One day in el Camino de Santiago

The pilgrims follow the Sun in the day, from East to West and follow the Milky Way (Via Lactea) in the night. They see the sunrise in the mornings and follow the Sun towards the West walking through pure, golden fields or crossing colourful mountains.

Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James, is a new life, a life inside your life where you have the chance of truly being yourself, a return to the basics of the human being, where you have the chance of paying attention to the small things that we always forget in our “busy-lifes”. You get up, admire the day, feel in touch with the Earth, breath, and observe yourself, your environment and people beside you. Then you walk, and think, and admire the day. You meet people in your Camino de Santiago and you really listen to them, you feel a connection with them, they are not strangers. You learn from them and care about them.

You feel hungry and think about how and where you will eat: under a tree, beside a stream of water or in the next village you will find. Probably you already have in your pocket some figs from a fig tree you found by the path or some almonds, cheese or sweet wine that a local just gave to you asking nothing in exchange. You feel tired but very healthy. The Sun is giving you strength.

You continue enjoying the day and Nature and observing everything that happens around you. If unfortunately some car happens to pass nearby you are shocked because you are walking now and you see the world at your natural pace and just the sight of such a fast, noisy and polluting machine is frightening. You think: “What are they for?”.

The Sun is dying now. It is time to rest and wait for the following day. In El Camino de Santiago you can choose where you will sleep: in the next village? in the small albergue enjoying a dinner of local food and nice company? Or maybe under the stars in the warm night? (just think of how often you have this possibility in your normal life).

And the following day the cycle starts again. You will choose how far you want to walk, you will choose your route, you will choose where you will stop to stare at something. This is the freedom that I mentioned earlier, the chance to be you, the chance to take care of the real important things.

In the Camino de Santiago de Compostela there is no competition but there is a communion with the Nature and other beings. Once you have been seduced by its charm you can’t even tell if you have been there just for a few days or for years.

A LASTING GIFT

Our Camino kept escorting us off the map. I refer not routes outlined in one of the Brierley guidebooks, but any lay of the land as to how a Camino is supposed to look. Our first day out (October 1, 2012) found us leaving my wife’s pack in a bus station. By the second day, we’d lost our guidebook, the worse because it was borrowed. The third day, we recalled (too far back for tired legs) walking sticks leaning over empty plates of tortillas in an aromatic cafe´. The fourth day the watch went. And so on, until the thin blue camera with the best photos of our life must have leaped out of a torn back pocket.

We were pobrecitos. Having left behind our plans and assumptions, uninformed by time and without images—St. James had politely removed them all and extended to my wife and me his invitation to walk into newness, freshness, the mystery of each of our days on this gran adventura.

Yet there were more ‘gifts’ of Our Lady of Compostella—the feeling of being as home as rocks in green Galicia, stunning embraces at the plaza below La Catedral de Santiago, the bonding of globalized hearts…and one last and lasting regalo.

Not far from our destination, a voice whispered far within our ears a message as clear as springtime arising, “It’s time for a Camino de Crestone.” That’s where we live, in the San Luis Valley of Colorado. Our little international mountain town of Crestone at the foot of sacred mountains, has since the ’70s drawn to its quaintness numerous retreat centers, spiritual enclaves, labyrinths, sweat lodges, prayer circles, medicine wheels and sanctuaries. Immediately, the Camino’s invitation to create another Camino became clear: The Camino de Crestone would be the world’s first interfaith pilgrimage.

Now, week-long pilgrimages take place between June and September in which pilgrims visit 15 spiritual centers—each like a bead on a necklace—enjoy 18 special presentations, plus an extensive audio tour, on this 36-mile educational intensive doubling as a spiritual retreat. Last year witnessed the inaugural Camino de Crestone—a life-affirming, life-transforming pilgrimage—with five more planned in 2014 (www.caminodecrestone.com).

Buen Camino! May all caminantes walk into their larger destinies, and may all of our lives be pilgrimages of exquisite gifts.

By William Howell

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Acknowledgements: William Howell, www.caminodecrestone.com
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Planning 3 weeks in Camino de Santiago

Q: I have decided to walk El Camino de Santiago (route Frances) in early September for 3 weeks – I would really appreciate if you could tell me where I should start – and what the best parts are to walk versus take the bus. Do you have any guidance on which place I will most likely be compelled to stop at and spend time? Thank you for your guidance…and for this website to help us future pilgrims in Camino de Santiago.

A: You could start el Camino de Santiago at the beginning (St. Jean Pied de Port) and then skip a week doing by bus the stretch between Burgos and Leon. Otherwise, if you don’t want to take the bus, you could start in Logroño and get into Santiago in three weeks. Read carefully our Camino de Santiago website because the maps (Camino de Santiago Maps) and information of each part of Camino Frances (Camino Frances Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) are all there. Read also the general Camino de Santiago Planning section.

If you want to spend a day sightseeing instead of walking: Pamplona, Burgos, Leon, and Santiago de Compostela are the most beautiful cities. But also there are plenty of towns and villages along el Camino de Santiago with an unbelievable art heritage.

