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Solo Camino - time scale and camping

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George Copp

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés
Good day kind reader,

I've decided to undertake the Camino Francés at the end of March/beginning of April 2018. I won't have any great time constraints as I'll be leaving my job prior to embarking on the journey to work on my writing whilst on the road. I guess my main query is whether there is a time frame within which you are obliged to complete the journey because I have read a lot about having to get daily stamps (or twice daily after Galicia) and I'd rather be dawdling along at my own pace to fully immerse myself in the scenery without having to worry about jeopardising my certificate in the process (realistically I imagine spending 2/3 months on the road). Any info on this would be a huge help!

Secondary query is about camping along the way. I am making this journey with a fairly solo mindset and camping lends itself to the kind of experience I am looking to achieve. I have read varying threads and articles on the subject, some saying go for it, others saying no chance, others saying that in practice it is actually very easy to wander off the beaten path each night and find a spot to get your head down for a few hours. I assume I'll definitely stop at a few refugios along the way but want to view these as a "luxury" to break up a mostly solo hiking/camping experience. I'd love to hear from anyone with knowledge or advise on the subject.

That's it for now but I'm sure more queries will spring to mind. A huge thank you in advance to anyone who lends a helpful word!

All the best,

George
 

hel&scott

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2004 St Jean - Santiago, 2008 &18 Seville - Finesterre, 2010 Ferrol - Lisbon, 2012 from Cartehenga.
No, there isn't a time limit. Some rush, others dawdle. It is up to you, it's your way so go the way you want. Sellos are require by alburges and of course at the end for your Compostella, many of us become very attached to this momento of our travels.

It is possible to camp, some albergues let you do this in their compound for a small donation or fee, it's usually cyclists that do this as walkers tend not to want to carry the excess weight. It is harder to camp on the French route as its more crowded and albergues tend to be in towns with limited exterior space, and spare a thought for the farmers they already end up cleaning up after masses of pilgrims march across their land and may not be that please to see a camper pitch a tent.

It is easier to sleep out, and sometimes necessary, on some of the longer routes such as the Levante or Vdlp, why not look into doing these instead, they are lovely in their own rights and will give you a different perspective on what it means to be a pilgrim in Spain.
 

MTtoCamino

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francis SJPdP to Finnestere April(2014)
I think you will find it easy to leave no trace camping, it will be harder to find isolation in the built up areas (lrg towns/cities). Just use common sense don't camp where large farm machinery may run over you. Stay aware of the fields that become mud pits as it can rain/snow hard, during March/April.

I would suspect though you will find it much easier to simply stay in the alburgues. Especially if next year it rains a lot. You just never know what will be your experience.
I think your choice of year is good as it is cool & very green. The folks I met camping ended up having a stray dogs as companions... I would try to avoid that, as it is hard to say goodby to humans, let alone a critter you get attached to.
Buen Camino
Keith
 

George Copp

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés
Many thanks indeed @hel&scott & @MTtoCamino for your quick feedback! I will definitely look in to the Levante and & Vdlp routes tomorrow and see how they fit with what I'm planning. Are these routes as well waymarked as the French way? I am up to speed with my map reading but it felt like a nice safety net to have big yellow arrows leading the way for me on this popular route. I don't want to cause any concern to farmers by using their land inappropriately so maybe a more obscure route would be a better option. I'm glad to know that I can take my time, I had a worried idea that I might have to blitz from town to town to pick up sellos in time! Thanks for the tip on changeable camping terrain, I have had my share of muddy, rainy festivals in the UK and would rather avoid waking up in a swamp, ha. I don't think I could say no to a four legged companion, I'm too soft hearted

Thanks again for your help folks, I will almost certainly be back soon when I have more queries! Is it bad form to revive old threads on this forum or is that OK? (I've been on others where people are pretty insistant on starting new threads for each new question).

