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'Loud crowds' from Santiago; or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Way

Blastomatic

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
October 2016: Sarria-Santiago
Greetings to all the good people of Ivar's Forum!
My wife Kelly and I have completed our Camino, starting at Sarria on the 3rd, finishing on the 11th.
If you were on-Camino at that time during that stretch, you may recall us, as we were the fat ones.

And I mean, like, the ONLY fat people doing the Camino.
Not that everyone doing it is a flawless Olympian-bodied walking advertisement for energy bars, but the only people we saw who came close to us size-wise were a pair of cyclists. So if you have a friend who moans about the Camino because they're too out of shape to do it? If they're under 150 kilos, they can now officially no longer use that excuse. EXCUSE REVOKED!

STAGES
Sarria - Casa de Morgade - Ventas de Naron - Palas de Rei - Melide - Arzua - Salceda - O Pedrouzo - Lavacolla - Santiago.

DAILY ROUTINE
We started walking each day at about 6 AM, long before the 8:30 dawn due to jet lag, which worked in our favor because we were usually at our final destination before 3 PM. We booked ahead the day before each stage, going with private rooms most of the way, and never got caught short ourselves although in Ventas de Naron there were a few latecomers who got turned away.

WEATHER
Amazingly, it never rained once until right about noon on the 11th, when we arrived at the cathedral's plaza. And then the 12th, all day long. Mostly there was an intense fog layer which burned off gradually, leaving the post-dawn vallies cradling

PACING, HEALTH, INJURIES
A gentle pace, so no blisters, wounds, fractures, or bum knees. We saved ourselves a 'slack day' that we ended up not using and so we spent the 12th shacked up in an apartment, sipping tea with milk and eating pastries under a comforter while the storm raged outside. Delightful.

EQUIPMENT POST-MORTEM
Things I brought but never used:
Sleeping bag (blankets + silk liner fully sufficient).
Tarp (never rained, wouldn't have needed it if it had rained).
Wool long underwear (not nearly cold enough).

Things I didn't bring but should have:
CPAP machine. A full kg by itself, but I found we were never far from a power outlet at night, and I might have slept better.
Pumice stone. Picked one up in Palas de Rei, negligible weight.

The above is just for me - my wife used every single piece of equipment she brought and didn't need anything she didn't bring. Perfect score.

THE PEOPLE
Unfailingly kind and generous of spirit, regardless of the starting point. The SJPdP crew were out in force, bearing creaky knees, disintegrating feet and thoughtful advice. The Sarria gang seemed to be a similar quantity, not over-abundant or moving in large groups, usually able to be discerned by a louder 'Bon/Buen Camino!' than those long-distance folk who had been saying it non-stop for the previous four weeks. We also ran into a few school groups doing smaller sections, a day's length, and we peppered each other with questions.

THE STAFF
Always helpful to a fault and hugely overworked, we tried to be as gentle as possible with frazzled hospitaleros/hospitaleras and thank them for their efforts, both in word and coin.

THE MAGIC (no particular order)
1. Basket of 3-week-old puppies at our refuge in Salceda. BASKET. OF. PUPPIES.
2. Two people from two different groups we met at our 'afternoon beverages' table in Ventas de Naron, who after talking realized they'd grown up on the same street in Ireland at the same time.
3. The hospitalero at Casa de Formiga putting on Leonard Cohen's 'Live in London' as the sun rose.
4. A meal of bread, olives, and thick hunks of Arzua cheese in Palas de Rei.
5. All nine sunrises.
6. My wife despairing of not finding what she wanted, her reason for walking the Camino - what to do next now that she wants out of her career - then getting a job offer for a just-right position on our last full day in Santiago.
7. Portomarin wreathed in a river of mist.
8. Waking up at 1 AM on October 12th to roaring screaming crowds - like a parade and riot simultaneously performing Götterdämmerung in Spanish - and, quickly working out via Google that it was National Day, we promptly went outside to join the party!
9. Sitting on our sleeping pads in deep shade.
10. Our insane splurge in Arzua, sleeping like kings under an ancient timber roof in a deep-pile four post bed.

THE MUNDANE
I thought we were tough, but then we got in line for our credencial and we finally knew what hard REALLY looked like - standing still for an hour cheek-to-elbow with our fellow peregrinos. I can walk for eight hours straight, but God help me if I have to stand still. The organization was haphazard, and only three of the 14 locations were staffed by volunteers even though it was the middle of the day.

The last 2-3km were busy, crowded, and noisy. Tour groups drifted around like spilled water, seeking the lowest point, or maybe just the best selfie angle. (I don't get selfies - my friends already know what I look like!) The pews for the pilgrim mass were full of tour groups, and even though the priest - this is not some rock star asking you to stop recording, but someone who supposedly speaks with the authority of God Almighty - said no filming of the botafumeiro, guess how many tourist cell phones shot up the moment they started ladling in the coals?

I allowed myself to get to the point of these people do not deserve this and I had to check myself a little bit. The cathedral is for all comers, not just those who walked there. Worthiness or lack thereof was not for me to decide. I focused on the scent of the incense, remembered how privileged I was to be there at that moment, to witness, and immediately relaxed into the ritual.

