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The Sarria Solution...

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t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 - 2019
This year while working for a month, from mid-July to mid-August, as a volunteer at the Pilgrim Office in Santiago I had many opportunities to talk to arriving pilgrims each day. This year there were several emergent issues:

- For non-Spanish pilgrims, the Camino del Norte, Camino Portuguese from Porto, and the Camino Primitivo seemed to be very popular. Even Europeans walking through France from the north appear to have preferred the much hillier Norte over connecting to the Frances. Their most often stated reason was that it avoided Sarria...and there were fewer pilgrims overall...

- There was nearly universal disdain for the crowding and behavior situation on the final leg of the Camino Frances from Sarria. This dislike for the final stretch of the Camino Frances seemed to me to have reached a level of discord that calls for analysis to find a reasonable solution.

- From my conversations over a month, there appear to be three factors driving this heightened dislike for this stretch of the main Camino route:

1. During July and August, as we all know, the percentage of Spanish pilgrims relative to non-Spanish pilgrims rises to nearly 80 percent of the daily arrival volume. With an average of 1,700 to 1,800 pilgrims arriving daily, this is a lot of one nationality on any route. Arrivals spike every Friday and Saturday, with record levels of groups of mostly Spanish pilgrims arriving from the Sarria stretch. A widely-held perception is that most of these pilgrims are partying for the five-days it takes to walk into Santiago. Anecdotal comments were made about: boisterousness, rudeness, loudness, hogging the available senda or trail by walking abreast instead of in-file, etc. I am not making this up, just reporting it as what I was told...repeatedly...

2. There seems to be a dramatic uptick in the number of pilgrims of all nationalities buying tour packages from commercial vendors, all of which offer "a taste of the Camino" by walking this final stretch into Santiago. These groups stay in commercial accommodations, making them unavailable to long-distance "onesie and twosie" pilgrims...like me for example.

3. There also seemed to be an uptick in the number of educational groups from colleges and universities doing the final stretch from Sarria as part of some course they were taking. As in the case with group #2, these groups rarely use albergues. Instead they add to demand for available commercial bed space in each town and village along the final 118 Km from Sarria into Santiago.

I am not necessarily endorsing or agreeing with any of these comments. I am merely laying out what I was told in conversation.

As a result, last week, I went to the Tourism Galicia office adjacent to the Pilgrim Office. There, they have a huge map of pilgrim routes in Galicia painted on the wall. I looked at the Frances, as well as all other nearby routes. I just stared at the map of routes...

In a 'lightbulb moment' I suddenly noticed the Camino Invierno, or Winter Route from Ponferrada to Santiago. It provides a ready detour, completely avoiding the Camino Frances stretch from Villafranco del Bierzo through to Santiago.

Immediately, I went to Pilgrim Office computers to check the distance tables. The official distance from Ponferrada to Santiago on the Camino Frances is 218 kilometers. The official distance from Ponferrada to Santiago via the Camino Invierno is 257 kilometers. Thus, the "detour" around all the Sarria - Santiago unpleasantness is only an extra 39 kilometers. For me, that is an extra two days walking. However, I am aware for some of you, that adds only one day. My thought is that, by that point in a long walk from St. Jean Pied de Port, most of us do not want our Camino to end. In that context, adding two more days is a net-good thing.

My follow-on to my observations included meeting with Michael Matynka, author of the Wise Pilgrim Guides, at Santiago last week, to discuss my findings and obtain his thoughts. He told me that he was frankly amazed that no one has stumbled on this sooner. He has traveled the Invierno several times and states that it has everything a pilgrim could need. It is also an established and traditional route, used by pilgrims to avoid more extreme winter weather...hence the name.

In fact, Michael liked my tying the two routes together as a "Sarria alternative" so well that he said he was planning to develop a printed guide to the Invierno to accompany his recently released smaller printed guides to the Frances and Portuguese. BTW, the green Camino Portuguese guide is out-selling the red Camino Frances printed guide by 3:1.

Michael also mentioned that bundling the Invierno with the Frances guide made perfect sense as the detour to avoid Sarria made so much sense. So, look for that in coming months.

So, there you have it. If you want to do the Frances, but are concerned by the increase in bicycling pilgrims after Ponferrada (it is the final starting point to meet the 200 km minimum distance), and all the various negative issues concerning the final stretch from Sarria to Santiago, simply leave Ponferrada by the Camino Invierno, instead of using the usual Camino Frances route.

Easy peasy... I plan to try this, perhaps as soon as next May.

I hope this helps.
 
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Telelama

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (Sep - Oct'14)
Frances (May - Jun'15)
Portugues (May - Jun'16)
Primitivo (2020)
We've lived all of the above on both of our Frances. We walked along a group of late teens who were passing a bottle of vodka between them, decimated a roadside donativo fruit stand without leaving a single Euro, then dumped most of the lovely produce on the ground, 8 boys were chasing a cow and her calf in a field, hitting them with sticks, (we yelled at them and got them out of the field), have been held up for long periods of time by women walking side-by-side without even considering making room despite our friendly attempts to get by them, we saw a woman go the bathroom in someone's yard, right near their children's swingset, because the line to the woman's bathroom was too long, and we've been stabbed by walking sticks being carelessly swung in their hands...

Don't mean to be negative, and we much enjoyed some of the new folks that had joined in Sarria, their energy was nice, we're still friends with some, but the negatives were overwhelming. Sadly most of them won't read this forum and the Camino will only be nothing more than a check-mark on their bucket list.

