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Walking the Camino to Santiago de Compestela

Have been home now for a bit over a week and am enjoying my cozy bed and taking showers without flip-flops and using a real towel instead of the RS travel towel. My washer is a treat as I don't have to wash anything else out by hand. So, onto the trip report. For those on FB, if you want my FB page, send me a message as we aren't supposed to put links up to our private blogs, pages, etc. All my photos are there as well as a list of my favorite Albergues.

My plan was to start in Pamplona and walk all the way to Santiago, a distance of 730 km. The 1st two days were quite tough and though I thought I was in pretty good shape, it seems I was mistaken. No blisters, but those hills! Not just going up, but going down too. The 2nd day had us climbing down and up a ravine with an old Roman bridge that had fallen and littered the slope with giant blocks of stone. Rainy day to add to the fun. This part of Spain is pure agriculture, grapes, asparagus, artichokes, fennel, sunflowers, and lots of gardens. Breathtaking scenery, with lots of ancient stone churches. Nights are spent in Albergues, where for the price of 6-10 €, you get a bed, usually a bunk bed, place to shower and wash your clothes (mostly by hand, but washers & dryers are often available for 3€) They often offer a dinner or there is a near-by spot to eat. Dinner is a Pilgrim Menu, offering 4-5 choices for 1st course, 4-5 choices for 2nd course, dessert, wine and water, all for 10 €. Most of the time it was decent food, and sometimes it was excellent. Most of the towns had small stores where you could get stuff to eat, either snacks or things to make picnics the next day. Some Albergues offered breakfast, but most of them were located near cafes or bars that had coffee, croissant, fresh OJ, toast, etc. Larger cities had a lot of places to choose from. Having a guide book is just about neccassary. Having a phone with wifi is useful too, as many of the private Albergues took reservations. Everyone was using booking.com to get places, especially in some of the cities where events were happening and people were desperate for beds. I saw this happen in Burgos, Logrono, and Leon. Other than that, it was never a problem to find a place to sleep. Once, in Villamayor del Montjardin, 6 people had to sleep in front of the Albergue on the padded play ground as both Albergues were full that night.

It didn't rain too often, but I had a great poncho that has an extra sort of pocket on the back that goes over the back pack. Got lots of comments on it from other people who wished they had the same sort of poncho. We had 1 day of fierce winds and rain, with the wind blowing around 40 km the entire day and our path was pure sticky, muck. It was a constant battle to get it off your boots enough to keep walking. I missed the Meseta except for the 1st part, as had to take a bus for the rest of it.

Unfortunately, I had some minor medical issues that were very painful (but not serious) that meant taking a bus several times, shortening the amount that I was able to walk. It also included a cool ambulance ride to Palancia, the closest large hospital. Spanish medical care was great, they were kind, sweet, and helpful. My German ins. card took care of everything, though I did hear from quite a few people that they treat Peregrinos for free. My one surprise is how rare it was to find anyone in the medical profession who spoke any English at all. It was a tough day because of this, as they had to use their iphones and google translations.

One meets people from all around the world. Lots of Koreans, Brazilians, as well as Europeans, Aussies, Americans and Canadians. Towards the end in Sarria, you get even more Spanish who are doing the last 118 km, the min. you need to get a Compestela.

How much did I spend? About 20-35 € per day. Occasional splurge in a private room for 20 €.

Posted by
8302 posts

This is what I took with me and what I paid for all this gear. I know it looks like it is a lot, but my back pack only weighed about 7.5 kg.