PARTICULAR THANKS TO
The acidic, acerbic pair of Ozzie ladies with whom we mutually moaned about politics; Sean, late of Ireland, now Minnesota; Mike and Courtney, she starting from St. Jean, he meeting up with her from Sarria; the two middle-aged Germans from Leipzig whose pace matched ours the whole way, exchanging winks from Sarria to the streets of Santiago; the ladies of San Diego whose packs matched my wife's; Mari of Sweden who familiarized us with the ins and outs of bedbug infestation; Disaster Dave, already plotting his next grand adventure; Carol, Karen, Tomas, Anthony, Bruce and Kyle and a hundred other people whose smiles energized us and kind words motivated us.

GENERIC NOTES - IF ONLY WE'D KNOWN
1. Since Spaniards do not get sick on Sundays, the pharmacies are usually closed then, so plan accordingly.
2. The Movistar shop in Terminal 2 of Madrid Barajas appears to be inaccessible if you are arriving from outside of Spain; we were routed to Customs through an enclosed hallway and then right out of the secure area. So unless you are arriving from elsewhere in Spain, or are continuing on from Madrid to, say, Santiago, do not count on getting a tourist SIM inside of the airport.
3. Palas de Rei has an electronics shop that is licensed to sell tourist SIMs right on the Camino, which is located right across from the Albergue Castro on the Av. Ourense.
4. Don't get too bummed if you can't get a Spain-centric SIM card right out of the gate; everywhere you'll stop, there's Wifi. It wasn't a problem, we only had to make 3 calls while we were there!

If you have any questions, any at all, please ask below. Thanks for the advice and support of those folks who replied to my earlier posts.
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
Congratulations @Blastomatic and thank you for your good, positive, notes. They will be useful for others walking the first time.
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
What a report! Glad your walk was such a sucess.

Now, who on earth exposes 3 week old puppies to crowds of people. Shameful exposing them to all sorts of viruses and bacterial infection like this. Urgh, the way dogs are treated in Spain.... urgh...

Yeah to Leonard Cohen (just relaesed what he expects will be his last album sadly).

Yeah to your wife's dream job offer!

Yeah for tour info on getting a sim card at the airport. That was also my experience and kept wondering where I might have taken a wrong turn to miss the shop.

Yeah to your post, and day in bed on a rainy day.
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
What a report! Glad your walk was such a sucess.

Now, who on earth exposes 3 week old puppies to crowds of people. Shameful exposing them to all sorts of viruses and bacterial infection like this. Urgh, the way dogs are treated in Spain.... urgh... I once said here the ideal albergue would have a house dog, but a fully vaccinated one. Poor puppies.

Yeah to Leonard Cohen (just relaesed what he expects will be his last album sadly).

Yeah to your wife's dream job offer!

Yeah for tour info on getting a sim card at the airport. That was also my experience and kept wondering where I might have taken a wrong turn to miss the shop.

Yeah to your post, and day in bed on a rainy day.
 

JRO

Member
Camino(s) past & future
santiago to muxia
Greetings to all the good people of Ivar's Forum!
My wife Kelly and I have completed our Camino, starting at Sarria on the 3rd, finishing on the 11th.
If you were on-Camino at that time during that stretch, you may recall us, as we were the fat ones.

And I mean, like, the ONLY fat people doing the Camino.
Not that everyone doing it is a flawless Olympian-bodied walking advertisement for energy bars, but the only people we saw who came close to us size-wise were a pair of cyclists. So if you have a friend who moans about the Camino because they're too out of shape to do it? If they're under 150 kilos, they can now officially no longer use that excuse. EXCUSE REVOKED!

STAGES
Sarria - Casa de Morgade - Ventas de Naron - Palas de Rei - Melide - Arzua - Salceda - O Pedrouzo - Lavacolla - Santiago.

DAILY ROUTINE
We started walking each day at about 6 AM, long before the 8:30 dawn due to jet lag, which worked in our favor because we were usually at our final destination before 3 PM. We booked ahead the day before each stage, going with private rooms most of the way, and never got caught short ourselves although in Ventas de Naron there were a few latecomers who got turned away.

WEATHER
Amazingly, it never rained once until right about noon on the 11th, when we arrived at the cathedral's plaza. And then the 12th, all day long. Mostly there was an intense fog layer which burned off gradually, leaving the post-dawn vallies cradling

PACING, HEALTH, INJURIES
A gentle pace, so no blisters, wounds, fractures, or bum knees. We saved ourselves a 'slack day' that we ended up not using and so we spent the 12th shacked up in an apartment, sipping tea with milk and eating pastries under a comforter while the storm raged outside. Delightful.

EQUIPMENT POST-MORTEM
Things I brought but never used:
Sleeping bag (blankets + silk liner fully sufficient).
Tarp (never rained, wouldn't have needed it if it had rained).
Wool long underwear (not nearly cold enough).

Things I didn't bring but should have:
CPAP machine. A full kg by itself, but I found we were never far from a power outlet at night, and I might have slept better.
Pumice stone. Picked one up in Palas de Rei, negligible weight.

The above is just for me - my wife used every single piece of equipment she brought and didn't need anything she didn't bring. Perfect score.

THE PEOPLE
Unfailingly kind and generous of spirit, regardless of the starting point. The SJPdP crew were out in force, bearing creaky knees, disintegrating feet and thoughtful advice. The Sarria gang seemed to be a similar quantity, not over-abundant or moving in large groups, usually able to be discerned by a louder 'Bon/Buen Camino!' than those long-distance folk who had been saying it non-stop for the previous four weeks. We also ran into a few school groups doing smaller sections, a day's length, and we peppered each other with questions.

