I walked the Camino de Santiago in April 2011, with my partner and about a dozen friends & acquaintances from Australia. My partner organised the walk through Peregrine Travel in Brisbane. My partner researched the route, which started at Bilbao, then went through Burgos, Casteljeraz, Leon, Astorga, Rabanal, Molinaseca, Saria, Portomarin, Rua and on to Santiago de Compostela, about 500km in all, and it took us 12 days. Peregrine then used a local Spanish agency to confirm the hotels, arrange for a bus to carry the luggage, and obtain a guide. We planned to ride the bus part of the way, but walk long sections, including the entire last 100km, which is required if you want to collect your Pilgrim Certificate at the end of your journey.
Peregrine Travel was generally very reliable.
However, there were a few hiccups, because the Spanish Travel Agent which Peregrine dealt with apparently tried to cut costs here and there. Thus, Peregrine said we'd have a bus carrying the luggage from stop to stop, and if anyone got tired or didn't want to walk, they could ride in the bus with the bags for free. But the Spaniards used different local taxis or mini-busses to transport the bags each day, and there was either no room for us, or we had to pay extra to ride in them. I must add when Peregrine found out, they later apologised and reimbursed us some money - but it was a pain at the time. There were also some small problems with the Spaniards changing our chosen hotels. But our Spanish guide (Luis) was very good, and tried always to help us in every way possible. We all liked him.
I have four important tips for you, if you consider walking the Camino de Santiago.
1) Do some walking training before you go - you should be able to walk at least 10-15km per day at home without a problem, or you'll never last the distance on the Camino.
2) Don't travel with friends who are keen walkers, unless you're also one. Keen walkers charge ahead and never look sideways, and if you stop to smell the flowers they will soon outdistance you and leave you all alone on the track. The horror for me was that I'd stop to take a photo or look at a site, and when I turned back to the trail they'd all be half a kilometer ahead, and I'd never catch up!
3) Get your gear together. You need to wear good boots and socks, and carry a good waterproof backpack with such items in it as a waterproof jacket in case of rain (some carry a folding umbrella), and your camera and wallet, and maps/guide books, and spare socks & undies, and some emergency food and a water bottle.
4) Some (much) of the trail is rough, so a walking pole is very handy. You can buy them in Spain for a few Euros.
ALSO, before you start the walk, make sure you have your CREDENCIAL (Pilgrim Passport). You get this at shops all over Spain, or from your hotel. Our guide Luis had purchased ours before we started. You enter your name and details and start date, then get it stamped at hotels and shops and restraurants in every town along your Camino, but you must especially get it stamped each day along the last 100km of the journey because it becomes proof you have comp[leted your walk over the last 100km when you reach Santiago and apply for your Pilgrim Certificate at the Pilgrim Office in Casa do Dean, near the junction between Rua Vilar and Rua Gelmirez, just near Santiago Cathedral. Without this proof, you cannot claim your Certificate
Your Pilgrim Certificate (and your Pilgrim Passport) are proud souvenirs of what will be quite an achievement after you're completed your Camino de Santiago.
Also - spend a few days unwinding in Santiago. You must attend the Pilgrim Mass in the Cathedral there after you finish your Camino, because your name will be read out at the Pilgrim Mass there on the day after you receive your Certificate. And you'll enjoy eating in the many little restaurants wround the Cathedral, especially in Rua Franco.
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