CAMINO FRANCES - FAQ
to Go / How Long Does It Take / Pilgrim Record /
Maps and Guidebooks / Preparing for the Journey
/ Language / Getting to Spain / Accommodation /
Refugios / Camping / Security / Road Safety /Dealing
with dogs / Opening and closing times / Planning
the Day / Prices / Returning from Santiago
FEW PRACTICAL PILGRIM IDEAS
TIPS ON WHAT TO CARRY
CYCLING PILGRIM FAQ
people time their pilgrimage in order to arrive
in Santiago shortly before 25 July, when for several
days the city celebrates the feast of St James.
August, the traditional Spanish holiday month, is
also hot, busy and crowded on the camino. If you
prefer to travel at a cooler, quieter time, choose
April to mid-June or, and this is perhaps the least
busy period,-1-mid-September to November.
disadvantage of going on, pilgrimage in autumn is
that some hotels and restaurants are closed then
and some refuges and bars in small villages may
also be closed. The weekend prior to Spanish national
day (October 12th) is a fiesta and accommodation
hard to find in the big cities. However in spring
and autumn refuges are less full and there are no
problems with lack of water in some of the villages.
Long Does It Take?
distance between St-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French
side of the Pyrenees and Santiago is approximately
800 kilometres. Walkers, depending on their pace,
stamina and desire to have some rest days, generally
allow between four and six weeks, while cyclists
will need around two weeks on average..
Passport or Credential del peregrino
is essential if you wish to stay in the Refugios.
Abbey at Roncevalles will give you a Pilgrims Passport
at the start of your journey, apply to the Abbots
office. If you get this document stamped (with the
'sello' or rubber stamp) at monasteries, churches,
town halls ('ayuntamientos') or other establishments
long the way, it will serve as proof of your pilgrimage
and help you obtain a 'compostela' or certificate
of pilgrimage when you arrive at the Cathedral in
Santiago . The record has to be shown at refuges
if you wish to obtain accomadation.
pilgrim record is known as the 'credential del peregrino'
and is available in a number of places in Spain,
and pilgrim refuges. 1996 pilgrims who wish to stay
in the refuges along the way and to obtain their'
compostela' in Santiago are recommended to carry
the Spanish' credential' . There should be no trouble
in getting both documents stamped as described above.
It may be helpful to have a letter of introduction
from your parish, college or similar organisation
to present when requesting a credencial although
this is not always required.
basic map is theTelegraph Online's Web Map of Pilgrim
routes in the middle ages to help you to locate
the camino in its geographical contextWhy not Order
some excellent maps of the route from our BOOK LIST
mode of transport you use, good maps are essential
and a detailed guidebook (especially for walkers)
may also be helpful. If you have been following
the GR65 (Le Puy to Roncesvalles) in France you
will find nothing to compare with the French 'topo
guides'. All the commercially-2-available maps are
inadequate mainly because of the amount of road-building
that has taken place in northern Spain, particularly
Galicia, in recent years.
you want a single map that covers the whole of Spain
the recommended one is published by Kummerley and
Frey. The Michelin maps 441 and 442 are to be preferred
to the Firestone ones and are easily available.
Military maps on a larger scale are available in
Spanish cities but only for that region and not
all are up to date.
very attractive and recent book of maps is The Way
of St James by the late Elias Valina; published
by Roger Lascelles, it consists of 70 hand-drawn
colour maps plus a Spanish glossary and list of
refuges. This book can be obtained from via the
- Telegraph Online Newspaper Book List
larger (and heavier) is Elias Valina's authoritative
The Pilgrim's Guide to the Camino de Santiago (Editorial
Galaxia, 1992) which contains a wealth of historical
and route-finding information (including some town
plans) as well as details of accommodation and the
words and music of pilgrim songs. It is available
from the Confraternity at £15-95 including postage(£16-65
who read Spanish easily will find a wealth of guides
in Spanish bookshops. Two of the best ones are that
by Millan Bravo Lozano: Rutas a Pie: el Cam/no de
Santiago published by Everest which is particularly
clearly laid out, and the more compact Camino de
Santiago, Andando bicicleta by F. Imaz (and others)
published by the Spanish Federacidn de Asociaciones
Jacobeas at 1300 ptas.
for the Journey
people like to make meticulous preparations for
their pilgrimage, while others prefer lust to leave
on a summer's day. But for less experienced walkers
some initial preparation and training can make a
lot of difference to one's comfort on the camino.
If you need to buy (light-weight) boots or good-quality
shoes get them and break them in well before you
are not adequate in bad weather, particularly the
winter months. For sore or 'hot' spots that can
develop on feet, animal wool available from chemists,
provides excellent padding. Dr Scholl's adhesive
foam is also effective. Clean socks (wool/cotton
looped variety) each day also make a big difference.
could consider joining a local rambling club and
go for weekend walks, starting with slower, shorter
ones, and gradually build up speed and stamina.
