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Report 2014: Camino de Santiago

By Maria A from NJ, Summer 2012

Trip Description: In June 2012 my family and I walked the last 160kms of the Camino Francés to Santiago de Compostela.

Destinations: Countries - Spain; Regions/Cities - Other Spain Region

Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Sightseeing; Walking/Hiking; Independent Travel; 3-4 people; Adult Children w/ Parents

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Page 1 of 11: Introduction

I have been planning/dreaming to do part of the Camino for at least eight years now. For the longest time I thought I would do it as part of an organized tour as offered by companies such as Spanish Steps or Fresco Tours. And if I had gone by myself I would have probably done it that way. But once my husband and my grown up kids (18 and 23) joined in the adventure I knew that would be too costly. Plus, Spanish is my native language, so I wouldn't have a language barrier to deal with in the booking and execution of the trip, so I decided to plan it myself.

I’m in awe of the “real” pilgrims whom I saw lugging heavy backpacks and staying at the pilgrims’ albergues, but I knew that at this point in my life that would not fly with me (frankly, maybe at any time in my life). So I booked private lodgings, some right on the Camino, others a little way off. During the day we carried backpacks with what we would need for the day, cameras, water, etc., and our suitcases were moved each day by Jacotrans.

We started at the picturesque village of O’Cebreiro, which is the first point of the Camino in Galicia. We got there via Alsa bus after spending two days in León (about 2hrs30 minutes) at the Parador. We did the walk in eight days (could have been done in seven but we decided to split the Palas de Rei to Arzúa stage which is about 30kms in two days of about 15kms each). The longest days were the second day, from Triacastela to Sarria , since we decided to do the alternative route through Samos, and the fourth day from Portomarin to Palas de Rei (about 25kms each). Not surprisingly these were, in my opinion, the most difficult days as well. In total we walked about 160kms.

Things that surprised me or were different from what I envisioned:

  • We were the only people on the trails for about 60-70% of the time. There were times that for two to three hours we wouldn't see anybody else. Maybe we started later in the morning than most.
  • Many portions of the camino were extremely rocky (I was very happy that I had a hiking pole!)
  • Bathrooms even in the most rustic bars were for the most part very clean and modern
  • The dreaded climb on the first day to Alto de Poio was not as daunting as I feared
  • However, there were many more than expected climbs and descents (once again, very happy to have a hiking pole)
  • The variety in the vegetation, including the beautiful forests of eucalyptus trees and some that looked like a rain forest, with ferns and other tropical looking vegetation.
  • There is indeed a sense of camaraderie between the pilgrims you come in contact with; however, for the most part the locals don't act overtly enthusiastic at our presence. I don't mean this is a criticism just as an observation. For some reason I had visions of people shouting "Buen Camino" at pilgrims as we passed their homes. Not a peep. I always said "Buenos Dias", sometimes I got a response, many others I didn't.
  • My son thought there was more walking parallel to roads than he expected; my daughter didn't mind those portions, she said she thought they were exciting as she felt like a "hitchhiker!"
I meant to keep a journal or at least take notes but I never got around to it. So my impressions here are going to be based on memory.

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