Frequently Asked Camino Questions
I’ll jot down a few obvious Camino questions here and then add to and edit the answers over time…
Note. These were from 2015 so I will keep adding to this list in the coming months/years…
Would you do this again? No. (well…probably not….but I did)
That might sound strange, as many people walk multiple Caminos. But I specifically walked this as a ‘Pilgrimage’ on which I was seeking specific answers and experiences. And all of my expectations were met. I feel blessed that my Camino was such a personal success and I now want to take my Camino lessons forward into my life. I don’t want to keep going back to School…. (But I did in 2016 and will again in 2018. I just miss the experience too much)
What would you do differently? Nothing.
If I was to do it again 🙂 Though I might skip the Sarria to Santiago section, or walk a different final 100 to avoid the crowds. That section just had such a different feeling that I didn’t enjoy as much. (I did that section again in 2016).
Would you use different gear? No.
I researched and tested my gear for 18 months. It all worked really well. But I would take less stuff. (A lot less. Aiming for 7KG all up)
Would you transport your luggage again? Probably not.
I only did so out of necessity and it became a bit of a logistics headache. But I would travel lighter anyway. (I had to transport my gear again in 2016 as the injury is now permanent, but will try to carry all my gear in 2018)
Would you walk alone again? Yes.
If I wanted a true ‘Pilgrimage’ experience. Though if I ever walk the route again, I might do so with Pat my wife in a more ‘tourist’ mode, picking specific sections only. (we did in 2016 and will again in 2018)
Would you walk the final hundred from Sarria again? I don’t think so.
Parts of it were very pretty, but it just felt too much like a Circus. It felt like very few people on that section were actually walking a Pilgrimage, but were rather using the ‘route’ as a convenient hiking or cycling path. Though I do explore these thoughts in more depth in the blog! It’s not that simple, and we need to accept that everyone walks their own Camino in different ways. (But I did in 2016)
What were the best parts of your Camino? That’s tough.
In terms of geography the early stages out of St Jean to Burgos. Emotionally and Spiritually the 2nd and 3rd weeks. And each time the Camino ‘taught’ me a valuable lesson….. Which was a daily occurrence!
What were the most memorable moments?
The peaceful walk virtually alone down the Pyrenees to Roncesvalles. The emotional ‘high’ walking out of Granon listening to music. Those little moments of giving and receiving support amongst fellow Pilgrims. Meeting ‘David’ en route to Astorga. Leaving my Stone at the Cruz de Ferro. A hand on my shoulder and a ‘Well Done – God Bless You’ from a Priest friend who was surprised I had made it thus far, (his timing was perfect), those times of true ‘connection’ with my surroundings, numerous conversations with fellow Pilgrims, and some magical moments of Spirituality that I might share later….. (I have. See the stories tab)
Did you ‘find’ Santiago? Yes.
In weeks 2 and 3. Whilst I found the ‘city’ of Santiago at the end of my Camino, ‘he’ wasn’t there for me. We had worked out our ‘stuff’ together long before Santiago.
Did you discover faith? Yes.
But not in a ‘traditional’ going to Church on Sundays sense. I built on the foundations of spirituality that I already had to find that I did not need Churches or formal rituals to practice my ‘faith’, for it was already all around me and within me. I just needed to open the door to it and embrace it.
Did the Camino meet your expectations? Yes, Yes, Yes.
Ten times over. Which is partly why I don’t feel I want to do it again. My Camino from here is to practice what I learnt, not to keep trying to learn more of the same. ( But later ….. I now feel I want to walk it every year, whilst I am able. Maybe different routes. I just miss it too much)
Do you need to be ‘Super Fit’ to walk the Camino? No.
I was not fit. I was 57, and 10 kg overweight. I met people of 80 years of age, and people who were even more overweight. Being healthier and fitter certainly helps though! But no need to go crazy. Regular walking and building improved all round fitness is fine.
Was Your Pre Camino Training Adequate? Yes and No.
I actually ramped up my training 3 months out from my Camino. From walking 5-7 kms twice a week, to about 7-10 kms per day. Sometimes 14. That increase was too rapid and caused injury (Achilles Tendonitis). (Also I did too much road walking) The best thing I could have done would have been to lose weight! I was about 10 kg overweight, which probably caused the injury in the first place… I think some fairly broad fitness and walking training is more than enough. Make sure you wear your Camino boots/shoes and a light pack, and build up slowly. I actually used the first week on the Camino as training. And it worked. I started at 8kms and built up to 20 kms over 5-6 days. (I used that slow build up during the first few days of the Camino with Pat in 2016 and again it worked well)
Did you get Blisters? No.
Well not exactly… I got one tiny one that I thought was just my normal foot pain from Tendonitis. I fixed it overnight with a needle and thread. I avoided blisters by following all the advice from previous Pilgrims. Well fitting and worn in boots/shoes. Double socks. Vaseline on my feet. Aired my feet every two hours. Fixed any hot spots as soon as I felt them.
