and the pillow slip on the pillow. Plug in flat gadgets into any source of power, grab anything valuable in the sack that held the sandals and head for the shower. Evening dress is long cargoes and polo, with a sleeveless vest and sandals. Then is is time to wash or obtain access to a washing machine. Clean and dry clothes are a priority and I don’t take risks: if I can wash, I do.

Then I find a bar, with food if I missed lunch, grab a cerveica “grande” (I am always popular with bar owners), the included tapas and whatever I choose to eat. It is now usually four-ish and it is time to check emails, download photos and tweak them, and write my blog. If it has been a good day and I am in early, there is time for a walk around the town, a read or even mass, before I wander out and find someone I know in a bar. This usually translates into a shared meal with two, three four or more compadres, different every time because everyone walks their own Camino.

Back to the auberge by 9.30 and get ready for bed, then read until sleepy. Nine hours later, the process repeats, except each day is as different as the ever-changing countryside through which we walk.

The great existential question that I have, at least at the moment, is why I look so daggy in trekking gear?

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