14 June: A day in the life of a Pilgrim

Dear Humphrey

As I lie in a comfortable bed in a modest room in 2 star hotel in Burgos enjoying the luxury of my own bathroom and having decided to ‘go short’ today ( only 20 ks) I thought I could share with you a typical day in the life of a Pilgrim.

Having tossed and turned in my bunk bed from one side to another for most of a night, I begin checking my watch from about 4 onwards. There is usually a fair amount snoring going on around one and I have yet to find out what is the collective noun for snorers but it is certainly not a ‘choir’. By about 5.30  it is time to feel my way quietly to the washrooms (you could not call it a bathroom given the multiplicity of ‘conveniencies’. Brush teeth always. Shaving will depend on whether I can find a plug!

Oh yes I should mention that walking at this time of the morning is a challenge. I can no longer feel anything under my heels. They are both completely numb. Also the tendons having tightened up overnight don’t allow one very easily to balance or move forward very easily. This makes creeping around silently a challenge.

Back to the bunk and then follows the difficult task of ensuring (a) that one puts ones pants on the right way round and the few other items of clothing one wears and (b) that I have gathered together all my possessions and placed them in the right watertight bag before stuffing it all in the back pack without disturbing my neighbours.

Having crept out of the bunk room, time for Breakfast: Well at this hour it usually comprises a pot or two of yoghurt ( you can only buy them in packs of four and so they need to be consumed before they go fizzy) and a banana.

On with the boots (as long as they are still there!) , fill the water bottles and then on with the pack. The weight of the pack rests predominantly on hips and not the shoulders which requires the waist band to be clipped and then ‘hauled’ in to ensure this occurs.  I met one Pilgrim a day or so ago who told me that such was the weight loss the buckles were now meeting in the middle and no more tightening was possible.  Mine is heading in that direction!

Grabbing my faithful stick ( which I am now worried an airline won’t allow me to take home when the moment arises.. any tips on this from anyone would be helpful) I head out in to the breaking day. The weather has been hard to predict. Rain usually threatens but does not occur. Then you start walking! Always hard at the start of a day to get one’s bearings and find the right way out of whatever town or village you are in. But having achieved this, I head off in the hope that the next village will have a cafe open and I can find some coffee and more to eat.

On the way one may spot another figure or two who have departed early and then begins the process of working out whether you will catch them or they you depending of course if they are in front or behind. Speed differentials are usually marginal and so like lorries on dual carriageways it takes forever to catch up and, if you are not inclined to say anything more than ‘Ola and Buen Camino’ , overtake!

About nine-o-clock the bikers are out and about. At first when approaching from behind you hear voices and think to yourself  ‘that guy is walking very fast’ then with a rush of wind and a loud series of ‘Buen Camino’ a   peleton  of ‘MAMILS’ tear by.

And so the day progresses. I usually try to do 2 to 3 hours without a break as that way you cover the distance. Occasionally I allow myself the luxury of looking back and am always happily impressed by what has been achieved. It’s fun to find a fellow walker who is going at about the same speed. Conversations help pass the time. Temptations in the form of cafes and bars come and go. Sometimes the lure of a donut is too much.

Lunch may be just a quick sandwich or if time allows a sit down lunch.

Afternoons are tougher as the legs and feet tire. So it is always good to have the bulk of ones distance done by 2pm. Anything above 15 ks after lunch is a challenge and means one won’t get in before much before 5 and then there is a lot to do after that like washing pants, socks and shirt and getting them on the line so they are dry by time I go to bed. Socks always take the longest and if still damp I take them to bed with me, which is all very well until the midnight visit to the loo and you find when taking down ones pants, they have fallen into the loo!

i never have time to read and usually too exhausted. Anyway there is also lots of work to be done like writing these letters, doing the social media work, and even some media interviews, which some of you may have heard or seen. (Thank you so much to everyone for all supportive messages. They keep me going! )

Supper might be provided. Quality varies enormously but bread is always an important part. Whoever said ‘Man shall not live by bread alone’? Otherwise a sortie in to the village or town to find the best ‘pilgrim Menu’ deal. They are remarkably good value like 12 euros for three courses of variable quality usually accompanied by a glass or two.