THE STAFF
Always helpful to a fault and hugely overworked, we tried to be as gentle as possible with frazzled hospitaleros/hospitaleras and thank them for their efforts, both in word and coin.

THE MAGIC (no particular order)
1. Basket of 3-week-old puppies at our refuge in Salceda. BASKET. OF. PUPPIES.
2. Two people from two different groups we met at our 'afternoon beverages' table in Ventas de Naron, who after talking realized they'd grown up on the same street in Ireland at the same time.
3. The hospitalero at Casa de Formiga putting on Leonard Cohen's 'Live in London' as the sun rose.
4. A meal of bread, olives, and thick hunks of Arzua cheese in Palas de Rei.
5. All nine sunrises.
6. My wife despairing of not finding what she wanted, her reason for walking the Camino - what to do next now that she wants out of her career - then getting a job offer for a just-right position on our last full day in Santiago.
7. Portomarin wreathed in a river of mist.
8. Waking up at 1 AM on October 12th to roaring screaming crowds - like a parade and riot simultaneously performing Götterdämmerung in Spanish - and, quickly working out via Google that it was National Day, we promptly went outside to join the party!
9. Sitting on our sleeping pads in deep shade.
10. Our insane splurge in Arzua, sleeping like kings under an ancient timber roof in a deep-pile four post bed.

THE MUNDANE
I thought we were tough, but then we got in line for our credencial and we finally knew what hard REALLY looked like - standing still for an hour cheek-to-elbow with our fellow peregrinos. I can walk for eight hours straight, but God help me if I have to stand still. The organization was haphazard, and only three of the 14 locations were staffed by volunteers even though it was the middle of the day.

The last 2-3km were busy, crowded, and noisy. Tour groups drifted around like spilled water, seeking the lowest point, or maybe just the best selfie angle. (I don't get selfies - my friends already know what I look like!) The pews for the pilgrim mass were full of tour groups, and even though the priest - this is not some rock star asking you to stop recording, but someone who supposedly speaks with the authority of God Almighty - said no filming of the botafumeiro, guess how many tourist cell phones shot up the moment they started ladling in the coals?

I allowed myself to get to the point of these people do not deserve this and I had to check myself a little bit. The cathedral is for all comers, not just those who walked there. Worthiness or lack thereof was not for me to decide. I focused on the scent of the incense, remembered how privileged I was to be there at that moment, to witness, and immediately relaxed into the ritual.

PARTICULAR THANKS TO
The acidic, acerbic pair of Ozzie ladies with whom we mutually moaned about politics; Sean, late of Ireland, now Minnesota; Mike and Courtney, she starting from St. Jean, he meeting up with her from Sarria; the two middle-aged Germans from Leipzig whose pace matched ours the whole way, exchanging winks from Sarria to the streets of Santiago; the ladies of San Diego whose packs matched my wife's; Mari of Sweden who familiarized us with the ins and outs of bedbug infestation; Disaster Dave, already plotting his next grand adventure; Carol, Karen, Tomas, Anthony, Bruce and Kyle and a hundred other people whose smiles energized us and kind words motivated us.

GENERIC NOTES - IF ONLY WE'D KNOWN
1. Since Spaniards do not get sick on Sundays, the pharmacies are usually closed then, so plan accordingly.
2. The Movistar shop in Terminal 2 of Madrid Barajas appears to be inaccessible if you are arriving from outside of Spain; we were routed to Customs through an enclosed hallway and then right out of the secure area. So unless you are arriving from elsewhere in Spain, or are continuing on from Madrid to, say, Santiago, do not count on getting a tourist SIM inside of the airport.
3. Palas de Rei has an electronics shop that is licensed to sell tourist SIMs right on the Camino, which is located right across from the Albergue Castro on the Av. Ourense.
4. Don't get too bummed if you can't get a Spain-centric SIM card right out of the gate; everywhere you'll stop, there's Wifi. It wasn't a problem, we only had to make 3 calls while we were there!

If you have any questions, any at all, please ask below. Thanks for the advice and support of those folks who replied to my earlier posts.
There is just so much joy and good humor in this post that I WISH I had been one of the people to journey with you....anyone who types BASKET. OF. PUPPIES. can be my groupie anytime. Glad it was so wonderful, and thank you for all the good advice for the next round...
 

Wokabaut_Meri

somewhere along the Way
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés 2015
Pilgrims Way 2018
Via Francigena #1 Canterbury-Dover 2018
Rock on! @Blastomatic
and I'll add my thanks for your wonderful and spirited post.

It truly shows that the Sarria-Santiago Camino is a true and worthy FULL pilgrimage.

Your intent and soul shine through and the Camino has rewarded you both.

Well done!
 

SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999, now living in Santiago de C
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Santiago - Muxia 2019

Now: http://egeria.house/
Congratulations on your arrival and thanks for the detailed report, one addition:

"1. Since Spaniards do not get sick on Sundays, the pharmacies are usually closed then, so plan accordingly."

There should be always a "Pharmacie on guard" nearby (which can mean a few kilometers off the Camino!) and that has a telephone number at the door/in the window to call and the pharmacist will come and open it for you. The hospitalero helps with locating that one.

