September will see me on the Camino Frances for the seventh time. Eek! If you told me back in 2011 I would return to Spain for the following six years, I would look at you with wild disbelief! But yet, here I am and my mind is set on a return; this time walking from the Gaudi town of Astorga to Compostela.
With every year and every upcoming Camino, I spend a little time thinking of how I’d like to approach this trip and how I can make it a little different or unique to the last. Sometimes, these ideas just fade away once I find the first yellow arrow (and cerveza!), but other times I end up sticking to what I had planned. Each of my times on the Camino have been different in some shape or form, which is a good thing I suppose.
So, for September, here’s how I hope my time will go:
- Sarria – There are many books written about the number of pilgrims on the trail on reaching Sarria, which is the last point where you can start your Camino in order to obtain a Compostela. Due to the increased numbers, there is always a strain on accommodation. So, I have decided to pre-book albergues in a number of towns before Santiago. I have never been one to pre-book and if I was walking from, let’s say, St. Jean to Burgos, I wouldn’t do so. But I feel that if I am to enjoy my walk this time around, I may as well reserve. I now will have a little bit of weight taken off my shoulders and I can take my time. Booking.com is a great website to make these reservations. I haven’t made any bookings from Astorga to Sarria as there is no need!
- Less is more – In September 2016, while walking to Finistere, my pack weighed 7 kg. I reckon I can bring that down a little more. I have bought an Osprey 30 litre pack and am pretty happy with it. The less I bring, the less I have to worry about and my back won’t have any niggling pains! Now if only I could leave the smartphone at home!
- Brierley’s end stages – So many people religiously follow Brierley’s guidebook, thereby missing the great towns in between. Towns like Cacabelos, El Acebo, Las Herrerias, and Ribadiso are all passed daily by legions of pilgrims. I aim to stay in these towns. It will be a welcome change as I haven’t stayed there before, save for stopping for a cerveza. Oh, and I’m leaving a guidebook at home 🙂 The arrows can guide me.
- Pacerpoles – For the last few years I’ve walked with either a wooden stick bought before I start or with a single carbon pole. I’ve always found them a hindrance however as I like to have my hands free to take photos and reach for water etc. However, this year I will be making the climb to O Cebreiro so I’ve decided to bring along a set of pacerpoles that I bought before Christmas. It will make things a little easier and I won’t have those niggling back pains that I usually have (I hope!). I have tried them a few times here in Ireland and they are pretty easy to get used to. I reckon they will be a help. Plus, I have been recommended them by a number of camigos! That said, I am usually the one who complains about the click-clacking of poles!
- Take my time – In years gone by, I have been told by a number of people that I am a “speedster”..whatever that is!? My typical day starts at 6 am and I like to check into an albergue before 1pm. That leaves me with the majority of the day to wash, rest, have some food in the evening and get to meet my fellow pilgrims! Sometimes, I don’t realise how fast I walk. In September, I hope to stretch the day out, slow down, start a little later, stop a little more, have numerous coffee breaks. Who knows, this may be the last time I walk the Camino Frances for some time! I’m in no hurry.
- Visit local churches – It’s very easy to forget that the Camino is a pilgrimage. I’m not particularly religious but I’ve always wanted to set aside 20 minutes a day while on the Camino to drop into a church and say a quick prayer. However, after walking 25kms each day, it is difficult to find the time.
- Use my knowledge of Spanish a little more – Creo que tengo buen español. Me gustaría hablar más a la gente local, sólo un poco! I guess this comes with confidence. Ordering a cafe con leche is second nature; speaking to someone from Spain is a challenge, but I’m up for it.
So, there is my wish-list for my September Camino. I may stick with the above, but then again, I may choose to do what I have done all along….let the Camino tell me what to do!