A bit of the Camino de Santiago..

Old Dec 15th, 2011, 12:12 AM
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Thanks for the comments. To "do " the camino is such a huge mouthful that it does frighten a lot of people. I was even leery of the whole experience, but it turned out to be so wonderful, I do want to encourage anyone who is in the area to just at least take a day or two and walk part of this pilgrimage.

In fact, this is a wonderful approach to any trail anywhere. I had just never "done" that before. People who normally go hiking on the weekends will find this a breeze. For others it opens a new world of vacation entertainment and exercise.

So, there's a lot out there to enjoy in your OWN WAY.
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Old Dec 15th, 2011, 12:17 AM
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cruiseluv
to answer your question:
Booking hotels need not be necessary. You never know if a section will take you longer than planned. However there are companies that can do this for you.
In Galicia the tourism body has one (they also do luggage transfers too).
http://www.turgalicia.es/iacobus/con...I&ctre=iacobus

A great sauce for information on walking the trial is the following (and dedicated) forum
http://www.caminodesantiago.me/board/


For those of you who have or may see the film “the Way” do not do what the main character done and just start walking without training for the Camino. Carrying a heavy weight and walking most of the day is not easy. The hilly terrain will also add to the difficulties you encounter in your Pilgrimage.
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Old Dec 15th, 2011, 03:12 AM
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hi, cruiseluv,
Though I have no personal experience with using a company that organizes hotels/transfers along the way, this blog was written by a woman who walked the entire Spanish Camino Frances with a company doing the organizing. http://wheresnetia.wordpress.com/

In it she frequently recommends Gary of Spanish Adventures, who did all the bookings. http://www.spanishadventures.com/

I think I may have mentioned this before, but I know a veteran pilgrim Sil from South Africa who has just started taking small groups on the Camino. Sil has selected three of her favorite sections and arranges all the hotels, etc. The "guides" are all experienced pilgrims. It's 18 days of walking http://amawalkerscamino.weebly.com/ The reports have been very positive -- here is a blog with posts from different walkers from her most recent trip in Sept. http://amawalkers.blogspot.com/2011/...er-camino.html
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Old Dec 15th, 2011, 07:19 AM
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Lin, thank you again for your continued support for those of us that haven't done this yet and may be somewhat intimidated.


Ribeirasacra, thank you for those references, I'll look into them. That's a good point about not knowing ahead of time how long it'll take to walk a particular stage. That's one reason I will be very cautious and allow myself extra time, even if it ends taking me longer than the norm.

Lauri, thank you so much for all that info, I'll check it out.
I know you do the Camino frequently. Do you ever do it by yourself?
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Old Dec 15th, 2011, 07:33 AM
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Ireynold1.. very nice blog. thanks for posting it. i am enjoying it.
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Old Dec 15th, 2011, 07:54 AM
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Hi lincasanova and cruiseluv -- Yes, you're right I do walk the Camino frequently, and am now firmly in the "addict" category. I first walked from Roncesvalles to Santiago on the Camino Frances in May 2000 to celebrate my 50th birthday. Little did I know that 11 years later I'd still be going back every year. I have walked many different caminos, and there are still many more on my wish list. This schematic map shows you most of the routes in Spain. http://mundicamino.com/ (but not, for example, the route I'm going to walk this summer!).

I have always just put on my pack and started to walk (after lots of research) but have never used a company. Some people find the extra cost worth it, others do it because they don't want to sleep in the pilgrim albergues (which can't be reserved), others do it because they just like planning it all out in advance. There are plenty of guidebooks that list all the accommodations along the camino (I'm assuming you're talking about the Camino Frances, from Roncesvalles to Santiago), and if you have a cell phone, it's not a problem to call a day or two in advance to make reservations. I have a cell phone I bought in 2004 and keep bringing it back for new cards when I land in Madrid. I don't know what your Spanish language level is, but good Spanish makes that a lot easier.

If you have any questions about how to do it "on your own," cruiseluv, I'm happy to try to answer.
Buen camino! Laurie
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Old Dec 15th, 2011, 11:39 AM
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We are so lucky to have an expert on here! You can buy very cheap "packs" ( basic cell phones) in spain at any cell phone provider shop for usually 19E that has 15-20E of calls on the sim card. a real bargain!
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Old Dec 15th, 2011, 06:47 PM
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Thank you Laurie, appreciate the offer!
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Old Dec 16th, 2011, 09:12 AM
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A walking fitness instructor from Eugene, Oregon is taking a group next year: http://www.walk-with-me.com/spain.html

She recommends an 18-week PBS training program that sounds somewhat rigorous: http://www.pbs.org/americaswalking/h...lth18week.html. I suppose a modified version would be good not just to train for the walk, but also for general good health.