If buying a rucksack for the first time, try on
several and get the one that fits you most comfortably.
When out walking wear your rucksack and increase
its weight gradually until you are carrying all
your equipment. If you plan to sleep in pilgrim
refuges you will need a light-weight sleeping bag,
with a sleeping mat and small torch as useful extras.
Ear-plugs and lip-salve are also useful.
you need to be prepared for continuing and torrential
rain especially in Galicia and for the problem of
never really getting dry. keeping dry clothes (and
money etc.) in plastic bags is a great help. Cyclists
with 27" (touring) wheels will find inner tubes
scarce and tyres non-existent so you may wish to
bring spares. A 1993 cyclist found cycle repair
shops in the smaller places better stocked and more
pilgrim orientated (eg Sahagun, Villafranca delBierzo)
than the larger cities. Spares were more readily
available for bikes with 26 and 28" tyres.
basic knowledge of Spanish, via evening classes
or home-study tapes, will add enormously to your
enjoyment. English is not spoken in rural Spain
and is rarely spoken intowns, even in tourist offices.
Expect to have to communicate in Spanish all the
time and you will be surprised at the progress you
make. Take a small dictionary with you or buy one
in a town bookshop. Once you reach Galicia you may
find that people answer you in Galician ('gallego')
which is related to Portuguese.
to Spain - by land, air or sea.
guide starts lust before the French/Spanish border
and assumes that pilgrims will have reached the
French border town of St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, possibly
using one of the three routes across France (from
Paris/Tours, Vezelay or Le Puy) that meet near Ostabat.
There is a direct train service from Bayonne to
St Jean five times a day.
first two trains, the 9.28 and the 11.28, took bikes
in 1993. Bayonne can be reached by train from Paris
or by coach from London: Eurolines have a London
to Bayonne service at a cost of around £125 return.
Bilbao has direct air services from London and,
if using Iberia, it is possible to return from Santiago.
Bicycles are carried free of charge within normal
Bilbao there is a frequent coach service to Hendaye
(tickets and stop in the Plaza Arrezola). From Hendaye
take the train to Bayonne, or cyclists are recommended
to cycle to Cambo-les-Bains and pick up one of the
two morning trains to St Jean.
you want to start the pilgrimage in Pamplona there
is a coach service from Bilbao; two 1992 pilgrims
were allowed to take their bikes on the coach, but
this probably depends on individual drivers and
how full the coach is.
trains go from Bilbao to Logrono and Burgos on the
route. If you stay overnight in Bilbao the calle
Bidebarrita has several hotels and is convenient
for the station on the other side of the river.
The cathedral at Bilbao is dedicated to St James
and has a modern statue of him. Now that it is no
longer possible to send bicycles registered from
Victoria Station to France, an alternative way for
cyclists to reach St Jean is to fly (on a cheap
charter) to Lourdes.
worked very well for a 1992 pilgrim who used St
Peter's Pilgrims, telephone (081 )-698 3788. If
you prefer to travel by sea Santander is the port
of arrival for Brittany Ferries' services from Plymouth.
There is a direct coach service to Burgos from Santander
run by Continental Auto from the bus station ('estacidn
de autobuses') which is not far from the ferry port.
The journey takes 3 hours and costs around 1195
in smaller towns or villages is often much more
enjoyable than searching for accommodation in the
you do decide to stay in e.g. Pamplona, Logrono,
Burgos or Leon, try to avoid arriving in the early
evening rush-hour between 6 and 8pm when roads and
pavements are crowded and hotel rooms possibly already
taken, especially at weekends and fiesta times.
along the camino ranges from luxury hotels like
the state-run paradors to very basic pilgrim refuges
('refugios'). The word 'hotel' generally indicates
a higher standard of comfort (at a price) than 'hostal',
which in turn implies more comfort and facilities
than a 'fonda' and, going down the scale, a 'posada'.
Most hostals and fondas provide acceptable accommodation
at a reasonable price. A number of bars in Spain
also have rooms, sometimes elsewhere in the village
if a bar is full or has no rooms, they may know
somewhere else to try or know a neighbour who will
put pilgrims up in their home ('casa privada').
It is also worthwhile asking at restaurants. The
word 'habitaciones' means 'rooms'and 'camas' 'beds'.