Deuter Back Pack ACT LITE 35+10L, 1580 gr. 139.95€
Meindl Hiking Boots w/Gore-tex Vakuum Lady Ulra, 199.95€
Meru goa comfort Sleeping Bag, 830gr, 39.95€
Komperdell Trekking Poles, 39.95€
Meru knee length fleece jacket, 69.95€
Anzoni Poncho, 520 gr. 59.99€
Moorhead black hiking pants, 39.00€
Mammut brown hiking pants, 54.95€
OCK long sleeve hiking blouse, 19.95 €
OCK short sleeve hiking blouse, 29.95€
Eagle Creek black silk money belt, 24.95€
Hip pouch, 8.50€
2 wide mouth plastic bottles, total 5.90€
sunglasses, 19.95
4 pair wool socks, 40.00€
mini solar light, 9.95€
mini whistle, 4.95€
karibiner clip, 1.99€
Bed bug spray, Nobite, 14.95€
German guide book, Jakobweg, 14.90€
2 pair REI sock liners, total, 12.00€
Canon Ixus camera, 139.00€
Swiss Army Knife

Light knee length sleeveless night gown
Long sleeve turtle neck t-shirt
Short sleeve t-shirt
Cuddle Duds long underwear
2 bras
3 pair underwear
10 plastic clothespins
10 large safety pins
2 shoelaces (used for sleeping bag instead of stuff sack)
Baseball cap
Pillow case
Pashmina scarf
Cheap flip flops, 1.00€
Sketcher slip on shoes, very light
Travel toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, shower gel, hair brush) in zip-lock bag
Rick Steves travel towel, 77x128 cm
Laundry soap in a tube, 10 plastic clothes pins
First aid kit (bandaid strip, corn patches, 60 aspirin, Immodium, Benadryl, antiseptic cream, bug-bite cream) in zip-lock bag
very light fleece gloves
Bandanna cut into 1/4ths, in a zip lock bag to use as TP while walking
4 light mesh packing bags, 2 €
2 pens
Pilgrim Credential, 2.50€
Camino Passport/Credential Cover, 2.00€
* "Just Enough Spanish" book
* "Maps Only Guide" John Brierly, 11.90€
* Plastic Travel bag for Back Pack, 6.95€
* Bathing Suit

  • items that I left behind along the way

What didn't I use? Long sleeve t-shirt, bathing suit, plastic travel bag, sunglasses, solar light, karibiner clip, Maps Only guide, Just Enough Spanish book, Gloves, travel utensils

What should I have brought? Another long sleeve hiking blouse instead of the 2 t-shirts, a fitted sheet treated with bed-bug spray, smaller laundry soap tube, travel deo, a water proof hip pack

Posted by
8302 posts

I was quite worried about bedbugs as they can be a real problem along the Camino. I treated my sleeping bag as well as my back pack with bed bug spray that contains Permethin. One has to religiously check every mattress when you check in, and this includes hotels and pensions. The Camino forums also give tips as to which places are reporting bedbugs. One place in Astorga is bad, so I avoided it, but people I met later on said they had gotten bit there, so was glad I didn't stay there. Disposable sheets are often available, sometimes free, sometimes for 2 €. If I did this again, I would take a treated fitted sheet with me, just to be more comfortable.

Always wear your money belt, even to bed and take it with you in the shower unless you are traveling with someone you know. Thievery exists everywhere and there were a couple of incidents while I was there. We shared a taxi with a guy who lost everything to someone he thought was a "friend". ATM's are available in most of the medium size towns, but cash is important to have. Take little packs of tissues with you, as the TP often runs out in the WC at night. (all the stores sell these) For those occasions where a WC isn't available, either pack your tissues in a zip-lock bag and bring them with you, or one of the popular trends now is to cut a bandanna into fourths and use that instead. Put the used ones in a zip-lock bag and toss them in your laundry. The TP litter along the way is rather disgusting.

Getting in shape is imperative, not just your body, but your feet. Wear boots that are well broken in, climb hills, wear your full pack, build up to walking 20-30 km. with ease with that pack. Using trekking poles is invaluable, not just for going up those hills, but coming down, or when it rains and the mud gets slippery. The Farmacia are familiar with the aches and pains of the pilgrims and you can get Ibuprofen 600 for a few euro, as well as get your feet taken care of, or cold medicine

I had walked some long sections at the beginning, 18-22 km, but towards the end, cut back to shorter days due to a minor medical issue. All in all, walked about 400 km over a period of 3 weeks, plus spent 7 days in various cities sightseeing or resting. One of my favorites was Palencia which must be a migration stop for the Storks, as saw 100's of them there on the cathedral and all of the houses too. (Palencia isn't on the Camino but I was sent to a hospital there) What an amazing sight! Spending time in Burgos, Leon, Logrono, and Astorga meant I could explore the cathedrals, as well as enjoy the fests that were happening on those days.

