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How much should you prepare?

urukrama

New Member
I am planning to walk in September, but don't know yet where exactly. I am generally not very good with planning things ahead, and often arrange things last minute, so this is not so strange for me :D

I initially considered walking another of the GRs in France or the route from Le Puy to St Jean (or somewhere there). The last week or so, I started to consider the Camino Frances again, which I have always avoided because I don't like crowds (though I would hope September is a bit quieter, no?)

As (a) I don't have much time to plan a trip over the next few weeks, (b) September is the only time I can go, and (c) I probably won't make up my mind for another week or so, how realistic is it to start the Camino with such little preparation?

I have experience walking long distance paths in France, and generally plan my journey for the next 3-4 days while I am on the road. I normally carry a list of places I can spend the night (camping), but that list is generally incomplete and/or incorrect, as I experience each time. I figure out where to buy food from guessing which villages on the map are big enough to have shops or from asking in other villages where I could find food for the next few days.

How feasible is it to approach the Camino in this way? I would probably buy some sort of guide (which one do you recommend?) so I know where I can sleep, but will not have the time to do more than that.

Some other things to consider:
  • I don't speak any Spanish, though I can often figure out what is said (more or less :D) as I know French. I won't have time to learn much Spanish before I leave.
  • I might camp part of the way, as I much prefer the solitude of a tent over the crowds of a refuge.
  • Physically, I should be ok, as I am somewhat used to long distance walking, though not on a pilgrim route.
  • I'll be on a tight budget, and will prepare my own meals as I am a vegan.
  • I only have about 30 days to do the whole trip.

All the above is generally not a problem on long distance walks, but how will I fare on the Camino, especially in terms of lodging (do the crowds necessitate some planning?) and interacting with the locals (I don't speak the language and will be unprepared, but will need to find my own food)?

Sorry for the flood of questions. Any suggestions and comments appreciated.
 
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skilsaw

Veteran Member
I would call your method of walking, "Camino free-style".
Everything ad hoc and in the moment.
I perfer a little more structure than you, but the Camino has definitely be done "free-style".

All your questions have been dealt with in other threads of the forum.

Spanish language - Not necessary on the Camino Frances, but a little effort gets you lots of good will. Hello, Please, Thankyou, Where is the...? is about the minimum you need.

You can walk the entire camino without a guidebook just by following the yellow arrows. There are various brochures available enroute that list the distance between villages, refuges, stores etc.

Thirty days for Saint Jean Pied du Port to Santiago is very achievable. You will need to average 26 km per day which is not uncommon.

September will have fewer pilgrims than July and August.

Vegetarains have made the journey successfully.

I'm sure you will have a wonderful time if you let go of expectations and just do it... one day at a time.

Buen Camino,
David, Victoria, Canada.
 

sillydoll

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
You'll be fine. Pick up a profile map and list of albergues at the pilgrims' office in St Jean.
Take it slowly the first week or so - it is a roller coaster of up and down hills through forests and vineyards.
Once you are walking comfortably and are feeling fitter, you'll be able to do longer distances on the flatter sections.
September is harvest time in Spain - you'll have bramble-berries all the way to Santiago, some wild apples, figs, chestnuts and maybe even grapes from abandoned vines.
Weatherwise, it could be cold in the high places (you'll cross three 'mountain' ranges) and hot on the plains of the meseta.
Read a little bit about the history of the camino - please! "Your understanding of what you see will be based on what you know".
If you carry a tent you'll need a sleeping bag - if you don't camp, you could get by with a sleep liner (most albergues have blankets).
Aim for the smaller, in between villages and albergues so that you are not competing with those pilgrims who are following the mainstream guidebook stages.
By staying in the smaller shelters you can:
Have a special pilgrim blessing by candlelight after dinner with the hospitalero singing Ave Maria in one of the most beautiful churches in Spain (Eunate)
Get to pray in a tiny attic chapel for pilgrims who have left prayer requests for their loved ones. (Tosantos)
Get to sing pilgrim songs at a communal dinner which you helped cook and sleep in the bell tower of a church (Granon)
Eat by lamplight around a table and then have your feet washed in a special blessing by the hospitaleros. (Hospital San Nicolas)
Get to watch the sunset with other preregrinos behind an old straw and mud albergue before having dinner. (Bercianos)
Have a healer do Reiki on your aching shoulders and back. (Villafranca del Bierzo)
Watch the stars in the darkest part of Spain with one of the kindest, best known characters on the camino. (Manjarin)
Have a special queimada ceremony in one of the smallest albergues on the meseta - maybe. (San Bol)
You all have to sing for your supper which the hospitaleras cook for you - for a donation! (Corcubion) etc etc
Buen camino!
Sil
 

gittiharre

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
CF Austria Czech Le Puy Geneva RLS V. Jacobi V. Regia V. Baltica/Scandinavica Porto Muxia
Hi, as a first time pilgrim I walked in May/ June 2006 and did not prepare a thing, unfit, pack too heavy, wrong footwear. Well I still made it. I was really slow and still got a bed every night without pre booking anywhere. Just trusted the universe and thought that no one would leave me sleeping by the side of the road and I was right. September should be less crowded. Go well...and be open to the surprises on the way. Love, Gitti
 
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-404

New Member
I walked in April, and the first day of 'training' i took for the camino was the mountain route to Roncesvalles in the snow and rain in rubbish shoes, maybe a little training for that first day, however it is mostly mental
 

cecelia

Wandering for the love and growth of it
Year of past OR future Camino
2013
Much has been said about preparation but I wanted to add that every little community has at least one little store that carries food and many have several stores. They are, by the way mostly closed between about 2:00 or 3:00 and 5:00ish. There is usually an abundant supply of fresh fruit and vegetables and although bread is usually better bought in the mornings, there is usually bread as well (not sure if it contains milk though).
Note that lentils are often cooked with pork(even the tinned ones) so you will want to watch for that. You can buy dried lentils and beans though and many albergues have stoves where you can cook your own meal. Nuts can be purchased in a lot of places too. It's a little difficult being a vegetarian (especially a vegan) on the camino in Spain but will just take a little planning ahead.
Good camino
Cecelia
 

Nora

New Member
Hi everyone!

Thanks for this lovely topic.. I'm quite unprepared too, as always, and i'm starting next week. it feels good to hear other people feeling the same way i do.
I'll just go and see what fate puts on my way..

Buen camino!

Nora
 

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