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Walking With My Son

Discussion in 'Camino Frances' started by Keith Bold, Jan 21, 2017.

  1. Keith Bold

    Keith Bold New Member

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    Hi everyone, it's great to meet you all. I'm hoping some of you can hep me plan our trip by answering some questions. We are planning to complete the camino frances in August (school holidays - my son is 11). I''ve been advised to avoid the meseta due to the uncomfortable climate so we will most likely take a train. it also makes it more manageable regarding work. One question I have though is regarding accommodation. Because the boy is only 11 (he's got better knees than me and he's already out training), I am concerned about not finding a bed for the night. We'll most likely arrive at rest stops late, we intend to amble. Are there generally bed and breakfast type places, albeit more expensive, as an alternative to the hostels of they are full? I have considered taking a tent but on balance that seems not too sensible. I have also looked at an agency who prebook accommodation and transport bags but this is very expensive and also ties us in to a defined itinerary. it is tempting to do more overtime, pay the agency and have the beds taken care of. But I want my son to have a reasonably authentic and immersive experience as well. I have quite bad arthritis in my knees so this will be a one off in my 50th year, I'd like it to be a unique and uplifting experience that I can look back on. I had put this ambition of mine to bed because of the knees but my son researched it - I told him about the walk and my plans made a while ago to do it for my 50th - and he is fired up and really motivated me to give it a try. Paracetamol and walking poles may do the job. Best of luck to you all as you plan, begin or continue with your journey.
     
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  2. Crepes4Suzette

    Crepes4Suzette Well-Known Member

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    What a wonderful thing to be doing with your son! The last I heard of significant trouble finding beds was around May of last year related to a "wave" of pilgrims that dissipated within about 5 days - in the unlikely event that you were to run across something like this in August, you could start booking ahead, do bus-aheads or could stay put for a day in a town you like (May is a very popular time to hike it). And even the most dusty little towns seem to have some sort of taxi service that can help - you can find their numbers by asking at local places in the town. With the many new accommodations that have opened up over the last few years, my guess is that you'll be fine. If very concerned, you could access the websites for the ALSA.es bus schedules, the local bus schedules along the route and Renfe.com train options across the Meseta. People here will give you lots of ideas if you want help honing your trip. Jacotrans and Caminofacil are both easy companies for backpack transport. I only used Jacotrans about 5 times and did have my backpack lost once, but they eventually found it and brought it late that evening.

    I've done the Camino Frances twice and both times booked the first 2 nights ahead, then for the rest either "winged it" or booked ahead as I went the day before using mostly private albergues or habitaciones within them, using the ones I liked from researching them. I also use my cell phone with Wise Pilgrim's Camino Frances app. That app lists the other types of lodging also, such as casa rurales, Hotels, pensions, and private albergues which do sometimes have private habitaciones. If you want to give your son at least one big albergue experience, the one in Roncesvalles is especially nice, and people here will tell you of other larger ones that you can include also. I don't know how much Spanish you have, but if it is very limited like mine and if you need to call ahead the same day for a cama or a habitacion, the hosts/hospitaleros will pretty much just ask for your name and then hold the bed for you unless they're "completo". I rely heavily on Google translate on my phone when there. Very best wishes for your wonderful adventure with your son!
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2017
  3. Wily

    Wily Camino Francés 2016; Camino Portugués 2017

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    Hey Keith - Crepes4Suzette has offered you some great advice and information in response to many of your questions. Without restating all the same things, let me just emphasize a few points. The only thing that I wasn't real clear on was the number of days you planned for your Camino.

    August is a hot month across Spain. I know of people who skip the Meseta, but, in all truth, it was one of my favorite sections of the Camino. One can certainly jump around and take buses from town to town, but I wouldn't rule out the entire region. Using JacoTrans to help transport backpacks from albergue to albergue would be another way to help deal with both the heat, fatigue, as well as your knees.

