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Definitely Maybe...

Discussion in 'Camino Frances' started by HaveACuppaTea, Jan 15, 2018.

  1. HaveACuppaTea

    HaveACuppaTea New Member

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    I'm still umming and ahing about whether to do the Camino or not. If I decide to do it, it's going to have to be mid February (anyone else going around this time?) I'm going to buy the John Brierley guide, I'm hoping this will get me thinking about the planning of how I'm going to walk it, where I'm going to stay etc.

    I was looking at backpacks and footwear today at one of those outdoor equipment stores, there's so much choice (too much in fact), it's bewildering. Any recommendations of backpack makes to get, what size? With the footwear I think I'll get a trail trainer rather than a boot, again, any makes you recommend?

    What about when you weren't walking, did you pack some gear to wear for the evening, another pair of trainers? Some flip-flops to wear when you took a shower? How did you dry your clothes, are there areas to hang it up? Are there pillows at the albergues? Did you sleep in a sleeping bag on top of your bed? Do you have to spray the bed first in case of bed bugs? Are breakfasts always provided at albergues? How much spending money did you carry on you? Will most albergues have heating and hot water in February?
     
  2. Crepes4Suzette

    Crepes4Suzette Well-Known Member

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    Hello there. I'm going to leave the gear questions for the guys and haven't ever walked in winter. We're talking about the Frances, right? I ask because the Via de la Plata is much warmer this time of year, although people don't usually choose it for a first Camino.

    Yes, usually people take some lightweight shoes to wear when not hiking. Usually as soon as people are registered at their lodging, they set about "chores" - showering, washing clothes and hanging them on a line as soon as possible to have the best chance of them drying completely. I take "quick-dry" clothes. If it's generally damp outside, it can sometimes take more than one overnight to line dry things. If there's a dryer/secador, sometimes people put items in together and share the cost. Yes, there were pillows in all albergues I've stayed in over 3 Caminos. Yes about the sleeping bag on top, unzipped as a blanket most often, even though many albergues have blankets. I spray the outside of my sleeping bag and my backpack outside with Permethrin before I go. Breakfasts were often available in the morning in the albergues except sometimes when there was a cafe close at hand that was open for breakfast. Guides and the Gronze site and the Wise Pilgrim app should have the food information for each lodging option. The money carried depended on how far it was to the next ATM. Occasionally there's an ATM that won't work, so make sure to carry enough in case that happens because pretty much everything is on a cash basis. Hopefully others can fill in the gaps and you can get your plans made. Best wishes!
     
  3. Greg Canning

    Greg Canning Well-Known Member

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    Hi

    I think you are going to face a couple of challenges in February not least the fact that quite a number of the Albergues, B&Bs and Hotels close in the off/winter season. Many close for winter and do not reopen before the 1st of April. This is a link to a site which might prove helpful as it gives a list of Albergues which are open and which may or may not require reservations:-

    http://www.aprinca.com/alberguesinvierno/

    Another issue will be the weather. The north of Spain can be pretty cold and the mountains can be covered in snow. As you may know the pass over the Napoleon Route is closed until 1 April for safety reasons.

    As I said elsewhere you may find getting fed somewhat difficult as many cafe's and restaurnats will also be closed.

    HOWEVER it is the case that many people do walk in the winter and appear to really enjoy the challenge and even the solitude so it most definitely can be done with some preparation.

    As to clothing, as others have said layering is the way to go. If you can get your hands on a lightweight down jacket I would highly recommend using one. A good quality lightweight jacket when combined with a waterproof outer shell would make life a lot easier. Make sure your pack has a waterproof cover too and consider using a good poncho which will cover everything.

    As for shoes I would definitely reconsider the trail trainers for this time of year. You will need something waterproof and reasonably sturdy. I would suggest good lightweight goretex hiking shoes or boots combined with gaiters (I use Merrells but the best advice is to go to your local outdoors shop and get fitted). Get good wool socks. Prefereably merino wool like Smartwool. You might also consider investing in merino wool underwear, I prefer the Icebreaker briefs.

    C4S has already covered the sleeping bag and money issues.

