El Camino Santiago

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El Camino Santiago

Postby Sil » Mon Jan 18, 2010 12:08 am

I LOVED your article "10 reasons why el camino sucks" even though I am a Camino addict!!
There has been a dearth of negative articles on the camino - which has made me think that the majority of people who do not end up on cloud nine by the time they reach Santiago either feel that they've missed something and are, therefor, somehow lacking in spirituality, or they just keep quiet rather than go against the euphoric flow!

You asked a couple of questions and quoted a few stats that need a comment.

Only about 1% of El Camino is a narrow dirt trail

The Camino Norte from Hendaye or Irun is one of the less populated routes that enlisits the most gripes about road walking. You asked a local why alternate paths haven't been created to avoid walking on roads. I would guess that its because a very small percentage of the total number of pilgrims who walk a camino, take the northern routes. (They are not historical routes, do not attract the same investment, and therefor do not have the same infrastructure as the camino frances - which is the Jacobean pilgrimage route).
The full stats for 2009 are not available yet but of the 110 236 pilgrims who earned the Compostela between Jan and August 2009, only 2,341 walked the Norte. Most of the funding for rehabilitation of paths has gone into the more ppulated paths and if John Breierly's camino Frances guide is to be believed, of the 749km from Roncesvalles to Santiago, 505 km consist of dirt paths/tracks, 202.6km on quiet asphalt/tar roads (mostly through small villages) and 90.6km on main roads in and out of cities and towns. A completely different scenario to the Camino Norte.

Where does the Camino Frances start?
Modern guide books usually have stage 1 in St Jean-Pied-Port but in the middle ages pilgrims started from their homes and even Walter Starkie claimed that the Camino Frances started in Paris - a 1800km pilgrimage. I walked the Paris to Spain route in 2004 - a Holy Year - and did not see even ONE other walking pilgrim (just 3 cyclists with Santiagoishells on their paniers) until we reached Ostabat in the south.

Beware of the bitch at the end of the world :D Her logic was funny, especially since she might be able to smell that I hadn't taken a shower in a couple of days. She might have noticed my disheveled clothes that I've been had for the past 18 months of travel.

Gees!! I hope that wasn't me! :tmi: Hospitlaeros are trained not to judge pilgrims by their smell, or the state of their clothing (or soles of their shoes) but by the number of sellos in their credentials. You might have walked 50 000kms to Santiago and then hitched a lift to the end of the world (as many do) the only way hospitaleros can tell the walking pilgrims form the transport pilgrims is by those little little sellos!. There are hundreds of vagrants, of all nationalities, trolling the camino trails in search of free bed and lodging. I too would have been suspicious if I had opened a credential at 3pm to find no stamps between Santiago and Finisterre. (I used to do ultra-mrathons but was a very middle of the road runner and could never do the Comrades marathon, 90km, in under 11 hours.)
At Corcubion - just up the road from Fistera - we had frequent visits by 'professional pilgrims' and my policy was - wait until 7pm, if no more pilgrims come and there is a spare bed, it is yours.

The Federation of Friends of the Camino is a hodge-podge of regional, municipal, church and volunteer groups, held together by spit and sello tape with a few do-gooders and a few movers-and-shakers. When pilgrims whinge and say 'why don't they do this or that.." I wonder who they are referring to?

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Re: El Camino Santiago

Postby FrancisTapon » Wed Jan 27, 2010 3:02 pm

Thanks for your detailed response and useful info related to my article about El Camino Santiago.

FYI, I didn't hike El Camino del Norte. I was 50% on El Camino Frances and 50% thru Asturias on a wacky route of my own. While on El Frances, I estimate that 1% was real trail (1 meter wide). I asked other hikers who had stayed on El Frances the whole time and they agreed it was less than 5%. Frankly, I think 1% is generous. It's probably less than 1% that is actual trail.

I agree with you about the Bitch at the End of the World. I understand her position, I just felt like bitching about it. :lol:

And yes, given that I don't keep quiet, I certainly lack in spirituality! :angel:

Congrats on walking El Camino multiple times! You rock! :rock:
- Francis Tapon
http://FrancisTapon.com

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Re: El Camino Santiago

Postby FrancisTapon » Sat Apr 24, 2010 1:09 am

Hi Francis,

Came across your blog whilst planning my own route across Spain and it's been hugely helpful. I want to walk coast to coast across Spain, but from the W to the E, utilising the caminos and then the GR11 through the Pyrenees. Thankfully coming across your honest assessment of the Camino Frances has convinced me to change my original route! So the camino del norte and Picos mashup is in, camino frances is out.

