Looking forward..

Another weekend.

Another few days to catch up on sleep, but it’s not so bad. I’m just home from a very successful Spanish morning organised by Camino Society Ireland. I’ve left my knowledge of the Spanish language fall by the wayside a number of years ago. I have become fearful of making mistakes and to be honest, making mistakes is all part of learning any language. However, since the opportunity arose to dust down my skills and possibly improve them, I grabbed it with both hands.

I need to be taught in Spanish and that is exactly what our “profesora excelente” is doing. Hopefully, I will have less of the fear and more of the patience, to be speaking it before the lessons end. Who knows?

Next May is Camino #8, but who’s counting? Next I travel to Vigo and start walking a little further down in A Guarda on the Portuguese Coastal route. I should be in Santiago within 8-9 days as we are taking our time. I say “we”, as I am walking with my brother. I wonder if I will have the patience, and whether I will walk into Santiago with him. Keep an eye on this blog to find out, folks. He bought his backpack, a Lowe Alpine 35litre, and a few other essentials in the last few weeks, and our walks start soon. We are both constantly looking forward to the start date on May 6th and me being the “Camino expert” is being asked many a question. The real test will be taking the packs out for 2 consecutive days.

I walk into Santiago for the first time since June 2011. I’m not sure how to feel about this, and am hoping we get time to walk to the Coast. The Camino has been calling me big time since I returned from Astorga in September. I am getting more involved with the local Camino Society..and I enjoy it. For any other reason, I would be filled with trepidation.

I must return to my weekend now. More news later.

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.

 

 

Preparation..a slight change..and the Camino Portuguese

So one of the downsides of postponing any trip is it gives you leeway to change or rejig what you are packing. Well, I’ve just gone and bought a rain jacket to add to my pack. So, out with the poncho and in with the rain jacket. The debate over rain gear on the camino (I’m not going to even start linking to these articles!) has been going on for years and for the last few years, I have swore by my poncho. This time I’m going to ditch it. I reckon the Marmot Precip is a good buy. It is breathable, lightweight and is pretty waterproof. All I need to do is give it a test run. I promise to leave my rest of my list as it is!! (although I said that before I bought the Precip!). I am the worst when it comes to gadgets however, so don’t be surprised if I bring more than my iPhone and charger.

I’ve started to get in some kms over the last week. I try and get in 10km during the weekend and maybe 5km each working day. Not running. I don’t think I’ll ever run..not sure why? I hope to do a long distance walk (maybe 2) before I go..there are a few trails along the west coast I want to take in.

I have also been quietly reading up on the Camino Portuguese for the future. One of my blog followers has just completed her Camino from Lisbon to Santiago and she gave some great tips that I will take note of. I don’t think I will start in Lisbon though, but Porto. You can read the blog here from day one. Another follower, Natasha Murtagh has started from Porto with her father and are both making their way to Santiago. You can read their story on natashamurtagh.wordpress.com. Natasha and her father have previously walked the French Way a number of years ago (I think it was 2011?) and wrote a very successful book called “Buen Camino!”.