Camino de Santiago – Part 3

Camino de Santiago

So I got in the cafe with a bit of a dramatic entrance, sat down to catch my breath and calm my nerves down… Felt much better and definitely safer!

This reads best as part of a series so pop back to Camino de Santiago Part 1 and 2. 

A gentleman who appeared to be hiking the same route as I approached me and started making some small talk, I didn’t mind. He was telling me how he is going to stay over and not walk the rest of the day as the next town is closed, he was giving out some friendly advice that if I’m going that way I should avoid that town as there would be no accommodation… I just smiled, nodded, and thanked him for the tip. He paid his bill and seemed to have left to the lodge above the cafe.

 

I finished my pineapple juice, the lady behind the counter didn’t quite understand my English when I said I wanted orange juice so I ended up with pineapple which is fine…

Side note; if you ever end up in Galacia Spain you must try out their freshly squeezed orange juice… it’s like no other in the world! I don’t know how they grow their oranges but they do a heck of a good job at it. 

I picked up my gear and chose a route that involved walking along main roads and as populated as possible areas even if it was to take me slightly longer to get to my destination, I just felt a tad more comfortable with that.

 

I walked and walked, it was a long walking day. The hotel that I had prebooked was about 3 Km off the Camino de Santiago. So I was to walk to the next town and then have a lift to the hotel.

The day was grey and cold but the scenery was nice, the air was fresh and I was there pretty much alone with my thoughts… It was much nicer than the morning part of the day, so no complaints from me here but little did I know… 

I sat briefly to rest my feet, it was in an old bus stop shelter. I watched the cows graze and tried not to freak out when a dog came up to me, looked at me up close then walked away.

In the corner of my eye, I could see someone walking towards me, I felt it was a bit strange. It’s a walking route so obviously, people will walk along with it but it was strange as it was the same guy that came up to me in the cafe earlier.

He wasn’t going to walk so I started to feel a bit uncomfortable here… Now it might have been a completely innocent thing. People can change their plans but after the morning that I had, I was on super alert and super suspicious of everything and everyone!

 

I got up and started walking, I thought if I just kept going we’d have about a couple of hundred meters between us and it’ll be okay, I just needed to get to the next town and I’ll be okay.

Well, he caught up with me.

Again, on a different day, I may have had a completely different reaction to this. You might be reading this and thinking I’m overreacting but in the context of this being my first true solo trip, I’m walking in an off-the-beaten-path area in low season and having had a good going scared in the morning. I think feeling chased and a bit vulnerable was fitting in this scenario.

Camino de Santiago

I just kept going, it’s not a time to break down and fall apart. I just had to keep going and keep the faith that I’ll be okay. I did make sure that my Life 360 app was active, that’s an app that sends a GPS signal to whoever you choose so they’d always know your whereabouts and you can send out an emergency message at a click of a button. It’s very useful to have when you’re traveling solo.

My unsolicited Camino de Santiago company was probably in his 60s, fairly well built, greyed out hair in a ponytail, in very funky style glove footwear, a small backpack, and a very thick tree branch using it as a walking stick… All I could think about was my tree branch of a walking stick is way smaller than his, it was more like a twig than the one that he had. It’ll break straightaway if I needed to use it for self-defense. I made a mental note to find a thicker tree branch and try to stay out of trouble!

 

He went on and on talking about himself, how he started his journey of walking from Sweden or Switzerland, can’t quite remember now. He was walking for four months from his home country to Spain, he wanted to complete the Camino de Santiago and reach the end of the land. He told me how he had issues in his life and hated doctors (I felt grateful that I hadn’t blabbered out that I was one, phew). He was getting the conversation into a personal turn and asking me all sorts of questions that completely weirded me out and I didn’t want to carry on the conversation but he just wouldn’t get it. So I carried on in silence and eventually, he got the message and stopped talking.

I found it difficult to tell him to walk away or leave me alone, I would have normally done so in my own/in a different environment but out there in the middle of nowhere. I just didn’t know how the reaction would be and was trying to keep it calm and controlled as much as I could. It seemed to have done the trick. 

My experience and learning from this solo trip are all condensed for you in the free solo travel guide, check it out for your next solo trip.

After a few miles, he decided to take a break, and although I was dying for one I decided to keep going. And kept walking so eagerly to get to my next stop.

