Camino de Santiago: Sarria to Santiago

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Last June I wrote about my decision to walk a section of the Camino  https://carrigmanblog.wordpress.com/2013/06/14/preparing-for-the-camino/ and on the 19th September my plans became a reality and I flew to Santiago to spend five days walking the path.

I am well aware that this was very much a Camino-lite. Five days and 110 kms are insignificant against the full Camino de Francés which takes about thirty three days. (There are other Camino routes as well and the longest is the Via de la Plata which starts in Seville and takes about forty days).  For those real Camino veterans, those that have walked either the whole route in one go or have done considerably longer sections than the Sarria to Santiago “tourist” leg,  this account will, rightly, read very much like a dilettante’s impressions.  It is written primarily for those who may be interested in giving the Camino a go but who do not want to  commit to more than a week’s walking.  Of more interest, perhaps, will be the photographs as they (I hope) give a good idea of what the route looks like and what to expect on the way. (Left click on any photograph to see it in a larger size.)  At the end of the article is a section I’ve entitled “Practicalities” – a list of items that I brought with me as well as a day-by-day itinerary.    

First thing to do before setting off was to get my Pilgrim Passport – my credencial –  stamped at the reception desk of the B&B I stayed at in Sarria.  Anyone doing the last 100 kms needs two stamps per day in order to qualify for a compostela –  a certificate of completion of the pilgrimage – at the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago.  Anywhere you stay will stamp the passport as will churches, bars and restaurants along the way.

The accommodation I had booked in Sarria was ideally placed for commencing the Camino.  I walked out the door, took the next left and there was a yellow arrow pointing the way. The yellow arrow, like the scallop shell symbol, is a distinguishing mark of the Camino and, on the section I walked at least, meant that it is practically impossible to lose your way. At no point on the trek had I to ask myself – ” which way now?”.  In any event, all you needed to do was to follow other walkers. The Sarria to Santiago section is the most popular one and for nearly the entire route there were walkers within 200 yards or so of me at all times.

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Heading out of Sarria on a foggy morning

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110 kms to go! These  concrete waypoints as well as the ubiquitous yellow arrows guide the way

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After leaving Sarria the path wound through some woodland and then climbed into open farmland. There was a heady smell of pig manure from the fields.  The smell of manure and cow dung was prevalent  through long sections of the Camino as to be expected in an agricultural area.  It’s not exactly Chanel No 5 but it’s a healthy rural aroma nonetheless.

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Walking though the farmland in the early morning fog lent the scene an appropriate mystical feel and I was  reminded of the lines “For you are driving your horses through/The mist where Genesis begins” from Patrick Kavanagh’s “To The Man After The Harrow”.

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“The mist where Genesis begins”

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A soft-drink dispensing machine in unlikely juxtaposition with a farm building. 

As the morning wore on the sun burned off the fog and the full vista of the countryside was revealed.

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The path often went through little hamlets and farmyards:

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Cows have right of way

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This photo of cyclists reminds me to advise walkers to leave their iPods at home. Cyclists tend to whizz by every now and then and, especially on narrow sections, can be dangerous if you are unable to hear them approaching from behind. In any case, wearing an iPod is undesirable as you cut yourself off from the sounds of the countryside – the birdsong, the lowing of the cattle, the “cock-a doodle-dos” of the cockerels in the early morning – as well as impeding human contact which is an essential part of the Camino experience.

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 A walker feeding a horse an apple. Apples were in season and very plentiful.

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The first time I saw one of these structures – practically every farm had one – I was intrigued. What was its function?  The cross suggested some religious significance. Was it a shrine? If so, why was it bricked-up? Was it some kind of tomb perhaps? Used they bury bodies inside them? The truth turned out to be far more prosaic – it’s a corn-crib used for ripening husks of corn.

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Taking a break in the midday sun at one of the many cafés that dot the Camino. There is no need to take food or drink provisions in your rucksack. Apart from saving weight, stopping off at a café is a sociable event.

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Some short sections involve walking on open road, mostly minor roads with little or no traffic and occasionally you have to cross a busy main highway (the N-540).

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A punnet of delicious raspberries purchased from an honour stall – you take the item and leave the money in the box provided.

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Arrows point the way.

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My shadow in the early morning sunshine. I started out each day at 8 o’clock at the latest and walked for about 6 to 7 hours. It became very hot in the middle of the day and so walking for longer was impractical. The earliest I set out was at 6:45 am  on the last day into Santiago. It was dark and the moon and the stars shone. The route was through woodland and I had to use my head-torch for illumination.  It was balmy and the only sound was the crickets chirping in the undergrowth. Ahead of me, like fireflies, were other walkers shining their lights.  I passed two Spanish girls who had a tiny torch that gave very little light whereas my Petzl emitted a fine beam that lit up the path.  As I passed the girls one of them said – “Gracias por la luz!” I’m sorry I didn’t do more very early starts.  Walking from the darkness into light seems appropriately symbolic for the Camino as well as being a practical way of avoiding the hard slog of the hot afternoons.

