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-   -   Camino de Santiago - advice please. (https://www.fodors.com/community/europe/camino-de-santiago-advice-please-961695/)

Peter_S_Aus Jan 6th, 2013 01:37 PM

Camino de Santiago - advice please.
 
We’re considering walking the Camino de Santiago next year, 2014, most likely starting in St Jean Pied de Port - so the first day is a strenuous 30km, with about 1000 metres to climb!

Total distance about 750 km or thereabouts, and we would see ourselves taking about 30 or 35 days to cover that distance. The planning is still in its infancy, and I’d be keen to know how other walkers have fared on the route. Some questions that I have are:

What time of year did you walk the Camino.
What sort of distances were you comfortable doing each day.
Typical costs, leaving aside the cost of getting to the start and home from the end.
Did you walk the whole route, or take a bus over some of the toughest parts.
Comments on where you stayed – hotels, refuges, whatever.
Did you take a sleeping bag?

And so on.

lreynold1 Jan 6th, 2013 03:27 PM

Hi, Peter,
If you search this forum you'll find posts from a number of people who have walked on the Camino de Santiago. everyone's perspective is different, but here are my reactions to your questions:

First, on the stage from St. Jean to Roncesvalles. The 25 kms can be done in one day by most people, but if you're not in good shape it may take its toll on you and ruin things further on. There is a very nice place to stay at Orisson (a google search will bring it up quickly), but it fills up quickly and reservations are a good idea (pre-paid via paypal). The Orisson place closes for winter, though, so you might not get any response for a few months.

I almost always walk the Camino in May/June. I have walked in Sept/Oct a couple of times, but I hands down prefer late spring/early summer. You'll get some rain, but maybe not much if you're lucky. And the crowds are smaller than in high summer. September is actually an extremely busy month, as are July and August.

Typical costs will depend on whether you stay in albergues (3-10 euros a night), pensiones (20-35) or hotels (up to 70 or 80 for a decent 3***. Food can be very cheap if you cook your own dinners in the albergues and make your own breakfast and lunch. If you buy out, there is usually a pilgrim menu night meal for 10-12 euros, 3 courses, wine/water. The food is not outstanding, and frequently if you are willing to spend a few more euros you can get some pretty great food by ordering off the regular menu. Coffee in bars/cafes range from 1-1.5 euros.

I'm an addicted walker, so I avoid the buses, but some of my companions have hopped on the bus when they had bad blisters, knee pain, etc. The most popular part for "skipping" is the meseta, but for me it is one of my favorite segments. Lots of wide open skies and fields. But there are buses generally available along the whole Camino Frances for people who want or need to get off their feet.

I usually stay in the albergues, but every now and then splurge on a nice hotel. The variety is wide and you have plenty of choices depending on your mood.

I always have a sleeping bag and always use it. It's a very lightweight one, weighs about a pound and a half. A couple of years ago walking from Sevilla, I had to wear my lambswool gloves for about the first two weeks in the morning, so it can be chilly even in summer.

There is a couple walking now from St. Jean and they are keeping a blog You may find it interesting even though you probably aren't going to walk in January!
http://agoodwalkunspoiled.blogspot.com/?m=1

You'll get lots of good advice here, and there is also a Camino forum in English with tons of postings and everything you ever wanted to know about every camino de Santiago! http://www.caminodesantiago.me/board/

Buen camino.

Peter_S_Aus Jan 6th, 2013 04:02 PM

lrenold,
thank you so much for your reply. I've never done a long walk before, but I did take a long - about 8,000 km - bicycle ride around Australia a dozen years ago, a great way to clear one's head.

The Camino will be a challenge that we are rather looking forward to.

Cheers

Peter

Golemtoo Jan 6th, 2013 06:13 PM

I did not walk the Camino but my wife did starting in St. Jean. If you have never done it, it is like asking how do you build a house?

