You can turn what follows, as with all about the Camino, into a metaphor for life as a pilgrimage. I also want to provide concrete assistance to those intending to undertake the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
I think it is of real value to get as good as possible at Spanish – reading, understanding, speaking. Yes, on the Camino Frances, sure, you could get by on English – but why would you want to? Some of my best memories are of finding the auberge full (it often was) and going to a room above a pub where there were only Spanish pilgrims and local villagers, and spending a delightful evening when not a word of English was spoken. There are plenty of ways nowadays of picking up a language – courses, digital programmes, CDs, travel phrase books, etc.
Prepare what you are carrying
I have outlined what I carried. Take good, newish shoes – they will last the 1,000km, but do need to have been tried and worn in.
Some training programmes for the Camino would require you to take more than a month off work and essentially walk the Camino in order to prepare to walk the Camino! I met people who had no idea about walking out in nature, in hills and mountains. They were city folk who thought they were fit because they regularly went to the gym! These often got into trouble on the actual Camino.
I followed the suggestions on this website. In summary that is:
Week 1 – walk three days (every second day or so) for between 45min and 60 min
Week 2 – walk 4 days (every second day or so) 45 to 60 min
Week 3 – walk 4 days: 3 at 60 min and one for 2 hrs
Week 4 -Walk 3 days up and down hills (or use a treadmill) 60 min
Week 5 – 4 days walking: 60 min fast (6km); 45min easy; 60 min moderate; 2.5 hrs in hills
Week 6 – (can try to add in a Pilates or yoga class once a week, to help your back and core). 4 days walking: 60 min fast (6km); easy 60 min; fast 60 min; 3 hrs in hills with light backpack (less than 4kg).
Week 7 – Same as week 6
Week 8 – 4 days walking: moderate 70 min; fast 60min; 2 hrs in hills; 3 hrs in hills with light backpack (less than 4kg).
Week 9 – 4 days walking: easy 60 min; easy 60 min; 2 hrs in hills (8km); 4 hrs in hills (16km) with light backpack (less than 4kg).
Week 10 – easy 60 min; fast 60 min; 2.5 hrs (10 km); 5 hrs in hills (20km) with light backpack (less than 5kg)
Week 11- easy 45 min; moderate 60 min; easy 3 hrs with backpack (10km), 5hrs with backpack of about 5-6 kg (20km).
Week 12 – Take it easy: fast 60 min; moderate 30 min; 2hrs in hills (backpack about 6 kg); 90 min easy in hills (backpack about 6 kg).
There are plenty of books about walking the Camino (cue: add your favourite one in the comments). I found they over-egged things. Toilets and showers were nothing like as dirty as books described. Some are clearly written by people who haven’t been out much! On the other hand, films made the Camino look easier than it is – film crew obviously cannot get to the more difficult areas.
This is another post in the series on my walking the Camino.