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Camino de Santiago – preparations, pt. 1

by Monday, June 8, 2020

What do you need if you want to go on Camino de Santiago? How do you prepare for an adventure like that?

In my first post (click) I shared with you what is a pilgrimage. From where it starts, what is the idea of it and why I decided to do it.

If you already know that you want through the whole way or a part of it, I have a few tips to share with you. Honestly, I can’t wait to get my luggage done and dive into a new travel experience. Because..this Way, it makes you fall in love with it, you become addicted to this way of life.

And a bit of a back story – before starting the big walk, I haven’t researched anything about it. I did not know what to expect, besides the endless coastlines and the mountains’ areas. I did not want to read any details, just what was going to be the weather in this month and a half, and if there was something more extreme, that I should be prepared for.

The road is not just a straight path – you will have mountains, valleys, uphills and downhills. It goes through the Pyrenees mountain and several other areas of Spain. You need to have the endurance and the will for all of these changes. I did not know how good my experience was by that time, however, I do go every year for a 7-days trip in the Bulgarian mountains and I enjoy walking, so I was ready to explore.

From where do I start?

In my first post (here), I explained to you all the different routes that lead to Santiago de Compostela. First, you should choose which route you are going to walk and is it going to be the full way or just a part of it. If you decide to do the French route, it starts from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. You can fly to Spain or France and to get a train/bus to the city.

If you choose the Coast way (The North Camino), it is starts from Irun, which is a city on the border with France. Again you can fly to Spain, from Madrid there is a bus to there, or fly to France and use FlixBus like I did.

Do I need to know Spanish?

I will put it that way – you would be able to walk the way without knowing anything in Spanish and you will pick up some words for sure. But, it is always better to know at least the main things like asking for directions, to know how to order coffee and food, to be able to make a simple conversation with someone. It is always helpful and a new language opens many doors.

What kind of shoes do I need?

Comfortable and resistant! The way is long and the maximum optimal km per day for me are 25-30km. Of course, there were days that we walked 35km and others – 16 km. So here we come to the shoes. I do think that the best kind of shoes are waterproof light hiking boots. There are people who walk with trainers, but for me mountain shoes are better choice. If you do not have and you are going to buy a pair, be sure that you wear them a few times before the big walk. Your feet need to get used with the shoes and I bet you do not want to have blisters on the first day, do you? As well, you can get some walking sticks with you or just find a branch or stick on the way. I did not use any of this. Flip-flops are needed too or some kind of light sandals. After much of walking, you will need to relax and give some air to your feet and leave the boots aside.

How big backpack do I need?

As small as you can fit in. Mine was 30 L, I guess it is perfect for a woman, and for a man – 40 L is great. Try to get only the things that are really necessary for you. You may think that 10-12 kg are not heavy, but after so many walked km, you will feel them more and more.

What should I take with me?

Let’s start with the clothes. The type of clothes you are going to bring with you will depend on the season that you choose to walk your Camino. I choose the last summer months – late August and September. And it was warm, but not too hot. You need 2-3 t-shirts, light and easy drying ones, 1-2 blouses with long sleeves (maybe a jumper or polar). In the night is cold, so you may often sleep with your clothes. Trousers and shorts, here the choice is yours, I had 2-3 pair of sports leggings, it was great because there were drying quick. Socks – they must be long, and you need at least 3 pairs. You may wear the same pants or t-shirt for two days in a roll, but it is not going to happen with your socks. The feet will sweat and you need to change them. An absolutely MUST have is – a raincoat. For you and your backpack. You never know when it is going to rain and if you are wet, you may end up without dry and clean clothes for the next day. Towel – the microfibre ones are very handy and they do not use lots of spaces. A hat and sunglasses are needed too. Walking in sunny days for 8-9 hours is always better when you are protected.

Do I need any medicines and cosmetics?

We had a small number of medicines with us – something for allergies, headache, fever, flu, plasters for blisters, bandages, cotton and iodine. As for the cosmetics – soap for yourself and for washing your clothes. I had a small set for my face wash and cream. SPF protection cream as well. Some people bring make-up, I was not one of them.

Do I need tent, mat and sleeping bag?

It is absolutely MUST to have a sleeping bag with you, whether you carry a tent or no. Thousands of people sleep every day on the places that you are going to sleep. Some of the albergues give you a disposable sleeping sheet and pillow cover. Blankets are really rare to be given. So the sleeping bag will keep you warm and safe from hygiene point of view. And you never know, if you are going to end up sleeping outside some of the nights.

For the tent, it is your own choice. We choose to sleep 60 % in the pilgrim hostels and 40 % in the tent. There were places that you could put your tent in the yard of the albergue. This was our favourite option. Why? Because we were only by yourselves without 30-40 snoring people in the same room. And we could use shower, bathroom and kitchen. About the snoring – there is always someone that will disturb your dream. So get yourself earplugs! Sleep is significantly important for everyone. You need your energy and stamina to continue your way. You do not want to be tired and angry because you couldn’t sleep.

The mats are needed in case you get a tent. They are your protection between the ground and your sleeping bag. The condensation in the night can make you wet and cold.

This post became really long, so I am going to stop here and will share more with you in my next post.

Buen Camino

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