    August should be a busy month on the Camino. Based on the statistics I've seen, more pilgrims complete the Camino in August than in any other month. Some parts of the Camino, particularly the last 100 km, will be busier than other parts. With that said, the pressure you are most likely to see will be on accomodations. I walked in May and it was quite busy then. As I knew I was walking the Camino in 31 days, I had my itinerary laid out with very specific daily destinations. Since I knew where I was stopping each day, I reserved beds in the majority of towns before even leaving the US. In some cases I used booking.com, but More often it was as simple as sending an email directly to the albergue requesting a bed. It worked out splendidly! In towns where I wasn't able to book from home, I would have an hospitalero call ahead for me to see if a bed was available. As you will be traveling with your young son, I would recommend reservations because the last thing you want to do is go looking for a bed after a long day of walking. If you do think you'll be arriving late then reservations might serve you well. Most albergues hold reservstions until 6 pm. But, if you plan to stay in the municiple albergues, they do not take reservations. Getting in early there is key to getting a bed. You will find folks on the Forum who prefer not to be tied into reservations. We all have different ways of completing our Camino and, in the end, you, too, will find out what works best for you. It will be an experience of a lifetime for both you and your son. Buen Camino!
     
  4. raymond john

    raymond john Well-Known Member

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    Keith
    Most of the pilgrims stay in the main towns and therefore when planning your camino, consider staying in hostels / Albergues outside of the towns and they will you a better chance of getting accommodation. There are 2 good guide books , A Pilgrim's Guide to the Camino De Santiago by John Brierley‎ or Pilgrims guide to Santiago by Leslie Gilmour. They are both good guide books full of useful information and also provide lists of Albergues situated in and outside the outside main towns. Danvo walked with his son last year , he could be a source of excellent information . Look him up on members and post him

    I hope you find this useful, Carpe diem and Beun Camino.

    Raymond John
     
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  5. RJS

    RJS Well-Known Member

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    Hi Keith and welcome to the forum.

    You already have so good advice and I agree with most of what has already been posted and only have a few snippets to add.

    I am sure that you will already have, as far as possible maximised your available time, so, assuming that you are setting of from Saint Jean Pied de Port as early as possible in August

    1) Book your accommodation is Saint Jean Pied de Port ASAP – The budget accommodation gets snapped up quickly, so the sooner you book, the more choice you have

    2) Trekking with an 11 year old, you will certainly be overnighting at Orisson – So book your beds there ASAP as there is a huge demand on beds there http://www.refuge-orisson.com/en/

    3) By the time you reach Orisson you will have a good idea on how many other are on “The Way” and can therefore decide if it is going to be necessary to book up more accommodation night by night as you go on – But remember, that you can’t book beds in the Municipal Refugio’s as these operate on a first come, first serve basis

    4) This is a link to the most up to date accommodation list that I am aware of and gives you an excellent idea of what is available en-route http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/p/m/246747/ - The Pilgrims Office at saint Jean Pied de Port also have accommodation lists, so also pick one up there as some options might not be on both lists !!

    5) I suspect that, although you might be able to find accommodation without too much hassle in the earlier sections after Roncesvalles, that booking in advance will be by far the safest option – But, so that you can maintain some flexibility, you should be able to do this on a day to day basis

    Then, by the time you reach the Meseta, you can see how you are both going and how hot the weather is – Although, personally, I aren’t a lover of missing out sections of the Camino. In your case the welfare of your 11 year old Grandson is paramount and crossing the Meseta in the August heat could be a big ask !! – The crucial thing is to ensure that you ALWAYS have sufficient water with you :)



    My final snippet is a bit of a wild card – Instead of walking The Camino Frances, have you considered the Camino Norte which has many sections following the coast when if things get too hot, a quick dip in the sea can quickly cool you down ;-)



    Good Luck and Buen Camino

    Rob
     
  6. danvo

    danvo Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi @Keith Bold, I walked Camino Frances from SJPP to Finisterra with my 13y old son. I afraid of his ability to walk whole Camino, but he was in better shape than me. Don't worry! If you take some training before start it will be no problem for you and your son. Of course do not overload him, his backpack should be not heavy. (of course, if he want to take some unneeded things, he must carry them all the way) On meseta you must carry enough water, and start at morning very soon-about 6a.m., avoid walking at afternoon sun. It is possible and doable. If you want, you can write me p.m.
     
