Thursday, July 29, 2010

Via de la Plata FAQs - Camino de Compostela: What to bring and more tips

Via de la Plata FAQs: What to bring and more tips for your pilgrimage trip to Saint James the Compostela (Santiago de Compostela) using the "Via de la Plata" route.

If you have read my previous post about my pilgrimage trip to Santiago de Compostela (Via de la plata itinerary and 1000 Km walking meditation to Santiago de Compostela) you might got inspired and have decided to make your own pilgrimage trip. Excellent! then let me share with you some tips that might help you on planning your trip. I'm not an expert but I did learn some stuff along the way, it would be a pity if all this information would get lost in my memories.
How long will it take to reach Santiago?
What should my budget be?
Where will I sleep?
What is the Pilgrims Credential?
Can I sleep in the open?
How will I find my way? Can I get lost?
Will I meet other pilgrims? or will I be alone all the time?
When is the best time to go?
Can I do the camino by bicycle?
What do I need to bring?
What can I eat?
Do I need to do any physical training?
How can I take care of my feet and blisters?
Can I find internet service in the camino?
How is a typical day?
Additional tips.


How long will it take to reach Santiago?


It all depends on which route you choose, how many Km you plan to do per day and from which city you decide to start. Officially the "Via de la Plata" starts in Sevilla and ends in Astorga where it joins the French route to reach Santiago. The guide book that I had followed this route and divided it in 38 "etapas" (stages) so if you decide to follow the book you could reach Santiago in 38 days (no days off). You could even do it in less time if you do 40 to 50 Km a day when it's possible, but believe me, this is very hard. To avoid the big crowds coming from the French route I decided to join the Camino Sanabrés from Granja de Mereruela, about 41km from Zamora, instead of continuing until Astorga . This is a very common deviation and almost all the pilgrims that I met took this route. Using this deviation you could reach Santiago in approx. 36 days (23 etapas from Sevilla to Moreruela and 13 etapas from Moreruela to Santiago). I did it in 39 days with one day of rest.

So if you intent to start your walk from Sevilla I would recommend to have at least 40 days and more if possible. Sometimes you might just want to stay in one place and relax or you might have an injury that prevents you from continuing to walk for a day or more. There are some people that don't even have a return flight ticket or date! I think that's great, then you can really walk totally relaxed not thinking about reaching anywhere. On the other side having a deadline is also good cause it can help to push you to your limits and this is going to be the case for most people sin holidays are unfortunately a limited resource ;-) I originally had 41 days but since my flight to Sevilla was canceled due to the volcano in Iceland I lost 3 days.

But remember, it is not a race, it doesn't matter how fast or how slow you are, is all about being there an enjoying the moment although in practice you might need to rush just to be able to reach Santiago with your available days. You are free to decide in how many days to reach Santiago, how many kilometers to walk per day or how many stops to do per day.

If you don't have enough days to complete the whole route you could check your guide book and start from another city like Mérida, Cáceres, Salamanca, Zamora or even Orense. Note that to receive "La Compostela", a sort of certificate that the pilgrimages receive in the pilgrims office in Santiago, you need to walk at least 100 Km, so if you start to walk from Orense which is 109 km to Santiago you can reach Santiago in 4 days and you will be able to receive "La Compostela". Some people will do the Camino in different years like one year starting from Sevilla ending in Caceres, then the next year from Caceres until Salamanca and then the following year from Salamanca until Santiago. back to questions


What should my budget be?


The albergues charge between 5 to 15 Euros and at least two times you will need to stay in a hotel for about 25 to 35 euros. You will also find some albergues based on donations only. So, to be safe I would suggest an average of 8 euros per day.

A "menu del peregrino" cost about 8 euros.

Every day you'll need to buy some provisions like water, juice, fruit, chocolates, cheese and bread. I would say an extra 5 euro per day.

A breakfast would be around 2 euros (toast and coffee).

So this would be around 23 euros x 40 days = 920 euros.

To this budget you should add your transportation tickets (flight, train), visa costs (if you need one) and equipment costs. back to questions

Where will I sleep?


