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How do people 60-and-over plan their Camino?

Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2014
Camino Portugues 2015
There is little debate that walking the Camino is a physical challenge. Walking our first CF in 2014 at 55 and our second CF in 2019 at 60 reinforces the idea that you have to walk the Camino to learn how to walk the Camino. My wife and I experienced sore feet, blisters, injured Achilles, debilitated knees, aching backs and more. I would contend age is only a partial component to these bodily functions. We saw many younger pilgrims injuring themselves attempting to do too much, too fast. Did they never read "The Tortoise and the Hare?" The "mental exercise" of the Camino tends to be much more challenging. Each day is another conversation with yourself and sometimes it seems to be a constant negotiation. 2 more K? Then, I'll get that coffee. Walk to this village? Reward yourself with a nice bottle of vino tinto. I spend a good amount of time laughing at myself. If I believe I matter, surely the world must agree with me (How to make God laugh? Tell Him your plans). Regardless of age, How do you walk the Camino? One step at a time...
 
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Renascer

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
2021
From 2004 through 2011 I have walked the entire Camino Frances seven times from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago; I am 72. Here are some basic tips for walking at any age.

Remember
Few people know how to take a walk. The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much....Ralph Waldo Emerson

Plastic bags
Separate categories of my kit, ie. clothes, toiletries, sandals and sleeping bag travel in sturdy plastic bags within the backpack. Thus all is relatively waterproof as well as easier to locate than if 'lost' within the pack.

Comfort
Take anti-diarrhea medicine and pocket packs of tissues for toilet paper. There is nothing worse than diarrhea on the trail first thing in the cold morning air!

Money
Carry some euro bills in small denominations; breaking a 50 euro bill in a remote village can be impossible! However, gas stations will often make change even if you don't buy gas!

Get up early
Since pilgrims must vacate each albergue by 8 am, nearly everyone wakes around 6:30. After waiting in a few cold lines to use the toilet facilities one quickly learns to rise by 6:15 to beat the rush!

Language
When all else fails the commonality is pantomime.

Simple pleasures
At each day's end what a great pleasure it is to remove your pack and only sit! If you have never hiked wearing a pack just imagine carrying 15 pounds of potatoes continually for half a day.

Drink lots of water and relax.
Water helps prevent painful tendinitis. One of the most important 'rules' of the Camino (and life) is to 'let it be'.

Food on the Camino
Breakfast and a big late lunch after walking are my norm with periodic bar stops throughout my walking day for coffee, hot chocolate or fresh orange juice and the loo. In Léon hot chocolate is so thick that the spoon almost stands in the cup. Served with freshly made crullers it is a delicious, caloric treat and fuel for trekking! For a delicious pick-up try freshly squeezed zumo naranja or orange juice. No champagne has ever tasted better!...In those albergues which offer kitchens many pilgrims for either dietary reasons and/or to cut costs prepare their own meals; except in emergencies I generally don't. However we all realize that today's food provides the fuel necessary for tomorrow's walking. Furthermore basic rations are always carried since the only shop or bar in town may NOT be open! My basics include tea bags, packets which make a cup of soup (even including croutons), firm cheese, small sausage, simple cookies and some chocolate. Often these same ingredients serve as a predawn breakfast hours before any Spanish bar would dream of opening!...Some hospitaleros provide delicious dinners; communal meals at Eunate and Granon are always memorable feasts. Generally for lunch or dinner many places along the way offer a standard three course Peregrino Menu (Pilgrim Menu) for 8€ or 9€. Although edible these often are only basic courses. A better alternative is the Menu de Dia (Daily Menu) which costs a bit more but provides much better quality and choice.

Walking pace and determination
Start walking slowly and go very easy for the first week. Daily distances cited in the guidebooks are not sacred; do not attempt 40 km the first day! ‘Slow, but dependable’ could be my motto. Since I am old I average 20 km per day for 55 days to walk from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Santiago and continuing to Finisterre. The furthest I ever walked was 33k in heavy rain to Olveiroa ; this was one of the WORST days ever and as exhausting as my first time up to Roncevalles!... Consider the topography and the weather plus your health and pack weight as well as personal strength and ability to endure. On the Camino everyone moves as he wishes; only the last 100km MUST be walked in order to receive the treasured Compostela or pilgrim certificate in Santiago.

