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Camino Rage on the last 100km

geraldkelly

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Francés, Vía de la Plata / Camino Sanabrés, Camino del Baztán, Camino Aragonés, Chemin du Puy
I know there’s constant discussion on the last 100km of the Camino Francés from Sarria to Santiago so I thought I’d add my take on this.

Sarria to Santiago

Sarria is the main starting point for people who are walking the last 100km. If you're walking in summer you will notice a sudden increase in the number of fresh-looking people energetically (and often noisily) passing you by. That makes this an appropriate moment to mention: Sarria to Santiago

A few years ago I spent a night in the town of La Bañeza on a little-frequented part of the Vía de la Plata. It was mid-winter and already the sky was darkening when I arrived. An old lady who lived across the street from the municipal albergue gave me the key, told me where the shops and restaurants were, and where to leave the key in the morning. Then she left me to my own devices.

I was alone in the albergue. This wasn't a surprise. I hadn't see another pilgrim in about two weeks so I was used to the solitude by now and I had my routine: shower, wash clothes, shop for the next day, then there would hopefully only remain a couple of hours to kill until the restaurants opened at 9 (this being 'off-Camino' restaurants worked on 'Spanish time'). Then, immediately after dinner, bed.

The municipal albergue looked like it dated from the 1950s and had once been a girls primary school. Now, besides housing the occasional errant pilgrim, it also served as the local community's shrine to the Camino, complete with every type of Camino artefact imaginable, banners, books, posters, maps. There was even a surprisingly big piece of wood purported to come from the house where Santo Domingo de la Calzada was born.

This had all been assembled by the local Friends of the Camino.

But what struck me most were the photos. Loads and loads of photos carefully arranged into display cases, dated and labelled, all of them of groups of people, smiling, mostly middle-aged in summer clothes, with sticks and backpacks, the instantly recognisable paraphernalia of pilgrimhood. Sometimes it was a daytrip to a local place of pilgrimage but often too the background and labels identified places along the Camino Francés in Galicia which were familiar to me.

The people were familiar too, with their tiny backpacks and their air of a Sunday outing, these were the people I'd seen many times between Sarria and Santiago, waiting at bus-stops, eating sandwiches out of the back of a van, sitting outside a café greeting their companions' arrivals with a mixture of cheering and jeering.

These were the people who we long-distance pilgrims sometimes disparagingly refer to as 'tourists' or 'turigrinos', because they sully the silence and solitude of 'our' Camino with their good-humoured, excited babbling.

But these are also the people who provided the wonderful albergue in La Bañeza where I got to sleep for free, and many, many other albergues all over Spain which we all get to use. They're the people who make the Camino what it is, welcoming and accessible to people like us.

So, be nice to them.

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Robo

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
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CF SJPDP-SdC
(May 2018)
VdlP (2022?)
Great post @geraldkelly .

I often wonder where this idea comes from that one has to walk many hundreds of kms carrying all our gear with us.

Many of us choose to do so of course, for a variety of reasons.
But I would suggest we are in the minority.
And it is certainly not a requirement to receive the Compostela.

Is it some kind of modern 'construct'?

Or is the 100 kms minimum requirement a modern thing?
Is that what irks people? :rolleyes:
(Of course in the past, Pilgrims would walk from home)

Hopefully you haven't opened an old 'can of worms' :oops:
 

Bradypus

Migratory hermit
Past OR future Camino
Too many and too often!
Or is the 100 kms minimum requirement a modern thing?
Is that what irks people? :rolleyes:
(Of course in the past, Pilgrims would walk from home)

It irks me. But not because it is "a modern thing". More for the reason that it sets up the environment for exactly the sort of "them and us" thinking that @geraldkelly talks about. Suddenly the definition of "pilgrim" can be presented in simple physical terms: walk less than 100km and you don't count as one. By extension it is then easy to see how those who started their journey much further afield can assume some sort of smug personal superiority.

Recent changes to the Compostela rules go even further and say that the cathedral will only recognise you as a pilgrim and grant you a Compostela if you walk one of a handful of approved routes. So for those who live in Galicia but not on a Camino route walking from home is not itself enough to qualify. They have first to travel to a point on an official route at least 100km from Santiago and begin walking from there in order to receive a Compostela.

In practice the pilgrim office no longer have any interest in the spiritual intent behind a person's journey - despite what the Compostela explicitly states - and focus almost entirely on compliance with their ever-narrower rules. I think the 100km rule has perverted the concept of pilgrimage which is properly a question of journeying with spiritual intent. How you choose to make that journey and how far you have to travel are far less important.
 

J Willhaus

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
2016, 2022
I think it was just a bit of a shock after Sarria on that first Camino. Yes, lots of similarities to the start in SJPDP where everyone had new, clean shoes, lots of excitement, and packs either too full or shipped ahead. No one knows how to be quiet in the morning yet. Blisters abound.

Somehow we forget about those first exciting, exhausting days by the time we get to Sarria. We'd been on the road 40+ days or so by then...no taxi or bus transport of any kind. Shipped our bags only one day and I was scared to death mine had been lost when I arrived at my destination before it did so never did it again!

Starting in Sarria It just had a different feel to hike with large groups of school children who are singing or chanting loudly and led by adults using megaphones. Its like we went from a walk through a park to getting caught up in a parade of some sorts. It's just a shock.

We finished that Camino that year after 45 days walking in Melide when Phil became violently ill with food poisoning. I was ready to be done by then anyway.
I don't begrudge others the opportunity to walk and earn a compostella, but I'll probably avoid the last 100 km in the future unless it is winter. It is not a good memory for me after Sarria.
 
