John and Dot Garrett shared their experiences of walking the El Camino de Santiago, a European pilgrimage trail to the tomb of St. James at Santiago de Compostela in Spain, with Batesville Area Historical Society members and guests Aug. 20.
One of Dot’s nephews had walked part of the trail twice, so the couple were familiar with it. However, after seeing Martin Sheen’s movie “The Way,” they decided to embark on the 500-mile trek themselves.
“By the time we finished El Camino, I would be 78 years old and Dot would be 77,” John Garrett revealed. Beforehand, they felt, “We were in good health, but not in good enough condition to walk 500 miles.
“In July last year, we began training, walking a mile or so at first, then by fall we were hiking seven to nine miles at a time two or three times a week. By November, we added backpacks, but it didn’t take us long to realize we couldn’t carry very much.
“Like most other pilgrims, we carried all our personal things on our backs. It wasn’t a wilderness trail, so there were plenty of restaurants and cafes along the way, so we didn’t have to carry food or camping equipment. When we began, my backpack weighed 14 pounds, and Dot’s was half that,” the Batesville resident reported.
“There are many roads leading to Santiago de Compostela, but the most common one begins on the French side of the Pyrenees in St. John Pier de Port. We left there May 3. The night before, we attended Mass and received the special pilgrims’ blessing at the Church of St. John.”
The couple also received credentials to be stamped in each town along the way. “It is your ‘passport’ that allows you to take advantage of low-priced albergues along the trail. Albergues are like hostels, except they are almost all dormitories. Only pilgrims, or in Spanish, peregrinos, are allowed to stay there. No tourists.”