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What was the hardest part of the Camino de Santiago?

Karen C.

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
May 2017
Is it the climb the first day out of SJPP, finding an alburgue in the evening, finding good affordable meals, the toll on your feet, following directions? Or something entirely. My husband I (both 62) will be doing the Camino in May 2017. We are not overly experienced travelers, but did fine in Mexico and Peru. So any tips would be greatly appreciated.
 
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SabineP

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Time of past OR future Camino
some and then more. see my signature.
Is it the climb the first day out of SJPP, finding an alburgue in the evening, finding good affordable meals, the toll on your feet, following directions? Or something entirely. My husband I (both 62) will be doing the Camino in May 2017. We are not overly experienced travelers, but did fine in Mexico and Peru. So any tips would be greatly appreciated.

Hi Karen and welcome here!

I cannot answer for the Saint Jean part because I started at Roncesvalles.

What was the hardest part for me? Depending on the day or even the moment : could be my feet, could be my mood, could be the feel of the weight of my backpack. Sometimes everything together.
Sometimes finding myself in a bad vibe in an albergue, feeling a bit tired and sorry for myself.
Dealing with that minor medical thing and seeking help at a local policlinic and feeling absolutely inadequate.
20k. of walking in constant rain and muttering swearwords to no one in particular.
A drunken guy in an albergue vomiting on my pack.

And then : meeting that specific pilgrim , maybe only talking with him/her for ten minutes, and finding my flow again.
The simple gesture of another pilgrim giving up his lower bunkbed to me.
The lady at the bakery calling me " Amor ".
Meeing the local choir practicing in the church at Rabe de las Calzadas and getting invited for a drink.
Etc...etc...

Hardest part is stopping in SdC or Fisterra / Muxia and waiting for that next Camino to happen.


All the best in your preparation. Ultreïa!
 

estorildon

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
CF11, CF12, CP13, CF14, CA15, S.Anton15, CF&CI15
Ditch Pig16, CF&CP17, CdN18, CM18, CF18, LePuy19
The hardest part is getting the motivation to do the Camino. Once you are there, be it SJPdP, Pamplona, Madrid, Burgos, Leon, Porto, Ferrol or Sarria, your first step will be easy and then you let your body determine your pace and guide you through your days to Santiago. There will be rain, mud, sunny hot days, strenuous hill climbs and steep descents along with the frustrations of many personal experiences with people you can't exactly agree with every day. That is the beauty of the Camino.
 
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CdnDreamer

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances (12, 15 & 18) San Salvador (18), Portuguese (19)
When I practiced walking at home, I always knew where I was, how far to the next coffee shop, where I would stop for lunch etc. The hardest part of walking in Spain was having no picture in my head of where I was, where I would eat, what was coming up next etc. I found that very unnerving. I was surprised at my reaction but with practice it got easier to deal with the 'unknown' each day.
 

eviemonkey

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances August 2016, Camino Primitivo August 2018
Physically, the very first morning's walk/climb on the CF between SJPdP to Orisson. My woeful lack of training came home to roost, and I struggle up steep inclines anyway. There was at least two to three moments when I questioned my ability to keep going. Every other climb thereafter seemed manageable by comparison as I had become stronger mentally and physically along the way.

Emotionally, and so much more harder than the above, is having to saying goodbye to a special pilgrim friend who had to return home early due to injury. And the weirdness of having to return to Santiago alone after walking to Finisterre and Muxia. It was incredibly bitter-sweet to walk on my own around the same streets I had arrived into four days earlier, triumphantly with 12/13 pilgrim friends, who had since returned home or continued travelling.

For all that, I consider myself incredibly fortunate that the above details the extent of my hardest experiences along my Camino. So many others had to deal with genuine pain and suffering on a daily basis, be it blisters, knee and foot issues. But they kept going, and watching their humility and determination to do so was inspiring.

In addition, when I consider how difficult it was for me to return home having completed a full and rewarding Camino walking experience, my heart goes out to those, such as my friend, who had to cut short their own walk because of health or personal issues.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
Us:Camino Frances, 2015 Me:Catalan/Aragonese, 2019
I won't say it is the hardest part of the camino but be prepared to spend a lot of time with your significant other, a lot more than you may be used to. And the weather and the wear and tear on your bodies can make you awfully cranky at times too. I came across one couple that would have been better off walking a few days apart.
 
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Mark Lee

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As far as physical difficulty, that depends on you and your physical condition.
I've seen pilgrims walk 25-30 km a day like it was nothing, with energy to spare at the albergue when they finish for the day, and I've seen others struggle to walk 10-15 km a day on a daily basis.
Otherwise, I never experienced any difficulty per se in finding meals, albergues or staying on the Camino's path.
 

Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Time of past OR future Camino
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others
for me it was adjusting my meal desires (I wanted to be walking by 7 am and in bed by 10 pm) to a country on a different schedule (still fast asleep at 7 am and just eating dinner at 10pm). once I worked a compromise I was a happy camper: food bought the day before for a light breakfast, walk until a bar was open for coffee, walk more until bars were serving breakfast (tortilla), walk until lunch for my largest, 'real meal' (3pm), stop walking, get a bed, explore town...and bar food/tapas, communal albergue dinner, or self-made dinner. Late night dinners on Spain's schedule were reserved for rest days. This is not to say I didn't get lost a lot...but I always eventually found my way, and it never bothered me like missing meals did...all it took was one very hungry morning my third day on the camino to teach me Spain wasn't going to be on my clock, so I'd better get myself on Spain's.
 
