1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Pilgrim Numbers - Should I Be Concerned?

Discussion in 'General Chat' started by JTD, Dec 17, 2017.

  1. JTD

    JTD Member

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2012
    Messages:
    54
    Likes Received:
    53
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    uk
    Home Page:
    After a failed attempt at walking the Camino Del Norte earlier this year due to illness I am now considering my options for next year. I'm thinking about walking the Camino Frances again which I walked in June 2012, however I'm a bit shocked by the statistics published at https://oficinadelperegrino.com/en/statistics/ showing the number of pilgrims for each month. In June 2012, 25517 pilgrims arrived at the pilgrims office in Santiago. Compare that with June 2017 when it says 41.619 arrived and I'm a bit concerned that finding a bed will be a nightmare? It was busy enough in 2012!

    Has the infrastructure along the Camino grown at the same rate as the number of pilgrims or is it really going to be a race for beds each day? I know some say to phone ahead each day but I really like to just walk until I've had enough rather than set myself a destination the night before...

    Looking forward to hearing from anyone who has walked the Camino this summer. Thank you.
     
  2. BenL

    BenL The Burghers of Calais

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2017
    Messages:
    50
    Likes Received:
    71
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    West Coast, USA
    Home Page:
    JTD, thanks for link to Pilgrim Office's web site.
     
  3. BROWNCOUNTYBOB

    BROWNCOUNTYBOB Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2012
    Messages:
    493
    Likes Received:
    774
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    Indianapolis, Indiana
    JTD, my wife and I walked Camino Frances in Sept-Oct 2015 and again in Sept-Oct 2017. We were amazed about the increased number of pilgrims during our second camino. I checked the statistics at the same website. The number of pilgrims receiving their certificates in October, 2017 was 31,341. The number that completed in October, 2015 was 25,576. So there were 22% more pilgrims in October 2017 than our camino two years ago. So in October, over 1,000 pilgrims per day walked into Santiago and received their compostela. Amazing. During the first part of our recent camino, many albergues were "completo" by mid-day. One pilgrim told me he had to walk from Roncesvalles to Pamplona in one day since there were no available beds in Zubiri. In Hornillos del camino, there were no available beds for a dozen pilgrims. Someone organized van transport to the next few towns for them to have beds. We made advance reservations on all but three stages, and got up early and walked at a fast pace, concerned that we'd not have beds at the municipal albergues in Azofra, Burgos and Astorga (fortunately beds were available).
     
    JTD and UnkleHammy like this.
  4. JTD

    JTD Member

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2012
    Messages:
    54
    Likes Received:
    53
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    uk
    Home Page:
    Thanks for that BROWNCOUNTYBOB, it does sound as I'd imagined. I'm not sure I would want to stop walking by midday each day just to be in with a chance of finding a bed...I wonder if more people are carrying tents now? Perhaps I will start looking into the Portuguese route. Thanks again. Jimmy.
     
    lynda turk likes this.
  5. Bryan Morlock

    Bryan Morlock Pilgrim Bryan

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2017
    Messages:
    36
    Likes Received:
    96
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    Minnesota, USA
    We just finished hiking the Camino Frances on October 11, and yes, there were a lot of pilgrims. We eventually were forced to start making reservations for the next day, and then went to making reservations two days in advance. That was a bit of a hassle but we eventually settled on a daily distance of no more than about 16 miles per day, and preferably something in the 12-14 miles per day worked best for us (all four of us are in our 60's). The only item to note is that many pilgrims were jumping on the trail at Sarria. The last 100 km was very busy. The only time we really had difficulty finding a place to stay was on Friday or Saturday nights when it seems every village in Spain has a festival. We had a very difficult time in Leon as we did not make a reservation since that is a quite large city. We failed to realize that it was a Friday with a weekend festival, and we tried over 30 places before we found beds for the four of us. We kept hearing along the trail that September had recorded the most pilgrims starting the Camino since records were being kept.
     
    Crepes4Suzette and UnkleHammy like this.
  6. Jack Spratt

    Jack Spratt New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2016
    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    19
    Trophy Points:
    3
    My wife and I have just finished Camino Frances - our experience was a little different.

    We started CF in SJPP on 12 September 2017 with booking in Orisson and Roncesvalles.