At the end of each etapa of the Camino you will find an "albergue" for pilgrims. These are something like a refuge or shelter exclusively for pilgrims. In the albergues you will normally find a bed with a mattress and a pillow, blankets, toilets and a shower with hot water. Sometimes there will be a fridge and a kitchen that you can use to make your own dinner and a special sink to make your laundry. In very rare cases you will find free internet service and a washing machine. Some of them will offer breakfast service for an additional 2 euros. All the albergues are very decent and many of them are really beautiful like in the Extremadura region. They might look like a nice hostel but please remember that they are not, they are there just to offer the basic services for pilgrims. You are normally allowed to stay in an albergue for only one night unless you have some illness.


The price range goes between 5 euros to 12 or 15 euros and some are base just on donations. You will find at least 1 albergue every 30 kilometers and just a couple of times you will need to go to a hotel for about 25 to 35 euros. Normally the guide books divide the camino in "etapas" (stages). Each etapa starts and ends in a town where there is an albergue and the total kilometers could be anywhere between 20 to 40 kilometers although in many of the etapas you can still find a town between, with an albergue to spend the night on. back to questions

What is the pilgrims credential?


The pilgrims credential is a simple document that you will need to present at every single albergue to register, otherwise they won't allow you to stay, though I doubt that could really happen. It is a sort of certification that confirms that you are indeed a pilgrim doing the camino and it shows your progress based on stamps from the different albergues where you have stayed the previous days. It is actually quite nice to see how your credential get filled with more and more stamps :-) You will also need to present the "Credential" at the Pilgrims Office once you reach Santiago de Compostela to confirm that you have walked at least 100km to be able to receive "The Compostela", your certificate for completing the Camino. Yeah, that's right, you get a certificate! I had no idea that I was going to receive a certificate until I arrived to Santiago.


Cathedral in Sevilla
You should try to get the pilgrims credential "Credencial del Peregrino" as soon as you start your Camino. If you start from Sevilla you can get the credential from the Cathedral. Check this forum for more information. You should also be able to find the credential in the albergues at the main cities. back to questions



Can I sleep in the open?


This is a very romantic idea but unfortunately very unpractical and probably dangerous. If you are carrying a tent in your backpack you could do it but that will add a lot of weight to your backpack. You might be able to do 15 to 20 Km a day but very unlikely more than that so it will take you probably a bit more than 2 months to reach Santiago. On the other side you will be free to stay anywhere you like to. I met two German guys around 50 years old that were carrying a tent with them. They were going very slow and relaxed but they had no time restriction so they could take 3 months if they wanted to.


Without a tent I don't recommend at all to try to sleep in the open unless you want to wake up the next day full of all sort of insects in every corner of your body and believe me, you can see very horrible creatures out there. One day I was "attacked" by ticks, in less than a minute I had 5 of them climbing up my legs!!! Is not uncommon to see an scorpion or a poisonous centipedes.

If you start your walk in spring the days are already quite long so you could actually be walking until 8 to 9pm without a problem so you can always find a shelter instead of trying to sleep in the open. I never had the need to even think about it, neither anybody that I met. back to questions

How will I find my way? Can I get lost?


It would be very unlikely to get really lost although it is very easy to get confused. In the camino you will find yellow arrows, seashells or stones indicating the direction that you have to follow. Sometimes it is a bit difficult to find the arrows, that's when it gets exciting :-) but don't worry, just keep walking north. Don't forget to take with you a good guide book, so when you don't see the arrows you can get some assistance from your book. I'm sure you can find a good guide in Amazon. back to questions

Will I meet other pilgrims? or will I be alone all the time?


Yes, you will definitively meet other pilgrims. If you don't want to walk alone you might be able to walk together with other pilgrims, you just need to make sure that they like that as well. If you start from Sevilla then the first week and the last week will be the most crowded. Sometimes in the albergues you could find 10, 15 or even 20 people but in some occasions there could be only a couple or none. If you start early as everybody then most likely you'll meet the pilgrims on the way. I was always the last one to leave the albergue so I rarely met other pilgrims on the way. But if you want to meet a lot of people and have a more sociable camino then probably the best is that you do the French route. back to questions

When is the best time to go?