If you want to leave early in the morning, you should
arrange to pay the night before and ask to be shown
how the exterior locks work. Otherwise, you may
have to wait until well after 9am.
refuges (or 'refugios') exist in many towns and
villages, provided by monasteries, the parish, the
town hall, the regional Amigos del Camino de Santiago
or by individuals who enjoy meeting pilgrims.
number of new refuges were built last year (Holy
Year) particularly in Galicia where there should
be refuges every 10 to 15 kilometres. It is not
known if they will all have wardens in 1994 or be
open early and late in the season. Facilities in
the refuges vary considerably: sometimes only foorspace
is available, while other refuges have bunk beds
sleeping bag is essential, a sleeping mat advisable,
an inflatable pillow and plug for basin useful.
Refuges described in this guide as 'basic' will
have floorspace for sleeping bags, electric light,
a cold water tap and a w.c. Other facilities, where
known, will be mentioned, e.g. shower, kitchen(with
or without pans etc.), bunk beds, hot water, drying
facilities etc. In July and August there may well
be serious water shortages in certain places on
the camino when the supply will-6-be turned off
for up to 12 hours at a time.
be sparing in your use of water. You will probably
be asked by the voluntary warden ('hospitalero')
to show your pilgrim record (and/or 'credencial')before
being admitted as the refuges are intended for true
pilgrims, on foot or travelling by bicycle, not
just holiday-makers. Nor are they intended for small
or large groups with back-up transport or for motorists.
Despite this, in busy months you may still encounter
large groups with their attendant disadvantages.
Some refuges, including the Refugio Gaucelmo at
Rabanal, do not accept large groups and do not accept
bookings made in advance by leaders who arrive early
with a vehicle.
busy times preference is also given to walkers over
cyclists, simply because it is easier for a cyclist
to go on to the next refuge. However each refuge,
with or without full-time wardens, has its own house
rules, or lack of them. Some refuges charge a small
set fee of
to 500 pesetas, others request a voluntary donation
while others still make no charge. The doors of
most refuges are locked 11pm and pilgrims encouraged
to be away by 8am.
at campsites have risen considerably over recent
years. Some charge the motorcycle fee for bicycles,
so that two people with bikes can pay more than
if they arrived in a car. Some class I sites charged
2000 pesetas plus in 1992 for two people, two bikes
and one small tent, although the average was around
1000. Sites were nearly all crowded (and noisy)
in July and August. Opening times and facilities
are listed for campsites.
is sensible, particularly in towns and cities, to
establish your accommodation first, and lock up
your bike and bags before going sightseeing.
possible lock your bike to a solid fixture in the
garage or lock-up place and, of course, if you have
to leave it in the street. For personal valuables
an old-fashioned, out-of-sight money-belt may be
safer than the modern, more visible versions. Don't
assume that you can leave anything safely outside
in towns, even in quiet places; sad but true all
and cars are usually considerate of cyclists. Times
to take particular care are when starting off (keep
to the right) and late afternoon when you and drivers
behind you will be travelling into the sun. Walkers
should walk on the left of the road facing oncoming
traffic. 'Camino' safety is also an issue and cyclists
on mountain bikes should respect the rights of walkers
on narrow paths.
dogs are less of a problem than French ones but
can occasionally be troublesome. Walkers will find
a stick useful for a number of reasons, including
keeping a dog at bay. Keep away from sheep and cattle
being guarded by dogs and don't turn your back on
dogs until at a safe distance. Avoiding eye contact
is another tip. It is possible to buy a special
alarm that emits a high-pitched noise that is supposed
to stop a dog in its tracks; the cost is around
£30. The word used to get dogs to 'sit' or 'lie
down' is tumbate! said with authority. A1992 pilgrim
said she just ignored dogs, pretended they weren't
there and had no trouble.
and closing times
daily timetable in Spain differs markedly from that
of Britain and France. Cathedrals, churches, monasteries
and museums open at 9 or 10 until 1.30 or 2pm and
reopen around 4.30 or later. Summer opening times,
where known, are given here. Winter, with its shorter
opening times, is usually from October to March.
most towns and villages there is an evening Mass
at 8pm, occasionally 7.30 or 8.30, not at all in
the smallest villages except on Sunday mornings.
Many churches are kept locked and may not be opened
to casual visitors, even those with good Spanish.
Country churches are often cleaned on Saturday afternoons,
which may give an opportunity to see the interior.
Food can be bought up until 7.30 or 8pm but often
not between 2 and 5pm.
small villages you may have to ask where the shop
is. This edition of the guide indicates the existence
or not of shops in very small places. Lunch and
dinner are served around 2pm and 9pm or later respectively.
