deep field research (All Mighty Google and old-fashioned Gutenberg in the cooperation)
The old people say that the way of the 100 miles begins with the first step. At this moment, when I have made my decision that I am truly heading for this adventure called Camino Frances and the sailing ship will go from the safe harbor somehow I see that was the ultimate time to check what I really needed for this trip.
The nerd that I am, my deep field and the equipment research started immediately. All Mighty Google made me this so much easier. I typed „forum Camino“ and here I go… the forum site: www.caminodesantiago.me led me to the all the theme needed, advises even more and slowly one by one subjects comes as the new question, new doubt. The more I was doing those researches the more I had fears and more anxious I felt. At this page, you can find everything in one place.
Besides this web-page, you can find a lot of them: forums, Facebook pages and other information that Google can provide. But, for me, I must say that this is more than enough.
If you research deeper, there are printed books also with a lot of tips and directions. My „paper friends“ were:
- The Pilgrimage, Paulo Coelho (after seeing the movie The Way with Martin Sheen, and when I was introduced with this kind of trip I have done some researches and figured that this film was actually inspired by this book. So, I thought it is a good starting point. I must admit that this book did not meet my expectations. It is all in some kind of world of the illusions. After being at Camino it seems even more naive (for example, the entire story is about some kind of the Guide that writer had beside him during the whole trip and after reading it you feel like you can not do that way without losing your track and it is impossible to do it alone. But you can lose your track in only 2 cases: on purpose or you are so tired you miss your yellow arrow. And even for this kind of situations, there are easy solutions, because you are never truly very far from the civilization. I can tell that it is an interesting summer book, but so very far from what you can expect at the Camino)
- Walking home – A Pilgrimage from Humbled to Healed, Sonia Choquette (for me somehow the favorite book although there are still a lot of some kind of fairytales motives that do not have so many connections with this pilgrimage itself. But, on the other hand, everybody can find its own fairytale at his Way. I know I did!)
And there are 3 books in the Croatian language (I am not sure that there is an English translation)
- Camino de Santiago: the pilgrimage of Saint James – Lečevica – Santiago de Compostela, Ivan Kapetanović (it is more „mankind“ book with lots of facts and information, without any kind of stories and in the shape of the diary. In this way, you can see how one day at the Camino can be and what can happen to one pilgrimage at his / her way: blisters, rain, dealing with the tiredness,… And how to deal with all that. Everything useful and helpful. This book only disappointed me with the quality of the pictures, but this may be the results of the print)
- My Camino: the walk into the deep of me, Mara Doljak (for me it is the total mix of all the above-mentioned books and the most unusual. Must admit it did not „fit“ me. Maybe because of the style, maybe it was the last one and it was some kind of too much literature to consume at the short time… But there are a lot of practical and good advises of how to pass the Camino. This woman walked it more than once. I read this book all over again and the feelings are totally different now. Well, it is not all love at first reading)
- THE ULTIMATE GUIDE! Walking Guide to the Camino de Santiago History Culture Architecture: from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela and Finisterre (Volume 1), Gerard Kelly, 2012 (this is the book that I bought and then photo shooted each page before heading the Camino. In this way, I loosen up my weight and at the same time had all the necessary information about each stage of the way. It simply describes the routes, how much each place has it’s distance to another in hours and kilometers, what is the history of the place, some interesting facts, maps and most important, the list of the hostels (albergues) with their dates of closing and opening, phone numbers and other facts you can find and that are really important for a life of one pilgrim.). I had a ritual: as I passed the day, I would delete pages at my cell phone as the sign of passing by the route and it was like those prisoners in the jail putting the signs at the wall crossing the days.
When you start to investigate about Camino like this, you will have millions of questions in your mind and after reading all of the posts, experiences and other literature, you can find your self so intimidated you will think that it was so bad idea of even considering going at that unfamiliar and scary way. I know I was very scared and nervous. There were fears, questions, doubts and for each segment of the trip: what to bring with me, how will I carry all that weight, food, medication (I felt like I go into the deep forrest and for a year without any civilisation), equipment, how to orginise reservations for albergues, and what if in the case of the emergency,… what will happened if I get lost, what if I miss any arrow or some sign, what if there will be somebody rude or will attack me, what if… and then…
I want to to give you some answers… although more details I will give you on the following blogs.