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The bridge at Portomarin

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Walkers taking a rest by a refreshing stream 

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The Camino wends its way through beautiful countryside

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People leave their mark 

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Pulpo

At Melide, halfway between Sarria and Santiago is an obligatory stop-off point: Pulperia Ezequiel on the Main Street. It serves delicious pulpo (boiled octopus served with olive oil and paprika) which is reputedly the best in Galicia and, perhaps, in the whole of Spain. The place was teeming with walkers seated at the long communal wooden benches when I arrived there about 11am on Sunday.  Behind the counter where you order your pulpo is a large pot of boiling water in which the octopus is cooked overseen by a man with tattoos of tentacles on his arms. It is served on a wooden platter and, with good bread and a bottle of beer or a jug of wine, it is one of the finest meals you can have.  

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A memorial at O Pedrouzo to Myra Brennan of Kilkenny and Sligo who died in Santiago in 2003 after completing her second consecutive Camino

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Dawn light through the trees near Santiago on the last day of the walk

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On the outskirts of Santiago

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The open countryside has been left behind and the route goes through more built-up areas  

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A monument marking the visit of Pope John Paul 11 on the top of Monte de Gozo just outside Santiago

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Myself in typical dorky tourist pose by the John Paul 11 monument 

The end of the road: Santiago

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A constant stream of walkers ending their Camino enter Santiago every day

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People congratulate each other on completion and bid farewell, It can be a very emotional experience.   

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This young man did his Camino barefoot and his feet seemed perfectly fine. I heard him explaining to a couple of girls that he lost one of his shoes early on the route and as he couldn’t walk with just one, and as it was not possible to buy another pair, he simply went without any.

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Pilgrims queue up to get their compostelas (certificates of completion) at the Pilgrims Office. You have to present your stamped credencial (pilgrim passport) and you complete a register indicating your name, age, nationality, where you began your camino and whether you did it with a religious or a non-religious motivation.  There are separate compostelas depending on your answer to the latter.

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The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the terminus point of all the Caminos.  Every day at noon there is a mass for pilgrims and it is full to overflowing during the busy walking season. People of all religions and none attend as it is a fitting ritual to mark the completion of the walk. Occasionally, you may be lucky (as I was) to  witness the Botafumeiro (“smoke expeller” in Galician) being swung. It is a large censer – an incense holder –  suspended  from the roof of the cathedral by pulleys. Eight red-robed tiraboleiros pull the ropes producing increasingly large oscillations of the censer. It swings to and fro almost reaching the ceiling all the while emitting thick clouds of incense.

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Preparing the censer 

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The censer swinging across the transept of the cathedral  

My five days walking the Camino was a wonderful experience but it was too short.  When I reached Santiago I wished I had at least another week to go.  Like most other people who have tried the Camino, I want to go back again.  Next year I may do another section perhaps starting from St  Jean Pied de Port in France and go over the Pyrenees into Spain.  Or maybe the Via de la Plata from Seville to Cáceres.  Health and opportunity permitting  I can see myself tramping my way along some section or other of the Camino for several years to come.

 

Practicalities

What I brought with me:

1. Two Craghopper trousers (one with removable lower legs to turn them into shorts)
2. Merrell Walking Shoes (purchased several months ago and well worn-in)
3. Two Tilley briefs
4. Two pairs of Tilley socks
5. Tilley hemp hat
6. Fleece jacket
7. Four tee-shirts (could have got by with two)
8. Lightweight canvas shoes (for relaxing in after a day’s walk)
9. iPod (did not use)
10. Platypus hydration bag (used once)
11. Pocket towel (did not use)
12. Sleeping bag liner (did not use)
13. Lightweight rain jacket (did not use)
14. Two-metre length of string and a few clothes pegs for drying clothes
15. Phone/camera charger and socket adapter
16. Spare 16GB memory card and spare battery for camera (spare battery was not required)
17. Sony RX100 compact camera with 16GB memory card
18. Phone
19. Mini-tripod (pocketable) for camera (did not use)
20. Pilgrim Passport
21. Small cheap notebook and biro
22. Relevant pages ripped from John Brierley’s book “A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago”
23. Razor, toothbrush, toothpaste, “King of Shaves” mini-bottle of shaving oil
24. Compeed blister plasters (did not use but still a vital piece of kit)
25. Factor 30 sun-screen
26. Biofreeze pain-relieving roll-on treatment (did not use)
27. Boarding passes/passport/money/keys
28. Petzl head-torch
29. Six large (10 inches x 10 inches) zip-lock bags for storing some of the above items

30. Kindle

The trick to carrying a minimum of clothes is to use the “wash one, wear one” principle. Tilley clothing is ideal for this as their products are quick drying and washed and hung out at night they will normally be dry in the morning.

I used a Berghaus “Freeflow 30+6” rucksack (36 litre capacity) to house the above. It proved a very comfortable fit and was very easy to carry. The total packed weight was 7.4 kgs.  If your bag weighs more than 10 kgs you need to seriously examine what you are carrying.  I am also assured by people who have done the full 30+ days Camino that a 30-40 litre rucksack is perfectly adequate.