Fortunately, bars often have delicious 'tapas' or
savoury snacks of many kinds, which help to fill
gaps. If you are hungry at the wrong time for a
meal, ask in a bar for 'unaracidn' of what you fancy
and you will be given a full helping.-8- A Spanish
sandwich is a 'bocadillo' and is also available
at most times. Breakfasts in Spain are generally
very modest, although some bars and hostals do a
cooked breakfast after about 9.30. Note also that
bars in some of the very small villages will not
necessarily be open all the time, especially in
spring and autumn.
is important to plan each day, using this guide
and your map.
route in Spain is not easy and the Pyrenees are
only the first of several mountain ranges you will
encounter. An indication of the number of kilometres
between places is given, and warnings of the more
difficult stretches. Try to start at 6 or 6.30 (or
earlier) in hot weather and have break-fast en route
a bit later. It is also a good idea to stock up
the night before with fruit or yogurts and plenty
of water. If you can, reach your destination by
2pm in time for lunch and a rest in the hot part
of the afternoon. You will then have time to visit
places of interest in the town which will re-open
around 5pm. In autumn it gets light quite late so
if you are leaving early make sure you can see the
yellow arrows. Cyclists should ensure that they
can be seen by motorists on the roads. There are
one or two days when walkers will need to carry
a fair amount of food and water with them as shops
are non-existent in some areas.
in Spain are now comparable with the rest of western
Europe and hotel rates have risen quite rapidly
in recent years. In restaurants the set 'menu del
dia' is very good value and ranges from 700 to 1200
pesetas, with wine not always included in the cheaper
menus. A full meal with wine, a Iacarte, tends to
cost from 1700 pesetas upwards. Some 1993 prices
are given as a guide to what you might have to pay
in 1994. Breakfasts are not normally included in
hotel room rates.
from Santiago -
are various ways of returning to the UK from Santiago,
short of walking or cycling back, depending on the
time and funds at your disposal.
you are in a hurry there are scheduled Iberia flights
from Santiago to Heathrow, but it is almost impossible
to get an-62-economy single ticket (£180+) at short
notice, especially in late August and early September.
If you have a return flight already booked and want
to change the date it could cost you an extra £100.
is worth enquiring at a travel agent about charter
flights from Santiago to Luton and from La Coruna
to Gatwick. Bicycles are carried free of charge,
within normal weight limits, subject to certain
conditions, which may include packing in a special
and the Spanish company Alsa run coach services
from Santiago to London and Paris for around 14,000
ptas. and also to Hendaye on the French/Spanish
border. Alsa may take bikes for half the price of
an adult ticket; if so you and your bike travel
Eurolines coach to London is good and faster than
going by train and ferry. If you decide to return
by coach it is best to go in person to the Estacidn
de Autobuses at San Cayetano, or you could try a
travel agent first. A Dutch company has a special
coach service known as the Fietsbus, which takes
about 40 passengers and their bikes.
seats magically convert into two-tier, full-length
beds at night and passengers are supplied with a
blanket, pillow and slippers. The bikes are towed
behind the bus in a large, purpose-built closed
trailer. For further details and booking telephone
the agents, Fietsvakantiewinkel, in Holland on (01031
)-3480.21844 (if phoning from the UK).
Intercar direct coach service to Santander takes
15 hours and arrives at 3am. A handy fonda in Santander
is the Pension Santillana, calle Isabel II, 18-1,
reason-ably close to the bus station and ferry port.
Book in advance if arriving late on (942)-22.87.37.
Train to France -
is a regular train service from Santiago to run
on the border with France. The position for bikes
is difficult: they are no longer carried free and
are not allowed(generally) on long-distance passenger
trains. A 1993 pilgrim paid 3875 ptas for his bike
to be carried to Hendaye and encountered border
problems between Irun and Hendaye. Cyclists are
there-fore advised to cycle between Irun and Hendaye
and then start again. Take your bike to Santiago
station at least two days in advance of your travel,
excluding Saturdays and Sundays.
agents who are also RENFE agents, eg Viajes Pina,
Republica de-63-El Salvador 6, will sell you a ticket,
but check on your bike ticket as well. The bike
then has to go to the luggage registration office
at the station to be weighed and issued with its
documentation. If you have no bike and aim to get
your ticket on the day of travel it pays to arrive
at the station at least 1 hour before the train
leaves. People's experiences of travelling on RENFE
with a bike vary considerably and any further hints
for next year's guide will be very welcome.
Train (RENFE) to Santander -
Santiago the journey takes 12½ hours with a change
at Palencia. Departure is around 9am with arrival
at Santander around 9.3Opm. This includes about
2½ hours in Palencia which is sufficient time to
see the fine cathedral. There is nowhere to leave
luggage at Palencia but the cathedral is less than
ten minutes away, across gardens in front of the
station. (See under 'Coaches' above for accommodation
in Santander.)By FEVE Train - pilgrims using the
narrow-gauge, privately-run FEVE trains along the
north coast (from El Ferrol to Santander or Bilbao,
via Oviedo) will find FEVE easier to deal with than
RENFE. It seems that bikes may be accepted on the
overnight train only, but it is essential to check
first. Getting information can be a problem but
the Tourist Office in rua do Villar has a photocopy
of the timetable. Otherwise ring the FEVE station
in Ferrol on 37.04.33.
