What The Guide Books Don’t Tell You About Planning to Walk the Camino

So I got this cra cra idea to walk the Camino Santiago a 500 mile trek across Spain after watching the movie, “The Way” starring Martin Sheen.

I thought to myself, self.. you’ve been walking since you were what, 10 months old or so, how hard can it be to do the Spanish Schlep?

So I started doing my research on Facebook and Google. The first thing I Googled was, “How much weight can I lose walking the Camino?” The answers were mixed. One man lost 30lbs, one woman gained 30lbs. So my hopes that this holy trail would be my holy grail of weight loss were dashed…. but I continued.

I found out it’ll take me about 30-something days to walk the full 500 miles, that my feet will hurt (a lot), my toe nails will likely fall off, the Spanish wines are insanely good, and that bacon is the most served food along the way.

OK, I can give up some toe nails for some great wine and bacon.

BUT – I was not prepared for what I found on the forums.

Apparently there’s a rash of flashers along The Way – hanging out and whippin’ it out. These pompous pumpers like to stun and scare women who, like me, are traveling alone. So what’s a girl to do when approached – point and laugh? runaway? take a photo? blow a whistle? sit back and enjoy the show? I dunno.

How do you say – “Oh, wait I missed that part, please do it again,” in Spanish?

There’s a huge US vs THEM when it comes to getting some shuteye. At the end of the day most people who walk the walk check in to hostels called “albergues.” These albergues are not the Ritz or even Motel6. They are very cheap often very rustic and offer a mat or a bunk in a room that can sleep six or up to 200 people.  They offer no privacy, most are co-ed, the bathrooms are shared, many showers have no curtains, and some are limited to 5 minutes. FIVE MINUTES?! My favorite stories are of the German men who feel no modesty walking around nude. Sadly reports say, they are not the Germanic Gods of romantic lit fantasies – they tend to be old, overweight and ogreish.

There are hilarious and scary stories on social media detailing the nocturnal wars: The light sleepers vs the snorers, farters, sleepwalkers, sleep talkers and even those lucky few who got lucky! Yep, there are loads of stories of folks engaging in wild, passionate and NOISY sex — in a room full of strangers. THIS after walking 15 miles – Oh my!

There are also the stories of what is left along this holy trail: food, extra water bottles, walking poles, extra equipment, used panties, used tp, and even used condoms – sex is very big on The Way.

Hmm, you think it was like this when only the monks marched across Galicia?

Bonus

Here’s what they don’t tell you about walking the Camino de Santiago

  1. Camino de Santiago actually means “Way of St James” and refers to the different routes throughout Europe leading to Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia, Spain
  2. The oldest route, the Camino Primitivo begins in the Spanish town of Oviedo but the most famous route – and the one I’m taking – is the Camino Francés or French Way. It starts in St Jean Pied de Port, in the French Pyrenees
  3. You don’t need GPS. Yellow arrows and yellow scallop shells mark the trails
  4. It’s crowded. In 2016 nearly a quarter of a million pilgrims reached Santiago and received their Compostelapilgrim certificate
  5. Street Cred: The most coveted souvenir is the pilgrim passport (credencial) and you need to get it “stamped” at least once a day along the way
  6. While Spaniards account for most of the pilgrims, Italians are next followed by the Germans then the Americans
  7. Most of the pilgrims (55%) are between 30-60 years old
  8. When it comes to budgeting, they say the average pilgrim will spend between $5 and $10 per mile walking the full 500 mile Camino de Santiago
  9. If you don’t want to walk the walk – you can bike it OR ride a horse. (Oooh, I want some Camino Chaps)
  10. You can buy Camino-themed thongs!thongs

 

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