    We were as not sure of our fitness and how we would cope with extended walking with a pack, so conservatism became the watchword. When we hot Zubiri, we decide that enough was enough for the day, and got the last two beds in Albergue Rio Arga , but we found out later that there was plenty of accommodation available in the municipal albergue.

    We had a booking for accommodation in Puente la Reina (one of our fellow travellers was making a booking for himself and kindly made one for us), fortunately as we discovered that accommodation was tight that night.

    That was the last time that we had any issues with getting accommodation.

    We made a conscious decision to go essentially 'unplugged' and take our chances with accommodation. Not speaking any Spanish, we anticipated issues with booking ahead and we wanted to maintain maximum flexibility with how far we walked each day, rather than commit to a specific town, so we decided to take our chances each day. Only in Cirueña did we question this, where after a long hot day walking, we went to Casa Victoria at the end of the town only to find that it had just one bed available, so we had to backtrack and found Albergue Virgen de Guadalupe (great night with a room with just two of us and a wonderful communal meal - thanks Petrous!).

    We made two key decisions early:

    1 get off the Brierly "wave" and endeavour to stay in towns towards the centre of the Brierly stages, having assessed accommodation options (we were working from a 2012 edition of Briefly, so we were working from limited information), and

    2 end the day's walking by about 2 pm - which was within our comfort zone anyway (time to complete CF was not an issue)

    We walked into Pamplona, Burgos and Leon on festival weekends, and into Santiago, and found accommodation without difficulty. Accommodation for the Sarria to Santiago leg was not a problem for us (finishing in Santiago on 22 October).

    While we stayed primarily in albergues, we also stayed in a couple of small hotels and a pension at marginally greater cost (and enhanced privacy!).

    If (when?) I do CF again:

    1 I would have a large format mob phone as a communication, booking and mapping device.

    2 I would plan on booking a day or two ahead - I have much better idea of how the body will perform and can afford to lose some flexibility in the interests of certainty.

    3 I would suss out where and when the various festivals are on and plan on a two or three day stay if possible.

    4 I would learn basic conversational Spanish before I left home.

    My advice to prospective pilgrims? Think about how you want to manage accommodation before you go (as best you can with limited information). There are options for booking ahead (I understand that few municipal abergues will take bookings, but many commercial albergues and other accommodation options will. Conversational Spanish is helpful but not essential - were told that many albergues provide English language options for bookings - either on their websites or telephone - and there are generic booking websites that are language neutral. Once you have made your decision on basic strategy, go with the flow and keep any regrets to a minimum - overcoming adversity is but one of the features of the pilgrimage!
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2017
  7. RJS

    RJS Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2014
    Messages:
    1,020
    Likes Received:
    1,205
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Cumbria UK
    Home Page:
    Lots of good info posted above by Jack – So I would like to thank him for sharing his experiences with us all :)

    I would agree with the way he tackled the whether to book accommodation in advance – Or Not Dilemma and I am pleased to hear that by and large, this worked out well as it is in line with the advice I often post myself :)

    I would certainly always book your bed / room at Saint Jean Pied de Port – Sites like booking.com have both beds in private Albergue’s and rooms in hotels, but book ASAP as the cheaper / better options get booked up early

    Also, If you are considering staying at Orisson then it’s essential to book your bed there as soon as you can http://www.refuge-orisson.com/en/ – Many pilgrims walk from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles in a single day (I did so myself, but at that time there wasn’t the option of staying at Orisson) – However, I now recommend that unless you are a hardened experienced trekker then staying at Orisson is a good idea and has the advantage that this allows you to do some sightseeing in Saint Jean Pied de Port before you start your walk (Many Pilgrims miss doing this and Saint Jean Pied de Port is a really beautiful; place and far too nice to miss) – So, apart from the obvious of it easing you into your pilgrimage by splitting the first and usually considered as the hardest day of the walk into two. You needn’t set off until you have taken an early lunch and can then walk the 8k uphill to Orisson and have a leisurely start to your pilgrimage. If Orisson is already full up when you try to reserve your bed, ask if they had any beds available at the nearby Kayola gîte ?? - And if Kayola gîte is also full then there was a thread on here where someone also wanted to break the Saint Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles section into two stages and couldn’t find accommodation to enable them to do this, so, they walked up to Orisson one afternoon, returned to Saint Jean Pied de Port by taxi, then spent the night at Saint Jean Pied de Port, caught a taxi back to Orisson the next morning and continued their walk to Roncesvalles. - Now this may sound somewhat convoluted, but, especially if you aren’t an experienced walker, better than burning out on your first day. Just one thing to be aware of when making your booking and that is Not to use the contact from on the above website, but to reserve your beds using the email address next to the contact form, then, as there have been a few reports of people who haven’t had confirmation emails sent, if it were me, I would telephone them just so that I was 100% sure that I had a bed waiting for me when I arrive :)

