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My first-time Camino: a review of the good, the bad, and the cows!

Val13

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés (2018)
I walked the end of the Camino Frances earlier this month, with the guidance of the pre-booked tour company Marly Camino. Here are my thoughts and insights...hope they help!

1) It is a HIKE, not a walk. Considerable slopes and rocky paths abound, making the journey tougher than expected--and I trained on hills in Missouri. In early April, we also found ourselves navigating around lots of thick mud and puddles, which slowed us considerably. That's not to say you should necessarily wear hiking boots, but consider waterproofing what ever shoes you do end up wearing.

2)You MUST prepare. If reading other posts on this forum hasn't convinced you, I will reiterate: you must practice walking long distances in the months prior to your journey. This will also break in your shoes. I wore a pair of Hoka Ones that I broke in for about 100 miles of walking prior to the trip, and had no blisters. One of my walking companions who decided to wear new hiking boots the first day was not as fortunate. Practice walking at least some on hills or stairs, also.

3) If you are a first-timer and at all unsure about your physical or walking ability, consider a tour company--they will drive your luggage from place to place and will give you brochures and advice as to what to expect along the way.

4)There are cows. Lots of cows. And great cheese. And seafood. And wine. Weight loss probably will not occur if you ate like we did! Most restaurants have a prix fixe "Pilgrim's Menu" with 3 courses and wine included which gives a lot of food for your money. Enjoy.

5) Speaking of cows, bring a scarf or Buff despite the weather, as the larger farms or barns can get smelly!

6) Pack enough clothes--laundry facilities were available occasionally along the way, but not as many as I thought there would be. The albuergues are chilly this time of year, so warm pj's help. The cathedral at Santiago was freezing cold when we arrived, and it was hard to sit through the mass without shivering, so would definitely wear more clothes or a thicker coat for that.

7) Would I go again? Maybe. I would go in a warmer time of year, and with my husband (went with a group of girlfriends this time.) It was not as meditative as I thought it would be due to the effort of the hiking, but there was beautiful scenery, interesting history, nice people, and great food.
 

Vacajoe

Traded in my work boots for hiking ones
Camino(s) past & future
2019 Biarritz-Pamplona-Lourdes
2018 Aragon/Frances/Finis
2018 Operation Sabre
2018 Marin Ramble
Good advice for a Camino of any length!
 

ginniek

Member
Camino(s) past & future
frances 2017
Glad to read your honest observations about the relative difficulty of the HIKE. Both here and in Facebook groups it seems to be almost a requirement that posters insist that it's just an easy walk.
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
Glad to read your honest observations about the relative difficulty of the HIKE. Both here and in Facebook groups it seems to be almost a requirement that posters insist that it's just an easy walk.
It is all relative - for some people it will be a huge challenge, but others really do not find anything tough about it. Your own fitness and previous experience and even the weather on a given day will decide how you find it. Either way people should be free to say what they found for themselves.
 

CdnDreamer

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (12, 15 & 18) San Salvador (18), Portuguese (19)
Great post. Even with the mud, cows and no weight loss glad to hear that you would consider going again! I think it took me over a year before I thought I would walk again! Walking later in the year May/June is easier as there is a lot less mud (usually).

I tell people it is a walk, not a hike because they are picturing the movie "Wild" and I am mostly walking from restaurant to restaurant each day. Even in the Pyrenees, there are cows horses, and sheep everywhere - not like the mountains in Canada where there are only trees and bears. I guess it is just what the word "hike" means to people and here it can mean being away from civilization for weeks at a time.
 

MhaelK

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances: SJPdP -> Fisterra, (sep 26- oct 18, 2017)
Thanks for the review. I personally disagree with almost every point you made - but that doesn’t mean one of us is right and the other wrong, but just that our starting point is properly way different.
 

Becky 59

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances May 2018
I also thank you for your post, and candid assessments of your trek. The specific details are good to read about. I'm starting my Camino in 3-ish weeks, hoping for less mud!
 