I didn’t want to worry anyone by calling them, there’s little that they could do when they’re miles away but I did put out my location a few times on my social media, I made sure I had the number of the police handy and my panic alarm was handy too.

I had a friend that was joining me the following day, I made videos of my route and sent audios of where I’m heading towards and sent it across to him, just in case he arrives and doesn’t find me… I was hoping for the best but definitely preparing for the worst!

 

I got to the second town… That chap was still behind me, there was a reasonable distance between us but I still couldn’t stop walking and I didn’t want him to figure out which direction I was going in so when I reached a fountain in the middle of a small square as I entered the town I ducked behind the fountain and slowly moved behind the small fence to one side and sat behind a little lodge and called for my ride.

He was right the town was closed so I wasn’t sure where he was heading. My ride arrived within a few minutes, a pleasant young lady drove me to the hotel. 

At the hotel

I was praying for a bed and a shower, if there was a bath then that would be a bonus as I was so sore and tensed up I really needed to unwind, but I was like a shower would still be okay, I don’t want to be too greedy. She showed me the way to my room, my bag was still in the lobby so I had to carry it up two flights of stairs, got in the room and walked to my bathroom, my jaw dropped as I saw not only a shower, not only a bathtub but a jacuzzi! I’ve always believed in a God and that moment affirmed it more!

Dinner was lovely, I can’t remember the name of the dishes but they were a special Camino menu.

A hot jacuzzi bath and then bed recharging my batteries to face the next day.

Camino de Santiago

The Camino doesn’t only have its physical challenge, it has its emotional challenges, definitely mental ones of being all alone with your thoughts and the biggest challenge of the unknown and how to deal with it. I have definitely learned a lot about myself during those days, about perseverance and feeling the fear yet going for it!

And it’s been a great start to months of solo travel that followed.

Camino de Santiago

The Camino de Santiago journey continues…

Stay tuned! 

Not sure about traveling solo safely – can it be done? 

Check out my traveling solo safely guide, packed with tried and tested tips and tricks to keep your safe and sound

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Camino de Santiago – Part 2

Who else thinks/thought that walking is the same as hiking? 

No one? 

Just me then! oh, well… 

On some level in my head, I thought if I’m a walker I can easily become a hiker… 

I learned the hard way it’s not the same!


Here’s the story of how walking for me turned into hiking turned into resilience.

I had this need for a mental and an emotional clear-out after a long journey battling life and its adversities.

If you want to know the background to that, check out My Story.

That’s how I basically ended up hiking a section of the Camino de Santiago, from Santiago to Finisterre and then to Muxia, a 117Km distance in 8 days whilst being a walker by nature, not a hiker.

Camino De Santiago

Taking on new challenges will help push past the old ones and make you grow from it and grow your comfort zone.

I reached that conclusion after I finished the trip, not on day one, obviously.

On day one, I actually got lost within the first minutes of setting off! I had my guide book and maps and I was planning to do it in a non-Google assisted way.

That lasted about 5 minutes, then I got frustrated with being lost and not knowing where North is.

I pulled out my phone and Google navigated my way in the right direction! Soon after I caught sight of another hiker and one of the route landmarks and was reassured that Google knows everything 😉

Camino de Santiago
Camino De Santiago

It does sound a little crazy now that I set off on an 8-day hiking journey with little prep but trust me the best experiences in life happen that way! I love that I have done it and love what I got out of it…

On my first day, heading out of Santiago, the sun was shining, the scenery was stunning, the air fresh, I was all alone walking in the woods…

Very peaceful and serene, yet the physical challenge on the first day was very real.

I walked about 20 Km that day (yikes).

I had already pre-booked my accommodation along the way and my luggage was getting moved along the accommodations as I walked. 

So even if I wanted to stop before my planned destination I wouldn’t be able to.

That helped push me through the physical pain and the mental barrier that I cant when I actually could.

Check out Camino de Santiago – Part 1 for information on how to plan your Camino hike.

I got to my first stop, a little lovely cozy hotel in a town called Negreira. I got in dying to have a shower and a lie-down. 

Guess what? 

My bag hasn’t been delivered!

After a couple of phone calls, the glitch was sorted and the driver showed up with my bag. 

A hot shower, a hot water bottle (yes I’d taken one with me as well as a travel kettle), and some tiger balm and I were fast asleep.

Chllenges of day one tackled. Yes.

