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Blind companion on Camino Portugues?

ChrisGall

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
October 2022
I walked Pamplona to Burgos October 2022, alone. It was just lovely. (I only walk about 8-15 km per day because I have knee arthritis and another bothersome pain.)

I have a close friend who is blind, and who might just love to go with me on another Camino walk, I'm thinking the Interior Portugues. (Though I don't know much about either route at this point.) She is very fit and nimble and adventurous (skis black diamond hills with a guide, great swing and ballroom dancer), but also blind. Her guide dog is retired and getting quite old. When he dies she'll be free to travel without him. We get along well and have known each other since our boys, now 31, were babies.

I know there will be logistical issues getting to the start of the Camino route (air travel from California and other transportation). What other difficulties would we face walking that route, assuming we stay mostly at hotels? Are there difficult sections with pebble-covered steep hills or other areas of tricky footing challenges? She's 68 and I'm a few years older, both in good health, but slower than many on the caminos.

Your tips and advice are most welcome!
 
John Brierley 2023 Camino Guide
Get your today and start planning.

woody66

This is my boy !
Time of past OR future Camino
Portuguese Coastal 2021 Frances 2023
Hi Chris!
For what its worth I walked the Portuguese Coastal in 2021 and am severely sight impaired my boy is my G/dog.
I hope the below will help you make your choice!

The flights transport to Camino should be no different to able bodied travellers; in fact it's pretty much superior as special assistance takes all the stress away (unless they forget you like they did me in Santiago 🤣 !!!
For a VI the actual coastal part from Porto presented less issues and will be significantly easier with a sighted guide she has your eyes and someone she trusts.

I would add this for your benefit ;you will be more knackered than she because you will be on 110% for the whole trip.
I know you will have helped her many many times but two weeks of solid watchfulness will exhaust you.
( my daughter has known nothing but me being blind but when she took me to Moto Gp in Barcelona for a week she was wiped out and asleep by 8pm she's 25 and a gym bunny)
(Beware in Porto itself the cobblestone paths in the old town are narrow and a nightmare and steep)
I will add Porto is wonderful and had the best experiences there wonderful cosmopolitan vibe and lots you can doi am going back there for a holiday defo.

I chose the Coastal because it is was basically flat along side walks, promenades and boardwalks before turning inland where it was still doable with help.
The boardwalks are ideal for a VI more or less fool proof walking surface where you can maintain the centre pretty consistently and use a long cane with a roller tip where hiking poles would get stuck.
Where there were wooden steps without a hand rail going up was fine however coming down meant sitting on my bum! but no biggie.

There was plenty of Hotel and Hostel accommodation along the way i stayed in private rooms for the whole Camino all the owners were amazingly helpful far beyond what i anticipated made my journey less stressful
If she skis black runs then she's defo got the right mindset to walk the Camino.
You have to know and accept before starting that the chances are you are going to get hurt; but as long as nothing breaks jobs a goodun; swearing loudly i find works wonders i travelled to Portugal solo.

My biggest fear of all was not finishing it; I did and that was a joy and she will appreciate that feeling for sure!

.Last comment is she total or does she have any residual vision? (this might give me a better idea of any further advice)
With you as sighted guide you should be able to overcome anything on the way nothing was that bad that it couldn't be conquered slowly and carefully! (you can get a taxi if you cant)
If you want to ask me anything you can either do it on this thread or PM me.

I start the Frances in May for my 69th birthday so the Camino has got a second chance to make me love it again!!!!
I hope you will both have a wonderful experience if you decide to walk together.
I did.
Buen Camino
Woody
 
Last edited:

Flog

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022
From how you describe her, your friend sounds more than up to the challenge!

When you say interior, do you mean the actual interior or the central route? I can't speak for the interior, but if it's the central, the only really difficult day (I found!) was the climb out of Ponte de Lima. On a wet day it's very slippery. Other than that, apart from lots of cobbles along the way, it's a fairly easy route.

Good luck with planning!
 