Starts you thinking, though...
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Old Dec 16th, 2011, 06:57 PM
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I took a look at this group walking tour from Oregon, and I have to say I was stunned by the price. I walk for 6 weeks (this group walks for two) on one camino or another every year and spend far less than that amount, including my airfare from the midwest.

I would just urge people to pay attention -- for some, price may be no object, but if it is a concern, the value added by these guided tours is something to consider. Private accommodations in hoteles/pensiones along the Camino Frances are typically in the 30 E range for a private room with bath, less per person if you're in a double. Albergues run 3-10 euros a night. Baggage transfers cost about 6 E a day if you want that. The camino is so well marked you don't need a guidebook or a map or a guide, just follow the arrows.

Having walked a lot of caminos, I can only say that if you strike out on your own, you will only be alone for as long as you want to be. The overwhelming majority of people who walk on this route just put on their packs and start to walk. I've seen a few German guided tours, but aside from that, it's all USA. I don't know why.

I have no "purist" objection to people walking with guides and with everything figured out for them, but you might be surprised if you try it all alone. It's so much cheaper, so much less regimented, and so much more open to what you will encounter. I think that for the overwhelming majority of people who walk the Camino, the real gift comes from the community you develop with others -- you move in and out of groups, you can stop and rest when you want, walk a long day or a short day when you want. The liberation that comes from not having a pre-ordained schedule just can't be replicated with a pre-ordained walking schedule.

I don't mean to rant here, and I know there are lots of people who have lots of reasons why a guided group tour makes sense. But if you are able-bodied and can walk, I feel confident in saying that walking without the restrictions of a group will pay dividends beyond what you can possibly imagine.
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Old Dec 16th, 2011, 10:10 PM
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As you know.. only done it once, but I totally agree.
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Old Dec 17th, 2011, 09:15 AM
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Laurie, your post is interesting as until a few days ago I was seriously considering booking one of those all inclusive Camino tours. But then, this thread prompted me to do a little research and see how economical some of these lovely pazos and casas rurales are. Why pay such a markup to some outfit just because they're including some guides (which I may or not want to listen to)? Plus by definition in a tour you have to adapt to a group of people that may or not be compatible with you. True, these companies take care of everything but I think with a little work I can put together something similar at a fraction of the cost.

Now that I've started researching the portion of the Camino I'm planning to do I'll probably start a new thread with questions as I dont want to hijack Lin's thread. Hope you, Lin and any others that have so much knowledge of the Camino will be able to help!
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Old Dec 17th, 2011, 04:40 PM
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Sounds like a great plan, cruiseluv! I'm happy to help in any way I can. I would also say that if you are going to walk unescorted, even if it's almost impossible to get lost, you might want a guidebook for background, information, etc. I can recommend several. On my first Camino I walked with David Gitlitz and Linda Davidson's, The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago -- all 400 small print pages of it. It's not a typical guidebook, actually, rather it's a cultural/historical guide. Helped me find every little romanesque church along the way. But truthfully it was way too much information. But it would serve as a good background research book for at-home reading if you are historically or architecturally inclined.

But in terms of basic eating and sleeping guides, there are two. One is John Brierley's -- http://www.amazon.com/Pilgrims-Guide...4171939&sr=1-1 I've never used it actually, but know lots of people who swear by it. (and at $20 on amazon, no reason not to). You could easily pull out the pages for the part you're walking, if book desecration doesn't upset you the way it upsets my husband. It has lots of maps, descriptions of the stages, lots of commentary.

The guide I have used several times is put out by the Confraternity of St. James (the British Friends of the Camino Association). It's more of a booklet, really, and it doesn't have maps or walking directions, just detailed info on places to eat and sleep. It is updated annually, and relies on pilgrim comments to keep it up to date. I've ordered several of their guides for different camino and the postage from London is very reasonable, and they are very quick to respond. http://www.csj.org.uk/acatalog/The_C..._Spain_23.html

Well, sorry Lin if I'm continuing the hijacking of your thread. I'll look forward to a new one with cruiseluv's planning questions! Buen camino, Laurie
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Old Dec 18th, 2011, 09:51 AM
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Probably the only hijacking in life i ever hope to have. I am loving all the comments and back and forthness..and think they are quite pertinent to my short story. keep them coming.
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Old Dec 18th, 2011, 05:10 PM
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Thank you Laurie, you read my mind as I need to get some basic maps to be able to familiarize myself with what towns I'll be traversing.

