My First Blog Entry & Adventure FAQs!

P1020573Preparations for my forthcoming adventure

Hey I am writing my first post on my new website www.ali-baker.com

This has been both a challenging and exciting project but my knowledge of technology has increased and I am feeling very chuffed with myself for having a go and succeeding.

What has inspired me to undertake this adventure?

In 2011 I met 2 people who told me about this route and walking sections of it every year. Soon after, whilst visiting a friend in Ireland we went to the cinema so I could get a fix of English on the big screen. We chose to go and see a film called: “The Way” with Martin Sheen and directed by his son Emilio Estevez, which follows a father completing the walk in memory of his son who died soon after starting the journey! The scenery and camaraderie between random folk was reminiscent of my trips abroad in my late teens and early twenties travelling around Australia and inter-railing in Europe. I realised with some sadness that this aspect of sharing time with people was missing in my new life en France. During 2012 I turned 40 and the idea of walking this way was still in my mind. I read several books about individuals’ experiences including their motivations, reasons, the history, geography, about St James and their spiritual awakenings. But the idea remained vague and my list of excuses for not doing it all felt legitimate: too long away from the girls, too difficult to organise, it will make Chris’s life harder etc. I tried to convince myself that reading these books was sufficient rather than experiencing it for myself. However, the decision I had made when my Mum was ill that if I wanted to do something I had to get on and do it rather than waiting, came back to me frequently. So in early January this year I was thinking about my goals and dreams for 2013 and I as wrote my ideas for my birthday this year I realised it was still possible to start the walk before my 41st birthday. The next step was talking to Chris, which I did and he was somewhat surprised but encouraging. Armed with a new notebook I wrote down all the practicalities and factors involved and have systematically worked through these issues to get me to the point I am now – ready to rock n roll!!

My start date and how long I plan to take

I am leaving home on Saturday 30th March for Bayonne where I will stay the night. On Sunday I am taking a train to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port for my first night in a hostel/refuge/albergue – www.espiritduchemin.org – I will start walking on Easter Monday April 1st to Roncesvalles I hope, which is about 25km. I am allowing myself 35 days to complete the walk to Santiago de Compostelle, but it took Shirley Maclaine the Hollywood actress at the age of 60 years only 30 days so we will see. It depends on how I am feeling physically and mentally. If after 3 weeks I want to see the girls and Chris then I will return for the Spring school holidays we have at the end of April and May. We thought about Chris and the girls coming to join me for a week or two but the logistics and that this is fundamentally my adventure have led us to not pursue this option at the moment. So my plans are flexible.

Where I will stay

There are hostels or albergues as they are known in Spain all the way along the route offered on a first come first served basis to walkers first and then cyclists. Pilgrims and walkers are highly regarded in Spain by the Spanish and the law, so I believe that towns are very accommodating.

My planning and training to date

Not being one for lots of planning I’ve done what feels right for me. I am feeling physically in good shape after weekly yoga classes, dancing every week, skiing over the Christmas and February holidays, walking and racquetting in the snow, including a couple of big walks with my rucksack. The route is well marked with the scallop shell symbol of St James to guide me, along with my guidebook, list of albergues and of course all the other pilgrims who I will be walking alongside if I so choose to do so. Over 150,000 people walk this route every year. Me and maps are not the happiest of unions so the simple daily descriptions in my book along with my intuition will get me where I need to be. I found a great website/blog/forum which I have enjoyed reading since January – www.caminosantiago.me There are some great videos on Youtube of a couple walking the way with their lovely little baby in January this year!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ZxhFPnvGtM
Ali