Having loved the first two weeks of the Camino Frances (St. Jean Pied de Port to Burgos), we returned in June to complete the final two week section from Pontferrada to Finistere. We flew into Madrid and took a bus north to Galicia. Galicia reminded me a lot of Ireland and England due to the rainy weather and lush green countryside. Not what you expect to see in Spain. At one point there was even a type of bagpipe music which is traditional in this area.
We woke before dawn each morning and set out just as the sun was coming up. I can’t describe how wonderful it felt to walk through the dawn and hear the chorus of bird song and see the fog gradually disappear.
As I mentioned in the last post, one of my favourite things about this slow travel through the countryside was having the time to see everything. It was impossible not to notice all the beautiful wildflowers and grasses and to see the countryside change slowly as we passed through it. This form of travel allows all the details of countryside life to be seen and which could be easily missed when speeding along in a train or car.
Another of my favouring things about our days walking were the coffee stops. This particularly beautiful spot was near Pontferrada.
As we got closer to Santiago and the coast, the weather just kept on improving.
Santiago was an incredibly beautiful city and I highly recommend a trip. However we were keen to get on toward the coast and what we thought would be our final hiking destination.
We were so excited to finally see the ocean!
Our next plan was to get the bus to Vigo and spend a few days exploring the city and the Cies Islands. However after falling in love with long distance hiking we soon got restless and decided to start walking down the coast toward Portugal along the Camino Portuguese.
Check out the next post for more on that!
Tips for the hiking the Camino:
There are a lot of other blogs with really good advice on what to pack. The best piece of advice I got from them is:
- Purchase the expensive smart wool hiking socks – they are worth every penny and I didn’t get any blisters.
And my additional advice is:
- Begin the walk in March from St. Jean Pied de Port. We did the first two weeks then and it was a lot less busy and the temperature made the hiking a lot easier. June was okay but I preferred March as it was a lot less busy.
- If you are stuck for time, the first two weeks are the best.
- Invest in good hiking boots – make sure that they are waterproof, have good heel support (to ensure that you don’t get achy hips from carrying a backpack).
- Avoid North Face products – everything I bought from them leaked.
- Travel as lightly as possible. I took 3 sets of outfits which consisted of 2 leggings for hiking, 2 wicking tops, 2 light fleeces, an outfit for the evening which consisted of another pair of leggings and my comfy light nikes. I also took a puffy jacket, rain coat and waterproof trousers.
We skipped the middle part of the Camino from Burgos to Pontferrada. We figured that it would be too hot in June to do this long flat stretch which has very little shade. We were also short on time and heard that this was the dullest part of the walk. However in hind sight I would have walked the full Camino in March and included that middle stretch.
I had read from many blogs that the Camino is a spiritual experience and that it would change me. Although we aren’t religious and had no interest in the religious or pilgrimage aspect of the Camino, I completely agree with this. I’m not saying it was godly experiences and joy and wonder at every moment, it was however peaceful and serene. It made me calm and happy and I had fun. I found a lot of peace from the simplicity of walking, stopping for coffee and food, having un-rushed conversations, being outdoors all day and having almost everything we needed in our backpack. There is a great community on the Camino. We found everyone friendly and helpful and really interesting. I could go on about this forever. All I can say is that I recommend it completely, especially the first two weeks from St. Jean to Burgos.