Now that it's the end of summer, I'd be really interested to know how it panned out…
Did the crowds through July and August cause any problems for anyone?
Any accommodation issues?
If so, how did you cope? Did anyone end up sleeping in sports halls or some other make-shift shelter?
Any problems arising from pilgrims being stressed and cranky?
And were there a lot of young people on the Camino during the summer months?
I'm just curious about anecdotal information – particularly it would be interesting to hear from anyone who can compare this summer to previous years…
(Has the movie The Way significantly increased the numbers?)
Hil Bill , I just came back from the CAMINO DEL NORTE , I chose it because I thought it will be less crowded than the FRANCES. bad idea, it was collapsed. Impossible to find a place in albergue.I was lucky once, I got the last mattress on the floor in a old school rooms full of young people. I was the only fivety something there. Poor ventilation. bad odor, humidity (it is normal in basque country) and the worst : 4 showers for 90 people.. So I tried hotels, pensions and find it difficult . Completo, everything. The hospitaleros told me they had never seen so many people on the Norte. It was very stressing not to known if I could find a shelter for the night .At noon I was passing by albergues and so many backpack lined up. at noon !! The statistics from the pilgrim office in Santiago shows an increased numbers of pilgrims (+12%) but I think they are more, because a lot were on the road just for 15 days or a week. and did not get the Compostella.Anyway the line to get it were very long , I saw pilgrims sleeping at the entrance of the office . Maybe some get discouraged and left without it . More americans.(+50%) irishes,and new zeland, south africans pilgrims inspired by the Way. And 380 chineses.
Thank you for posting this. You’re right, you don’t expect the del Norte to be so jammed.
It sounds like the walk was very stressful for you.
(It won’t be like that next April on the Portuguese! đź™‚ )
In amongst all that, did you manage to find any sense of peace, or meditative space?
Bill & Marie,
Everything I have read suggests the Camino is chock full of pilgrims during the summer months. I surmised it would be the Frances, full of students and people with families who can only walk when school is in recess – simply because that seems to be the most popular route.
I guess it makes sense the Norte would be crowded also, being by the sea like it is, but I just would never have imagined it to be so. I thought it was a pretty obscure route.
Arlene, like you I thought the del Norte would not be so popular. I wonder if that’s just in the summer?
I remember a couple of years ago when Jennifer and I were staying in Galicia, we drove along the coast back into France and there were very few pilgrims on that route, but that was in early May.
I noticed how the crowds increased even a month later, and by the end of june the area had transformed into something entirely different!
So many people!
Bill and Arlene,
The Norte used to be an obscure route, I met a farmer whose paralized mother sat all day long in front of her door counting pilgrims . He tolds me than 10 years ago mom saw one hundred, in one year . 5 years ago 5000 , 2 years ago 8000, and this year 10000 til august !!
A lot are pilgrims that have already done the FrancĂ¨s and look for something more challenging.
It is very beautiful, particularly in the basque and cantabria parts, but very difficult. The climb over the pyrenĂ©es to roncevallĂ¨s seems a walk for old folks compared to most of the stages.
They are knee-killers. But very worthy.
I had a lot of WOW moments and even time for meditation. Even moments of silence, only the song of the ocean, the murmure of the wind, and the feeling of a strong ,powerful energy coming from the ocean and the earth. Very different from the frances.
I met few people, because I had a lot of streches without any pilgrims on sight, I think the collapse comes from the fact that there are fewer shelters than on the FrancĂ¨s.
Groups of young people on vacations but also more traditional pilgrims : an ex soldier , from afghanistan , cancer striken, with hip and knees prothesis ( there is hope for you Bill) , walking on behalf of a dead younger soldier. whose picture was on his backpack.
And a teen in trouble walking with a volonteer, three months on the Camino, to find a new way of life..
This Camino demands more physical preparation than the FrancĂ¨s. Maybe in two year I will continue it.
Meanwhile I am very happy thinking about OUR APRIL CAMINO , less stress for sure đź™‚
It sounds like you had an incredible time though, and met some extraordinary people.
And I can imagine the energy of the sea being a very powerful and healing and spiritual energy – so different to the energy of the Meseta, yet no less powerful.