We want to walk the Frances at least one more time. This might be the right answer. Great idea!
 

jsalt

Jill
Camino(s) past & future
Portugués, Francés, LePuy, Rota Vicentina, Norte, Madrid, C2C, Salvador, Primitivo, Aragonés, Inglés
So, there you have it. If you want to do the Frances, but are concerned by the increase in bicycling pilgrims after Ponferrada (it is the final starting point to meet the 200 km minimum distance), and all the various negative issues concerning the final stretch from Sarria to Santiago, simply leave Ponferrada by the Camino Invierno, instead of using the usual Camino Frances route.

Easy peasy... I plan to try this, perhaps as soon as next May.

Excellent post, thank you, and for all your hard work.

Unfortunately, I was totally put off walking the Invierno after Luka’s posts last year. If you remember, she had to abandon the Invierno because of the dogs on this route.

I am terrified of dogs, and will re-consider this route only when several people can confirm that all the dogs are chained up during the day :(.
Jill
 
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Anemone del Camino

Guest
- There was nearly university disdain for the crowding and behavior situation on the final leg of the Camino Frances from Sarria. This dislike for the final stretch of the Camino Frances seemed to me to have reached a level of discord that calls for analysis to find a reasonable solution.
...

In a 'lightbulb moment' I suddenly noticed the Camino Invierno, or Winter Route form Ponferrada to Santiago.
...
My follow-on to my observations included meeting with Michael Matynka, author of the Wise Pilgrim Guides, at Santiago last week, to discuss my findings and obtain his thoughts. He told me that he was frankly amazed that no one has stumbled on this sonner.

As much as I agree with the first statement above (finally someone admits the last 100km feom Sarria is a disaster), I think that the lightbulb about the Invierno went on a while ago.

Certainly Laurie, and a few others, have been speaking about it here for a while. I certainly spent many hours this spring helping Laurie with the English translation of the guidebook for the CSJ.

And let's not forget that 2018 (?) has been named Year of the Camino de Invierno, so the local authorities have also been working on thos route for a while. There was also an annoucement of a new albergue opening soon in or near Quirogua.

I for one was going to walk it this spring after VDL and before heading to the Salvador, before my meniscus tore that is ...

So, others have stumbled on this route already, and there are guides for ot already, but as it has fewer options for short days, and requires spending more € on pensiones since there are not as many albergues, it is still lightly travelled.
 

zrexer

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2014, 15,16 & 19 Camino Frances
2017 Camino Portuguese
2018 Camino Primitivo
2020 Camino Del Norte
Really depends on the time of year you walk. I walked from Sarria in 2014 and 2016 both times in mid April as part of my Camino. Slightly busier than prior to Sarria, but hardly crowded. Enjoyed this part of my Camino thoroughly each time. This was during Easter both times and still not that crowded.
 

Morg

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2014,2016,2019
Thank you for the information, hadn't heard of this alternate route before. Will definitely be looking at it on my next Camino.
 
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Anemone del Camino

Guest
Excellent post, thank you, and for all your hard work.

Unfortunately, I was totally put off walking the Invierno after Luka’s posts last year. If you remember, she had to abandon the Invierno because of the dogs on this route.

I am terrified of dogs, and will re-consider this route only when several people can confirm that all the dogs are chained up during the day :(.
Jill
Jill, I like dogs but would welcome the company to keep me going at a decent pace. Let's walk together: you motivate me, I charm the dogs and get them to leave you alone. ;)
 

domigee

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2020? Looks like.... nowhere! 😁
Really depends on the time of year you walk. I walked from Sarria in 2014 and 2016 both times in mid April as part of my Camino. Slightly busier than prior to Sarria, but hardly crowded. Enjoyed this part of my Camino thoroughly each time. This was during Easter both times and still not that crowded.

I walked it three times, in August (2012, 2013, 2016) and yes, of course it is more crowded. It is a different camino and with different people walking it. I - personally - haven't come across the objectionable behaviour others have encountered. Maybe I was lucky...:)
 

hel&scott

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2004 St Jean - Santiago, 2008 &18 Seville - Finesterre, 2010 Ferrol - Lisbon, 2012 from Cartehenga.
Unfortunately, I was totally put off walking the Invierno after Luka’s posts last year. If you remember, she had to abandon the Invierno because of the dogs on this route. I am terrified of dogs, and will re-consider this route only when several people can confirm that all the dogs are chained up during the day :(.
Jill
Some of my favourite memories are being accompanied by dogs on our way, from little short ones who considered it their duty to escort us out of town, to big loloping ones who stride out with you along the farm roads. There are dogs on all the caminos. If you are concerned, say calm, and walk with someone coming out of town in the morning as this is the most likely time to have a close encounter with a canine. Most of the "strays" are pet dogs and are happy enough to mooch along for a while before heading home, best thing is to enjoy or ignore their company as they will be off soon enough. Stay well clear of dogs chained up as its their job to bark and snarl at you, likewise don't wave sticks as it threatens them, and of course let sleeping dogs lie.
 

Phil W

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2016; Hospitalero 2017, 2018, 2019
Thank you! Sharing your knowledge, I really appreciate it.
Phil
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
I am sure that they exist, but I didn't see any groups of drunken Spaniards between Sarria and Santiago. Did I see young Spaniards in large groups enjoying their walk on the Camino, and sometimes singing? Yes, I did. And I enjoyed the new energy they brought. When I saw a group just starting out, taking pictures, it reminded me of the pictures we took when starting out in St Jean, and next to the 790 kilometer sign in Roncesvalles. I looked at it as just a different facet of the Camino, like the Meseta.
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
Excellent post, thank you, and for all your hard work.

Unfortunately, I was totally put off walking the Invierno after Luka’s posts last year. If you remember, she had to abandon the Invierno because of the dogs on this route.