All the best,

George
 

Helen1

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
London to Santiago (2014)
Narbonne to Oloron (2015)
Camino Portugues (2016)
Sentier Cathar (2017)
Some random thoughts:

  • 2/3 months is quite a long time to walk CF starting from SJPD even if you dawdle
  • As others have said it can be quite cold in March with snow on the higher ground. You might have a very cold first week if trying to camp.
  • Camping with no trace is fairly easy outside urban areas but you have to camp late and get up early (the legality of doing this is a different issue)
  • It’s very easy to collect stamps in Galicia you don’t have to worry about this
  • “solo hiking/camping experience” are not what immediately spring to mind when I think about the CF, if this is what you want are you sure the CF is the right journey for you?
  • Many here will disagree with this view but I think of the CF as a fairly urban walk, there are some very beautiful places but there’s also a fair amount that’s urban or along the side of a road. If you are going to immerse yourself in the scenery to be present in the moment then that’s one thing, if you are expecting beautiful unspoiled landscapes where you can be alone then most of the CF isn’t quite like that (in my view).
  • You can have a very quiet/solo experience by walking in the afternoons/early evening
  • You can also have a solo experience staying in private rooms.
 

hel&scott

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2004 St Jean - Santiago, 2008 &18 Seville - Finesterre, 2010 Ferrol - Lisbon, 2012 from Cartehenga.
Many thanks indeed @hel&scott & @MTtoCamino for your quick feedback! I will definitely look in to the Levante and & Vdlp routes tomorrow and see how they fit with what I'm planning. Are these routes as well waymarked as the French way? I am up to speed with my map reading but it felt like a nice safety net to have big yellow arrows leading the way for me on this popular route. I don't want to cause any concern to farmers by using their land inappropriately so maybe a more obscure route would be a better option. I'm glad to know that I can take my time, I had a worried idea that I might have to blitz from town to town to pick up sellos in time! Thanks for the tip on changeable camping terrain, I have had my share of muddy, rainy festivals in the UK and would rather avoid waking up in a swamp, ha. I don't think I could say no to a four legged companion, I'm too soft hearted

Thanks again for your help folks, I will almost certainly be back soon when I have more queries! Is it bad form to revive old threads on this forum or is that OK? (I've been on others where people are pretty insistant on starting new threads for each new question).

All the best,

George
Helen above makes some very good points. The Vdlp is very well signposted from Seville is amazing in spring and is probably the route that would best meet the aims you state in your origional post. The Levante from Valencia is also well marked, but not from Cartehenga where we started, as it crosses the centre of Spain it can be very hot, but then I would not advise doing either of these routes in summer.

I once spend 6 months on the road, being homeless can be tough. Taking time out to reflect is one thing, being ferrel is another and the border line between the two can be very thin.

Reviving old threads is fine, happens all the time, but you can't always rely that the original contributors will respond, better to PM them direct if you want specific responses, hit on the avatar pic and then follow the conversation button prompts, this means your message is emailed to them so they are more likely to respond.

A number of people have blogs usually linked to their signatures which will also give you a good idea of what to expect, but everyone's journey is different.

You caught me online avoiding doing the accounts, gotta go now and move the pigs, will leave you in the capable hands of the forum members.
 

MTtoCamino

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francis SJPdP to Finnestere April(2014)
There are many routes, many of them well marked get one of the Brierly guides & they are on the back flap of the guides. Then choose.

Some simply walk the reverse course against the flow, you will decide if a compestella is important for 1 or more camino's. There are some high mileage walkers on this forum. Another thought for your timeline would be the Pacific Creast trail, Appalachian trail, continental divide trail. In the USA. My heart stays with the Camino's as it truly is a trail of souls.
 

Kitsambler

Jakobsweg Junkie
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy 2010-11, Prague 2012, Nuremberg 2013, Einsiedeln 2015, Geneva 2017-18
...my main query is whether there is a time frame within which you are obliged to complete the journey ...
Although you don't really say your current citizenship status, I will raise this point for the benefit of other readers following. If you are not a resident of a Schengen Agreement state, then you are limited by the duration of your entry visa. For North Americans, that's 90 days out of every 180. I don't know the limits for UK residents (either pre- or post-Brexit).
 

