It has passed a year since my Camino de Santiago experience. I have heard about the Camino (St. James Way) more than 15 years ago, however, I have never really considered on walking it. About 10 years ago, when I visited Guernica (part of Camino del Norte), stayed at albergue (a type of hostel where pilgrims stay) and saw pilgrims, I have thought that I am not as crazy as them to walk hundreds of kilometres to Santiago. Well, life is full of surprises, and something may seem crazy (and torture) at one point of our lives, meanwhile a few years later (or earlier) we might percieve it as an adventure worth taking.
And so it was on July 2018, when I have decided to go on an adventure called Camino de Santiago. On Sunday, August 19th 2018, I have started my Camino walk from Astorga. Now, a year later, I want to return to Camino and complete the Camino francés (the French route) from the beginning in France and all the way to the Atlantic ocean. But the route itself takes more than a month, so it will have to wait a bit. Now, let’s go back to August 2018. My first plan was to walk just 100km (which seemed doable) and get the Compostela (the “diploma”, which is given to everyone who walks at least 100km). After a bit of research and pieces of advice of those who have done Camino before, this was the worst plan, if I really wanted to experience the “magic” of the Camino. You see, the last 100 km (from Sarria to Santiago), Camino can turn from the peacful walk into mass tourism. And I have experienced it, because I have arrived in Sarria on Saturday evening, and departed from Sarria on Sunday morning with many many many others. After the advices and some calculation (km per day and my time), I have decided to accept the challenge and walk 267 km from Astorga to Santiago de Compostela. (Actually, I have walked about 275, because I have taken an alternative route, and if I add the tourist walks around some of the cities and villages on the way, it would probably be more than 300 km in 11 days.)
After my plane tickets were bought and I decided about the route, it was time to plan what to take with me on Camino. The lighter the better. You should keep in mind that whatever you pack for the Camino, you will carry it all the way. All 300 km (or more), 5-10 hours per day. I tried to pack the essentials only, but as I usually go on holidays to big cities, where you can buy everything on every step, it was difficult to really know, what is really essential and what is now.
My packing list:
- 2 t- shirts for running (short slieves)
- 2 cotton t- shirts
- 1 long slieve running t-shirt
- 1 pullover
- 2 tights (for running)
- 1 long pants
- very light towel
- pillow case
- sleeping bag
- head light
- small shampoo and soap bottles
- hiking shoes, teva shoes, running shoes and flip-flops
- walking sticks
- power bank
- reusable water bottle
- plasters and some basic medcines
Looking back at this packing list, it definitely seems too much. I guess I could have taken fewer shoes and t-shirts, but in the end, extra shoes were a very good choice, because I almost didn’t get any blisters. In addition to that, the way I walk and the climate was quite diverse. The elevation varied from 700 m above the sea to 1530 m above the sea.
There are many ways, many Caminos. I have choosen the French Way (El Camino francés), because it is the longest, the most known and the easiest option in terms of accommodation. Today, many apps help you to plan your trip. Camino apps can help you plan the kilometers you want to walk per day, as well as they give you information on which villages/cities you will pass on your way, which villages have restaurants, supermarkets, pharmacies, albergues, etc. Not all the albergues are included in these apps, but they are certainly very helpful, especially when you will have to decide if you want to continue walking or take a rest until the next day.
Accommodation. Municipality albergues are the best option if you want to meet other pilgrims and don’t want to spend too much money. Most of them are clean and the staff is very helpful. Again you can read the reviews online. You cannot reserve these albergues in advance. Private albergues and other types of accommodation can be reserved in advance. I only recommend you to reserve it, if you are arrive at your destination very late in the afternoon. There are also some monasteries on the way. These are free of charge for pilgrims, but they accept donations. You need your pilgrim ID in order to stay at albergues and monasteries and to get your Compostela at the end. Some tourist attractions on the Camino also offer discounted entrance fees for pilgrims with Pilgrim Passport. You can get the Pilgrim Passport on your starting point (in albergue or church or monastery), or even your home country. One passport booklet probably won’t be enough for all the stamps you will collect.