Although I do get weary I love to walk! Hearing the continual crunch of one's footsteps is very reassuring. You know that you can do it and can continue to do it as long as you have the energy. ...In sunshine my shadow is a constant companion. Always slightly to the right when the morning sun is behind, it is an uncomplaining, intimate presence. ... Shades of Peter Pan! However, it does seems to slouch a bit!

Stormy weather walking
When the path is hidden by mud, rain or snow for safety walk on the road. In winter Gendarmes warn pilgrims not to cross the mountains by path since conditions can be too dangerous; if you fall you are hidden. Hence follow the lanes.

Cold nights
In autumn and winter albergues are often frigid, without heat or hot water. Be prepared! Make a cozy 'sandwich' for sleeping by folding a blanket in half the long way, place your sleeping bag on top of the bottom half and pull the top half over all. If there are no blankets put your poncho beneath the sleeping bag to block the cold from rising.

Can you do it
Is the Camino appropriate for you ? Or more accurately could you endure such an effort as walking every day, carrying a full pack and staying with a group of strangers in albergues each night? Here are some additional alternative views to help clarify this decision.

1 This is NOT a walk in the park! Just because so many pilgrims have been successful does not guarantee that you will be. Anybody any moment can fall or pull or break anything. The most common injury is the result of trying to walk too far too quickly carrying too much! Easy does it. Be a snail; slow but, determined, like me.

2 To get an idea of how it feels to walk for a day with a loaded backpack carry 6 kilos or 13 pounds of potatoes continually for at least six hours around the house rarely sitting down.

3 Do bugs, dust, dirt, mud, rain or snow bother you? Can you pee in the woods? If you need a sanitized toilet seat and/or spotless surroundings this is definitely NOT your thing!

4 Can you share a dorm with others and/or sleep next to a stranger? Do you tolerate snoring? Or do you snore? What about smelly socks, garlic breath or worse?

5 Do you need hot water for a shower? Can you balance soap, shampoo, and sponge in one hand while trying to regulate water temperature and/or flow with the other? When done can you put your clean clothes on while balancing on one leg to avoid puddles on the floor?

6 Can you be up, dressed,packed and walking by 8am in summer or dawn in winter? Such are the rules for using municipal albergues.

7 Can you accept that nothing you carry on the Camino is ever truly clean or dry or tidy? Reality is a gradation of grey and damp and mess! Nevertheless that's life.

8 Do you meet people easily? Can you chat and share ideas, food, or help? Are you ready to smile and offer your hand in friendship? A smile returned by a new friend is one of the Camino's many joys. Just try it!

...
What matters is to DO IT!

As pilgrims said in the Middle Ages Ultreia! or Further!
I know it is an old post but still beautiful and enlightening. Glad that i found it.
 

Moorwalker

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
The Saint's Way, Cornwall
The biggest advantage that many older people have is that they are not constrained by time in the same way as most younger people. We may not be able to walk as far in a day, but that doesn't matter if we have more days available to us.

The biggest mistake I see people making is trying to walk too far, too fast. Unless you are doing that sort of exercise in ordinary life it puts a lot of strain on the joints and is, in my opinion, a primary cause of blisters.

So my advice is to walk at your own comfortable pace and plan for short days initially. You may find that your body adapts as you progress and you can walk further later, but if it doesn't that really doesn't matter.
 

Owensr23

Member
Past OR future Camino
2021
"Plans are worthless, but planning is everything"

I am a project planner by trade and I always plan a lot. On the Camino, for me that translates to knowing the route and what is ahead so that I don't miss an opportunity -- not to have structure. I don't book ahead, but I am aware of contingencies. For example, when walking the CP we had an early start and a cool day and covered a lot of miles by noon. I remembered from pre-planning a well know donitivo that was ahead. We could have easily walked by, but instead had the best night's stay on the CP at the Casa Fernanda!
 
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Cliff175

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
April / May Camino Frances 2013
Portuguese Camino May of 2014
St. jean to pomplona, - Santander to Oviedo, SAN Salvador to Leon , to Santiago in 2015
2017 March -- VDLP Seville to Santiago
Walk slowly, honor your body,, tis a mental game also, after 5-7 days your mind starts ,,,This isn't fun anymore...so be prepared to muster some determination,
Most Important ,,,, it's a long distant trek ,,,,,remember The Turtle Won !
 
