This is how I find myself spending my days – walking the Camino
Up at 5am, frantic panic to find everything in the dark and pack quietly so as not to wake the few late sleeping pilgrims. Brush teeth, wash face, get dressed and find a place to switch on a light to dress my blisters, strap up my feet and rub on Voltaren. Strap on my knee guard, put on my boots with care so they fit snug and no more blisters form. Strap on my backpack, grab my sticks and hit the road.
The best time of the day to walk is in the morning when it’s quiet and cool. Had some scary pitch-black mornings through the forest but it’s all part of the experience, sunrise is at 7.30am
Breakfast is normally in the first little village I get to which could be anything from 3 – 10km and consists of coffee and tortilla. Some Albergue’s do offer breakfast but not too many – Dry bread and tea.
Fill up my water bottle at the village fountain and walk on for another 5 – 10km before I stop for a break. Have a snack like an apple and rest for half an hour. Walk, walk and walk – it always seems to be the last 10km that take forever. Stop and look at the scenery, chat to an occasional pilgrim resting or tending to a blister. Walk some more and eventually see the village in the distance that I’m hoping to find a bed in. The high church steeple in the city centre is always the first thing visible: all the Spanish towns are built around the church. Sometimes it’s a long haul to get into the old city centre but that’s the place to be, it’s alive with history, energy and atmosphere. Most of the villages have stunning old roman bridges leading into them and the river with it’s soothing cold water is always a comfort to my weary feet.
Then the search begins to find a bed, the earlier the better, some places are very small and don’t offer many beds. The Albergue’s have bunk beds in rooms, some as many as 50 in one room. One place even had 3 tier bunk beds and I had to try scramble into the middle one, let me tell you that was a funny site with my aching knees. If it’s clean and I’m happy I check in with my Pilgrim’s passport and a few broken words in Spanish. Prices vary from donations to 20 Euro for a night and that gives you a bare bed and a bathroom to share with some 50-odd people. Unpack the sleeping bag and pillow to mark my spot for the night, if it’s a bottom bunk people like to stela it. Peel away the dirty and sweaty clothes and have a shower, the water switches on and off so sometimes it takes quiet a while to get clean. Find the laundry, sometimes it’s just a tub outside, wash my dirty clothes so I have something for tomorrow again. Socks take long to dry so you will often see them flapping in the wind off my backpack. Rub oil onto all the aches and pains, sort out the blisters and relax for a few minutes. Find my guidebook, get a map and go exploring.
Pilgrim’s all seem to congregate in the Plaza in front of the church where there are Café’s and Bars to share stories and a few beers. Meeting new people and chatting about the day is part of the daily Camino ritual. The camaraderie, banter and laughter inspire us to get up and do it all over again in the morning. Supper is normally a Pilgrim’s menu which ranges from 8 – 12 Euro and includes a starter, main meal, dessert, water and wine – usually a very tasty homemade meal. Places where there is no where to eat I have some instant soup and Bread. Tapas bars are very popular where you choose a beautifully presented item, find a place to sit and trey to have a conversation with a friendly local.
Lights off at 10pm, close my eyes, say thanks and ask for guidance for the day ahead.
I have learnt to listen to my body and let it be my guide and with that understanding and acceptance