I did not carry water. On the first day I filled the Platypus with 1.5 litres of water but I felt it added significantly to the weight so I ditched the contents. There is no shortage of cafes on the route and it’s pleasant and sociable to stop and buy water and drink it on the premises.  It all depends on your personal preference of course: some people like to have water available at all times.

I did not use walking poles. I had considered bringing them (I use them for hill-walking at home) but I decided against it and I’m glad I did. I think they would, for me, have been more of a nuisance than a help.

I did not use the iPod. Apart from the undesirability of insulating yourself from the sounds of the countryside and the interaction with other people there is a very real practical reason why you shouldn’t use one: cyclists. Cyclists tend to whizz by in groups of four or five and, on a narrow path, you would probably not hear the faint tinkling of their bells as they approach – those that have bells fitted to their bikes in the first place, that is (few of them do).

My itinerary

I did not go through a travel agency when planning the trip. I booked the flights online as well as the accommodation along the way (primarily via TripAdvisor and LateRooms.com).  There is no need to book accommodation if you plan on using the alburgues – the pilgrims’ hostels – which are widely available. I made a conscious decision to avoid them. I appreciate that by so doing I missed out on an important Camino experience but I am a light sleeper and I did not want to be disturbed by the comings and goings of people at all hours of the night during the busiest section of the Camino when the alburgues would be busier than at any other part of the route.

I flew from Dublin to Santiago with Aer Lingus on Thursday 19th September. I got a bus from Santiago airport to Lugo (about 2 hours) and another bus from Lugo to Sarria (30 minutes).

Friday 20th Sep:                  Sarria to Portomarin                      23kms     About 6 hours

Saturday 21st Sep:              Portomarin to Palas de Rei           22kms   About 6 hours

Sunday 22nd Sep:               Palas de Rei to Arzua                     28kms     About 7 hours

Monday 23rd Sep:               Arzua to Amenal                             23kms     About 6 hours

Tuesday 24th Sep:              Amenal to Santiago                        14kms    About 4 hours

I flew back to Dublin on Thursday 26th.

98 thoughts on “Camino de Santiago: Sarria to Santiago

  1. John, this is a fantastic account and thank you for writing it. This day two years ago, I was half way through a 265km stint on the Camino after a rather difficult year, and you have really captured the essence of it as well as bringing back some treasured memories – the sounds, the beauty of the cool early mornings, the messages left by fellow peregrinos, the pulpo (oh, the pulpo!) and the drama of the swinging Botafumeira.

    I think my favourite thing about the Camino was the fact that no matter who you are, no matter, what your day job is, what type of car you drive, it matters not – you are equal to everyone to meet on the way. I can safely say it was a journey that had a profound and positive impact on me and I really enjoyed reliving it through your words and photos.

    • Thanks Hugh. I stayed in a variety of places ranging from the cheap and cheerful to decidedly upmarket. All were picked on the basis of online feedback.Some of my first choices were not available even though I started booking back in early June – it pays to book accommodation well in advance during the high season. All were excellent on their own terms and I had no complaints. Also, each one had free WiFi, something that a lot of far more expensive hotels in other countries *still* don’t provide. Here is the list:

      1. Sarria – DP Cristal – a single room over a pub/cafe with a communal bathroom. €25.
      2. Portomino – Camino Del Monte – ditto. €35.
      3. Palas de Rei – Complejone La Cabana – a hotel. Excellent double room with ensuite. (Pres Mary McAleese stayed here when she did the Camino in 2003.) €59.40.
      4. Arzua – Casa Brandariz – a beautiul old Spanish farmhouse 8 kms out of town. Single room with ensuite. Great food. Owner picked me up and dropped me off in town next morning for no extra charge. €45.
      5. Amenal – Hotel Amenal – excellent double room with ensuite. Fine restaurant. €45.
      6. Santiago – Hotel Carris da Troya – an excellent upmarket boutique hotel in the Cathedral area. Single room, etc. €80 per night.

    • Thanks Sean. Well done to that man and for doing it for €1,000. He obviously stayed in the albergues (hostels) which would be the sensible thing to do for such a long period. They are cheap – about €10 or so a night, I think.

  2. Hi John, great account and some fantastic pics… I’m thinking of doing this route with my ten year old son at Easter. Can you recommend some accommodation on route, between alberuges, pensions, b&b’s and hotels I’m all confused… looking for private rooms with bathroom…
    ,

  3. Doing the final leg in May with my daughter. In my late 60s but quite fit & we hope to walk 16k each day. Can you offer some advice on places to stay ( other than albergues ) as we are on a budget. Really enjoyed your story and of course the superb images

  4. Thank you, John for such a good and informative blog. I have just discovered your blog – I was looking for blogs on Sarria. My mother (80 spring young) is very keen on walking the Camino – Sarria to Santiago. And although, she thinks that if most people do it in 5 days, so can she, I have my reservations. I am going with her and I am not superfit therefore I thought that days of 10 to 15 Kms would be a more reasonable proposition. I am concerned with accommodation, particularly since my mother (nor I for that matter) would be able to carry a backpack. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you in advance for your kindness. Catherine

