2018

As 2017 draws to a close, it’s only natural to think of the future. 2017 has been good but it’s a year I’d like to park to one side. 2018 has so much potential as it will be a year of firsts for me. As I have recently posted, I have bought a new apartment and will be moving in shortly. All renovations have been carried out and it’s just a matter of gathering up my stuff and moving it. Not an easy task.

2018

I am also due to walk the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route from A Guarda. An 8 day 159 km wander to Santiago will result in my first Compostela since 2011. I walk with my brother and this will be the first time I travel with another person to the Camino. I have no idea how it will turn out but if he gets bored of my very being-there, he can stroll ahead with some new found peregrino friends. That’s the beauty of the Camino. There are no rules. You just walk….

However, I somehow felt that I had another Camino in me for 2018. A short 150 kms isn’t enough. So I will go back in September and walk from A Coruna to complete the Celtic Camino. A short 4 day 75 km trek to Santiago will provide me with a second Compostela for the year. But it’s not about Compostelas at the end of the day. It’s about the meeting of lifelong friends and the sharing of stories, it’s about getting away from the stresses and strains of daily life and away to simplicity, and it’s about Spanish culture and meeting locals. I cherish that.

I will return in 2019 also, unless I am physically unable to go. I want to walk a longer route, possibly 3-4 weeks of walking. But I will see how 2018 plays out. Buen Camino!

New – The Celtic Camino

I reported this on my Facebook page yesterday but I realise a lot of my readers do not use Facebook.

Yesterday, I went along to a talk given by the Camino Society of Ireland about a proposed Celtic Camino. There was a large crowd there and we had the attendance of the mayor of A Coruna, Xulio Ferreiro, the Spanish ambassador to Ireland, José María Rodríguez Coso, and some of his team from the Spanish embassy.

At present, the number of pilgrims who start their Caminos from the northern coastal town of A Coruna is relatively small compared to the Camino Frances. A Coruna is a starting point on the Camino Ingles (along with Ferrol) but is 75km in distance and not long enough to receive a Compostela from Santiago Cathedral. However, delegates from a number of Camino Societies in Europe met last December, along with members various tourism bodies in A Coruna, to think of ways to promote A Coruna as a starting point and enhance the Camino Ingles. They came up with a proposal to present to the Cathedral. It was proposed that pilgrims can receive a Compostela by walking the 75km from A Coruna to Santiago, provided the remaining 25 km is walked elsewhere on a pilgrim route. This idea was presented to the Dean of Santiago Cathedral and it was agreed to. At the moment, the Camino Society of Ireland are deciding which on which routes to use in Ireland. Once you walk this, you will be given a certificate by the Irish Camino Society. You bring this with you to Spain, walk from A Coruna and present this to the pilgrim office in Santiago. You will receive your compostela then. The Spanish embassy are also in talks with Aer Lingus to introduce a direct flight to A Coruna.

This also is a great opportunity to market the current pilgrim paths in Ireland as many people from other countries can walk the 25km and walk from A Coruna at a later stage.

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More information: here and here

Camino By Sea / Camino Na Saile

February 19th sees the start of a new series on Irish TV called Camino na Saile (or Camino by Sea in English). It will be shown on our Irish language TV channel over the course of 3 weeks. It documents the journey of 5 men who sailed from the south of Ireland to A Coruna over the course of 4 years. For 800 years, people have sailed from Ireland to A Coruña in Northern Spain and walked to Santiago de Compostela from there. These men have done their own version of this historical voyage in a Naomhóg (or a currach) they built themselves in this Modern day Celtic Odyssey. Stage 1 of the journey follows the crew on a journey across the Irish Sea and the English Channel to reach Brittany in Northern France.

 

Now I understand that the majority of my readers live outside of Ireland, and will be unable to watch it, however you can do so online on www.tg4.ie/en/player/home or via the Mobdro smartphone app. If you download the app at www.mobdro.com on your phone and search for TG4, you will have no problems viewing the series.

It starts at 8.30pm GMT on the 19th of February and continues each Sunday after that. Happy watching!

 

 

The Irish and the Camino..

Hi everyone, just some news that happened over the last week.