Buen Camino de la Vida, SY
 

HeidiL

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (2004-), Portugués, Madrid, 4/5 Plata, 1/8 Levante, 1/8 Lana, Augusta, hospitalera Grado.
What a lovely and cheerful post! I hope you'll stick around - now that you've done it once, before you know it, you will hear that voice in the back of your head: "Which Camino will I walk next?"
 

movinmaggie

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015) Scotland GGW (2017) Primitivo
Wonderful, positive, humorous post.....splendidly written.
 

good_old_shoes

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('15, '19)
Via Coloniensis ('16)
Trier-Nancy + Le Puy-Fisterra ('17)
Aragonés ('18)
Congratulations to you and your wife! You obviously had a great time out there! And thank you for that wonderful, very positive post.

It's so sad to read again and again about how bad people usually tend to think of that last stretch from Sarria, yours is a great post against that.

There is beauty in everything, sometimes you just have to make some effort to see it.


(I had a horrible day today, but what you wrote cheered me up so much! Thank you :) )
 
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M

Mark Lee

Guest
What a report! Glad your walk was such a sucess.

Now, who on earth exposes 3 week old puppies to crowds of people. Shameful exposing them to all sorts of viruses and bacterial infection like this. Urgh, the way dogs are treated in Spain.... urgh... I once said here the ideal albergue would have a house dog, but a fully vaccinated one. Poor puppies.

Yeah to Leonard Cohen (just relaesed what he expects will be his last album sadly).

Yeah to your wife's dream job offer!

Yeah for tour info on getting a sim card at the airport. That was also my experience and kept wondering where I might have taken a wrong turn to miss the shop.

Yeah to your post, and day in bed on a rainy day.
Easy now. They're puppies. Everybody loves puppies and nothing wrong with sharing their cuteness, diseases be damned.
Can't say I'd want a dog shuffling about inside an albergue, passing on fleas and such. When growing up we were pretty pragmatic about dogs. They stay outside and they are owned to work. Just like the Spaniards see them.
 

Blastomatic

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
October 2016: Sarria-Santiago
With respect to the basket o' puppies, while they were adorable, they were behind both a small gate and the paranoid watchful eye of their mama, a King Charles Terrier (papa, a German Shepherd, sat sprawled in the sun like the cat that drank the cream). So close contact in either direction was out of the question! Their little squeaks and squabbles and nose-biting and baby growls was enough cuteness to refill my Morale Meter three times over.

My God, I cannot stress the Morale Meter enough. Puppies, a local wishing us Buen Camino, a cauldron of piping hot caldo gallego on a foggy day, a silly moment with a stranger, a Twix bar sandwich stuffed with almond butter, a new-laundered shirt smelling of lavender fabric softener, a cafe with ice water in the middle of a sun-exposed straightaway; your pace can double and your entire outlook can change when morale is high.

Thanks for the 'pharmacie on guarde' tip, SYates! Another good reason to have some phone or data capability on hand, in case you can't wait to get to the next cafe.

Next Camino will either be late 2017 or early 2018 I think - summer trips aren't in it for me - I've been considering the Via de la Plata, but I've heard that between the major town stages accommodations can be hard to find, so I would need to up my kms-per-day to more like 25-30 as opposed to 10-20.
 

CalSue

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Beginning of CF (2016)
Love this post! Congratulations to you and your wife for a joyful Camino and your wife's new job! My daughter and I walked at the same time, starting a day later at the other end of the Camino Frances, walking SJPP to Cirauqui at a slow pace in glorious weather. We also had a wonderful time, but different from the busier route you chose. Good to hear a positive report about the Sarria to Santiago stretch, given all the recent warnings about crowds/bikes/noise, as we might return someday to walk it. Oh...I agree with earlier commenter that you got me with BASKET.OF. PUPPIES :)
 

BrendanB

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Sarria to Santiago 2016
Wonderful post, thanks so much.

leonard Cohen at sunrise! What a great start to the day!!
:)
 

DurhamParish

Un Cerveza, Por Favor
Camino(s) past & future
Caminho Portuguese 2012 & 2018
Camino Frances 2014, 2015, 2015, 2017, 2018
Blastomatic, I LOVED your post, and sincere congratulations on your accomplishment. And thanks for your honesty concerning your weight and how you were able to complete the camino. I'm no "small child" myself, but I do have a dear dear friend whose mobility is severely hampered by his weight. This is an inspiration.

But one question concerning the use of video in the cathedral at Santiago. I know that the church doesn't want people to use video during the mass, but I thought they swung the botofumiero after the mass just so people could "film" that event? Has this changed?
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
@DurhamParish isn't the swinging of the botofumiero and the incense part of the mass? By banning cameras I assume the Cathedral authorities are trying their best to stop the whole thing from just being a Disneyland performance. In any event, I've never seen a video or film that does justice to the majesty of the botofumiero live. On film it seems diminished.
 
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A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
[QUOTE="DurhamParish, post: 456165, member: 19040"
But one question concerning the use of video in the cathedral at Santiago. I know that the church doesn't want people to use video during the mass, but I thought they swung the botofumiero after the mass just so people could "film" that event? Has this changed?[/QUOTE]

The swinging of the botafumeiro is part of the service, and it's not even at the end of it.. The Church doesn't have many side shows, if any. ;0). So no cameras...
 