I am terrified of dogs, and will re-consider this route only when several people can confirm that all the dogs are chained up during the day :(.
Jill
I also am terrified of dogs, especially mid size to large ones as I was bitten a few years back on my upper arm by a rotweiler. Hiking poles and a couple of male pilgrims by my side would be my only solace if indeed dogs are left to roam and not (yet) used to seeing walkers.
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
I don't think @t2andreo talked to Spanish people about their experience from Sarria.
I think his post was great and a wonderful new option to consider, but I, too, thought exactly the same thing. I have mixed feelings as it's the Spaniards' country. I feel we outsiders are the guests, but then it is a pilgrimage route...hmmm, probably lots of varying opinions on this and I'm not even sure what mine is! :rolleyes:
 
Camino(s) past & future
cycled from Pamplona Sep 2015;Frances, walked from St Jean May/June 2017. Plans to walk Porto 2020
Hola @t2andreo - Thank you / thank you/ thank you. You expressed my feelings totally!
I am on record as being one of those who detests those Sarria Pilgrims; ie the bucket list tickers.

With two CF completed (one walked; one cycled) I doubt I would return to this trail, but if I did then that diversion from Ponferrada. I have a rough plan to walk from Porto in 2019, so might add this "diversion" as either a prelude or addendum.
 

Felipe

Veteran Member
We are planning to start our Camino on August 28. Do you think the route after Sarria will be quite crowded at the end of September?
I walked two years ago, early October. It was crowded right after Sarria, and between Arzúa and Santiago. No school groups, but lots of "organized tours", with guides explaining things as "this animal you see in the fields is a cow".:p
I too looked at Invierno as an option; but the Frances after Sarria, on the other hand, is a really beautiful walk. Crowds did not particularly disturb me, because I knew beforehand what to expect. I tried to get the best of the situation, talk with persons that seemed interesting, and so.
I never saw any particular impolite or improper behavior.
Anyway, I probably will not walk this section again; not exactly my kind of thing. Or maybe in winter...that seems as an intriguing challenge.
 
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Isabella Sinocort

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
I am planning to do the Camino next month (September 2017) with my dad after finishing my MSc degree
We've lived all of the above on both of our Frances. We walked along a group of late teens who were passing a bottle of vodka between them, decimated a roadside donativo fruit stand without leaving a single Euro, then dumped most of the lovely produce on the ground, 8 boys were chasing a cow and her calf in a field, hitting them with sticks, (we yelled at them and got them out of the field), have been held up for long periods of time by women walking side-by-side without even considering making room despite our friendly attempts to get by them, we saw a woman go the bathroom in someone's yard, right near their children's swingset, because the line to the woman's bathroom was too long, and we've been stabbed by walking sticks being carelessly swung in their hands...

Don't mean to be negative, and we much enjoyed some of the new folks that had joined in Sarria, their energy was nice, we're still friends with some, but the negatives were overwhelming. Sadly most of them won't read this forum and the Camino will only be nothing more than a check-mark on their bucket list.

We want to walk the Frances at least one more time. This might be the right answer. Great idea!
This is the kind of feedback i wanted to read! I dont have that many days available to do El Camino, if I were to take El Invierno route to SDG but wanted to stay 120 km aways from the city, which starting point would that be? Thank you again!!!
 

JillGat

la tierra encantada
Camino(s) past & future
C. Frances SJPP - Finisterre - Muxia (May 2016)
C. Frances (Sept 2017)
Camino Portugues (June 2019)
Is it possible to walk the Invierno in 20k (or less) stages?
Edit: I see now that Laurie's guide has some recommendations for shorter stages. I followed links to actual English language guides to the Invierno, but couldn't figure out if they would send them to the US.
 
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CaminoDebrita

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances SJPP to SdC Oct/Nov 2015
Frances Burgos toSdC March/April 2016
W. Highland Way August 2016
Camino Somewhere September 2017
November walk, I experienced very few pilgrims walking from Sarria. April walk, the same.

Go early or go late, and you will have a much different experience.
 

Mick McQueen

https://www.facebook.com/groups/
Camino(s) past & future
I am escorting the Roll of Honour (Afghanistan) on Camino France on 20 May from SJPDP
The Roll of Honour details the 41 young Australians who died on Active Service in Afghanistan. In the centenary of the ANZAC’s, the Roll of Honour will be escorted to 41 prominent places and events around the World, laying 41 Poppies at each location.
Good post you expressed a lot of information that most had witnessed from Sarria, thank goodness that by the time you arrive there you have learned to only worry about your own Camino, had to laugh at all the bussing and boosting even from Sarria because of the rain then again when you arrive in Santiago and find suddenly hundreds of people hopping off the busses and making their way to collect their Compostela you might be a little miffed because there is a huge line and you maybe passed only about four or five pilgrims on the way in but remember it's their country and you are only a guest just be proud of your own accomplishment.
 

notion900

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
>
I second that. I am very uncomfortable with the idea that 'people' say there are too many Spanish! Let's reverse that and say I said there were far too many noisy rude Americans on the Appalachian Trail!

I nearly always walk with Spanish nowadays and I love their company. They never fuss or moan, are massive fun and very inclusive to people who speak their language. They go out dressed head to toe in cheap stuff from Decathlon, walk in big groups having massive chats and laughs but don't for one minute mistake them for soft. They will walk you off your feet while stopping 3 times for wine. Maybe that's why they annoy the hell out of 'people'!

An overall shortage of accommodation isn't the 'fault' of the Spanish. They also provide the accommodation remember!
 

