A late Camino report

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A late Camino report

Postby loganator » Sun 06 Dec, 2020 12:47 pm

In 2013 I decided to walk the El Camino de Santiago in Spain at the young age of 19. For those that don't know it is a "pilgrimage" conducted by over 150 thousand people every year to the Cathedral in Santiago, Western Spain. There are multiple routes called ways. The most common route is the French way starting in St Jean Pied de Port on the French/Spanish border about 800km away. Some people begin the walk from their homes across Europe. I met some Germans that started in Frankfurt and do 2 weeks every year.

I heard about the Camino by one of them random annoying internet adverts. Saw the vast fields of sunflowers and nice dirt road up the middle and figured that looked nice. Next minute I'm watching Martin Sheens "the way" and am fully committed. Due to trade school I would have to do the walk starting in November towards the end of the season.

A simple train ride from Paris and I arrived in St Jean pied de Port just after dark with many others clearly set out to do the walk as well. Upon waking up I was greeted by the biggest mountains I had seen in my life (never seen mountains before) and they were right in my path. Before setting out you must get a Camino passport. It costs maybe 10 euro. It contains gradiants for the entire trail, towns along the way and most importantly the passport. At each albergue (hostel) that you stay at you will receive a stamp for the passport. It shows you are a pilgrim.

Along the way I encountered Albergues of various sorts. I highly recommend staying at them rather then a hotel. If not for the cheapness but for the camaraderie. It is often bunk beds in a long line. Male and females mixed though at some you are separated. You are given a locker next to your bed that you can lock (bring own lock). Some offer deals such as 30 euro and you get a bed plus a 3 course meal. Well worth it in my opinion. I averaged spending over the entire Camino $50-$60 aussie per day (2013 prices). Not bad really.

You can often also stay at churches. These are the cheapest option if you are on a really tight budget. I'm not one for religion (not everyone who walks the way has to be religious) and the priests never try to force it on anyone. They were pretty nice dudes even through the language barriers. At one stage after maybe 300kms in it was raining hard. Cold and miserable. Myself and others had been walking through muddy farmland all morning and figured lets call it a day. We stopped in at a church just after lunch seeking refuge. There were 2 priests and they were good to go. We quickly had a fire roaring in the fireplace, someone pulled out a guitar and it was bonding at its finest. I'll never forget that. There were Italians, Spaniards, a Korean, a Brit and me the Aussie. There were language issues all around but it didn't matter. We all helped make a communal dinner of lamb something in a soup. It was good times.

The next day I walked 20ish kms with one of the Italian dudes. He spoke a little spanish and so we used sign language and our google translators to converse. We still keep in track today. You meet people from all over the world from various backgrounds (uni students, gap years, afghan vets, millionaires, entire families etc) and doing it for a multitude of reasons. Losing weight, coping with PTSD, finding themselves, wine lovers etc. I encountered them all

How many days should I allow to walk it? That depends on you. The average is 33 days. I allowed 35 days with no real goals in mind. By the end I had taken 21 days to cover 800kms. That's about 40kms a day. I still saw everything that I wanted too taking extra time to look at castles and old buildings. Just upped my pace through the easier more boring plains between Burgos and Leon. I had one guy take my photo at the front of a cathedral in Burgos. I met him 2 days from the end. He had taken a bus from Burgos to Leon skipping a few hundred kms. He was stunned that I had walked the full thing and caught up.

Should I book everything in advance? Na, sure it'll sound like a great deal on paper but accommodation is so easy to find and you want that flexibility. What if you get a bit sore and want to rest a day? You can't do that if you've pre booked everything. Plus it's so cheap as I mentioned above. There is a town more or less every 5kms except one bit where there is a 15km stretch between towns. You can walk 5kms a day if you want or 40kms a day. It's up to you. It's your pilgrimage

The path itself unfortunately is often next to main roads or on them. Due to the popularity of the trail over the last 6-700 years it has evolved so that main highways run alongside it. Some bits are on the actual road with cars doing 100kmh and people do die each year unfortunately due to this. Be careful and walk on the right side of the road without headphones. It's not worth the risk. You do get really nice paths and trails that are vehicle free thankfully, but not always.

Upon reaching the end of the walk at Santiago it was a great feeling. You just round a corner and there it is, the cathedral. 800kms of hard work culminating there. You can do a rooftop tour that I highly recommend. Bring your camino passport so that you may get a discount. You get to walk along the top of the cathedral and inside where a guide whom speaks English will tell you the history of it. It is also highly recommended that you take your camino passport to the certificate office where you will be presented a certificate for completing the Camino. They give it to you in a postage tube to help protect it. You now have a choice. You can continue on and walk another 100kms to the coast (think of it as a bonus side quest) or you can relax a few days and fly on to the next destination (there is a airport a short 15 min car ride away with flights to Madrid). I chose the later and went skiing in France.

Overall despite the negatives such as the walking on roads I highly recommend the Camino. It's easy to navigate (big yellow arrows), get to converse with others if you so choose, lightweight pack considering a town every 5kms and it is highly flexible. If you do decide to smash out the kms though make sure you are eating properly. I payed that off and went from 70kgs to 55kgs (6ft 2inches) in 3 weeks.

Any questions hit me up and I'll be glad to answer them

Walking above the clouds near Astorgia. Underneath them is a city and a really nice castle worth visiting

A free wine fountain along the way


My favorite Pic that I took
Nothing is going to stop me,
Even if my body falls broken
My mind and spirit shall carry me on
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Re: A late Camino report

Postby CBee » Sun 06 Dec, 2020 2:05 pm

Well, this is a very good trip report.
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Re: A late Camino report

Postby Lindsay » Fri 12 Feb, 2021 9:54 am

Great report. I walked the Camino Frances in 2019 and loved it. Went on to the coast from Santiago, finishing in Muxia. I found none of it boring, the walking through cities and industrial areas and along busy roads is as much a part of the experience as the forests and farmland. I was planning to go again last year but the Chinese and their virus put a stop to that. I will be off again as soon as international travel becomes possible.
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Re: A late Camino report

Postby stry » Fri 12 Feb, 2021 10:56 am

Great report thanks loginator. :)
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