Heather MM

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Walked approximately 150 kms on the Camino Frances in 2016. Could not complete due to torn meniscus.
Greetings to all the good people of Ivar's Forum!
My wife Kelly and I have completed our Camino, starting at Sarria on the 3rd, finishing on the 11th.
If you were on-Camino at that time during that stretch, you may recall us, as we were the fat ones.

And I mean, like, the ONLY fat people doing the Camino.
Not that everyone doing it is a flawless Olympian-bodied walking advertisement for energy bars, but the only people we saw who came close to us size-wise were a pair of cyclists. So if you have a friend who moans about the Camino because they're too out of shape to do it? If they're under 150 kilos, they can now officially no longer use that excuse. EXCUSE REVOKED!

STAGES
Sarria - Casa de Morgade - Ventas de Naron - Palas de Rei - Melide - Arzua - Salceda - O Pedrouzo - Lavacolla - Santiago.

DAILY ROUTINE
We started walking each day at about 6 AM, long before the 8:30 dawn due to jet lag, which worked in our favor because we were usually at our final destination before 3 PM. We booked ahead the day before each stage, going with private rooms most of the way, and never got caught short ourselves although in Ventas de Naron there were a few latecomers who got turned away.

WEATHER
Amazingly, it never rained once until right about noon on the 11th, when we arrived at the cathedral's plaza. And then the 12th, all day long. Mostly there was an intense fog layer which burned off gradually, leaving the post-dawn vallies cradling

PACING, HEALTH, INJURIES
A gentle pace, so no blisters, wounds, fractures, or bum knees. We saved ourselves a 'slack day' that we ended up not using and so we spent the 12th shacked up in an apartment, sipping tea with milk and eating pastries under a comforter while the storm raged outside. Delightful.

EQUIPMENT POST-MORTEM
Things I brought but never used:
Sleeping bag (blankets + silk liner fully sufficient).
Tarp (never rained, wouldn't have needed it if it had rained).
Wool long underwear (not nearly cold enough).

Things I didn't bring but should have:
CPAP machine. A full kg by itself, but I found we were never far from a power outlet at night, and I might have slept better.
Pumice stone. Picked one up in Palas de Rei, negligible weight.

The above is just for me - my wife used every single piece of equipment she brought and didn't need anything she didn't bring. Perfect score.

THE PEOPLE
Unfailingly kind and generous of spirit, regardless of the starting point. The SJPdP crew were out in force, bearing creaky knees, disintegrating feet and thoughtful advice. The Sarria gang seemed to be a similar quantity, not over-abundant or moving in large groups, usually able to be discerned by a louder 'Bon/Buen Camino!' than those long-distance folk who had been saying it non-stop for the previous four weeks. We also ran into a few school groups doing smaller sections, a day's length, and we peppered each other with questions.

THE STAFF
Always helpful to a fault and hugely overworked, we tried to be as gentle as possible with frazzled hospitaleros/hospitaleras and thank them for their efforts, both in word and coin.

THE MAGIC (no particular order)
1. Basket of 3-week-old puppies at our refuge in Salceda. BASKET. OF. PUPPIES.
2. Two people from two different groups we met at our 'afternoon beverages' table in Ventas de Naron, who after talking realized they'd grown up on the same street in Ireland at the same time.
3. The hospitalero at Casa de Formiga putting on Leonard Cohen's 'Live in London' as the sun rose.
4. A meal of bread, olives, and thick hunks of Arzua cheese in Palas de Rei.
5. All nine sunrises.
6. My wife despairing of not finding what she wanted, her reason for walking the Camino - what to do next now that she wants out of her career - then getting a job offer for a just-right position on our last full day in Santiago.
7. Portomarin wreathed in a river of mist.
8. Waking up at 1 AM on October 12th to roaring screaming crowds - like a parade and riot simultaneously performing Götterdämmerung in Spanish - and, quickly working out via Google that it was National Day, we promptly went outside to join the party!
9. Sitting on our sleeping pads in deep shade.
10. Our insane splurge in Arzua, sleeping like kings under an ancient timber roof in a deep-pile four post bed.

THE MUNDANE
I thought we were tough, but then we got in line for our credencial and we finally knew what hard REALLY looked like - standing still for an hour cheek-to-elbow with our fellow peregrinos. I can walk for eight hours straight, but God help me if I have to stand still. The organization was haphazard, and only three of the 14 locations were staffed by volunteers even though it was the middle of the day.

The last 2-3km were busy, crowded, and noisy. Tour groups drifted around like spilled water, seeking the lowest point, or maybe just the best selfie angle. (I don't get selfies - my friends already know what I look like!) The pews for the pilgrim mass were full of tour groups, and even though the priest - this is not some rock star asking you to stop recording, but someone who supposedly speaks with the authority of God Almighty - said no filming of the botafumeiro, guess how many tourist cell phones shot up the moment they started ladling in the coals?

I allowed myself to get to the point of these people do not deserve this and I had to check myself a little bit. The cathedral is for all comers, not just those who walked there. Worthiness or lack thereof was not for me to decide. I focused on the scent of the incense, remembered how privileged I was to be there at that moment, to witness, and immediately relaxed into the ritual.