I'm a landscape photographer so am planning to photograph the landscapes, coast to coast across Spain. As it's a distance of about 1,100 miles, I'll allow myself approximately 2.5 months.

Well, although I'm trying to go lightweight (taking a GoLite Pinnacle rucsac and Shangri-La 1 shelter) the camera gear means this isn't exactly an ultralight hike!

Quick question: how feasible is it to wild camp along the camino del norte? (am not averse to roughing it, sleeping in a bivvy bag in a field sort of thing...)


Quick answer: Yes, very feasible.

Longer answer: Here is some more advice in case if can you have to camp near civilization.

I don't have experience the Camino Del Norte, since I did a bizarre variant though the mts of Asturias. As I mentioned in my recommendations, be prepared for even more road-walking than on the Frances. This is based just on what people told me. I didn't do it. I had minimal road walks in the mts, but it was much rougher than what you may find on El Norte. Still, you can't go wrong. Any Camino route you do will be pleasant and even amazing at times. Any Camino route just doesn't compare to the beauty of the Pyrenees.

If you have time, make a detour into Los Picos de Europa. Definitely the highlight of the area.

Enjoy!

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Re: El Camino Santiago

Postby FrancisTapon » Thu Jun 24, 2010 8:08 am

On a website dedicated to El Camino Santiago, my article stirred a vigorous discussion, which included a few personal jabs at me. :lol:

Feel free to read that website's discussion. You'll find my reply to their comments there too. ;)

Happy trails,

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Re: El Camino Santiago

Postby FrancisTapon » Sun Apr 08, 2012 9:51 pm

Hi Francis !

I am a Hungarian over 40. I was planning walking through el Camino, but reading your article about it and other sources I share the reservations that el Camino „sucks”.

I decided to take a different journey in Spain – I already have my ticket to Barcelona for next Saturday 14/04/2012. The crowd, lots of people, walking by busy roads etc. disturbs me.

I found an international road GR7 that you probably know of.

I am really into photography. I look for a way that can be reached from Barcleona (bus train, local flight) with not to high mountains some villages/ towns on the road.

I am not really fit physically since I had spent nine months at a rehab centre with my sedatives/sleeping pills addiction. I got rid of these, but I still physically week as I haven't moved much. No I am "clean" and this journey would be a kind of post rehabilitation. I think If I start with a low space I can get stronger during the journey. I've got experience with hiking, I hiked a lot in Transylvania, Check Republic, Switzerland.

I plan to spend two months in Spain. So my ultimate question would be if you could give me a hint, an Internet link two prepare for GR7.

I count on your experience and I would appreciate any advise from you whatever short it is.


Zoltan / Hungary


Zoltan, unfortunately I don't know anything about the GR7. I haven't hiked it. It looks like it goes over some pretty good mountains in Spain:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GR_7_(Spain)

However, I still think the GR11 would be better. The GR7 probably is easier and has better access to civilization, but is not as crowded as El Camino Santiago.

Good luck and tell me what you decide.

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Re: El Camino Santiago

Postby FrancisTapon » Tue May 01, 2012 1:37 pm

Hello Francis,

Loved the videos and everything about your website.

I wanted to ask your opinion about my experience walking El Camino earlier this year. I began walking in late March and I wore Hi-Tec hiking boots with normal socks. After only a couple of days I developed pretty bad blisters which became infected. After only a week or so I had to quit El Camino. In retrospect it was silly of me to embark on such a long walk without adequate training and preparation . I want to try go back later this year and complete El Camino and in future I want to tackle greater hikes such as the AT. Could you give some advise on what you do to prevent yourself from developing blisters as well as how you treat blisters. What kind of footwear do you use to minimize blisters? Also how do you deal with chafing when hiking?

Thank You Francis,
I would greatly appreciate any advice you could give me
Chris Martin


Chris, I'm sorry to hear that you had to abort El Camino! But I salute your persistence!

I see two problems with your initial strategy:

1. It sounds like you wore boots. Assuming you are carrying a light pack (and there's no reason you shouldn't be carrying a sub-10kg pack on El Camino), then you ought to try wearing trail running shoes instead of boots. They're lighter, more comfortable, and more breathable. I avoid Gore-Tex in the shoes because I prefer having ventilation.

2. You wore "normal socks." That sounds like cotton. A big no-no. Make sure you wear synthetic socks that wick away your sweat.

Lastly, be sure to read this thread about how to take care of your feet while hiking.