  7. Wily

    Wily Camino Francés 2016; Camino Portugués 2017

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    Hey Keith - As Danvo said, it is very doable! I backpacked through Central Mexico with my 11 year old grandson last August. It was a grand experience for both him and me. We're now planning our next trip to Guatemala.

    Let me reinforce what Danvo said about the weight your son will carry in his pack. Keep it light! I don't have to tell you that a child's stamina and fatigue factor is different from that of an adult's. The lighter pack will help ensure his enjoyment of the Camino. With that in mind, transport your packs from SJPP to Roncesvslles. There is no need for him and possible you as well due to your knees to cross the Pyrenees carrying packs. And, as Rob said, break up your mountain stage with an overnight in Orisson. From SJPP, it's a steep 8 km hike to Orisson. Spend a pleasant evening at the albergue there and then continue your climb the next morning for another 12 km to the Col de Lepoeder with an easy 5 km on the road down to Roncesvalles.
     
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  8. danvo

    danvo Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Wily, I afraid of my son, on Pyrenees too, but always if I asked him how is he, he answered: no problem. Then he wanted to walk (for me) very long- 36 km! I said him that it is too much for him and he was sad... So then we had a day 37km ... still no problem for him. (instead of me). Btw..my knees- in my first Camino I afraid of it, but after I returned from Camino, no more pain in my knees, more than a year..
     
  9. Wily

    Wily Camino Francés 2016; Camino Portugués 2017

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    That's wonderful Danvo! When my oldest son was his age, he, too, was equally strong and ready for any challenge. Sometimes, it was hard keeping up with him! Just like you, I'm sure, I have such fond memories of the many adventures we went on. As kids grow up way too quickly these days, I'm very happy to have shared such special times with him that have hopefully helped him develop fully into the person he has become.
     
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  10. Keith Bold

    Keith Bold New Member

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    Hi all,

    Fantastic replies. Muchas gracias a todos! I really appreciate it.

    Crepes4Suzette, thanks for the tips. It sounds like we have options beyond the basic pilgrim alburgues. I may now try and book before we go. my Spanish isn't bad - I studied it with the OU for a couple of years but rusty now. Private habitaciones pre-booked for most of the journey sounds like what I would be comfortable with but I will book those recommendations. I've read of them elsewhere.

    Wily, number of days - I was planning about 15 miles a day. We are doing up to 10 mile walks now and plan to build this up. So for the whole trip I was setting aside about 35 days. However, travelling by train over the meseta will reduce that and I was going to struggle to get unpaid leave as the people for whom I work have an odd idea that my work is more important. You're information is most helpful and I think confirms that I will make reservations for many stops. The Jacotrans tip is a good one. Can that be booked on a day by day basis? I also note your comments regarding the meseta. Certainly completing the trip in its entirety would be our hope. We'll look into that. my son is not a fan of the heat though. Your trips to Mexico and Guatemala sound awesome. I think for us this may be a one off due to my wife's MS. She can't accompany us for this reason and, although she supports the trip for the experience it will give our son, she feels the exclusion.

    Raymond, I have ordered a copy of that. Thanks. Davo has already been in touch!

    RJS, thanks for your tips on accomadation. How do you book day to day? Just phoning ahead whilst en route?
    I mentioned the alternative route to my son but he is resolute. The camino frances its going to be. Thanks for those links.

    Hey Danvo, fantastic to hear from you - you have reassured me that we are going to do it! Also, the trip fixed your knees. Wow, I'll keep my fingers crossed. I have worn out cartilage behind my kneecaps so walking up and down is eye watering. We intend much training including long multi day walks in the national parks here such as the lake district. Also, I will purchase a small pack for my son thereby limiting what he can carry and I will arrange the pack transport. And to you and Wily, your story really is wonderful. As I see my own son become stronger and more able my pride is immeasurable. An experience like this for me will be such a splendid gift.

    Thanks again to you all. I now need to look into booking either before we go or day to day.

