Ok, so it’s not travel literature, per se, but seeing how all posts this week will be dedicated to my upcoming trip to Spain, I figured I’d share with you all the book that is going to guide me along the Camino de Santiago. I’m pretty good at navigation, but I’m hoping that this guide, along with its accompanying companion map book, will squash any possibilities of me getting lost.
A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago: A Practical & Mystical Manual for the Modern Day Pilgrim is your go-to guide for everything you need to know about the Camino. Brierley describes the entire Camino Francés (an 800km route beginning in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in the French Pyrenees and ending in Santiago de Compostela in Spain), breaking down the trek into segments suitable for a day’s hike. Each segment has a section dedicated to it, covering everything from elevation, recommended and alternate routes, step-by-step hiking notes, blurbs on towns and villages passed through each day, where to find food and water sources, and recommended places to stay each night. He even provides the number of kilometers between each point of interest/town encountered.
For the larger towns/cities (such as León, where I’ll be beginning my hike), he even provides some background historical information and recommended sights to see.
The guide is sectioned off into three parts:
Acknowledgements, which contains any revisions that were done from prior editions (the copy I have shows copyright dates for every year from 2003 to 2013, meaning he’s constantly editing and revising the guide — which is a good thing), as well as an introduction to the Camino itself.
Before You Go, which is divided into four parts of its own: Planning – Route, covering deciding when to go, how long is needed, how to get there, hostels, costs, etc; Preparation – Outer, which covers training tips, suggested gear and packing lists, and even some basic Spanish phrases that may be useful; Preparation – Inner, a few pages offered to add some insight into why you’re choosing to complete the pilgrimage; and Maps – Waymarks, offering tips on how to read the maps found in the guidebook, as well as a table showing the relevant time needed to hike 25, 30, 35 or 40 kilometers each day depending on whether you’re hiking at a fast, average or leisurely pace (based on this table my assumptions of needing five to six hours to hike 25-30 kilometers each day is correct, thank goodness).
Joining me on my Camino is the guide’s partner book of maps.
Coinciding with the route segments described in the guidebook, the map book is made up of thirty-four separate maps, each offering a detailed overview of what you’ll be facing each day. Here’s the page that marks the beginning of my trek in León (and yes, I wrote in notes and highlighted some items — like I said, I don’t want to get lost).
When you’re hiking long distances, every ounce of weight in your pack counts. With this in mind, I’d like to note that the guidebook is about a half an inch thick and probably weighs about a pound (the map book is half the thickness and about a third of the weight). I’m going to ignore this though as I refuse to leave this invaluable item at home.
I have a number of guidebooks on the Camino that I’ve collected over the years, but Brierley’s have proven to be the most insightful and practical. If anyone is considering hiking the route, I’d strongly suggest investing in both the guidebook as well as the book of maps for your pilgrimage.