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Re: El Camino Santiago

Postby Switt_Ers » Wed Jun 13, 2012 4:21 am

Hi Francis,

I am going to start walking the Camino de Santiago (Camino Frances) on 4 July 2012. After reading through a few negative reports, however, I would like to leave open the possibility of changing course and instead hiking the Pyrenees. So if I prepare for both eventualities, what equipment/kit would you recommend for both of these ventures, please?

I would like to buy a pair of hiking boots (non-goretex) like the Meindl Borneo Pro. This is partly because I've always wanted a pair of sturdy leather hiking boots that will see me through many different hikes over a period of years rather than months. Also, last time I hiked in Patagonia, along the Torres del Paine range on the Chilean side, my pair of Merrell trail shoes didn't last me very long and in fact the soles came off about one month later. Finally, if I go ahead and buy a pair of Meindl Borneo Pro's this week, there is the issue of how long it will take to break them in. It could be that I will have to leave them behind for this trip and go with a pair of normal off-road running shoes.

I would like to sleep outside as much as possible along the Camino Frances or if hiking along the Pyrenees. As I'm only carrying a 35l Lowe Alpine Airzone backpack, I'm very conscious about space for all my items and the need to be as light as possible. Do I need a mat? Would that help keep me dry while sleeping? Do I need a sleeping bag or would a sleeping bag liner suffice outside in July? What about a tarp? Is that essential? My backpack isn't really set up to carry a mat on its outside so if I do need one, I will have improvise in order to attach it to the back.

Also, what about a hat? I am comfortable wearing caps, but because it'll be very sunny and hot, I wonder whether I should get a broad brimmed sun/rain hat? Are these kinds of hats more likely to come off in windy weather?

Finally, what about a hydration pack? Along the Camino, it looks like I won't need one. But if I go hiking along the Pyrenees, how much water will I need to carry? Will 2 litres suffice?

I have asked a lot of questions. I know there isn't necessarily a straight answer as each person has different preferences and needs. Still, I would appreciate your feedback based on your high level of experience - certainly, relative to mine!

I am reading your first book and am almost finished. Although I wasn't looking for a self-help book, I find it very engaging and with some good advice. I particularly enjoyed your chapter on diet and health, and the earlier one about finances. Finally, I did post a comment on the 'El Camino Sucks' article on your website about a week ago... it hasn't been published? Was there a problem with its content?

Oh and one last thing, I have always wanted to go to Africa and the Antarctica - the only two major land masses I haven't travelled to. So, like I said in my as yet unpublished post on your article, it may be that I will meet you on one of those future trips.

Thank you!

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Re: El Camino Santiago

Postby Switt_Ers » Wed Jun 13, 2012 4:29 am

One last thing, I wear prescription glasses as well. Are sunglasses an essential item or a question of preference, please? Is it preferable to get a pair of prescription sunglasses? Do you have a pair of glasses with the tinting function?

I wear contact lenses as well for sports etc. This year, I would prefer to wear glasses for hiking/walking the Camino but then this leaves the question of sunglasses. Prescription or non-prescription?

Once more, any advice/tips you can offer me would be much appreciated.

Thanks!

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Re: El Camino Santiago

Postby FrancisTapon » Wed Jul 04, 2012 2:11 pm

Sorry for the slow reply. You're starting to hike today! Most shoes last about 800km. Boots last twice as long. You only need about 10km to break in your boots, but some people need more.

Yes, you need a sleeping pad.

A sleeping bag liner should be enough in July. But if you traverse the Pyrenees, you'll need a sleeping bag.

A tarp is not essential because when it's raining you can stay in alberge (hut).

A sunhat is good, but an umbrella is better.

Two liters of water is enough. Just drink as much as you can when it's available. Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink.

I wear prescription glasses that automatically get dark (tinted) when there's sun. It's ideal. I don't like contact lenses for long distances because I prefer having a mirror and clean hands when I put them on, and that's sometimes hard to find at the end of a day. ;)

Sorry for the slow response. I have been traveling. Buen Camino!

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Re: El Camino Santiago

Postby FrancisTapon » Fri Jul 20, 2012 5:39 am

I came across your very interesting and informative website when doing a bit of research on the Camino de Santiago. I'm hoping you can offer some suggestions or provide a bit of insight. Here's the situation:
A friend of mine (who lives in Rome) and I (from Orcas Island, WA) are planning to do a walking/hiking trip in Spain this September for a couple of weeks. We've decided to focus on northern Spain, and we've decided not to camp so we won't be carrying gear such as a tent, sleeping bag, cook stove and pots. My preference is to hike in the Pyrenees, but my friend is leaning toward walking a portion of the Camino de Santiago (which I'm not keen to do for all the reasons you mention in your website). In order for each us to get what we want out of this trip, I'm thinking the best way is to spend one week hiking in the Pyreenes and one week walking the Camino (preferably a scenic stretch).

