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Camino tips for starting from Leon in September

Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, Camino Del Norte
#1
Hi All,

I used these forums a lot while preparing to walk the Camino Frances from Leon to Santiago, and found some really great advice. I thought I would share some info and lessons learned that I discovered in hopes that it might be of use to others.

1. We walked the middle two weeks of September and the weather was perfect! Very warm but not unbearably hot during the day, cool at night and very little rain. O Cebraio was very chilly at night, but it wouldn’t have been worth the weight to bring bulky warm clothes. I used a thick polyester zip sweater and a fleece shirt at night and was fine. I walked all of the way in shorts since even on the coldest mornings I would get hot after about 30 mins of walking.

2. There is medical care available on the Camino. Basic care is sometimes free, even for those not covered under any European medical systems. The hotels/albergues can direct you to a doctor. I visited the Hospital in Ponferrada and private clinic in Triacastela for foot issues and both treated me for free because I was a pilgrim. (They did ask to see my pilgrim passport.) Many towns along the way were originally founded as pilgrim hospitals and some kind people still carry on that tradition today.

3. We took a quick and easy 30 or so min bus ride from Leon out to Hospital de Orbigo and then walked to Astorga that day, in order to skip the walk out of Leon. We were glad we did it! The route out of Leon was not pedestrian friendly. I believe the first bus left about 7:30a.m. and tickets could be purchased at a machine in the bus station.

4. Much of the Camino after Astorga is hiking, not walking. Prepare accordingly and try to build your muscles on some steep trails before you go. That said, just about anybody can finish the Camino, as long as you build in enough time to do an easy pace. Some folks we met actually only planned even as little as 5-10km a day.

5. Don’t assume a guidebook stage can be completed in a day. For instance, the walk from Molinaseca to O Cebraio should definitely be cut in half for those in average physical shape like myself. I found 20km a day to be agreeable, but of course it’s possible to walk further if you ship your bag ahead. It takes a long time to walk more than 20-22km, which leaves no time for lunch and enjoying the scenery, or to wash and hang-dry clothes before sundown at the end of the day.

6. Many albergues have less than desirable clotheslines, under terraces and out of the way of sun and wind. Because of this definitely avoid cotton clothes. Even synthetic clothes sometimes wouldn’t dry overnight if we missed the high sun hours. My thick Coolmax socks wouldn’t dry overnight so I generally had to attach them to my pack with clothespins while I walked.

7. On my next Camino I will take Crocs. Thong sandals don’t work at night because it will be chilly and you will want to wear socks with sandals. Keens or the like can’t be used as shower shoes because they don’t dry out. Also, Keens didn’t work well for me on the trail because the lip on the heel gave me a blister and the ankle strap made my tendon sore. I saw very few people on the trail in sandals. I did however see many people walking around town at night and around SdC in Crocs.

8. If you plan to hike in pants make sure they don’t drag on the ground. You will walk through a whole lot of cow poo in Galacia. (Also another good reason to avoid sandals on the trail).

9. I didn’t believe what everyone was saying, but sure enough my feet swelled immediately after a day of walking and carrying a pack. I ended up buying new shoes almost two sizes bigger than the ones I took with me.

10. Good hygiene and happy feet are everything to finishing the Camino. Both blisters and in-grown toenails can be potential Camino-enders if they get infected. Start caring for your toenails months before you leave to be sure they are grown and shaped properly. Be sure to carry toilet paper and even sanitary wipes (bladder infections are apparently common). Bring hand sanitizer, it’s very hard to find on the way and generally all the cafes water down their soap, if they provide any at all. Wipe your feet with alcohol after you shower. Even with shower shoes, we found some albergues with bad plumbing, and the water filled up at the bottom. Yuck! Bring lots of alcohol pads or buy a bottle of alcohol to carry with you when you get there. Take off your shoes on breaks to dry out your feet and buy Compeed as soon as you have the hint of a hot spot. You’ll find most people end up taking longer and longer to clean, wrap and apply Compeed to their feet each morning in the later days of the Camino. I got one blister on the walk, which caused considerable pain. It was deep under my skin and I was too concerned of an infection to drain it. Bigger shoes and applying moleskin around it worked great to ease the pressure and the blister quickly healed on it’s own.

