Friday, January 27, 2012

Bon Camino

Me, on my way

Track of the excursion (view in bigger size)
It all started watching the movie The Way.
The plot is not a big deal, i believe, but it shows wonderful scenic landscapes around the path of Camino de Santiago. At the end one feels inclined to take the same adventure.
The movie, in my opinion, focuses the true spirit of a pilgrimage, whidh is not simply a journey to a destination. Yes, we need one destination is needed, otherwise we would miss a reason to travel. The real significance, however, is not to be searched in what you reach, but in the path itself to reach it, as death is not the purpose of our lives, but only a phase, albeit important. Somebody say, although without any proof, that for an immortal life has no reason.
The movie describes a pilgrimage along the "French Way" (one of the variants of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela), strictly by foot.
The entire route is about 800km long. Assuming you divide it into 40 daily stages, each stage is 20km long on average.
Who likes mountain hikings (the first stages of the journey crosses the Pyrenees) knows that the difficulty cannot be simply measured in kilometers, so it is difficult to say whether 20km in length are easily overcome. The only way to decide is to try.

No sooner said than done.

Since we live in the mountains, and the difficulty of the roads and trails in these parts seems more or less similar to those shown in the film, one day, more precisely last 1st October, map in hand, we planned a circular route about 20km long, starting from our home.
The first part is on the asphalted road, on the route described here until you get to take the path described here that reaches the peak of mount Tesoro. This is the highest point

Break for a sandwich
of the entire route, and here begins the descent. You follow the path until you find the road at Forcella Alta, the starting point of pass Pertüs excursion, but here, instead of going straight, you follow the asphalted road downhill. A few hundred meters further, it becomes a white road. Traffic is blocked except for authorized vehicles. Here you follow for Boccio, until you come to a small church, where we stopped to eat a sandwich. Shortly after you turn towards Colle di Sogno on a path pretty flat which looses among the fields (in fact we got lost and we were forced to retrace our steps and to ask for directions to some suspicious residents: it looks it's not very common here to see other human beings). Here we enter a beautiful trail in the woods, a little ups and downs, and we arrive to Colle di Sogno, a small mountain stone village, with narrow pedestrian alleys. There is a tavern where we stopped to buy a bottle of water, as our reserves wew already exhausted long before. The locanda looks cozy and with tasty food: we mark the intention to visit again in the future. After crossing Colle di Sogno, we reach a small parking lot, which is the limit of the asphalted road if you come by car the opposite way. We follow that road. From here a long panoramic descent crosses Sogno village, and reaches the junction with the road to our house. One last short climb, and we get home.

We are very tired, yes, but it's not that terrible. Our dogs are truly exhousted. If we decide to actually do the Camino de Santiago we have to leave them at home. Paradoxically, the paved road for them is even harder, because it is abrasive to their feet. Moreover, Spain does not seem very dog-friendly. The hostels along the Camino, for understandable reasons, do not host dogs. Only a few of them allow you

View from Forcella Alta
to tie them in the yard, but this solution, especially for the unsociable Mr. Bentley, is not really feasible. Finally, man's best friends are not accepted on public transport, and then, once we arrive to Santiago, we would not know how to return to the starting point.
The insurmountable problem, however, seems to be the time (isn't it a paradox, talking about a pilgrimage?). At now, I don't have the opportunity to take 40 days off or, considering the time needed to reach the starting point and to go home, even more, not counting any unpredictable event that may happen during the journey.
Therefore, unfortunately this is a dream to keep in a drawer, until I'll be able to completely change life style.
One can plan to make only a part of the whole Camino, or to make the whole of it dividing it in parts. But it would not have the same significance. They say that even the latest stages are a little less compelling just because a lot of people join only for those stages, just for the satisfaction of saying they reached the goal. I think this is proof they didn't understand anything.

The route is quite easy, but pretty long: 23km in total (14mi), the difference of level is about 2500 feet, and we took 7.5 hours.