She trained with the weight of backpack she was going to take and tried a number of different of walking shoes/boots until she found a pair that was proper. On the other hand her sister who was 73 at time, walked the entire 500 miles in hiking sandals and heavy socks including days when it was pouring.

There is a search function above. Click on advanced search and enter Camino, Europe Forum, Spain and you will see extensive accounts of the Camino of others.

Robert2533 Jan 6th, 2013 06:52 PM

It's about 28 kms from Pied-de-Port to Roncesvalles, and another 50 kms into Pamplona. For most people that alone is a two-day trek at best. Pamplona to Santiago is about 740 kms, following the French route.

For more information, check the following:
http://www.caminosantiagocompostela.com
http://www.chemins-compostelle.com
http://www.caminosantiago.com

sofarsogood Jan 7th, 2013 07:10 AM

I walked the whole Camino in September 2011 - very fortunate with the weather; 30 days of wonderful sunshine. The summer months would be very hot. October can be a good month as well - a bit quieter, and of course April and May are good months to start.

The first day from St Jean to Roncesvalles took me 8 hours and is a bit of a slog over the Pyrenees. As it's the first day, with ascents and descents it does take a lot out of everyone. Though the second day was harder for me as I was still recovering from the first! By the third you're into Pamplona.

Fitness does increase as you go on. In the first two weeks I'd walk about 20km ± 5kms, By the third and fourth week I was walking about 30km per day with 40km on the last day.

Regardless of fitness levels look after your feet. There were plenty of young (20's) fit walkers being carried off in ambulances due to blisters or other foot problems. Prevent blisters as much as you can and don't push yourself in the first couple of weeks. Walk within your fitness levels and have a couple of rest days at least.

Costs were roughly €20 per day. I stayed in albergues that cost from "donativo" (give a donation) to €10. There are pensiones and hotels but there is a a sense of camaraderie in the albergues (take earplugs). There's always a menu del peregrino for maybe €9. They can be repetitive but are filling.

There's an empty beauty about meseta so no need to skip and take the bus. I guess the least appealing parts are walking through the outskirts of towns. Traffic, dual carriageways, scruffy industrial units have few redeeming features.

I took a very lightweight sleeping bag, But do take a silk sleeping bag liner. If you do take a bag the liner will keep it clean, and if you don't take a bag the liner will offer a barrier between you and any borrowed blankets.

Ireynold1 gave you the link to the Santaigo forum which has loads of discussions. Many walkers take a book by John Brierly but this site has an excellent downloadable document listing places to see/stay and that's all I took. I think it's more up to date as well.

http://www.caminoguide.net/

This site is in Spanish only but gives details of the stages and allergies:

http://caminodesantiago.consumer.es/...tiago/frances/

And finally

this is an excellent series of videos showing the whole route (with some cheesy music):

http://vimeo.com/user9824047/videos

Keep hydrated and pack lightly!

Buen camino

Jane_Blanchard Jan 7th, 2013 09:47 AM

I walked the Camino in Sept and Oct 2011 and will walk it again this year. My best advice is to go slowly in the beginning and listen to your body. As your body adjust to the pounding, the weight of the bag, and hills in the first part of the Camino, you will be able to lengthen the walks each day. At 61 years old, it took me 43 days to walk, with three rests days and three near-rest days. I wish I had taken more time and not missed so much.

If you are young and in good shape you should be able to complete the pilgrimage in 30 to 33 days. By the end of the Camino, I was walking 20+ miles/daily, with little effort.

For preparation, I recommend building the thighs. Pliés, step aerobics, step climbers, etc. should help considerably.

There are many books on the Camino—narratives, fiction, and guidebooks. I have listed about 60 of them at http://pinterest.com/janevblanchard/camino-books/

Many of the forums listed above are also helpful.

Enjoy the planning and the walking.

Buen Camino.

sofarsogood Jan 7th, 2013 10:04 AM

"...stages and allergies"

should be stages and albergues - flipping auto correct!

lincasanova Jan 7th, 2013 12:21 PM

Shoes shoes shoes.