Antonius Vaessen

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2015-2016 VdlPlata - Sanabres
2016.Primitivo
2017 Salvador
2018 Norte (to Sobrado)
2019 Norte again
To expect that all dogs might be chained in Spanish villages is not very realistic and for me undesirable. I like dogs and seeing the way they live in rural Spain to me is a joy for my eyes (certainly compared to the overregulating here in the Netherlands) Of course if you are scared of dogs this is a problem, last year I walked for 5 weeks with a walking partner that feared wandering dogs and that was a big difference with this year when I walked with my daughter who is fond of dogs. Two times dog(s) walked with us for a few kilometers and this is one of her finest memories.
I understand that rational arguments won't help much if you are afraid of dogs but I presume that really aggressive dogs are also a problem in their village and they or their owners will be corrected.
This means that you will have to find a way of dealing with this problem (walking with others, carrying walking poles,whistles and so on)
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
I second that. I am very uncomfortable with the idea that 'people' say there are too many Spanish! Let's reverse that and say I said there were far too many noisy rude Americans on the Appalachian Trail!

I nearly always walk with Spanish nowadays and I love their company. They never fuss or moan, are massive fun and very inclusive to people who speak their language. They go out dressed head to toe in cheap stuff from Decathlon, walk in big groups having massive chats and laughs but don't for one minute mistake them for soft. They will walk you off your feet while stopping 3 times for wine. Maybe that's why they annoy the hell out of 'people'!

An overall shortage of accommodation isn't the 'fault' of the Spanish. They also provide the accommodation remember!
@notion900 Based on this and some of your other posts, I think that I would love walking with you!
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
I second that. I am very uncomfortable with the idea that 'people' say there are too many Spanish! Let's reverse that and say I said there were far too many noisy rude Americans on the Appalachian Trail!

I nearly always walk with Spanish nowadays and I love their company. They never fuss or moan, are massive fun and very inclusive to people who speak their language. They go out dressed head to toe in cheap stuff from Decathlon, walk in big groups having massive chats and laughs but don't for one minute mistake them for soft. They will walk you off your feet while stopping 3 times for wine. Maybe that's why they annoy the hell out of 'people'!

An overall shortage of accommodation isn't the 'fault' of the Spanish. They also provide the accommodation remember!
For those of us walking Caminos and knowing no Spanish but still loving our experience, I can only imagine how incredible it must be for those of you who speak the language fluently.
 
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Anemone del Camino

Guest
As the countless "how to go from SdeC to Sarria" threads in this forum show, the "five days pilgrim" is not an exclusively Spanish phenonemon. Not everybody has the benefit of month long vacations.
I wouldn't put the blame on short vacation time. For many "five day pilgrims" this is only one small part of their European vacation, a little break from siteseing, in between two bus tours.
 
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Anemone del Camino

Guest
They go out dressed head to toe in cheap stuff from Decathlon, walk in big groups having massive chats and laughs but don't for one minute mistake them for soft. They will walk you off your feet while stopping 3 times for wine. Maybe that's why they annoy the hell out of 'people'!
Or jeans, cotton tshits and a simple satchel borrowed from their teenager.

I have spent too many night with loud, rude, Spanish bicigrinos travelling in groups, but also many wonderful days of walking with others who share their knowlege of Camino and Spanish history in general. Mind you, on all occasions we were far far far away from Sarria. :confused:
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 - 2019
As I said in my OP, I was reporting what I was told, NOT what I personally experienced. So, it was not me complaining about too many Spanish folks on their own camino in their own country. That would be an oxymoron. Rather, it was arriving non-Spanish pilgrims at the Pilgrim Office commenting on their dislike of things they experienced on the Sarria to Santiago stretch of their Caminos this summer.

Some forum posters wrote in reply, suggesting that I was somehow being insensitive or dismissive towards our Spanish hosts. NOTHING could be farther from the truth. My role here is to provide such information, advice and counsel as I can to benefit the forum membership. This said, I am not offended in the least. This is part of a normal and healthy discourse on any issue. I appreciate all input.

My original statement was factual:

The ratio of Spanish to non-Spanish pilgrims on this stretch is skewed very heavily in favor of the Spanish during July and August. This makes all other nationalities seem less apparent...in other words...we sort of get lost in the shuffle.

The behavioral issues are exacerbated as the ratio swings to include a large percentage of ANY one group. Their group norms will be more widely seen by others. Because some of these folks are very boisterous, aggressive and space-hoggers on the trail, others will naturally be annoyed or offended.

This is all logical and predictable. If the July - August "pig in the python" surge of pilgrims of one nation were French, Italian, German or American pilgrims instead of Spanish, I would have heard stories of those group's behavior. But, I did not, because facts are facts, even if relayed anecdotally. I was told what I was told, and by enough people across a full month, that it becomes more apparent that the commenters are more accurate than not.

Also, my statement offered what I viewed as a sound, reasonable solution for those, myself included who would prefer avoiding the Sarria segment in future. Others already knew about this routing option. However, I decided to post it in a clear and obvious thread so a maximum number of forum members would find it.

My reasons have NOTHING to do with the Spanish, and everything to do with those pilgrims, students, or "tourigrinos" who compete with me for finite commercial bed space. It is as simple as that. I am trying to help veteran and first-time pilgrims who would rather avoid this segment, especially if walking during the May - September peak season.

The bottom line remains. If you do not enjoy the crowds, noise and behaviors along the Camino Frances, Sarria to Santiago stretch at any time of year, you have an easy solution to bypass all of it...the Camino Invierno from Ponferrada.

The sole cost to you is no more than two days additional time, at a point in a long Camino where you would likely prefer not to arrive at Santiago. I know that is my feeling on each of the three times I have come this way.

I hope this clarifies some of the discourse above and helps all.
 

KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
Hi
Here is Luka’s thread:

https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/luka-on-the-invierno.35038/

She abandons the Invierno at post 32, and I don’t blame her.
Jill
As the Invierno fan I just want to add that there are many other Invierno prilgrims that had no stray/unchained dogs incidents. Just to balance things a bit. Myself included, either the dogs were friendly, chained or a little bit of barking and the owners were usually close to call the dog off.