PILGRIM A FEW IDEAS
walkers have definite ideas about clothes and equipment.
As I have been asked so often what I took with me,
and most of what I took performed exceptionally
well, I thought a few notes on the major items might
be useful to others.
are French shoes that combine lightness, flexibility
and breathability with a sturdy Vibram sole and
interior contouring for maximum support and hence
maximum comfort. When I was planning my walk, many
people advised me to buy Boots. I balked at the
weight of most of them. and was not convinced that
I needed tile degree of support they offered, oven
over some rough country. having done the walk, I
would choose Mephistos again. Their only drawback
was the wearing down of the Vibram, though this
only became an irritant in the last week of the
walk. (Perhaps people who wear down 'heels severely
should buy shoes that can be easily resoled en route.)
Before leaving, I debated trying to weatherproof
tile shoes. As it was a very rainy April in France,
they did get wet; they (tried well, though, and
by the time I reached Spain and the first real heatwave
of the year, I was glad I had not reduced the breathing
quality of the leather.
I was very satisfied with my shoes, they had really
given their "all' by the journey's end and
have been relegated to the garden! At t-53, this
might seem uneconomical to some people, but they
did carry me 1600 kilometres in ton-and-a-half weeks
in comfort, over all terrain and with nary a blister,
so I consider their retirement well earned. Good
boots, of course, would last; far longer than this.
is essential I bought my shoes from tile Freeman
Tonkin shop at 34 Chiltern St., London WI (walk
south down Chiltern St from Baker St tube station)
where both the proprietors are Master Shoe Fitters.
I recommend a visit. I had forty minutes of undivided
attention and came away confident that I had bought
the right shoes for the job.
quality 100% cotton, looped terry inside, smooth
outer surface Tennis socks?
question mark is because I actually bought mine
in Canada, but I assume they are sold here. If I
say that I didn't have a single blister in the whole
journey, that alone is a recommendation. These socks
are cushiony and wonderfully absorbent, soft to
the skin, tend to lie close rather than rub, etc.
Three pairs (tile old adage: one clean, one dry,
one on) served me well the whole distance, and I
am still wearing two pairs a year later. They wash
and dry easily overnight if wrung out well. (A useful
trick for drying clothing overnight: wring out as
much water as possible. spread garment on towel
- beat if hotel's - roll towel and garment together
into a "sausage" and walk barefoot up
and down it a few times before hanging garment up
to dry.) As a general comment on feet, I view as
nonsense all the warnings about toughening your
feet by soaking them in methylated spirits, etc.
Hard skin builds up 'literally where you need it;
the problem is to prevent the skin from becoming
a) too dry and inflexible, in which case you suffer
painful cracks in that hard skin, or b) too moist,
which leads in time to
foot and other miseries.
an end of pumice stone and a tube of all purpose
lotion such as Vaseline's Intensive Care and use
them daily to prevent a), and to prevent b) keep
clean dry socks at the ready, and always dry feet
thoroughly. If shoes wear inside, and you buy foam
inner soles or anything else to go inside the shoes,
wash and dry these thoroughly every day too.
aches and tender spots, I found "animal wool"
such as Boots sells in its range of footcare aids
an excellent remedy, placed between akin and sock.
The natural lanolin in the wool is very beneficial.
You can stick it in place with another Boots item,
a soft adhesive stuff, but I never did; the terry
surface of the sock kept it in position.
great attribute of these was that they washed and
dried so quickly. They were my only pair of trousers
for every two days. They are extremely light, don't
crease much, have lots of useful pockets, and look
presentable; if I were taking1 them again, though,
I'd stitch over all the seams as the thread on my
pair gave way at a number of minor points (belt
loops, round tile edges of tile double knees and
seat, for instance).
back-loading (zip round three aides) convertible
was the item I was happiest with. The Cordira (I
think that's right) fabric is indestructible, dirt
repellent, waterproof etc. Ease of access was my
main object in buying this case; I hate rooting
around in top-loading rucksacks - whatever it is
I am after has always sunk to the bottom.
was obviously tile most important feature. This
rucksack has an internal frame and a fully adjustable
strap system, which meant that once I got it right
and worked out 5 pattern for packing the load every
morning, nothing needed adjusting. I almost forgot
I was wearing a pack, it was so comfortable. Wide
hip and chest straps were a great help. The outer
support straps, three along each side, kept the
load from shifting and made it feel more compact.
have the advantage of transforming themselves into
cases at tile pull of a zip, and while I usually
wouldn't bother with features like tills, it just
happened to be something that this rucksack did.