    Although it isn’t possible to book beds in advance in most Municipal Refugio’s, you can book a bed in the municipal Refugio at Roncesvalles on their website at http://www.alberguederoncesvalles.com/

    Then after Roncesvalles, at most times you should be OK and might not have to book beds until you get closer to Santiago de Compostela – The closer you get to Santiago de Compostela, the busier the “Way” will get – You will see this slowly happen and be able to judge for yourself when there is a need to book a bed in advance, but I would certainly expect that, IF you are intending walking well into the afternoon then you will have to book in advance after Sarria and probably even before – But if you are stopping walking soon after midday then it might well be possible to walk all the way from Orisson without reserving a bed

    I also agree that getting off the Brierly “wave" is a very good move as although they are excellent guidebooks, too many people follow them word for word and this in itself can cause problems !!

    So staying at intermediate towns other that sticking to the suggested stages is definitely the way to go :)

    Checking out when local festivals are is also excellent advice – I was once caught out by Semana Santa in a small town on The Cami San Juan and if it wasn’t for the kindness of the local hotel owner, I would have been sleeping under the stars !!

    So Jack – Thanks again for taking the time to post this info :)

    I only have one question, and that Is, Why would you return to walk the same Camino when there are so many others to choose form ??

    Best Regards

    Rob
     
  8. UnkleHammy

    UnkleHammy Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2015
    Messages:
    716
    Likes Received:
    924
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    Fresno, California
    All of your suggestions/plans for next time are great, however the one that I would emphasize is #4. Learn some conversational Spanish! My "high school" Spanish was long ago which made it totally useless. When I took Spanish it mostly consisted of translating Spanish language stories. Usually I can get an idea of what is written but I never once understood spoken Spanish. Not being able to communicate in Spanish did not help me, even though many people spoke reasonable English, speaking (And understanding spoken) Spanish would have been much better.
     
  9. Jack Spratt

    Jack Spratt New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2016
    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    19
    Trophy Points:
    3
    Thank you for those kind word Rob - in retrospect, many of my reflections are probably relevant to both CF and other caminos...

    Returning to your question at the end of your post: let me respond with another, and in my mind, equally valid question "why not walk the Camino Frances again?"

    Firstly, there are only a finite number of caminos left in my aging body - it carried me through CF in 2017 but it wasn't without consequences, I know that it can repeat the exercise in 2018 (or maybe 2019). From a little reading, it would seem that a number of other caminos require a higher level of fitness - skeletal/muscular as well as heart/lung - and I have no wish to finish my camino in an ambulance... Maybe I am being a little risk adverse here, but then I am the one who has to deal with matters if my body goes pear-shaped in a foreign land..

    Secondly, while I have 'done' the CF, I have by no means exhausted the spiritual/gastronomic/historical/sight-seeing elements of CF - rather I suspect that I have just scratched the surface, and a repeat walk, with a different strategy focussed on enjoying the day-to-day delights and challenges and with a reduced focus on simply getting to Santiago, would be a very different experience. There are side-trips off CF that I would like to explore - the walk to/through Samos is just one. I would put more effort into looking for regional foods - meals of tripe and tongue were highlights of my recent camino... As expected, I did get a bit churched-out (Burgos Cathedral kind of sated the appetite), and with a better appreciation of spanish history, I suspect that I might appreciate the various church/cathedral buildings much, much better for both their intrinsic values and as elements of Spanish history.

    Thirdly, I am not of the "shiny new toy" mindset - something doesn't have be new and glittering to be of value. A threadbare old teddy with one ear missing, no buttons for eyes and steadily escaping stuffing, may be far far more valued by a child than the newest shiniest, speaking walking doll...

    My life strategy is to enjoy what I have and not spend endless time wishing for something different... Walking any camino is sufficiently different to my day-to-day life to be worthwhile, and if someone else wants to wake to something different each day (ie. a new - in every respect - camino every time), that is their call.