Walking through the vistas, watching the sunrise almost every day, hearing and smelling the animals, everything was unique. Walking through a herd of sheep was fun too. It was great to enjoy the eucalyptus forests of Galacia, listening to the wind blowing through the leaves. At the end, the Pilgrim mass in Santiago is a must. When they swing that giant incense burner, everyone is in awe! Continued on to Muxxia and Finesterre with a bus tour. This was the crowning end to my Camino, visiting the coast.

If anyone is interested in going on any part of this, send me a message. Many people just walk the last 118 km, starting in Sarria. Depending on your fitness, you could do this in 5 days, but I took 9 as I wanted to slow down and enjoy this last part.

Posted by
10690 posts

What a wonderful trip report! It sounds like you had a wonderful adventure in spite of your medical issues.

You know you were missed on the forum while you did your pilgrimage!

Posted by
1937 posts

Congratulations! What a wonderful accomplishment. I loved reading about the storks and the eucalyptus forests. Thanks for the great report.

Posted by
638 posts

Buen Camino Peregrina! Welcome to the Confraternity! I did my walk from May 22 to June 23 of 2010 starting in St Jean. Besides the things you're getting used to the one thing that really stuck out in my mind after I got home was I would look at a hill in the distance and do the math in my mind on how long it would take to walk there! Hang on to your list of items you carried, I've often passed it along to those planning their Camino.

Posted by
2339 posts

Congratulations on a terrific accomplishment! I enjoyed reading your report.

Posted by
3580 posts

I love your report. I want to see your pictures on FB. I walked a tiny part of the Camino on a RS Basque tour a couple of years ago. I can understand that it could be rough going. In an hour we were rained and hailed on; it was on the trail after Pamplona going down to the next town.

Posted by
1976 posts

I'd love to see your pictures too. Congratulations on completing the walk!

Posted by
127 posts

Ms. Jo-

Just a quick note to let you know just how much I enjoyed your report. I've known others that made the trek but none of them did the mileage you did or were so thorough in describing the logistics of the thing. Congratulations and thank you.

P.S. One story one of these other people related is worth repeating. Among the group that this woman was more-or-less walking with (by which I mean they were going about the same pace and kept coming across) was a young man who was doing the walk while contemplating dumping his career and joining the priesthood. He ended up spending a few days walking with a parish priest who was able to help with that discernment process. How awesome is that?

Posted by
2116 posts

I'd like to add even more congratulations on the completion of your wondrous journey; it's an amazing accomplishment! I am enjoying reading your report very much.

Posted by
527 posts

Congratulations on an awesome achievement! If I were about 20 years younger.....sigh. :)

Posted by
8302 posts

Never discount your age. I am 60 and I met so many people on this Camino that were in their 70's and in their 80's. I felt young in comparison!

Posted by
11613 posts

Jo, great report and a wonderful accomplishment.

Posted by
862 posts

Jo, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this report of what must have been a wonderful journey. Thanks for sharing.

Linda

Posted by
2084 posts

Thanks for the outstanding trip report, Jo. I have printed it and tucked it in my copy of John Brierly's "A Pilgrim's Guide to the Camino de Santiago" for further dreaming--probably not realistic dreaming!

Posted by
1256 posts

Ms Jo, Congratulations on your accomplishment and thanks for the report.

Posted by
883 posts

Congratulations, Jo. This was such a helpful trip report.

Posted by
10 posts

Congratulations, a job well done. My favorite moment was while walking into Santiago, I spotted the steeple of the cathedral, then approaching the city I noticed all the other peregrinos descending. By the time I arrived at the square, there were hundreds. I still get chills thinking about it.