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kdespot

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Francés SJPP-SdC Sept-Oct 2016
I just returned from my first Camino, SJPP to Santiago, where I turned 60. Thanks to the wisdom of extensive training before I left, I had no physical issues at all. Not even a blister. As others have said, coming home was by far the hardest part. It's really challenging to let it go. After that, it was hard to be a vegetarian on the Camino. I'm pretty tired of eggs and potatoes, but if other vegetarians want some tips, I have a lot now. ;-) And finally, it was hard to see dogs chained to trees.

But there's no perfect world and the Camino is just magic, especially Day 1 over the pass from St Jean to Roncesvalles! Directions are easy once you figure out where to look for the arrows and you stay aware of when you saw the last one. The rewards are invaluable. I came home with a feeling of inner peace that I don't ever remember having.
 

donalomahony

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
"Camino from 2013 to 2019" paused for now...
A small blister between two toes.

Snoring.

Occasional hangover.

Too many people.

Too few people.

Forgetting clothes peg.

Accommodation anxiety around midday.

Questioning.
How long?
Only 3 more days?

Why did I not learn more Spanish?

Warmth Cold

Etc.

Just do it!
 
Time of past OR future Camino
Francis SJPDP-SDC (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017) , Norte 2018
Pilgrim Office 2018, Hospitalero Acebo 2019
for me it was adjusting my meal desires (I wanted to be walking by 7 am and in bed by 10 pm) to a country on a different schedule (still fast asleep at 7 am and just eating dinner at 10pm). once I worked a compromise I was a happy camper: food bought the day before for a light breakfast, walk until a bar was open for coffee, walk more until bars were serving breakfast (tortilla), walk until lunch for my largest, 'real meal' (3pm), stop walking, get a bed, explore town...and bar food/tapas, communal albergue dinner, or self-made dinner. Late night dinners on Spain's schedule were reserved for rest days. This is not to say I didn't get lost a lot...but I always eventually found my way, and it never bothered me like missing meals did...all it took was one very hungry morning my third day on the camino to teach me Spain wasn't going to be on my clock, so I'd better get myself on Spain's.

Well said Sparrow. Exactly where my wife and I ended.
 

Annie Little

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances Sept-Oct 2016
:DI had my 60th on Camino in October ... started from st Jean in September : I went via Valcarlos and split it into two days .... this I recommend ... they call Valcarlos the " low" route .... there is no " low" route the only way over a mountain is UP :eek:..... however splitting either route into two days is sensible fir most ...

I did NO training .... that's right NONE .... my life is chaotic and left me no time .... a very good reason to go to Camino .
I managed very well by taking my time ; building my fitness up in the first week and then increasing kms after that ; getting good nights sleep ; having good walking shoes with replaced inner sole; packing as light as possible and carrying light weight poles .

The ONLY discomfort I had was from a blister which I treated carefully . I had no muscle pain ; ankle pain ; knee pain :D.... BUT I believe this is to do with good luck .... even the fitest can fall prey to injury ....

My advice : GO ! Deal with what comes up and learn as you go . Take it steady ; listen to your body ; make love to your feet :cool:.... and view every problem as a new opportunity ...

ULTREIA
Anne
 
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Nanc

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances (Sept 2016)
SDC/ Finesterre/ Muxia (2016)
The physical part was those 8 kilometers from SJPdP to Orisson in 35c weather that Sucked the energy out of most of us.
The mental part came when I experienced the bronchitis (bronchopenumonia) that affected my back and ribs. I feared the end of my Camino, wasn't sure if I could heal, and didn't know how to walk a Camino when not fully fit. The mental effect of not having control of my body was MOST difficult.
Obviously I made it and my body flourished as I went on, and the lessons of NOT allowing loss on control to stop me were very powerful, even today
Nanc
 

Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances; Aragones; VdlP; Madrid-Invierno; Levante
The worst part for me, for this Camino ( I am at Madrid airport waiting to fly home) was learning how to manage the pain - one foot, the other knee. As soon as I took full responsibility, I was able to manage. Yes, I took more naproxen than my doctor recommends, knowing the possible risk of heart attack with NSAIDs. That took care of the knee pain. I adjusted my socks and foam inserts to allow for the fact that I have one foot larger than the other. That took care of the foot pain. Suddenly, about three quarters into my Camino, I didn't hurt. I could turn my attention to other things. Maybe that is why all my intuitions and blessings came towards the end of this Camino.
I shall return to my usual ways of managing arthritis pain when I get home, but a morning soak in a tub of hot water did not seem to be an option on Camino.
 
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Congratulations, @Albertagirl! It's such an inspiration to hear how you successfully dealt with these things, over the long haul. It's finally sinking for me that at a certain age, it's not going to get any better...so the question becomes how do we manage/mitigate/cope...and keep going?
A safe and comfortable journey back home to you!
 
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GreatDane

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
CF to Burgos Sept/Oct 2014, Burgos to Astorga April 2016, Astorga to SdC 2017
...The hardest part of walking in Spain was having no picture in my head of where I was, where I would eat, what was coming up next etc. I found that very unnerving. I was surprised at my reaction but with practice it got easier to deal with the 'unknown' each day.
Odd, that's one of the things I loved the best - the unknown, the not knowing of what was coming up next!
 

Karen2017

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Leon to Santiago May 2017
When I practiced walking at home, I always knew where I was, how far to the next coffee shop, where I would stop for lunch etc. The hardest part of walking in Spain was having no picture in my head of where I was, where I would eat, what was coming up next etc. I found that very unnerving. I was surprised at my reaction but with practice it got easier to deal with the 'unknown' each day.
I think this is what will throw me a bit
 

Karen2017

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Leon to Santiago May 2017
I just returned from my first Camino, SJPP to Santiago, where I turned 60. Thanks to the wisdom of extensive training before I left, I had no physical issues at all. Not even a blister. As others have said, coming home was by far the hardest part. It's really challenging to let it go. After that, it was hard to be a vegetarian on the Camino. I'm pretty tired of eggs and potatoes, but if other vegetarians want some tips, I have a lot now. ;-) And finally, it was hard to see dogs chained to trees.

