A Travellerspoint blog

The Day In the Life of a Camino Walker

Up early to bed late (for the younger ones).

sunny

In this blog I will endeavour to portray a typical day in the life of a Camino walker.

After a night of symphonic noises coming from all sections of the room the pilgrim starts stirring around 6:00am when the sun has still refused to rise and the roosters are thinking of stirring. There is usually an early race to the toilets at this time as well. Because we are considerate people and not everyone gets up at this unearthly hour the pilgrims move stealthily around the room organising their packs either by the light from ones phone or one of those head torches campers use. The problem is that the light from either the phone or head torch are disturbing in their own right and frequently people who are trying to lay in will shove their heads into their sleeping bags to avoid the light. The other problem is that there is no way on this wonderful God given earth that one can pack a back pack quietly, the sounds of people stuffing their clothes and sundry bits and pieces then followed by the tell tale noise of zippers being drawn to close up the packs is sure to wake the dead. Once packed the pilgrim will have two choices for breakfast. If the Albergue he or she has stayed at offers breakfast they have the opportunity to buy a breakfast there for around 3 Euro. Breakfast is usually offered around the 6:30 to 7:00am. Most Albergues expect pilgrims to be packed and out by 8:00am. This gives them time to clean the place before the next group of pilgrims arrive. A breakfast usually consists of 3 types of cereal, toast, a fruit juice, tea or coffee and sometimes a sweet pastry of some description. The other option for the pilgrims is to start walking and stop at a café along the way for breakfast. This allows the pilgrim to get a good start to the day and get some kilometers under their belt before stopping for something to eat and drink. My usual practice for breakfast is to start walking and locate a café along the way and stop for a fresh orange juice, croissant and a piece of fruit.

The day itself consists of walking between villages and towns of different sizes but very similar in layout. Along the way you meet up with different groups of people and or individuals and chat. You will definitely find out where they are from and sometimes their family history. At times you come across people who tell you their whole life story. For me the best part of the walk is when I am on your own and I have time to just think about various things and contemplate the future. On some occasions you will walk into a village and think you are on the set of the movie The Magnificent Seven and you look around expecting to see Yule Brenner and Charles Bronson. For any young readers, apart from my kids, this will probably mean nothing to them. A sad part of the journey is that at times you walk through a town that has basically been abandoned and it looks so sad and sorry for itself. Usually you stop along the way for lunch. Some pilgrims find a nice café in a town to enjoy lunch while others buy things for lunch and find a nice shady park to enjoy their break. My usual practice is to buy vacuum sealed Strasburg, ham or prosciutto to have on fresh bread. The fresh bread here is amazing. It is much crunchier and nicer than anything Australia or France has to offer. To this I usually add a piece of fruit, either an apple or orange. Once lunch is finished it is usually an hour or hour and a half to my final destination.

Upon reaching your destination usually mid afternoon, hot and tired, with sore feet that's when all the fun begins. The first step is to register and receive your Camino stamp. Once this has been completed you then pay your accommodation costs which vary between 9 to 15 Euro depending on the quality of the Albergue. When you have been shown to your bed you are then in a race with other occupants as to see who can get into the showers first. This may seem trivial but it is relatively important as some albergues have a limited hot water system and run low on hot water relatively quickly and others have lousy water pressure while in others if your in the 3rd or 4th cubicle you end up with a dribble coming out of the shower head. Having showered and put on clean clothes your next job is to wash the clothes you had been wearing that day, this generally means undies, socks and top. Trousers usually last 5 to 6 days then I try to wash them. All the chores done now it is time to relax. For some this means visiting the local hotel and getting something to drink and eat. Others it means a time to get a well earned rest. For me it generally means catching up with the blog, reading my current book and occasionally heading off to the local hotel or Albergue bar and catching up with fellow travelers. Meal time varies for the pilgrims as well. Most Albergues or local hotels will offer a Pilgrims' meal, which consists of a soup, main course and dessert. This generally costs around the 13 Euro mark. They are generally very delicious and well worth the cost. Others will go to the local shop and buy ingredients to make their own meals in the kitchens provided within the Albergue. I have both had pilgrim meals and made my own on a number of occasions. Obviously making your meals is the cheaper option. Once the meals are over most of the geriatrics head off to bed while the younger generation stay up and party on till 10:30 when all noise is supposed to cease. With lights out, snoring commencing we all wait with great eagerness for the breaking of the new dawn.