  • I went along to a talk given by Turlough of Donnell of the Irish Camino Society entitled “The Irish and the Camino de Santiago: 800 Years of History” as part of the Dublin History Festival. During the hour or so, Turlough talked about how Irish pilgrims made their way to Santiago through the ages, whether it be by horse or foot and more recently boat. There is also evidence of an old refugio used by medieval pilgrims in Dublin which is all news to me! I was motivated to look for more information online but I can’t seem to find it so far. I have emailed the Irish Camino Society for information on a book published by Leuvan University about the Irish and the Camino. I’d be really interested to read it. Turlough was interviewed by local radio station Near.fm about the talk on the 3rd of October. You can listen to this podcast here.
  • While looking for more information about the Camino and the Irish, I found this great article published by HistoryIreland.com from 1998 entitled “The Irish Medieval Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela“. You can read that in full here. It’s very interesting from an Irish point of view.
  • Who remembers writing a thesis in college? It’s one of those things we all have to do and it accounts for a large amount of your final score in your final year. I certainly remember mine..I’d rather forget it actually :). I have found a thesis on the subject of the Camino published online. The full title is “In Defence of the Realm : Mobility, Modernity and Community on the Camino de Santiagoand it’s fairly detailed. Have a read when you get some time. It was published in 2007 but may not as up to date as today.
  • And finally, I am taking my new rucksack out on her maiden voyage. Hopefully I will get to climb one of the many hills in Wicklow, depending on the weather that is. The more climbs I get before my Camino Ingles, the better.

 

 

Osprey Talon 33 Backpack

Just a quick post about the above. I’ve been eyeing it up for quite a while now, even before my recent Camino Finisterre. There are many different sites and forums that rave about it, because of it’s many pockets, because it is well-ventilated and because it is probably the lightest pack on the market. However, this particular rucksack is not sold in Ireland for some strange reason. So, for my recent trip to Spain, I stuck with my trusted and loved Lowe Alpine Airzone 35-45litre and left a change for another day. It’s a great bag “but” it’s a little too big for the Caminos that I usually take, which are 1-2 weeks.

The left is the Osprey Talon and the right is my current Lowe Alpine.

As mentioned before, my next outing in Spain will be along the Camino Ingles next May. However, before then, I have a good bit of testing to do when it comes in the post. This is the first time I have purchased a pack online without trying it out beforehand, but I can always send it back if it doesn’t suit. I think it’s safe to say that 2 packs will suffice now 🙂 Here’s hoping my Lowe Alpine doesn’t read this post!!

Here is a review of the Talon 33:

I Have an Itch..an Itch to Return..

I am home less than three weeks now and naturally enough, I am beginning to think of where my feet will take me next year. I don’t expect next year’s Camino to be long, 2 weeks will be fine. A have a number of options:

  • St Jean Pied de Port and continue for 11 or so days – I haven’t walked from St. Jean since September 2014 and I miss the climb out and up to Orrison. However, the Camino Frances is usually extremely busy unless I walk in the off season.
  • Astorga – Santiago de Compostela – Another section that is due a visit. I love the walk from Rabanal to Molinaseca. I haven’t been beyond Sarria since 2011. However, along with it’s beauty comes it’s crowds.
  • The Camino Portuguese from Porto – This was a runner until last week. The coastal route, or Senda Litoral looks great. It is quiet, the route touches the ocean and it is short. However, there is a lack of municipal albergues and I would need to book my accommodation ahead. It is one for the future, and at that stage, there may be more albergues
  • Then, there was also my old favourite, the meseta, from Burgos to Leon. However, it would be my fourth time walking through it. I need a change.

In have decided to stay in Galicia and walk the Camino Ingles. The English Way originates in Ferrol or A Coruña. It was a medieval pilgrimage route for people from Britian or elsewhere in northern Europe, who arrived by ship to the ports of A Coruña and Ferrol.

I have no dates decided as of yet. On walking to Santiago, I will continue to the coast and visit Muxia. Today, the Camino Ingles starts in Ferrol or A Coruna and is just over 120km from Santiago. You will only be entitled to a compostela should you start in Ferrol as the distance from A Coruña does not exceed 100km. It is a much quieter route to Santiago with 2,174 pilgrims collecting compostelas in August 2016 compared to 14,936 pilgrims who walked from Sarria.

Walking alone for most of the day did seem to catch me off guard on the Camino Finisterre, so I guess I am prepared for much of the same on the Camino Ingles.

ruta-camino-ingles

However, the Camino Ingles is a tough trail, it is no walk in the park. It takes pilgrims on many climbs and descents. Betanzos to Hospital de Bruma, for example, has a steep climb of 500m in just over 5km. The Camino Ingles, according to many guidebooks, can be walked in 5 days, but I may walk it in 6 days, breaking the above stage into 2. But just like my recent walk to Finisterre, any plans made can be thrown out the window.

day3

So what are the alternatives to a busy Camino Frances..