Walking poles or staff can be also a good psychological support to minimize the fear from dogs!
 
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Anemone del Camino

Guest
In support of dogs, I don't know if people realise why chained dogs are so growly. The assumption is that they are tied because they are mean/dangerous, but that is often a matter of what came first. The chicken or the egg.

A dog that is tied up is a dog that cannot defend itself and run away from danger. All it has left to do is to scare away what it feels is a threat, so it growls and barks.

If anyone of you has had the opportunity to see how dogs react to each other when on leash vs lose... a dog on leash will be much more aggressive, and will also attract the attention of others because when on leash they are a pray. In a dog run, always let your dog off leash, for its own safety.

Back to regular Camino programming ...
 
Camino(s) past & future
First one in 1977 by train. Many since then by foot. Next one ASAP.
Sarria to Santiago? Done it. More than once. And for me it is the ho-hummiest part of the whole CF.

I find your case for doing the Invierno compelling. Might just try it!
 
P

pilgr

Guest
I actually love the idea!

Having just completed the Invierno a few months ago, I would say it is a totally different experience from the Camino Frances(not to mention what happens after Ponferrada on the CF). While it is absolutely beautiful, the infrastructure(eg albergues) is not in place to say the least. That is not to say it can't be done if pilgrims start coming. Plus, it is a bit of a physically challenging route with the mountainous terrain, so soon after the flatness prior to the peak coming into Ponferrada. Then you need to combat the image issue of the Invierno. I was repeatedly told "not" to do it by the albergue proprietors around Ponferrada, namely because of the infrastructure issue. As to the dogs off-leash, that will go away as soon as you start getting volume on the Invierno. Plus, I became a fan of pepper spray(never discharged it), buying a can of it from the kind German couple's Camino store in Astorga.
 
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notion900

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
>
A Spanish person told me last week that it was 'weird being on the French way, because everyone speaks English all the time'.
 

sallymareefrances

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Sarria to Santiago Oct 2016; SJPDP To Santiago Oct 2018
I am on record as being one of those who detests those Sarria Pilgrims; ie the bucket list tickers.

I am one of those 'Sarria' pilgrims, walked for the first time last year in Oct. Just as people complain about the Sarria section being full of tourists or locals, I came across many of the 'Camino Police' preaching what is the right and wrong way to travel the camino. Whenever they were near I just had another glass of wine and pretended I was European! Quite frankly that's what I found to be the most annoying, righteous and pretentious behaviour along this section.
 

NualaOC

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few and hopefully lots more. See signature.
Sarria to Santiago is busy. Other pilgrims may behave in ways that annoy us and vice-versa. That's life - but not necessarily a problem that needs a 'solution'. It is what it is.

I love @Coleen Clark's post (#4) in this earlier thread:
'Sarria is there to ease us back into life off the Camino. For weeks we walk and talk with each other ignoring the blood, sweat, and tears of others and our own as common place. We forget in our simplicity of walk-eat-wash-sleep-repeat that there are such things as perfume and MacDonalds and the convenience of daily transportation. Sarria is the beginning of the end of quiet contemplation, the Camino is easing us into a life of fast people with me first mentalities, while still allowing the Pilgrims who have surrounded you for so long to be available for backup and support and comfort. We find each other by smell. ew. but true.
Be gentle with these late comers. They have not seen what you have, and are dipping their toes in to test the water. Perhaps they are not brave enough, or feel they don't need the entire Camino Experience. Maybe this is as close as they will get to the fantastic opportunities we have had of finding ourselves and our spirituality.
Take it as the blessing it is, a gentle reminder that we get out of everything exactly what we put in'.
 

Thomas1962

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
2010/2011/2012/2013: Madrid -Salvador -Primitivo 2014: EPW 2015: Amsterdam - SdC
There is also a downloadable Inviernoguide in Dutch made by the Dutch confranity:
https://www.santiago.nl/camino-invierno

I got a tip from someone who worked in the Pilgrimsoffice: it seems that most people who start from Sarria do this in the weekends for a one week holiday/trip.
So if you try to walk through Sarria during the week and not in the weekend, you will not end up in the biggest wave of people.
 

William Marques

Moderator
Staff member
I know the question of the pilgrimage from Sarria can cause friction but this thread is about using the Camino Inverno as an alternative. Please stick to the topic and if you want to discuss the Sarria question please do so in a different thread.

From here on all off topic posts will be moved to another thread and if I can make the time I will try and move some earlier ones as long as it does not alter the overall direction.

I can assure pilgr that a number of posts in this thread have had their most personal comments removed, others have been removed and we will continue to monitor this thread in case it gets too personal.
 

Peter Fransiscus

Be a Rainbow in someone else's cloud.
Camino(s) past & future
All that we are is the result of what we have thought.
Some of my favourite memories are being accompanied by dogs on our way, from little short ones who considered it their duty to escort us out of town, to big loloping ones who stride out with you along the farm roads. There are dogs on all the caminos. If you are concerned, say calm, and walk with someone coming out of town in the morning as this is the most likely time to have a close encounter with a canine. Most of the "strays" are pet dogs and are happy enough to mooch along for a while before heading home, best thing is to enjoy or ignore their company as they will be off soon enough. Stay well clear of dogs chained up as its their job to bark and snarl at you, likewise don't wave sticks as it threatens them, and of course let sleeping dogs lie.
Walked with cows , that was a very weird experience .
Cows in front , at the back just every where.

Wish you well,Peter.
 

Peter Fransiscus

Be a Rainbow in someone else's cloud.
Camino(s) past & future
All that we are is the result of what we have thought.
I second that. I am very uncomfortable with the idea that 'people' say there are too many Spanish! Let's reverse that and say I said there were far too many noisy rude Americans on the Appalachian Trail!