I started my walk the 14th of May and I honestly think I chose the best time of the year. It was not extremely hot and not cold at all and in the 39 days I only had 4 days of rain. I don't recommend starting later than that, I was told that it could reach 45 degrees Celsius or even more and besides all the green in the Andalucia, Extremadura and Castilla regions will die and the landscape will become brown. Not so beautiful anymore. back to questions

Can I do the camino by bicycle?


Definitively. The camino can be done by foot, by bicycle, by horse or with a support car but once in the albergue the preference will be given to the pilgrims that go by foot. Still, it will be rare to find an albergue completely crowded in the Via de la Plata. back to questions

What do I need to bring?



When planning a long walking trip like this, you need to make sure that you take exactly what you need and nothing more than that to avoid carrying any unnecessary weight, and believe me, every gram makes a difference. The lighter the backpack the best, I think the average would be 8 Kg. To whatever weight you are carrying in your backpack remember always to consider an additional 2 kilos from the 2 liters of water that you'll need to carry with you.

Things you should buy in your hometown

A guide book: It's not necessary to bring a topographic map, all you need is a good guide book. You can find just a few Via de la Plata guide books in English on Amazon. Read the reviews so you can decide which one is more convenient for you. The two books that you see here were recommended on a forum. A guide book will normally give you plenty of information about the history of the route, how to prepare for your trip, tips, a description of the path that you need to follow each day and sometimes a map of the route. If you want a free version you can download one from this website www.caminoguide.net although I think it doesn't give enough information.

A 35 - 40 liters backpack: Don't go cheap, look for the best quality although not necessarily the must expensive one. I think 35 to 40 liters is the best size, most of the pilgrims had this size. This doesn't mean that you need to fill your backpack to capacity. Actually the empty space you will use it to put some fruits, chocolates and your "bocadillo" for the day and to comfortable fit your camel back and sweaters. At the beginning I had a 25 liters backpack and somehow I manage to fit everything in. It was the smallest one compare to all the other pilgrims but I always had to hang a couple of things outside and the weight was to much so the shoulder straps started to unstitch. I tried to stitch it myself several times but finally I had to buy a new one. I bought the one on the link, a 35 liters NorthFace. Pretty expensive but perfect. Make sure that your backpack has chest and hip straps, this will help to distribute the weight and by adjusting tightly the hip straps it will help keep must of the weight in your hips and legs instead off on your shoulders.

A Camel bag: Or any kind of water recipient that you can put inside your backpack and drink it with an external pipe. If you decide to take a bottle instead of a camel bag then make sure it is a metallic bottle like those sold by Laeken, they can keep the liquids with a very fresh taste on contrary to plastic bottles. The problem with the bottles is that normally you would need to stop to take it out from your backpack. When you do a 30 km walk then stopping can also make you tired so you will try to stop just when necessary and then you wont drink enough water. My recommendation if you decide to take a bottle is to keep it in a very reachable place so you can use it without having to stop and take off your backpack, otherwise just carry it in your hands.

A walking stick: You can use a wooden stick, bamboo stick or this special trekking sticks sold in adventure shops. The stick is very useful to keep your balance when crossing small streams of water or to walk up or down in difficult surfaces. If you start from Sevilla you might be able to find a bamboo stick next to the river at the beginning of the walk

Good footwear: Now the question is trekking boots or trekking shoes? I thought that as there would be times that I would have to walk on the asphalt for hours and to pass by cities sidewalks and streets, trekking boots would be too heavy and hard for my weak knees so I bought a pair of trekking shoes. They were indeed very comfortable and although they were good for all kind of terrain, after you have walked several days for more than 5 hours carrying a 10kg backpack everything makes a difference specially when the terrain is full of small rocks. Trekking shoes have a harder sole than sport shoes but not as hard as a trekking boots. So trekking boots would have actually given more protection to the sole of my feet. Yes, they would have been too heavy and hard to walk on roads but comparable you will be walking more on stones, gravel, mud, sand and grass than on anything else. Trekking boots give also good protection to your ankle and since they are higher they can keep sand and mud out of the boot but normally they will cause more blisters than trekking shoes. Overall I recommend trekking boots over trekking shoes.

