Is a walking pilgrimage right for you?

For various reasons people think they could not embark on a walking pilgrimage such as the Camino de Santiago.  Before heading back to complete his own camino Tim reflected on some of the people he had met while on pilgrimage previously in Spain.

How many “older” pilgrims walk the Camino?

I was asked this interesting question yesterday and did a little research. But first, the oldest people I have met on the Camino are:

– A man of 76 who started walking from his home in Germany when he was 70. He walked 400km every year and the year I met him (2013) he was 76. He expected to arrive in Santiago on his next trip, when he would be 77

– A lady of 73. She started her Camino in Austria at the age of 70. The first year she walked across Austria. The next year she was walking across Switzerland when she had to return home due to heart problems. The next year, after recovering from her heart operation she walked across France and when I met her, one year later she was completing her walk across Spain to Santiago.

– Several men and women who were 70 and walking the Camino as a 70th birthday “present” I have met pilgrims who had met both a 90 year old man and a 91 year old man walking the Camino.

The official data are not very helpful with this question, and the latest data I found is: – in 2007 468 people over the age of 75 completed the Camino – in 2010 34,052 people between the ages of 66-97 completed the Camino

So age is no reason not to make the pilgrimage. You need to be able to walk a minimum of 15km daily (20km would be better), and perhaps expect to take the occasional rest day.

And the youngest?

After my last post, it seems appropriate to talk about the youngest pilgrims on the Camino.

The youngest pilgrim I have ever met was a baby of just a few months old. The parents were Polish. The husband had a ruck sack that was piled high above his head which included a tent. The wife carried her own smaller rucksack and the baby on her front.

Think about that for a minute…. how much “stuff” do you need for a baby? I remember well: we had three!

I met them when I was working at the albergue in Miraz. They arrived at 9pm (pilgrims seldom arrive after about 4pm).  They looked, and were, exhausted after a 35km (20 mile) walk. They refused the offer of a bed saying that the baby would keep everyone awake and so they camped in the garden of the albergue.

When we hospitaleros (wardens) went to bed at 10:30pm they were still awake in the tent, and when we got up at 6am we could hear the baby crying.

They left before 8am – that is when we close the albergue to clean it – and were happy enough to think they only had 25km (15 miles) to walk that day. These pilgrims were an inspiration.

Two sticks walking the Camino

It was a hot hot day on the Spanish Meseta plateau. We were sitting just outside a hamlet on a bench thoughtfully provided next to a water tap, in the shade of the only tree we had seen for miles.

Back up the track we could see what we assumed to be another pilgrim making his way towards us, but there was something very odd – it looked as if there were two stick poking out well above his head in a “V” shape.

We continued chatting and enjoying the cool water and keeping an eye on this most curious of pilgrims slowly walking towards us. When he was just a few yards away we could see what it was that had so intrigued us: 2 crutches!

When he arrived we made room for him on the bench and fell to welcoming our new friend. We asked him about the crutches. He told us that he had problems with his leg and that some days he could not walk on it, so he used his crutches. On those days he only managed 5 or 10 kilometers (5 miles).

Yes, you meet inspirational people on the Camino….