This paralysed woman counting pilgrims each year – and last counting 10,000 – how remarkable is that! Both that she continues to do it, but also that the numbers have increased so much.
Very much looking forward to meeting you Marie!
Moi aussi, Marie!
copied from a friends blog currently serving as hospitalera somewhere on the Meseta.
“Oh my God, this day was crazy. We’ve been getting 15 to 20 pilgrims each day, kind of slow and easy. So today we were planning to make chicken and rice for 20 or 25. We ended up with 55 pilgrims. We didn’t have to turn anyone away but we let the first pilgrims in at 12:45 ( we normally don’t open until 1:30) because it had started to rain. We had our last pilgrim come in at 7 pm.
So suddenly a dinner planned for 20 turns into a dinner for 58, including the three of us. So what do you do, add more rice and Caldo de pollo and make a vegetable pasta dish because you have vegetarians anyway so just make more of that. While checking in pilgrims, getting them beds or mats for the floor, answering questions in whatever language you can as best you can. Lots of English people to day, as well as French, Italian and Spanish, of course. We can handle all of those. ”
Kind of gives you a flair what pilgrim numbers are still like in September.
Today,a year ago I walked through the Oak and witches forest between Roncesvalles to Espinal. That day was the beginning of what I would experience almost on a daily basis – my ancestral doors wide open and whenever I deeply connected with a time and place – I found myself writing poetry. That night my childhood lullaby re-emerged as well, growing in recognition and fully finishing in Muxia.
From my diary,1 year ago after walking through the forest and standing frozen in place in front of the white cross.
An old boon ~ for my father and mother
Why am I here, this time, this place
It is the beginning yet and not the end
My walk is young, just two days hence
Did I conquer the mountain
My memory says yes
There are more to come, are you ready for more tests
The woods are cool, no sound I hear
My heart is beating fast and faster
Go on, don’t stop, there is darkness here
I had listened to the tales of my father
I remember the stories my mother told
I should be smiling
But yet my heart is cold
Is it the wind that whispers gently
Stop, sister, stop, this is a magic place
Time for you to linger
See what others don’t
And at my feet, I see my stone
Just a moments time has passed
I no longer walk alone
I meet a friend, not friend, now friend for life
A smile, a hug a look so wise and old
“Now lean on your staff, listen to the wind, the trees, turtle and dragon too
Buen Camino, peregrina bruja, we’ll meet again
At stories end, to keep your boon”
~Ingrid, daughter of Erwin,the Druid and Pauline the Healer
Light and Love
The words you wrote a year ago are incredibly powerful, and affecting.
And beautifully poetic and evocative.
Thank you for posting them here.
Thank you Bill, it was and is the most unexpected gift bestowed to me. The experience was so powerful,scary and wonderful at the same time. Ingrid
Ingrid! You’ve done it again! Your magical words have me in tears! How blessed are we to have you share your completely wonderful poetry and reflections with us all.
Thank you – Jenny
Jenny,thank you. I cry some times too when I think about both my mom and dad. My dad passed in 1973 and mom joined him 7years ago. I am their only child. As much as I believe that they are always with me, I could feel them beside me on the camino. it was at times,overwhelming.
Hi Ingrid – I know exactly what you’re saying. I feel the same way about my Mum (passed 2007) and Dad (passed 1982).
As you know, I dedicated my Camino last year to my Mum and Dad for bringing me to life and I thought so much about them them while I was walking. On a couple of occasions I had a feeling they were close by but the sensation left me as soon as I recognised it at a surface level.
Fran, the rest of my siblings and I still miss Mum and Dad so very much – they will always be loved and honoured by all of us.
Thanks again for your beautiful poetry and thoughts – Jenny xo
Dear Ingrid, thank you so much for sharing your wonderful words, feelings and sentiments. Also, your ‘sign off’ resonated with me, as yesterday I was at a 40th birthday party with approx 40 women and girls of all ages. Part of the celebrations was when we were asked (sitting outside in a beautiful courtyard under the Australian sun with a glas of champers at hand!) to introduce ourselves, give the names of our mother, grandmothers and any children we were lucky enough to have (or names of siblings to round it out). It was incredibly moving and brought this otherwise disparate group together in such a short time đź™‚
thank you, my salutation with this poem reveals much of my ancestry, an ongoing quest to many unanswered questions. It is some journey I am on.