    The more I find out about the trip the more filled with a desire to get there I become. There is a lot of planning to do.

    Good luck. I'll be hanging around here so hopefully we'll communicate again.

    Keith
     
  11. Wily

    Wily Camino Francés 2016; Camino Portugués 2017

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    Hey Keith - Glad our information was helpful. I know you and your son will have a great trip.

    Regarding Jacotrans, all of the albergues use them. Just let the hospitaleros know that you want your bags transferred to your next albergue. Thus, it will be helpful to know where you intend to spend the night. If you go with reservstions, you'll be all set even if you just make them a day ahead. Your hospitalero can assist you there too. The transfer system is very simple. There will be an envelop to fill out and deposit about 6€ per bag in. The hospitalero will tell you what time in the morning your bag needs to be ready snd generslly left in the lobby. Do have a small day pack with you for a few essentials like sunscreen, camera, snacks that you might want to carry. But, don't worry about food really. There are so many cafe/bars, convenience stores, restaurants, etc. along The Way that you can stop at to rest, drink and eat. Your bag will be delivered to your next albergue generally sometime in the afternoon. I used the service as well as many others I met and no one had a problem. JacoTrans is very reliable!

    Keith, one last thought regarding backpacks for your son. If he doesn't already have one, I'd recommend that you chat with an outfitter to make sure it fits him. I can't imaging that he'll need one want larger than a 20-24L pack. Osprey make some excellent packs. You'll just have to check into what would be most appropriate for a youth.

    Buen Camino!
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2017
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  12. Keith Bold

    Keith Bold New Member

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    Thanks Wily. This is really helpful. So we can arrange to transfer our packs day by day? That means my boy, Elliot, won't have to carry one. I was assuming we'd need sleeping bags and mats but if we stay in private albergues we will have bedding (I think?). One last question if I may. What's a hospitality? Someone employed by the alburgues?
    Thanks again. Really glad I found this forum.
    Regarding the pack, I'm looking at osprey youth packs. I was looking at 40l but agree with your 25l.

    Keith
     
  13. UnkleHammy

    UnkleHammy Well-Known Member

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    In spanish words that end with "ero" indicate the name of a profession. Usually you can guess the rest by using your imagination. A course in spanish helps as well as on line courses.
    Duolingo is good.
     
  14. Wily

    Wily Camino Francés 2016; Camino Portugués 2017

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    Hey Keith - Yes, you arrange baggege transfer day by day, albergue by albergue. The hospitalero/a is the person working at the albergue. One of my favorite things about the Camino was the genuine kindness offered by the hospitaleros to the pilgrims. They will be able to help you with any number of things. Truly, a unique group of people!

    In the albergues, aside from possibly just a blanket, there is no bedding. You need to either bring a sleeping bag or sleeping sheet. As you will be traveling in August, a sleeping sheet may be more than enough. However, some like a bit more so the choice of a sleeping bag is also popular. No need to carry a sleeping mat as you don't plan on camping. Although I didn't encounter bed bugs, I did spray my sleeping bag with Permethrin prior to leaving just as a precaution. Most outdoor type stores sell it or you can find it online. If you do decide you and Elliott want sleeping bags, you need nothing heavier than a light one-season bag. Mine, for example, weighs just over one pound.

    Yes, the 40L would be too large for your son. I like that you've already identified a 25L one that should work. Remember, neither of you need that much on the Camino. In this Forum, you will find several threads discussing packing lists. Travel light my friend! Buen Camino!
     