George Copp

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés
Cheers for the heads up my man, I'm a UK citzen and plan to do a bit more digging into the legal side of things this evening. Hopefully Brexit doesn't shaft me!!
 

WGroleau

Wandering Weirdo
Camino(s) past & future
2015 & 2016 (partial)
Secondary query is about camping along the way.
I've read in more than one seemingly reliable source that camping in Spain is illegal outside of registered campground. However, I've run across at least five tents, one next to the Camino and two visible from it. The one on the Camino, right outside of Santiago said he had asked a policemen and gotten the OK. So either what I read is not true or the police don't care. The ones not visible from the Camino: one was in a churchyard with the priest's knowledge. The other was on top of Monjardín and I may have been the only one who knew.
 
Last edited:
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2006) Portugues(2013) San Salvador (2017) Ingles (2019)
Aren't you a lucky guy? You have received useful feedback. I don't think you need to worry about being a U.K. Refugee. Won't happen this side of Christmas. You sound as if you are used to tenting. So, use your civic sense and just have a wonderful time. Why not? Life is far too short to be hemmed in.
 

PegaPegasus

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
April (2018)
Good day kind reader,

I've decided to undertake the Camino Francés at the end of March/beginning of April 2018. I won't have any great time constraints as I'll be leaving my job prior to embarking on the journey to work on my writing whilst on the road. I guess my main query is whether there is a time frame within which you are obliged to complete the journey because I have read a lot about having to get daily stamps (or twice daily after Galicia) and I'd rather be dawdling along at my own pace to fully immerse myself in the scenery without having to worry about jeopardising my certificate in the process (realistically I imagine spending 2/3 months on the road). Any info on this would be a huge help!

Secondary query is about camping along the way. I am making this journey with a fairly solo mindset and camping lends itself to the kind of experience I am looking to achieve. I have read varying threads and articles on the subject, some saying go for it, others saying no chance, others saying that in practice it is actually very easy to wander off the beaten path each night and find a spot to get your head down for a few hours. I assume I'll definitely stop at a few refugios along the way but want to view these as a "luxury" to break up a mostly solo hiking/camping experience. I'd love to hear from anyone with knowledge or advise on the subject.

That's it for now but I'm sure more queries will spring to mind. A huge thank you in advance to anyone who lends a helpful word!

All the best,

George
Good Day,
I am relatively new to the forum and have not posted before. I am not sure if I should start a new thread or if it is ok to "tag along" on yours. I read your post with great interest as, I too, am planning my Camino for April 2018, hoping to tent it most of the time and am leaving my job before I depart. I hope to leave SJPdP Monday April 9. My concerns are about the weather. I am not an experienced hiker and have read the Camino Frances should not be attempted in inclement weather. Then, reading more, early spring is full of rain & possible snow, fog.....lots of inclement weather. I read of 1 alternate route, but the book said it was for experienced hikers only - that's not me. Is there another option? Joining the forum has been a wealth of information and from reading, I understand I can plan and plan, plan some more....and then begin and all bets are off. Even so, I was planning to make a reservation at Refuge Orisson for April 9th, now I wonder if that's wise. Will I be able to get to Orisson that time of year?
Thank you, any info will be appreciated.
 

MTtoCamino

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francis SJPdP to Finnestere April(2014)
Good Day,
I am relatively new to the forum and have not posted before. I am not sure if I should start a new thread or if it is ok to "tag along" on yours. I read your post with great interest as, I too, am planning my Camino for April 2018, hoping to tent it most of the time and am leaving my job before I depart. I hope to leave SJPdP Monday April 9. My concerns are about the weather. I am not an experienced hiker and have read the Camino Frances should not be attempted in inclement weather. Then, reading more, early spring is full of rain & possible snow, fog.....lots of inclement weather. I read of 1 alternate route, but the book said it was for experienced hikers only - that's not me. Is there another option? Joining the forum has been a wealth of information and from reading, I understand I can plan and plan, plan some more....and then begin and all bets are off. Even so, I was planning to make a reservation at Refuge Orisson for April 9th, now I wonder if that's wise. Will I be able to get to Orisson that time of year?
Thank you, any info will be appreciated.
When I return with my wife in March we will do the Portuguese Camino since the starting point is farther south. If you walk the CF & are concerned with weather mid April to Mid may will be plenty warm. But you will have a lot of company.
 

