Toledo’s Chuck and Sally Caley, longtime teachers, have long been taking adventures on their summers off.
This year the couple headed to northern Spain to hike 300 miles of the Camino de Santiago. The Camino de Santiago is an ancient pilgrim route that passes through many towns in northern Spain that has been a part of the Catholic religion for centuries — since about 830 A.D. The amount of people walking the trail has fluctuated over the centuries but present day about 400,000 people from various different countries (about 10 percent American) walk the trail every year.
“I would encourage all of you to think about doing this. You can walk five miles a day if you want. Go do it. It is beautiful, the people are amazing, and it’s so inexpensive,” said Chuck.
The Caleys gave a presentation at the Toledo Community Library on Wednesday night about their most recent adventure in Spain.
Past adventures include hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, cycling along the Rhine River in Europe, and many other traveling and hiking excursions, some of which the Chronicle has reported on in the past.
The couple decided on the Camino de Santiago for numerous reasons: They watched the movie “The Way” directed by Emilio Estavez which is about a man walking the Camino, the trip included physical activity, they did not have to sleep on the ground (like when hiking the PCT), there were many people to befriend along the way, and there were refreshments along the way.
“All these little towns, as you walk by, people would come out and give you an apple or something and say ‘Buen Camino.’ They wanted you to be there. The whole infrastructure of the town is there for you so it’s special,” said Sally.
During their presentation, mostly given by Chuck while Sally chimed in a few times from the audience, Chuck told the story of their trip and included many photos.
They flew from out from Seattle, after 19 hours of travel they made it to Madrid and then took a bus to Burgos which is where they began their journey on the trail.
They walked about 12 to 15 miles a day and at night stayed in hostel-like facilities called albergues, usually in a large room containing eight to 30 beds costing five euros per bed. Often there were options for private rooms or a hotel for an extra cost.
In order to stay in the albergues everyone who walks the trail has to get a credential which is inexpensive and can be found in any of the larger towns.
“You cannot stay at an albergue unless you have your credential because that identifies you as a pilgrim on a pilgrimage and they know you are moving along toward Santiago,” explained Chuck.
The credential is a folded paper that has a map of the route and on that back side, stamps can be collected from each town.
Most of the trail was along agriculture roads, occasionally it was along a highway or in a wooded area. There are monuments and churches all along the trail.
“We found out quickly that the path is well-marked. There were little yellow arrows painted on the ground and scallop shells which is the symbol of the Camino,” said Chuck.
After many miles of walking and about a month’s worth of nights in albergues, they reached the last 100 kilometers and the amount of people walking the trail increased and there was an excitement in the air as they neared Santiago.
Chuck shared photos of all the people they met along the way.
“All of these trips we go on the funnest thing is the people you meet along the way because you find out that everybody around the world has the same goals and aspirations — wanting the best for their family, they’re kind and considerate — we just had the most fun meeting them,” he said.
When they reached Santiago there was music to welcome them and Sally said it was like a big party as they met up with the friends they had made along the way. Each of them got their certificate for completing the trail in Santiago. They then made there way to the coast of Spain, about another 50 miles, to a town called Finisterra which means “the ends of the earth” and was named when it was believed that it was the farthest west one could go.
“Friends, fellowship, and fitness — that’s my takeaway. It really was an amazing journey,” said Sally.