But there's no perfect world and the Camino is just magic, especially Day 1 over the pass from St Jean to Roncesvalles! Directions are easy once you figure out where to look for the arrows and you stay aware of when you saw the last one. The rewards are invaluable. I came home with a feeling of inner peace that I don't ever remember having.
Oh ok I am going to have to avert my eyes from the dogs then. Mine are a part of our family.
 
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dougfitz

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Spain: Mar 2010, Apr 2014, May/Jun 2016. Norway/Sweden: 2012, 2018. Other: 2011, 2019. CP (tbc)
Is it the climb the first day out of SJPP, finding an alburgue in the evening, finding good affordable meals, the toll on your feet, following directions? Or something entirely. My husband I (both 62) will be doing the Camino in May 2017. We are not overly experienced travelers, but did fine in Mexico and Peru. So any tips would be greatly appreciated.
This is a great question, and you already have some wonderful answers - too many perhaps for you to prepare yourself for each of them individually. So apart from cautioning you not to believe anyone here who claims they know what most pilgrims do or do not do - because very, very few of us meet enough other pilgrims to be well qualified to make such a grand claim - I wondered what I might add that would be helpful.

After walking the CF in 2010, I began preparing to walk the St Olavs Way variant from Oslo to Trondheim. I had similar questions about what to prepare for and how best to go about that. It helped me to think of these in three categories:
  1. what physical challenges would I face? What was the longest distance that I would have to walk between accommodation? What were the steepest and longest climbs? What weather could I expect to face, and what might that mean for the gear that I would need to carry?
  2. what would the mental challenges be? Would I be able to survive without much Norse? Aside from polite greetings, what Norse phrases should I learn? How would I cope with walking alone for most of the walking day?
  3. what were the spiritual challenges? What did I know about myself, and was I prepared to use this time to understand myself better? Would the pilgrimage challenge me spiritually? If it did, was I going to be open to learning from that?
You might want to ask yourself similar questions about your own preparations, and test them against the scenarios that have been offered.

As an aside, my hardest day on the CF in 2010 was walking from San Bol to Castrojeriz. It is not long, nor particularly demanding. But I was walking alone at that stage, and I twisted my knee as the path joined the road shortly before San Anton. I was limping, dispirited by the pain I was in and had no-one to talk to. Things were that bad for me that if there had been an airport at Castrojeriz, I would have booked a flight home. There wasn't, so I committed to walking one more day. It was another demanding day, but I got through that day and the subsequent days walking a day at a time.

I think that my best advice is in two parts: (a) have a well rounded preparation, and (b) expect to be challenged by something you didn't expect.
 
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Rod Murray

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2016 CF 2019 PC
I won't say it is the hardest part of the camino but be prepared to spend a lot of time with your significant other, a lot more than you may be used to. And the weather and the wear and tear on your bodies can make you awfully cranky at times too. I came across one couple that would have been better off walking a few days apart.

Ah...for every rule there seems to be an exception. My wife and I walked Ponferrada to SdC last June. Our best 3 days together were the climb up to O Cebreiro in the cold, wet rain, and the relative quiet of the Camino, as the wet weather seemed to make the route quieter in the cool and wet during the 3 days.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
From Porto, Portugal, through Tui, Spain, in 2015.
Northern route in August/September 2017
About a year before stating my Camino from Porto I developed high arch problems that followed me onto the Camino. My feet made me aware of every step with a lurch of pain for 2 weeks. Curiously, when I think back on the Camino, I never think about the foot pain. It was your question that brought it back to mind. What I remember is the beautiful grace of life in slow motion. I remember the young man, working as a gardener, who tried so hard (in Portuguese) to get us back on the right road when we didn't even know we were lost. I remember the one woman who passed us each day --we couldn't walk fast enough to get to know her. I remember the sweet pleasure of a glass Albariño in any number of plazas at the end of the day. I remember small towns and forests, fortified cathedrals and trails along streams. As a rule, I don't remember the foot pain. My point is, prepare well, but worry little. The pains, even the constant unavoidable ones, don't overwhelm the experience. The quiet graces will win through.
 
D

Deleted member 56069

Guest
Going home for sure. This is not saying that life at home is anything less than great either.
One lesson I learned is that it does not take much to be truly happy. Like many I have accumulated a lot of stuff over the years. Yet, once I am walking on the Camino I don't miss any of it.
Sure you miss family, pets and friends back home. But on a day to day basis, everything I need I carry with me and it is all I truly need.
If not for family, I think I could wander with my back pack and be happy to the end of my days.
A Camino does prove the saying, Less is More.
The experiences of a Camino easily trumps the enjoyment of more possessions.
I often ponder that Camino life is the way life was meant to be lived versus the complicated life most of live.
2017 will be the forth year in a row that we will travel to Spain and we will walk the Portuguese route.
One Camino a year is starting to be not enough now.
 

Lmsundaze

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
CF (2016), CP (2017)
I'm not sure how to say this delicately, but bathroom issues. When one needs to get an early start, and can't "go" yet, constipation can be a problem. It was a problem for me, at 70 my system isn't what it used to be. Even with drinking fluids, eating vegetables and every other thing, the hours at the albuerges were not consistent with the functioning of my 70 year old body. I did better staying at accommodations with a bathroom so I didn't need to rush off until I was ready.
 
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JohnMcM

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Some, and with luck, some more.
....................................
The mental effect of not having control of my body was MOST difficult.....
Nanc

Amen to that Nanc!