For the Pyrenees, I'm wondering if you could suggest 1) an area where it would be possible to hike from scenic village-to-village for several days, or 2) one place/village that would serve as a nice base from which we could do a number of longish day hikes (I've considered the Torlo area but wonder if it isn't too touristy?).

For the Camino, my friend has suggested the stretch between Saint Jean Pied-a-port to Burgos. To me, it doesn't look terribly interesting, so I'm hoping you can recommend what you think is the most scenic/interesting week-long stretch of that walk.

A lot to ask, I realize, but I will very much appreciate any insights or suggestions that you have.

All the best.

Kim


Kim:

1. His suggestion isn't bad, since St. Jean Pied-du-Port (France) is near the base of the Pyrenees and between that and Roncesvalles (Spain) you'll be traversing the scenic Pyrenees. It's not the most scenic part of the Pyrenees, but for mountain lovers like you it's better than most of El Camino Frances, since you'll be in the mountains. For most pilgrims, this is a MAJOR hurdle. For you, it won't be that big of a deal.

After Roncesvalles, and especially after Pamplona (Spain), you'll find the scenery getting flatter and flatter (and less inspiring). By the time you get to Burgos, you'll want to do what I did (go to Los Picos de Europa).

So I'd suggest either stopping in Pamplona (it is a great town that has lots of transport options), which will save you from the agony of walking to Burgos.

Here's perhaps a better route: go over Porto Somport. This takes you over a higher part of the Pyrenees, and was the original high point on El Camino. So you'll be a bit more remote and you'll still find hostels along the way.

Finally, here's my best suggestion yet for a compromise. Start at the bottom of the Pyrenees, near Porto Somport. Hike up to Porto Somport. Then traverse the Pyrenees to the west and drop down to Roncesvalles. It's relatively easy to do. The only challenge is that I'm not sure if you will have enough huts along the way. You probably will, but you may have to drop down from the trail along the way to reach them.

2. Los Picos de Europa have some great villages that allow you to do all sorts of day hikes.

You can also pick places near Aneto (tallest mountain in the Pyrenees) or El Monte Perdido. Lots of day hikes everywhere.

Have fun and tell me what you decide!

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I agree with you

Postby Pogglesgrandma » Sun Sep 15, 2013 7:17 am

I read your blog before we (69 year olds) did the Camino. I asked someone who had done it his comments about the road walking. He said your moments were idiotic. Wrong they were spot on. We only walked from Leon to Santiago. From Leon you walk up the highway past residential areas with their communal rubbish bins, which smelt to high hell, the past the industrial area with the trucks whiz zing past you. Two days of most unpleasant walking. If you only want to do half like us oldies start at Astorga. At least you get better scenery. You did not go into detail about the hoards that only do the last 100 Klms from Sarria. You could not possibly do this for spiritual reasons, talking loudly amongst themselves, two had radios or us all to hear. And from Sarria the track be comes very easy to walk. When I got my compestela I saw that everyone above me did it or religious reasons. Funny religion they have. Glad I did it. Husband said before we started we could do the first half next year, we both agree there are far, far better walks to do than this and we stayed in hotels using the luggage service. You did not say about the people hat thought to carry toilet paper and leave it where used. Saw enough of that.

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What route do you recommend and when?

Postby FrancisTapon » Mon Oct 14, 2013 6:54 am

Hi Francis,
My fiancé and I want to do the Camino walk next year sometime, but because there are so many routes we are confused as to which one to do. Ideally we want to do a route that is very historic, passing very old towns, buildings that's built of stone and very scenic ! What route do you recommend and when will be the best time of year to walk the Camino ? As this will be our first time doing this, we also need guidance on what to pack, to make sure to travel light, where to sleep etc. etc. etc.
Your advice will greatly be appreciated.
Kind Regards,
Delien


Delien,

You're right, there are many routes as El Camino map shows.

Given your objectives, I suggest sticking with El Camino Frances (it's the main and most popular route).

For gear, here's a minimalist gear list. You can leave the tent/tarp at home if you plan to stay in the albergues (huts) along the way, which cost $5-10/person per night. A light sleeping bag is sufficient.

Unless you like boiling heat and lots of people, I would avoid the summer months. Any other time of year is nice. I went in October. Perfect weather: not too hot/cold.

