Three days before I go….however…

Well, it’s not long before this Irishman finds himself back on the Camino trail. I will pick up where I left off last September and will walk for two weeks. The fortnight is going to be relaxed, it’s going to be enjoyable and fingers crossed I meet some good friends like I have done since 2011.

However, that being said, I travel on this Camino with a weight on my shoulder. One that I didn’t have before. From Day One, I always believed the Camino is all about letting your feet do the walking, to switch your mind off and keep things as simple as possible. I don’t want to know where I will be staying on my first night. In fact, I don’t care. When my feet tell me, then I am done. But it seems to me, that more and more people want to be in control of their Caminos. So much so, that albergues, hostels and pensiones are booked up days and weeks in advance. I wanted to see how busy the Camino is at present by sending an email to two private albergues in Ages, which is a small town 25km after Belorado. I wrote an email asking if they could book a bunk in their albergues for me for the night of the 6th. I got more or less the same response from both albergues:

“Hola David, Para el día 6 de mayo estamos completos. Buen Camino”

This translates as “Hello David. For the 6th of May, we are full. Buen Camino”.

Wow!

Are albergues full that far in advance? Are people booking bunks 4 or 5 days in advance? I’ve never come across this before and if this is true, it means times are changing on the Camino.

So, as I prepare for my 2 weeks away, I am trying not to let this nugget get me down. There are municipal albergues that you cannot reserve in advance and I shall be aiming for those. Luckily, I like walking in the morning as the sun rises so I don’t think I will have any great problems with “the great bed race” but I think of those who like to take it easy and “smell the flowers”.

I hope to post a few lines after each day from the 5th of May onwards by the way.

Memories of 2012’s blisters…

Picture the scene.

I had walked 25km on a super-hot day from O Cebreiro to Triacastela. It was June 2012 and it was my penultimate day before I made my way home. Myself and my German friend, Sabine, arrived in Triacastela pretty late and most of the albergues were full up. We were walking in busy season. I managed to find a great albergue that I continue to recommend to future pilgrims, Albergue A Horta de Abel (information here). That day’s walking was mostly downhill…the type of walking I am least fond of. Ask me to walk uphill for 35km and I can do that all day, but downhill and I will have problems. And I did.

After I slowly took off my shoes, I was greeted by:

“Oh…that looks nasty”

“Here, I have what you need for that!”

“Why don’t you take the day off tomorrow and not walk?”

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Two almighty blisters had formed on the base of my right foot and I was reaching for the ibuprofen before I even had a chance to breathe. It was painful. I don’t have many good memories from that day. I didn’t write about it and I didn’t take many photos that day. But I did enjoy my stay in the albergue and the pilgrims I met there. They were instantly helpful and kind.

It is also a good thing that I did get some blisters that year. The socks I brought along were far from adequate. They were cotton and were actually not yet dry from washing the evening before. A recipe for disaster. I would never consider bringing those kind of socks now. However, if I did not get those same blisters, would I have changed my gear? I have no way of knowing. I use technical socks now and it’s been a while since I got a blister. If you are first-timer, make sure the sock is double layered. Brands like 1000 Mile are recommended, If blisters break out, they have the potential to curtail or even cancel someone’s trip.

I am a little over 100 days away from returning to Spain and while I won’t be walking this same stage, I will have that day etched into my mind.

Albergues I have stayed in…

Throughout my past Caminos, I’ve stayed in mostly great Albergues, some average, but I’ve had no complaints. Here is a map I have created of all of the places I have stayed. During my first Camino in 2011, I stayed in pensions just in case you are wondering about the lack of albergues 🙂 This map is definitely a work in progress as I am due to go back in May and hopefully stay in albergues not visited before.

An Authentic Camino…

A week to go before I head off on my return to the Camino but before then,  I just want to write a bit about something that’s on my mind of late.  This post might ruffle a few feathers but it’s a free world, etc etc.
I just want to back track to 2011 when I walked my first stretch from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela. This was walked for a brilliant charity which means alot to me, Aware. After doing a lot of fundraising, I was eager to travel there and get on the trail.  We had a guide (who has become a friend since then), we had hotels booked for us, and we had bags carried for us. I thought this was the norm and had thought Sarria was the starting point. (The Way was not released at this time).  Hey, the brochures we received made us believe it was the real deal. You can imagine my surprise as I walked out with cotton-everything with a little pack and saw guys unshaven with massive backpacks and boots. It got me thinking, was that how you really walk the Camino? Was I doing it wrong?
I found out that at that stage there are two types of peregrinos.  One being the folks who carry their bags from point A to point B, stay in albergues and generally attempt to get by on the littlest amount of money. And another being the folks who have everything arranged for them. I found a great disconnect as well. I tried to talk to some people as I was walking and I don’t think they were too thrilled to see me carrying a little day pack.
Fast forward one year. I returned to walk from Leon to Sarria and stayed in albergues from the off.  I had a much better time,  I met some fab people and immediately made plans to return again. People were more inviting generally speaking. Was this a more authentic way? I’m not sure to be honest but I had a better experience this time.
You might see in the picture below what some people think of people who walk from Sarria. These opinions are not isolated, but hey! people have time constraints and would not be fit enough to walk the who stretch.  I found this humorous though.
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