Sandals: These are as important as the trekking boots. After having walked for 5 to 10 hours on your boots once you arrive at your destination the first thing you want to do is to take them off and let your feet breath. You will probably think "Oh, I'm just going to rest and no longer move" but that's normally not the case, you will still need to do some walking at least to find a shop for the next day provisions and to find a restaurant for lunch or dinner and in the bigger cities you will want to do some sightseeing. If you have sandals then you can still walk comfortably with your feet exposed or even wearing a pair of socks if they are too soar. It might not look pretty but it will feel comfortable and that's what matters. Sandals can also be used to cross rivers or places with water where you won't be able to use your shoes. I don't recommend flip-flops, they might be lighter to carry than sandals but normally not as comfortable. After the long walks your feet will be too sensitive and the middle thing that goes between your big toe and second toe will cause lots of discomfort, irritation or even blisters. If you still want to take flip-flops make sure they are super comfortable.

Torch/lamp: Normally in the albergues the lights are off at 10pm but many people would go to sleep even earlier so when you get inside the room you will try to keep the lights off out of courtesy so in order to move around and look for your stuff in your backpack is good to have a torch. The best I think would be a headlamp like those made by Black Diamond or Petzl with 4 to 5 led lights that can also be use for reading and for walking during the night.

Sleeping bag: Some people might say that for traveling a sleeping bag is not really necessary but I can assure you that to do the Camino to Santiago you will need one. Normally the albergues expect you to bring a sleeping bag, they will provide you a mattress and in colder locations a blanket but no bedsheets and even then you might prefer to use your own sleeping bag than sleeping in a bed sheet that have been use for who knows how many people. There are a few exceptions of course where you will get a very comfortable bed with very clean bedsheets and blankets, but that's not usually the case. Pillows are normally provided.


A cotton liner: This is a sort of portable bed sheet. Is not indispensable and I think I was the only one to have one but I can tell you that it was very comfortable and practical. I used it inside my sleeping bag so if it was too hot I would only cover myself with the liner and if it got colder I would also cover myself with the sleeping bag. It's also more comfortable to sleep in a cotton bed sheet than in contact with the synthetic material of a sleeping bag.

3 changes of clothes: This means 3 t-shirts, 3 underwear and 3 pair of socks. Actually you only need 2 changes since you will be washing your clothes everyday. You take an extra one in case you couldn't make your laundry or if your clothes didn't dry during the day. For t-shirts I would recommend the sport t-shirts made of special synthetic fabrics that helps to keep them dry. They might not be so comfortable on the skin as a cotton t-shirt but your sweat will dry faster and they will also dry faster after you've washed them. If you have very white skin and are sensitive to the sun then you might also like to take a thin long sleeve t-shirt to walk during the day.

Toilette paper: When you gotta go you gotta go :-)

A towel: Adventure shops normally sale special towels that are thinner than the average and dry very quick although they are not as soft and comfortable as a regular towel.

Waterproof Plastic Bags or Sleeves: These are some kind of plastic covers or envelopes sometimes with a Velcro zipper which are pretty handy to keep your documents or book protected in case of rain.

Diaper safety pin: Very practical to hang your laundry on your backpack or on a string in the albergue. Clips are also good but not as practical as a pin.

Things you could buy in Sevilla

Camp mat or travel mattress: Just in case the albergue is packed and you don't have any other option than to sleep on the floor. I never had to use mine to sleep but I did use it to do some stretching exercises, as a chair when there was no place to rest or to have a pick nick on the way.

First aid kit: You need to bring some indispensable things to take care of your blisters and anti-inflammatory drugs and an anti-inflammatory cream in case you get a tendinitis or a twist ankle. To take care of your blisters you'll need: a blister plaster, surgical tape, Isobetadine, cotton, alcohol, a disinfected needle, a string and matchbox. If you suffer from pollen allergy then is also a good idea to bring your allergy pills. You will be exposed to all sort of pollen varieties.

Toiletry: Everything in a portable size: toothpaste, tooth brush and a dental floss. The best is to have the soap and shampoo all in one in a 75 - 100 ml bottle. For girls: No make up allowed :-) but body lotion is certainly a good idea, even for guys.

Washing soap: For your laundry. Some people will use the same soap that they use to take a shower to avoid carrying extra weight.