Planning the last stretch of Camino de Santiago

Q: I have only very recently started to think about walking a part of the Camino de Santiago. Until today my plans were nothing more than some sketchy imaginings but after discovering your website and talking to a friend of mine who has walked it before I think it is something I would really like to do.

From your website I loved the photos from the last stage of El Camino de Santiago in Galicia so this is the part of the journey I would like to try.

I live in Ireland so could easily fly to either Santander or Santiago de Campostela. Given that I would like to start in Herrerias (and do stages 27-32 as outlined on your website) which of these would be the better option for a destination airport?

The stretch of El Camino de Santiago that I am looking at is 195km according to your website. I am aged 32 and am healthy and fit but up to now have been not a huge walker – do you think it’s reasonable to underatake these six stages in six consecutive days. I have looked at flights (both Santander and Santiago de Campostela) that arrive on a Thursday and leave one week later on the next Thursday. This means I would need to walk Friday – Wednesday.

I also wanted to ask your advice about the best time of year to go. At the moment I’m looking at dates in mid June.

Apologies for the multitude of questions but I am feeling very excited about this undertaking. Thanks for all your help. I look forward to hearing from you.

R: Thanks for your email and sorry for the late reply – I get alot of emails about el Camino de Santiago.

The choice between Santander airport or Santiago is completely up to you. It is probably easier to connect with the last stages of the camino from Santiago, but from Santander you could get a bus to Leon and from there a bus to your starting point. It’s really up to you. Santander is a nice city if you want to spend a couple of hours there before getting your connection. Prices of flights tend to go up in the summer also, so one option might be cheaper than the other.

Bear in mind that the stages I have set out in the website are not set in stone. There are other places to stop along the way and you can improvise as you go along. I think that 195km over 6 days is a big undertaking, especially if you are not used to walking. It would be a good idea to do some hiking to prepare and to get used to walking long distances with a rucksack. If you live in Dublin you could spend a few weekends walking in the Wicklow mountains to build up your stamina.

June is generally hot – though in Galicia you always have to be prepared for showers! Many Spanish people will do the camino in the summer so if you go in June you should expect crowded hostels, especially on that last stretch. If you are happy to walk in the heat, then there should be no problem. Otherwise, I would suggest going a bit earlier or later in the summer, September maybe.

I think that is everything. Don’t feel you need to stick to the stages I have outlined, it is just a guide of what I did. If you feel tired you can stop earlier or if you feel strong, you can go further, it’s up to you.

One more thing, pack as light as you can, you’ll thank me for that advice.

Best of luck and buen Camino.

Weather in Galicia: Camino de Santiago in spring

Q: Thank you for this helpful Camino de Santiago website! Four of us are planning on starting our Camino de Santiago on Sunday, 29 April, 2012, from O’Cebreiro. Rain is predicted in the weather forecasts. What I want to know is how much rain to expect? Does it rain constantly, all day? Or does it usually rain for a while then stop? Thanks so much for your help!

R: Weather in Galicia is quite unpredictable and the only certainty is that it is quite wet and fast changing. So you could have four seasons in one day. Galician weather is Atlantic similar to weather in Ireland and Brittany although with stronger sun in summer.

With regard to your question, it can certainly rain nearly the whole day, sometimes in Galicia there is this thin and slow rain of small drops that lasts for hours. But as I said it’s very changeable so after a while you might have the most beautiful sunshine. Actually in the past months there have just been a dangeous spell of drought in Galicia.

So don’t be afraid or discouraged by a rainy forecast for your Camino de Santiago, just carry appropriated rain gear just in case. Galicia is just an incredible beautiful Celtic region and many people say it’s even more beautiful under the rain.

Booking accommodation for El Camino de Santiago

The question was: Is it advisable to pre-book accommodation, en-route, if so how to go about this in el Camino de Santiago?

Regarding the matter of booking or not booking accommodation in El Camino de Santiago I have firstly to clarify one thing: you have to decide if you want to sleep in the specific hostels for pilgrims (called “albergues” in Spanish) or in normal hostels or hotels.

If you want to sleep in albergues (there are public or private ones) you will never need any kind of booking, simply because they don’t book or reserve places. This is the most common option between pilgrims.

If you need some more privacy or luxury, you can sleep in conventional hostels or hotels, or another popular option in Spain is rural houses (“casa rural”). You can book them, although sometimes is not necessary, especially in low season because you can just arrive and normally they would have room for you. In medium size villages and towns there are several hostels and hotels to choose. If you are walking el Camino de Santiago in summer and want to be completely sure you will have your room, the best thing to do is to buy a Camino de Santiago guide book from our Store, maybe the one by J.Brierley is a good choice. Take the guide with you in El Camino de Santiago and phone the hostels the day before to make a reservation.

Camino de Santiago Blog

This is the first post of the brand new blog for our Camino de Santiago website so we should take it as the official launching. We will post in this blog all the matters that don’t fit in any of our Camino de Santiago website’s pages and I suppose that there will be plenty of them. For instance, we could post here a reply to a very interesting question made in our Camino de Santiago forum in order to give it more visibility or any piece of news related to El Camino de Santiago, etc. So happy blogging from El Camino de Santiago website team!

The pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela