500 Miles in Flip Flops ~
Bill and Paige just completed their Camino pilgrimage. They walked the entire 500 miles and lived to tell about it. I knew as soon as they set off I would ask Paige for an interview. Partly, because I knew she’d be honest about their pilgrimage and partly because I am so fascinated with the Camino. I first introduced you to Bill and Paige a few months ago just as they were about to launch themselves into the world of travel and adventure. I don’t actually – in person – know Bill and Paige, but I have a connection just the same as I went to high school with Bill’s sister and they are friends with my monkey sister. They’re good people. Currently, they are living in Spain for 3 months, resting their feet and planning their next big adventure.
Patti: How many miles in how many days?
Paige: We took 33 days to walk 500 miles. Bill wore flip flops the whole way!!!
Patti: The BIG question – why?
Paige: Walking the Camino is something that Bill has wanted to do for years. He was drawn to the history and the challenge. I was there because of Bill and talk about a challenge… I am one of those who drives around a parking lot looking for the closest parking space so I do not have to walk – I wasn’t sure how I would do.
Patti: Where did you start, where did you end?
Paige: We started in St. Jean Pied de Port, France and ended in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
Patti: Toughest part of the journey?
Paige: I had 2 hard days – a mentally challenging day and a physically challenging day. About 10 days or so into it the chatter in my head was trying to get the best of me. The walk maybe presents a bigger mental than physical challenge. That day was the first day I used my iTunes. Day 30 was a tough physical day for me – my feet and ankles ached the whole 17.70 miles we walked. Oh, lest I forget…. the moscas (flies). We only had a couple of days where they tormented us – Bill thought it was quite funny to see my arms flailing around while I swore like a truck driver. SIDE NOTE: Kim, of - So Many Places – is currently walking the Camino and wrote about the flies on Day 15 of her trek, trust me, it’s worth the read!
Patti: What’s the truth behind staying at the alberques?
Paige: Alberques (refugios) are mostly dorm style rooms that offer a bunk, showers, kitchen area, a sink/clothes line for your laundry and sometimes a lounge area. The beds range from a plastic mattress and pillow to ones with sheets and a grungy blanket. They are HOT – can’t imagine how the summer pilgrims manage. The shower/toilet areas are often co-ed which is a tiny bit creepy but at our age the whole “college” atmosphere is…well……. Fortunately we stayed in “dorm” rooms only 8 nights opting for private rooms. Dorms equal zero privacy and snorers galore. Our first night in an alburgue was in Roncevalles. We were in beds 171 and 172 – the last on our floor nearest the bathrooms. All night long we heard the toilets flush – sounded like the ones on an airplane times 10. It took us a few days to figure out that we had options. Several alburgues had private rooms – the best of all worlds because we could use the kitchen, laundry and lounge areas but had the benefit of privacy including a bath.
Patti: What other type of accommodations are along the Camino?
Paige: Casa rurals (a quasi home with private rooms and bath) or hotels/pensions. These are often quieter but usually do not offer kitchen/laundry facilities.
Patti: Did you have a daily mileage goal?
Paige: Not really – we started out following a 34 day plan that was handed out in St. Jean Pied de Port and soon learned that a set plan did not work for us. We walked from 12.5 to 24 miles a day. One day we had walked 7 or so hours and the pueblo we had planned to stay in had NO place to sleep – we had been misinformed. We ended up walking another 2.5 hours. There are also stretches on the Camino where there are no facilities for 9 to 11.5 miles – so often the Camino dictates your plan.
Patti: What was in your pack? Is there something you wished you had with you, or something you didn’t need?
Paige: My packed weighed about 11 pounds. My genius item was a pair of Lululemon Studio pants unlined – the drawstring at the bottom allowed them to be worn as long pants to shorts. Also, a skirt, leggings, shorts, 2 short sleeved shirts, a tank top, 2 long sleeved shirts, a down shirt jacket (fits in a small zip lock bag), a silk sleeping sack, hat, mittens, earmuffs, flip flops, microfiber towel, iPhone (was my camera and internet access), 3 undies, 2 bras, my down pillow (1/2 size) toiletries (tiny amount - often used soap to wash my hair) and a flexible water anti-bottle with a d-ring. The only thing I did not use were the earmuffs. I dreamed of having the most cushy pair of shoes not yet made by man but was happy with what I packed.
Patti: Most funny moment?
Paige: Bill and I giggled daily over the stupidest things.
Patti: Most moving moment?
Paige: Early in the walk the path followed a chain link fence lined with crosses made by the pilgrims. It was unexpected – gripping. Bill and I did not have the typical guidebook that pilgrims use to reference distance, terrain, walking path conditions, places to sleep and eat nor did we read stories by other pilgrims before we left opting for our “own” experience. This allowed us to set off each day without the expectations of anyone else.
Patti: Who did you meet along the way that you’ll never forget?
Paige: Michele – a gal in her late 20′s/early 30′s and blind. She was beautiful, happy, unafraid, inspiring. She had come from the USA with a girlfriend. However, her friend was not her “constant” companion. Michelle walked by herself as we all do. I cannot imagine her courage. She said going downhill was that hardest for her. I was honored to hold her hand and help guide her for a short decline, wishing later that we could have spent more time together.
Patti: What did you take away from your pilgrimage?
Paige: That we can accomplish huge feats that otherwise seemed impossible; one step at a time and never give up. And that everyone has their own journey.
Patti: What’s next?
Paige: For the next 3 months I am going to Spanish immersion school in Salamanca, Spain and Bill is going to the bar. In December we are going to see who speaks better Spanish. Our next big trip will be South America – stay tuned!