THE CAMINO - Passport, Food and Guide

PASSPORT

You need to register to receive your passport, which allows you to stay in refugios, where the passport will be stamped when you arrive. In Santiago, at the end of the Camino, you take your passport to the Camino office and receive a certificate officially declaring you have completed the Camino. It is important to arrive in Santiago in the morning and register early so you can attend the lunchtime celebration in the cathedral. Very moving…

FOOD

There are places to buy food in every village so don’t worry. Food is never a problem. There are also small restaurants in every village that serve ‘pilgim’ dinners early (from about 5.00 pm) for about E8. It’s a three course meal (usually a few choices for each course) and wine. There are also kitchens in every refugio (I can't remember one that didn't have a kitchen) and a fridge. Sometimes I would cook dinner in the kitchen with other pilgrims, most of us sharing what we had, but refugios never supplied meals. No exceptions.

I would buy something in the village the day before to have for breakfast and would often pack a sandwich for lunch. I’d put the food in the top of my backpack and stop somewhere to eat after walking for an hour or two in the morning. Other people would make and eat their breakfast in the refugio or stop at a bar along the road. As the Camino progressed I noticed that people became less hurried and would stop about 9.00 when the cafes opened to have their breakfast and a coffee then. But you would have to wait until around 9.00 am to buy anything for breakfast because nothing opens early (the Spaniards have all been up until the wee hours of the morning socialising).

My water bottle was stored in a compartment on the side of the backpack. I noticed many people had those drink bottles with the long plastic straw that you attach to the top of your backpack so you didn't have to stop and take the backpack off whenever you wanted a drink. I think they are a good idea, but I didn't have one nor did I need one because I could easily find my bottle. The thing you really don't want to do is stop and unpack your backpack. Remember, you usually stop walking somewhere between 1- 3, so you might want to wait for lunch until then.

Also, although I love water, I was always a little nervous of drinking too much because then I'd have to stop and find somewhere to pee on the side of the road and to do that you usually had to have clear vision if someone was following you. For guys it wasn’t a problem…at least peeing wasn’t a problem.

Bananas are good for cramps. I didn't get cramps, which was lucky because I hate bananas.

RELIGIOUS PILGRIMAGE

I am not religious and most people who do the Camino aren't, but every evening there are services in each of the churches in the villages you will stay in. I went to many of them in the beginning because the churches were a refuge along the way, especially when I was feeling a bit lonely. Another reason to visit the churches is to see the 'black Madonnas'. Most of the guide books tell you which churches have the Madonnas. In the end I didn’t do the churches because I was too busy having a good time with new friends.  

CAMINO GUIDE BOOK

I didn’t take one. Instead I took photocopied pages of the trail. In most books each individual map is divided into walking distances of approximately 25 kilometres (a day’s walk on average), and details distances and topography. I would recommend that you buy one of the good guide books so you can read about the villages you are passing through. I mostly walked in a daze, simply enjoying the surroundings, oblivious to history. The choice is yours. Mine was probably not a good choice. However, you do need the maps of the route and on the back of each map are the latest details of the various refugios in each of the villages – how many beds they each have, what time they open and usually a critique of the refugio. It is important to get the most up to date maps because you don’t want to walk into a village late in the day exhausted only to find that the refugio no longer exists.

Don’t worry about getting lost because the Camino is sign posted exceptionally well. Everyone takes a wrong turn somewhere along the way, but you soon realize you can’t see any signs and work your way back until you find your way again. I went off the track once, for about 50 metres.

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