Unfortunately as I post this blog I can't download any photos as my phone and computer aren't talking to each other. Obviously counselling is required but as my counsellor is in Australia and probably doesn't do house calls to Spain I will have to do the best I can. Hopefully they can sort out their differences and work together again.

Posted by Seniorcitizens 12:53 Archived in Spain Comments (4)

Burgos

Brings back memories of Charlton Heston as El Cid.

BURGOS
This entry is all about the city of Burgos which is famous throughout Spain for two reasons. The first is it's Cathedral and the second is the legendary El Cid. I will be treating each of these topics separately as they are both very important and interesting to this area in their own ways.

Burgos Cathedral
Burgos Cathedral last year commemorated 800 years since the laying of the first stone (makes Boronia's 100 look a bit young doesn't it). The Cathedral is the main church in the Diocese and considered as, and is referred to as 'the mother of all churches' in the area. It houses the Bishop's Chair (reasonably important I assume) where the bishop celebrates mass, teaches and "tends to the Christian community". The Spires are visible from almost anywhere in the town. The construction of the cathedral commenced in 1221 and was completed in 1567. It is regarded as a masterpiece of Gothic architecture as it displays an evolution of the gothic style, with the entire history of Gothic architecture displayed in the one building. Apparently it holds a unique collection of Artworks and I can confirm there were some brilliant looking pieces of art work on display that would have been centuries old. As with all cathedrals there were the obligatory stained glass windows which were used to great effect. On researching further on this cathedral I came across this fascinating piece of information and I now quote, "This church was to substitute the Romanesque church that was built there in the XI century and so to create a real temple. The church needed beauty, architecture and religion to join together to create a building full of grace and magnificence". They achieved this in spades. Then we come to one of the more important facts about the Cathedral in that El Cid is actually buried there next to his good Lady Mrs Cid. Again I must point out that the pictures I took of the Cathedral do not do it justice.

This leads me on to the second major reason Burgos is so famous and that is because of the man they call:

El Cid (translation The Lord)
El Cid was an actual person by the name of Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar. He was a Castilian knight who both fought for the Christians and the Muslim armies during his lifetime and earned the Arabic honorific al-sid which evolved into El Cid. He was born in a village near Burgos called Vivar del Cid. According to history books his most significant accomplishment was his conquest of the Muslim ruled Valencia in spite of great armed resistance. He ruled Valencia from 1094 till his death in 1099. In all his campaigns for different rulers within Spain El Cid never lost a battle or was beaten in combat. He was known for his military skills and strategies. He was a fearsome fighter and could, according to history be quite brutal at times and had civilians tortured and Muslim judges buried alive. As for the death of El Cid the scene showing a dead El Cid tied to his Charger to lead his army out against the Muslims looks good but is totally legend, created by monks in the monastery of Cardena. History shows that for a lot of the battles he fought for different rulers throughout the land he was paid for so in reality he was a bit of a mercenary. Besides all this he is still a revered figure throughout Spain. What a man.

Posted by Seniorcitizens 12:46 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Life on the Camino

Description of life as a Pilgrim

It has been a while since my last entry which was all about the Cathedral in Pamplona but unfortunately due to distances traveled since then and poor WIFI connections blogging hasn't been easy. However at the moment I have the time and a semi successful connection. Today I write about life on the Camino so hopefully it won't be too boring.

Pligrims
On the Camino there are basically three categories of pilgrims or as the Spanish call them Perugino's. At this point I must emphasis these are my categories and therefore open to discussion and not to be taken as gospel. The first category is what I call (as do some others on the walk I have come across) Tourist Pilgrims. This label in no way is meant as a derogatory term to describe them. The Tourist Pilgrim is the person or persons who have booked their trip back in their homeland through a specific Camino tour company and who have all their accommodation pre booked for them. The advantage of this is that they know they have somewhere to stay at the end of their day's walk. They also have the advantage of not having to carry their pack as their luggage is transported from their previous stay to the next one. This means they just have to carry a day pack if they want. From what I gather this is not a cheap way of doing the walk.