I liked to think I am a mentally-strong person.

However the final week of my last Camino took me by surprise. I really struggled and it turns out it was because of a long-standing health thing I've only just been diagnosed with.

I didn't understand why I felt so bad at the time and felt, like you, of not being in control. I understand now though and can plan accordingly for my 2017 Camino (s?).

Buen (getting back n control) Camino
 

Rod Murray

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2016 CF 2019 PC
I'm not sure how to say this delicately, but bathroom issues. When one needs to get an early start, and can't "go" yet, constipation can be a problem. It was a problem for me, at 70 my system isn't what it used to be. Even with drinking fluids, eating vegetables and every other thing, the hours at the albuerges were not consistent with the functioning of my 70 year old body. I did better staying at accommodations with a bathroom so I didn't need to rush off until I was ready.

I wholeheartedly concur with this point. Enough said.
 

Suzanne Betts

Sitabai
Time of past OR future Camino
I intend to go June 2017
I just returned from my first Camino, SJPP to Santiago, where I turned 60. Thanks to the wisdom of extensive training before I left, I had no physical issues at all. Not even a blister. As others have said, coming home was by far the hardest part. It's really challenging to let it go. After that, it was hard to be a vegetarian on the Camino. I'm pretty tired of eggs and potatoes, but if other vegetarians want some tips, I have a lot now. ;-) And finally, it was hard to see dogs chained to trees.

But there's no perfect world and the Camino is just magic, especially Day 1 over the pass from St Jean to Roncesvalles! Directions are easy once you figure out where to look for the arrows and you stay aware of when you saw the last one. The rewards are invaluable. I came home with a feeling of inner peace that I don't ever remember having.
I need those tips on walking the Camino as a Vegetarian! I believe I will be there mid Aug to mid Sept 2017. Thank you!
 
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Theandrea

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
May 2015, March 2016, January 2017
walking with blister pain. i had to take iboprofin 600 every 4 hours to numb the pain
 

Wokabaut_Meri

somewhere along the Way
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Francés 2015
Pilgrims Way 2018
Via Francigena #1 Canterbury-Dover 2018
The hardest part, as the posts prove, will be different for everyone.

Perhaps, given the fact that you are asking the question, I would offer that the hardest part might be to learn to accept the Camino in each moment and not to worry too much about what lies ahead. Yes, the climb out of SJPdP is relatively steep and a first day test but you can overnight at Orisson and stop as many times as you like to rest and take in the (hopefully) glorious views. Yes, finding a bed for the night might be difficult but there will always be one for you somewhere. Finding good affordable meals will depend on your tastes and budget but a search of the Forum will provide you with lots of recommendations for some memorable dining. The toll on your feet is an unknown but you've done quite a bit of walking and again a search of the Forum will come up with much useful advice.

And yes, it could be something entirely unexpected :rolleyes: - for me it was a broken foot!

The hardest part is to enjoy every precious moment and savour every footstep. You will reach Santiago before you realise it!

Buen Camino!
 
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Lmsundaze

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
CF (2016), CP (2017)
Imsundaze & Rod Murray bring up an important yet delicate point.However the body can be trained in that respect.

Maybe I should incorporate a body training plan into my preparations. So If I start getting up, so that I am about and ready to walk daily from the Spanish time of 06:00 then maybe by the time I am actually get there I will not have these delicate problems.

:(Then again being up daily at 5:00 am here in the UK is not likely to happen in reality. :)
Jimmy, I hope that works out for you. Many people, including older ones, do not have this problem. It was a potentially serious one for me, which I solved by mostly staying in private accommodations so I would have more time. Buen Camino!
 
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Ricav

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
(2016)Porto to Santiago;Santiago to Finisterre
For me, as an American on the Way from Porto a few weeks ago, it was fielding the questions from Europeans and Australians about our upcoming presidential election. I was desperately trying to unplug from all of that noise from back home.
Some were kind enough to not make it their 1st or 2nd question but the majority eventually brought it up.
 

Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Time of past OR future Camino
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others
I need those tips on walking the Camino as a Vegetarian! I believe I will be there mid Aug to mid Sept 2017. Thank you!
there is a thread somewhere with a list, I will look for it...i think it is for the frances, but these are my tips for any route:
there are often vegetarian options as the first course in a prix fixe meal like the menu del perigrin or menu del dia, and I never found a place that wouldn't let me have two first courses vs a first and second. If you eat yogurt, it is often a third course choice, and i imagine you could also have one first and two third course choices. or order from the entrees, which also had vegetarian options. Be clear about no meat, however, as occasionally jamon would find its way into my vegetable sandwich (someone on the forum mentioned it is often counted as 'flavoring' not actually as being meat in the food). Shops have lots of great veggies and fruit, and if you are staying in a place with a kitchen you can buy things that require cooking.
i'll go look for the list
 
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Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Time of past OR future Camino
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others
But in the shops don't touch the fruit.:)
Seriously, don't touch the fruit.
he's serious. ask for what you'd like from the shopkeeper.
edit: for some odd reason, every time buying fruit comes up I think about a display from a shop that sold a variety of things in Molinaseca...and had fruit in front revolving around on a record player...what innovative recycling... camino 2 758.JPG
 

Montana Jayne

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
September 2015 - Camino Frances
? Camino Ingles
My husband and I were 71 & 69 when we did SJPP to SdC in the fall of 2015. We did some walking prep, I did strength training at the Y and we purchased shoes, backpacks etc. with advice from this sight. I thought the first day was "awesome awful". The views were incredible! I really was wiped out when we arrived at Roncevalles. I realized I should have added some cardio training. Also, I got plantar faciitis in one foot after Castrojeriz, and so I believe I should have gone to a podiatrist before doing the camino. I'd never had that problem before so an evaluation could have helped. Of course, all of the previous post are full of insights. It is a great experience so ... Buen camino!
 