    • Thanks Catherine. Transferring backpacks from one location to the next is a service that is readily available on the Camino. It costs about €6 per bag per day. Check out, for example, http://www.hike-tech.com/services/camino-luggage-transfer/ . There are also travel agencies that will look after the whole thing for you – transferring luggage and accommodation. See, for instance, http://www.followthecamino.com/walk-last-100km-santiago-compostela-trip10.html. I also recall seeing signs advertising the service as I walked so even if you don’t book before you leave I’m sure you will easily be able to avail of the service when you arrive. Many local taxis, for instance, will only be too willing to do it. Obviously, you have to know your destination each day. Accommodation wise, I’d suggest you check out prospective guest-houses/hotels at relevant towns using http://www.TripAdvisor.com and that site will direct you to the relevant booking sites. It’s probably best to err on the side of caution and opt for 10-15km days – at least for the first few days. That said, I came across many people of your mother’s age and older on the way doing longer stretches and they got there. Do it at your own pace. There are plenty of opportunities to take rest stops at pleasant cafes and, as the days go by, it gets easier as the body becomes used to the daily exercise. And if necessary, if the going gets too tough some day, you can always call a taxi to bring you the rest of the way. Do it! Don’t worry. The Camino has solutions for all eventualities. Please let me know in due course how it went for you. Buen Camino!

  5. Great advice. A friend and I (61 and 59) are embarking on this same journey during Holy Week this month. I love to walk, but I was worried about whether or not I could do this in five days.
    Your blog and advice has made me more confident. I sure hope I find what I am looking for…..
    Thanks,
    Mary Nolan Tully

  6. Hello John, I agree with everyone, lovely photos, they really bring the experience to life. My daughter and I are walking from Barbedelo to Santiago starting on Tuesday, can’t wait! We have been training by walking up and downhill routes of between 8 and 12km per day without any trouble, even though I am not that fit, or didn’t think I was. From your photos, it looks like the uphill stretches aren’t that challenging and I agree with Mary above, in that reading your blog has given me more confidence but I would like to know which stretches will be the hardest. We are taking 7 days, with the first two days covering the most distance.

    • Thanks Karen. You’ll have no problem at all. Given the training you and your daughter have been doing it will present no difficulties. There aren’t really any hard sections in the stretch you are doing – there are some steep hills but you’ve trained well and they’ll be a breeze. Be sure to let me know how you get on. Enjoy the experience and … Buen Camino!

      • Hello John! Well my daughter and I finished our walk on Easter Monday and I have to say I wouldn’t have missed doing it for the world. It was a truly amazing experience which hasn’t quite sunk in yet! We did it in seven days but could have easily managed it in six but either way, like you we just wanted to carry on walking! The weather for the most part was warm and sunny and even the rainy and overcast day was special. To anyone considering it, all I can say is don’t hesitate! We had our bags transported ahead of us each day. I am full of admiration for the people who did carry their own on their backs but it would have been impossible for us to do the same. Thank you for your advice and words of encouragement.

      • That’s brilliant, Karen. I was just thinking about you last night and wondering how you and your daughter got on and so I’m delighted to hear that you both enjoyed it. Well done, the two of you!

  7. Pingback: Buen Camino! (Happy travels) | PressTMC

  8. Hello John! Thanks for a really informative and interesting read; great photos too – ever think of doing a guidebook?! It seriously was a great start when I began planning!

    My dad and I are walking from Sarria to Santiago the first week of September. Like you we are trying to avoid the alberuges but Portomarin is proving tricky as everywhere seems to be fully booked already! Do you think we could get a place in an alberuges on the day if needs must? I’ve no idea how big a place it is and am starting to envisage us walking all night! 🙂 Oh sorry and one last question, would we need to take local taxi numbers with us (if we are staying far from the Camino route) or are they easy enough to pick up at taxi ranks or the like?

    It doesn’t seem too far away now and I must say I can’t wait, I think it’ll be an incredible experience. I really hope you enjoy your next leg of the Camino.

    Thank you!

    • Hi Mary Kate,

      Thanks for your kind comments. Portomarin won’t be a problem. It’s a big enough town and there is plenty of accommodation. Don’t worry about it. Someone will direct you to a place when you arrive there. You won’t have to walk all night 🙂

      No, there is no need to take a list of taxi numbers. Every now and then you’ll see a sign for a local taxi company but I’m sure you’ll never need to call one.

      Have a great trip and be sure to let me know how it works out.

      Regards,

      John

  9. Thanks John – I will definitely let you know. I’m a bit of a worrier (as you can probably tell!) so it is great to speak to someone who has been there and done it, so to speak!

    Great photos of Skellig too – hope we get that sun when I’m in Killarney next week but that might be Ireland’s quota for the year! 🙂

    Thanks again.

  10. What an enchanting, informative and generous account, Mr. Finn. I am hoping to do this route in mid-October, so I have many questions and, well, the tiniest of trepidations.The data and insights you’ve provided are as helpful and encouraging as the photos are inspiring.

