If you are one of the many people who are planning a forthcoming Camino de Santiago, the next series of posts may be of valuable use to you. I have asked the owners of blogs I follow to contribute and give their opinions of the Camino. Most of the people own blogs dedicated solely to the Camino, like myself, but other writers like to travel far and wide all over the globe. I hope to continue posting on a weekly basis on this topic after this. So why not subscribe to the blog and keep an eye out for future posts. Even having walked the Camino a number of times myself, it is great hearing from other people who have walked it, just to get their experience, whether it be a bad or good.
To get the ball rolling, I asked Linda over at SomewhereSlowly.com to tell me about her experiences from planning to her times on the Camino. I “met” Linda over on the Camino Forum a number of years ago and since then, we have been discussing the Camino constantly. She has just recently returned from Santiago after walking from Astorga. If you are actively planning or researching, I would encourage you to visit her site. So here we go…
1) How did you first hear about The Camino de Santiago and when did you decide to walk it?
I grew up in a pilgrim city myself, so the idea of pilgrimage has always been there. When a friend told me her father was walking to Santiago from Paris, I found myself inexplicably attracted to the idea – and I never did any outdoorsy stuff at the time. I walked the Ingles as a tester in 2009 and decided that I liked it. It took three more years before I had the time, money and company to start my Long Walk, six weeks on the Camino Francés.
2) I find that planning for an upcoming Camino can be almost as enjoyable as walking it. How did you research and plan the Camino de Santiago?
I registered in the Camino forum (www.caminodesantiago.me/community) in 2007 and have been picking up tips, doing research and kit testing ever since. I too enjoy the planning – though the Camino never goes to plan – and preparation and am always thinking of ways to make my kit lighter, more flexible, more practical. I can also talk about it until the cows come home, and luckily I have internet pilgrim friends to discuss these things with!
3) What advice or tips can you give future pilgrims walkers who might be considering walking The Camino de Santiago?
Less is more – less stuff, less worry, less expectation. Plan realistically and pack sensibly, but remain open to what happens. Make sure you have something to keep you warm, something to keep you dry and comfortable shoes and backpack, and take them all for a few long walks beforehand to make sure they really are comfortable over time. Take half the stuff and twice the money and you’ll have a great time – if you need anything, there are shops in Spain. You really don’t need much, and why carry things you don’t need?
4) Did you face any challenges?
Physically, not really, even though I could have been fitter and probably have avoided injuries just by pure luck. I always stop or slow down if I feel that something is wrong or I get tired, but I have seen people get tendonitis and injuries from pushing themselves too hard. I think my biggest challenge was learning to ask for help and getting used to being around so many people and accepting our differences. My Zen is sometimes challenged, but it keeps getting stronger!
5) I’m a big fan of Spanish food and drink. What were your three favourite traditional meals along the route?
That’s easy! Pimientos de Padron, Santiago cake and Albariño! Oh wait, and then caldo gallego, and anchovies and cheese, and zorza, and Cebreiro cheese … did I mention black lentil soup? And chorizo? And an ice cold Clara on a sunny day? Did you say only three…??
6) Molinaseca and Belorado are favourite towns of mine along the Camino. Do you have a favourite spot?
I prefer the smaller places to the big cities and hilly Galicia to the meseta. Molinaseca is one of my favourites too, as well as Rabanal del Camino, O Cebreiro, Villafranca del Bierzo and of course Santiago de Compostela herself.
7) One can feel a range of emotions on arriving into Santiago de Compostela and seeing the Cathedral standing tall in the Plaza de Obradoiro. How did you feel when you completed your Camino?
After six weeks on the road … deflated, actually. My Camino family had decided to slow down near the end of the journey while I wanted to speed up, so I arrived on my own …and it was kind of an anti-climax. I sat down on the square for a while and then felt a lot more jubilant as I saw others I knew coming in and could celebrate with them. I still feel that the journey ends at the Praza do Obradoiro, which is always full of pilgrims, and not in the cathedral. I love that square. Watching it is like watching the sea from the shore.
8) Looking back, do you think you were prepared for your first Camino de Santiago? Have you done or would you do something different?
Yes and no – I was equipped and prepared but could have done better and have done better in the years since. These days I walk in shoes, not boots; my pack is smaller and lighter, I wear merino instead of technical materials, I do more layering with fewer multipurpose clothes. This year I even walked with Pacerpoles and found them very helpful. Bottom line: I know what to expect, so I worry less and enjoy myself so much more!