Bradypus

Antediluvian
Camino(s) past & future
Too many and too often!
I hope to leave SJPdP Monday April 9. My concerns are about the weather. I am not an experienced hiker and have read the Camino Frances should not be attempted in inclement weather. Then, reading more, early spring is full of rain & possible snow, fog.....lots of inclement weather. I read of 1 alternate route, but the book said it was for experienced hikers only - that's not me.
If the weather is bad then the alternative is a lower-level route via Valcarlos. Less popular but quite straightforward and it should be no more difficult than the Route Napoleon. For the winter months it is the only route as the Route Napoleon is officially closed from November until the end of March.
 

PegaPegasus

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
April (2018)
If the weather is bad then the alternative is a lower-level route via Valcarlos. Less popular but quite straightforward and it should be no more difficult than the Route Napoleon. For the winter months it is the only route as the Route Napoleon is officially closed from November until the end of March.
Ok, Thank you!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2006) Portugues(2013) San Salvador (2017) Ingles (2019)
In addition to the responses of earlier posters, perhaps you might find inspiration from looking at a blog of a camino made by a couple with their 6month old baby, and I understand it began just at New Year, so that would give you an idea, if not a definite state of weather affairs. The videos are subtitled BeYourPotential, hope that works for you.
 

George Copp

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés
Wow, a huge outpouring of useful info from so many people! Thanks a lot for all this advice. I am reading through it and taking all on board, sounds as though I need to research some of these other Caminos for a better overview to inform my trip. Thanks as well for the tips regarding posting to the forum and for peoples views on camping.
 

Tia Valeria

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pt Norte/Pmtvo 2010
C. Inglés 2011
C. Primitivo '12
Norte-C. de la Reina '13
C. do Mar-C. Inglés '15
Just a few thoughts as you begin your planning.:-
Easter Sunday in 2018 is April 1st, so many pilgrims will be on the Way over Holy Week and Easter itself. This could affect your solitude especially on the Frances. The less travelled Caminos may be less affected.
Have you considered the Norte or the Norte/Primitivo combination. This can be good and if taking the ferry (Brittany Ferries) from the UK (Plymouth or Portsmouth) you can land in Santander or Bilbao and just start walking. The coastal route may be easier for finding (legal) camping - either in official campsites or albergue grounds. Easter being early might even help here as places are opening up...
Wild camping is illegal in Asturias and for the Frances, Norte or Primitivo you have to pass through Asturias. Receiving permission from the landowner should mean that you were camped where it was OK to do so, as opposed to stealth camping. You would probably be expected to contribute to any facilities you use.
Having said that the Norte/Primitivo is less crowded and you may find solitude in the albergues without camping. There are also some cheap hostals offering rooms.
If the winter is particularly cold and there are late snowfalls you might just regret the tent.
Happy planning and Buen Camino
 

C clearly

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016). Seville-Astorga (Mar 2017). Mozarabe (Apr-May 2018)
Camino Frances should not be attempted in inclement weather. Then, reading more, early spring is full of rain & possible snow, fog.....lots of inclement weather
The Camino Frances is often said to start in SJPP, in France. However, the route goes all the way to Santiago, and many people start at different points along the way - including Roncesvalles and Pamplona.
Probably what you have read refers mainly to the first 27 km from SJPP to Roncesvalles crossing over the Pyrenees. Other than that stage, there are not likely to be any hazardous conditions in mid to late April. On day one, if the conditions over the higher Napoleon pass are not good (and they will tell you in the Pilgrim Office) then you should walk the Orisson route instead. After that, virtually everyone will be on the same path. There are a few optional routes but they are clearly marked in any guide book and occur much later in the journey.
Will I be able to get to Orisson that time of year?
Yes, you will be walking on a paved a road. Orisson is only 800 m high and isn't likely to be snowed in, although I'm confident it has happened in history. The tricky areas are higher up and more isolated.