  11. John,
    Thanks for the invaluable information. I’m doing the very same walk Sept-Oct this year, kind of a spur of the moment decision. Getting into training now around Wicklow and your account, especially what you brought with you is a great help.

  12. Hello John
    What a lovely account and some great images. My friend and I are doing the Sarria – Santiago walk in October and can’t wait. We are both getting on a bit (myself 58 and my friend 64) but quite active (daily swims, lots of walking generally) and have been doing as much training as we can given full time jobs, along various terrains, so hope we will be fit enough when the time comes. Do you advise taking anything to ease tired feet such as gel? Also, concerned as I have walking boots well broken in but they do make my feet hot, so what about walking sandals or would they leave feet too vulnerable to stones, scuffs etc? We are going with a company who will be taking out luggage between our accommodation, so will be travelling light. We are both vegetarians – do you think we will find suitable grub or is it meat/fish biased?
    Sorry for so many questions!
    Thanks again for the wonderful insight to the Camino, and I just can’t wait to get going.
    Respect!

    Tara

    • Hi Tara,

      Getting on a bit? You’re only a young one 🙂

      You’ll have no problem, fitness-wise. Anyone who is reasonably fit can do it and its clear that you and your friend are well above that level. Don’t think that you have to do strenuous training – you don’t. As someone I know said, “don’t do the Camino before you do the Camino”. I’m reasonably fit and I walk fast. I used to pass people dawdling along, as I thought, and when I reached my destination I’d see them dawdling in about 30 minutes or so after me. Everyone gets through it at their own pace be it fast or slow or in between.

      Age-wise, I would say a very large number – maybe the majority – of walkers are in the 50-70 age group. I remember signing the register in Santiago and seeing the ages of the people who had signed the page before me – nearly all were in their 60s (like me).

      I think the best footwear is the fabric-type walking shoe such as this one made by Merrell: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Merrell-Womens-J148528C-Canteen-Marmalade/dp/B00FQHF1QA/ref=sr_1_7?s=sports&ie=UTF8&qid=1406479452&sr=1-7&keywords=merrell

      Leather walking boots may be a bit heavy and they don’t allow the feet to breathe as easily as the fabric shoes. There’s plenty of time to break-in a pair of fabric shoes between now and October. (Better buy them in a shop rather than online as sizes can be problematic. Always opt for one size above your normal one.)

      I have walking sandals also but I opted not to use them on the Camino for exactly the reasons you outlined – feet too vulnerable to stones.

      The biggest problem is blisters and there is no fool-proof way of avoiding them. Good socks are very important – I recently purchased a few pairs of Wigwam Ultimax socks which promise “dry feet, no blisters, no odor”. Sounds a bit too good to be true but we shall see (I’m doing the Burgos to Leon stretch in September).

      If you do get blisters I would advise Compeed blister plasters.

      Other than that, I’ve no suggestions as far as gels are concerned but I’m sure shops along the way will have local ones for sale.

      I don’t think you’ll have a problem with the grub. I’m not a vegetarian but I’m pretty sure there were plenty of vegetarian options at the restaurants I ate in. The Camino is host to thousands of people every year and given that a not insignificant percentage of those will be vegetarians you can be sure that basic commercial self-interest will have dictated that their needs are catered for!

      I’m sure you’ll both have a great time. Be sure to let me know how you get on.

      Buen Camino!

      Regards,

      John

  13. John,
    Thank you for this excellent blog on preparing a 64 year old for the Camino lite.
    I used your itinerary to a “T”.. The hotels are as you describe… The daily walking schedule was perfect… Thanks again for this… Just returned to Canada.
    Regards
    Mike Moher

  14. hi john, thanks so much for your information, it this so complite for me. I will do it on 16 May 2015 from Sarria. I’m indonesian, thank you… Buen Camino 🙂

  15. Hi John,

    I came across your blog as I was researching my Camino trip. I am walking Sarria to Santiago in May hopefully. It was such a great read., thanks for all the info! I have a few questions that hopefully you can answer…
    Do you recommend I start my walk on any particular day of the week? I am just wondering if there is a good time to arrive in Santiago.
    What time of the day do you arrive in Santiago? I see the pilgrim mass is on at 12 noon. Do you go to the mass on the day of arrival or do most people go the following day?
    I am travelling alone. Would you advise booking accommodation in that case or will it be ok to book it as I go?
    You mentioned that you walked 6-7 hours per day. How many rest did you take each day? Or did you just stop when you got tired?
    Do you recommend spending a few days in Santiago at the end of the trip?
    Also, one last random question! Do you know if you can do part of this route on horse back? I would love to walk a few days and ride a few days but I cant seem to find any info on line about how to do this. I was wondering if you saw any signs along the way for horse rental?

    Thanks,
    Rachel

    • Hi Rachel.

      I don’t think it matters which day of the week you start or when you finish.

      I arrived in Santiago around 10am I think and so was in plenty of time for the Mass at noon. I hadn’t planned it specifically to be there in time for the Mass on the day I finished and had I arrived later than midday then attending the Mass the following day would have been just as interesting. Pilgrims arrive in Santiago throughout the day so there is no expectation that you *have* to arrive at a specific time. But do try to get the Mass either way – it is a great spectacle – especially if the Botafumeiro is swung: it is amazing to see the giant thurible swinging across the Cathedral. Santiago is a fine city with good restaurants and bars and a day or so there would be well worthwhile.