The soreness I felt in the morning was unbelievable.

like having had a good going work out where muscles you didn’t know you had hurt, but I had to keep going.

I was just getting started and like they say ‘pain is temporary, quitting is forever’.

 

The breakfast at the hotel was made for champs, a really good quality bakery, and cooking (pic above)… It fueled me for the day ahead.

 

I walked again through the woods with amazing scenery, the weather was less kind than the day before and I had to pull out my poncho for a few hours of the walk… 

That however wasn’t the worst bit of the day or the trip.

Keep reading the twist of events below.

As I was walking through a farm coming up to a big road that separated the farm from the woods, I saw a man coming out from the woods and walking down to the road.

Now that might sound benign and not worth noting but it’s what I noticed next that gave me the creeps.

His outfit wasn’t that of a hiker or a farmer. He was dressed in smart trousers and a bomber’s jacket which is completely out of context with the surrounding nature.

That made alarm bells go off in my head.

He was walking down towards his car which again was a city car, not one you’d drive in the kind of woods/farm/trail area that we were in…

It all didn’t look right and didn’t feel right.

By the time he got down to his car, I had already crossed the road and was about to get into the woods.

I tried to act normal and not show vulnerability, he kept looking my way which continued to creep me out.

When he got to his car instead of driving off, he opened the car boot and reached in to get something out with both hands.

That was the moment where my frecking out went off the charts and I said to myself I’m not hanging about to find out what he’s pulling out of the car boot nor in which direction he’s headed with it!

 

I ran! I ran into the woods as fast as I could.

I ran despite the sore feet and achy muscles.

I was planning a nice break in the woods but that plan changed quickly and I ran literally as my life depended on it.

At that moment it felt like it did!

I tried to tell myself to keep calm and carry on but the thing is when you run in the woods, you make a lot of creeky noises that can illusion you into thinking that someone is running after you, so I kept running and looking back behind me.

It was like one of those horror movies, all I could think is that this couldn’t be the end of me!

Keep running girl!

I stopped briefly to post this picture on my social media, just a ‘last seen by’ photo, you know, just in case.

As I posted it, I heard a car approaching.

I started running again!

In the distance there was a sign for a cafe, I didn’t stop till I got there.

I pretty much ran in, pulled up a chair, and said to the old lady behind the counter I’ll drink anything!

She was pretty confused with my dramatic entrance.

 

I felt much safer being in the company of others but little did I know that that feeling wouldn’t last for long…

 

Stay tuned for my next blog to find out what happened.

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Camino de Santiago – Part 1

Santiago De Compostella Cathedral
It was at a time where I felt trapped, caught up in the wheel of life. I felt I definitely needed a break to reflect and see what I’m going to make out of the next 5-10 years of my life.

I haven’t read Paulo Coelho’s book ‘The Pilgrimage’ I probably should have from all the comments people have been sending me.

This wasn’t a religious pilgrimage for me but more of a journey of a soul seeking some answers from the universe only to find out that the answers always would come from within. 

 

Why do the Camino de Santiago?

Many take this challenge on as a religious pilgrimage, from all parts of Europe people would and still do walk from wherever they are to Santiago de Compostella, no matter how many weeks or months it would take them. That was/is their devotion to the divine.

Over time, the route became treaded by spiritual people and those seeking a calm refugee in nature, those who wish for a challenging hike or simply a new discovery of land they have not visited before.

Whatever your purpose is you will find something along the Camino that is worth finding.   

Which route to take?

There are many routes that lead to Santiago, well over ten. The most famous and most popular one is the French way from the Pyrenees mountains. There’s also the Portuguese way and the costal Portuguese way as well which is best done during the summer to enjoy a dip in the water at the end of a long day of walking.

You can also walk from Santiago to Finisterre, which is also known as the end of the land. That is before Christopher Columbus found out about America and the shores of Spain were thought to be the edge of the world.

 

I chose that route, from Santiago to Finisterre and then carried on to Muxia, many who do this route for religious reasons consider there pilgrimage incomplete if they haven’t carried on to Finisterre and Muxia and some hikers reach Santiago and they are still thirsty for more so they keep on the route.

It is pretty much off the beaten path kind of route, I really enjoyed it, but you need to be someone who is at peace with being on their own and brave to navigate the route which at times can be hard if you’re alone.