Sun lotion: The strongest that you can find specially if you have white skin.

Lip balm: to protect your lips from the cold and from the strong sun (with UVA protection)

Nail cutter

Razor

Swiss knife: Useful but not indispensable. Practical to cut the cheese for your bocadillo and to open the many bottles of wine that you'll be drinking ;-)

Spoon: To eat yogurt in your breakfast when there are no spoons available at the albergues.

Sunglasses: Very important to protect your eyes from the sun, dust and flying insects.

A travel hat: It will protect your face, neck and help to keep you fresh.

1 small plastic recipient for food: Useful but not indispensable. You might like to buy cheese or some other ingredients to make a bocadillo on the way. You can keep them inside the plastic recipient to avoid the smell spreading inside your backpack.

Digital camera with extra batteries an the battery recharger: Not indispensable but great to have with you, otherwise how will you share your experiences with your family and friends? Still I saw pilgrims that didn't have one with them. I love the Canon PowerShot series, small an excellent quality.




A Smart Phone and recharger (Update June 2011). A mobile phone is useful in case of emergencies or just to contact your family, friends or fellow pilgrims. But like a reader commented below a smartphone like the iPhone can also help to save some weight if used instead of a digital camera and to carry a digital guide book. I actually wanted to bring with me the iPhone 4 but it was not available in Europe at that moment, but now that I'm traveling in India I'm using the iPhone 4 and I love it, it has basically replaced my Canon Powershot. But I'm not sure I would have like it on the Camino, personally I think a normal camera would do, but everybody is different so it is your choice. I wrote below what I think are the pros and cons of having an iPhone on the Camino. In case you decide to go for the iPhone 4 then I recommend to get the Joby Gorillamobile Flexible Tripod for the iPhone. It's awesome!.

Pros:
  • You can save some weight by bringing a camera - phone all in one
  • You can also save some weight by using a digital guide or a Via de la Plata application for the iPhone
  • You can make pretty good pictures and edit the pictures directly on the phone with third party applications
  • You can make lots of High Definition videos and edit them right on the phone with the iMovie application. This is one of my favorite features of the iPhone
  • You can save money and time by using your phone to check your e-mails whenever Wifi is available or if you have a internet data plan with your Sim Card.

Cons:
  • The phone battery wont last as long as a normal digital camara and since you'll be constantly exposed to sunlight you will need to set the brightness at least to 50% to be able to clearly view the screen, and this will also reduce the battery life. So I think you will probably need to recharge it on a daily basis
  • You might get distracted from your experience by having a smartphone with Wifi and with so many functionalities. That's another reason why I just brought with me a regular phone, I didn't even bring an Mp3 player with me. But we are all different, some people love listening to music while walking
  • It will be a lot more expensive and I think more fragile than a regular compact digital camera so you will have to be very careful while using it (it doesn't have a leash like digital cameras in case you accidentally drop it) and make sure that it doesn't get wet with sweat or rain or to much dust.
  • The pictures with good day light are really good, but still not as good as a regular compact digital camera

And if you prefer another smartphone you can read this article Comparing Today's Hottest Mobile Phones to help you decide which one is the best for you

Either way don't forget to get a local Sim card for your phone as soon as you arrive in Spain. It will be a lot cheaper if you need to make any calls within Spain or if you need to receive calls from abroad.

back to questions

What can I eat?


More important than what to eat is what to drink. You need lots of water, at least 2 liters during the walk. Keeping your body hydrated will avoid lesions to your muscles. You could also take a sports drinks to replenish the electrolytes or a fruit juice for vitamins and a nice taste. Don't wait to feel thirsty to start drinking some water, then it is already too late. After finishing my trip I've realized that I was dehydrated. During my first 6 days I was feeling excellent but after that my performance started to drop. I develop a foot tendonitis and later I started to experience severe muscle pains in several leg muscles and after ending a walk I would constantly feel a sensation of a cramp coming to my feet and sometimes it was so intense that I had to stay still for a long time to avoid any painful cramp. Sometimes I also experienced change in my heart rate and body temperature. Now I know ( a bit too late) that all these are signs of dehydration. Still I never felt really thirsty but I did drink some water although apparently not enough. I thought that my cramps and pain muscle might be caused by lack of potassium so I was always eating 2 bananas per day, later I learn that cramps can also be cause by lack of sodium (salt) which is the main electrolyte lost in sweat. Check this presentation for more information about dehydration www.medicinenet.com

Additionally to the water is a good idea to have always with you a chocolate bar, seeds (peanuts, almonds and dry fruit mixed) fruits and a small cheese and ham sandwich (bocadillo). This will give you all the calories, carbohydrates and proteins that you might need during the day. Almost in every town you will find at least one shop where you can buy some basic provisions for the day.