11. On that note, if you experience foot problems right off the bat then I recommend to go immediately and buy more comfortable/bigger shoes. Think about the time/money/planning that went into making the Camino and consider whether or not an extra 100 or so Euro investment in some bigger shoes is worth being able to finish it– or at the very least – being able to enjoy finishing it.

12. Travel sized items and first aid kits are very hard to find on the Camino. Bring easily refillable travel bottles, as you will probably have to buy a big bottle of soap/shampoo or whatever you need to refill your bottle and donate the rest to the albergue.

13. A picture is worth a thousand words of broken Spanish. If you can think of any medications or medical tools you may need to purchase from a Pharmacy along the way then take a picture of the item, or the pharmaceutical name of the medication, on your camera/ smart phone before you leave and show that to the pharmacist.

14. Download the Google translator app on your smart phone and use it to type in questions for store owners/pharmacists/doctors to read.

15. Jumbo-sized Ziploc bags are great for organizing your items and for rain protection. Lining my pack with a garbage bag would have been annoying as I was generally in and out of the side pockets for stuff all day.

16. If you are on the fence about bringing trekking poles then bring them! There are lots of steep trails with loose rocks, I almost fell several times, but was saved by my poles. Collapsible poles worked great!

17. Most people we met shipped their bags ahead. If you want/need to do this it’s very easy to arrange through your hotel/albergue and cheap, €3-€5 each bag, each day.

18. Don’t try to maximize distance in the amount of time you have. You will quickly find nobody on the Camino is in a race or trying to out do anyone else. Plan a schedule that allows a reasonable pace and allows you to enjoy yourself, otherwise you will be jealous of other people who aren’t in a hurry and worn out every day.

Buen Camino!
 

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Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2013) Frances (2014) St. Oswald's Way (2015) Le Puy (2016) Portugues (2018)
#2
Very helpful information, Jessica. Thanks so much for this post! My daughter and I are considering walking the same route this September -- although we're also mulling the quieter Primativo route. Can you tell us how many days you walked, how crowded it got and and hot it was? I walked most of the Camino Frances last year from Pamplona and enjoyed a blessedly cold spring in March and April. I'm apprehensive about temperatures and crowds in early September.
 

Olivares

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
May 1997 (Leon to Santiago); Sections Camino Frances: May 2011, May 2012, May 2013, October 2013, June-July 2014 (Sahagun to Santiago).
#3
Regarding your point Number 2. I was also treated for free at Sahagun after showing my credential. That said, there was not even the hope of medical help in Calzadilla de la Cueza. I had to walk 21 kms from there to Sahagun to get medical help for mascerated toes. I should had have more antiseptic wipes with me and Betadine. This would had prevented how bad my small toes got. I tried to toughen it up, but once I got fever, all bets were off and was a straight arrow to a Doctor. The medical staff at the Sahagun small center were wonderful. It cost me 2 days off.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, Camino Del Norte
#4
Very helpful information, Jessica. Thanks so much for this post! My daughter and I are considering walking the same route this September -- although we're also mulling the quieter Primativo route. Can you tell us how many days you walked, how crowded it got and and hot it was? I walked most of the Camino Frances last year from Pamplona and enjoyed a blessedly cold spring in March and April. I'm apprehensive about temperatures and crowds in early September.
We had planned to walk 10 days last year and ended up walking about 12 days... I think if I were to do it again I would budget 14 days on the trail (inclusive of a rest day) to have some extra time to enjoy the walk.
We walked the mid-two weeks of September and couldn't have had better weather. I lived in Spain for a few years and September is always a great time of year there. It was pretty hot at first in the flat area out of Leon, but in Galacia it was perfect during the day and chilly at night. Best of all, we somehow managed to not get one drop of rain the whole time.
I wouldn't know what to compare the crowds with at other times of year, as it was my first Camino, but I didn't find it too bad at all. Based on the research I did before hand the numbers of pilgrims finishing each day in SdC dropped off significantly at the end of August. I also read that if you leave mid week you will avoid the wave of pilgrims that start on the weekends.
We never had trouble finding room in an albergue, and we often had the trail to ourselves... but that was probably due to the fact we really liked getting up and leaving before dawn each day, and therefore arrived in the next town early. (We ended up deciding to get private rooms in the albergues in order to avoid disturbing the others in the mornings since we were always the first out). We also generally stayed away the major stopping points of the guide book. The people in the tiny little towns seemed so much more sweet and hospitable than in the cities.
Anyway, We plan to walk the Camino del Norte in a few months and I'm a bit apprehensive as I've heard it can be very solitary. I hope not! I will miss the camaraderie of the other pilgrims and the chance to make some friends along the way!
 