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Time of past OR future Camino
VdlP(2012) Madrid(2014)Frances(2015) VdlP(2016)
VdlP(2017)Madrid/Sanabres/Frances reverse(2018)
1. In 2012 foolishly trying to drag my bike up El Calvario just south of Almaden on the VDlP in June heat. Impossible without the miraculous appearance of two locals.
2. In 2014 when my son and I finally got up that heartbreaking climb to O Cebreiro, we stopped to take a photo at the monument which has a world map on it, then blithely rode on down the wrong road.......all downhill of course. We whizzed along, (the reward for all that pushing), for miles and miles, totally unaware that we were going south. I started getting worried because we weren't seeing any pilgrims on foot anywhere, and I was yelling to my son, who was way ahead, to stop. That didn't happen until we got to the bottom. Three hours later, O O Oh Cebreiro.
Just thought you walkers might like this one.
 

tomnorth

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances: September 24 - October 31 (2015)
Is it the climb the first day out of SJPP, finding an alburgue in the evening, finding good affordable meals, the toll on your feet, following directions? Or something entirely. My husband I (both 62) will be doing the Camino in May 2017. We are not overly experienced travelers, but did fine in Mexico and Peru. So any tips would be greatly appreciated.
For me it was sleeping with loud snorers in the room and the reentry to my regular life. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat!
 
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Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Time of past OR future Camino
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others
I'm not a vegetarian, but I had an experience where the waiter told me that there was no meat in the spaghetti dish, only tomato sauce, only to be served the most meat filled spaghetti sauce I had on the entire Camino.
I was tempted when jamon appeared in my promised vegetable only sandwich to pull it out and announce "el jamon no es un vegetal" while holding it aloft...but I decided to table the ugly American act for another day.:rolleyes: But...many times something similar happened in various cafes in Baltimore. Since it is not a strictly held belief (more unease at eating something I'd pet, or in memory of a Muslim friend I lost) I don't get too upset when mix ups happen...but vegetarians of the strict sense need to be clear about meat (i.e. say no meat seasoning, no meat period)...and still be prepared for a surprise
 

Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Time of past OR future Camino
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others
Why are you not supposed to touch the fruit?
I don't know if they are worried about damage, contamination, theft, or it's just not how it is done....but you point out what you want and they bag it for you. it was the same way in markets I"ve been to in some overseas assignments and even in Baltimore.
 
Time of past OR future Camino
VdlP(2012) Madrid(2014)Frances(2015) VdlP(2016)
VdlP(2017)Madrid/Sanabres/Frances reverse(2018)
I posted above about my all time worst moment, (and ultimate salvation) when confronted by that awful climb El Calvario on the VDLP, two days into my first ever camino. I remembered posting a description of that day a long time ago, and looked back to find it. Boy, re-reading, did the memories and feeling of desperation come flooding back. I thought I might copy and paste it because I bet it will resonate with a few people. So here it is.

Look, I can't resist coming clean about my encounter with Calvario, the hill just before Almaden de la Plata.
My first day out of Seville saw me reach Castilblanco without incident, and although it was very hot, June and high 30's I'd guess, I was feeling pretty good about my progress. I remember the bliss of a cold wash at that water pump, signposted in every language imaginable.

Anyway, the second day was equally hot, but the road to the gate of El Berrocal Park was easy, and the ride through the national park beautiful. Then came the abrupt stop at the foot of the climb. The track, if you could call it that is very stony and cut by gullies. And very steep. From the bottom, you have no idea how far, or how high it goes because of the trees. Now, I'm getting on in years and there were two other things distinctly not in my favour. I have a problem with arthritic knees, and, would you believe I was wearing cheap sandals, my only footwear.

I assessed the hill; there was zero possibility of my pushing the bike plus gear up the hill, so I took off the (too heavy) panniers and carried them fifty metres or so up the hill, put them under a tree and went back for the bike. After a dispiriting struggle I managed to reunite bike and bags, and began again. After two more such trips, I was still nowhere near the top, was in a state of utter exhaustion, my knees were screaming, and I had grave doubts that my sandals would hold together much longer, not to mention real worries about water. I remember sitting there, feeling utterly miserable, in the shade of a tree, almost in tears thinking that I was mad to have ever have thought I could do this.

After several minutes, I heard a noise, and was amazed to see a caballero coming up the hill on what seemed to be a huge horse. I should mention that this was the first person I'd seen the entire day, apart from passing cars on the long road before the national park. He stopped and looked down at this picture of abject misery, and began firing off a few sentences in that machine-gun Spanish, and of course I understood not a word.. I just looked at him, speechless. However, he then said a word I did understand "Bolsos", and motioned for me to hand up my bags, which I did, and then blow me he rode off up the hill muttering.
I sat there in some state of shock. I knew I didn't have the energy to push the bike any further. (Let me tell you, in these situations you find out very quickly how heavy and unweildy a mountain bike can be). But then, after a few minutes, another apparition! A young man, (obviously very fit), dressed in singlet and shorts, came RUNNING down the hill to me. He grabbed the bike and off he went to the top where the caballero waited, with me rather shame-faced plodding behind.

How I wish I had known some Spanish beyond gracias, to express my gratitude those guys. Where the young man came from I've no idea. I just reflected on the fact that people say miracles happen on the camino.
 