I nearly always walk with Spanish nowadays and I love their company. They never fuss or moan, are massive fun and very inclusive to people who speak their language. They go out dressed head to toe in cheap stuff from Decathlon, walk in big groups having massive chats and laughs but don't for one minute mistake them for soft. They will walk you off your feet while stopping 3 times for wine. Maybe that's why they annoy the hell out of 'people'!

An overall shortage of accommodation isn't the 'fault' of the Spanish. They also provide the accommodation remember!

And I love it when they sing out loud.

Great fun to walk with them.

Wish you well,Peter.
 
P

pilgr

Guest
simply leave Ponferrada by the Camino Invierno, instead of using the usual Camino Frances route.

May I ask a favor of you? Could you please let me know if this gets off the ground with the official authorities? I would love to look into starting a small business in Spain, opening a friendly Camino albergue to assist the growth of the Camino Invierno!
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
May I ask a favor of you? Could you please let me know if this gets off the ground with the official authorities? I would love to look into starting a small business in Spain, opening a friendly Camino albergue to assist the growth of the Camino Invierno!
What do you mean by "if this gets off the ground with the official authorities"?

The Invierno is recognized already by the Cathedral, a number of municipalities along this path have set up albergues. I don't know what more "authority" is needed so we can help answer your question.
 
P

pilgr

Guest
What do you mean by "if this gets off the ground with the official authorities"?

The Invierno is recognized already by the Cathedral, a number of municipalities along this path have set up albergues. I don't know what more "authority" is needed so we can help answer your question.

I am sorry for the lack of clarity. The question was addressed to @t2andreo. If you read the initial post, the gentleman was making a suggestion that a push be made to get the Invierno actively promoted as an alternative to the CF. It is one thing to be considered official by the Camino folks. It is quite another to be actively promoted to pilgrims as such. Unless a miracle has happened in the last three months (which is when I actually walked it), I wouldn't characterized the Invierno as having a number of albergues set up already. Have you happened to experienced something different recently?
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 - 2019
Oh my! I see I have stirred the hornet's nest. However, by the 50 plus 'likes' I have received on my postings here, one surmises that a familiar chord has been struck.

So, I conclude that the suggestion to avoid all of whatever you happen to find problematic, objectionable, or simply undesirable about the Camino France stretch from Sarria to Santiago remains a sound idea. The Camino Invierno IS an ancient route that was originally plotted and used to avoid more wintry weather found along the Camino Frances from Ponferrada into Santiago.

However, now, there are additional reasons, beyond weather to use the detour or alternative route. I hope more long distance pilgrims choose this route.

See you out there...
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Hi
Here is Luka’s thread:

https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/luka-on-the-invierno.35038/

She abandons the Invierno at post 32, and I don’t blame her.
Jill

If I had known this post was about the Invierno, I would have read it earlier! I rarely have anything to contribute about the Frances, but the Invierno, well that's a different story!

Like you, Jill, I have a fear of dogs and have gotten into my fair share of controversy here on the forum making comments about owners who won't take care of their dogs when people want to cross on the public right of way. But anyway....

Since I tend to walk untraveled caminos, I have had more than a few loose dog experiences. I know I've described "my technique" before, but in case you haven't seen it, it has worked for me absolutely every single time. When I see a dog up ahead, I walk slowly forward. If it is asleep or ignoring me, I walk on, but if it starts to bark, I stop. It will keep barking if I stop at the point where it started barking, and at that point, I yell "oiga" long and loud enough until my noise and the dog's noise bring a human being. That person invariably will tell me "no hace nada" and I tell him or her that I don't care, that I am afraid of dogs and that until they take it, I will just stand here and let it bark. The owners usually think I am crazy, but they always take hold of their dog.

I would walk the Invierno again in a heartbeat. It is a wonderful camino with spectacular scenery, great food and wine, and a world heritage site thrown in for good measure.

Buen camino, Laurie.

p.s. If you look at the forum guide, you will see a paragraph or two at the beginning devoted to loose dogs.
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
Oh my! I see I have stirred the hornet's nest. However, by the 50 plus 'likes' I have received on my postings here, one surmises that a familiar chord has been struck.

So, I conclude that the suggestion to avoid all of whatever you happen to find problematic, objectionable, or simply undesirable about the Camino France stretch from Sarria to Santiago remains a sound idea.
Well, I gave you a "like" for reporting on all the comments you heard from people who like me think the Sarria onwards stretch is now a disaster. ;)

I also think that for those walking the Caminos for other reasons than the socialising, the Invierno may work, but ... unless walking with someone else it will cost more, one better hope this route is not taken over by walkers too quickly as beds will be a scarce resource, and those wanting short days will have to go outside their comfort zone a bit more.
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
I am sorry for the lack of clarity. The question was addressed to @t2andreo. If you read the initial post, the gentleman was making a suggestion that a push be made to get the Invierno actively promoted as an alternative to the CF. It is one thing to be considered official by the Camino folks. It is quite another to be actively promoted to pilgrims as such.

I am of the opinion that one must put thingd in motion carefully, and not putting the horse before the cart. Marketing the Invierno by whichever Spanish government too extensively would backfire if there are no beds available. I get the feeling the Salavador might start seeing a bed race for example. And loom at how quickly the Primitivo is changing after it had "its year".

I believe more in an organic growth. Build it and they will come. But you might not make any money for a while. ;)

Already there have been a number of cycling and running raced on the Invierno this spring, giving it visibility amongst those interested in such things. A new muni has just been announced. There are also already a number of Invierno FB pages.
 

KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
May I ask a favor of you? Could you please let me know if this gets off the ground with the official authorities? I would love to look into starting a small business in Spain, opening a friendly Camino albergue to assist the growth of the Camino Invierno!
Oh, I'm all in to help you if you would need any assistance, Matt!!! :)
 
Camino(s) past & future
cycled from Pamplona Sep 2015;Frances, walked from St Jean May/June 2017. Plans to walk Porto 2020
I am one of those 'Sarria' pilgrims, walked for the first time last year in Oct. Just as people complain about the Sarria section being full of tourists or god forbid, natives, I came across many of the 'Camino Police' preaching what is the right and wrong way to travel the camino. Whenever they were near I just had another glass of wine and pretended I was European! Quite frankly that's what I found to be the most annoying, righteous and pretentious behaviour along this section.

Hola @sally, whether you fit into my listed category will depend upon "why" you chose to only walk the Camino from Sarria. Your reasons, are your reasons. My issues are with the people who walk from Sarria and then claim to have walked "the Camino" (by implication, that they have actually walked the full distance. This was one of my reasons for obtaining one of the distance walked certificates). Cheers for now.
 
P

pilgr

Guest
My favorite pilgrim statue is on the Invierno, outside Monforte! It is located in the middle of a rotunda. Of course, I wasn't paying attention to which direction he was walking and ended up going off on the wrong road from the rotunda. Luckily, some Spaniards honked their horn to point out the obvious.20170427_140839.jpg
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
In fact, Michael liked my tying the two routes together as a "Sarria alternative" so well that he said he was planning to develop a printed guide to the Invierno to accompany his recently released smaller printed guides to the Frances and Portuguese. BTW, the green Camino Portuguese guide is out-selling the red Camino Frances printed guide by 3:1.

Michael also mentioned that bundling the Invierno with the Frances guide made perfect sense as the detour to avoid Sarria made so much sense. So, look for that in coming months.
May I say how much this would sadden me? Why not leave some Caminos alone? Why does everyone need to make a € off them, selling products that are not needed, and will only encourage more traffic?

There is already plenty of information available out there for this route, of the more charming/artisanal type like the CSJ guide Laurie drafted, as well as online on sites like Gronze.

Sell another guidebook, and even worse promote this alternative in a book for the already too busy Frances, and watch this route become a mess.
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 - 2019
Whether someone publishes a guide book for this route to benefit pilgrims who choose to walk the additional two days to avoid Sarria or not, is not the issue, at least IMHO. There are many guides already available for the Invierno. I have a few, as I plan to do this route, perhaps next May, to see for myself.

This route will never, at least in the foreseeable future, become a second, over-subscribed Sarria - Santiago route, for the following reasons:

1. IMHO, only committed long-route pilgrims, such as those starting at St. Jean Pied de Port, Roncesvalles, Pamplona, etc.; or those coming from the Aragones at Puente la Reina, or up from the Madrid Route at Sahagun are likely to take this longer detour as they prefer not to encounter the overcrowding and commercialism that is rife in the Sarria segment. I am in this group.

2. Commercial tour companies will likely not offer this route as the fully established support infrastructure is not there. There are not enough commercial beds to satisfy these tour operators' interest in offering this as an option.

3. Entities offering "a taste of the Camino" will not offer a seven or eight day "taste," using the Invierno detour, if a five or six day "taste," via Sarria is more convenient and profitable for them...

4. Similarly, educational groups making the Camino de Santiago part of their course will not invest the needed two additional days. They likely do not have this time in their calendars...

...and perhaps most important to consider...

4. Individuals or groups inclined to put in the least possible effort needed to establish eligibility for a Compostela are not going to walk 257 Km from Ponferrada when they can just as easily walk 118 Km from Sarria, or only 107 from Tui. Over four years volunteering at the Pilgrim Office, I see a distinct pattern. Some groups studiously avoid exerting any more effort than they need to to qualify for a Compostela.

It is also true, and must be stated, that some pilgrims simply do not have enough time off from their responsibilities or jobs to allow more than a five-day pilgrimage. These people will also opt to walk the shortest routes available to qualify for the Compostela. This year, I encountered a significant number of Canadian and American pilgrims who walked from Sarria or Tui as they did not have the same, generous holiday / vacation allotments that Europeans typically have.

In North America, two-weeks paid vacation is the norm. More than that is rare. Usually only academics, school administrators, students and some civil servants have longer vacation periods. Many folks merely do the best they can with the time available to them.

Still and all considered, the current final segment of the Camino Frances from Sarria into Santiago appeals to a lot of people, either by choice, or because it represents the most value to them for the time invested. I understand this.

My entire reason for posing the Invierno as a viable alternative was to provide a respite to those long-distance pilgrims who would just as soon avoid the crowding and other adverse conditions on this segment, especially during the May - September peak season. I seriously doubt the Invierno route will become like the Sarria route. My reason for posing it as a clear alternative was for that smaller percentage of the overall number of pilgrims who desire to avoid the conditions along the final 118 Km from Sarria to Santiago.

There is plenty of business to spread around to albergues, hostals, casa rurals, etc., as well as cafes, bars and other tiendas along both routes. I think that most of us realize that during some months, the Sarria segment has reached a "peak pilgrim" point.

My posing the Invierno as "the Sarria Solution" is targeted at those Forum members (already a small subset of all pilgrims) who choose to consider the option. I am not concerned that this will become general knowledge among all persons or groups walking this portion of the Camino. Those of us veteran, committed pilgrims, who have the time and inclination can choose this detour or not. It is as simple as that.

I hope this helps.
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
My posing the Invierno as "the Sarria Solution" is targeted at those Forum members (already a small subset of all pilgrims) who choose to consider the option. I am not concerned that this will become general knowledge among all persons or groups walking this portion of the Camino. Those of us veteran, committed pilgrims, who have the time and inclination can choose this detour or not. It is as simple as that.

