Here I go...

Finding magic under the stars of the Camino Santiago de Compostela

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Donde Dormir? Where Will You Sleep?

When walking the Camino, you have many options. Here are some:

About Albergues:
Pronounced al-búr-gays

When walking the Camino 10-15 years ago people stayed in parochial or municipal albergues most of the route, sharing space at night with a few other pilgrims. The Camino has become so busy now - whether fad or ??? - that a pilgrim has many more choices about where they'll stay. Here are some explanations:

Parochial Refugios: (pa-rō'-kial) Run by the Catholic church. NO reservations. First come, first serve. You will almost always sleep on comfortable floor plastic wrestling mats with many other pilgrims. You WILL need a sleepsack or sleeping bag as no sheets are provided. Some have pillows and some do not. Use your rolled up jacket or shirt as a pillow! But don't miss the experience. The mats are sometimes more comfortable than sagging bunkbed mattresses, and everyone's too tired to care who is snoring next to them. Some parochials do have bunkbeds. Some have separate rooms for men and women, though you don't see that much anymore. You will almost always be served a family style meal. You will sometimes eat with the priest. There is usually a shower, though not always hot. You may enjoy a pilgrim's mass or tour of the church, or in the case of at least one parochial, a tour of a chapel built into rock on the hill that you otherwise would not be able to enter. Parochials are almost always donativo, which does NOT mean FREE, by the way. It means that you pay what you can afford. If you have absolutely NO money, then you do not have to pay. But if you have a job and enough cash to buy a ticket to Spain, you have enough to at least pay for your meal. I always leave €8 to €10 at parochial refugios. They have utilities to pay like everyone else and the bottom line is this: The money you leave tonight helps pay for pilgrim dinners tomorrow night. So if you're being served a meal of bread and water, that means there were some cheap damned tourigrinos the night before, in my opinion! Leave a generous donation please!

Grañon Parochial. Photo by Wing-Yen Tse

Municipal Albergues: (moo-ní-see-pals) These are run by the village. Almost never take reservations.You will most likely sleep in bunkbeds with anywhere from 12 to 100 other pilgrims in the room. Sheets are on the mattresses, though are NOT washed more than once a week, in general. Sometimes they will hand you a paper sheet when you register. You WILL need a sleep sack or sleeping bag. Pillows are almost always provided. Though blankets used to almost always be provided, that is changing as the bedbug problem continues to grow and some do NOT provide blankets anymore. Sometimes they have a kitchen where you can cook. Sometimes they do not. Sometimes the kitchen will have cooking/eating paraphanlia, and sometimes not. I've found when not, it's usually in Galicia. If there is a kitchen, be sure to LABEL your food and don't be surprised if it's gone when you return. Prices in the municipal are set by the village, and are the lowest except for parochials. There is a shower which may be communal or may have separate spaces for wo/men. Many do have internet these days, but not all. Lockers are usually NOT provided, though they are in some, such as Logroño.

Albergue Jesús y Maria in Pamplona

Private Albergues: These are privately owned and run. Almost all take reservations. Some have bunkbeds Some have twin beds. Some have dorms. Some have private rooms. Some are ensuite (private bathrooms) and in some you will share bathrooms (common in Spain). When you share a bathroom in a private albergue, the bathroom door locks, so you have privacy while you're in there. You are expected to clean up after yourself unless your mother is along to pick up after you. Leave the bathroom clean for the people you are sharing with. You will have to do your research as so what is offered in the way of beds. Prices are a bit higher for private rooms than in Municipals, but you might do the math because often if two or three pilgrims share a private room, it's not much more than it would cost sleeping in a dorm. Some private albergues offer a kitchen, but most do not in my experience. Lockers are generally NOT provided. Most have internet these days.

Casa de la Abuela, Los Arcos

By the way, when shopping for a room, you must specify if you want TWO beds in a double room.
What we call a single bed is called a matrimonial.

Hostels: A hostel in Spain is just the same as a hostel in the USA. All take reservations. There will be dorm rooms with varying amounts of beds. There may or may not be private rooms offered. There is usually a kitchen offered where you can cook your own food. There is usually a refrigerator. Mark your food. Lockers are often provided but you may need to provide your own lock. Most have internet.