    Good luck with the planning and Buen Camino

    Greg
     
  4. Greg Canning

    Greg Canning Well-Known Member

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    This is a link to a set of youtube videos of a family who walked the Camino in winter. It might give you some idea of what to expect:-

     
  5. RJS

    RJS Well-Known Member

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    Lots of good info already posted

    My Own Two-Penneth is - Why are you stuck on limiting yourself to walking the Camino Frances??

    As already mentioned, this will be a challenging route to walk in February with The Route de Napoleon out of Saint Jean Pied de Port being closed, so you will miss out having the opportunity to walk what many believe is the best day(s) !!

    Therefore, my own recommendation would be to pick a Camino with a starting point in the south – The Via de la Plata could be one option - My own trek notes here http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/50192/3df43/

    Another option would be The Camino Mozrabe - My own trek notes here http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/50192/4112d/ (This then joins the Via de la Plata at Merida)

    Another option would be The Camino Sureste, I have only walked the first 150 miles of this route, but my trek notes on this are http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/50192/b9/



    OK – You would still risk getting poor weather when you get closer to Galicia, but at least there is a better chance of good weather for the rest of your walk !!




    Choosing your rucksack – I have written a reasonably comprehensive piece on this at http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/p/m/23c941/ IF you want to read it ;-)



    Footwear - Footwear is a personal choice with different pilgrims choosing different options, my own preference is lightweight “Gortex” fabric boots as these need very little maintenance, keep your feet dry (as long as you wear the appropriate associated kit and don’t let water wick down your socks getting your feet wet that way) when it rains and let your feet breath when it is hot and as you walking in the winter, boots could well be the better option.


    Good Luck and Buen Camino

    Rob
     
  6. HaveACuppaTea

    HaveACuppaTea New Member

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    Yes, I've seen a lot of their Camino videos, definitely encouraging, certainly will be a challenge walking in winter.
     
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  7. HaveACuppaTea

    HaveACuppaTea New Member

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    Hi Rob, I didn't know about those other route options, they do seem interesting, but for a first Camino, I don't think it would be a good idea. Even more planning would be involved, and accommodation options seem like they would be compounded further (in some sections of it). I wouldn't rule those routes out in the future, as it would be a chance to see more of Spain. I think for a second and third Camino (here's me talking about second and third and I haven't done my first one yet!) I would be more inclined to do Via Francigena and The Way Of St Andrews (my namesake).

    Thanks for the info, I did try your links but they don't seem to be working.
     
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  8. RJS

    RJS Well-Known Member

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    Sorry – I posted the old links – Here are links to the archived pages that still, in the main work since the demise of virtual tourist



    The Via de la Plata

    https://web.archive.org/web/20151018105540/http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/50192/3df43/

    The Camino Mozrabe

    https://web.archive.org/web/20151031045120/http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/50192/4112d/ (This then joins the Via de la Plata at Merida)

    The first 150 miles of Camino Sureste https://web.archive.org/web/20151120125409/http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/50192/b9/



    Although many pilgrims (Including myself) do start off with the Camino Frances, as you are walking at a restricted time, there is no reason why you have to and, yes, choice of accommodation is certainly more limited on the lesser walked routes, but as not many people go Camino Walking in Winter, this could actually be an advantage walking them then and, personally, I don’t see where the extra planning is needed :)



    Good Luck

    Rob
     
  9. Bryan Morlock

    Bryan Morlock Pilgrim Bryan

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    Just a couple of suggestions for you. A European single bed mattress is just slightly smaller than in the US. I bought a sheet with the elastic sides, and sprayed it very well with permithrin two days before I left, so it had a day to dry. I also sprayed both inside and outside of my backpack. The permithrin is good for 6 weeks or 5 washings. That helps to protect against bed bugs. I did not spray my sleeping bag. We did see people who had been attacked by bed bugs and it was not pretty.

    As for backpack I bought a 48 liter Osprey Kestrel 48. That is the maximum size most people recommend to take along and you can maybe get by with a 40 liter. I did not need 48 liters but I had the extra room just in case I needed it and it strapped down tight to fit the contents. It is an excellent backpack with the exception that I could not reach my water bottles in the side pockets with the backpack on. So I set up a couple of drinking hoses from my water bottles up and over the shoulder straps so I could drink as I walked. The backpack has more strap adjustments, pockets, features, etc. than I needed but it was nice to use and you can really fine tune the fit to your preference. It comes with a rain pouch. A great feature was the pocket on top that I could unzip behind my head. That is where I kept the guide book, list of albergues from the pilgrims office, and other items that I could access without removing the backpack. You can also use a bladder with it. I packed all of my stuff inside the backpack in individual zip lock bags which worked fine to keep things neat and separate. I never did have any rain get through the backpack cover but we also never had any hard rain, just light mist and drizzle.