What if I’m not a ‘Social’ person? No Problem.
I’m not really. I prefer company in ones and twos or small groups. I avoided the ‘party’ atmosphere that you come across occasionally. And actually I walked alone most of the time. If you want to be alone, you can be. If you want to socialise more, you can. If you feel awkward making friends normally, you’ll find it easy. They will find you.
How do you maintain the inner calm and peace that you attained whilst walking?
I recently shared the story of my journey at a business conference and was asked this by one of the guests. I think it comes down to this. Remember the feelings and emotions you felt, at those most joyous moments of your Camino. Really feel them and reflect on them. And try to replay them in whatever you are doing now. So for example now, I rarely have a ‘bad day’. Because I know to just look for the positive things that are happening and not to focus on just the negative.
Is Walking Alone or with a ‘Partner’ Better?
This is a tough call. I’ve done both now and both have their positives and negatives. I wrote a story about it here. http://robscamino.com/2015/walking-with-my-wife-could-have-been-a-mistake/ I would like to do both again. alone and with Pat.
Do You need to be able to Speak Spanish?
Not reality, but a little goes a long way. I hardly spoke a word on my first Camino but I got by. Just be aware that you may be walking through areas where people only speak Spanish. And why not? It’s Spain!
With new technology it’s easy to look up words or get instant translation, but it will never be as good or as fun as being able to speak and understand some of the Language. I also think it’s a common courtesy when visiting any country to at least learn a few basic words. Hello, thank you, please etc.
For our 3rd Camino in 2018 I actually took a few private 1 on 1 Spanish lessons. I wanted to be able to telephone places to make accommodation bookings. I also tried learning language required in restaurants and shops, and a few important things for emergencies.
So let’s see how it goes this time!
Feel free to add more questions as comments below and I’ll do my best to add them to the list here and answer them.
I’ll start a handy ‘glossary’ here and move it to a dedicated page shortly. Feel free to ask what other terms mean.
Albergue. A low cost form of accommodation that usually provides a bed in a dormitory and washing facilities. Meals are also sometimes available.
Bocadillo. A Spanish ‘sandwich’ that is made using bread like a ‘French’ Stick.
Brierley. John Brierley is the author of some of the most popular Camino Guide Books.
Cafe con Leche. A white coffee. A staple diet it seems for Pilgrims.
Camino Angel, is a term that is frequently used by Pilgrims walking the Camino to describe a complete stranger who seems to appear at just the right time with just the right help that is required.
Casa Rural. Lower cost private accommodation along the lines of ‘bed and breakfast’. May be in someone’s house or a dedicated ‘small hotel’.
Compostela. The ‘certificate’ that is provided to the pilgrim on proving that they have walked at least 100 kms to get to Santiago. (200 kms for those on bicycles). It is issued at the Pilgrims Office.
Credential. The Pilgrim’s passport. In this are collected stamps or ‘Sellos’ as proof of the Pilgrims journey. It is also required to gain access to Albergue accommodation.
Donativo. A type of Albergue with no fixed fee, that relies on the Pilgrim to ‘donate’ what they can. It does not mean Free! A ‘fair’ donation should cover the cost of a bed and if provided, meals, based on what you might pay elsewhere.
Etapa. A ‘stage’ of the walk, usually equating to a full days walking. Often these are ‘suggested’ stages in guidebooks.
Hiking Poles. See walking poles.
Markers. Not so frequent in the more distant areas thankfully, but very frequent as you get closer to Santiago. They show the distance in kilometers from Santiago. (they are OK when they show 50 kms to go but a bit demoralising when the number is 650 kms !)
Menu del Dia. Menu of the Day. A ‘set’ menu that is slightly better quality than the Pilgrims menu and may cost 2-3 Euros more.
Miam Miam Dodo. A useful French guidebook that provides a lot of accommodation details.
Pilgrims Menu. A ‘set’ low price menu from in cafes, hotels and bars. It will normally provide 3 courses with a drink for approximately 10 Euros. (as at 2016). It provides simple wholesome food and is good value.
Refugio. Another term for an Albergue
Rain Gear. Two main alternatives are popular. A ‘cover all’ poncho or waterproof rain pants and jacket.
Sello. This is the stamp that is obtained along the way as proof of the Pilgrims journey. They are available in many places such as Albergues, Hotels, Bars, Cafes, Shops, Churches. Most ‘businesses’ along the Camino seem to have them.
Senda. A man made track, usually fine gravel, that provides a path for Pilgrims to walk on.
Tortilla. A thick omelette usually made with egg and potato. Cafes and bars will often sell these in slices.
Walking Poles. An aid for waking that takes weight and pressure off the lower limbs and back. Most would say that two poles should be used rather than one.