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  15. danvo

    danvo Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Keith, my son had 30L backpack, i had 40L (june/july). You will be walking at very hot days, so no sleeping bag, only cover blanket (or, if you want to take a sleeping bag, then 1-season, very light) As I wrote - if your son want to take some unneeded things, he must carry them. We carried our backpacks all the way, no transport services. Important for you (as father) is protect your son, but first of all is accept, if he want to carry his backpack - he will be proud of himself that he did it. My son saw in store 750grams Nutella, in glass, so minimum 1kg, but he wanted it (!) So I said him that he must carry it - he accepted it - and no problem :D (Little bit crazy, but best learning lesson). Btw. during our trip I bought it again :) So your son has more energy as you think...
    Buen camino :)
     
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  16. raymond john

    raymond john Well-Known Member

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    Keith
    Thank you for your kind words. Remember you don't walk the camino by accident and if its possible try not to over organise your camino, just go with the flow where you can a and be amazed by the camino experience, meeting , sleeping, eating and sharing with pilgrims from all over the world. it will change your lives more than you could you have ever imagined. Have you seen Martin Sheen film "The Way" In my opinion its a must see film. You can get it on Amazon approx £5/6 Also watch the interview with Martin and his son Emilio Estavaz about the making of the film. I would also recommend reading Susie Tarver book Field of Stars, a story of her journey to Santiago. Its an excellent read , full of fun, laughter and tears. I don't think its available on amazon.

    I'm a member of the Contrafernity of St James (CSJ), its London based charity established to promote walking the camino. We have a excellent website csj.org.uk, in addition a Refugio ( Albergue ) at Rabanal de Camino and has an excellent reputation with the Pilgrims, and you will have difficulty finding better accommodation on the camino. We provide B&B, showers, laundry & kitchen facilities and serve afternoon tea in the Garden. It's by donation only. Unfortunately you cannot pre book the accommodation, its on a first come first serve bases.
    FYI I attach copy of a video of CSJ Gaucelmo which I hope you will enjoy.
    https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/movie-of-our-time-as-hospitaleros-at-refugio-gaucelmo.36773/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+PilgrimageToSantiagoDeCompostela+(Camino+de+Santiago+de+Compostela)
    I note you are planning not to walk the meseta due to time constraints. I personally enjoyed walking the meseta, the long rolling hills and I thought it was just like being at home . Consider, if its possible and you have a few days spare in your itinerary, just try and walk 1 or 2 stages and experience the peseta and be amazed
    Don't be surprised when you reach Santiago, You will realise that it will not be the end of your journey. it's just the being
    .
    Carpe Diem

    Raymond John
     
  17. RJS

    RJS Well-Known Member

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    Hi again Keith

    Pleased to be of help

    I can’t say that I am surprised that your son “is resolute. The Camino Frances it’s going to be” as, when you look at the stats, you can see how many pilgrims opt for the this route compared to all the others http://caminoteca.com/about-camino/statistics/

    In fact, as unbelievable as this sounds – Some Pilgrims think that The Camino Frances is the ONLY Pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela !!!!



    You asked about booking ahead day by day – There are two main options

    1) See how you feel and how the weather is when you get up in the morning and then ask the Hosptalario to book that nights stop giving him an idea of the distance you want to cover – Hospitalario’s in the private Albergue’s will have their preferred options and be will usually be happy to perform this service for you

    2) Just set off and see how you go, then when you stop for lunch, consult your accommodation list and ring using your mobile phone – Sometimes you will also see other accommodation options on fliers in cafes of nailed to trees etc, so when this happens, you often have more choice than indicated on the lists



    Although I normally advocate taking a sleeping bag, as you are intending using Private Albergue’s, as these always provide bed linen, there is no need to take sleeping bags yourselves (Normally the reason that I advocate taking a sleeping bag is that Municipal Albergue’s usually don’t provide bed linen (Although increasingly they are now providing a paper sheet and pillow case)and when the beds are all taken, they usually let some pilgrims sleep on the floor, so if you were intending using taking a Municipal Albergue, in my own view, sleeping bags are more or less essential)



    Finally – a few words on transporting your rucksacks ahead http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/p/m/2546b7/



    Good Luck and Buen Camino

    Rob
     
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  18. danvo

    danvo Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Keith, thanks for these words from Raymond. It is true. "try not to over organise your camino, just go...." and enjoy. Be open for daily surprises, daily miracles... for everything on the way.
    ahh... The way movie: YES :D
     
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  19. Greg Canning

    Greg Canning Well-Known Member

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    Keith

    Welcome to the forum. I see lots of good advice already given and there is plenty more all round this site. I am sure you will check out the advice on packing light and the really important info around choosing the right walking shoes for both you and your son.