    Our online blog from our recent Camino Frances is at pilgrims4blog.wordpress.com which might assist you in your preparations. Enjoy the journey.

    Buen Camino
     
  10. Bryan Morlock

    Bryan Morlock Pilgrim Bryan

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    I should have also mentioned that we used the Brierly book, and unanimously wanted to slap him in the face for understating the physical difficulty, primarily with the steep downhill segments. They are brutal. Other than that the book was helpful, but so was the info from the pilgrim office.
     
  11. UnkleHammy

    UnkleHammy Well-Known Member

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    A problem with Brierley is that it is in English and many people buy a copy. They then tend to follow its stages. This results in crowds at the end point. To reduce the crowds for sleeping places, try to avoid the recommended end points.
     
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  12. Bryan Morlock

    Bryan Morlock Pilgrim Bryan

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    We did that as much as we could, but there are segments where that doesn't work as well, depending upon what you want to see and do. The crowds were more scattered in the middle of our Camino than at the beginning and the end stretches.
     
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  13. Greg Canning

    Greg Canning Well-Known Member

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    I'm not sure anything you read or hear could prepare you for those climbs and descents!! I have used the Brierly and Ramis guides and the Camino Frances app and while all three refer to the physical challenges nothing quite prepares you for the climb to Orisson or the descent from the Col de Lepoeder or the alto de Perdon or for the accumulated attritional nature of walking with a pack day after day. And as you say the descents can be murder on your knees. The only way to really prepare is to actually go walking up and down steep hills with a weighted pack and to do it for a few days in succession.

    Of course there are options like staying in Orisson or using Express Bourricot's mountain shuttle.

    Buen Camino

    Greg
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2018
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  14. BenL

    BenL The Burghers of Calais

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    Many great responses covered the tactical/routes/logistics/gear aspects. From HaveACuppaTea's two subsequent postings in response to other posts, it appears there is no longer any un-certainty whether to walk the Camino, correct?

    I think being super clear on one's motivations to walk the Camino is perhaps an over-looked and under-appreciated aspect. The motivation doesn't land as a nicely wrapped package in one's laps. It doesn't accompany all the reading and research into the planning and preparing for a Camino. Rather, it starts with an un-voiced need deep within. Perhaps it has bubbled up during moments of stress or moments of serendipity. Sometimes, reading a Camino book or blog of a Camino experience triggers a resonance within. Developing that understanding, evolving the motivation, becomes part of one's Camino preparation. Which can be as fulfilling in its own right.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2018
  15. Bryan Morlock

    Bryan Morlock Pilgrim Bryan

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    There can be multiple reasons for doing a Camino, as in my case. I had been thinking for several years about the potential for doing a Christian based trip. I am also a history buff, especially as it relates to WWII (my wife was concerned that if I did the Camino I would wind up at Omaha Beach, WWII landing site where my dad came ashore). So when I learned about the Camino three years ago, I did some research on it, especially reading websites and watching videos on YouTube. I did not see the movie "The Way" until two months before I left. The aspect of St. James, Napoleon, the Knights Templar, etc. all came together for me, with the Christian pilgrimage being the primary factor. But it was by no means a single reason trip for me. Unfortunately I was not able to satisfy all of my historical and religious reasons for the Camino, so I would like to do it again. :)
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2018
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  16. hindsfeet

    hindsfeet Collect moments, not things Donating Member

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    Ben, really enjoyed reading your blog! I am leaving for my first Camino on April 27th...maybe I will run (I mean walk) into you and Joon! Buen Camino
     
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  17. BenL

    BenL The Burghers of Calais

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    @hindsfeet Thanks - we will be on the Camino Portugues from Porto to Santiago from May 14 - 24. A couple of nites in Porto pre-walk, and a couple of nites in Santiago post-walk. Would love to cross paths too. Que sera sera.
     
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