      I had booked all my accommodation in advance but you can just take your chances and see what’s available as you arrive at each stop. The only thing is that the Sarria to Santiago section is the busiest of the entire Camino and places to stay may be at a premium. If you do decide to book in advance I would recommend Booking.com – they provide a very good service and their smartphone app is excellent.

      Yes, I walked about 6-7 hours a day but they would have been interspersed with a few stops for something to eat and drink. The main thing is to enjoy the experience and if that means regular stops to rest or whatever then so be it. It’s not a race or an endurance test. And the great thing about travelling alone – which I heartily recommend – is that you can stop and go whenever you please.

      Horses? No, I can’t say I recall any signs for horse rental nor do I recall any riders on the route.

      I hope you enjoy the experience and please let me know in due course how you get on.

      Regards,

      John

  16. Hi John, Your account of the Camino sounds magical & the fabulous pictures only help to add to this. My dad and I are hoping to do Sarria to Compostelo in April. Like you we are also hoping to avoid hostels could you recommend some alternative accommodation.
    Thanks for any help & advice & for this wonderful blog.

    Bríd

    • Hi Brid,

      I think the best thing to do is use Booking.com if you wish to pre-book accommodation. Establish where you intend to stop each day and then search Booking.com for hotels or hostals (not to be confused with hostels – hostals are the equivalent of our B&Bs). Or simply check out what’s available when you arrive at each day’s destination. Do not be concerned about not getting a place to stay – there will always be someplace, especially in April. Have a great time! I’m also doing another stretch starting on 30th April from St Jean Pied-de-Port and going as far as Logrono. And I’m going to stay in a few albergues this time for a change.

      Regards,

      John

  17. Can you offer some advice on places to stay ( i dont mind staying in albergues if i have to ) as im on a budget. Really enjoyed your take on things and of course the grand images

    • Hi Padraic,

      Albergues are definitely the best option for anyone on a tight budget. My advice would be to try one or two and if they appeal to you then you are sorted. If you require somewhere with more privacy then hostals (not to be confused with hostels) would be the next cheapest. Hostals can be found in most towns along the way and are the equivalent of our B&Bs. You could also try booking accommodation if you have a fixed daily itinerary – I recommend Booking.com and their excellent smartphone app.

      Regards,

      John

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  19. I’d done a lot of reading on the camino and I found yours the most informative and detailed. Great pictures, too! Five days might be a bit much for me. I was thinking of maybe 10 days with rest days in between. Could you advise me how to break the walk, which village or town would likely be a good place to spend a day or two before I proceed ? I am planning to go sometime in May. This will be my second time to travel solo and I can stop anytime, anywhere I feel like to. The problem is, I want to use the luggage transfer service so I have to plan my stops accordingly. Thank you so much John for your practical advice to us newbies. Any info you can provide on my querries will be much appreciated.
    ~~~ Cynthia

    • Many thanks for your kind comments.

      It all depends which section of the Camino you intend doing.

      There is obviously a greater variety of things to see and do in the larger towns and cities along the way (e.g. Pamplona, Burgos, Leon, etc) and they would be ideal places to stop off in for a day or two.

      On the other hand, most of the stops are in smaller towns and villages and there is not a lot happening in those places. You could of course just chill out and relax, read a book or whatever, in *any* place. But having checked out the local sights – the bar, the cafe, the old church and, er, that’s it – you’ll probably be anxious to get going to the next stop the following day.

      Check out the towns on your route on Trip Advisor, Wikipedia etc for information on them and see if any would be worth staying in for an extra day.

      The luggage transfer service, as far as I know, is available practically everywhere on the Camino so if you decided to stay in a particular location for a couple of days you can still avail of the service when you decide to move on to the next place. In other words, you don’t have to pre-plan everywhere you’re going to be before you go – you can improvise on route.

      Don’t underestimate your ability to walk every day! Take it nice and easy, have plenty of stops and 20km or so every day is very achievable.

      My advice is to proceed as if you intend to walk every day and if you find you need to take an extra day’s stop in some place do so. The luggage transfer service will accommodate your plans.

      Don’t be too concerned about pre-planning. As the saying has it, “the Camino will find a way” and regardless of whether you want to walk every day or not, things will work out just fine. Remember, thousands of people walk it every year and all their needs and requirements are met without any difficulty.

      Have a great Camino and please let me know in due course how it went.

  20. Wow, fast reply! I intend to do the 100 or 113 kms – Sarria to Santiago – which you covered beautifully!
    Doing the camino is pretty ambitious for a non-walker 58 yr old! I am still waiting for NY weather to improve before I test run or actually practice walking and see how I will hold up. Thank you again for your input. Much appreciated! I’ll do more research on the sites you suggested. You take care and please continue blogging your caminos.

