Regarding kilometers

The concept of kilometers has taken some getting use to. The United States is about the only place in the known universe that does not use that form of measurement (except for some track events). When I speak of the known universe I think I am on safe ground because, if memory serves me, Star Fleet Command and Klingons use “klicks” (short for kilometers) when they are not using light years and light years have very little utility on the Camino.

Anyway, I have spent a fair bit of time dealing with kilometers. How far to the next bar? It’s about 4 km. How far did you walk yesterday? 32 kms?!? We stopped at the town just before that at 26 kms. I’ve gotten pretty good at converting kms to miles. The formula is miles equals 0.62 times the number of kms. I just take 6 times the kms and apply common sense. Let’s see, 20 kms times 6 would be 120. No, that’s too much so it has to be 12. See? It is easy.

Besides letting me know how far we have to walk to reach a particular goal (bar, albergue, city, etc.) it is also how I track how far we have left to walk. None of this really makes sense, of course. Walking 7 kms on a fairly good path on the level is not the same as walking 7 kms on a rocky uphill path. Just as driving 30 miles to the Cities on a nice day on I-35 is not the same as driving those same miles through the 13 traffic lights of Apple Valley, during rush hour with some snow falling. The stated distance to a destination does not, I’m sure, take into the account the zig-zaging across the trail to find the smoothest footing. But it is helpful to help us know about where we are in our journey.

It gets a little confusing as there is little agreement among sources. We carry two guide books and they seldom agree on how many kms we have to go to Santiago. Combine that with signs in bars, signs along the roads, and other random announcements and it does get confusing.

I can hear my friends in informatics now:

“Doug, if you don’t know the number that equals your goal, then you can’t know when you reach your goal.”


“Doug (patiently), if today you walk half the distance to Santiago and tomorrow you walk half of the remaining distance and you continue walking half the remaining distance each day then you will never reach Santiago.”

But I could never walk over 60 kms tomorrow and if somehow I did I wouldn’t be in any shape to walk over 30 kms the next day. That is not how one walks the Camino. It just doesn’t apply! Besides at some point couldn’t I just take a big step over that asymptotic line and be there?

” Doug, (with a knowing smile) it is just that if you don’t know your exact goal value and you don’t know your exact starting point, then you can’t know where you are in your progress toward your goal.”

You mean…

“Yes. You are lost.”


“Doug, just don’t dwell on it. Have another beer.

Well, I believe we are 120 kms from Santiago which means we’ve completed 84.4961% of our journey.



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