The second category of pilgrim is the cyclist. These people choose to ride the length of the Camino on Mountain bikes. The problem with doing it on a bike is that a fair portion of the riding is done on the road. However there are sections where the walkers and the riders share the path and it is interesting to see the different bikes used (haven't seen any road bikes yet and not likely too either). Most of the bikes are of a very high quality with very good looking suspension. The advantage to doing the Camino by bike is that you can go further in one day than if you are walking it. One thing I have noticed is that most people wear helmets although it is not compulsory. I have also noticed that many of the riders are either Italian or American with a handful of Germans thrown in for good measure.

The last category, of which I am one is the Camino Walker. This is the pilgrim who came across to do the Camino having booked no accommodation prior to departure and hoped that they would find accommodation along the way. these pilgrims also carry all their own luggage. The idea is that you walk as far as you want, then rock up to a local Albergue and have a bed for the night. Unfortunately due to the numbers of pilgrims on the road this year this has not always been a viable option. This has led to people having to phone ahead to book a bed. There have been occasions where I have turned up to villages at the end of a walk only to find that there was no room at any of the Albergues and thus had to travel on to find a bed for the night. Fortunately I have always been successful in getting a bed. Unfortunately the sad fact is I have become one of the ones pre booking my stays. There are some Municipal Albergues that will not take reservations but they are few and generally you have to reach them very early to ensure a bed for the night.

So hopefully this little description of the types of ways you can do the Camino was interesting and useful to anyone considering doing it.

Postscript
Since completing this blog entry I had reached Cardenuela Riopico to spend the night and came across a very fiery French man who roundly condemned what I referred to as the Tourist pilgrims. When we were discussed this particular issue he got very heated and argued these people who pre book there tours and don't carry their packs "are nothing more than tourists". He also argued the the Camino Frances to Santiago is no longer a pilgrimage but a tourist walk, his reasoning behind this is that on a pilgrimage upon reaching an Albergue you pay a donation for the night rather than a set fee. He started his pilgrimage in France and at every Albergue he stayed at he paid a donation and that was all that was required. However upon entering Spain the system changes and you are charged an amount for your bunk, somewhere between 8 to 14 Eurofor the night depending upon the quality of the Albergue. This disgusted him and to him Camino Frances (the Spanish section) lost the claim of being a pilgrimage and became simply a tourist walk.

My feelings on this matter is somewhere in the middle, these people are financially hard up after 2 years of basically no income and as you walk the road you come across a number of Albergues that used to exist are boarded up. They need to get back on their feet and how they do that is up to them.

Posted by Seniorcitizens 06:15 Archived in Spain Comments (2)

Catedral de Santa Maria la Real de Pamplona

Not another Cathedral!!!!!!!!!!!!

sunny 17 °C

As Gillian will vouch for I am not a great one for Cathedrals and was happy to give the Gaudi Cathedral in Barcelona a miss. I enjoyed a Starbucks coffee while she marvelled at the impressiveness of this Cathedral. So one can legitimately ask what the "hell" is he doing writing one whole blog on this particular building. Firstly it was right next door to my Albergue in Pamplona so it was easy to get to. Being so close I chose to walk over and give the inside a quick once over. As I entered the building to give it the "once over" it was going to cost me 5 Euros to enter. Being on a strict budget and the cheapskate I am I though "nah" not worth it. So I turned away and purchased a lovely hot Chocolate with whipped cream on top for 2:59 Euro. As I sipped my hot chocolate I thought to myself I am probably getting more pleasure out of this drink at 2:50 than the church at 5. As I sat in a Tapas Bar devouring some delicious food with a side order of red wine (which was very nice I may add) with a number of newly made friends from the Albergue one happened to mention the church and how spectacular it was. Some us remarked that 5 Euro seemed a bit steep to see inside a church. He just sat there and said if you don't see it you have just wasted your time in Pamplona. Bearing this in mind the next day I walked out the door, paid my 5 Euro and entered the church.