I doubt anyone who publishes a book that adds the Invierno as a variante in a Frances guidebook is doing this for the benefit of this forum's members. This would hardly serve this tiny niche market as it already uses many other sources, including Gronze and the CSJ guides and the Invierno's association's own guidebook.
http://caminodeinvierno.com/content/detailed-guide-winter-route-santiago-aida-menéndez-lorenzo

So if this were to happen, it would be to cater to those first time Camino walkers would opt for the Frances, including those doing "the whole C." from SJPP.

Adding the Invierno to a Frances book will encourage many more than it is capable of absorbing (just like the Primtivo and Salvador are close to experiencing), which will not do anyone a favour. Redirect more than 20 a day on the Invierno from those in Ponferada, and the Invierno will not be able to take them.
 
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notion900

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
>
@t2andreo why do you think people must start at Ponferrada to do the Invierno? They might just as well start at 100km back from Santiago.
Also, the Invierno joins on to the last stages of the Via de la Plata, which are already busy by that point, with other people who started at 100km back on that route.

Fact is, when you are within 100km of Santiago in any direction, it is going to be busy. I just did the Ingles, and there were 80 people in the sports centre at Bruma one night.
 
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t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 - 2019
You are correct about the 100 Km limit on the Invierno. The key, and I think, critical difference is that both Sarria on the Frances and Tui on the Portuguese route have robust bus and train connections to the rest of Spain. This directly affects the number of "short pilgrimage" folks drawn to these locations, for any number of good reasons.

As to the likelihood of ANY route to Santiago being busier in the final 100 Km, I cannot disagree. So, to some degree, "peak pilgrim" is a phenomenon that will occur eventually along ALL Camino routes. This is when the carrying capacity of the infrastructure: beds, cafes, etc. are fully utilized and fully used...e.g. "there is no room at the inn..." This is something that we cannot change. However, if we are to continue to enjoy walking the Camino, we must find reasonable ways to accommodate, adjust and overcome adversity or challenge.

However, the saturation or "peak pilgrim" point will not occur simultaneously on all routes. Also, it is highly seasonal, at least IMHO and experience. It is occurring on the Sarria - Santiago stretch now. The Tui - Santiago stretch is becoming more popular, as is the Ingles from Ferrol, especially during the summer months. According to my anecdotal evidence, this is the time period when many pilgrim are keen to find an alternative to Sarria.

This harkens back to the surfing analogy discussed over the past months elsewhere in the forum, and timing your arrival at the key starting nodes to either arrive and leave a day or more BEFORE the expected weekend wave, or a day or two AFTER the weekend wave of short-walkers who are only doing the final five-days or so. Moreover, it also strengthens arguments made by many, including me, to do your Camino in the hip seasons of "after-Easter" to before mid-June; or from mid-September through the end of October. This, at least avoids the worst of the holiday / vacation and "tourigrino" induced volume increases on the final 100 Km in any direction.

In the final evaluation, people will do what they choose, when they choose. They will continue to do these routes and then complain about the crowding, etc. I was attempting to offer a viable alternative to those who, like me, seek to avoid the stress of the very busy final 100 Km, and perhaps experience something new.

As regards the views of some who would prefer I said nothing about the Invierno to keep it "private," to avoid commercializing it, I can only say that if I did not say something sooner or later someone else would have. This is a classic case of "...needs, must."

The Camino belongs to all. All I am trying to do it to find a reasonable method for spreading the pilgrim load around a bit.

I hope this helps.
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
As regards the views of some who would prefer I said nothing about the Invierno to keep it "private," to avoid commercializing it, I can only say that if I did not say something sooner or later someone else would have. This is a classic case of "...needs, must."

The Camino belongs to all. All I am trying to do it to find a reasonable method for spreading the pilgrim load around a bit.

The Invierno is already out there for the masses to find out about: many FB pages, guidebooks published, details on the route on webistes.
 

William Marques

Moderator
Staff member
I seem to remember that when the CSJ was working out where to organise a new refugio, which eventually was Miraz, even then in the early 2000s one of the purposes was to increase the volume on other routes to take the pressure off the Camino Frances.

Of course nobody predicted that the CF numbers would keep on growing and growing so even with more people using other routes even more people used the CF..
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 - 2019
Fine, I am not going to continue to debate this. It seems you and I are having a circular discussion. It is not moving forward. I do not care who claims credit for what. I only care that the information is out there. I never sought first discovery credit. I merely related my "lightbulb" moment of awareness.

I no longer use social media, per se. My scope regarding the Camino is solely this forum. So, perhaps my view of this issue is more limited. But, I closed all my Facebook, Whats app, Twitter, etc. accounts some months ago over privacy and security concerns.

The Camino Invierno is there. It is a viable detour around the Sarria to Santiago final stretch on the Camino Frances. Although it adds two days walking from Ponferrada, it has its charms and benefits.

Use it or not. I will try it and form my direct, personal opinions when I finally do walk it.

If this helps YOU, great! If you are not interested, leave it be.

I hope this helps someone. But, I am done here...
 

wayfarer

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP-Santiago-Finistera-Muxia. April/May 2012
Sarria-Santiago Sept. 2013
SJPP - Almost Orrison April 2014
Thank you t2andreo for your Original Post. I sometimes wonder if people fully read the OP before they wade in with misplaced criticism and dissect every sentence to find fault. As you say this was offered as a viable alternative from Ponferrada to Santiago to avoid Sarria, there it is, take it or leave it but try not to misinterpret it.
I have decided to lock this thread now as just about every nuance of it has been discussed at this stage.
 
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