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J Willhaus

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2016, 2022
My husband was quickly passed by a sight impaired pilgrim with two sighted pilgrims on the CF in 2021 and they left him in the dust...hope it works out for you and your friend!
 

woody66

This is my boy !
Time of past OR future Camino
Portuguese Coastal 2021 Frances 2023
Hi All!
In my post above i said there was nothing really bad on the Coastal but can someone post exactly where this little bridge is as I really had issue with the stretch through the woods along the river before the bridge big drops in the path like 60cm had to go on my bum again; i think it would be worth noting for Chris!
Thanks Woody
 

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  • SCARY BRIDGE.mp4
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jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Time of past OR future Camino
Some in the past; more in the future!
Hi All!
In my post above i said there was nothing really bad on the Coastal but can someone post exactly where this little bridge is as I really had issue with the stretch through the woods along the river before the bridge big drops in the path like 60cm had to go on my bum again; i think it would be worth noting for Chris!
Thanks Woody
It’s the Ponte do Sebastião between Esposende and Viana do Castelo. It’s nearly 12km past Esposende on the ‘inland’ coastal route, not the Senda Litoral.
 

Flog

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022
It’s the Ponte do Sebastião between Esposende and Viana do Castelo. It’s nearly 12km past Esposende on the ‘inland’ coastal route, not the Senda Litoral.
Ah, I remember that bridge from 2017.. and sitting in the centre of it dangling my legs for a very long time, but I was trying to remember where exactly.. and I thought it was further north, thank you!
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
Having walked both the coastal and the central, I'd think the coastal would be the best for someone with sight difficulties. Especially the parts where you can take the literal, with a lot of boardwalk. The central has more stone sets and cobble stones and ups and downs. The stone sets in particular get slippery when wet, especially when steep. The actual surface of the central I think has more tripping hazards and would be harder for a blind person. Doable certainly, but the coastal a tad easier.

@ChrisGall I don't think you really mean the interior - it is very seldom walked, and does not have the infrastructure of the others.
 
John Brierley 2023 Camino Guide
Get your today and start planning.

woody66

This is my boy !
Time of past OR future Camino
Portuguese Coastal 2021 Frances 2023
Having walked both the coastal and the central, I'd think the coastal would be the best for someone with sight difficulties. Especially the parts where you can take the literal, with a lot of boardwalk. The central has more stone sets and cobble stones and ups and downs. The stone sets in particular get slippery when wet, especially when steep. The actual surface of the central I think has more tripping hazards and would be harder for a blind person. Doable certainly, but the coastal a tad easier.
That was the whole point of doing the Coastal it seemed infinitely more doable because of the walking surfaces.

The issue is with varying surfaces that is exactly what makes it hard; you cant use a long roller tip cane successfully on the beach it buries itself in the sand ,cobbles, crazy paving(loads of that in Greece nightmare holiday) woodland paths and to some extent gravel tracks all you do is get frustrated as the cane won't sweep in a constant arc and drives you nuts as it sticks!
Depending on how your eye condition effects your vison will dictate your options.
I found that when off road so to speak i used hiking poles ;4 points of contact where long cane was useless!
(Plus a 135 cm stick is still a stick and two sticks were better than one ;saved me a hundred times a day. Still hit the deck every 60km on average)
Woody
 

ChrisGall

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
October 2022
Hi Chris!
For what its worth I walked the Portuguese Coastal in 2021 and am severely sight impaired my boy is my G/dog.
I hope the below will help you make your choice!

The flights transport to Camino should be no different to able bodied travellers; in fact it's pretty much superior as special assistance takes all the stress away (unless they forget you like they did me in Santiago 🤣 !!!
For a VI the actual coastal part from Porto presented less issues and will be significantly easier with a sighted guide she has your eyes and someone she trusts.

I would add this for your benefit ;you will be more knackered than she because you will be on 110% for the whole trip.
I know you will have helped her many many times but two weeks of solid watchfulness will exhaust you.
( my daughter has known nothing but me being blind but when she took me to Moto Gp in Barcelona for a week she was wiped out and asleep by 8pm she's 25 and a gym bunny)
(Beware in Porto itself the cobblestone paths in the old town are narrow and a nightmare and steep)
I will add Porto is wonderful and had the best experiences there wonderful cosmopolitan vibe and lots you can doi am going back there for a holiday defo.

I chose the Coastal because it is was basically flat along side walks, promenades and boardwalks before turning inland where it was still doable with help.
The boardwalks are ideal for a VI more or less fool proof walking surface where you can maintain the centre pretty consistently and use a long cane with a roller tip where hiking poles would get stuck.
Where there were wooden steps without a hand rail going up was fine however coming down meant sitting on my bum! but no biggie.