  21. Hi John , myself and my husband are walking the last 100 km of the comino , sarria to santiago
    on the 31 of march . I am both excited and anxious about the walk as the most we have walked would be 15 km , do you think that is sufficient walking . loved your photo really cant wait now to start .

    • Hi Pauline, Don’t worry – you’ll be fine. Any reasonably fit person will be able to walk the Camino without any problem – you do not have to undergo an intensive training regime of long walks beforehand. Enjoy the stretch from Sarria to Santiago.

      Regards,

      John

      • Thanks a million John , some great advice especially with the socks , really cant wait now to get started. Best of luck with your own walk later in the year , again thanks John
        .

        Regards
        Pauline

  22. Hi John. How wonderfully generous of you to share your photos and experiences of your journey. Myself and my wife are going on Saturday to walk the Sarria to Santiago leg of the journey. It was wonderful to read your account. Thank you. Mark

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  24. Hi John, your Camino account is fantastic and the photos are just beautiful. I am hoping to complete Sarria to Santiago in September this year. I’m female and travelling alone – is this an issue at all, do you think? Many thanks, Carrie.

  25. My friend and I are doing 110 Km from Valenca, Portugal to St. James- Santiago in Sept/Oct for 10 days. She is in a wheelchair, so has hired 2 guides to assist and I hope we get no rain to bog us down! Do you recall how accessible the restaurants/cafes along the way are? we have booked thru a guide service, so our hotels should be OK.

  26. Thank you. We are planning to walk the Sarria to Santiago casino in the spring of 2017. A group of six of us, we would love to stay in private homes to enjoy local culture and cuisine. Any suggestions how to get this done. Love this site. Julio

    • Thanks Julio. I’m not aware of any arrangements to stay in private homes. The nearest equivalent would be hostales (not to be confused with hostels) which provide private rooms and sometimes are the owners’ residences as well. They are positioned between albergues (dormitory, unisex accommodation, cheap) and hotels. I think your best bet would be to check out the accommodation options on Booking.com for each town you will be staying in. Best of luck! Regards, John.

  27. Hello John,

    I am 65 and planning my Camino from Sarria to Santiago in June 2016, I am quite fit but have never walked such a distance, so am planning to do the ‘easy way ‘ which is around 11k a day.
    I really want to enjoy the experience rather than be overwhelmed by it. Do you think this is a sensible option or would you suggest doing longer days. I am walking alone and would pre book accommodation before I leave probably with a Camino specialist tour operator. Loved you account of the walk. Regards Gail

    • Hi Gail. I think you should aim for longer days. Everyone doing it will be walking longer distances than they are used to. Once you have accommodation pre-booked there will be no pressure on you to get to a destination by a particular time for fear of not getting a bed for the night – you can walk at as relaxed a pace as you wish.

      I’d worry that if you were to confine yourself to 11kms a day you’d become frustrated at the slow pace. Remember that each day you will be getting fitter and fitter.

      I’d suggest that over the next few months you do a series of walks between 15 and 25kms – the typical daily Camino distance – and see how you feel.

      Remember also that on the Camino itself the other people walking will “carry you along” – not literally! – and this can be a powerful motivator to keep going each day.

      I wouldn’t have any fear of being overwhelmed by it although it is a normal and understandable reaction to such a seemingly daunting adventure. Once you’re on the trail the adrenalin and the enjoyment will kick in and you’ll be fine.

      Please let me know in due course how you get on.

      Regards,John.

  28. Love this! My sister and I are doing Sarria to Santiago in June 2016. It’s our first ever walk of this type and your writings and photos really helped me understand what we are in for. I love your tips and suggested items to bring and leave at home.

  29. Hello John, This is a fantastic communication, thank you. My hubby and I are so excited to do our first experience on Camino in mid May (its a dream come true) and already I wish I could do more but Sarria to Santiago for this trip. Gracias

  30. Thank you so much for the wonderful blog. I will be walking it alone in June. I had a little trepidation being a woman, but now I have none. Thank you!

      • Hi John,

        A really fantastic account and you ‘re very practical and informative.

        I’ve always wanted to do this so I’m going in three weeks. This may be a strange question but traveling from Santiago to Sarria- how complicated is it?

        Thanks,
        Elaine
        E

      • Thanks Elaine. A bus outside the airport leaves at 16:10 for Lugo and arrives at 18:05; the bus from Lugo to Sarria leaves at 18.35 and arrives Sarria at 19.05. So, it’s pretty straightforward. There will invariably be others doing the same journey as well so you shouldn’t have a problem. Just be sure to check at Airport Information for the bus times in case the schedule may have changed or in case you may have to travel by bus to the station in Santiago and get the bus to Lugo from there. Enjoy the adventure! Buen Camino!

  31. Great report and pictures John, really informative and helpful!!!

    I am considering booking this last minute and doing the Sarrio to Santiago route. However due to time constraints it would like you consist of 5 days walking. If I was to finish on the 5th day of walking and fly out early the next morning, would I be missing out by not spending a full day in Santiago and relaxing/taking in the atmosphere?

    Also in early August would I be able to book accommodation as I arrive in each stop off point?

    Thanks

    • Thanks Steven.