Apartamentos: Apartments are a great option if you can get a group together. All take reservations. Many will have 2 or 3 or more rooms plus a living room. Some rooms will have twin beds. Some will have a matrimonial. You'll need to ask. Some living rooms will have a futon. So if 4 to 8 people can get together and split the cost, the price can be as low as you'd pay in an albergue and you'll have a much quieter experience. Many apartments will have two bathrooms. Most will have a washing machine. All will have a kitchen where you can cook for yourself. Some do have internet. Some do not. Ask.

Camping: Whether or not camping is "legal" is always a debate, because you pass through so many different cities and villages. However, the price of albergues is so small that unless you have a really good reason, there's no need to drag a tent along. If you DO have a need to camp, however, it can be done and there is an entire blog on camping if you do a search.

Casa Rurales: These are houses owned by private people. All take reservations. Sometimes they rent out the entire house and sometimes they just rent out a few rooms and the owners live on site. This is a wonderful option for groups of pilgrims who are willing to split the cost. Some of the houses are hundreds of years old and just beautiful! Some have internet. Some do not. Ask if it is important.

A casa rural in Galicia

Habitaciones: These are rooms rented out in a private home. Almost all will take reservations. You will often see signs above the door advertising habitaciones. Go inside and ask to see the rooms, ask the price, then decide. These can be a real good deal! Usually you will have a private or shared bathroom. You won't usually be able to use the kitchen.

Wherever you stay, please use good manners.

Clean up after yourself, especially in a shared bathroom. Pick the hair up out of the floor, wash out the sink, wipe off the counter with your towel. Don't leave the towel in the floor, but carry it to your room and hang it up. Do the same in the kitchen. Wash your dishes, dry them, and put them away. Wipe off tables and counters. The low prices mean there's no maid there to pick up after you. You are expected to be a responsible adult.

So here are some choices for you while walking the Camino. Have a wonderful time and Buen Camino!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

What's Annie Up To?

Hello folks.

My mother took a bad fall about 4 weeks ago and I've been caring for her.

Unfortunately, this has meant I haven't had time to train for my upcoming Camino, so I guess I'll be a tortoise on this walk, unless I can get in some training this next month.

Mom's doing well enough for me to leave her in the care of my niece next few days, and I'm heading back to Portland, Oregon for the month.

I leave for Madrid on May 15 to walk the Best of Both from SJPP to Santiago with a group of ladies, and then a SLOW Camino from Sarria to Santiago backing up to that.

I'll do my best to post photos and blog as I go.

My MCS is flaring up because mom smokes like a smokestack. I've been sleeping out in my van, but still feel the affects. Hopefully, a week or two camping once I leave here will clear out my system, and if not, the Camino will cure me. As many of you know, my doctor prescribed long distance walking to chelate the chemicals my body refuses to let go of, which is why I began walking the Camino in the beginning.

I guess that's it.
Please stay tuned.

Also, I have a Facebook Group here if you're planning to walk:

It will help you sort out these post and find the information you are looking for.

Buen Camino!

Friday, March 09, 2018

Pushwalla and Horseshoe Palms Oasis

Yesterday, we took about a 7.5 mile hike to Pushwalla Oasis near Thousand Palms, California.  The weather was beautiful, a cool 75 degrees, and it was a tough but worthwhile hike.

Here are some photos:

Easy climb

Some nice flat walking

Down a steep hill past a 40's truck that didn't make it

Well-deserved rest


The beautiful Pushwalla Oasis is hidden in a tiny canyon

Pool of water

The water runs all the way through the oasis

Mr. Crow watches us

The trail back. Joe lifting his hat and being silly.  lol!

You never would have known the oasis was there!

We spot Horseshoe Palm Oasis from the trail

Some huge barrel cacti

Between Pushwalla and Horshoe Palm trails, we figure we walked between 7 and 8 miles ( 11-12.87 kilometers). It took us 3 hours. That sounds about right, because on the Camino I usually take about 6 hours to walk 20-25 kilometers.  A healthy distance. Much of the time the walking was in gently rolling terrain and sandy washes, but the dives into the canyons and the climbs out were difficult for me. I need to get into better shape.

Today, there is a new 5 mile trail opening near us, off Corkhill Road. We're going to give it a try before the heat sets in.