I found it useful on a few occasions, but it's a
minor point. Make sure the zips are best quality,
throughout. and carry a strong needle and heavy
thread in sewing kit.
things That Made a Difference...
Swiss army knife
"Hotrod" water boiler (for cold weather
only), and instant tea (Swiss herbals) or whatever
comforts you when you're wet and cold!
Hat, folding cotton type that can take anything
and has a brim wide enough to shield your nose.
Longer noses need wider brims!
Nailbrush (for clothes as wall as self)
scarf, headsize rather than necksize. All sorts
of uses, including protecting back of neck from
sun, makeshift support bandage for knee or ankle,
tiny pillow, about 8" by 15". Mine squashes
down to nothing. I can sleep anywhere with this,
and used it often; also useful for putting under
aching joint, cushioning bicycle saddle or hard
items in pack, etc. Not a silly luxury.
Cassette player, which will either have radio or
record (only one very expensive model does all three).
I took the radio type; useful for French and Spanish
comprehension, weather reports. I never used mine
while walking - too much else to See and hear and
think about to want any intrusions! - but it was
pleasant to have music in the evenings.
note here: I sent myself two books and two or three
cassettes to stops en route, poste restante or hate
de correos, and used the wrapping, pre addressed
and turned inside out, to send the ones I'd finished
with back to London. Remember that in France you
will be charged a franc per item from the poste
restante, whether it's a package or 5 postcard.
Small pair of binoculars the folding kind used at
racecourses are ideal - for looking at sculpture
in churches. ESSENTIAL.
TIPS ON WHAT TO CARRY
Unframed rucksacks better than framed rucksacks
which get caught on trees
Even good quality rucksacks not always waterproof-wrap
everything in polythene.
Lightest gear essential for everything-Rohan good.
Empty tems out of bulky containers.
Clothes-one set on, one set off, one set spare.
Take old clothes on 'last legs' and discard as you
go. Nothing formal required-continental cafes, restaurants
Safety pins always useful for emergencies.
Socks double as gloves.
Hat essential in hot weather-much of the walk is
But Spain can be cold and wet even in August.
11 kilos weight (rucksack 30-35 litres) without
tent/sleeping bag/water quite heavy enough to carry
for 40+ kms or even less.
blisters: Spenco skincare pack Spenco second skin
dressing, foot pads etc
by credit/charge card wherever possible as exchange
rate tends to be better than for cash/traveller's
cheques. VISA & AMEX best, Access is not taken
much in France.
keep sufficient cash in francs/pesetas for petty
expenditure to avoid time consuming visits to Banks.
Bank visits can wreck planned schedules and do not
allow early starts.
hot weather absolutely essential to avoid dehydration.
1 litre per person per day minimum in coolish weather-far
more when hot. Keep water container topped up from
fountains (Spain) and farm. Remember the ancient
Dorians (in Groeco) when on route marches stopped
for water every 10 km and constructed a network
of fountains for the purpose.
start-even in the dark- saves valuable sightseeing
time and helps avoid midday heat. Recky dark stretches
the evening before to establish location of waymarks,
your scallop shell- entry fee: will be reduced,-
cafes will give you food and drink- and everyone
(certainly in Spain) will greet you.
footwear frequently, and always at the end of the
day to remove anything which may damage the footwear
or your feet.
walking in shorts-a lightweight wrap around beach
skirt useful for wearing over short: for church
dogs usually more timid than their hark-fierce ones
not normally allowed loose. Eyes down on French
pavements; the stuff is difficult to remove from
CYCLING PILGRIM FAQ
/ The BicycleTourer or M.T.B / Technical Specification
/ The Bicycle and Load Carrying /
and Equipment / Transport to and from Spain / The
Daily Routine / Maps, Guides and Routefinding /
Tools and Spare Parts
this necessarily a short FAQ as it is impossible
to deal with the very wide spectrum of requirements
for all cycling pilgrims. We have therefore covered
a number of aspects of a cycle pilgrimage from the
very elementary, (does not own a bike) - to the
experienced rider who wishes to be guided on the
particular conditions on the pilgrim routes. Inevitably
the individual will have further questions that
attach to particular concerns.
the methods of transport recognized as appropriate
for the true pilgrim by the Cathedral authorities
at Santiago de Compostela, i.e. foot, horse or bicycle,rguably
the bicycle provides a greater degree of flexibility,
independence and freedom from time constraints than
the other two. To visit say, Clavijo, the site of
the famous battle, is an extra day for the walker
but a comparatively short diversion on a bike. Given
a reasonable spares kit and the ability to use it,
coupled with the considerable numbers of cycle repairers
on the route - then the likelihood of major mechanical
problems is quite low. The much greater speed of
the bicycle means that more time is available to
study and enjoy all the notable sights en route.