PARTICULAR THANKS TO
The acidic, acerbic pair of Ozzie ladies with whom we mutually moaned about politics; Sean, late of Ireland, now Minnesota; Mike and Courtney, she starting from St. Jean, he meeting up with her from Sarria; the two middle-aged Germans from Leipzig whose pace matched ours the whole way, exchanging winks from Sarria to the streets of Santiago; the ladies of San Diego whose packs matched my wife's; Mari of Sweden who familiarized us with the ins and outs of bedbug infestation; Disaster Dave, already plotting his next grand adventure; Carol, Karen, Tomas, Anthony, Bruce and Kyle and a hundred other people whose smiles energized us and kind words motivated us.

GENERIC NOTES - IF ONLY WE'D KNOWN
1. Since Spaniards do not get sick on Sundays, the pharmacies are usually closed then, so plan accordingly.
2. The Movistar shop in Terminal 2 of Madrid Barajas appears to be inaccessible if you are arriving from outside of Spain; we were routed to Customs through an enclosed hallway and then right out of the secure area. So unless you are arriving from elsewhere in Spain, or are continuing on from Madrid to, say, Santiago, do not count on getting a tourist SIM inside of the airport.
3. Palas de Rei has an electronics shop that is licensed to sell tourist SIMs right on the Camino, which is located right across from the Albergue Castro on the Av. Ourense.
4. Don't get too bummed if you can't get a Spain-centric SIM card right out of the gate; everywhere you'll stop, there's Wifi. It wasn't a problem, we only had to make 3 calls while we were there!

If you have any questions, any at all, please ask below. Thanks for the advice and support of those folks who replied to my earlier posts.
 

Heather MM

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Walked approximately 150 kms on the Camino Frances in 2016. Could not complete due to torn meniscus.
Congratulations on completing your Camino. My conclusion after reading your joyful,humorous post , I wish I could have walked every day with you. I started in Pamplona Sept. 14 and had to end in Burgos due to an extremely sore knee (torn meniscus) I will go back one day to complete.
 
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CaptBuddy

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Fall 2012, again Fall 2014.
@DurhamParish isn't the swinging of the botofumiero and the incense part of the mass? By banning cameras I assume the Cathedral authorities are trying their best to stop the whole thing from just being a Disneyland performance. In any event, I've never seen a video or film that does justice to the majesty of the botofumiero live. On film it seems diminished.
Agree.
What seems odd to me is that, in recent years, the tourist industry has discovered (and in some cases may have paid for) the botofumiero. While somewhat tacky, wouldn't the cathedral and Santiago itself suffer economically from restrictions? I've been to two noon pilgrim's mass, and the arrival and departure of the tour busses are part of the experience.

When we walked the Camino in 2012, our Spanish friends were amazed that we had seen the botofumiero swing. One friend with a dozen compostelas had seen it once in his lifetime. I was told then that the tour companies paid to have it swing.

Somewhat off the original topic, but maybe someone close to the cathedral can give an enlightened answer/opinion.
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
I think the butafumeiro question is the same as the last 100km: swing it for a fee and hand out Compostelas for 100km and "spiritual" reasons without proding may bring the curious/adventurous who really don't care about the Catholic faith closer to it. Call it a cost of new devotees acquisition ;0)
 

DurhamParish

Un Cerveza, Por Favor
Camino(s) past & future
Caminho Portuguese 2012 & 2018
Camino Frances 2014, 2015, 2015, 2017, 2018
Agree.
What seems odd to me is that, in recent years, the tourist industry has discovered (and in some cases may have paid for) the botofumiero. While somewhat tacky, wouldn't the cathedral and Santiago itself suffer economically from restrictions? I've been to two noon pilgrim's mass, and the arrival and departure of the tour busses are part of the experience.

When we walked the Camino in 2012, our Spanish friends were amazed that we had seen the botofumiero swing. One friend with a dozen compostelas had seen it once in his lifetime. I was told then that the tour companies paid to have it swing.

One of my Caminos was with a tour group, that being Marly Camino, Their website, for the tour we were on, guaranteed a botofumiero swing. To quote them "GUARANTEED BOTAFUMEIRO ritual (censer swing) at the Pilgrim's mass in the Cathedral" Our guide said that Marly Camino paid the cathedral 300 Euro to swing it.

http://marlycamino.com/caminos/

On the way to Santiago I remember being at a Casa Rural listening to this lady, who was on another arranged tour by another company, explaining to us that they were going to be arriving at the cathedral on that Sunday because "that was the only day the botofumiero was swung". I told her not to worry if she didn't make it by Sunday, our tour company was paying 300 Euro for it to swing on Monday.
 

Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Camino(s) past & future
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others
I was very blessed (obviously way and above what Karma would suggest is my due). I spent many days in SdC at the end of several walks, and for a few days of R&R...every day I attended Mass. Every day I saw the Botafumeiro (and once in the library I could swear the guard was encouraging me to touch it:eek: but i didn't:rolleyes:)...each time at Mass, I was grateful for the tour group that had paid the fee, and said a small prayer in thanks for the group responsible in particular, and for the happiness of groups in general. It is easy to complain about tour groups, but when I've interacted with members I found them not to be people looking for the easy way, but rather those who were so faithful, and so wanting to travel to SdC, that they paid a lot more than most of the rest of us, for whatever reason they were unable to make it happen on their own. And bonus...they often give the rest of us a free view.
edit: but I also don't care who besides me got a compostella, or how much anyone paid for anything. My goal was to walk the walk I walked, and the path taken by others never diminished that, and most often enriched it.
 