Usually in ‘bed’ by 9.30. Mattresses vary and that dictates the night ahead. I turned up at one hostel in a monastery which had been highly recommended, climbed up some steep stone steps in pitch darkness  to ‘reception’ Where I was told to remove my boots only to discover that all mattresses were on the floor which I knew my back would not suffer and so then have to reverse the process to exit and find somewhere else.

Accomodation is a whole new subject and I am not sure can be done in time before my battery expires. Any way this part of the story is best accompanied with pictures of bunk rooms etc which I will collect over the next few days.

I have now reached Burgos. I  think I have a little over two weeks and about 470 ks to go. It’s been so cold which is fine when walking but gets to you in the evening. Let’s hope the sun comes out a bit but not too much. Lots of lovely people on the trail but I am tending to move ahead of most and so meeting new faces all time.

Enough for now

with love

from your friend and master.


9 thoughts on “14 June: A day in the life of a Pilgrim

  • June 14, 2018 at 17:31

    Hi James, really enjoy reading your blog and I’m glad the legs and joints are holding out…….you’re nearly there now. ! As several other commentators have noted there’s definitely a book in this and I’ve booked you for at least 2 Rotary after dinner speaking sessions. Keep on plodding, best wishes Eamon ( and Jess our faithful black Labrador)

  • June 14, 2018 at 18:43

    What a fantastic journey you are on and so inspirational . As I write from the comfort of a cosy armchair i can imagine just how great it must be when a half decent mattress on a dry bed meets you at the end of the day. Well done indeed Jum , and we look forward to the stories when you are home.
    Nothing will have changed except the seasonal vistas as I’m sure Humphrey and his mistress keep you up to date with the Norfolk news. On that note she is coming for supper tonight and i must get back to the stove. I had no trouble picking flowers for the house as storm Hector had swirled through the garden snapping off the peonies and delphiniums. I wont tell what we are going to eat as that would be unfair, but you must come over when you are home and we will help increase the waistline….
    Best love and safe home.
    Cici xx

  • June 14, 2018 at 18:53

    Gripping stuff! I don’t envy you too much except for the joy of traveling and seeing new sights all through the day. Sorry that the cyclists are not behaving well! Don’t know if you have the luxury of hairdryers in hostels but we find that socks dry very fast on the end of one, as long as you don’t get too carried away, when there is a danger that they can catch fire! Ditto with light bulbs!
    Fantastic achievement, and keep writing – it will be very boring when we can’t look forward to your letters to Humphrey.
    Lots of love. Vivi xx

  • June 14, 2018 at 19:19

    Hello Jum (and Henry)
    Such a brilliant description – I feel I have experienced being there and I am full of admiration for your perseverance, as I’m sure you are too, Henry. Your stamina is incredible and it must be amazing for you to have the end in sight – albeit another two weeks and a bit! Very best of luck with the remaining 470 kms.
    Dianne EACH

  • June 14, 2018 at 21:55

    Just written a long letter to you and it disappeared !! Just so proud of you and longing to see you back here. How you manage to write such amazingly amusing blogs at the end of a hard day is wonderful – really enjoy them all. xx Rozzie

  • June 15, 2018 at 06:44

    In answer to your question of how to get your trusty stick back home – I purchased a roll of cling film, found some large pieces of cardboard from a supermarket and bound my stick to my backpack. It looked a bit like an Egyptian mummy but was accepted for check in on Ryanair and got back home. The challenge is what to do with it then! Also if you need a place to stay in Santiago I can highly recommend the pilgrim rooms on the top floor of st Martin Pinero opposite the side door of the cathedral Good luck and Buen Camino

  • June 16, 2018 at 16:04

    Jum loved the latest blog giving all the nitty gritty of being a pilgrim – its hard but I am full of admiration your tenacity is impressive so keep going and enjoy your last few weeks cos once its all over I bet you will miss it – ie the walking but not the beds! Sue JS

  • June 18, 2018 at 22:23

    I am writing to wish you luck and to say we are following your journey.
    We are the couple you meet in southern France just before you entered the mountains and stayed in the same hotel, we were driving our 1946 MG back from southern Portugal and for a while we thought we might be able to bring your old boots home as we were on our way to Suffolk. It took six or seven days to get home as our car is rather slow. Now we are home and thinking of you.
    Best wishes from Peter and Mandy

  • June 22, 2018 at 23:18

    Stick!! My son Teddy loves sticks and has bought them back for he and I from several European countries I will ask him how he does it


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