Pat Beals

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Start Camino Frances Sept 9 2015
Camino Frances Aug 22 2017
Is it the climb the first day out of SJPP, finding an alburgue in the evening, finding good affordable meals, the toll on your feet, following directions? Or something entirely. My husband I (both 62) will be doing the Camino in May 2017. We are not overly experienced travelers, but did fine in Mexico and Peru. So any tips would be greatly appreciated.

What a wonderful question. To me, it was my fears. I worried about the climb to Roncesvalles. I worried about falling. I snore, I worried about disturbing other people sleeping. I met a woman who fell and broke her foot coming down from O Cebreiro. I worried about that. I discovered that both heights and walking across the rocks that go over running water give me vertigo. I worried that I was old and hadn't travelled in a very long time. With all of these fears, I met people who helped me and made me grow. It is one of the best things I have ever done.

Walking The Camino was a real challenge, but with that comes equal rewards. Go for it and celebrate
 
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PEI_Heather

Canadian Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2016 - Voie de la Nive
2012, 2016 - Frances
2013 - Portuguese
2012, 2013 - Finesterre & Muxia
The hardest part is to come home (yesterday) and to have people (today) ask me what my favourite part of my trip was. Arrrghh! Not ready to be back here yet!

(The hardest part of actually walking on the Camino was to walk into Santiago, go through the tunnel that leads into the Plaza del Obradoiro in front of the Cathedral and know that the walking part had now ended. NOW what would I do?! My purpose for the last 35 days had been to walk...now what was I to do?! Hardest part of the Camino, that day. Oh, what did I end up doing in the end? Spend a wonderful five days after that visiting with friends, drinking cafe con leche, eating, hanging out at the plaza, greeting and watching incoming pilgrims being welcomed by their Camino friends, attending the pilgrims mass, twice--both times the botafumerio was swung!-- and attending the mass in which the pilgrims door was closed until the next Holy Year (2021). Oh and go on the tour of the Cathedral roof, and eat lots and lots of delish food on my birthday. Then it was time to leave for home; then that was the hardest part of the Camino!)
 
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PEI_Heather

Canadian Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2016 - Voie de la Nive
2012, 2016 - Frances
2013 - Portuguese
2012, 2013 - Finesterre & Muxia
Nice new avatar, PEI_Heather!...And welcome home to the Camino de la vida. Often a much more challenging camino than the one in Spain. Buen Camino!
Thanks Viranani!
The photo was taken by a former pilgrim, Michael, who is compiling portraits of pelegrino/as as they complete their walk to Santiago. He lives in Santiago (originally from the US) but has his 'studio' set up at a bar in/near Calzado. I chatted with him for a while--he's a graphic designer and photographer; I was a graphic designer and trained in photography in a past life (what I did before studying and practicing massage therapy), a trio of people came in to have their pictures taken and I thought, why not! So I joined the trio. It was really good fun and I ended up with some interesting photos (bad hair day, alas...oh wait; it's the Camino...every day is a bad hair day, so who really cares!! :) ) and a grand walking partner the next day, in the form of Brody, a young Australian lad!

And yes, the post-Camino Camino. My jet lag et al is making me discombobulated and slightly cranky. I'm telling people to be aware until I have at least a sip of coffee. I've switched from N. American 'normal' sizes of coffee (far too large) to European 'normal' size. That is enough coffee to somewhat stabilize me. Feeling better than yesterday and I know that I will feel better tomorrow than I did/do today. Maybe a walk tomorrow. Drat; it's supposed to rain...pour...!
 
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Time of past OR future Camino
Yearly and Various 2014-2019
Via Monastica 2022
You can always go out into the rain and pretend you're in Galicia.:D
Better yet, go out in the rain and be completely there, in it. That, I think, is the essence of the Camino experience and it doesn't require a particular location...we can do it anywhere.
(I will completely agree that it can be a bit more of a challenge at home...:confused:)
 
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kdespot

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Francés SJPP-SdC Sept-Oct 2016
I need those tips on walking the Camino as a Vegetarian! I believe I will be there mid Aug to mid Sept 2017. Thank you!
Sorry it's taken me so long to respond, Suzanne. Here are my tips in a short list: Buy stuff in the supermarkets and cook. Take some sort of flavoring with you (i.e., spices). Carry food in your pack and, in addition to noshing on it along the way, liven up the omnipresent eggs and potatoes in bars and restaurants with it. The Spanish cheeses were my favorite. They're so good! I also schlepped dried fruit, nuts, grains, etc. Bars and restaurants almost always have yogurt so I often made myself a little breakfast or dessert bowl. When you're in a bar/restaurant, look at the ingredients they have in their dishes and ask if they can cook a specific dish. Not many places serve pre prepared dishes and they will often combine the ingredients that you suggest. In other words, if you ask what they have that doesn't contain meat, you'll get a blank stare. But if you invent the dish, they'll often cook it. Look for Middle Eastern restaurants...they have the best variation of veggie options with some flavor and are the easiest to find. Have you seen the list of veggie albergues and bar/restaurants that I put together before my Camino? It's here on the forum somewhere. Needs to be updated, and that's being done by another pilgrim. Private message me and I'll send you other tips as I think of them (along with those of the other pilgrim who is brainstorming the same topic).
 

PEI_Heather

Canadian Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2016 - Voie de la Nive
2012, 2016 - Frances
2013 - Portuguese
2012, 2013 - Finesterre & Muxia
You can always go out into the rain and pretend you're in Galicia.:D
Better yet, go out in the rain and be completely there, in it. That, I think, is the essence of the Camino experience and it doesn't require a particular location...we can do it anywhere.
(I will completely agree that it can be a bit more of a challenge at home...:confused:)

Yup, I could (go for a walk in the rain) but November rain in east coast Canada is far far far colder than in Spanish Galicia! But today, it is NOT raining; I took the bus to work and will walk home. Now, to decide the route home: 6.5 km, 8.5 km or 13 km.... :)
It will be dark and unlike the Camino Frances, we have coywolves here (a cross breed of coyote and wolf; very dangerous) and they potentially would be on the 13 km trail--it goes through the country and some wooded areas. The coywolves have been even seen in town. Maybe one of the other routes--they are on sidewalks... And so boring! (Sigh!)
 

