Camino Frances (the Spanish Camino)
The Camino Frances (also known as the Spanish Camino or the French Camino) goes from the South of France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, a total of 780kms (484 miles).
I did this walk in 2017 from St Jean Pied de Port (pronounced Pier de Por) to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
It was funny the way it came about. I was talking to one of the women in my walking group and she mentioned she had done a Camino the year before. At this stage I had never heard of the Camino de Santiago but after our conversation the topic seemed to come up 2-3 times in short succession. I knew this was for a reason so decided it was meant to be.
My walking friend and I spent many hours pouring over maps and books to determine how many hours/kms we would walk each day and how long we would take to complete the walk. The great thing about walking independently is that you can take as long as you want to complete it and start and stop when you feel like it.
When to walk the Camino
We also considered the best time to walk. We had heard of people who had walked in Spring who had experienced heavy rain, and in some cases, it had rained every day. Not appealing.
Summer also didn’t appeal as this was when vast numbers of walkers took to the trails and that didn’t appeal one bit. Also, this was Spain at its hottest and walking in the heat just makes the job doubly-hard. The large numbers of walkers also puts strain on the accommodation and facilities along the way.
We decided to walk in Autumn (Sept/Oct) as it would be cooler and there would be less people on the trail. It also meant there would be less competition for accommodation.
Planning Planning Planning
We spent many many hours planning our Camino, what we needed to take, how long we would be away, what sort of accommodation we would stay in, etc and the closer it got to leaving the more excited we got.
Our main source of information was what some consider to be the Camino bible – “A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino“ by John Brierley. This is a fantastic book which has been well researched and is updated every year to make sure that information is still current. This book breaks down the Camino into manageable sections with guidelines and suggestions as to daily distances. Each section also contains a really useful map showing walking routes, distances and features. This is a guideline only and in some cases we followed these guidelines and in others we decided to walk either longer or shorter sections. It all comes down to how far you want to walk in a day.
Camino Daily Distances
We averaged about 21kms per day. From recollection the shortest day was about 17kms and the longest about 27kms. We preferred to start early in the morning so we could get to our destination mid afternoon. This then gave us time for a shower, to do our washing, wander around the area we were staying in, relax, write in our diary, have a glass of wine & dinner. I used to see people arriving in a village/town late in the day and wondered how they would get a chance to get everything done in preparation for the next day. But I know everyone is different.
Your days take on their own routine. You get up and get away at what ever time suits you, you walk a while, stop and have breakfast. You walk some more and stop for lunch. You walk some more and eventually stop for the day. You find some accommodation, do your chores, deal to your blisters, have a good look around, go for dinner, go to bed early.
Sometimes your feet and body are so tired at the end of the day that you wonder how you will keep going the next day, but surprisingly enough when the next morning rolls around your body has had a chance to rest and you’re ready to face the day anew.
Shared Camino Camaraderie
One good thing about the Camino Frances is the shared camaraderie . Because there are more walkers on this route you can get to see people for a few days in a row until one of you decides to take a different route or stay over somewhere longer. This means that you get the chance to have shared dinners and can strike up some great conversations. It’s really great sitting down together for a shared meal and talking about your day. And because the Camino Frances is well set up for pilgrims, many restaurants offer pilgrim menus which are really cheap and include 2-3 courses and lots of red wine! Down the track I still keep in touch with 4-5 people I met along the Camino via Facebook.
I definitely recommend the Camino Frances as a good place to start for long-distance walking as it’s geared up for the walker with lots of hostels and facilities which makes your tired muscles and blisters just a little bit easier to cope with!