Sunday, December 4, 2011


By Cara Bertoia
The Camino De Santiago has attracted pilgrims for more than a thousand years. The path across Northern Spain leads to the tomb of St. James in Santiago, a beautiful walled city. In medieval times so many Pilgrims were said to be cured by walking to Santiago that it became the most popular of the three major pilgrimage sites, including Rome and Jerusalem. As recently as 2005, 93,921 people walked the Camino, some in search of a cure, but the majority for the love of walking.

Never having walked more than five miles in a day, I was surprised when my husband asked if I would walk the Camino, to hear myself say "sure," and committing myself to walk 500 miles. This was to be truly the hardest and yet most rewarding experience of my life because it taught me anything is possible if you have the right attitude and good health. Having immersed myself in historical novels when I was young, following this path by foot was truly like stepping back in time. Most important, it gave me confidence about what I can accomplish in the future.
A Well Deserved Rest After A Hard Climb
To begin our journey, my husband and I flew into Madrid, and then took a bus to Roncesvalles, a picturesque mountain village on the French border. This is the official beginning of the Camino in Spain. At the monastery there, we received the Camino Passport, which is stamped by hotels and churches all along the way. Pilgrims must present their stamped passports in Santiago to receive The Certificate de Compestela proving that they walked the Camino.

The Camino walk is not a tour. Pilgrims arrive independently and walk in small groups or on their own. The Spanish government, which helped revive the Camino in the '80s, provides a series of refugios - hotels along the way, as well. The refugios, or hostels, are strictly first come, first-served - and unisex, a new experience for most Americans, but quite common to Europeans. If a dormitory is not your style, a charming hotel room with all the amenities was less than $50 a day.

The Camino is designed to pass along medieval paths and roads and to bypass major roads and highways, so most of the day is spent walking through beautiful woods and fields. One passes through three or four villages a day that look as they did in the tenth century. There are also major cities such as Pamplona on the route, which are great places to take rest days.

The most amazing aspect about walking the Camino was in meeting the people along the way. Most were from Europe, Australia, and Brazil. Although our Spanish was rudimentary, we had no problems communicating. While over 50 percent of the walkers were between ages 30 to 60, many were over 60. The numbers of women, many of whom walked alone, reinforced what I felt about attitude. Most were world travelers with interesting careers. To the Europeans, walking is no big deal; it's an intrinsic part of their lives. And walking the Camino is very safe, partly because the Spanish people believe it is good luck to befriend a pilgrim. We are still in touch with friends we made on this Journey.

An average day on the Camino would see us waking up early, packing our backpacks, putting on our hiking boots, picking up our walking sticks, and being on our way. After walking for a few hours, we'd stop for thick Spanish hot chocolate and a pastry. Later we would lunch on fresh bread and ham to fortify us for the next five miles. We would reach our destination around 4 p.m., having walked between 10 and 15 miles, check into a hotel, and then soak in a tub. Around 8 p.m., the restaurants would open and we would enjoy a typical pilgrim's meal, consisting of three courses and a bottle of wine - all for less than $10. After a long day's walk, nothing could have been better. And it was great not to hear the word "diet" for six weeks!

The Camino changed our lives in so many ways that are hard to express in words. We have made a video of our journey and would be pleased to tell you about it.
Please go to to find  our movie 'Camino de Santiago a walkers guide' or
Click here to find our movie at Amazon

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011


I was very excited to finally see a movie that was set on the Camino De Santiago. I hoped it would give a good overview on the trials of walking the Camino while of course the narrative is moved along by the central characters necessary in any drama. Did it succeed? Well yes and no.

The storyline centers around a father walking the Camino in the place of his deceased son and the various characters he meets up with along the way. I'm not going to give away the actual plot here since I don't want to spoil the movie for those who have not yet seen it. As he travels along the Camino various aspects of life on the Camino are gradually revealed to the audience. We see inside a few Refugio's, walk through the forests and spend a little time in some of the towns along the way. Everything is pretty accurate even at the end when the Compostelas are awarded. For those who wish to see an entertaining movie, and also maybe learn something along the way, the film is on the money. An entertaining story and a look at a world you probably didn't know existed.

I don't think however that this film would actually inspire someone to start making plans to walk 500 miles. Perhaps it was the time of year, but to my mind everything looked very bleak. The real camaraderie of the Camino was also missing. Also lacking was the reality of getting up every morning and starting to walk, day after day after day. Where were the aching feet, the absolute exhaustion at the end of some days, even the problem of doing laundry? It seemed that these people never had any of those problems; every day was just another stroll in the park in fresh clothes for them.

I did enjoy all the philosophical discussions about what makes a true pilgrim. Can you go on a bike? Can you stay at a nice hotel? Why are you walking? The competition among the pilgrims from all over the world is always quite amusing. Also I enjoyed the history of the Camino a walk that has inspired people for over a thousand years. To wake up every day and walk the path taken by millions of other pilgrims is quite inspiring.Watching the movie I did get a thrill when I saw the sites I had seen along The Way.

There are plenty of scenes showing the various churches and cathedrals but very little showing the charming villages and the warm hearted locals. Even Pamplona is dismissed as a disappointment, just another town, let me tell you it was quite beautiful.

So overall, if you want an entertaining movie, this is just fine. If the movie peaks your interest then please check out the Camino and if you have a trip like my wife and I then it will be one of the highlights of your life. 

Friday, October 7, 2011


This week author Inka Piegsa-Quischotte is writing about the boot burning ceremony at the end of the Camino where the road meets the sea. Inka was born in Germany but has lived and worked in the UK, Switzerland, South Africa and Spain. Until four years ago, she used to be an international attorney with offices in London and Marbella/Spain. She is now an author of a novel called Sweet Revenge
set in Turkey where she lives part time

Many pilgrims who have completed all or part of  the Camino de Santiago in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, continue on to Cap Finisterre, the starting point of Galicia’s Coast of Death.

The purpose of adding several more miles of hiking to the already arduous camino,  is to  celebrate the beginning of a new, better life after their pilgrimage by taking part in a cleansing ceremony. The ritual consist of the burning of their boots and clothes they wore during the pilgrimage at the bottom of a bronze boot, perched high on a cliff overlooking the crashing waves of the Atlantic far below.

I did my little bit of the ‘camino’ by walking the distance of approx. 2 miles from the town of Finisterre to the Lighthouse of Cap Finisterre and the boot. It’s a winding street, uphill all the time with wonderful views of the coast line below and the adorable statue of a female pilgrim, always carrying a bunch of fresh flowers.

Cap Finisterre is not the most western point of Europe, which is actually in Portugal, but close enough. Beyond that there is nothing but the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. Walk around carefully. The surface is treacherous and, unfortunately, several tourists  have fallen to their death, ironically whilst taking pictures of the lighthouse and the awesome cliffs and rocks below.

I was lucky to happen upon just such a boot burning ceremony, but the pilgrims didn’t want to be photographed which of course I respected. There were at least 6 different nationalities represented and they were all full of enthusiasm of having completed their pilgrimage.  They had brought their travel clothes all bundled up and lighted a mighty bonfire just below the bronze boot.

Granted, the smoke and smell wasn’t all that pleasant, but their enthusiasm and sheer happiness were contagious. An expiring experience.
 Below is a short montage of our DVD 'A Walkers Guide'
The full DVD can be found at
Here is a link
Camino de Santiago, A Walkers Guide.