PEI_Heather

Canadian Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2016 - Voie de la Nive
2012, 2016 - Frances
2013 - Portuguese
2012, 2013 - Finesterre & Muxia
Nice new avatar, PEI_Heather!...And welcome home to the Camino de la vida. Often a much more challenging camino than the one in Spain. Buen Camino!

I really like what the Confraternity (of Saint James) has on their website, Viranani; it provides the description of something I can't... Not often I'm tongue-tied, but this post-Camino, I seem to be. Even after these few days. It feels like I've not been in Santiago for years, whereas I left there less than a week ago on the 15th. It feels like I have not been home in eons, but I've been back since last Thursday the 17th. The disconnect combined with the jet lag is not enjoyable! :confused: It will pass. Quickly, I hope!

"The Journey Continues

So, you have walked or cycled all the way to Santiago, maybe even ridden a horse there. You have your compostela or certificado and suddenly the object of weeks or months of preparation and effort is over. When you first arrive in Santiago you may feel elated, dejected, relieved, disappointed, serene, excited, or a mixture of all of these and more. When you return home you may feel somehow out of step with the real world and a bit lost or empty. People refer to this as “Post-Camino Syndrome”. Many returned pilgrims also feel a strong urge to reconnect with the pilgrimage and to give something back to the camino in thanks for their own experiences. “What next?” is a question that many pilgrims will ask themselves over the days, weeks and months that follow."

(http://www.csj.org.uk/the-journey-continues/)
 

clearskies

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Francés - 2011 to 2018
Camino Portugués - 2018, 2019, April 2021
Celtic Camino - 2019
Arriving in Santiago, for me
 

Suzanne Betts

Sitabai
Time of past OR future Camino
I intend to go June 2017
Sorry it's taken me so long to respond, Suzanne. Here are my tips in a short list: Buy stuff in the supermarkets and cook. Take some sort of flavoring with you (i.e., spices). Carry food in your pack and, in addition to noshing on it along the way, liven up the omnipresent eggs and potatoes in bars and restaurants with it. The Spanish cheeses were my favorite. They're so good! I also schlepped dried fruit, nuts, grains, etc. Bars and restaurants almost always have yogurt so I often made myself a little breakfast or dessert bowl. When you're in a bar/restaurant, look at the ingredients they have in their dishes and ask if they can cook a specific dish. Not many places serve pre prepared dishes and they will often combine the ingredients that you suggest. In other words, if you ask what they have that doesn't contain meat, you'll get a blank stare. But if you invent the dish, they'll often cook it. Look for Middle Eastern restaurants...they have the best variation of veggie options with some flavor and are the easiest to find. Have you seen the list of veggie albergues and bar/restaurants that I put together before my Camino? It's here on the forum somewhere. Needs to be updated, and that's being done by another pilgrim. Private message me and I'll send you other tips as I think of them (along with those of the other pilgrim who is brainstorming the same topic).

Thank you, this is helpful! I'll keep researching and being rather adventurous I know I'll be fine. Thanks!
 
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JamesVT

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2019
Physically, the very first morning's walk/climb on the CF between SJPdP to Orisson. My woeful lack of training came home to roost, and I struggle up steep inclines anyway. There was at least two to three moments when I questioned my ability to keep going. Every other climb thereafter seemed manageable by comparison as I had become stronger mentally and physically along the way.

Emotionally, and so much more harder than the above, is having to saying goodbye to a special pilgrim friend who had to return home early due to injury. And the weirdness of having to return to Santiago alone after walking to Finisterre and Muxia. It was incredibly bitter-sweet to walk on my own around the same streets I had arrived into four days earlier, triumphantly with 12/13 pilgrim friends, who had since returned home or continued travelling.

For all that, I consider myself incredibly fortunate that the above details the extent of my hardest experiences along my Camino. So many others had to deal with genuine pain and suffering on a daily basis, be it blisters, knee and foot issues. But they kept going, and watching their humility and determination to do so was inspiring.

In addition, when I consider how difficult it was for me to return home having completed a full and rewarding Camino walking experience, my heart goes out to those, such as my friend, who had to cut short their own walk because of health or personal issues.
Thanks for this.
 

Philip Hartney

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2018 - first time
I did the CF last May 2018.
The hardest part for me personally was resisting the very strong urge to buy a ticket back to SJPdP to start it again after the second day in Santiago after I finished.
Physically, the downhill to Roncesvalles, after a hard day on day 1.
I will be doing the CP from Porto May, after my Chemo is finished, and all going well plan to do CF again in September this year.
The very best of luck and Buen Camino
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino's Frances, Fisterre, Portuges. Over 180 day
The hardest part of walking the Camino the first time was getting the time to do so by getting time off from work.
I would say for so many out there work and financial restraints are their biggest difficulties in walking the Camino.
 

trecile

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
PAST - Francés, Norte, Salvador, Portuguese
The hardest part for me personally was resisting the very strong urge to buy a ticket back to SJPdP to start it again after the second day in Santiago after I finished.
When I was back in Madrid after my first Camino I had to resist the urge to follow some pilgrims that I saw on their way to the Camino in the train station. :D
 

JamesVT

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2019
I did the CF last May 2018.
The hardest part for me personally was resisting the very strong urge to buy a ticket back to SJPdP to start it again after the second day in Santiago after I finished.
Physically, the downhill to Roncesvalles, after a hard day on day 1.
I will be doing the CP from Porto May, after my Chemo is finished, and all going well plan to do CF again in September this year.
The very best of luck and Buen Camino
Good luck, Paul.
 
