Let me introduce you to Charlie and Wynette. I met them in Castilla y Leon and found them an utter delight! They have walked the Camino de Santiago three times and as such provide wonderful pilgrim insights. I hope you enjoy their profile!
Name: Charlie and Wynette
Age: Over three caminos, ages 64 to 67.
From: New Mexico, USA
Where did you start and finish the Camino de Santiago?
Spring 2013: Camino Frances: Roncesvalles to Santiago
Fall 2014: Camino Frances and Camino Finisterre: Pamplona to Ponferrada and then Santiago to Finisterre
Spring 2016: Camino Portugues and Camino Finisterre: Porto to Santiago to Finisterre to Muxia
Why did you decide to walk the Camino de Santiago?
(1) First camino: It seemed like an adventure and something new, something we could accomplish. We love Spain and Wynette wanted an opportunity to practice her Spanish.
(2) Other caminos: Because the previous ones had been so great.
Did you have a princess moment?
(1) We splurged to stay in Ventosa at the B&B Hotel Las Aguedas. We had a wonderful dinner there with six other pilgrims. It was a beautiful luxurious place run by a very nice woman and her son. Actually we had many such princess moments as we stayed in many lovely B&Bs.
(2) When we had our backpacks sent ahead on the day we climbed to O’Cebriero.
(3) The times we had other people do our laundry. (We didn’t figure out till near the end of our first camino that it’s not too hard to find washing machines and/or services.)
Did you have a magic moment?
(1) Walking into Cee (not too far from Finisterre), the rain poured all day. There were no towns or cafes on the walk through the high moors so we brought food to eat on the path but it was so wet there was no place to stop to eat it. No place to rest. After walking about 15 kilometers non-stop, we were tired and hungry. We finally came to a tiny old church about 30 yards off the path. It was closed but Wynette thought she could go behind it to find privacy to pee. She walked back and there, tucked away in the trees, was a covered shelter complete with dusty stacked up benches and a table. We were able to take off our rain gear and eat our picnic and rest. It felt like a miracle. Amazing how much joy comes from having a dry place to sit. St. James was taking care of us.
(2) The Camino itself is magic — the yellow arrows that seem to appear just when you start to think “I hope I haven’t gotten off the path”, the locals who correct you as soon as you do stray from the path. And Santiago is too far away to think about the end so you just live for today, in the moment.
What was your best experience?
(1) Starting out walking in the morning when everything is fresh and new and you have a whole day of new experiences to look forward to. The joy of walking and not having to retrace your steps later. Not knowing what new sight or experience or person will be around the next bend.
(2) Discovering we could go slow.
What was your worst experience?
(1) Wynette had bad foot pain in one foot which showed up after about 2 days of walking on the first camino. For a while, we had to cut back from our planned 13 miles a day to 4 or 5 miles a day. We were discouraged and didn’t know how we’d be able to finish. The pain did get a little better but still slowed us down some and we had to skip some sections here and there (about 90 miles total) in order to finish.
(2) This wasn’t horrible but about four days from the end of our first camino we lost our “living in the moment” mind and were thinking about the end. It was strange because we didn’t want it to end but somehow we became focused on the goal and lost some of the magic.
What was your favorite gear that you would recommend?
(1) The lovely Brierly guide to the Camino.
(2) Our lighter-than-a-feather rain skirts. Or just use a plastic garbage bag. No one likes rain pants.
(3) Hiking poles. Charlie didn’t need them but Wynette could not have done the Camino without them.
(4) Our very light Gossamer Gear backpacks.
(Princess Note: For more advice on packing for the Camino, click here)
What advice would you give to someone who is on the fence about going?
Many people, like us, find this is what they love. Try it now and see if you like it. There is a good chance you will want to do it again and again. It is not that hard, especially if you let yourself go slow and don’t make it a competition. (See more about this below.)
What advice would you give to someone who is going?
(1) If you can go in the early spring or late fall, do that to avoid the biggest of the crowds and the very hot weather. (Note: the first two weeks in September is not late fall.)
(2) Regarding training for the Camino: Fitness, unless you are really out of shape, is not the issue. Feet and knees and hips walking day after day is the issue. If you plan to walk 15 mile days, work up to walking with your gear four or five 15 mile days in a row, with lots of ups and downs, and see how it goes. Doing consecutive days will reveal where your weaknesses are: bad feet, bad shoes, too much gear, etc. This is more important than fitness training. The Camino itself will make you fit.
(3) Don’t push, don’t be influenced by other people who want to go faster than you do.
(4) Travel light. If in doubt, leave it at home. We had some great advice before we left: don’t carry your fears. If you really need something, you can buy it in Spain.
Hope you enjoyed this Pilgrim Profile (Thank you, Wynette and Charlie!). Please use the comment space to request topics you would like covered. Also, if you liked this post and want to read more, join ‘la princesa del camino’ mailing list to make sure you do not miss a post. ¡Buen Camino!