speaking the pilgrim on a touring bike is confined
to the road. On a mountain bike the pilgrim is free
to follow in the footsteps of his forbears and travel
on the Camino. In parts, the Camino is tough going
even on a M.T.B., so a reasonable degree of fitness
is required. Training rides on bridleways, with
the kit you expect to carry on pilgrimage, is highly
desirable. The difference between the behaviour
and handeling,laden and unladen, over rough terrain
is considerable. Acceleration is slower, which is
not of great importance.but braking is much more
sluggish which can be dangerous unless you are used
to it. Some of the rough tracks through the Pyrenees
and Navarre are not the places to get accustomed
to a change in behaviour.
type of bicycle, the prudent pilgrim will seek to
reduce weight as much as possible. Although the
cycle carries weight quite well, the load still
has to be carried up hills (plus at least three
mountain ranges!). It should always be borne in
mind that travel on the Camino in June, July and
August will require a high intake of fluid. Water
is a substantial addition to the overall load.
pilgrims who contemplate riding to Santiago will
possess a bicycle and providing it is a reasonable
quality tourer or M.T.B., it will be adequate. Those
without a bicycle or cycling experience need to
do some research. Richard's) Bicycle Book (Pan)
is a good starting point and perusal of the variety
of cycling magazines will provide familiarity with
current equipment and jargon. If you can find one,
perhaps the best option is to find a sound dealer,
preferably one who handles maintenance as well,
and seek his advice.
are two other sources of help and advice; the C.T.C.,
which has worthwhile benefits if you join, and the
Confraternity. The latter has a number of cycling
pilgrims in its ranks who will be happy to help.
is a consideration. Both touring and M.T.B. cycles
can be made to measure, with all fitments to your
specification. This solution is (a) the best, (b)
the most expensive and (c) relies either on complete
faith in the builder or a very high standard of
personal knowledge of what you want. The" off
the peg" solution is a matter of taste and
cost. Less weight means more money, but in the long
term also means less effort. There is nearly always
a weight penalty with an M.T.B. because it is designed
not to break when subjected to great stress. In
my own case I have a very modestly priced M.T.B.
and recall one experience on the Camino which would
have irretrievably smashed a touring bike. I simply
rode on, both self and bike totally undamaged.
you set off always get your bike checked over very
carefully. Better, do it yourself if you have the
ability. Do not risk riding off without your steed
in tip-top shape and that really means stripping
it right down to ensure that bearings are as they
should be and then repacked with grease, wheels
in good shape (literally), chain not stretched,
brakes and gears carefully checked and so on.
Bicycle and Load Carrying
walking or cycling try to minimise weight. It has
to be carried, which may seem a statement of the
obvious, but the more weight the greater the energy
output required to carry it. When travelling over
long distances and mountainous terrain it can make
a lot of difference to the pleasure of riding. Even
if the purpose of your pilgrimage is penitential,
there is no need to make carrying excess weight
part of the penance. Never forget, with no apology
for the repetition, that you have to carry water
and emergency food, and water is heavy.
are a wide variety of racks to support your panniers.
Choose one of solid construction; they take a lot
of punishment. The mountings and securing nuts must
be checked daily.
come in a variety of styles and sizes. In any event
prudence suggests that the pilgrim will contain
his kit within the panniers in a dustbin liner or
similar protection to ensure that rain and dust
are excluded. An important consideration is the
fixing of the pannier to the rack. If they simply
hook on they will just as simply bounce off if you
hit a pothole, so they should have a positive fixing
that ensures that they are locked on. All the fixings
should be regularly checked.
bar bag can be useful for carrying valuables, camera
etc., because they are easily detachable to carry
around with you. They also usually have a fitting
on top to carry a map. If you do not use a bar bag,
a map holder is invaluable.
panniers or low loaders help to keep a good fore
and aft balance, they also help to prevent the front
wheel getting skittish on steep hills with a heavy
rear load and a low gear.
Corrigan ,who made his pilgrimage on an M.T.B.,carried
24 lbs and felt that was as much as he would wish
to carry. On my own pilgrimage the all up weight
including panniers and the clothes I stood up in
amounted to 23 lbs lOoz. In contrast John Hatfield
carried 53lbs in his tourer. He believes that this
is too heavy and may have contributed to broken
are times when you need to support your bike, for
example when opening a gate. A kick stand is useful
on these occasions and perhaps the continental pattern
nearer the back wheel is more stable than the usual
domestic product which fixes under the bottom bracket.