      You wouldn’t miss that much by not staying in Santiago for a full day. The walk’s the thing and you’d have achieved that so I wouldn’t worry too much about the Santiago stopover. There will always be another time.

      Sarria to Santiago is pretty busy in August but if you get to the albergues early you should have no problem. If you want to book private accommodation check out the availability on Booking.com. A lot of people will have booked private accommodation at this stage so availability may not be great. Albergues may be your best bet.

      Best of luck!

      Regards,

      John

  32. Hi John
    Really enjoyed your blog and I also appreciated the photos. I’m female about to do this stretch alone so it’s quite reassuring to see that the Sarria to Santiago stretch is busy. I’m leaving on 8th Sept for one week. Thanks again for all the info.
    Rosaleen

  33. Hi John
    Your blog is very informative and very helpful, i like your photos also.

    I started planning to walk last year, and very soon ill be arriving in Madrid on 9 Sept 2016 to do the lite walk 100 km Sarria to Santiago. Im 51 yrs old and for the last 4 months i trained my self to walk 4-6 km three times a week, I know its not enough but thats all i can do coz im working here in middle east and it so hot and humid. I want to finish the walk in 5 days, i have to go back to work, do you think I can finished it? my problem is what will happen if I got blister? im worried about it and cannot finish my walk i purchased a medical tape some people say it can help to avoid blister, I will bring a sandals in case i got blister and maybe i can continue my walk Just a silly question did you got blister? Do you have any advice to avoid blister? Thank you very much.

    • Hi Meliza. Than you for your kind comments. I think you will be well able to finish the walk. There is no guaranteed way to avoid blisters – some people get them, some people don’t. If you do get a blister or two it’s no big deal. Just cover them with a Compeed strip and you’ll be fine. It may be a bit uncomfortable but it certainly will not prevent you from continuing the walk. Make sure you have good socks. I use a brand called 1000-Mile socks and they are guaranteed to avoid blisters. I’m not sure if its those socks or not but they work for me. I think it’s the fact they have a dual-layer lining that does the trick. If you can’t get that brand try wearing two socks with the inner one lighter than the outer. Another tip I got from a seasoned walker was to have a right sock and a left sock and try to wear the same socks when walking for two to three days at a time. Lightly coating your feet with Vaseline is also good advice. I read about the medical tape and by all means try it. All this may help but, again, if you get a blister or two, so what? There are very few walkers who can say they never got one on the Camino. It certainly won’t stop you. Enjoy the trip! Buen Camino!

      Regards,

      John

  34. thank you very much for the quick reply i will include the compeed strip in my pack. one more thing i want to ask is can the hostel/albergue stamp our pilgrim passport even though we didnt stay/sleep with their place? during our walk for 5 days we will sleep in mobile house/caravan in different place and we will start early morning on the last village we finish and im not sure if the cafes and restaurant are open very early. Can the cafe or restaurant stamp our passport without buying anything… again muchos gracias senior Juan 🙂

    • Thanks Meliza. You will be able to get your pilgrim passport stamped at several places such as cafes, bars and shops along the way throughout the day. You won’t have to go to an albergue to do so. (I don’t think it would be a good idea to ask an albergue to do it if you haven’t stayed there.) You will be passing through several little villages each day so there will be plenty of opportunities to get stamped. It will not be a problem.

  35. Hoy John I doing Sarria to Santiago starting on 23rd Sept. Will it be very hot and busy at thst time of year
    Thanks John for a great blog answered all my concerns

    • Hi Ned. I don’t think it will be *very* hot but the weather in Galicia can be very changeable so who knows? It certainly won’t be as hot as July/August. That stretch is always the busiest part of the Camino but it should be easing off from mid-September onwards. I think you picked a very good time to do it. Buen Camino! Regards, John

  36. Hello John,
    I, like the others, have thoroughly enjoyed your account. Hoping to do same leg in October!
    I wonder have you any idea of total cost of walk i.e staying in hostels I gather would be approx 10€, but food and water etc?
    Would be delighted with advice,
    Sarah

    • Hi Sarah. Total cost? Not a lot, really. Budget €10 to €15 for the hostels per night. Restaurants/cafes/bars along the way will provide a Pilgrim Menu for around the same price. (Don’t expect haute cuisine – it’ll typically be basic chips, chicken and salad or the like for the main course with ice-cream – often a choc ice in its wrapper! – for dessert.) Wine is included and it’s served by the bottle, not the glass 🙂 You’ll get bottled water for less than a euro and other than that it’s whatever you want by the way of snacks. Basic provisions at minimum cost. However, when you get to Santiago, splash out, stay in a fancy hotel and have a memorable meal. Why? Because you’re worth it! Regards, John.

      • Hi john,
        Thank you for your very useful advice! And I just might live it up when I get to Santiago!! Thank you for making me smile😊Kind regards, Sarah.

  37. JOHN, My wife and I completed the walk from Sarria to Santiago De Compostela Saturday, October 7. Our Directions were not clear on how to get the certificate. We have all of the necessary stamps , however, our directions merely said ” congratulations, you have completed the walk”, is it possible tolget the certificate now?

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