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Bradypus

Migratory hermit
Past OR future Camino
Too many and too often!
I don't begrudge others the opportunity to walk and earn a compostella, but I'll probably avoid the last 100 km in the future unless it is winter. It is not a good memory for me after Sarria.
I feel the same. I walked my third and probably last Camino Frances in summer 2016 and felt overwhelmed by the numbers and the atmosphere. But I do not blame the other walkers personally and individually for that. A bit like being stuck in a traffic jam on a motorway: the driver of the red Ford in front is no more to blame for the overall situation than I am myself for choosing to be on that road in the first place!
 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
A "Tourigrino" trip once Covid has passed, so 2023
Great post @geraldkelly .

I often wonder where this idea comes from that one has to walk many hundreds of kms carrying all our gear with us.

Many of us choose to do so of course, for a variety of reasons.
But I would suggest we are in the minority.
And it is certainly not a requirement to receive the Compostela.

Is it some kind of modern 'construct'?

Or is the 100 kms minimum requirement a modern thing?
Is that what irks people? :rolleyes:
(Of course in the past, Pilgrims would walk from home)

Hopefully you haven't opened an old 'can of worms' :oops:
(Of course in the past, Pilgrims would walk from home) . . . and back again ;)
 

Bradypus

Migratory hermit
Past OR future Camino
Too many and too often!
We like the quieter routes. Though on our recent Chemin du Piemont - 3 pilgrims in 3 weeks - I’d have been happy to come across a few more! 😎
In 2016 I walked the Olavsleden from Sundsvall to Trondheim. 580km. And met 3 pilgrims along the way. Two of them being a couple travelling together. Just my sort of route! I'm flying to Norway next week to walk another of the St Olav paths. Looking forward to many km of solitude.
 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
A "Tourigrino" trip once Covid has passed, so 2023
There wasn't a 100km minimum rule when I walked my first Camino. And I don't reach my 60th birthday for a couple of weeks yet. So yes, it is a fairly modern thing :)
Not sure when you did your first Camino but my second credential (2003) issued by the CSJ clearly states (in bold):

y solo a los que llegan hasta la tumba del Apostol, habiendo recorridoal menos 100 ultimos kilometros a pie o a caballo, o 200 Km en bicicleta

My first Credential (2001) was issued by the Association Les Amis du Chemin de Saint-Jacques in SJPP and doesn't qualify the distance.
 

Bradypus

Migratory hermit
Past OR future Camino
Too many and too often!
Not sure when you did your first Camino but my second credential (2003) issued by the CSJ clearly states (in bold):

y solo a los que llegan hasta la tumba del Apostol, habiendo recorridoal menos 100 ultimos kilometros a pie o a caballo, o 200 Km en bicicleta

Summer 1990. The 100km rule was introduced in the run-up to the 1993 Holy Year and seems to have been part of the massive Xacobeo marketing exercise by the Xunta that included building the first chain of purpose-built pilgrim albergues. Up until then Camino infrastructure was very low-key, haphazard and mostly voluntary and donativo. The promotion for 1993 was a big success - the Holy Year saw a 10x increase in Compostelas being issued by the pilgrim office. If the Holy Year spike effect was still that order of magnitude then there would be well over 3 million walking arrivals this year. Be grateful for small mercies! :cool:
 
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Richard of York

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2021
It is perfectly possible to have a solitary experience on the last 100km. Don't start at 8am each day from the 'standard' staging posts. Aim to stay at hostels mid-stage so you are ahead/behind the crowd.
eg. Hardly anyone arrives in Portomarin before 12 or after 4, so plan accordingly.
 

Bradypus

Migratory hermit
Past OR future Camino
Too many and too often!
It is perfectly possible to have a solitary experience on the last 100km.
Only if you have a very loose definition of "solitary". With several hundred people per day walking each stage just altering my starting times and stopping points would still not give me anywhere near the degree of solitude which I find comfortable and enjoyable. Walking the Via de la Plata earlier this year I met or saw perhaps 25 or 30 other pilgrims over nearly 1000km. When I stayed in albergues I was usually the only pilgrim there. That was very similar to my first experience of the Camino Frances, that is my understanding of "solitary" and I do not think it can be found on the last 100km today.
 
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Pathfinder075

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances (Villada to SdC) (2016)
Primitivo (Ribadesella to SdC) (2017)
I also don't think you can do solitary on the last 100km, unless you walk at night. Their are always people around you. But saying that, if you walk after 1pm, it's definitely quieter. The first time I did it from Sarria, yes, their were loads leaving Sarria, but when I walked up the steep hill after the train tracks, I was the only one going up it at 6:30am, in the dark. When I left Portomarin at 1pm and started up the hill to Gonzar, I think I saw maybe 10 people in total and 3 of those gave up on the initial steep hill and presumably went off to find an albergue. From Melide is when its at its worst. That last 40-50km was bedlam.

If you want solitude, try a different route. If you want less people, walk in the afternoon when the vast majority are getting tanked in the various bars. If you like to party and every afternoon/night is a party night, then from Arzua and beyond, your wish can be granted. Just look for the places with drunk people (most places offering accommodation). The closer to Santiago you get, the more you see them. ;)

TBH, even on the last 100km from Ourense on the VdlP, you would find other people, but mostly in the evenings. For a day of solitude, I would recommend the Canedo variant. I literally saw no one between the Outariz Therms and Cea (and yes, putting your feet in the therms before you go up the hill is a good idea). :D FTR, I was walking in October. At other times it might be busier.
 

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