Am writing this in case I plan another Camino walk. This is to remind me of all the reasons not to do
another one. It is either too hot or too cold and this year too wet. I was told there had been a lot of cancellations due to 15 days of rain and anothr two weeks forecast. Noticed on my last Thursday in Santiago that there were definitely less people around. Hustlers were outside the restaurants and cafes , not needed earlier in the week. Only One lovely sunny day during my six in Santiago.
So reasons other than the weather, the accommodation is usually OK, clean but very spartan and because they do not have carpet, usually tiles or wooden (like) floors ,you share your nighbours activities. Some hoteliers are great and go the extra mile, the one where I was ill was one of these even though she looked like a harridan. Majority of pilgrims stay in the alberques, anywhere from 5-10$ a night for a bunk in a mixd dorm. I would have enjoyed the company but the shared toilets was definitely a no for me thanks to missplaced radiation.
Oh yes, the absentee hoteliers, hated being given a key and told to let myself out in the am.
The food is ninety percent boring and worst case scenario, inedible. A salad or soup, go for the salad the soup usually has the three day taste. Main is usually a crumbed ( sometimes not) piece of meat, I was often not sure what kind, sort of snitzel like accompanied by chips the best part of the meal usually but sometimes on their nth reheat. Dessert invariably supermarket creme carmel.
I tried the odd expensive restaurant , deep fried chops and nth heated up chips….had one or two good meals but not many over four weeks walking. They do great pastry goods and cakes!This salad was at a five star hotel, plentiful but unexciting.
The actual walkng followed a pattern, started off the day all chirpy and happy with a spring in my step, particularly happy if breakfast was plentiful and not just a roll and coffee. Or worse , the long life rubber food items masquerading as food. Plentiful brekkies meant I was able to pinch enough food for my lunch. Often nowhere to buy anything between over night stays.
An ideal day for me now is about sixteen ks but invariably the days were 20 plus, worst/longest was 26. By the time I have walked 16 ks I am looking forward to getting my pack off, only 61/2 kgs but that gets heavy and by 20 ks I am snarling and muttering to myself, cursing loudly even…
Spanish men , drive me nuts , they are such chauvinists. One day I walked into a very busy restaurant, trucks parked outside, always a good sign , truckies do not eat bad food. The dining room was heaving so i changed my mind and settled for a plate of chips. While I was negotiating this in Spanglish a group of forty year something men came in, about six of them. They started muttering about English and all but pushed me, ENOUGH, I turned on them and Said I was from NZ, waste of time so I said , well if you want to remain ignorant for the rest of your lives feel free. Picked up my lemon drink and sat down. Mutter mutter mutter. Maybe not much different probably to the behaviour of a group of similar aged men with an older foreign woman in NZ , I hope not.
I wear my red hat most of the time, so the Spanish men look at that first when I walk into a bar, the they look at my boobs , then at my face, sigh almost visibly and look away. Being young and attractive must require a whole heap of protective skills I do not need.
I do enjoy the camaraderie of Santiago, everyone has shared a similar experience. People talk to each other, share experinces on the walk whichever one they have done.Oddly Santiago has become a ‘destination’ for cruise ship excursions , they stare at the walkers/peregrinos as though they are a subspecies. Seems to be a lot more 100 k walkers, walk the last 100’ks and get a certificates , they are obvious because they are clean, their gear is cleqn and newish and usually about my age!!
My pack is faded and sports a bunch of purple plastic flowers, the elastic on my socks has gone and ny boots are dirty and a pair of socks hangs drying off my pack. Plus no makeup and hair is getting longer.
The Pilgrims Mass held everyday at 12 noon is great. The cathedral is chocka. When I first went to a mass in 2008 you just walked in at about 11.55 and sat adown with your pack, plenty of room!
Now you arrive about 11 am if you want a seat. A nun runs the proceedings, telling us when to stand , sit etc. Just with hand gestures.About 10 clergy troop in but she controls it. She has a sublime voice and it is sublime to hear her and the organ become one…The swinging of the senser is spectacular.
The Camino Frances is still the most popular with 250, 000 people a year completing it. The Madrid Camino which I completed only has about 500 people do it!!! The second half of the Camino that I did following on from the Madrid one was the Invernio, hardly anyone doing that one either..
I found this walk harder physically though I managed the 2000m scrabble OK slow but OK. The final haul up the hill into Santiago was such hard work but I finally made it. Mind you I had ben ill, still have dodgy innards evn though I have run away to Lisbon .
Some of the scenery was breathtakingly beautiful some just dreary. The hills around O Barco are somehing but the ha.after ha. before Sahaguan was boring as and wet.The bird life is great, the skylarks nade the boring stuff more interesting. The hoopoes who sound like cuckoos are heard innthe forests but never seen.
Even though I ran out of puff quite a bit I recovered fast and apart from when I was sick was OK the next day.
Cancelled? Postponed the final walk, The Primitivo, 300 plus ks and the most remote and when I looked at the ks I had allocated daily, 20-24 I must have been mad but in my defence that was the only avcommodation and in that area, no taxis or buses!!!
So probably my ten year Camino journey is over- finally