Hi folks, just a quick post about something that has been on my mind of late. The Camino has been very busy so far this year (Jubilee Year) and I’ve been asking myself the above question. When people mention the Camino, they are talking about the Way that takes you from the foothills of the Pyrenees in St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela. The French Way or the Camino Frances is the route with the most deep-rooted historical tradition and it is the most popular one. A certain film has made it popular also. Over 60% of pilgrims choose the Camino Frances because it is the route where you can get the most of the “pilgrim experience”. There are many pilgrims that you will meet on your journey and there are many facilities that cater to pilgrims. It is also the best waymarked route of all. These 790kms will leave an imprint on you, whether you choose to walk over a number of years, or in one year.

However, May 2016 has seen over 32,000 compestelas (or certificates) being issued in Santiago de Compostela, with the figures set to rise over the summer. The numbers of pilgrims have been increasing gradually year on year and many see the next Holy Year as a year of new records. Will there be sufficient albergues or accommodation for these peregrinos? Will supply match demand? I won’t answer those questions now but it is food for thought. Some people may choose to have their Camino booked through a travel agency to remove the stress, while others will sleep under the stars with a mat and a sleeping bag and leave it all up to chance. I prefer to take that option myself!

But…..let’s just park the Camino Frances to one side…, just for the sake of this post. Let’s leave it and discuss the other options available to pilgrims who want to get a “pilgrim experience” and yet have some solidarity. Because, you can!

Here are just a few options available to you:

  • The Camino Finistere is the extension of the Camino Frances from Santiago de Compostela to Cape Finistere. It was mistakenly believed to be the western-most point of the Iberian Peninsula. It is about 110km in length and can take 4-5 days.
  • The Camino Norte runs from Irun in north-eastern Spain. It runs along the Cantabrian coast to Ribadeo, at the entrance of Galicia, where the route turns southwest towards Compostela. It is just over 800km in length and can be tougher than the Camino Frances in parts. After the Frances, it is one of the more popular routes, passing through major cities like Bilbao, Santander and Gijon.
  • The Camino Primitivo starts in Oviedo and makes it’s way to Santiago. It goes through Asturias and Galicia. This road has in recent years gained a lot of fans, thanks to its landscapes. This is one for the future for me. Many people take the Camino del Salvador from Leon to Oviedo and then the Primitivo to Santiago. It is a great way to have time to yourself. The Camino Primitivo is 314km in length and can take about 2 weeks to walk.
  • As mentioned above, The Camino del Salvador links Leon with Oviedo, across the Cantabrian Mountains. It is about 130km in length.

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  • Next, we have the Camino Ingles which originates in Ferrol in the North of Spain. The route would be taken by many medieval Irish or English pilgrims, who would sail to the northern Spanish coast and walk to Santiago. Today it’s popularity is rising as you can reach Santiago within a week; 119km.
  • The Camino de Baztan is a very solitary route but is very well waymarked. It started in the French town of Bayonne and ends in Pamplona, where you can continue on the Camino Frances if you wish. The route can be used instead of walking over the Pyrenees from St Jean Pied de Port. It is approximately 100km in length and while it is solitary, it’s popularity is rising.
  • The Camino de Invierno or the Winter Way joins Ponferrada with Santiago through the valley of the river Sil. This way runs underneath the Camino Frances and avoids the climb to O Cebreiro. It is still a very lonely road, but well signposted and maintained.
  • The Via de la Plata (or Silver Way) is the most important route in Southern Spain. It is also the longest. It starts in Seville and is characterized by the enormous distances between towns and extreme temperatures in summer. Not one for light walkers!
  • The Camino Portuguese is another important and popular route. It starts in Lisbon to the south. Today its two main starting points are Porto and Tui, the last town in the Spanish-Portuguese border. It is the second busiest road after the Camino Frances. It should be noted that there are other Portuguese roads, such as the interior route and the the coastal route.

I’ve only listed a few of the many routes in Spain, but there are many more pilgrim routes further afield and where there are pilgrim routes, there will be pilgrims. A busy Camino Frances during the Summer months may be something we have to live with, as there is no sign of the numbers decreasing. But looking at the other options are interesting for possible Caminos over the next few years.