The planet is hot: deaths and sweltering heat on the way to Compostela

The planet is hot: dead and scorching heat on the way to Compostela


LEDIGOS, Spain | The extreme heat wave that is suffocating Spain is also suffocating, sometimes to death, the pilgrims who cross the way to Compostela.

« It's the sixth time I've done it, but I think it's going to be the last, because it's been really painful this year  says Marie-Ève ​​Lessard, a 43-year-old Quebec pilgrim met in Ledigos, Spain. 

“The heat is really unpleasant, some accesses are blocked because of the fires.  “

It is now difficult to walk during the day. Several accidents happen on the way, says Ms. Lessard.

Since the beginning of the summer, at least two people have died on the way to Santiago de Compostela because of the stifling temperatures.

On July 7, a 47-year-old Dutch teacher died, reported a Dutch newspaper.

In June, during the first extreme heat wave, the temperatures also killed a 69-year-old German pilgrim, wrote the Iberian media El Bierzo.

“Many people also decide to give up. There are days when it's particularly difficult, “adds the one who travels about twenty kilometers a day on average.


To protect herself from heat stroke and successfully complete her more than 800 km walk, Ms Lessard has no choice but to adapt.

“ We have to leave very early in the morning because it is 16°C. So around 5:30 a.m., we are with the headlamp and we start to really feel the heat around 10:00 a.m., 10:30 a.m. After this hour, it becomes difficult and we can't wait to stop,” says the Montreal translator.

At the Amis du Chemin Saint-Jacques association, located in the village of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France, volunteers try to best prepare the 150 travelers who start their daily journey from the town in this moment.

“When people leave here, they are told to take plenty of water, to stock up well, to put on a hat and to leave early in the morning to have temperatures cooler”, explains Henri Brisciano, member of the association.

A lot of walkers

Every year, nearly 200,000 people from all over the world make this historically Catholic pilgrimage, the purpose of which is to reach the tomb of Saint James the Greater, which is located in Galicia in the city of Santiago de Compostela. .

One thing is certain, Marie-Ève ​​Lessard has clearly seen the changes in the climate since she made her first pilgrimage.

“ Between 2007 and today, you can really see the difference! The heat really wasn't that intense,” she observes.

Beer, apple and foot cream  

LEDIGOS, Spain | It was still 33°C in the early evening when the representative of the Journal set off for an hour on a small part of the famous pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, in Ledigos, in the region of Palencia, Spain.

The sun was still beating down very strongly. For an hour there was almost no shade except for that left by a few trees by the side of the road.

The ground also seemed to burn your feet.

“Sometimes the hardest part is when you've run out of water and you can't find it on the way. It happened to me and I had to do 17 kilometres without water “, explains Marie-Anne Gin, a 48 year-old Frenchwoman met in Ledigos, yesterday afternoon, when she had just arrived.< /p>


After several hours of walking, the pilgrims go straight to the albergues(inns) to rest and especially drink a beer and eat, before heading off to take a shower and take a nap.

A mural to pay homage to pilgrims in Ledigos, Spain, painted on one of the “albergues” ( inn) which welcomes them.

“With the heat and fatigue, nothing better than a siesta to regain strength because at night it is also often hot and we do not necessarily sleep well in the dormitories,” says Marie-Laughing, laughing. Ève Lessard, a 43-year-old Quebecer who undertook to walk 800 km.

Marie-Ève ​​Lessard

“Sometimes, we want to sleep peacefully, without anyone snoring nearby,” adds Ms. Gin, laughing.

It is often in these places that walkers meet or find companions who are on the same journey as them.< /p>

“There are really a lot of Italians, Germans, Canadians and even Koreans,” says Ms. Gin, who is a nurse in the south of France.

And in hostels, pilgrims are often entitled to a few small gifts from the owners: tapas, a beer, an apple or even… foot cream.

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