Spain, in the heat of summer, protection against
the sun needs careful thought. Wear a long sleeved
shirt, cover your legs unless very well tanned and
ensure protection for the head and the back of the
neck. For those with very sensitive skins there
are a number of screening products on the market
which you should be aware of. If in doubt, do not
hesitate to consult your doctor.
pre-pilgrimage training rides should tell you if
your kit is adequate for you, because all pilgrims
have slightly different requirements I have not
discussed this much here.
to and from Spain
depends where you start from!
are good air connections to Bilbao and Santiago.
Most airlines carry your bicycle free and usually
all you are asked to do is to partially deflate
the tyres to counteract the effects of pressurisation.
There is the possibility of getting a one way. fare
only ticket on a pilgrim flight to Lourdes. It is
then an easy ride to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.
travel is becoming progressively more difficult.
You can no longer send your bike to the continent
in advance because the ferry companies refuse to
take them unaccompanied. If you travel to France
with your bike make sure you go to Calais as bikes
can no longer be forwarded from Boulogne. You may
expect a three day wait for your bike to arrive.
Always get in touch, prior to departure, with French
Railways 179, Piccadilly, London W1V OBA (Tel:071
409 1652) to check the current position.
Ferries have a good service to Santander and P&O
will have a regular service to Bilbao from April
28, 1993. Both lines carry bicycles free if accompanied
by the owner.
July and August there is a Fietsbus (Dutch for cycle
bus) which operates a return service from Woerden,near
Rotterdam, to Santander and Burgos. For a small
surcharge you can travel one way. The company is
called Fietsvakantiewinkel, Tel 010 31 3480 21844.
They speak good English.
may find it easier to convey your bicycle from England
to Santiago than from Santiago to England! There
is a train service from Santiago to Irun (the Franco-Spanish
border). Unless it is a slow train (expreso), the
rules say that you do not accompany your bike. In
practice it may not be so. At Santiago station,
buy your ticket in advance and take your bike to
the luggage registration where it will be weighed
and a 'facturada' issued. If it weighs less than
20kg it will be carried free and RENFE staff will
handle it thereafter.Collect your bike at Irun and
ride across the frontier to Hendaye. It will save
you a fiver. From then on you will be in the hands
of SNCF. Check before you go the most convenient
forwarding point for your bike and allow time for
it to get to the channel port.
back, with the bike free as part of your luggage
is very good, but more expensive. It is worth checking
whether there are any spare seats on charter flights
before booking scheduled ones.
is also the returning Fietsbus from Burgos or the
ferry companies. There remains the mediaeval option
- ride home!
daily distance covered is dependent on a lot of
factors, not least of which is your personal fitness.
It is sensible, at least for the first few days,
to aim at a modest mileage. It gives you a chance
to acclimatise. Using your Pilgrim Guide to Spain
and taking advantage of the flexibility that your
bike bestows on you, you should be able 10 plan
your stops more advantageously than is possible
for the walker. Do try, if at all possible, not
to hurry. Your pilgrimage is not a race and a leisurely
approach will put you more in tune with the country
you are in. Fry to put in one or two rest days.
Burgos and Leon are obvious possibilities. There
is much to see. Whether the object of your pilgrimage
is religious or cultural or some mixture of the
two, taking time to appreciate all the aspects of
your journey will pay the greatest long term dividends.
The Pilgrim Guide will give you ample guidance on
where to stay and where to eat.
follows below a number of check lists. They are
intended for guidance only, but they should, at
least be helpful. if only as a check on your own
lists of the kit that you need to take.
Guides and Routefinding
best guide to current maps, guides and other publications
is the Pilgrim Guide to Spain, published by the
Confraternity of St. James and updated annually.
It will also help with all of the general information
you will need in respect of places to stay, food
and drink and the sights to see. An invaluable feature
for the cyclist are details of the cycle repairers
en route (20 at the last count);
and Spare Parts
come in a variety of sizes. See the C.T.C. Handbook
if you want all the permutations. For the purposes
of the pilgrim, if you have a 700c rim, You should
have no difficulty in replacement. Similarly, if
you have a M.T.B., the 26" tyre is universal
in Western Europe. So, if you have these two sizes
you should be alright in France or Spain, if not,
for first aid on a split tyre. Glue the casing and
then line the tyre with an old piece of car weight
cables (brakes and gear)
puncture repair outfit
chain link splitter
pair brake shoes
cables (brakes and gear)
puncture repair outfit
chain link splitter
pair brake shoes
pair pliers with wire cutter
assorted allen keys
set sockets to fit bike
free wheel extractor
spare inner tube
Swiss Army knife. Useful for its screwdrivers as
well as for its other attributes.
bottom bracket ball races
spokes and spoke key
at all times when you are not actually riding it,
your bicycle should besecurely locked up.
à Q.Pratique Généralités