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Just Finished Walking,

#1
I just finished walking the Camino Frances about 10 days ago, it was my second time, I am 57 years old, and walked with my friend Pat who turned 70 on the trip. It was full of just about anything you could conjure up in your imagination about what walking for about 40 days would do to one. It was exciting, fun, happy, sad, mad, homesick, tired, boring, sore, good and bad people, hard nights, great fun, more surprises than you can imagine, and an incredible accomplishment.

Here's our blog, for anyone who would like to read it.
All posts were done from my blackberry so they are in more of a poem form so that I could add to it without too many words. I am still updating it, as not everything is there yet. http://www.caminopilgrimage.blogspot.com

The stories begin April 8, through the 23 of May and there are three slideshows of pictures. The weather was all over the place, but we managed to have very few 'all rain' days, we were very lucky.

I thought I would post some of our overall experiences that might be helpful to some of you:

GO LIGHT! GO LIGHT! GO LIGHT!
That's what you read everywhere and believe it, it's true, and will help your overall walk. By the end, we were to 15 lbs, including backpack, and after the first week you'll see you don't need the half of what you think you do. Your body will thank you, and you can thank your feet every night!

Lots more walkers this year:
We heard over and over again from Hospitaleros and bartenders that about 30-40% more walkers walked during April and May, (we were turned away at several full albergues, on long hot tiring walk days) many many German people are walking because of the book that is out. They are expecting record crowds the rest of the walking season. (We also heard that the book is being translated to English and that an American TV co. bought the rights to do a CAmino Sitcom - ugh! if it's true)

My advice to new walkers
Take it easy on yourself
It's not like walking your usual 5 mile walk a few extra times a day
don't do too much too fast, start slower than the books say and you will have fewer injuries
and believe it or not you will finish in about the same time, about 32-35 days, you just seem to speed up after the first 10 days, and the walking gets easier after the first week.
We met marathon runners in their 20's who were furious that they got blisters, and couldn't believe that with all their training that they had foot and leg problems, so a word to the wise - it can happen to you


Albergues

you will get all the experiences you hear about, such as snoring, bad tempered people, great people, people up at 4-5am, getting sick of sharing space etc. This was a huge topic of conversation with everyone, which, for me, was rather annoying by the end of the walk, especially since everyone OPTIONALLY chose to stay in the albergues -- But! You can stay in Hostels/hotels/casa rurals if the albergues get to you, there are lots of them from about $25 Euros up most were more than $25 euros, but a welcome periodic respite and treat, including bathtubs in some.

First Aid
If you are from the USA everything will cost you about 1.6 times what it costs anyone in the EU because of the exchange rate. You can bring the bandaid version of compeed which are Sooooo much cheaper and don't weigh a thing.

They sell Ibuprofen, in 600 mg you can purchase about 40 tablets for about 3.5 euros, so you also might want to bring that from home in case you need it.

We also bought Voltaren (about 3.5 euros) which was like a miracle gel for swelling and pain or just tired feet. We used this & 15 minutes later, the aching feet disappeared. You can also buy pastillas (pills) of Voltaren which works as an anti-inflammatory, similar to ibuprofen.

Preventatively, just stop the minute you hurt and look at things, and when tired, stop - don't push on. a short rest will work miracles, as will a bottle of wine - really cheap in spain and hardly a bad bottle (1.5 to 5 euros per bottle in the grocery stores)

Other prevenative I used was a medical tape called 'Omnifix' which I brought but was also able to buy more at the farmacias there. They sold 2" and 4" and I used it to tape the balls of my feet, various toes and heels. I did this every day, and it worked great for me.

Things seemed to be more expensive in the first week of the trip (albergues, meals and especially first aid supplies were really inflated) but it seemed to drop down as you go further, don't know why this was.

SMOKERS!
Spain is a SMOKING country and I think for me, since I am Not a smoker that this may have been my number one complaint, as everywhere you go, people are lighting up without awareness of it's effect on others. Most of the bars permit smoking, as do restaurants. Some had non-smoking sections at the back of the bar/restaurant where we were trapped in the smoke. We smelled like cigarette smoke most of the trip. It was VERY annoying.

A very large percentage of the pilgrims smoked and would stop to light up all along the way (smoke, smoke smoke that cigarette!) or open the door or window of the albergue and smoke there, with the smoke coming in the room.

There is supposed to be a new EU law that will prohibit smoking in public places as of July, but bartenders and others we talked to about it said that they believe it will be optional, so it will be interesting to see how that goes.

There is just about NO AWARENESS (or if there is, they ignore it) of second hand smoke and how hard it is for a non-smoker to be around that. They light up holding their babies, if that gives you the idea, So we just looked for outdoor cafes to eat when possible and politely asked people to move their cigarettes from blowing in our faces, which was met with various responses, (not always nice either) but we asked.

I guess if I had one request to smokers reading this, to take a little care before lighting up to see if the smoke you need will affect those around you - that would be a really nice friendly thing to do!

People
You will meet LOTS of really interesting people from all over the world, which may be the first best thing about the walk. We met people from all over - France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Poland, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Holland, Mexico, South Africa, Ecuador, Canada, to name just a few. We met people who were 13 to 75.

Overall, the pilgrims walking were really great. of course, we had our favorites and no so favorites, just like at home. The Camino can be so physically taxing that people sometimes get short when they are tired, and there is lots and lots of tired on this walk.

I would say that all the people that I love and love to dislike were found here, which makes me wonder if I just didn't bring them along with me!

Don't worry and fret too much ahead of time because when you are walking, most of what you worry about here won't be an issue there, even if it keeps you nice and busy here. You always get your basic needs met.

The great thing is that it has it's own set of things that happen, all in the moment, that you couldn't possibly imagine while you are here sitting on your computer, which when all added up day after day, make a really wonderful trip!

Well, I guess that's it, hope there is something here that helps someone and have a Buen camino!
Suzanne

ps, note on the American woman in April who got hypothermia going over the mountain to Roncesvalles - several people on this forum mentioned wondering what happened to her... we met her about a week later. Both she and her husband were advised it was ok to go over and a freak storm just came up, whipped their ponchos about off, they were wet, freezing, got hypothermia and she passed out and woke up in the hospital 5 days later. She's fine, but was told not to walk for 2 weeks. It was a very frightening, life threatening experience for them. This time of year should be better, but take good care if you go over, and be well prepared for a freak storm should one occur.
 

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#4
just read some of the blog,great.
but what caught my eye was the photo's of manholes,maybe the wine i've consumed tonight but thought they were great,
suzanne you are the frida kahlo of manhole covers.
Ian
 
#5
The manhole covers are another story. My daughter and I walked the Camino 5 years ago and about half way through we realized we had been stopping and reading/looking at all the water, gas & manhole covers and started taking photos of them.

As you know, you look down a lot when you are walking, yet no one really takes pictures of these, so when we were finished, I told myself that on the next walk, that I would start from the beginning and take every one I passed by. That was 5 years ago, but I remembered.

My daughter couldn't go with me this time, but I remembered & decided to take them as nostalgia photos and make her a coffee table book of them for Christmas. I'm surprised myself how beautifully they all turned out because I literally took many of them 'on the run', not stopping to make sure all the settings were right.

You can imagine the number of people who thought I was nuts, (including Pat, who I walked with, but soon started hunting them down for me) but now I have this nice little collection as a memory!

Hope you enjoy them -
Suzanne
 

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#6
I'm glad to see someone else using my trick of taping up the feet to prevent blisters! It does work!!

Thanks for sharing the insights from your Camino. I can't wait to get back myself.

Kelly
 

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