And since Lin has kindly lent her thread , then let me ask my first couple of questions:

I would like to start walking from O'Cebreiro or shortly before. Is the hike up to O'Cebreiro as daunting as I've read? Or is the climb from O'Cebreiro to Alto do Poio even worse? I don't want to walk from Villafranca, but looking for recommendation of a closer starting point that's not too strenuous (maybe I'm dreaming?) but will allow the experience to hike up to O'cebreiro (I read somewhere from La Faba?). How long would it take at a slow pace?

Is there any charming casa rural to spend the night in O'Cebreiro?

Thank you in advance for any advice!
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Old Dec 18th, 2011, 07:33 PM
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Hi, cruiseluv,
Well, the problem with answering your first question is that it's such a personal thing. It will depend totally on your fitness level. And what kind of elevation gain you can handle. From Villafranca to O'Cebreiro, the total ascent is about 2400 feet. If you're a hiker, that total is not going to seem like much for a day's hike, but if you're not, it may seem impossible. You should take a look at this website, which has a stage by stage description and schematic map of the distance and elevation gain. http://caminodesantiago.consumer.es/...tiago/frances/ Though it's in Spanish, it's easy to see the distances and elevations (all metric, of course). Look here for Villafranca to O'Cebreiro: http://caminodesantiago.consumer.es/...o-a-o-cebreiro You can see where La Faba is on the way up, it's well over half way. The only thing is, I don't think there's anyplace other than an albergue there as far as accommodation goes. Are you planning to stay in albergues?

A few kms earlier, in the town of Las Herrerias, there are a few places, like this one: http://www.elcaprichodejosana.com/ If you didn't want to walk all the way from Las Herrerias, I bet you could get someone at whatever place you stay to take you up a few kms. (And by the way, the best website for finding all accommodations right on the Camino, I think, is mundicamino.com If you go to any stage on any camino, there is a link for lodging, and they have an English version, too -- just click on the British flag on the top right).

Another idea would be to start in Villafranca and split the climb to O'Cebreiro into two days. The first half is a much more gradual ascent, and that would get you into the swing more gently. And Villafranca is a very pretty little town.

I don't know how to estimate how long any stage will take you. I think the best way for you to do that is to look at the maps of each stage, see the distance and elevation, and then make your best guess. If you aren't accustomed to hiking or walking long distances, you'll probably want to train.

O'Cebreiro has a **hotel (I've stayed there, it's nothing special), a casa rural that I've also stayed at called Venta Celta, which is basically just a clean room in an old stone house above a small restaurant which serves good food).

The next day from O'Cebreiro is pretty much all descent. There is one short burst up to the Alto do Poio but it can't be more than one or two hundred feet.

If you can give me some idea of the distance and elevation you feel comfortable with, I could make suggestions on places to stay. The planning has begun! Buen camino, Laurie
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Old Dec 18th, 2011, 10:54 PM
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After o'cebreiro is not too horribly hard even for a non-hiker like myself. At the beginning I was very discouraged only because I seemed to be trailing a group of friends and hubby on a mission or marathon. Things calmed down later in the week, and after that first day I just "did my own thing" at my own pace ( non-mission/marathon!!).
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Old Dec 19th, 2011, 04:51 AM
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Hi, cruiseluv,
lin has made the point I should have made -- that you shouldn't feel like you have to keep up or make a certain distance in a day. That's the great thing about going on your own, you can mix it up to suit the circumstances. If you can build in some flexibility, an extra day or two just in case, you'll be able to listen to your body. The vast majority of people who stop before they had planned do so because they were pushing themselves too hard and too fast.
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Old Dec 19th, 2011, 05:23 AM
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And a p.s. to lin -- I was just re-reading your report (there is lots of good advice in it, and your observations as a first timer should be required reading for someone who is not a hiker and is worried about striking otu alone). I noted that you live in Valencia, or at least that's the inference I drew. In the next few years, I am planning to walk the Camino de Levante, which starts in Valencia and winds up in Santiago 1300 kms later. I have friends who have done it and say the marking is excellent, but the distances long and the albergues few, so I'll have to do it before I get too feeble.
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Old Dec 19th, 2011, 07:31 AM
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keep me posted! I have a friend who rode her horse on some "camino". Will have to find out if part of it overlapped the one you are talking about because it was a type of pilgrimage also about the Holy Grail and its journey across Spain.
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