Buen Camino! :)

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Re: El Camino Santiago

Postby FrancisTapon » Tue Jan 14, 2014 11:23 am

I'm Chris, and I'm planning on hiking the Camino this year. I'm basically leaving for Spain the first week of March, and I won't return until the end of May. Obviously, it won't take that long to hike the Camino, I plan on bouncing around Europe for the remainder of the time. I just have a few quick questions for you, if you have the time. I thru-hiked the AT in 2012, SOBO. So, I want to do the Camino, but I understand it's nothing like the AT, which I'm fine with, it's really more of a "vacation" backpacking adventure in Europe. Now, I saw your post about avoiding hostels and sleeping outside...was this at campsites or kinda like stealth camping?

I'm trying to save pack weight, so, should I bother with a bivy/UL tent? I don't wanna carry 2lbs of shelter gear for mostly hostel sleeping. I've seen some pack lists from people, and they're carrying more weight for the Camino, then I did for the AT...which is why I'm bothering you with questions. I know you'll tell me straight up what is or isn't needed.

Don't bring any shelter. If it rains, pay $5 to stay in an albergue/hut.

I intend to hike the Camino del Norte. I'm choosing this route 'cause I feel like it will be less busy then the Frances and will be more scenic. It's not that I'm not social, but sometimes I just want some me time after pushing 20-30miles! Also, hostels get old! Actually, I'm just gonna post these questions in bullet format to avoid a page long discussion here. I appreciate any info you can help with, and I don't wanna burden you with a crazy long post!


I will answer your questions below.

How often will I have the ability to camp? Every night.
Is camping at bonafide sites, or more of a stealth camping situation? I only did stealth camping, but there you can pay to pitch your tent and get shower/toilet access in many places.
Do I need to bother with a water filter? If it's rare to need to it, I'll take a micro-bottle of bleach... No filter needed. Plenty of free, safe piped water, plus bottled water too.
What would you suggest for getting cash? Travelers checks? Will I be able to use credit cards often, if so, any priority given to MC, Visa, Amex? Visa, no travels checks, cash at ATMs. Nobody will rob you, so you can carry plenty of cash. Be prudent in albergues.
If I fly into San Sebastian, is it easy to get transportation to the trail? Yes. Start walking from the airport like a proper pilgrim! :)
Rainfall for March is listed as like 150mm, which doesn't seem too bad, is this a "wetter" month? I'm not sure.
What's internet access like over there? Will hostels/businesses offer wifi? I'm considering bringing an ipad mini, for entertainment as well as online bill pay, and securing flights, etc... Although they have wifi in many places, leave the iPad behind and use Internet cafes.
Do I need to worry about theft in the hostels? Only a little. Just use common sense. It's safe overall.
Are Americans who speak almost no Spanish held low in esteem? I mean, are we hiker trash, lol...I've read some Spaniards don't really like pilgrims. In general, you'll be welcomed.
Is it difficult to acquire new shoes over there? I'm not expecting a huge selection, but after 500 miles I'll probably want a new pair. Easy to get new shoes, though they are more expensive than in the USA.
Any specific guide books you would recommend? See the recommendations at http://tapon.org/camino

Alright, I think that covers the bulk of what I wanted to ask. Thanks again for any info you can dish out! I'm still in the brainstorming and data collection phase here...So, I pretty much just started all of this research. I tend to wing things in my life, so I just wanna cover the basics, get over there, adjust to living out of a pack again, and keep on moving! Chris

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Re: El Camino Santiago

Postby FrancisTapon » Wed Feb 26, 2014 4:01 am

Dear Mr. Francis Tapon!

I have seen your website, and I was very happy for it! You know, I want to do the El Camino in this summer and I would like to ask some things about your EL Camino.
How I saw, you did an own trail, so, at first, how many km or miles were your way and how many days did you finished it? And in the mountains, were there any singal (clam) on your way, or you just go ahead (or beside the highways?)? It is really private ask, but, how many money did you spent on your way? Which things were the most expensive and which were the cheapest? What equipments were the most necessary in the mountains and generally in your way?
So, I want to do an own way too. My plan is: I will start the El Camino at St. Jean and I go on the north way, to Unquera. From Unquera I want to turn south, to cross the Cantabrian mountains. I want to reach Leon, and from this city, I want to go on the French way to the Atlantic ocean. So, this is my base plan.
Well, that's all for now.

I look forward to your reply.

Viktor Balassa from Hungary


Viktor
    - My way was about 1000 km in 25 days.
    - There were no clam marks to indicate a trail in the mountains since few pilgrims go that way, but some mountain trails are marked in Los Picos de Europa.
    - I don't remember how much I spent, but probably 200 euros, mainly for food. If you stay in huts, it will cost more.
    - There's no special equipment for the mountains. Obviously, you'll need a tarp and sleeping bag.

Your plan sounds great! Tell me how it goes!