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Rj7797

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances 2017
Physically: the descent down to Molinaseca, really does a number on knees and ankles

Mentally: taking the taxi to the airport the morning after celebrating into the night with friends, leaving said friends, and seeing all the pilgrims still walking in knowing my backpack would be done for awhile

Post Camino: Wanting to go back badly but no longer having the time due to career change and not knowing when the time may ever present itself.
 

pintrex

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
French
Is it the climb the first day out of SJPP, finding an alburgue in the evening, finding good affordable meals, the toll on your feet, following directions? Or something entirely. My husband I (both 62) will be doing the Camino in May 2017. We are not overly experienced travelers, but did fine in Mexico and Peru. So any tips would be greatly appreciated.

I cannot believe all the BS answers below: "It depends blah blah." The hardest part of the Camino is from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles. Period.
 

Cary

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
del Norte/Primitivo May 2019
My advice : GO ! Deal with what comes up and learn as you go . Take it steady ; listen to your body ; make love to your feet :cool:.... and view every problem as a new opportunity ...
This is my mentality going into the Camino...just going to take it as it comes and as a learning experience. "making love to my feet" has never crossed my mind though...lol ;)
 

Glenshiro

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Le Puy - A Rua, Frances, Invierno (2012 - 2022)
I will get flamed for this (and I am a dog lover) but
And finally, it was hard to see dogs chained to trees.
Trust me, it's a sight harder running down a road in the middle of nowhere being chased by a barking dog whose intentions are unclear but seem, to the casual observer, to be anything but benign.
 

Denver Bob

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
First halfCamino Frances (2015)
Second Half Camino Frances (2016)
Camino Portuguese (2017)
Physically—SJPP to Roncesvalles
Mentally—Re-acclimating after returning home.
 
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Nanc

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances (Sept 2016)
SDC/ Finesterre/ Muxia (2016)
Pintrix
“I can’t believe all the BS answers below:”
We all appreciate the variety of experiences and opinions shared on this forum
Feel free to share yours
But I request, as a fellow member, that the personal judgements like denigrating and BS be left off comments so this remains a safe forum
IMHO Nanc
 

Pelegrin

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2019
I know that there are people here who love the Meseta. I haven't done the Meseta yet, but I'm pretty sure that for me the hardest part of the Camino would be the Meseta between Burgos and Leon in summer.
 

estorildon

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
CF11, CF12, CP13, CF14, CA15, S.Anton15, CF&CI15
Ditch Pig16, CF&CP17, CdN18, CM18, CF18, LePuy19
You notice it when you can no longer search for their messages on the basis of their @forum name. If you happen to come across their old messages you will see the monniker Guest under their avatar. Some people do announce that they will leave but sadly Anemone del Camino and also Mark didn't.
I know that there are people here who love the Meseta. I haven't done the Meseta yet, but I'm pretty sure that for me the hardest part of the Camino would be the Meseta between Burgos and Leon in summer.
Hopefully you find that untrue!
 

Montana Jayne

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
September 2015 - Camino Frances
? Camino Ingles
For me, SJPP to Roncesvalles was incredibly difficult. Hubby and I were 69 and 71 and we had walked a lot in preparation. We recall it as "Awesome Awful"! The early September weather was perfect and the views were soooo beautiful! We have no regrets, only perfect memories of crossing the Pyrenees.
 

RumAndChupacabras

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Jul-Sept 2019: Six weeks in Northern Spain.
Apr 2018 Asturias
May 2016 CP: Portuguese
No matter which route, the HARDEST part for me was...all the sorrowful things I learned about myself!!! That said, I have learned and grown massively (spiritually) since.
 
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reneeavril

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
SJPP to Finisterre, June & July 2013

SJPP to Muxia July & August 2014
I cannot believe all the BS answers below: "It depends blah blah." The hardest part of the Camino is from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles. Period.
Strong agree! (Hiked the Frances twice and starting my 3rd this week. God bless the Orisson alburgue!)
 

mspath

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
On my first camino at 65 hiking up the 1060 meter Ibaneta pass to the monastery at Roncesvalles was then the most physically exhausting day of my adult life to date. I was pooped! Although I had hiked throughout the summer nothing had prepared me for such an effort. Beneath a cobalt sky/brilliant sun I gasped/ached while my pack felt like bricks.
 

Trekker One

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
C. F.2014,15,16 &19 Portuguese '17, Primitivo '18
The hardest part was just getting to the starting point. Flying from western Canada and then a long train ride from Paris to St. Jean. Literally up for 24 hours straight.
The rest was a joy...most days! The hiking was relatively easy most days compared to hikes I have done in the Canadian Rockies. The challenge is the wear and tear of walking the equivalent of a half marathon a day for 33 to 35 days straight. That is what you need to manage efficiently.
 
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Antonius Vaessen

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2015-2016 VdlPlata - Sanabres
2016.Primitivo
2017 Salvador
2018 Norte (to Sobrado)
2019 Norte again
I won't say it is the hardest part of the camino but be prepared to spend a lot of time with your significant other, a lot more than you may be used to. And the weather and the wear and tear on your bodies can make you awfully cranky at times too. I came across one couple that would have been better off walking a few days apart.
It could be the other way too, at home you are more or less "stuck" in a pattern, you know how your partner will react. During a Camino you are confronted with ever changing circumstances meeting new people. It is a perfect situation to rediscover one another, which is fine, presuming the base of the relation is stable.
 

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