Across Spain on foot – an introduction

Spain 10

Between 9 May 2010 and 7 August 2010, I walked 1,789 kilometres (1,115 miles) from the western most point of the Spanish mainland to the eastern most point of the Spanish mainland. I attempted to document the landscapes that I walked through with a series of landscape photographs.

The full set of photos can be seen here on my flickr stream. As time permits, I’ll upload more stories and photos to this website.

I spent 74 days walking through farmland, along coastlines and over mountains. I swam in the sea, slept on beaches, crossed raging mountain rivers, slid down snow slopes and stood on summits with far reaching vistas. Throughout I made a documentary record of the landscapes I walked through and the wonderful scenery I saw along the way.

Map of my route across Spain

Map of my route across Spain

Spain consists of seventeen autonomous communities. I passed through seven of these that ran coast-to-coast across Northern Spain: Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, Basque Country, Navarre, Aragon and Catalonia. I also passed through Andorra.

I planned this project in March and April of 2010, unsure how successful the combination of a long wilderness trek and landscape photography would be. It certainly required a degree of compromise in each discipline. I couldn’t carry as much photographic equipment as I’d have liked and yet the weight of what I did carry certainly impacted on my walk. At times the photography felt like a burden, one that I wish I could dispense with, so that I might travel lighter and faster and just enjoy the purity of the journey. At other times, it would have been wonderful to stop in one place for several days, exploring and taking photos at will.

I present this collection of photographs as a documentary project that spans the width of Spain, rather than as individual landscape photographs. Once the walk was underway, I did no specific planning for individual shots, other than choosing what I thought might be interesting viewpoints to finish at each day. However, constraints of weather, food supplies and fitness often dictated where I would stop for the night, so sunset and sunrise shoots did not always happen.

I became highly proficient at spotting photographic opportunities over the course of the trek; which were the ones worth stopping for and using a tripod and filters, if necessary. Inevitably, the better photographs were those that were more considered; when I had stopped and taken the time to compose and capture a scene. That said, a number of photos in this book were taken as handheld shots.

Walking is a slow way to travel but, in my opinion, if one has the time it is surely one of the best ways to travel. A hugely enjoyable aspect of the trek was meeting the local people and other walkers, to ask for directions or to share in the wonders of the surroundings. Throughout my time on the Camino del Norte route, I frequently became lost and quickly became adept at asking for directions in Spanish. This usually led to a conversation about the area, my walk, the weather and the World Cup. On more than once occasion it resulted in an offer of a drink, and, once, even leading to an offer of a lawn to camp on, a beer to drink, half a watermelon to eat, a table and chair to sit on, and the gift of a walking stick!

The trek was everything I had hoped for and more. It was challenging, rewarding, suprising and mundane at times. At times, I felt tired, footsore, hungry, thirsty, sleepy, scared or nervous but these feelings would pass and the wonder at my situation would return. Sometimes on the trail, for no particular reason at all, I would feel incredibly happy and break out into an inane grin. Other times I struggled to shake off the feeling of pressure that the photographic element of this project bestowed upon me.

If there was one wish for an outcome from this adventure, then I hope it inspires you to go forth, out your front door, walking boots laced up and camera in hand. There’s a wonderful world of adventure and natural beauty out there awaiting you. I hope you enjoy the photos and the journey!

One thought on “Across Spain on foot – an introduction

  1. Pingback: Evolution of a lightweight bike touring rig | ben.collins.outdoors

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