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Re: El Camino Santiago

Postby FrancisTapon » Wed Sep 24, 2014 1:06 pm

I read your article about the Camino De Santiago. For me, hiking an AT or PCT is not realistic because I was a mogul skier, and my knees don't like true backpacking.

I'm thinking about doing the Camino in April/May 2015. I have two questions: Is it possible to camp each night along the way? I'm really hoping to avoid sleeping in the dorms with 100 other people.

I've read that camping is pretty limited, but maybe you could direct me to a website with details on camping.

Next question: Is starting in St Jean, France on April 15 going to entail knee deep snow? I'm hoping to be ahead of the crowds, but not be doing a polar expedition.

Thanks in advance.

Ken
Bozeman, MT


Ken,

1. Two solutions:

a) Yes, it's possible to camp each night along the way. I've linked to several books about El Camino, some which describe camping options. However, I prefer to informal/stealth camping. The secret is to set up camp at dusk to minimize attention, and then leave at dawn (again, to minimize attention). This is easy to do during April and May because the days aren't super long yet. There are plenty of spots along the way that are fields. If you see a farmer, you can ask him if it's OK to camp. 90% of the time they will say yes. However, most of the time I don't ask for permission and nobody ever find me. I was only caught once and that's because I slept till 7:30am. Don't do that. ;)

b) If you dislike crowded dorm rooms with several people, then upgrade to hotels - which litter the Camino. Budget $50/night.

2. You will not be deep in snow in April. Snow will be minimal to moderate in the Pyrenees and non-existent elsewhere.

Buen Camino! :)

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Re: El Camino Santiago

Postby FrancisTapon » Sun Oct 19, 2014 3:07 am

do you really think the camino sucks? on your blog why such a harsh title
what is an alternative pilgrimage you recommend


I think El Camino sucks for exactly the 10 reasons I state in the article. Don't forget that I start the article with the 10 BENEFITS to El Camino.

Despite the 10 vs. 10 balance, people just remember the "sucks" part.

That's partly thanks to the article's title, which makes some jump to erroneous conclusions about my feelings on El Camino.

At the end of article, I list my recommendations of alternate trails, although in 2015 I will write a booklet to expand on that. ;)

Buen Camino,

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Excellent info: "10 Reasons Why El Camino Santiago Sucks"

Postby CeilonAspensen » Sat May 30, 2015 7:49 pm

Thank you so much for your article about el Camino de Santiago and why it sucks. Most of what you thought makes it suck seemed very appealing to me. I live in Montana, US and love frequent wilderness hiking in short spurts (no more than a few days, not interested in through hiking at all). I also find the idea of pilgrimage and the culture of el Camino de Santiago very appealing for completely different reasons than I enjoy wilderness hiking. Your information provided a very realistic portrait of what a long walk with strangers and dodgy accommodations will look like--one can never be too prepared when so far from home. Your information about the locals not speaking English was useful too. I speak enough Spanish to get by, but I will definitely bone up now that I know I can get a lot of practice in with native speakers. Your warning to "beware the bitch at the end of the road" was also useful, as it drove home the need to take the pilgrimage seriously. I'll be sure to not miss a single stamp, which undoubtedly will provide me with many opportunities to meet new people and learn a little more about the local offerings. Additionally, I am grateful for your living example of "the ugly American," as I have used this term among millennials and they have no idea what I am talking about. In future I will refer them to your article and point out that it refers to an individual who embodies the principles of American exceptionalism as gloriously as you do, expecting that wherever you go the culture and practices conform to your preferences (ironic for the author of "Hike Your Own Hike"). Regardless of the number of passports you possess, you read as an American. I will take that as useful information as well, and do my best to leave a better impression with my Spanish and Basque hosts when I make the pilgrimage. Thank you.

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Re: Excellent info: "10 Reasons Why El Camino Santiago Sucks

Postby FrancisTapon » Mon Jun 01, 2015 12:26 am

It's funny that an American tells me that I "read like an American." :D

Many have read my article and have been ENCOURAGED to hike El Camino, just like you. And that's the point of the article - tell it like it is and those who like it that way will flock to El Camino. Those who prefer solitude and wilderness will hike elsewhere.

Buen Camino! :clap:

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Hiking challenges on El Camino de Santiago

Postby FrancisTapon » Mon Aug 17, 2015 9:03 am

I got an email today from a Finnish man who asked 4 questions about El Camino de Santiago. Here are my answers:

1. Yes, it's possible to walk too much. However, what's "too much" varies. An obese person may injure themselves after just 3 km because all that extra weight on their joints/back can cause stress injuries. A thin person can go much farther. Yes, 50km a day is viable - I did that every day for 7 months on the CDT: http://tapon.org/cdt. Because El Camino is much flatter than the CDT, it's even easier to do it.

