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March 2019 - Support Services Or Not?

Discussion in 'The Camino Portugues' started by Corry, Jun 22, 2018.

  1. Corry

    Corry New Member

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    We are planning our first Camino in March 2019 and still have very many questions, but have definitely decided on the Portuguese Camino from Porto starting on March 20 (we fly into Porto on March 19, 2019) and leave Santiago on 4th April.

    We are both pretty fit and well, have travelled lots, but are aged 63 and 66. I would like some advice please on support services we may be able to access such as prebooking accommodation (is there a need for this?) and sending luggage ahead onto the next stop. We may also consider carrying a day pack and sending luggage from Porto to Santiago directly. We have further travel planned both before and after the Camino.

    Do you think we need to prebook accommodation well in advance? And if so how would we go about this? Is there a guidebook specific for the Portuguese Camino? Who would/could organise luggage transfers?

    I notice there are companies that offer self-guided or even tour-guided services and charge exhorbitant prices for doing so. We did not really want to do this, but wanted instead independent (and flexible) travel, although possibly would consider a private room rather than (noisy?) dorm sleeping arrangements.

    Any feedback, tips or information would be most welcome as we continue our planning and research.
    Many thanks for your tips.
     
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  2. UnkleHammy

    UnkleHammy Well-Known Member

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    It all depends on how "self sufficient" you are. Some plan everyday in advance be for starting and others try to see how it goes and then get reservations a day, or two, ahead. Depending on your physical shape, you might plan on using service to take your large pack to your next nights place and carrying a small day pack you during the day. If you know where you plan to stay at the end, you can ship your full stuff there and they will hold it for you.

    Have a great trip and Buen Camino.
     
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  3. Wily

    Wily Francés 2016; Portugués 2017; Inglés/Fisterra 2018

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    Hey Corry - Welcome to the Forum. My wife and I walked the Portugués from Porto just a little over a year ago. We also walked at the end of March just about when you plan on doing it. So, let me see if I can answer some of your questions.

    As UnkleHammy said, physical conditioning determines a lot. With that said, the Portugués is pretty flat so it’s a pleasant walk without too many physical demands. I, too, am in my 60s and had no difficulties on this Camino. However, my wife developed some knee problens due to walking on the cobblestones. Even that didn't prove to be a deal breaker since we simply slowed down a bit and started shipping her backpack ahead.

    The guidebook that we used was Brierley's specific to the Camino Portugués (you csn find it on Amazon). It was helpful both in planning and for use while walking. We had made reservations in advance, but they were not needed at that time of year. Walking in March you will find the Portugués pretty empty unless it’s Holy Week. Some nights, we were the only ones in the albergues while on other nights, there were only a handful of other pilgrims with us. Also, check out the Gronze website for information on stages and accommodations.

    https://www.gronze.com/camino-portugues

    The two exceptions to what I said above would be to make reservations in Porto and in Santiago. The cities tend to be busy even this early in the spring. Although I don’t think you’ll need reservations, if you are more comfortsble having them, we made reservations for many of the places where we stayed on Booking.com. One specific place to recommend to you is the Casa de Fernandahalfway between Barcelos and Ponte de Lima. You will not find hospitality on the Camino better than that which she offers.

    There are several luggage transport systems available to the pilgrim. Because of my wife’s knee problem, we started using one in Tui for several days. The albergues and inns will have information for you on several companies that service the Camino both in Portugal and in Spain. We happened to use one called Tuitrans. One leaves their bag at the albergue/inn in the morning and when you arrive at your destination in the afternoon, the bag will be waiting for you. As I remember, the service cost €5-6 per bag per day. They are most reliable! So, you can walk with a day pack and then have rest of your gear available to you every night.

    Finally, regarding private tour companies, the Portugués is a well marked and good first Camino route for anyone to walk on their own. In my opinion, there is no need to pay extra by going with a tour group. You’ll enjoy the independence of doing it on your own. It’s not difficult at all. My blog below will give you a good idea regarding our experience on the Portugués including the places where we stayed. Bom Caminho!
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2018
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  4. RJS

    RJS Well-Known Member

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    Yes – Although you could use the services of a private tour company and go as a packaged Camino with everything organised for you, in my own opinion, to do this would mean that you miss out on a lot of things, notably the comradery and Camino spirit that you find when you mix with all sorts of people from different countries, different backgrounds, different age groups and sometimes even different religions (Although most pilgrims are Catholics, not everyone is)

    There are lots of guidebooks available, personally, I use the ones produced by The Confraternity of Saint James in the UK https://www.csj.org.uk/product/cami...ugues-part-2-porto-to-santiago-coastal-route/ - These list all accommodation options available en-route and even have an update page available on their website where you can download the latest info. https://www.csj.org.uk/planning-your-pilgrimage/csj-guides-and-updates/


    Another useful website for planning your Camino is http://www.mundicamino.com/los-caminos/82/camino-portugus-por-la-costa/ with maps that you can print off as well as lists of what is available en-route.


    There are a few things that you should be aware of.

    The Camino Portuguese is routed along a lot of cobbled streets and these can be incredibly hard on your feet – There has been some good info on this posted on a recent thread on here at http://www.caminodesantiago.org.uk/threads/camino-portugues-from-lisbon.7876/#post-51692


    If you decide to organise your own Camino and want to book your accommodation ahead, you won’t be able to book beds in the Municipal Refugio’s as these work on a first come, first served basis – If you could arrange to stay at at least one Municipal Refugio then this would only enhance your Camino as these places are really special, often being there solely to accommodate pilgrims.



    If you decide to use one of the luggage transfer companies then you might find one of my Rucksack Pro-Tector’s very useful http://www.pro-tector.co.uk/ as, apart from these helping to ensure that your rucksack gets from your home to its destination safe and sound, you can then lock your rucksack when you leave it for the luggage transfer in the morning – Often luggage transfer companies leave the luggage unattended in hotel lobbies and therefore it is far safer to have it locked :)


    When you plan your route, build in as many days as you can as a rushed Camino is rarely a satisfactory one, leave yourself plenty of time “To Smell the Flowers”

    Finally, although it is a few years since I walked The Camino Portuguese and since the closure of VT, my trek notes have been decimated, but there is still some useful info on the link in my tagline if you care to have a read :)


    Good Luck and Buen Camino

    Rob
     
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  5. Ryedalerambler

    Ryedalerambler Active Member

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    For guidebooks, I agree with Rob, the Confraternity of St James guidebooks are very good (links in his post above), and I also like the ones produced by Village to Village Press - available in the USA through their website https://www.villagetovillagepress.com/, or on Amazon. Of course, as they say "other guidebooks are available"!
     
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  6. Ryedalerambler

    Ryedalerambler Active Member

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    I forgot to add, you can get the CSJ guides as a download if you prefer. The Village to Village site also includes GPS downloads if you want to plan in advance, but you don't really need these on the Portuguese
     
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