KCarole

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Planning on walking the Camino in April 2018
Thank you for your post. I am currently doing the Camino Frances. I started 3 weeks ago at st Jean Pied de Port France. While the first week was somehow challenging with hills and bad weather, the last 2 are very easy with the only challenges being the weight you carry, the weather and the distance you choose to travel. I agree that preparation is very important (physical and moral preparation).
 

jo webber

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Sept 9th 2017
At 63 yrs old and not a hiker, the Camino was challenging. What I tell my friends who ask: I was cold and wet and hot and tired and hungry. Each day was hard in some way, physically, mentally . But Everyday Was Wonderful. Each day offered something or someone that lifted my spirit, made me smile, made me stronger. The Camino is amazing. I became amazing.

Yes, I carried my full pack. I learned to leave things behind - let things go. I gave away things to those who needed them more than I did. My pack got lighter and I got stronger.
 

Victoria65

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino France's SJ to Sahagun 2015, Sahagun to Santiago 2016, Le Puy Route, SJPDP to Santiago (2018)
Interesting. I hope this doesn’t scare folks off. A pilgrimmage should be just that.
No, I can't see that she will scare off anyone who is truly on a pilgrimage. Just someone disappointed with the "tour". I truly hopes she gives it another go! I walked with someone who had started like this with a tour group. It had given him just enough of a taste that he dumped the group and came back and did it on his own. Perhaps this was the eye opener she needed.
Every albergue I stayed in had a laundry sink.
I agree! I always have a few spare clothes pins to lend.
 

Jo King

Old Dorset Tortoise
Camino(s) past & future
Part 1 April -May 2017. Burgos to Sarria
Part 2 September 23-29 Sarria to Santiago
April (2018)
No, I can't see that she will scare off anyone who is truly on a pilgrimage. Just someone disappointed with the "tour". I truly hopes she gives it another go! I walked with someone who had started like this with a tour group. It had given him just enough of a taste that he dumped the group and came back and did it on his own. Perhaps this was the eye opener she needed.

I agree! I always have a few spare clothes pins to lend.
I agree too. Maybe she has never washed clothes by hand. I had 4 babies before a washing machine. (1960) .
 

SLOChick

Member
Camino(s) past & future
May or September (2018)
Does walking at work anywhere from 6-12 miles a shift and being on your feet for 10-12 hours at a time help w endurance or training? I have a training plan between now and July, I will start my walk in Aug. just wondering...
 

Victoria65

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino France's SJ to Sahagun 2015, Sahagun to Santiago 2016, Le Puy Route, SJPDP to Santiago (2018)
Does walking at work anywhere from 6-12 miles a shift and being on your feet for 10-12 hours at a time help w endurance or training? I have a training plan between now and July, I will start my walk in Aug. just wondering...
Sounds like one of my old nursing shifts. Boy if it is I don't know. I was just exhausted at the end of a shift and certainly never felt more in shape. However walking for several hours straight in the hills on days off, did put me in shape and was more enjoyable.
 

Kaleo

Pyrenean Mountain Dog
Camino(s) past & future
Planned for 2018
Val, thank you for your post. Did you use low-cut Hoka Ones or the mid-height Hokas? About how many miles did you walk per day? We'll be doing a similar trip in a few weeks, also with a company that will take bags from one spot to the next, but without a guide. If we like the Camino, we'll go again for a longer trip.
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/?/Invierno ('19)
I walk without 'training,' and do fine. (And do not have a physically active job.)
It's a walk to me, not a hike.
I carry (too much) stuff, eat a lot, and always lose weight.

But some people have different experiences.
For some it's a huge challenge, and different from anything else they've ever done. A leap of faith.
Maybe they are sedentary, unused to mud, or doing laundry by hand, or 'roughing it' in any way.
I give everyone credit for being out there, and not glued to their couch at home.
And lots of tourists start as tourists and end up as pilgrims.
Pax.
 
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MhaelK

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances: SJPdP -> Fisterra, (sep 26- oct 18, 2017)
Does walking at work anywhere from 6-12 miles a shift and being on your feet for 10-12 hours at a time help w endurance or training? I have a training plan between now and July, I will start my walk in Aug. just wondering...

Yes, Im sure a habit of walking 6-12 miles every day helps a lot even if it is during a shift. However, you should still do some quality long walks before you leave - in the gear/shoes you are planing to take.

+ running if that is your thing, I am a strong believe in easy but long runs are one of the best ways to build endurance for a long walk.
 

Pam Scott

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino de Santiago compostella 2015
Swimming is also good for endurance and helps with over all strength. Not a great swimming fan but I always feel good afterwards.
 

suzTeach

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Future (October 2018)
I'm going in Mid October and I have started training. Unfortunately we are still in winter road conditions so can't wear my hiking boots yet just winter boots. Thanks for writing. I particularly was interested in the smells. I have a buff so I'll put it to good use. I am also wearing my pack every where. Just thought I'd share my training for those reading this post. Right now I'm only carrying my sleeping bag and rain coat (about 2.5kg with 38l pack) but will gradually increase that. Walking the golf course will also be in the mix. There's lots of rolling hills! I have also mapped out routes near my house one being 2 really long and steep hills. Usually the routes will end in a coffee shop.
 

Lynda t

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP to Santiago May 2010
Lisbon to Santiago May 2012
Does walking at work anywhere from 6-12 miles a shift and being on your feet for 10-12 hours at a time help w endurance or training? I have a training plan between now and July, I will start my walk in Aug. just wondering...
I'd say just get in a few hills. Up and down.
 

JRO

Member
Camino(s) past & future
santiago to muxia
Here's thought for those of you particularly sensitive to smells....barnyard ones, body odor ones, feet odor ones, natural other gaseous odors, etc. If you don't encounter cow smells, you may encounter other odors in albergues. My husband's solution (learned during vet school) was to take a small container to mentholated "Vicks" salve (Mentholatum would work too) and put just alittle bit under his nose. You then smell the Mentholatum, not the odor. I think that peppermint Burt's Bees salve, or even maybe an essential oil mixed with a bit of Vaseline would work too.
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few times
That description of the walk that is the Camino Frances is nothing like any of the times I have walked it.
Mind you, I was not a young lad when I did.
I highly recommend avoiding the Camino tour companies unless walking without one is a physical impossibility for any reason. Just my opinion, of course.
The smells of rural Spain and its livestock I found nice. Reminds me of when I was a young and visiting relatives, or going to my ex's father's farm.
I cannot fathom carrying in my pack a set of pajamas. Actually I have not worn or owned a set of pajamas since the age of about twelve. Maybe I could get a set of those kind with rubber foot bottoms and a snap flap on the bum.
 

andrew.

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2018)
For someone completely new to the Camino (and about to leave), after having heard/read all of the tales of meeting new people, being confined in the albergues with new people, opening yourself up to people etc for months now, it's really saddening to see the snide / passive aggressive remarks in some of these posts.

I had thought one of the reasons to do the camino was to get some perspective, to let go of pride / conceit and to learn how to show humility and kindness. I really hope I'm not wrong about that, or this is gonna be a long month.

I very much appreciated your post Val13, thanks. I'm definitely going to be taking some cosy clothes too!
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
I had thought one of the reasons to do the camino was to get some perspective, to let go of pride / conceit and to learn how to show humility and kindness. I really hope I'm not wrong about that, or this is gonna be a long month.
The Spanish Caminos were walked by upwards of 300,000 people last year. I would not say that they were a representative sample of humanity because it probably takes some little kink in the soul to find that sort of thing fun but amongst them you will find all sorts of attitudes and personalities. Some you will enjoy, others perhaps not. When I find the latter sort I generally walk a little further that day or the next and put some distance between us. Some similar approach might be useful online too.
 

Robo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
VdlP (2020)
For someone completely new to the Camino (and about to leave), after having heard/read all of the tales of meeting new people, being confined in the albergues with new people, opening yourself up to people etc for months now, it's really saddening to see the snide / passive aggressive remarks in some of these posts.