Your quest is fascinating, and also very brave Ingrid.
Thank you for allowing us an insight into it all…
Hi Britta – I think this would be a wonderful tradition to introduce as part of the afternoon tea ritual at Refugio Gaucelmo at Rabanal next year – it will be my privilege to acknowledge you as the initiator. Jenny xo
90% off-topic, but I saw my sister last night for the first time in a couple of years — and well, my sister and her (BTW wonderful) boyfriend having seen The Way now want to walk the Camino !!!! 8o|
It’s like part of my world has just been shifted upside down.
(the 10% on-topic bit is that they’d only have three weeks in August)
Am I now committed to doing three more Caminos — May next year for myself, August next year with my sister, 2017 with Anton my wonderful walking companion of 2005 ???
how are you going to do all those Caminos on your bung knee??
Fabulous though that you’re planning it.
RE the title: Nup, it’s a good title. I don’t mind that it riffs off the movie. It’s catchy, and it is what the book is about –
Go through my movie listings, you’ll see that I know a good title…
But thank you for sticking your neck out to tell me you don’t like it!!
how are you going to do all those Caminos on your bung knee??
By making absolutely 100% sure I have all the right gear, especially the knee brace, and medical cover this time round instead of just randomly throwing some stuff into a bag 20 minutes before leaving.
yes, that’s wise. Which knee brace will you use?
This one :
That looks like a good brace, and it’s very reasonably priced too –
does it handle OA?
PS the title of yours I really like is Kiss or Kill.
That comes from a Dylan Thomas poem –
it took me nearly five years to find that title…
The poem is quoted at the start of the film…
Regarding Bill’s question about this summer, I walked from Pamplona to Burgos over a ten-day period in August and never had a problem finding space in albergues. I stayed in municipals, privados, and donativos. I never arrived before 2 pm and sometimes as late as 4 pm. I had my pick of beds every night. The only glimpse of a crowd was the line to get into the albergue in Burgos.
Pamplona to Burgos has been the most crowd-free section of the Camino for a very long time, although 20 years ago (before there were so many doing it in stages or only doing the final 100 or 200 KM etc) it was no different to anywhere else …
I’m on the Frances right now and it’s crazy! The talk of the camino is that more than 750 pilgrims are coming over the Pyrenees every day. No need to say that accommodation is hard to come by.
I have walked from Pamplona and will end up in Burgos on Sunday. And I’m sorry to say that I have actually called and booked beds for some nights. My legs are killing me right now and I cannot do more than 20 – 23 km a day. This is not the way I wanted my camino to be but that’s the reality right now.
Someone here in Santo Domingo just blamed Martin Sheen ;-)))
Do people seem to be carrying tents? Is it hard to find a spot to pitch one?
This is not what I wanted to hear since I will be arriving in Logrono to start the CF on Monday 17 September.
I do have hotels reserved for the first week, but chose mid September to begin because I thought it would not be crowded.
Arlene, unless things have changed drastically, the Camino does clear up rather quickly after about mid-september.
I walked last year beginning 4 September. I don’t remember it being crowded at all.
I specifically chose mid September to begin this year for the cooler (hopefully) weather. The beginning of September was a bit warm last year, it reminded me too much of the heat of the desert I was looking to escape. By the second week it had cooled down considerably.
However, I cannot change the weather; nor can I change the amount of Peregrinos on the CF. Whatever it is, will be the way it is meant to be.
Yesterday and today I’m off the “wave” of the Brierley stages and I must say that it helps a lot. So I think you should be good for mid September.
That is good to know.
It is said that it is wise not to follow JB’s stages because that is exactly what most pilgrims tend to do. They schedule their trip using JB’s Bible and don’t deviate at all.
Good for you that you are now as you say, “off the wave”.
Hi Karen, you also get to see a whole other side of the Camino too – a different energy altogether.