There was plenty of Hotel and Hostel accommodation along the way i stayed in private rooms for the whole Camino all the owners were amazingly helpful far beyond what i anticipated made my journey less stressful
If she skis black runs then she's defo got the right mindset to walk the Camino.
You have to know and accept before starting that the chances are you are going to get hurt; but as long as nothing breaks jobs a goodun; swearing loudly i find works wonders i travelled to Portugal solo.

My biggest fear of all was not finishing it; I did and that was a joy and she will appreciate that feeling for sure!

.Last comment is she total or does she have any residual vision? (this might give me a better idea of any further advice)
With you as sighted guide you should be able to overcome anything on the way nothing was that bad that it couldn't be conquered slowly and carefully! (you can get a taxi if you cant)
If you want to ask me anything you can either do it on this thread or PM me.

I start the Frances in May for my 69th birthday so the Camino has got a second chance to make me love it again!!!!
I hope you will both have a wonderful experience if you decide to walk together.
I did.
Buen Camino
Woody
Many thanks for your well informed response! I know it would be 110% exhausting for me because I've done smaller excursions with her. She wants to know everything that's happening, to hear the entire menu in a restaurant, and be part of every decision. Like all of us. (She's completely blind, and seriously hearing impaired. We both wear hearing aids. )

It will be a while before decide whether I want to go, and whether I will invite her to come with me. It's good to know someone I can call on for further advice! Thank you
 

trecile

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
PAST - Francés, Norte, Salvador, Portuguese
I know there will be logistical issues getting to the start of the Camino route (air travel from California and other transportation).
The Portuguese Camino from Porto - either the Central route or Coastal route is one of the easiest to get to since you can fly right to Porto, and not bother with spending an extra day on a bus or train getting to your starting point.
 
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Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo

Nice article.
 

woody66

This is my boy !
Time of past OR future Camino
Portuguese Coastal 2021 Frances 2023
HI EGW!
Great story about these guys and their adventure thanks for posting it hope others get an insight about VI's!

It's fear of the unknown and being able to cope alone that stops most; even if the call to the Camino is a strong one!
I find that fear exciting now that I've done it; is that weird?
This next bit is just to inform people if their interested.

For a VI tech is a life changer I am writing this with my screen reader and an app called Dragon!
I now walk with phone and tab with pedestrian voice navigation (even tells you where to avoid steps) Talkback (reads aloud everything on phone/tab), Google Lookout (reads aloud street names/road signs, menu's, documents, food labels, text on screens) Be my eyes (free app over two million volunteers connect and your phone camera is their eyes and they can navigate you out of a situation or help you find things/describe things like how the shower/cooker works)

30 years ago all i was given was a small symbol cane and that was it.
A talking watch was like having a magical power ha!ha! 🤣

The truth is your never far from those that care enough to help; and there are loads of them!
I just wish more would try.
Woody
 

ChrisGall

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
October 2022
EGW, Thank you very much for posting this lovely piece. Hard to imagine a group of a dozen or twenty vision-impaired pilgrims and their dogs walking a Camino -- although the walking might have been the easy part. Finding accommodations, navigating difficult urban situations - kudos to these formidable adventurers.
 
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woody66

This is my boy !
Time of past OR future Camino
Portuguese Coastal 2021 Frances 2023
Many thanks for your well informed response! I know it would be 110% exhausting for me because I've done smaller excursions with her. She wants to know everything that's happening, to hear the entire menu in a restaurant, and be part of every decision. Like all of us. (She's completely blind, and seriously hearing impaired. We both wear hearing aids. )
Chris checkout the post above; I wear hearing aids too and Lookout is free to use (app store/Play store) takes a bit of practice but will read the whole menu if Talkback is installed on her phone!
App tells you when you point the phone at menu/document for example down left, to close etc and then says take a picture. Tap the phone screen and talkback will read it aloud (i use bluetooth so not so conspicuous in public as quite loud from phone speaker)

If I use the text feature and point it at my power smart meter it will read aloud how much gas/electric used and the price so far and whether its daily or weekly plus lots more.
It also has an explore function that when pointed talkback will tell you what it sees like doorway, window, sofa, cushion t v, chair, person, dog etc not perfect but for free no brainer!
Hope this is helpful for your friend?
All the best
Woody
 

Yoyo

Ambulo, ergo sum. 🥾
Time of past OR future Camino
2023, hopefully.
@ChrisGall , I walked the Camino Portugués Central this September.
When you asked about difficult terrain and tricky footing challenges, the section out of Ponte de Lima immediately came to mind. I walked that section on a rainy day and the path had in some places turned into a river. Then the steep climb through the woods. Zoom in on the second picture to the upper part of the path, next to the tree with the yellow arrow. I imagine this would be very hard to walk for a sight impaired person.