Well what can I say....it was by far the best Cathedral I have entered in my entire history of Cathedral visiting (I will admit again I never entered the Gaudi Cathedral). The Cathedral is Roman Catholic origin and the existing building was built in the 15th century to replace the old Romanesque style building. As you walk through the church you can see where they have done some excavations and they believe that 2 older churches existed on this same spot. The Neoclassical façade was designed by Ventura Rodriguez in 1783.I have to admit all the signs and information in and around the church were in Spanish and I had no idea what was explained, the information I provided you here came from Mr Google. In the middle of the Church is the sepulchre of Charles III of Navarre and spouse Eleanor of Castile. The inside is very similar to other Cathedrals but the way it was decorated and the museum was all awe inspiring. I hope the pictures reveal the grandeur and elegance of the place. It was worth 5 Euros.

Posted by Seniorcitizens 18:50 Archived in Spain Comments (4)

I love to Go a Wandering along the valleys flat.

From Saint Jean Pied to Roncesvalles then from Roncesvalles to Larrasoana.

semi-overcast 17 °C

Day 1 Saint Jean Pied to Roncesvalles
Saint Jean is such a picturesque town who knew it would lead to a following day of horrors. The picture belie the horrors that awaited us on the first day. One would have to say that the climb although interesting and hard it was not a Kokoda. It was step for the first 7 to 8kms but not beyond belief) as after Orisson it became easier just longer (as this was the second half of the up hill climb). As stated although longer the second half didn't have the steep gradient the first half had. The down hill was easy enough although they closed down the shorter more interesting track as it was deemed too dangerous. They say this to someone who has completed the Kokoda trail. I had a little trek down the forbidden track and compared to Kokoda it was a major highway, but as I was not prepared to face the wrath of the Spanish police if I continued down this trail returned to the top of the track and like a good citizen I took the longer but safer more exceedingly boring track. The main problem with the first days journey was the weather. The fog came in thick and heavy, it was so heavy you couldn't see more that 5 to 10 feet in front of you. This obviously meant that the spectacular views that this walk is famous for was simply blanketed out and non existent. There were cattle and horses with bell around their next no less than 5 maybe 6 feet away from me and you could only see there ghostly outlines. It was also so cold you felt is was ready to snow. It would have been nice if it had snowed as this would have give some credence to having to freeze to death. However no matter how cold it got no snow appeared. Disappointing. Due to the fact it so foggy everybody (well everybody I spoke to later), including myself missed the border between France and Spain. To be honest there ain't much there but it would have been good to record it. So eventually I made it to Roncesvalles with about another 1000 frost bitten pilgrims. I believe everybody and their dog has gone on this walk, and I mean dogs as a couple of pilgrims have bought their dogs. So eventually I got my bunk and sorted myself out and settled in for the night. You may find this hard to believe but some people snore worse than me. I eventually got to sleep.

Day 2 Roncesvalles to Larrasoana
After an interesting night of many noises and interrupted sleep I managed to get up, sort my stuff out and hit the track by 7:00am. The distance today was the same as yesterday 27km but with less hills and more flat stretches of land to walk along. We were also walking through country that was very similar to walking through the Dandenong's. The day was very sunny so we were able to see the wonderful surroundings we were walking through. The pictures I hope to post along with this entry doesn't do justice to the beauty of the places we past through. So compared to yesterday walking this was far more pleasurable, the 27kms seemed to fly by (well nearly). Reached Larrasoana by around 2:30pm and was able to do some washing, practice flying the drone and generally relax. Made a new friend while on the journey a 36 year old South Korean Artist. We have become great mates. He's unfortunately leaving the walk tomorrow to head of to make his artistic name in Paris. Wish him the best of luck.

As far as other walkers go many are basically European or American. Of the European contingent the majority come from Germany and Italy. Most people are happy to chat after the walk when sitting around over some well earned beers or wine and although there is a slight language barrier most people seem to make themselves understood. Apparently my broad accent and natural Australian colloquialisms are a bit hard for people to come to grips with, but they love Australians and are very forgiving of our linguist differences. Meet 1 other Australian on the walk but she says she knows of one other than me on the walk, so there seems to be 3 of use here.

So till my next entry, when ever that is stay safe and have a great day.

Posted by Seniorcitizens 08:05 Archived in Spain Comments (2)

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