I had thought one of the reasons to do the camino was to get some perspective, to let go of pride / conceit and to learn how to show humility and kindness. I really hope I'm not wrong about that, or this is gonna be a long month.

I very much appreciated your post Val13, thanks. I'm definitely going to be taking some cosy clothes too!
Whilst the OPs experience and tips might be quite far removed from most who walk the Camino, it’s not really fair to ridicule them. We all walk our Camino in different ways.....

As mentioned above, you’ll meet people you like....and some you don’t, whilst walking the Camino. I tend to like a much higher % of Camino Pilgrims though, than people I meet in my humdrum daily life at home ;)

I guess ‘idiots’ tend not to want to walk 800 kms! Which is good :)
 

Craig White

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
May 2018
I'm leaving May19th and will be my first Camino at age 65, trained for two years or.more. I have packed my pack several times and have discarded many items. I still think it's too heavy....lol. One thought that continually runs through my mind is I need to be less judgemental of people and working hard on that. I am looking forward to a nice long walk, without my golf clubs, meeting diverse people and hopefully, accepting these people for.whom they are. I don't plan on prebooking a nights stay, putting my trust in God and if I have to.sleep.outdoors, so be it. My family think I'm crazy, my boys are concerned and if the truth be told, so am.I. But I'm going and will.enjoy every ache and pain all the way to Muxia. Cheers everyone
 

tillyjones

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances June 2015
VDLP May 2017
del Norte Sept 2018
Thanks for the review. I personally disagree with almost every point you made - but that doesn’t mean one of us is right and the other wrong, but just that our starting point is properly way different.

Indeed. I would have almost a complete opposite assessment!

I travel with less clothes, not more, and certainly can't afford the luxury of warm PJ's (I sleep in tomorrow's hiking clothes). And the cows are one of my very favourite parts!!!
 

Heather Anne

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
(2017)
I did it last year in September/October. We had great weather with only 3 or 4 days of light rain. I am 70 and weigh 110 pounds. My only advice, since it was impossible to have a pack that weighed 11 pounds, if it gets too heavy and your feet start to become too painful, have one of the many companies take it to your next stop. I didn't, so walked with a lot of pain and a lot of anti-inflammatory drugs and after 7 months and two cortisone shots in my feet I am finally pain free. Stubbornness is something that I'm working on as it is not always a good thing.
 

Donna Sch

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
VdLP-Sanabres-Fisterra (Summer 2015); Levante-Invierno (Feb/Mar 2019);
England Camino routes ?2024
Does walking at work anywhere from 6-12 miles a shift and being on your feet for 10-12 hours at a time help w endurance or training? I have a training plan between now and July, I will start my walk in Aug. just wondering...
Think about adding some exercises that work your core which will make dealing with a pack easier.
 

Craig White

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
May 2018
As I sit in the airport in Toronto my pack beside me I just know it is too heavy even after unloading things I wanted. But I figure I can get what I need on the road and if not..... oh well. I'm excited, apprehensive and in my mind I know the next 90 days will be a lot of reflection, discarding some things and hopefully some fun meals and conversation. So whomever I meet on the road will be a blessing not to be questioned. Cheers
Craig
 
Camino(s) past & future
Plan on walking the Camino Frances May 2019, God willing
At 63 yrs old and not a hiker, the Camino was challenging. What I tell my friends who ask: I was cold and wet and hot and tired and hungry. Each day was hard in some way, physically, mentally . But Everyday Was Wonderful. Each day offered something or someone that lifted my spirit, made me smile, made me stronger. The Camino is amazing. I became amazing.

Yes, I carried my full pack. I learned to leave things behind - let things go. I gave away things to those who needed them more than I did. My pack got lighter and I got stronger.
Jo, I needed this bit just now! Life has gotten in the way of planning to walk the Camino next Fall and have just thought of giving up. I am 67, great city walker when traveling and a desk slug when home.
 

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