Past OR future Camino
cycled from Pamplona Sep 2015;Frances, walked from St Jean May/June 2017. Plans to walk Porto 2020
Whilst the original post started 10 years ago I agree its still totally relevant even today. Regardless of age the prior preparation to prevent p... poor performance is something that applies to all pilgrims I suggest. Yes again walking any camino does provide the necessary insight that will make the second one so much better. I know that when I started from St Jean in May 2017 I gave myself 3 or 4 days to get "camino fit" (that is adjusting to different beds each night; walking with a 10kg pack; walking 10/15/20 km up hill and down - despite your training). I know that when I left Pamplona heading for the Alto Del Perdon I found it so much easier than cycling in 2015 and the subsequent days where the same. Buen Camino
 

Ksalud

Member
I would love to hear from some senior trekkers about how they planned their Camino adventure. I am planning to walk next year in my 60th year with my 63 yr. old brother. We have concerns about being too ambitous about the distance we can reasonably walk in any given day. We are in good health, but not experienced long distance hikers. Should we join a tour with support van? We would like to try the Camino del Norte in September. We want to walk, but be realistic about it. Any advise would be appreciated.
Plan carefully but do not oppose changing your distance. Since Albuergue space is limited this year, you may want to carry a tent.
Be advised that el Norte is not easy.
I did it in my 70s
Buen Suerte
 

movinmaggie

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
2015
I walked the Camino Frances on my own for my 80th birthday. I would like to suggest you consider this route...simply for the infrastructure and multiple services you might need 'down the road'. You can start the Frances route other than St. Jean Pied de Port...many start from Pamplona. And chances are you'd find more accommodations on the Frances. There are other considerations as well...please feel free to send me a personal message...am happy to help.
 

dick bird

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Plata, Ingles, Madrid, Norte, Primitivo, Invierno, Aragones, Olvidado, Chemin D'Arles
Same way as everyone else I guess - don't carry too much, don't walk too far, find out as much as you can before you leave about the places you are going to pass through. Try to get in some long distance day-walks (20-30 kms) before you go to test your equipment and your stamina. The pandemic has meant much less accommodation so book if you can. If your Spanish is not great you can either use your smart phone to book online or ask the staff at your hotel/pension to book the next day for you (most people who work in hospitality in Spain have good English). I walked my first camino at 61 and when my government lets me out of the country I shall be at least 70 and doing another one. The Norte has some steep, short ascents, especially the first half but it is not the Himalayas, having said that, the Francés has the best infrastructure and most manageable stages. Enjoy the wine, the people, the scenery, the food and buen camino.
 
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Past OR future Camino
2019
I would love to hear from some senior trekkers about how they planned their Camino adventure. I am planning to walk next year in my 60th year with my 63 yr. old brother. We have concerns about being too ambitous about the distance we can reasonably walk in any given day. We are in good health, but not experienced long distance hikers. Should we join a tour with support van? We would like to try the Camino del Norte in September. We want to walk, but be realistic about it. Any advise would be appreciated.
I'm well over 60. Walked my first Camino (CF) at 65 in 2017 and three additional full CF plus CP and part of VDLP over a three year period until pandemic grounded us. My husband is in his mid 70s and has walked nine times since he was 65--his last Camino was at 72. We are daily walkers at home and usually ramped up our distance a bit before each Camino. We listened to our bodies and recognize that the sections identified in various guidebooks are just that--guides, not mandated daily distances. After the first week, we got up to and maintained 12-15 mile days. It was a great feeling. It felt just as good to throw in a 6 mile day periodically to allow for a great meal and wandering in a favorite place. It's about the journey so is important to enjoy, listen to your body, and see old friends (people and places) along the way. We will travel back to Spain in a year from now.
Buen Camino.
Carol
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
Past OR future Camino
2012
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Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
Past OR future Camino
Camino Francés (2018)
I was 71 when I walked from SJPP to Santiago in September/October 2018 (solo until Sarria, then met up with a woman friend my age, to walk the last 100km together). Before Sarria, I shared a taxi twice, and took two bus rides: one short, with new friend who was injured; and one long ride from Burgos to Leon, because I didn't have enough time to walk the Meseta. I had prepared by walking several miles in the summer heat every day before I went to Spain. I had good shoes and socks that fit well. Most of the time I wore a Macabi travel skirt and a wide brimmed hat. Although I had all the items one would need for blisters, etc., I never even got one. I stayed in albergues except for two nights, reserved most of my albergue beds and often requested the lower bunk. I sent my pack ahead every day after the first few grueling days. I bought one walking stick in SJPP, found a second one somewhere after Melide, offered it to many other pilgrims, and when no one claimed it, I considered it a gift from the Camino. A good thing, too, because somewhere along the path I injured my left knee. In Arca, a kind pharmacist examined my knee, and sold me a brace and some pain relieving salve. I needed both sticks after that. I hope to go again, maybe 2022 or 2023? I'd like to walk the Meseta when there are flowers, or maybe do the Norte. My physical condition hasn't deteriorated yet, so I think it will go just fine. I'll go alone again, because it's nice not to have to keep up with others who are faster, or to match my speed to someone who's slower. My Compostela hangs in my bedroom; I look at it every day as I continue the Camino which doesn't end in Santiago.
 