Ponte de Lima - Rubiães-1.jpeg Ponte de Lima - Rubiães-2.jpeg

I don't know how much of a challenge irregular boulders would be for your friend, but you should know that there are several sections along old Roman roads like these:

Rubiães - Valença-1.jpg Arcade - Pontevedra.jpeg

I haven't walked the Coastal Route, but from what I've read it seems to be the more convenient choice, given the circumstances.
Whatever you decide, happy planning and buen camino!
 

Reidun Fyno

I'm a beliver :-)
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (2014)
Camino de Assisi (2015)
Camino Frances from Villafranca del Bierzo (2017)
I walked Pamplona to Burgos October 2022, alone. It was just lovely. (I only walk about 8-15 km per day because I have knee arthritis and another bothersome pain.)

I have a close friend who is blind, and who might just love to go with me on another Camino walk, I'm thinking the Interior Portugues. (Though I don't know much about either route at this point.) She is very fit and nimble and adventurous (skis black diamond hills with a guide, great swing and ballroom dancer), but also blind. Her guide dog is retired and getting quite old. When he dies she'll be free to travel without him. We get along well and have known each other since our boys, now 31, were babies.

I know there will be logistical issues getting to the start of the Camino route (air travel from California and other transportation). What other difficulties would we face walking that route, assuming we stay mostly at hotels? Are there difficult sections with pebble-covered steep hills or other areas of tricky footing challenges? She's 68 and I'm a few years older, both in good health, but slower than many on the caminos.

Your tips and advice are most welcome!
Hi! I walked my forst camino in 2016. I met a blind man there and his helper. It was very special and awesome so see them walk. Louis, who was blind, walked very close behind the helper. They must have rehersed this for a long time. They did not touch each other, but almost. In that way Louis all the time could feel the speed and direction. They walked all the way from JPP to Santiago. I think they were i the 60' like my self.
Buen Camino
 

WGroleau

Wandering Weirdo
Time of past OR future Camino
2015 & 2016 (partial)
When I was hospitalero, we had at least one bind guest. I don't know what she did on the Camino, but she wouldn't accept any assistance getting around the albergue and the plaza in front of it.

Just west of Logroño, there is a "Camino for everyone" signboard with Braille in the corner. I can't read Spanish Braille (maybe I can; I didn't try) but the text discussed disabilities not preventing the Camino. The sign was low enough to be read from a wheelchair, but it was less than a hundred meters before a hill on which a wheelchair bound person would need a lot of help getting over. And I discovered a hairpin turn on a steep downhill where I would have had to quickly learn to fly if my brakes didn't work!

(I don't say this to discourage folks—I've checked in several pilgrims in wheelchairs. In 2018, 79 such got compostelas.)

 
Last edited:
John Brierley 2023 Camino Guide
Get your today and start planning.

woody66

This is my boy !
Time of past OR future Camino
Portuguese Coastal 2021 Frances 2023
Visually impaired people can do amazing things but this guy took it to another level!
His family jewels must be bigger than the bulls 🤣 ( he is ex special forces)
The link to the Camino is in the video.
Woody
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
1989
My experience has mostly been on the Central, so I can't speak to the Coastal or the Senda Litoral (except for the first day or so out of Porto). On the Central, it seems to me that the section that is likely to cause the biggest problems is likely to be the section between Ponte de Lima and Rubaies.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Time of past OR future Camino
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
The Portuguese Camino from Porto - either the Central route or Coastal route is one of the easiest to get to since you can fly right to Porto, and not bother with spending an extra day on a bus or train getting to your starting point.
There's lodging right next to the airport, located right on top of the Camino, albeit not a specific pilgrims' Albergue, and from that point it's easy to take either the Coastal or Central option, as it is also right next to one of the cross routes.

The two blind pilgrims I came across this year were walking the Spanish/Galician section of the Português, one was certainly on the Central, the other I can't remember, but I think it was on the Galician Coastal. They seemed to be doing well enough, thanks to their lovely guides, and I can remember the young woman carefully examining each shell in a pile of them individually with her fingers, taking care to select the exact right one that she liked best.
 

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