    On the issue of accomodation in the last 200 km of CF, we walked this in mid October (arrived Santiago 22 October) and accomodation was not a problem for us. We were mindful of the "Sarria problem" but it just did not eventuate. I have no doubt that this was not the case earlier in the year - the numbers walking certainly increased as we left Sarria, but these appeared to be largely tour/group events and the number of perigrinos we encountered looking for accomodation in albergues thinned out very quickly and the available accomodation was more than sufficient. That is just my experince, others may have very different experiences.

    Jack
     
    Crepes4Suzette and UnkleHammy like this.
  10. RJS

    RJS Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2014
    Messages:
    1,020
    Likes Received:
    1,205
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Cumbria UK
    Home Page:
    Thank you for your reply Jack :)

    First of All – If you wish to return to walk the Camino Frances Again, then this is what you should do – It is often said on here that “We All Walk Our Own Camino’s” and I certainly aren’t going to argue against this philosophy ;-)

    But, at the same time, I have to be honest and say that it does intrigue me, that with so many wonderful Camino’s to choose from, why people often return again and again to walk the same route – Hence my question (And I repeat here, this was intended as a question and not a criticism)

    I don’t know whether you noticed the title if the thread you posted on Jack “Pilgrim Numbers - Should I Be Concerned?” and whether you knew that over 60% of All pilgrims chose to walk the Camino Frances and the other 40% are divided out among ALL the other routes https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/pilgrim-arrivals-statistics-2017.47811/

    In the past, I helped a chap who was tasked by the Spanish Authorities to try to encourage pilgrims to walk other routes by photographing and therefore promoting other routes, this was to try to cut down on the congestion on The Camino Frances and this is another reason why I asked the question :)


    You mention that “it would seem that a number of other caminos require a higher level of fitness - skeletal/muscular as well as heart/lung” – I have to say that this isn’t my own experience and indeed, one of the hardest Camino days that I have ever walked was my first day on The Camino Frances (However, as mentioned on my earlier reply, there was no Refugio at Orisson when I walked the route, so Pilgrims who opted for The Route de Napoleon had no easy choice but to walk it in one day)

    I wonder how my own experiences regarding how hard they found the varying routes compare with the information that you read ??


    But I certainly agree with your other points about that you have by no means exhausted the spiritual/gastronomic/historical/sight-seeing elements of CF and would add, that at least for me, it is the people who make my Camino rather than a particular route – And also it’s the Journey and not arriving at a given destination – Hence with several of my own Camino’s, I didn’t reach Santiago de Compostela as it was no longer my goal – This is something that some people don’t understand, so all I can say that this is where this reply started and that “We All Walk Our Own Camino’s”

    Best Regards

    Rob
     
  11. Nancy Bannon

    Nancy Bannon New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2018
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    18
    Trophy Points:
    3
    I am also planning on walking the CF this summer, end of June into July, solo. I have the same concern about finding a bed and making reservations makes me committed to getting to the next spot. I have not read about places to tent, have you talked to people that have done that? Good luck.. those numbers are daunting.
     
    Crepes4Suzette likes this.
  12. UnkleHammy

    UnkleHammy Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2015
    Messages:
    716
    Likes Received:
    924
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    Fresno, California
    This year, I only saw one place with campers that might have been hiking, however that group of about 12 tents looked to be semi-perminant. Not pilgrams. They looked as thought they had settled in for a long stay. I didn't talk to any of them.
     
    Crepes4Suzette likes this.
  13. RJS

    RJS Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2014
    Messages:
    1,020
    Likes Received:
    1,205
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Cumbria UK
    Home Page:
    Hi Nancy

    I have come across quite a few pilgrims who were carrying lightweight tents or bivvy-bags http://www.alastairhumphreys.com/what-is-a-bivvy-bag-and-why-do-i-need-one-microadventure/ over the years and although I haven’t carried one myself, I can see the value of carrying one, especially on The Camino Frances.

