Boots

My attention has recently turned to my feet. I’ve always taken good care of them but never have I chosen to walk 500 miles across lots of different terrain in all kinds of weathers before.

Having done lots of research I’ve discovered that “weight” is the key when doing long distance walking. This is obvious as you carry everything in your backpack at some point. However, this is also true for your boots. The lighter your boots are, the less stress you put on your legs and joints every time you pick your feet off the ground to walk. It might not seem like much but every gram counts.

Imagine over the course of a 30km day with an average gait of 1 metre or less, you will pick your feet up over 30,000 times. Now multiply 30,000 by just 1 gram and you start to realise that you’ve just carried an extra 30kg over the course of just one day. Multiply that over the 35 or so days for the Camino and you quickly start to realise that weight really does matter.

With the average waterproof boots weighing in at around 1kg a pair, the weight your feet and legs pick up over the course of a day and whole Camino just doesn’t bear thinking about. So lighter boots mean an easier Camino.

What to look for in a pair of boots

The lighter the better, this should sound familiar by now. Leather of fabric? Well as long as they’re waterproof and breathable, then fabric will always weigh less. If I were hiking up a mountain for just a day in cold wet possibly snowy weather, then I’d probably wear my leather boots. But I’m not, I’m walking 500 miles across northern Spain in all weathers, so fabric boots it is then.

Having decided on fabric boots, they need to be waterproof. Gore-Tex fabric seems to be the fabric of boot makers when it comes to waterproofing, so look for boots made from Gore-Tex.

The soles of the boots need to have a good tread and be made of a strong enough material to not only last 500 miles but take care all the different terrain you will be crossing on your journey. Most manufacturers use Vibram soles for their boots. I have boots with Vibram soles and would recommend them. Other well known brands have developed their own material for the soles of their boots and from my research can be just as good.

So what boots did I decide to go for?

Solomon boots are known for having a slightly wider fitting. They also have developed Contragrip for all their soles and have a good reputation. So considering all the above and the fact that I have wide feet I went for a pair of Solomon’s boots. Weighing in at a lowly 448g for the pair, they are around 800 grams lighter than my Scarpa leather boots – a great weight saving that my legs will thank me for.

Solomon X Ultra Mid 3 GTX

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Initial Accommodation

Owing to the French railways only allowing bookings at most 3 months in advance, I cannot yet book my train from Paris to St Jean Pied de Port. However, I thought at least I could book accommodation for when I arrive in St Jean.

I wanted somewhere cheap but also close to the Pilgrim Office, so I could get my Pilgram’s Passport (credential), crash and get something to eat after what will be a 6 hour train journey. Having looked at a few places I eventually settled on Gite Makila in 35 Rue de la Citadelle, 64220 Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France for a mere €27. I think the closed off  bunks, views from the balcony and included breakfast is what made my mind up.

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The Traditional Pilgrims Prayer at the Cruz de Ferro

‘Lord, may this stone, a symbol of my efforts on the pilgrimage that I lay at the foot of the cross, weigh the balance in favour of my good deeds some day when the deeds of my life are judged. let it be so.’

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Travel bookings

Just spent most of today researching many different routes and modes of transport to get me to the start of my Camino in St Jean Pied de Port. My criteria was do it as cheaply as possible whilst allowing me to start from my front door. Unfortunately you can only book trains in France up to three months before you go, so I’ve not been able to book the last leg of the journey.

My plan is to start on 26th April 2018. Bookings and costs so far are as follows:

Walk from my front door to Stafford Station to catch a train to Birmingham New Street Station. Then walk to Birmingham Coach Station and catch a coach to Victoria coach Station in London. Walk from there to St Pancras International to get the Eurostar to Paris followed by another walk to a hostel. All costs including the hostel is £120.65. around the end of January.

Walking Times/Distances

ST17 0EN to Stafford Station – Walk 2.7 miles and 53 minutes

Train from Stafford to New Street Birmingham: 08:25 to 08:55 – cost £11.65

New Street Station to Birmingham Coach Station: Walk 0.5 miles 11 minutes

Birmingham Coach Station to Victoria Coach Station: 09:45 to 12:45 – cost £21.00

Victoria Coach Station to St Pancras London International: Walk 3.6 miles 1 hour 14 minutes

St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord: 15:31 to 18:47 – cost £56

Accommodation: Enjoy Hostel

5 Rues Des Plantes

14th arr.

75014 Paris

Walk 6.4 km 1 hour 25 minutes

Just the last leg to book now. It’s all starting to feel very real 😀😀😀 — feeling pleased and excited

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Camino Weather during April

The weather in Le Puy en Velay is going to be a little cold for me during the middle of April, with temperatures possibly as low as -3 Deg C until the end of April. Temperatures start to pick up in May, but starting then would mean I would still be walking in the middle of July and would hit the crowds that start in Sarria, something I want to avoid. The April weather in St Jean Pied de Port on the other hand is a little more conducive for the kind of walking I like to do, with low temperatures of around 8 to 11 Deg C and highs of between 16 and  17 Deg C. This weather pattern for St Jean seems to continue until May when temperatures start to rise.

Given this weather pattern, I think a start in St Jean would be better for me and I can always come back another time to walk from Le Puy to St Jean when the weather is more suitable for me. Also, if I start from St Jean, not only will it be cheaper because of the shorter distance, my pack will be lighter as I will need to carry fewer items of clothing to offset the cold weather.

Now, since I want to finish at the end of June at the latest and working backwards 40 days from there, I would need to start walking around the 21st May. However, given the weather pattern in St Jean during April, it also means I can decide to start walking anywhere between the middle of April and the third week in May.

I’ve heard that an area of the Camino known as the Meseta, that can be quite hot, dry and arid during certain parts of the year, so I need to figure out when that is and if it will influence my start date, so I’ll shoot off now to do yet more research.

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Route decisions

I’ve decided pretty much that I don’t want to be walking in July in the main season. Lots of people join the route from Sarria just to walk the last 100km, the minimum distance you need to gain a Compostela (certificate) and causes the route to be very crowded. For me one of the reasons for walking this route is to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and the last thing I want is having to compete for beds in the Albergues every night. For this reason I want to be finishing at the end June or early July at the very latest, before the rush begins.

Given it takes around 35 to 40 days to complete each of the routes (Via Podiensis and Camino Frances), depending on how many rest days I take, I need to work backwards from the end of June to see when my likely start date would be. So 80 days before the 30th June 2018 would indicate I need to start around the 11th April 2018. All I need to do now is to see what the weather is like from Le Puy en Velay around this date to see if it is acceptable for walking.

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So which route?

Anyone who has done their research about the Way of Saint James will know that the first ever pilgrimage to Santiago was undertaken by the bishop of Le Puy en Velay, to verify that the suspected remains found at the site were indeed those of St James. It is for this reason that I am looking at this particular walking route.

The first part of the route between Le Puy en Velay and St Jean Pied de Port is in France and known as Via Podiensis. The second part between St Jean Pied de Port and Santiago de Compostela is known as Camino Frances.

I’m yet undecided whether to walk the whole way, taking in both routes, or just to start at St Jean and walk the Camino Frances. I think more research and thinking time is needed as to what time of year to start and what the weather is likely to be doing at that time.

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