Across the north of Spain in April (which I would call "mid" spring rather than early spring) may include fog and rain, but that could be true any time. I think April and October are the best months for walking there.
 

PegaPegasus

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
April (2018)
The Camino Frances is often said to start in SJPP, in France. However, the route goes all the way to Santiago, and many people start at different points along the way - including Roncesvalles and Pamplona.
Probably what you have read refers mainly to the first 27 km from SJPP to Roncesvalles crossing over the Pyrenees. Other than that stage, there are not likely to be any hazardous conditions in mid to late April. On day one, if the conditions over the higher Napoleon pass are not good (and they will tell you in the Pilgrim Office) then you should walk the Orisson route instead. After that, virtually everyone will be on the same path. There are a few optional routes but they are clearly marked in any guide book and occur much later in the journey.

Yes, you will be walking on a paved a road. Orisson is only 800 m high and isn't likely to be snowed in, although I'm confident it has happened in history. The tricky areas are higher up and more isolated.

Across the north of Spain in April (which I would call "mid" spring rather than early spring) may include fog and rain, but that could be true any time. I think April and October are the best months for walking there.
Ok - good to know - Thank you
 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Contemplating yet another "final" Camino
but 2019?
If you intend to wild camp along the CF I would advise you to do so quite a ways in from the path and, even then, watch out for the hundreds of donations of toilet paper previous pilgrims will have left along the way!
 

long trails

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2012
If you are going to spend two or three months then I'd recommend starting in Le Puy and ending in Santiago via the Frances. That should fit nicely into your time frame.

As for camping, do not be put off by the majority in this group who are against it. I have never known a hiking group to have so much animosity towards camping! I understand the rules in Spain and the availability of cheap albergues, but legal camping is a viable option along the Frances. I have met numerous people who never spent one night in an albergue.

I camped at a variety of different spots on one of my CF hikes. My profile picture shows me camped (plus one other) overlooking the village of Hontanas with the land owners permission. It was a great spot with a water fountain and worth carrying my 700 gram tent just for that spot alone.

Quite a number of albergues alow camping in their grounds and there are lots of wild spots too. Always leave no trace of course, but you probably know that!

I hope to make a campers guide to the Camino one day. The CF is reaching bursting point at many popular times of the year and I'd never step foot on a Camino without a lightweight tent.

Good luck.
 

WGroleau

Wandering Weirdo
Camino(s) past & future
2015 & 2016 (partial)
As for camping, do not be put off by the majority in this group who are against it. I have never known a hiking group to have so much animosity towards camping!
Majority? Animosity? You must have read a different thread than I did.
 

heyhurly

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
camino frances 2010 and 2014.
I did the Camino Frances in July-August 2010 and for the second time in September 2014. In 2010, I used the albergues but in 2014, I brought my tent with me and alternated between camping and using the albergues. I was walking with a friend and we got a tent from Decathlon which was 2.5 kilos. With the tent and other gears, we were carrying about 10-12 kilos in our backpacks which is a lot! But our bodies got used to the weight. I really enjoyed the times when we would go look for a place to camp - away from the crowded albergues. The Camino can be very social so it's also nice to be away from that environment and just be with ourselves from a long day of walking and socializing. If we liked, we'd hang out with our friends till it's almost sunset before we head off to wherever we want to camp. It's possible to camp very near the towns, usually less than 2 kms. You don't want to be too far from the main Camino. But then, camping can also be annoying and frustrating because the Camino can be very crowded and unfortunately, most albergues will not let you camp even if you offer a donation. That was in September 2014 so I don't know how it is now. I actually would recommend camping on the Camino and would still carry my tent with me if I am walking it with someone (I prefer camping with someone). :) Good luck and buen camino!
 

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