- Camino(s) past & future
- Frances (2008), Via de la Plata (2011), Portuguese (2014), Le Puy (2016-2017)
First let me say that I love the Camino, have done many routes, and always walked in the spring (holy week included). I don't want to complain, but to warn other Pilgrims about the apparently new reservation system. In April my husband and I began walking at St. Jean Pied de Port for a repeat of the Camino Frances. We found the town of Valcarlos completely booked, and when we arrived at Roncesvalles we were told it was completo due to the "new reservations policy". I am talking about the Monastery. We were exhausted but went to the Tourist information and they were totally unhelpful: no help in reserving, calling a taxi, etc. Two bus loads of people showed up an hour after we were turned away and took the beds we had been denied. We walked on to Burquette: totally booked. Pilgrims were desperate. A kind hotel person took pity on me after informing me that the next 2 towns were fully booked as well. He called a camping area a few kilometers off of the main route and reserved one of the last places for us. We walked on down the main road and had to hurry to get food before their dining area closed. The next day Viskarette was fully booked and we slogged on to Zubiri without stopping. Pilgrims were literally running down the steep hill and I kept thinking "There goes my bed". Upon arrival we learned Zubiri and Larasoanna were both completo. There were dozens of dazed Pilgrims milling around trying to figure out what to do, and the shop keepers were completely unhelpful. Who could blame them, as they were over run by all of us. No taxis were available. Finally a Danish couple secured a taxi via phone and it created a riot when it arrived. I felt sick having to say "We 4 booked it and we are taking it" to fellow Pilgrims. As we were going up the hill in Pamplona I felt terrible seeing Pilgrims trudge up the hill with their packs, knowing I was taking their beds. We did get into the Jesus and Maria Albergue, where we saw a sign listing the price for Pilgrims, groups, non Pilgrims and TOURISTS! What? They are now letting anyone stay, and make reservations as well? We were grateful for a bed, but spent 3 hours on email and phone trying to secure reservations for the next week. The next day going up the Alto de Perdon my knee gave out, and the short story is I tore my meniscus and had to end our Camino due to overuse. I would normally have taken 6 days to cover the distance that I was forced to do in 3 days, as I am 65 and my husband is 70. We went on to be tourists in Portugal so it was a nice "vacation", but I am now facing surgery. That night in Puenta La Reina, as I had arrived by taxi and saw Pilgrims being turned away by 1:00 because everything was full, 10 beds went empty in an Albergue that has 40 beds. The same with the next night! This is terrible that people make reservations and do not bother to cancel them, depriving others of a place to sleep. So back to "not complaining": Making reservations is not the end of the world and should not deter you from doing the Camino. In France we needed reservations every night, and knowing this we just planned a bit differently. I am sorry to say that the days of walking just as far as you feel like and getting a bed at 1:00 in the afternoon are finished. This new reservations policy is quite broken, and I hope they reconsider it. In the mean time, plan your stops a bit in advance, and make reservations to ensure your bed. A phone that works in Spain is a must. I only received 1 reply to my queries via email.