    In relation to your knee issue, I too have pretty dodgy knees and I found using walking poles and a knee support (I got one of the elasticated types in Boots) a great help. Funnily it is on the hill descents I had most problems and that's where the poles really helped. Get a pair of good, lightweight, poles and practice with them. There are lots of youtube vids to show how to make best use of them.

    I see you are already planning preparatory walks but I would caution that it can be very difficult to replicate the impact of coninuous walking over a period of days with a backpack. The first couple of days can be a real challenge, a fantastic experience but a real challenge, so please consider taking a day's break in Pamplona. This will give you both a chance to recover and carry on all the stronger.

    My big concern would be the heat in August. I have walked in late September and early October and we still got temperatures into the high 20's early 30's. So as others have said make sure you both stay well hydrated, wear a cap or hat that covers your necks and start as early in the day as possible.

    Buen Camino

    Greg
     
  20. Wily

    Wily Camino Francés 2016; Camino Portugués 2017

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    Hey Keith - I, too, would recommend watching The Way if you haven't already seen it. Currently, if you have a Netflix subscription, it is available there. I have now watched it a number of times and thoroughly enjoy it each and every time. However, as Hollywood tends to do, the film highly romanticizes walking the Camino. It's very successful In a number of ways, but it also fails in other aspects. If you don't quite have a mental picture of this journey, The Way captures the beauty and overall excitement of this pilgrimage. It also, and I think it is the main strength of the film, shows the emotional road that all of the characters travel. Why one walks the Camino is very individual and this point is brought home from the beginning to the end of the film. Where I believe the film fails is in it's depiction of the physical challenge of a 500-mile walk. Walking that distance for 30+ days is tough by most people's standards! Not all pilgrims complete the Camino as they have to abandon it for physical reasons. The reality is that you might find yourself walking for six or more hours through rain and mud in Galicia. The physical challenge and reality could have been better conveyed. Nonetheless, watch the film and let it be a spark for your enthusiasm for the Camino. Then, check out some YouTube videos to perhaps get a slightly more realistic picture of what is ahead for you. It will be an experience that you and your son talk about for a very long time. Buen Camino!
     
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  21. Wily

    Wily Camino Francés 2016; Camino Portugués 2017

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    Keith - Let me reinforce this point made by Greg as well as comment on the importance of rest days in general. Taking your first break in Pamplona is well advised! It's a tough climb over the Pyrenees and then another two solid days of hiking to reach Pamplona. Although right now you may think that's too early for a rest day, but after your initial 3-4 days of hiking, a rest will help you recharge and then be ready to be on your way again. Plus, Pamplona is a great place for a break that I think both you and Elliott will enjoy.

    As I learned traveling with an 11 year old, I couldn't always push on at my pace. As you plan your Camino, build periodic rests days in for both of you. Although many pilgrims break in the major cities, Pamplona, Burgos, and Leon, there are many other smaller towns along The Way that are good spots for a break. My observation is that a general fatigue builds when you are walking day after day after day. Your rest days will work to ensure a good Camino all the way to Santiago.
     
  22. Orava

    Orava Active Member

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    Wily makes a good point here. When I look back to my first CF in 2015 the majority of casualties from my first "family" occurred between Pamplona and Logrono. Unless you have "trained" and hit the ground running it seems the zone after Pamplona is a killer if you are trying to keep up an unrealistic pace.
     
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  23. anniem

    anniem Active Member

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    Keith, there is so much good advice here that I have little to add really. Perhaps don't be too vehement about missing the Meseta. Like others here it was one of my favourite bits. What I will say is be relaxed and prepared to catch a bus/taxi occasionally when and if you need to. I walked in 2015 aged 70 with an arthritic knee and also developed tendonitis (which many do) however it was all manageable and mostly fun. Remember Ibuprofen is readily available in all Farmacias in Spain and it comes in 600mg tabs! It isn't called Camino Candy for nothing! Buen Camino.
     
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