A Day on the Camino de Santiago in Spain
In 2013, for about seven weeks, I walked the Via de La Plata way of the Camino de Santiago. I chose that Camino because of the expected solitude and physical beauty of the landscape. While every day was a new experience, different cities and towns, new foods, changing landscape; each day also offered a routine. Here’s what a typical day was like.
The other pilgrims at the alburge (pilgrim’s refuge/hostel) would begin to stir at about 5:30 in the morning. I would do my best to stay in bed until 6:00. Then, after a bit of bathroom time, I’d dress for the day and repack my backpack. Because the Camino is a series of day hikes, if you’ve packed properly you’ll be using just about everything you have with you each day. Thus, you’ll be packing and repacking every day.
Next came breakfast. Some toast or a muffin, a piece of fruit, and hot tea, when available. Each alburge is different. Some places provide a little breakfast, others don’t. I’d know that the day before and prepare accordingly.
It was my goal to begin walking by 7:00 each morning. Although, many mornings that would get pushed up to 6:30. It would usually be dark when I’d set out. And, as the day’s walk progressed, the pilgrims would spread out along the route based on their walking style.
My fellow pilgrims came to call me “the slow walker.” I suffered some foot issues that slowed me down. I also liked to stop frequently, take pictures, and enjoy the scenery. One of my daily stops was at about 9:00, when I’d have a snack and air out my socks. Spending 10-15 minutes with no socks on allows your socks, feet, and boots to air and dry a bit. That makes a big difference when it comes to comfortable walking.
I’d continue walking until around noon. If I wasn’t within about an hour of the next town, I’d stop for another break and a snack, usually cheese, a can of tuna, and my last piece of fruit, plus another foot airing!
When you arrive in the town of the day, usually between 2:00 and 4:00, the first goal is to find the alburge or hostel where you’ll be spending the night. These range from town/city facilities to private homes, or even hotels. The price range for the facilities would be from free, to a donation, to 7-20 euros. Once registered, I’d find a bunk and take off my boots.
Before dinner, there were several chores to complete: make your bed, take a shower, and do laundry. Hopefully, it was a bottom bunk, a hot shower, and a sunny day to dry the clothes. Daily chores became a routine. You get to know how your fellow pilgrims spend their time and somehow, everyone has time to do all they need to. And, it worked out well most days, because chore time for me was also siesta time for the town.
Next up, dinner and shopping. One of the nice things about walking 20-25km each day is that you can eat whatever you want. You’ve got to refuel the body to do it again tomorrow. Depending on the place you’re spending the night, you need to shop for breakfast items as well as snack and lunch foods that will hold up in your backpack.
This is also the time to do any other shopping, such as visiting the pharmacy, picking up odds and ends, and being a tourist through that day’s town or village.
Usually, over dinner, I’d plan the next day’s walk, too. I tended not to research ahead more than a few days. All that really matters is the next day’s walk and planning for how much water to carry and what the food needs would be. The basics, really. That’s what the Camino is about, reducing life to the absolute basics.
Back to the alburge and some time with the journal before brushing the teeth and getting ready for bed.
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