Happy Training!


Monday, March 05, 2018

Training for the 2018 Camino

Well, it's March, which means it's time to begin serious training for the 2018 Camino. I always say it's best to begin slow then add distance as you gain strength. Sometimes I train while on the Camino - just depends on how life goes.

Thursday, March 1, I took a nice hike up nearly to the edge of the cone of Saddle Mountain, looking for fire agates. 

Today I walked up to the toe of the nearby mountains in Desert Hot Springs. The desert is beginning to blossom, and I was excited to see several plants and cacti in bloom.

Things were blooming in the resort too...

The walk was no more than 2 miles in the sand, and was pretty easy. I'll rest a day tomorrow - maybe just walk the streets of the resort - then take a longer hike on Wednesday.

My ankle hasn't been bothering me too much this year, though every now and then it complains.

How about you?
Are you doing any training?

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

An Umbrella for the Camino 2018

Here's a photo to show you my top loading pack.
Can you see the straps on the side?
That's where I stuck the umbrella
There is some discussion about umbrellas on the Camino today and my vote is YES! 
By all means, carry one!

Up until last year, I thought it was funny to see people with umbrellas on the Camino.
Then last year, on a very hot day, I bought one.

And now, I'm addicted.
It's one of my favorite pieces of Camino gear.

First of all, I bought a bright purple one last year, 
so the color was cheerful on dark rainy days.

Second, when it DID rain, I stayed absolutely dry.

Last, on hot days, I bet it was 20 degrees cooler under that umbrella.
The sun would be baking other pilgrims,
who would be sweating and sucking down water.
I would be walking under cool shade,
very comfortable.

I'll never go without one again.

I don't take my umbrella with me.
I will buy one in Spain.
I bought the last one for 8 euros.
And not a folding one.
Those will break in the wind.
Nope.. a sturdy regular old umbrella.
Stood up the entire route.
I left it in Santiago when I came home.
Didn't want to mess with checking it on the plane.

Walking the Madrid route, I had shade all the way.

This is how I store it when I am not using it.

I have a top loading pack, so I stuck the umbrella in the side straps on one side,
and my bread or walking sticks on the other side.
It was great.
I could just reach back when I needed it.

Another photo of my backpack.
See where I have my walking stick in this photo?
That's where I put my umbrella.
So.. think about it.
You don't have to decide until you reach Pamplona.
There will be plenty of places to pick up an umbrella there.
Buen Camino!

PS: In Spain it is called a "paraguas"
para-aguas = for rain
as opposed to a
para-sol = for sun

I love Spanish!

Toileting on the Camino 2018

Ok.. we have to talk about this. I can't post on this topic too many times.

One question I get asked more than any other is "where do we use the toilet while on the Camino?" The answer is, "It depends."

I suggest you start training your body now to do your morning BM early, so you can get that done in the albergue before ever leaving. If you can't manage, then you've got a couple of choices. You can go off the trail - far but not far enough to get lost - find a bush, DIG A HOLE, and leave your offering there.

If you absolutely can't wait and you MUST do this, PLEASE CARRY OUT YOUR TOILET PAPER IN A DOGGIE BAG. Most TP takes years to degrade and animals will dig it up. So just be a good citizen and carry out your own poop, just like you would your dog's.

Please do not do this!

If you can wait, most bars will allow you to use their toilet. Some may ask you for a 50 cent fee or even €1 fee. Pay it.  Those bars have very old plumbing. They are not on public sewer systems and you can imagine the strain it puts on their systems when 500 pilgrims each day want to use their toilet!  There is also the cost of toilet paper to consider.  So if you must use a bar toilet, please buy something.  A beer. A packet of gum. A bocadillo.  This is only good manners.

For urinating on the WAY, just go off the trail a way and find a tree to use or squat by. Wearing a hiking skirt makes this easier for woman. At first, it feels awkward or embarrassing to some, but you get used to it, and believe me, nobody cares ... they're all in the same boat.

Again, WOMEN, listen up!  DO NOT LEAVE YOUR TOILET PAPER ALONG THE CAMINO ROUTE. Carry it out with you and dispose of it at the next trash can you find.  Carry some doggie bags with you. They're cheap. Or carry a ziplock just for that purpose.  