DURING AND AFTER THE TRIP
The equipment – you will not need even the third of things you were even thinking of bringing! And all the advice of taking care of how much weight you are carrying are true. You need ONLY BASICS! I am the living proof that from starting 20 kg you will need to carry only 12 (although even that is too much! I took my professional camera and some other things, but be aware of the golden rule: carry the maximum of 10% of your weight)
The ways – are absolutely marked. You can find yourself hard to lose. There are some mobile applications (for example, I used Camino Pilgrim that has routes for that particular day, how much you have from place to place, which hostels are opened, your GPS tracking and much more. For tracking the hostel in the bigger places I used Google maps, where I typed the address of the albergue and it was simple to find it). The Spanish people are very nice and polite, so they will always explain and show you the way (not once, they gave me even the tour till the hostel!). If you even miss the entire city, there is a lot of ways of getting back: buses, taxi, somebody that is willing to take you with your personal car if you meet it on the street or in the restaurant (forget about hitchhiking, because it is illegal in Spain and rarely somebody will stop you. But, if you are lucky as I was, even that kind of miracle will happen).
Despite I found in a lot of places in forums that during November most places are closed, you do not need to buy a food neither you do not need to carry a lot of medical supply (except the necessary things, but that is another chapter to clear in the more detailed way). You can find in each bigger place stores and pharmacies where you can buy your supplies. You need take care only about working hours because in Spain they have daybreak and stores do not work, as they do not work on Sundays or on holidays. There are some coffee shops and small restaurants where for 3-5 euros you can find decent food (like eggs and sausages, coffee, tea,…). Usually, the routine is that at the end of the day people go find some grocery shop and get something to cook for a dinner (if you find some Camino friends or as we call us “Camino family”) and you cook your meal and in the shop, you get something to eat for tomorrow for breakfast and lunch. But, you really have a lot of ways of not being hungry.
While talking about the medicine, my recommendation is to take care of the European Health Insurance card, and it is not to bad to take extra travel insurance. The extra expenses are really very high and for some extra euros is good to have it. Better safe than sorry! I needed twice medical assistant because of my leg problems. And have to admit that I am THRILLED with their medical service. I would stay on the line and would give a nurse my European card. Despite a lot of people in the hospital for less than half an hour I would get till the doctor. There is a small problem if you do not know Spanish because even their doctors do not know very well English (if they know it). But with my „broken“ Spanish, with the help of my hands and legs, we usually made good communication with each other. I even got some prescriptions, immediately in the pharmacy and small fee for medication for 3-5 euros.
The security – it is equally as almost all over Europe, if not even better. You can download an application AlertCops that can help you in case of the emergency with only some clicks. But, you can be sure that your chances are extra high more to be hit by a care than robbed or something like that. The most important rule is to not to walk without any need on the way that is not safe (but trust me, after starting to walk the Camino, you will lose your extra mile wishes to research the surrounding very far). If you are near your Camino family and people you know from the Way, the principle and the “silent rules” is like that you find your self in keeping others people back and vice versa. You really become more than a family with the complete stranger. My trip included Paris, Porto, Lisbon and all of those cities are safe in the areas for tourists. And never had that fear of bad things is going to happen. I have been lucky not to meet weird people that were strange and which I needed to avoid or that I needed some kind of protection extra. You need to have all your senses alert and be careful at all times. Maybe I have been lucky, because I was not walking at peak of the season when you probably have more chances to find weird or „strange“ people, but also I need to mention that all my valuables were with me at all time (even for the shower I had a special bag where I put my wallet, camera and things I did not want to lose from my eyesight).
But I have been lucky and I did not have any problems like that. I need to mention for all the ones that did not read previously: I walked as a single woman.
Camino Frances is really well equipped with a lot of infrastructure for all pilgrims needs. The fact that more than 300.000 people walk the route each year says a lot.
So, without any fear!
p.s. – I have started to read again all these books and they have completely new dimension now. After seeing the movie The Way again I have cried as a little baby. Definitely, nothing is the same anymore…