“Said no more counting dollars
We’ll be counting stars”
– Ryan Tedder
Here are my thoughts/advice on my Camino. Remember it is my opinion, worth what you paid for it and YMMV. Also, it is geared towards pilgrims, not tourists. BTW, Fonfria (Day 46) is missing from the above map. For some reason could not pull it up on Google Maps.
- 1000 miles – roughly, including where I got lost, went on a few tangents and including the variants
- 50 days – all walking; no trains, buses, taxis or hitchhiking. And although bikes and horses are kosher, didn’t use them
- 50 lbs – amount of weight I lost.
- 0 blisters – or shin splints, bad knees or any other injuries.
Two reasons people got hurt – 1) bad gear and/or 2) bad walking habits. Your shoes are the most important piece of equipment that you will take. A distant second is your backpack and how much you carry. Take the least amount possible. If you think you’re going to use something, you won’t. Don’t take it. Everything you do take, take the lightest possible version. And recognize, even after you have whittled your pack down to the basics, you will ship stuff home. BTW, it’s very expensive to ship stuff back to the US. If you want to save costs, ship to an albergue in Santiago.
Buy the shoes that fit you well. Note that feet will expand, so get a size bigger. What type, ankle boots, trail runners, sneakers? Whatever you are comfortable in and for how you walk. I had ankle boots because I go downhill very fast and have a tendency to turn my ankles. Sock liners? I didn’t wear them but some people swear by them. However, your socks should be wool.
Put something on your feet at the end of the day. People swear by Tiger Balm and Vaseline. I used Aveda Foot Relief which I bought from home, NOK, which I bought in France and Neutrogena from Spain. The first two were great and the last was worthless.
I had treking poles and I highly recommend them. They help you keep balance on the downhill and propel yourself upwards and forwards on the uphills and straightaways. However, somewhere between Burgos and Leon, I realized that I was just holding them and no longer using them. I strapped them to my backpack and never used them again.
What do I mean by bad walking habits? I ran across more people hurt because of this than bad shoes. People started off in Le Puy walking way too fast. I saw the same thing for the people starting in St. Jean. There is something in human nature to keep up with the person you are walking with or the person just ahead of you. The first week, I was probably the slowest person there. One legged, little old ladies with walkers were passing me. I walked slowly in the morning and then sped up slightly in the afternoon. But little old ladies were still passing me. It was about two weeks where my body seemed to get comfortable with the daily walking and I was now passing the little old ladies but still slower than everyone else. I didn’t get really fast, until after the fifth week. Walking around your neighborhood park for a couple of hours is not training. You can’t really train for this. Your training is going to come on the pilgrimage. Don’t get me wrong, you want to make sure your shoes are broken in and fit well and you are comfortable with your pack before you leave.
Finally, getting hurt was not an age thing. I saw 20 year olds and 80 year olds who were hurt. And everything in between. But I have to admit that luck probably played a big part in me not getting hurt. And there will come a day, when I will no longer be able to fly downhill. But until that day, I’m flying.