Hiking on a Hot Planet

On my way to Santiago de Compostela

On the Camino (all photos: Alexander Verbeek)

The Second Major Heatwave on my Journey

When I started my 107-days trip in late May, you, the readers of this newsletter, agreed with my proposal to not write about climate change for this period. Instead, I would focus on positive stories and share my travel experiences and photos this summer.

But unfortunately, we no longer live in the decades where the impact of climate change could only be noticed by scientists. No longer can we just forget about the destruction of the stable conditions on this planet. The climate crisis is now experienced by all of us. I can’t hide from its impacts, even when I don’t feel like thinking about it.

My first day on the Camino: June 17, 2022, in the French Pyrenees

In mid-June, I started the most classic of the many pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela. The crossing of the Pyrenees mountains is the first and also most challenging stage of the Camino Frances, the French way to Santiago. I remember my exhaustion when I arrived in a hostel and learned that I would sleep on the first floor. Having just crossed the Pyrenees during a heatwave and walked during more than 40 degrees Celsius, carrying my backpack upstairs seemed like an impossible challenge.

Now, a month later, I’m about to make the second most challenging climb of the Camino Frances, and by some strange coincidence Spain experiences another intense heatwave. The temperatures in this region are predicted to rise to 42 degrees Celsius and night-time temperatures remain uncomfortably high. Living in the age of climate change means learning to live with, and adapt to its impacts and being on a pilgrimage provides no escape.

For a modern-day pilgrim on the 1000-year old pilgrimage, adapting to the new normal of more frequent heatwaves means getting up very early in the morning and start walking when it is still dark and not too hot. Today, I also did send my backpack ahead, and walked with only a small day-pack, mainly filled with water and sun cream. I also stopped earlier, after 20 kilometers, just before a challenging climb that I did not want to make after sunrise.

Población de Campos

I noticed that the other pilgrims are also talking about the changing climate, and about the urgency of changing our lifestyle. That is at least one positive effect of the more visible impacts of climate change; at least we are now all aware, and that is a first step towards tackling this challenge.

And with that, I did find a positive story of my travel experiences that I promised to share.

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