CaptBuddy

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Fall 2012, again Fall 2014.
One of my Caminos was with a tour group, that being Marly Camino, Their website, for the tour we were on, guaranteed a botofumiero swing. To quote them "GUARANTEED BOTAFUMEIRO ritual (censer swing) at the Pilgrim's mass in the Cathedral" Our guide said that Marly Camino paid the cathedral 300 Euro to swing it.

http://marlycamino.com/caminos/

On the way to Santiago I remember being at a Casa Rural listening to this lady, who was on another arranged tour by another company, explaining to us that they were going to be arriving at the cathedral on that Sunday because "that was the only day the botofumiero was swung". I told her not to worry if she didn't make it by Sunday, our tour company was paying 300 Euro for it to swing on Monday.

Right you are, Durham. I just want to clarify my post.
When I wrote of tour buses, I meant the non-pilgrim tours. Pretty much day trippers who arrived an hour before Mass, and were gone 3 hours later, photos and souvenirs packed away. These folks were not Camino walkers in any sense. Peregrinos nonetheless.
As for tour groups, such as Marley and others, I have no problem with them or their clients.
I have no problem with the day trippers either (except they take up a lot of seats - but that provided me with my favorite Camino experience - :) ).

I have my motivations and I reap my rewards; and I hope others can find theirs.
 
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DurhamParish

Un Cerveza, Por Favor
Camino(s) past & future
Caminho Portuguese 2012 & 2018
Camino Frances 2014, 2015, 2015, 2017, 2018
I have no problem with the day trippers either (except they take up a lot of seats - but that provided me with my favorite Camino experience - :) ).

I remember my last time in Santiago. My nephew and I got to the cathedral about an hour before the Pilgrim's Mass. The two of us and several people we had met along the camino were in pretty good seats, filling a couple of pews fairly close to the front in the north transept. The place was packed on the sides with the day trippers. One day tripper lady slowly began to sit on the arm-rest at the end of the pew I was in. Then she started to slowly slide her way down nearly on the lap of one of the females in our group. Unbelievable. :rolleyes:o_O
 

Blastomatic

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
October 2016: Sarria-Santiago
"I thought they swung the botofumiero after the mass just so people could "film" that event? Has this changed?"
"In any event, I've never seen a video or film that does justice to the majesty of the botofumiero live. On film it seems diminished."
"I was told then that the tour companies paid to have it swing."
"...day trippers who arrived an hour before Mass, and were gone 3 hours later, photos and souvenirs packed away... Peregrinos nonetheless."

All of these thoughts are good reasons for why I just had to make myself stop thinking about it and just dive right into the moments of the Pilgrim Mass! I'm distracted every day, a thousand times a day, by the world and what is going on in it - you may or may not have noticed, but the USA is having a wacky Presidential election at the moment - it was pretty much my whole goal of the Camino to complete with a clear head, to have quieted the cerebral noise and background chatter that hinders me daily.

Thus: let go of it, whatever it is, let it be itself so I can be myself, and make some memories to keep me warm when the whirlwind tells me to be cold. Thank you all for appreciating my writing of my own experience on the Camino.

Lastly - I was crossing the bridge into Portomarin when the thought How is the seeker worthy? entered my head, followed almost instantly by the reply By the seeking. Even day trippers are, in their own way, "Peregrinos nonetheless".
 
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP2Santiago completed (Sept.15, 2018).
Greetings to all the good people of Ivar's Forum!
My wife Kelly and I have completed our Camino, starting at Sarria on the 3rd, finishing on the 11th.
If you were on-Camino at that time during that stretch, you may recall us, as we were the fat ones.

And I mean, like, the ONLY fat people doing the Camino.
Not that everyone doing it is a flawless Olympian-bodied walking advertisement for energy bars, but the only people we saw who came close to us size-wise were a pair of cyclists. So if you have a friend who moans about the Camino because they're too out of shape to do it? If they're under 150 kilos, they can now officially no longer use that excuse. EXCUSE REVOKED!

STAGES
Sarria - Casa de Morgade - Ventas de Naron - Palas de Rei - Melide - Arzua - Salceda - O Pedrouzo - Lavacolla - Santiago.

DAILY ROUTINE
We started walking each day at about 6 AM, long before the 8:30 dawn due to jet lag, which worked in our favor because we were usually at our final destination before 3 PM. We booked ahead the day before each stage, going with private rooms most of the way, and never got caught short ourselves although in Ventas de Naron there were a few latecomers who got turned away.

WEATHER
Amazingly, it never rained once until right about noon on the 11th, when we arrived at the cathedral's plaza. And then the 12th, all day long. Mostly there was an intense fog layer which burned off gradually, leaving the post-dawn vallies cradling

PACING, HEALTH, INJURIES
A gentle pace, so no blisters, wounds, fractures, or bum knees. We saved ourselves a 'slack day' that we ended up not using and so we spent the 12th shacked up in an apartment, sipping tea with milk and eating pastries under a comforter while the storm raged outside. Delightful.