Once you arrive at the end of the "etapa" meaning the town where you will spend the night you can look for a bar/restaurant to get some dinner or lunch. You will usually find a "menu del peregrino" for about 8 euros which will include a starter, a main dish, a desert and a drink which can be a soft drink, water or a cup of wine (and in some places a bottle of wine). Typical food is based normally on beef or pork but you can always find a good fish as alternative. Chicken is rarely offered as a menu. If you are a vegetarian then you will have to suffer a bit, Spain is not a vegetarian friendly country. You can always go for the salad (which will always come with tuna fish) and order a bocadillo with cheese or eggs or a tortilla española. I met a nice vegetarian pilgrim from Germany. At the end she swore not to eat tortilla again at least for 6 months. If you are a vegan.... then I suggest not to do the camino or you will suffer a lot :-P back to questions


Do I need to do any physical training?


Like many sites recommend I also think is a good idea to go for a hike with the backpack and the shoes that you intent to use in your trip, however I would put more emphasis in learning to warm up and to stretch your leg muscles to avoid injuries. If you can't go for a good hike then running can also be a good preparation, of course without the backpack and with running shoes :-) . Warm up for 10 to 15 minutes before running and after your run do some stretching exercises for about 10 to 20 minutes. Ankle rotations are very helpful since it is an area very pron to injury (several of my pilgrims friends including myself got a tendonitis exactly in the same area). In standing up position put all your weight on your left feet, balance and raise slightly your right knee keeping your leg relaxed. Do 10 to 20 rotations of your ankle in both directions with your right feet trying to form an imaginary circle in the ground. Repeat same exercise with your left feet. You can also do this in sitting position or just laying down in your bed.

Once you start your pilgrimage trip to Compostela is always advisable to warm up and stretch a bit your leg muscles before and after the walk. In practice I never saw any pilgrims doing this. I think the problem is that many people are just thinking about starting as soon as possible and reaching the next destination instead of just enjoying every step.

Doing warm up and stretching exercises will prevent injuries in your muscles and tendons and will avoid cramps but don't forget to also keep your body hydrated. If you don't drink sufficient fluids you might still get an injury regardless of your physical preparation.

If still you get a tendonitis then the best would be to rest and to apply an anti-inflammatory lotion. You can also take anti-inflammatory drugs but you have to be careful with your stomach cause they can be quite strong. If you don't rest the condition can worsen and you might need to stop for several days or even end your trip too early. Once the inflammation is reduce you should massage the area with the lotion and do stretching exercises in that area. It's also a good idea to apply cold water and hot water to stimulate blood circulation. If possible you should also try to see a doctor, there are health centers in almost every town. On my sixth day I got a minor foot tendonitis so the next day I decided to rest, it was a very good decision. back to questions

How can I take care of my feet and blisters?


Make sure that you keep your feet as dry as possible but moisturized. Normally during the day I would take at least one break to take off my shoes and socks to let my feet breath a little bit and dry the sweat. I will also use a bit of Vaseline between my toes to avoid blisters caused by the friction between toes. It worked wonderfully! And at the end of the day I will put some Vaseline all around the sole of my feet to keep them moisturized. A refreshing or relaxing cream might also be a good idea.

If you get a blister that is not to painful and does not create too much discomfort then the best is to cover it during the walk with a surgical tape. That will diminish the friction in that area. I did it many times and it worked pretty good but the problem was when my feet sweated a lot due to the heat, then the glue of the tape will start to melt into the socks. Alternative you can use a blister plaster that cover and protect the blister and helps in the healing process. I never used the plaster but I heard from other pilgrims that it was quite good.