2. To decrease the pain/swelling in your legs/feet, you should sleep with them somewhat elevated. Put your backpack under them or sleep on a slight slope so that your feet are above your stomach and the blood/fluid drains from them during the night.

3. To avoid the heat of the day, use an umbrella. One with a reflective cover is best. If you can't afford to buy one, you can try to make one. Just buy a space blanket ($3 or 2 euros) and attach it to your umbrella. Otherwise, a regular umbrella is best. Try to get a light color if possible (not black).
Drink lots of water and take a lunch break (and perhaps a nap) at the hottest portion of the day.

4. I didn't experience any mosquitoes, but I was doing El Camino in October, when the night temps are cool enough to discourage bugs. Read other journals to find out if mosquitoes are an issue in the summer - I assume they probably are in some places so you might need a bug bivy with your tarp. As a Finn, you know how to protect yourself from mosquitoes between than anyone!

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Re: Excellent info: "10 Reasons Why El Camino Santiago Sucks

Postby lou » Fri Aug 28, 2015 2:05 am

Thank god for your article, thanks for telling 'how it is' on the Camino.....you have just saved me from a major disappointment........as I was planning to do the walk........to be in the wildeness.... to have quiet....omg......I did not know about any tarmac....as as for road noise...I listen to it everynight , living next to one...ugh...I would have seriously had a melt down had I come across this.... :@ ...so thank you very very much :rock:

I just wanna find a nice walk for a couple of weeks seeing nature/wilderness...at least as much as a 55 year old unfit woman can!

god bless

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Re: El Camino Santiago

Postby FrancisTapon » Fri Aug 28, 2015 5:32 am

Lou,
I wouldn't give up on El Camino de Santiago. Yes, the main route, El Camino Frances, is bad for those who want peace, quiet, and solitude.
The Pyrenees are much better.

However, there are many ways to Santiago and some are more quiet than El Camino Frances. Look at this map and consider the possibilities:

Image

El Camino del Norte is especially attractive, if you find that the Pyrenees are too rigorous. :sweat:

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Re: El Camino Santiago

Postby Dominique.B » Wed Nov 18, 2015 9:59 am

Hi Francis,

As many, I came across your page while researching information on the Camino. Your article's title naturally caught my attention, and although I feel disappointed, Im very glad I read it. Still, I think I need your advice :lol:
I wanted to do this trail because I have never hiked long distance and although the AT or PCT look very appealing, I don't think it would be prudent for a 27 year old girl to go on her own (Cheryl is my hero btw..lol)
I was looking for an adventure, wilderness, scenic views and tranquility. But from what I read I won't get any of that...I saw the movie The Way and the trail looked beautiful, they dont show any roads...I wouldn't want to be walking in the middle of a road where cars are next to me, it loses all the magic, you know. I did like the fact that you could meet interesting people in the way, and I don't mind the albergues. I haven't yet decided if I will do the albergues every night or mix some camping. I read a lot from your forum and I know I will not wake up by dawn :lol: So if there are camping areas then good.
The mist important question then, do you think I should do this trail or not? How about the Camino del Norte as opposed to the Camino Frances? Its better for scenery and less roads right?

Thank you so much!! I appreciate any help and am getting your books! Probably gonna read both of them, which shall I start with?

Thank you again, best of luck in Africa :hai:

Dominique

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Re: El Camino Santiago

Postby FrancisTapon » Fri Nov 20, 2015 6:26 am

Dominique,

Given what you've said about yourself and your desires, my best recommendation for you is to do the Pyrenees. The GR 11 (Spain) is best, but the GR 10 (France) is fantastic too.

You'll get access to mountain huts, the option to camp, and jaw-dropping scenery! 8)

Doing the whole trail takes only about 1 month, compared to 5 months for the PCT, AT, or CDT in the USA.

It's pretty busy during the summer months (June-August), and so you'll have plenty of social opportunities. And you'll never have to walk on a road with a car driving by.


El Camino del Norte is better for you than El Camino Frances, but not nearly as great as the Pyrenees. :clap:

Let me know what you decide! Good luck and write to me when you return! ;)

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Re: El Camino Santiago

Postby Dominique.B » Wed Nov 25, 2015 10:03 am

Thank you Francis!!!