EQUIPMENT POST-MORTEM
Things I brought but never used:
Sleeping bag (blankets + silk liner fully sufficient).
Tarp (never rained, wouldn't have needed it if it had rained).
Wool long underwear (not nearly cold enough).

Things I didn't bring but should have:
CPAP machine. A full kg by itself, but I found we were never far from a power outlet at night, and I might have slept better.
Pumice stone. Picked one up in Palas de Rei, negligible weight.

The above is just for me - my wife used every single piece of equipment she brought and didn't need anything she didn't bring. Perfect score.

THE PEOPLE
Unfailingly kind and generous of spirit, regardless of the starting point. The SJPdP crew were out in force, bearing creaky knees, disintegrating feet and thoughtful advice. The Sarria gang seemed to be a similar quantity, not over-abundant or moving in large groups, usually able to be discerned by a louder 'Bon/Buen Camino!' than those long-distance folk who had been saying it non-stop for the previous four weeks. We also ran into a few school groups doing smaller sections, a day's length, and we peppered each other with questions.

THE STAFF
Always helpful to a fault and hugely overworked, we tried to be as gentle as possible with frazzled hospitaleros/hospitaleras and thank them for their efforts, both in word and coin.

THE MAGIC (no particular order)
1. Basket of 3-week-old puppies at our refuge in Salceda. BASKET. OF. PUPPIES.
2. Two people from two different groups we met at our 'afternoon beverages' table in Ventas de Naron, who after talking realized they'd grown up on the same street in Ireland at the same time.
3. The hospitalero at Casa de Formiga putting on Leonard Cohen's 'Live in London' as the sun rose.
4. A meal of bread, olives, and thick hunks of Arzua cheese in Palas de Rei.
5. All nine sunrises.
6. My wife despairing of not finding what she wanted, her reason for walking the Camino - what to do next now that she wants out of her career - then getting a job offer for a just-right position on our last full day in Santiago.
7. Portomarin wreathed in a river of mist.
8. Waking up at 1 AM on October 12th to roaring screaming crowds - like a parade and riot simultaneously performing Götterdämmerung in Spanish - and, quickly working out via Google that it was National Day, we promptly went outside to join the party!
9. Sitting on our sleeping pads in deep shade.
10. Our insane splurge in Arzua, sleeping like kings under an ancient timber roof in a deep-pile four post bed.

THE MUNDANE
I thought we were tough, but then we got in line for our credencial and we finally knew what hard REALLY looked like - standing still for an hour cheek-to-elbow with our fellow peregrinos. I can walk for eight hours straight, but God help me if I have to stand still. The organization was haphazard, and only three of the 14 locations were staffed by volunteers even though it was the middle of the day.

The last 2-3km were busy, crowded, and noisy. Tour groups drifted around like spilled water, seeking the lowest point, or maybe just the best selfie angle. (I don't get selfies - my friends already know what I look like!) The pews for the pilgrim mass were full of tour groups, and even though the priest - this is not some rock star asking you to stop recording, but someone who supposedly speaks with the authority of God Almighty - said no filming of the botafumeiro, guess how many tourist cell phones shot up the moment they started ladling in the coals?

I allowed myself to get to the point of these people do not deserve this and I had to check myself a little bit. The cathedral is for all comers, not just those who walked there. Worthiness or lack thereof was not for me to decide. I focused on the scent of the incense, remembered how privileged I was to be there at that moment, to witness, and immediately relaxed into the ritual.

PARTICULAR THANKS TO
The acidic, acerbic pair of Ozzie ladies with whom we mutually moaned about politics; Sean, late of Ireland, now Minnesota; Mike and Courtney, she starting from St. Jean, he meeting up with her from Sarria; the two middle-aged Germans from Leipzig whose pace matched ours the whole way, exchanging winks from Sarria to the streets of Santiago; the ladies of San Diego whose packs matched my wife's; Mari of Sweden who familiarized us with the ins and outs of bedbug infestation; Disaster Dave, already plotting his next grand adventure; Carol, Karen, Tomas, Anthony, Bruce and Kyle and a hundred other people whose smiles energized us and kind words motivated us.

GENERIC NOTES - IF ONLY WE'D KNOWN
1. Since Spaniards do not get sick on Sundays, the pharmacies are usually closed then, so plan accordingly.
2. The Movistar shop in Terminal 2 of Madrid Barajas appears to be inaccessible if you are arriving from outside of Spain; we were routed to Customs through an enclosed hallway and then right out of the secure area. So unless you are arriving from elsewhere in Spain, or are continuing on from Madrid to, say, Santiago, do not count on getting a tourist SIM inside of the airport.
3. Palas de Rei has an electronics shop that is licensed to sell tourist SIMs right on the Camino, which is located right across from the Albergue Castro on the Av. Ourense.
4. Don't get too bummed if you can't get a Spain-centric SIM card right out of the gate; everywhere you'll stop, there's Wifi. It wasn't a problem, we only had to make 3 calls while we were there!

If you have any questions, any at all, please ask below. Thanks for the advice and support of those folks who replied to my earlier posts.
What a fabulous summary! Love your wit/literary style. Still smiling.
 

JRO

Member
Camino(s) past & future
santiago to muxia
I felt like I was there with you....and uh oh, now I have to go AGAIN! Sounds like the Camino provided for your wife a new job :)
 

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