I lost two toenails wearing a pair of boots I had worn many times before on rustic vacations and also wore around my house all day the previous days of our beginning of the walk.

All I can say is that I had never walked 20 kms in a day though, so I had unexpected problems with my boots after the first day.

I am no hiker but even so thoroughly enjoyed the Camino once I decided to go at my own pace and not make this some sort of grueling, competitive mission.

I took a break one morning.. stopped before my husband another time one day but am looking forward to doing it all over again.

We only stayed at B+B's and hotels. We were part of a large group of friends, so we needed reservations.

Barb Jan 8th, 2013 10:35 AM

I'm going to be walking part of the Camino in October. Wish I could do the whole thing, but I have time constraints.

I just wanted to comment on the videos that sofarsogood posted. "vimeo.com". I really enjoyed watching these videos. It seems to give a really good picture of what the path is from start to finish. Also, coincidentally, the walk from Sarria to Santiago, which is what I will be doing, was at the exact time of year, early October, when I will be walking. Hopefully the weather this October will be as good as the video showed. The book list that Jane posted above should be very helpful too.

Good luck and have fun in your planning Peter!

sofarsogood Jan 8th, 2013 11:07 AM

Hi Barb

Glad you liked the videos. There are plenty of videos on You Tube but I came across these by chance and they're the best I've seen. They really conjure up what the walk is like.

As luck would have it they were filmed when I walked in Sept 2011, in fact the guy is only one day behind me on some occasions, and bring back memories. And though I never saw him, there are other faces I recognise. And that's the best thing - the people you meet.

Enjoy your walk.

annhig Jan 8th, 2013 11:54 AM

Peter,

because of my interest in donkeys rather than walking, I came across this book:

http://www.amazon.com/Travels-My-Don.../dp/0312320833

it might give you a different perspective on what is undoubtedly a daunting undertaking.

good luck!

Peter_S_Aus Jan 8th, 2013 12:47 PM

Thanks to all for your very helpful suggestions and advice – I’ve noted the suggestion to travel very light. So I’m trying to lose a bit of weight – I figure that losing half a dozen kilos from my frame is probably easier than trying to lose the odd kilo from the luggage.

I’m enjoying the process of planning a long trip, as I haven’t done a month on the road since a crazy bike ride around Australia back in 1995 – I wrote half the trip report and it’s here:
http://www.fodors.com/community/aust...-road-trip.cfm

One thing that was great on that 1995 trip was having almost no possessions with me, just a bicycle, camping gear, and not much else. About 15 kilos of equipment in total, a liberating, Jack Kerouac kind of experience.

Apropos of nothing, we met a bloke in our local pub who walked the Camino Frances in November / December a couple of years ago. We’d been on nodding acquaintance with him for a handful of years, and now there’s a new, interesting, connection.

Anne, while a donkey would certainly contribute to the pilgrim image (shades of Nazareth, no room at the inn/hotel/motel), the logistics (chaff, farrier, etc.) may be hard to overcome.

Thanks
Peter

lincasanova Jan 8th, 2013 01:10 PM

Those videos we great!!! Thanks for posting.

Golemtoo Jan 8th, 2013 01:32 PM

My wife met a Gallega on the Camino with whom she still friends. The Gallega said that she brought nothing on the Canino because her friends told her Americans carry everything. In fact, she borrowed my SIL's shoes for two days until they found a store that sold appropriate shoes for hiking.

november_moon Jan 8th, 2013 02:09 PM

We are planning to walk in April 2014, so doing plenty of reading now and have started our official training :) We are probably going to walk about half the camino due to time constraints, although we are considering starting at SJDP and then taking the bus part of the way so that we can do the entire route in the time we have. We'll see what we decide to do as the trip gets closer.

lincasanova Jan 8th, 2013 02:46 PM

Golemtoo.. very funny.


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