You have been suuuuper helpful. I had a feeling you'd recommend the Pyrenees :lol: I had given a thought to them as I read through your website and forum, but I wasn't sure if it was the right one for me since this would be my first hiking experience and I was uncertain about the level of "difficulty" it would present. :?: But, I kinda consider myself as a tough woman and the Pyrenees are most definitely appealing, so I think I might try that instead :) Now I'm excited :clap: :rofl:

Thank you again and I'll most likely write you again with gear inquiries and so

Hope everything is well in Africa

Dominique

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Re: El Camino Santiago

Postby FrancisTapon » Sat Mar 25, 2017 10:51 am

You're welcome, Dominique! :)

Meanwhile, I just got this email today....

Dear Mr. Tapon,
I am 17 years old and I live in New Jersey. It is my dream to thruhike the triple crown trails, but until I have enough time to do so, I was planning on hiking the Camino this summer, to see if I can continually hike for a longer period of time. The longest consecutive hike I've ever done was only two weeks. My reasons for doing the Camino are, it doesn't take as long, and because there's so much foot traffic, if I get hurt, my parents won't worry about me not being found. However after reading your article I find myself questioning whether or not I should do the Camino as my first real thru-hike. I was hoping you could give me some insight as to whether or not it's worth it, I would really value your opinion
Thank you,
Cate Aberant


Cate,

It's a tough call. Given that you've done a 2 week hike, I think you're ready for a real thru-hike! :)

I'd start with the Appalachian Trail and go Northbound. Leave Georgia in April.

The AT has 50 hikers per day leaving Georgia and over 2,000 try it every year. There are 5 million who use the trail (mostly day hikers) every year. It's a busy trail. So your parents can rest easy.

Nowadays there's also cell phone coverage throughout most of the trail.
But you can bring a GPS device like DeLorme InReach if you want to be 100% sure you can communicate.

In short, there's no reason to compromise and do El Camino de Santiago when the AT seems to be closer to your goal.

If it's too long, then just do half of it.

By doing it northbound, you're guaranteed to see lots of hikers and be safe.

Let me know what you decide!

Francis

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Re: El Camino Santiago - cool in August

Postby cyrilmichael » Sun Aug 13, 2017 12:01 am

Dear Francis,
I am writing this on the morning after we arrived in Santiago de Compostella; my friend is 69 and I am 65.
We - because of time constraints - joined the "hordes" from Sarria, so we completed just over 100km in 6 days. We agree with many comments seen on your website (too many parts through uninspiring urban areas; too many people listening to radios or yapping loudly; a lot of commercialism - but, hey, we bought souvenirs too, so we were happy to use the shops). But we also met many happy, friendly people and felt we were all
Part of a positive common experience.
I found your article to be very interesting, and I have a few reactions to it. The first is regarding the weather.
I totally disagree with you about the heat - our experience was the opposite. We had 37 degree heat in Madrid, but Galicia is cool, usually in the low 20s. It is under different atmospheric conditions (North Atlantic v Mediterranean) from the rest of Spain, so every day we commented on how cool it was. Starting off each morning was decidedly chilly; my friend needed to buy a jacket the first day as he was cold, and he wore it every day, all day, from then on. Not for one moment in six days, in mid-August, did we feel "blistering heat" but instead very chilly starts, constant cool breezes, and pleasant afternoons.
Last night in SdC itself it was very pleasantly cool. We were in an outdoor concert on the steps of the Cathedral - almost everyone had jackets and many wore scarves as well. By 10pm when everything was happening in the crowded lane ways, a cold breeze was blowing.
We stayed in small hotels. Every night we left a window open to avoid air-con, and invariably had to get up during the night to close it, as the nights got so cold. I imagine camping out would be very chilly indeed!
So, no blistering heat for us. Anyone planning to hike in Galicia should have a jacket, even in August!
The other comment I would make is this: I cannot see why anyone would want to do the Camino more than once. It is pleasant enough, and certainly with the satisfaction of walking into the Cathedral Square at the end, but once it has been seen, I think there are other places to go and see.
Your suggestions about those other places are welcome.
Regards,
Michael

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Re: El Camino Santiago

Postby FrancisTapon » Sun Aug 20, 2017 12:09 am

Michael,

First, congrats on completing El Camino de Santiago! Well done! :)

Second, I'm sorry for misleading you about the weather. The truth is (and I obviously didn't communicate it well in my article) that I hiked in October and November so for me, it was quite chilly most of the time.

Pilgrims have told me that it's quite hot in much of Spain in the summer, which is why I said that El Camino de Santiago can be quiet hot.

I suspect that the Galicia (northwest region of Spain) is colder than the area around Pamplona and Burgos, for example.

Third, I agree with you 100% that I don't see why anyone would hike it twice. It's a fine trail, but not worth a repeat. 8)


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