If you get a painful blister in a location that can affect your walking then the best is to pierce the blister with a sterilize needle. Then you leave the string inside until the blister dries completely.

Follow these steps:

  1. Pass the string through the eye of the needle.
  2. Light up a match and use the fire to sterilize the needle. You can additionally clean the needle and the string with alcohol.
  3. Pierce the blister making two holes, one to insert the needle and one to take out the needle, and push with your clean fingers and using a cotton all the water out of the blister
  4. Leave a piece of the string inside the needle. The string will absorb any additional formation of water. The idea is to keep the blister as dry as possible so healing can occur.
  5. Keep the string in as long as necessary until the blister completely dries and moving it from time to time. Make sure that you keep the area disinfected with Isobetadine.
  6. NEVER pill off the skin of the blister. The skin works as a antiseptic bandage, if you remove the skin before the blister is completely dry you will expose the new skin too early and might get and infection.

Make sure that you treat properly your feet and blisters so you can resume your walk normally. A pain in your feet might make you walk in a unconventional way and then you might end up with a tendinitis or another problem. back to questions

Can I find internet service on the camino?


In very rare occasions you will find an albergue with free internet service ( I only remember two places) but normally you can look for the public library in every town where they will have free internet access at certain times (don't forget "la siesta"). Wifi or an internet cafe is very rare except for in the big cities. back to questions

How is a typical day?


Normally the pilgrims would wake up between 6 and 7 to start walking between 7 and 7.30 in the morning to avoid the heat during the day. The longer the walk the earlier they would wake up. I was always the last one leaving around 8.30 and 9 am

During the day I would take a break every 10 Km (about 2 hours and a half) to ventilate my feet and to eat a snack. I know some pilgrims didn't stop at all regardless how long the walk was. Very impressive!!

The first thing you do once you arrive at the albergue is to take a shower and then to make your laundry. After that the Spanish would take the "siesta" and the rest of us will be looking for a shop to buy some provision for next day, a bar/restaurant to have some good food, write in our journal, read, chat with the other pilgrims or just rest until is time to sleep and get ready for the next day. back to questions


Additional tips.

  • As soon as you arrive to Spain buy a new sim card for your mobile. Sometimes you might need to call the albergues in advance or you might like to be in touch with other pilgrims so having a Spanish card will be a cheap option. It will also be cheaper for you if your friends or family would like to contact you.
  • Try the fresh local sheep cheese. Hmmm is delicious
  • If you need to buy some sports equipment while in Spain I would recommend to go to Decathlon, an adventure shop from France that sells low price equipments. They owned the Quechua brand which is very popular for backpacks. There is a store in Salamanca and in a few other main cities.
  • In Orense you can plan to go to the thermal water baths "Termas Outariz". Go as early as you can, you can have lunch or dinner there. The place is just beautiful so you won't regret it. To reach it just go to the main square in the old town and take the touristic train. You can ask for more information at the albergue.
  • And here are some additional tips from another pilgrim who did the last 266Km starting from Puebla de Sanabria Some Reflections (and tips) on Via de la Plata (Sanabres).
back to questions


Well, I hope you find useful this tips on planning your pilgrimage to Saint James the Compostela following the "Via de la Plata" route. Enjoy the "Camino", just one step at a time.

3 comments:

  1. Very useful suggestions. I agree with your suggestions after walking the Camino Sanabres portion of the VdlP this year.

    One comment about Internet and phone that might save some weight and money. I took my iPhone and found it to be essential. I used the camera for photos, the computer was for the Consumer Eroski guide, and the WiFi for the various bar/cafes with free public WiFi access. I never activated the phone feature, but could have if needed. I seldom used pay Internet machines in the albergues or bars. I'd estimate that about 30-40% of the bar/cafes have free public WiFi, which was a surprise since I'd found that virtually non-existent in my 2008 Camino Frances.

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  2. Thanks Sandy for your tip. I updated the post with your suggestion. Yeah I know... it took me a while :-)

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  3. I just added additional tips from another pilgrim who did the last 266Km starting from Puebla de Sanabria and who has also done the French route before. The link is right at the end of the post. Quite a different experience compared to mine.

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