Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Camino De Santiago

OK, so today was my first officially Camino free day. Of course, like all of my days off from the Camino...I spent a large chunk of the day walking around. I also spent a couple of hours on the beach, took a nap and an extra long shower in my hotel room. That´s right, I said hotel room. Last night I stayed in the municipal pilgrim´s hostel, well because it was the last night I could. But tonight I have a room all to myself--que lujo!

Anyway, I´ve been getting lots of questions about my Camino, so I thought I´d just do a little FAQ. Sounds fun, no?

Where did you start? I started in Pamplona. There´s no official start for any of the Caminos (since traditionally the start was your  house, where ever that was) but many people start in St. Jean just over the French boarder or in Roncesvalles which is on the Spanish side of the boarder. In order to get a Compostela you have to walk at least the last 100 km, so lots of people start in Saria which is the town closest to the 100 km mark.

How much did you walk? About 800 km, or more or less 500 miles.

How long did it take you? I started April 5th and ended in Finisterre yesterday May 16th. That included a day to see Burgos and Leon, 2 days to see friends in Cantabria, and 2 days in Santiago.

What did an average day on the Camino look like? About 6 am people start rustling things around in plastic bags and shining their flashlights around. I generally just turned over, pulled the covers over my head and slept till about 7. Especially in April, the sun didn´t come up till about 8, so I never really saw the point to getting up too early. I was usually on the trail sometime between 7.30 and 8 and would walk till around 2.30 or so taking some breaks along the way.  Most of the albergues/pilgrim hostels opened at 2, so again there was no sense getting their too early. Long days meant sometimes not getting to town until later--I think 6pm was one of my latest days. Generally I´d eat a late Spanish lunch, have a shower, wash clothes, find a grocery store/pharmacy/see what there is to see in the town., chat a bit, have dinner and then go to bed at about 9 or 10. They days filled up quickly. Even when there was absolutely nothing you had to do, finding the energy to
do anything but sit around was sometimes tough.
How fast did you walk? They say most people average 4 km an hour, and I´d generally do about that. In the mornings I generally walked faster. I´d also walk faster or slower depending on if I was walking with someone else or how steep and rocky the incline/decline was.

How far did you walk? I tried to keep things under 25 km a day. Most days that was really comfortable. I did several days over 30 km, and those, especially back to back, start to take their toll. I went pretty fast through the Meseta in order to make it to Leon by Easter, and afterward swore off the 30 km days if I could help it. 33 km was the longest day for me and 5 (the walk from Monto do Gozo to Santiago) was the shortest.

Eat any good food? Oh man. So much good food. Part of it is that after a long day of walking everything just tastes better because you are so hungry.  But I will admit that hardly a day went by without cafe con leche and homemade flan. Lunch was generally a 3 course affair (you can generally get a menu of the day which includes 3 courses, bread, wine, tax and service for 10 euro or less). Dinner mostly a salad or some soup. Breakfast was almost always coffe and a banana or toast with butter and peach jam (which I have come to really love). Also, ever since we got to Galicia we have eaten extraordinarily well. The cows here smell really bad...but they taste really good.

How was the weather? The first week was scorchingly hot. The second week had thunder and hail storms (not fun!). We had a lot of great weather mixed in also a lot of days where it rained only in the afternoons. The weather can certainly make a day worse or better, but in the end, you walk no matter what.

Albergues? Pilgrim hostels? What are those? Pilgrims get credentials which get stamped along their camino. These credentials allow you to stay in pilgrim hostels along the way. Especially in the beginning many of these are run either by the city, a religious organization in town, or by a volunteer organization. There are also private hostels along the Camino. Especially for the first 2/3 of the Camino the average price was 5 euros a night. Lots of places were donation only. Towards the end things started to get a bit more expensive with albergues averaging around 10 euros. The municipal hostels were so bad at this point in the camino though, that it was generally worth it to pay a bit more.

The albergues all varied. Most all had bunk beds with anywhere from 4 to 100 people sleeping in each room (earplugs are necessary!). Most had hot water.Showers seemed to always have just a push button for water which meant the water came out some variation of scalding or freezing, but it generally worked out ok. Sometimes there was a separate shower room for men and women, which generally didn´t matter. Except in Galicia. Where in the municipal albergues there were no curtains on the showers and they were mixed gender.

Lots had their own kitchens (although in Galicia it seemed most of them lacked ANYthing to actually cook with) and some kind of place to do laundry--by hand or machine. Many also came with fun extras like a garden, or a ruined monastery, or coup of live chickens.

I will say that the albergues had me worried when I started. I am sure they are much worse in the summer when they are crowded and hot, but I really only had 2 or 3 bad albergue experiences in all of my Camino. (That said I am glad to be sleeping in a hotel for the night!)

Did you get...bedbugs??? No. I don´t know if it was my ¨sleep sack¨which I sprayed with antibug stuff before I left, or that the albergues were bug free, or if it was my nightly prayers to ¨not let the bed bugs bite¨ but no bugs for me. (Although some people I travelled with got them. One girl had bites all over her face!!)

Are your leg muscles huge now? Yes. Many days you feel like a mountain goat going up and down hauling all your stuff. By the end though, you are used to the hills (which is good because Galicia is full of them!).

Did you carry your bag the whole way? How much did it weigh? Yes. With some food and enough water for the day it weighed about 8.5 kilos or...19 pounds or so? By the end of the camino I had lost or thrown out quite a few things and started carrying less water, so maybe it weighed less by the end.

Would you ever do it again? Maybe one day. But...not for a while.

OK, that about sums up the questions I have been getting. Let me know if you have more! Tomorrow I am taking the bus back to Santiago where I will catch a flight to Barcelona. Because Vueling changed my flight 3 days (who does that!?!)  I´ll have a couple days to hang out in Barcelona and then on the 21st I´m off to Croatia!

Can´t believe Im leaving Spain so soon!

1 comment:

Jaz said...

Locations of the hostel is very necessary, because some travelers are very specific of the specific spot of the hostel.

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