Is it possible to find a place a little off the path to lay down a mat and sleeping bag outside? I read in a guide of the camino that it is possible to sleep under the stars. However the guide didn't give much more info than that.I'll be traveling in late May.
I did it a couple of times on my camino, and sometimes meet extra-scruffy pilgrims who´ve ´slept rough´ the night before. It´s mostly done in midsummer, when the moon is bright and the hardy souls who want to make long distances decide to hike into the night and pass up the hot daytime trekking. Earlier in the year you can sack out in grain fields and under trees, and later, after the hay is cut, you can often find haystacks to sleep on.
Just be sure to take away all the trash you produce, and be aware that roadside trees and picnic areas and nice grassy spots are also very popular spots for pilgrim ´relief stations.´ (Which is to say you do NOT want to lay your sleeping bag down in a field toilet.) And in Galicia, the cows arrive early in the morning, and they are curious about the new visitor asleep on their hay. (another unforgettable camino moment for me...waking up to a snuffling wet cow nose next to my face).
I met one poverty-stricken winter pilg last year who´d spent the night at a road-construction site, asleep inside a stack of concrete drainage pipes. Try it. Just don´t expect a great night´s sleep.
Travelling along the north coast by train last year I met a pilgrim on Camino del Norte the who had been sleeping out rough almost every night on his walk all the way from Germany!
He said for him it was a cruical part of the camino experience and he simply took himself 10m or so off the path at night and lay down in a hedge/ditch or whatever to sleep.
He said the only real problem he found with it was that he had a lot of trouble finding somewhere to wash (himself and his clothes presumably) and that this was occasionally difficult. He also said that in France (but not in Spain) he had a lot of trouble finding drinking water. (I'm guessing most pilgrims fill up their water bottle in wherever they are staying before they leave in the morning so if you're in a field that might be tricky!)
Personally after a long day's walking I tend to find a bed a much more tempting prospect than a hedge but each to their own and it's obviously a viable option.
p.s. I happen to know he made it all the way to Santiago (from Germany!!) sleeping rough like this as I saw him in Santiago airport some weeks later about to fly home.
In 2002, I ran into a hospice worker from Berlin who slept under church porches in villages along the way-- she told met that she did not like the often poorly-ventilated and noisy refugios and preferred the fresh air. She passed through major cities and only stayed in smaller centres.
Elzi's German pilgrim may not have known that, in France, the standpipes near cemeteries provide potable water, a clue vouchsafed me by a gendarme in Gîmont and one for which I came to be most grateful as the temperatures in southern France in September came to be very warm that year.
Two points to consider. The tempting hedge may contain an untempting serpent! After sleeping out in the fields once or twice I stopped doing that when I saw a viper nearly a metre long, just before Hontanas! The chances of such an encounter may be rare, but it certainly gave me pause for thought.
The other thing to be aware of is the freezing cold temperatures at night on the high plains in Spain. Last August, after an enjoyable but really hot day's walking through into late evening, I was too late to find a bed at the refugios. I slept in a field, covering my sleeping bag with straw. I woke at 3.30 a.m. freezing cold and had to use my emergency foil blanket to keep warm. My teeth were still chattering when I began walking again after the sun came up. So don't get the idea you'll have a nice comfortable night in a warm field gazing up at the Milky Way: you might instead be piling on the layers and trying to ward off hypothermia! It is a serious safety factor and I do not exaggerate. Sleeping out is fine, but remember the possibility of cold conditions and be safe.
I suppose you could always snuggle up to the snake to keep warm. She might be grateful... :wink:
hi oursonpolaire - yes we tried to explain to the german pilgrim about cemeteries/churchyards in France having drinking water (really good thing to know when walking across France I guess!) but my German isn't very good so goodness only knows what he thought I was saying...
I never slept outside on a regular basis but did it a few times and there are places where it is relatively convenient to sleep close to the refugio and use the showers etc. (You are entitled to do this). The advantage is that you have an air conditioned room, lots of space, a view of the stars, and fewer snorers! At Mansilla you can sleep in the courtyard on a mattress, Ribadiso, plenty of space in refugio grounds. If you sleep near the refugios you're less likely to meet the metre-long nasties or put your sleeping bag on a pilgrim toilet. Even a sleeping mat can feel a bit hard after a while but but best of luck. I have often thought that so many pilgrims travel the way of the stars but never take the time to look upwards at night and see the wonderful route they are travelling.
there are places where it is relatively convenient to sleep close to the refugio and use the showers etc. (You are entitled to do this). .... I have often thought that so many pilgrims travel the way of the stars but never take the time to look upwards at night and see the wonderful route they are travelling.
Thanks for this, Brendan. It's a good point: there are quite a few refugios with courtyards, where they don't mind 'surplus' pilgrims putting their air-mattresses out in the open and using the facilities. Yes, it's worth remembering that option. This gets over the safety issues with reptiles that I mentioned before. (Hey: why not bring your own luminous snake and scare your fellow pilgrims :? )
But you also rightly point to the stars, and this reminds me... O bonitas! As you are walking west through the night, look up above the Camino and you will see a perfect cross in the sky. On the line of the Camino it is at about eleven o'clock. The first time I saw it, I thought I was having a vision and I knelt down in the dust. This was a bit embarrassing in retrospect, as they turned out to be actual stars and not a vision. (Hey ho, you can't always tell, with those pesky visions.) Worth looking out for anyway.
Oh, hang on. Has nobody else seen this? Maybe it was a vision....?