Or better yet, buy yourself a bandana that you only use for toileting and just wash it out each night with the rest of your laundry.

Sadly, it IS women who leave the biggest mess along the route. I've seen it all, from piles of nasty paper to tampons to panty liners.

One year, we stopped in this lovely shaded tree stump to take a rest and surprise!

Speaking of panty liners, some women wear them, do not wipe after urinating, then dispose of the liners in the next bathroom.  That personally doesn't appeal to me, but it's an option.

Be sure and ALWAYS carry toilet paper with you. Often, you can find a toilet in a bar, but paper will not be supplied. I don't carry an entire roll, but buy small travel packets of kleenex along the way and always carry one of those.

There have been years I have tried various feminine urination devices like the She-Wee, Go Girl, and others. But in the end, they were more trouble than they were worth and at best, I ended up peeing down my leg.  

Now I just do what thousands of years of ancestral women have done before.
I squat in the bushes.

Why fix what isn't broken?

Just please, PLEASE pick up after yourself. 
Leave NO trace.
And if you see others breaking this rule, I think it's just fine to remind them!

Buen Camino!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Finding and Carrying Water on the Camino - 2018

Three common questions I get about the Camino Frances are about water:

1) Is the fountain water safe to drink?
2) Should I carry a bottle or a bladder?
3) Should I buy water along the route?

Fountain Water.
In answer to whether or not fountain water is safe, the answer is "almost always." Most of the fountain water comes from springs that are deep in the ground, fresh, and pure. The water in the fountains is tested often by the government since not only pilgrims drink it, but people in the villages still drink it.

There are two occasions when you may want to buy bottled water or get water from a municipal tap.

a. When it is raining so hard that the streams are muddy, I would buy water. This is because you are walking in agricultural land, and there is a lot of cow and horse and pig manure on the land. If the rain is so hard that it's causing a lot of runoff, then the springs could be temporarily contaminated for a few days until fresh water flushes them out.

If the water looks muddy like this, I would not use local fountains.

b. During a heat wave.  A heat wave may cause bacteria to grow in what normally would be good water.

Otherwise, I have never had a problem drinking directly from the fountains.

One time, by mistake, Joe drank from a fountain clearly marked "Non-Potable" which means the water was NOT safe.  We immediately hit a bar where he ordered a couple shots of whiskey to kill any bacteria and he never had a problem!

Bottle or Bladder?
This is really just a matter of preference.

I prefer a bottle. I carry ONE 8 ounce bottle when I walk the Camino Frances.

Why do I prefer a bottle over a bladder?  First of all, it is lightweight and fits in my Macabi skirt pocket, so it's easily accessible.

Second, there are running fountains all along the Camino Frances, and so I drink my fill at the fountain, fill my bottle, and I'm off. It means less weight for me to carry.  The one exception is if I'm walking from Orisson to Roncesvalles in the summer months. Then I'd carry two bottles if I asked at the Pilgrim Office and learned Roland's Fountain on the border is not running.

Third, a bottle is more easily washed out each night so bacteria doesn't grow.

Joe carries a bladder.

He just prefers it.
He does have to wash it out each night (a pain in the kazoo to me).
I've heard people say, "You don't have to fill it."

Well, true.  However, the thing about a bladder is it would be too inconvenient to take off and fill at each fountain, so you're carrying the weight of all that water, when it is not necessary. And water is heavy!  Pick up a couple of 2 liter Pepsi bottles and you'll see how heavy they can be!

Purchased Water.
Purchased water is cheap and available all along the Camino Frances. That just seems wasteful to me. All those empty bottles that need to be recycled, and sadly, I see a LOT of discarded bottles all along the path.

The water in Spain is as safe or safer than the water in the United States.
It is NOT a third world country like Mexico.
Their infrastructure puts much of ours to shame.

Other Camino Routes

Other Camino Routes may require you carrying more water. On the Via de la Plata, for instance, the stages are longer and in the summer months, many of the fountains are dry. On the Aragones, the Madrid, the Norte, the Portuguese, and walking from Lourdes, I never carried more than one bottle of water.

However, every pilgrim is different. So, as with shoes or boots, how you carry your water is a choice you need to make for yourself.