The French way takes about 95% of the pilgrims, spiritual experience seekers, and hikers. the reminder 5% will walk the other routes and so expect to have very low numbers in the less trodden routes.

I went off seasons and off the beaten path and I probably came across one or two other Camino walkers per day.

 
 

When to go?

The high season is July and August but that’s when the weather can get quite hot, the best time to go is in May and June and then again in September when the weather is milder and the days are longer. Winter times can be quite frosty, dark, and lonely.

I went in the last week of February, there were days where it was warm but on the whole, I needed layers and a waterproof jacket.

The weather in Galacia Spain is different to other touristic parts of Spain, so don’t lead yourself to believe it follows the same seasons. Always check the weather and check you have the right gear.

 
 

How to arrange a trip?

Broadly speaking there are two ways you can enjoy this unique experience, you can do this whether a solo traveler, with a friend, a group and at any age, whether you’ve traveled before, hiked before, or not. You just have to know your limits and plan accordingly.

 

1- Decide which route, decide your starting point then take a map, your backpack, and set off.

As simple as that.

There’s is a John Brierley Camino guide book that lays out the route, the elevation of the land, detailed instructions, and directions, and also amusing stories about the area. You can literally just follow that.

With this way, you can either prebook your accommodation along the way, which requires you to decide how far you’ll walk every day or you can stop when you want along the route and check out the accommodation options, the downside to the latter is that if there’s no accommodation available especially in high season you’ll have to keep walking.

 

2- You’re not sure how to plan it, you’d rather have your accommodation sorted ahead of time and you’re not a backpacker

You can find a travel agent or a company that would do all the hard work for you. I did my research for a long time before I finally made the bookings, I’ll be delighted to help you plan a bespoke trip tailored to your needs. 

We can talk about which route is best to take, how far you’d want to walk per day and where you’d like to stay overnight. 

Transfer service for luggage can be arranged so you are light as a feather on your daily walks. 

 

3- You can mix and match, for example; pick your map and use a courier service to move your luggage, or take your backpack, and have a travel agent design your route. Really anything is possible. You can prebook or arrive there and figure it out.

Generally, people will stay one night in the accommodation and then move on, but some especially when walking for 5-6 weeks would stay at certain locations for 2-3 days to enjoy the local life and allow their feet to recover.

 

Not sure about traveling solo safely – can it be done? 

Check out my traveling solo safely guide, packed with tried and tested tips and tricks to keep your safe and sound

How many days are enough?

That largely depends on your intention, where you want to start from, how far you can walk in a day, and if you intended to have long stops.

Parts of the route are suitable for novice hikers but on the whole, expect the majority of the terrain to be more suited for a medium-level to experienced hiker so that could potentially be your match or slow you down.

Many people choose just to walk the 100KM or so to Santiago, that way they will have done what they need to attain a certificate of pilgrimage. If you’re on the French route then the starting point is Saira which is about 110KM away from The Cathedral. The whole of the French route is about 850KM so that could easily take 5-6 weeks to walk.

My route was about 117KM, although I was walking away from Santiago when I reached Finisterre and then Muxia I was still able to get my certificates for both! I walked over 7 days with no stop days in between.

 
 

Would I need to get fit prior to taking on the walk?

I was strongly advised to train for my week of hiking for about 6 months! the company I booked with sent me a brochure highlighting how I should start my training and build it up so I’m in top shape when I get there.

I didn’t do it for two reasons, one I didn’t have time. I booked about 2-3 weeks prior to setting off. The second reason was I didn’t think I would have needed it. I’m someone who in their daily life does an average of 7000 steps a day and I’m pretty healthy and I know I’m a walker, but my god did I regret not training before I started.

I did power through and got there without delays but had it all from feet blisters to aching muscles to waking up the second day feeling like I have been beaten up and ran over by a car. The days that I had to walk 20KM were the toughest, I found myself I could manage 16KM with a bit of a push. I gave myself a massive push for the days I needed to walk longer simply because my luggage was already transferred to my following pre-booked accommodation and there are no taxis in the woods!

Those are my quick how-to tips on experiencing the Camino de Santiago.

Next time I’ll share with you the journey, the funny and scary stories with some more handy travel tips

Did you get some value from this post?

I hope you did because each week I put my heart into making sure you get some great tips so you can rock it in your travels and business while creating a life you love.

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