Thank you for a very interesting website. I also did el Camino de Santiago around the same season as you except in 2008. In general, as someone who has hiked in a lot of places, I agree with your sentiments about its dull nature...
This summer I will likely hike the HRP, or perhaps the GR 10 as well (a touch one coast touch the other then touch the other hike comes to mind). I am wondering the following:
Can this hike be done cheaply? How much do you reckon I could do it for?
It mostly depends on how many refugios you stay at and how many meals you eat there. I never stay at one, nor did I ever eat there. The meal prices are reasonable, considering they're hauling the food from far away, but I still saved money eating the food that I carried. A night costs about $20 and the food costs about $10 for a hearty meal. So multiply those costs accordingly. It takes most people less than 60 days to do the traverse, so the max cost would be $1,800. That's really living it up. To do it cheaply, you can eat for about $10/day, so that's $600 on food. Spend $3 for a shower in a refugio every now and then, you'll spend $50 on showers. If you hike a bit faster, you can do the whole thing under $500 for sure. A true cheapo could do it like I did it, 25 days or less and spend $250 on food and a shower every 3-4 days.
-Is a map and compass really necessary? Presumably so, but how tough is navigation anyway?
It's easy unless there is spring snow or fall snow (which I got in September). I never had a map, although a couple of hikers donated theirs when they were done with a section. I took photos of maps and looked at it on my camera's screen when necessary. You can recharge your camera at refugios for free. A compass is worth the weight. I have one on my Suunto watch. Fortunately, if you get totally lost, it's usually easy to find safety. The Pyrenees are fairly narrow, so just head downhill, following a stream, and you'll find civilization on either side of the crest.
> -Is it really as tough as some people have made it out to be in terms of terrain? Terrain-wise, how does it compare to the AT?
It's a bit easier than the AT's tough sections. You almost never have to use your hands to get through the trail. There's lots of ups and downs, but that's normal in hiking. Those who don't like going up and down all day should do El Camino.
> Do you reckon I can lose 20-25 pounds on the trip? Wouldn´t mind.
Maybe if you weigh 250+ pounds! If I lost 25 pounds, I'd be dead!