dick bird

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Plata, Ingles, Madrid, Norte, Primitivo, Invierno, Aragones, Olvidado, Chemin D'Arles
Old threads, like old soldiers, never die. But unlike old soldiers, they never fade away. The OP would be at or near 70, as I am myself, and my camino companion and I are planning (or hoping) to do our next camino as soon as we possibly can. But this time I am really going to make sure I know as much as I can about the Visigoths. And maybe remember to take gloves this time.
 
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anamcara

Camino Walker
Past OR future Camino
2022 Chemin du Piémont Pyrénéen; Camino Baztan 😎
For now we plan and walk pretty much as we have always done - carrying our packs and walking our preferred distance of about 25-30 kms a day on average. We figure as time goes by that’s at least two variables we can play with if need be - daily distance and what we carry.

Some years ago on the Arles Way we met a French couple who have walked dozens of Caminos. They were in their early 80s. They told us still walk on a Camino at least once every year but now try to keep their daily distance to 15 kms and carry very little. If they need transport between stops, they organise it. 😎
 

mspath

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
Perhaps these words
from Ulysses, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson are relevant for anyone who is older.

"...and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
 

J Willhaus

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
2016
Phil, my husband, is 71 and walked this fall with his own pack. He also was a hospitalero in September. We plan to walk the Aragonnes in June and hospitalero at Canfranc Pueblo. We try to keep our stages at 10 to 12 miles a day.

In 2016 we encountered a walker in his 90's with his 65 year old girlfriend. They carried their own packs and slept in albergues just like the younger generation.
 

downfam

New Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino de Santiago in May!
This was good info especially about the ratio for back pack weight. What kind of pack did you get and where can I find good list of what to bring? Thank you
Aarn Backpacks= fabulous weight distribution w/ smaller essential packs carried on front of you while bedding and clothing in back. https://www.aarn-usa.com/ my husband and I bought the featherlite backpacks and love them! we sold our Osprey backpacks when we got these, never going back to the carry only on your back style. Buen Camino!
 

nycwalking

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Ourense to Santiago (2019), CF: (2014, 2004, 2002, 2001). On to Fisterra, (2002, 4, 14).
Perhaps these words
from Ulysses, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson are relevant for anyone who is older.

"...and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

Just the word I needed.

Thank you ever so much.
 
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Past OR future Camino
Porto to SdC-Sept 2017
Camino Frances-Apr/May 2019
60 On the Camino is a spring chicken. Not to worry. Jane, my wife, at 61 and I at 64 just finished last week. Most importantly, start out slowly, don't do big kilometers and pack light and you'll have no problems. Most make the big mistake of assuming that in the first few days nothing has gone wrong, so they start dramatically increasing the distance...big mistake.

Your body doesn't acclimate that quickly and when the distance increases without time to get used to it, the blisters and shin splints creep in. Even though you feel like you can go further, force yourself not to in the beginning. Stop to smell the roses and let those feet and legs have time to build up.

I celebrated turning 60 by hiking the Appalachian Trail. I did the first 600 miles (1000 km) with no problems, and then I had a little problem with my heart and had to have a six-artery bypass done. I took 300 days off to recover and then got back on the trail and finished the other 1600 miles (2000 km). I even wrote a book about it, THREE HUNDRED ZEROES. Chapter six deals with the heart surgery etc. The AT is much more demanding since you have to carry all of your gear for sleeping out in the wilderness and food. The Camino is much more forgiving and you can carry much less weight, and so should have no problems if you start out slowly.

Buen Camino and keep us posted.

Dennis "K1" Blanchard
Understatement of the year... "a little problem with my heart"! Glad you got it taken care of and it sounds like you're stronger and better now. Keep on trekking! I admire you walking the appalachian trail. I'm hoping to hike the JMT next summer but first another Camino this spring, the VdlP.
 

peregrina2000

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