In September 2021 I walked about 150 miles from Porto, Portugal to Santiago de Compestella in Spain. Rather than trying to explain what the Camino is, here's a Wikipedia link that gets into detail of the history, culture, and purpose.https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camino_de_Santiago...
We made it to Porto with no major issues and with all of our luggage. Now to tour the town and drink some wine! A little too much vino verde, sardines, cheeses, sausage, bread, and fun times!
Day 1 - Mosteiro (Porto) to Arcos
We walked from Mosteiro (just north of Porto) to Arcos, a total of about 11 miles. We took a couple of detours to avoid walking on dangerous roads. Lots of trucks zoom by with little space, so we took the rural route instead through fields of corn and some pretty cool forests. Got to Arcos just before it started raining. Our accommodations were at Quinta de Sao Miguel de Arcos.
Day 2 - Arcos and Barcelos
We walked somewhere between 12-14 miles, depending on which device was keeping track. Much prettier than yesterday through lots of gorgeous countryside between Arcos and Barcelos. Our accommodations were at Hotel Bagoeira in Barcelos.
Day 3 - Barcelos to Quintiães
We walked only 9 miles from through lots of vineyards. Very sunny and hot today, so it was nice to find our hotel had a swimming pool, but the water was way too cold to swim in. Nice for a foot soak. Our accommodations were at Casa dos Assentos. This place got a bit sticky, since we walked too fast and arrived before check-in time. The hotel manager also insisted we show a QR code for our Covid status, which we could not get. We had proof of vaccination and negative tests before we arrived, but that didn't seem to be enough. He finally did let us in a little early and we walked to a local gathering spot for some vino verde, snacks, and good times with the local boys.
It was a hot, long 14 mile hike, but very pretty. We hiked past the River Neiva and River Lima, through a gazillion vineyards, lots of small towns, and through the Lima Valley with mountains on both sides. We were out of water by the midpoint only to find the only cafe on the path closed, with no others for six km more. Fortunately as sweet man on a bike pointed us to another little place where we could relax and get water and food. We survived another day! Tomorrow is our most challenging hike. We have to climb over the Labruja Mountain.
This was definitely the most challenging, because of distance, steep terrain, and weather. We started in Ponte de Lima and walked about 15 miles over Labruja Mountain, past beautiful waterfalls, patches of forest, over Roman bridges, passing various hamlets, and Romanesque churches to arrive in Cossourado at the end of the day. It was pouring rain when we left, but the weather got very hot as we were walking up the very steep mountain. Then more downpour as we walked down. We are staying at a nice B&B, still high in the mountains, but expect thunderstorms again tomorrow as we descend down to our next stop.
Day 6 - Cossourado to Valenca
We started in the mountains in the town of Cossourado and walked to the city of Valenca in the valley below, which was just a short 7.5 mile hike. This path had a lot of places to stop for coffee, so we did a few. We’re getting better at following the guide maps and finding our hotels at the end of the day when we’re all tired. The maps apps work well here. Weather forecast said it would rain, but we were lucky to avoid it.
Today we crossed the border from Portugal to Spain across a long, steel bridge (19th century, base on Gustavo Eiffel’s design) over the River Minho. We were soon in the midieval town of Tui, where the 16th century Cathedral of Santa Maria de Tui is located. Total walk was about 13 miles ending up in the town of Porrifino. Tonight we are at a small B&B drinking wine and eating ham croquettes. Tomorrow is another big day.
We walked 8 miles from Arcade to Pontevedra, which is considered an easy hike in spite of much of it up another big hill between the two cities (240 meters). It started with the one-lane bridge then uphill through winding stone paths through the woods and along the River Tomeza detour. We still have some touring to do in this city, but had to get some croquettes and beer first. It’s been raining most of the morning, but it looks like the sun will be out before the end of the day.
Some tips for walking the Camino de Compostela
- Walk at your own pace, even if you’re with someone else, or a group. Everyone has their own reason for doing the Camino. Whether it is to clear your head, set a personal speed, steps, or distance record, take pictures, take in the smells, sounds, and scenery of what’s around you. Do this for you. Not for anybody else.
- You're going to get a LOT of advice from every Camino expert out there. Things like whether or not you should use poles, what kind of socks and underwear to bring, how you should take pictures. Start preparing at least two months ahead of time to get your endurance built up and find out for yourself what works for YOU! I got all kinds of bad info from a lot of people who insisted they were experts or got their advice from experts they knew.
- Don't be afraid to walk the Camino alone. If you do it with others be sure to discuss ahead of time what the plan is if you get separated. Make sure you are all in agreement so there is no guilt or hard feelings.
- Don’t be in such a hurry! If you walk too fast you’ll arrive at your next hotel before check-in time and sometimes before your luggage arrives (if you use a transport service). You’ll be standing there all sweaty, sometimes in the hot sun, sometimes in the pouring rain and can't check-in. Make a few stops along the way for coffee or snacks. Stop and take pictures!
- Shin splints are the result of over-exertion. You can get them even if you are well-prepared for your Camino. Be sure to stop often and stretch often. Make sure you know how to treat them if needed. Bring the proper bandages and wraps with you. Do not keep pushing through the pain! This could lead to stress fractures. Take your time! There is no need to hurry.
- Be careful if you’re wearing earbuds! Many Camino paths are on busy streets or even short stretches on highways. Not all cars and trucks give way to clueless hikers. Best to take then out when you’re on streets.
- Carry as little in your daypack as is possible. You’ll need to save your energy to carry water, hat, sunscreen, a snack, moleskin & bandages.
- Unless you are young, fit, and are staying in hostiles without a reservation from day to day, use a transport service to forward your luggage to each new destination.
- Know the Covid requirements for each destination.
- Use a maps app to enter your hotel address before you set out for that day. Realize that the map apps probably don’t recognize the Camino apps and the Camino apps don’t know which hotel you are in. Bring along an extra battery device, because all GPS tracking apps really suck the life out of your cell phone battery. I liked AllTrails because I could download our trail for offline viewing and I liked the earth view.