    This blog might be useful reading too http://amawalker.blogspot.co.uk/2008/08/camping-on-camino-frances.html as although it is a few years old, it is relates to someone’s experiences who camped on The Camino :)

    Good Luck

    Rob
     
    Crepes4Suzette likes this.
  14. Crepes4Suzette

    Crepes4Suzette Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2016
    Messages:
    441
    Likes Received:
    1,060
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    Pennsylvania, USA
    As a solo female hiker, I personally would not have felt OK about camping unless it was somewhere central like a church porch with others I trusted doing the same. To my way of thinking, it would be better to book a day ahead once you get a feel for your abilities and how crowded things actually are. In a worst-case scenario, people sometimes taxi ahead or off-camino to another place with beds. Taxi phone numbers are often posted on the doors of tiendas or findable by asking a townsperson.
     
    hindsfeet, RJS and UnkleHammy like this.
  15. Bryan Morlock

    Bryan Morlock Pilgrim Bryan

    Joined:
    Nov 24, 2017
    Messages:
    36
    Likes Received:
    96
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    Minnesota, USA
    We started out not making reservations and got by, although we wound up staying in some less desirable places. We decided that we wanted to try to guarantee a little bit better accommodation whenever we could by making a reservation. By this time we had learned our comfort zone for the maximum distance we would walk, so using the guide book made it fairly easy to match our desired distance with a place to stay. The difficult portion was that the Spanish villages run on a cash economy, so no credit card to hold a reservation. So while we made reservations, they would only be honored until about 4 pm, and in a few cases 2 pm. We had to be there by then or the reservation would be cancelled. We were usually on the trail by 7 am anyway (other pilgrims would wake us up) so it usually worked out fine. The real plus side is that it provided time to get prepped for the next day and you have some time to look about. One of my regrets is that I did not spend enough time to look at the scenery, the villages, and the people. We took 43 days of walking (plus one day off) from St. Jean to Finnesterre, and there was way too much we didn't see.

    We only saw a very few people tenting.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2018
    Crepes4Suzette, RJS and UnkleHammy like this.
  16. Margareta Varenhed

    Margareta Varenhed Member

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2018
    Messages:
    29
    Likes Received:
    39
    Trophy Points:
    13
    Hi JTD,
    The Camino Portuguese is probably a bit less crowdy. There is another option though, if walking into Santiago is not the most important, I'd suggest that you go for the Via Podiensis in France, from Le Puy en Velay to SJPP. It's almost the same length as the Camino Frances but so much more beautiful, since there is almost no tarmac but a lot of lovely forests, pastures and small roman villages.
    You might need to book ahead in the weekends but I walked last june and normally there were beds in the Gites. If one Gite is full, they will help you to find another place. The host even came in his car to pick me up once.
    Buon Camino!
     
  17. keithlundy1

    keithlundy1 Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2014
    Messages:
    71
    Likes Received:
    134
    Trophy Points:
    33
    Location:
    Wymondham Norfolk
    Hi JTD
    I walked the Camino Frances in August last year and walking from SJPP to Sarria was not a problem at all, I noticed since 2015 my first Camino the number of Albergues have increased considerable and I didn't have to book a single day, bearing in mind August is the national holiday month for Italy and there were thousands of them but there were beds for everyone, I can't remember one Albergue filling all it's beds so you should be ok.
    On the other hand from Sarria it's a different story, I would say the numbers quadrupled on the trail and the majority of them are walking as if it was a race, I tended to stop before or just after the main towns and cities and found there were plenty of beds and to be honest I was pleased to have the peace and quiet without the masses descending on Santiago, the only bed I did book was The Last Stamp Albergue in Santiago, which I highly recommend.
    Could I give you a few words of advice regarding camping. As a true romantic I decided that I wanted to camp out for about 10-15 days on my last Camino and boy was it hard. First of all you are not allowed to camp out until you pass Pamplona for obvious safety reasons as the police politely explained to me when they woke me up early hours because of the risk in the Basque Region, secondly you would not believe the difference the additional weight makes each day, it seems to get heavier as each day passes. I was quite methodical in choosing the right tent equipment and it still ended up nearly 5kg including rucksack, add to that your walking gear, clothes, toiletries and a change for the evening and before you know it I was carrying just over 12kgs and I paid for it especially on the big climbs, so stick with the Albergues and next year when I walk it again I'll only be carrying 6-7kgs.
    I hope you can use my words of wisdom from one Pilgrim to another and I wish you a safe journey, Buen Camino Keith (Norfolk, England)
     
    Greg Canning, UnkleHammy and Wily like this.
Loading...

Share This Page