tpmchugh

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
Camino Frances (2015)
#5
Very helpful information, Jessica. Thanks so much for this post! My daughter and I are considering walking the same route this September -- although we're also mulling the quieter Primativo route. Can you tell us how many days you walked, how crowded it got and and hot it was? I walked most of the Camino Frances last year from Pamplona and enjoyed a blessedly cold spring in March and April. I'm apprehensive about temperatures and crowds in early September.
I walked from Burgos to Santiago last September. No problems with crowds or weather. It was never too hot and only a bit chilly in the early morning before the sun came up. We were in Melide the last weekend in September and heard that from Monday morning on ie start of October some municipal albergues would be closing for the winter. Had no effect on us and everywhere we wanted to stop was open and had plenty of beds available. The only problem with September is that the sunrise is a little later each morning so I could have been walking in the dark for up to two hours depending what time I started at, usually about 6am. There was some rainy days in Galicia but thay can happen at any time of the year. I may have been on the trail with you as I walked my first part from Pamplona to Burgos in March too
 

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#6
We are walking from Leon in June and have scheduled 15 days for the walking, so based on your experience with 12, it seems that 15 is a decent choice.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, Camino Del Norte
#7
We are walking from Leon in June and have scheduled 15 days for the walking, so based on your experience with 12, it seems that 15 is a decent choice.
Sounds like a great plan. Enjoy!

We did save about 1.5 days or so by taking the bus a little bit out of Leon to Hospital de Orbigo. I highly recommend it. The road out of Leon does not make for a pleasant first day on the Camino.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
#8
Why not walk to Virgin del Camino, visit the handsome church and then follow the more rural alternative route via Villar de Mazarife to Hosptal de Orbigo ? Read more here.

MM
 

falcon269

no commercial interests
Camino(s) past & future
yes
#9
The road out of Leon does not make for a pleasant first day on the Camino.
It begins with city walking out of Leon with lots of cafe con leche opportunities. The marked route now goes behind the roadside businesses before La Virgen del Camino, and is surprisingly quiet and nicely waymarked in brass shells. La Virgen has a great church built in the sixties. It may be open, and has the most touched brass door handle on the Camino.

If you take the route to Mazarife out of La Virgen, it is quiet cross country followed by quiet country roads, and Villar de Mazarife has three albergues, at least two of which are quite nice (the third is, for me, an acquired taste with plenty of herb).

The route to Villadangos del Paramo is along the busy highway, so is less scenic and less restful. Its albergue has three level bunks, a bit of a treat. I thought the two restaurants were very good.

There is nothing wrong with taking the bus out of Leon, but it is a good warm up day with a few minor hills, and you can get your legs accustomed to walking while avoiding cobble stones, mud, and bad footing. What others have found boring you might find quite pleasant.

Buen camino.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino del Salvador (2014)
Camino Primitivo (2014)
Camino Muxia (2014)
Camino Fisterra (2014)
#10
Hi Jessica
Really informative post on September walking (I'm intending to walk in September and October but not the Frances). I had heard about feet swelling and people developing blisters on the tops of their feet as a result, and so instead of bringing my trusty boots with one layer of Thurlo sock, I have bought a larger pair and been training wearing liner socks as well. I am hoping that as my feet swell I can mix, match and leave off one or other sock layer and keep my boots fitting OK. In the past I noticed that my feet don't swell until I have spent more than 3 days walking or walked very long days, but that it takes many days for swelling to subside so I guess bigger boots are a great solution. One lady I met had jettisoned her trusty boots at an albergue and bought a larger pair - and considered it really worthwhile. My GP is a great fan of elevating and resting swollen feet at the end of the day and massaging the fluid back down before even having a drink. Another hiking mate believes every time you rest you should be lying down with your feet above your heart - the rest of us are a bit choosier about where to lie down along a trail!
Mary
 
#11
We thought about busing it out of Leon, but decided to just start walking and take what comes.

We will have just travelled from San Francisco to Madrid (via Frankfurt), spent the night in Madrid, and then taken the train to Leon. We overnight in Leon (at the Parador - decided to start off on a lux foot :)) and start walking in the morning. After all that time cooped up travelling, I would probably be willing to walk ANYWHERE just to get my muscles moving.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, Camino Del Norte
#13
We thought about busing it out of Leon, but decided to just start walking and take what comes.

We will have just travelled from San Francisco to Madrid (via Frankfurt), spent the night in Madrid, and then taken the train to Leon. We overnight in Leon (at the Parador - decided to start off on a lux foot :)) and start walking in the morning. After all that time cooped up travelling, I would probably be willing to walk ANYWHERE just to get my muscles moving.
Ha, I know what you mean we were so anxious to get walking once we arrived Leon! Unfortunately we only had limited time off work and wanted to get ahead of the game a bit. I had read that the walk out of Leon was considered by many to be less than stellar, so we decided to skip it. For those that have time constraints like we did I recommend the bus. It was an easy 20 mins or so to Hospital de Orbigo and then we were walking by 8am... and it saved a whole day.
For others that have more time then I think Falcon269 mentioned some good options too.
 
Last edited:
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, Camino Del Norte
#14
I walked from Burgos to Santiago last September. No problems with crowds or weather. It was never too hot and only a bit chilly in the early morning before the sun came up. We were in Melide the last weekend in September and heard that from Monday morning on ie start of October some municipal albergues would be closing for the winter. Had no effect on us and everywhere we wanted to stop was open and had plenty of beds available. The only problem with September is that the sunrise is a little later each morning so I could have been walking in the dark for up to two hours depending what time I started at, usually about 6am. There was some rainy days in Galicia but thay can happen at any time of the year. I may have been on the trail with you as I walked my first part from Pamplona to Burgos in March too
Good point about walking in the dark. We luckily had a few tiny flashlights we could hang from the front and back of our packs so that we were lit up like Christmas trees when we were walking on country roads before dawn.
 

Blythe H

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Leon to Santiago (10/2016)
#15
Very helpful post! I will be traveling to Madrid and meeting up with friends, hopefully in Leon and then finish the Camino with them. My dilemma is whether to buy an airline ticket in advance from Madrid to Leon, not knowing if the dates are going to line up exactly as planned. What if my friends are further ahead or behind Leon when I arrive in Madrid? Is it easy enough to do that leg of transportation last minute?
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, Camino Del Norte
#16
Very helpful post! I will be traveling to Madrid and meeting up with friends, hopefully in Leon and then finish the Camino with them. My dilemma is whether to buy an airline ticket in advance from Madrid to Leon, not knowing if the dates are going to line up exactly as planned. What if my friends are further ahead or behind Leon when I arrive in Madrid? Is it easy enough to do that leg of transportation last minute?
I recommend taking the fast train from Madrid to Leon. The earlier you book, the cheaper a flexible fare will be. Buen Camino!
 

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