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Category Archives: Practical advice

Walking, the best exercise

Walking is one of the simplest physical exercises we can perform in our daily life. Often underrated, perhaps because it doesn’t require gyms, special equipment nor personal trainers, it’s nevertheless one of the healthiest and easiest activities within our reach, even more so in our current situation, after a year of a pandemic that has involved several months of lockdowns and closed gyms.

The positive effects of walking in the body are well known: weight loss, less blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reduced risk of heart disease… But more and more studies have appeared in the last few years proving the effects of walking in mental health as well. According to many scientists, walking (specially outdoors) has the following effects:

  • Improving our brain’s attention and memory capabilities.
  • Decreasing the risk of depression and anxiety.
  • Preventing age-related cognitive decline.

Besides, in the case of outdoors exercise, exposure to sunlight improves our vitamin D and serotonin levels. The latter is a neurotransmitter crucial in managing mood and sleep quality.

Walking as Camino training

Sometime later this year, perhaps as soon as in a matter of months, pilgrims will be able to come back to the Camino at last. Aside from its purely spiritual aspects, the Camino is obviously the ultimate “outdoor exercise”: walking several kilometers every day during a week (at least) will provide us with all the physical activity and natural environment we could possibly need. Risk of contagion outdoors is vanishingly low, and if we don’t wish to share and albergue, we can always book a room in the many hotels and hostels along the Camino.

The only problem we can find is that, after an entire year of an enforced sedentary lifestyle, many of us won’t be in physical shape for the Camino. That’s why it’s convenient to start training now; even if we don’t make the pilgrimage in the end, it will be useful anyway as phyiscal exercise.

Training for the Camino is actually quite easy, and it’s not even necessary to follow a rigurous set of instructions. It’s basically about getting used to walk every day. Veteran pilgrims advise the following:

  1. Start walking around 5 to 8 kilometers every day at least.
  2. As weeks pass, increase distances to 10 or 15 kilometers every day.
  3. It’s also convenient to get used to the weight of your rucksack. As usual, we’ll start little by little, carrying only the rucksack with our water bottle, and we’ll continue to the point of walking with the full weight of our luggage. It should be mentioned that not every pilgrim find this phase necessary: many advise walking with your rucksack just a couple of days, in order to find out if there’s anything in our equipment bothering us.
  4. Once we are on the Camino, the most important piece of advice is to take it easy the first few days. Enthusiasm at starting our pilgrimage at last can make us rush beyond our ability, and we’ll definitely notice it later. The Camino is not a competition, and it’s never been about who arrives first.

Of course, if we already have an active lifestyle in our daily life, the above “program” isn’t so necessary: we’ll just have to make sure to keep up with our usual physical activity, perhaps increasing the pace in the weeks previous to the Camino. In any case, the important thing is to persevere: go out and walk every day.

Finally, it should also be noted that footwear is a crucial factor in all of the above. Inadequate shoes might cause blisters and prevent us from walking comfortably. Which shoes are the most adequate and comfortable is a highly personal choice and a subject that could take an entire book; we have touched on it in the past in this blog:

 

The Camino at Easter

Easter has traditionally been a time of the year when many pilgrims have taken the road and walked at least a part of the Camino. This year, however, and given the ongoing pandemic situation, we have received several inquiries about our policy during this time.

Although at the time of this writing no final decision has been taken yet (the key date is March 10th, during the meeting of the Interterritorial Health Council in Spain), all signs point towards keeping the currently existing restrictions. This means that, in the regions through which the Camino passes, the following rules will apply:

  • Navarra: regional lockdown. Travellers cannot enter or exit the region without cause.
  • La Rioja: regional lockdown.
  • Castilla y León: regional lockdown.
  • Galicia: regional lockdown, plus travelling restrictions among municipalities.
  • Asturias: regional lockdown, plus travelling restrictions among municipalities.
  • Portugal: border controls with Spain.

Given this situation, we ask those pilgrims who wish to walk the Camino during Easter and need luggage transfer or people transfer services to write us at contacto@caminofacil.net, so that we can study their situation and give them if possible a customised solution.

We hope that these measures, along with the ongoing vaccination campaign, are the final push needed so that we can all see each other on the Camino again starting from this summer. We remind you that our website is still open and accepting reservations from April 10th on, and that all our reservations have free date changes.

Registry for travellers arriving to Galicia from certain territories

Galicia’s regional government has announced today that travellers arriving to the region from certain territories with a high Covid-19 incidence must provide their contact information on arrival.

The measure applies to anyone who has been in those territories in the 14 days prior to their arrival to Galicia. Travellers can provide their information through the phone number 881002021, or the website https://coronavirus.sergas.gal/viaxeiros/.

The territories to which this applies are the following:

  • Spain: Aragón, Cataluña, Navarra, Basque Country and La Rioja.
  • Europe: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbajian, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Kosovo, Luxembourg, Moldavia, Monaco, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Sweden and Ukraine.
  • America: Argentina, Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Montserrat, Panama, Paraguay, Perú, Puerto Rico, San Vicente and Granadines, St Martin, Surinam, United States, Virgin Islands, Venezuela, Haití, Jamaica and Nicaragua.
  • Asia: Bahrein, Bangladesh, India, Irán, Irak, Israel, Kazajistán, Kuwait, Kyrguistán, Lebanon, Maldives, Omán, Palestine, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, UAE, Uzbekhistan, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Syria, Thailand and Vietnam.
  • África: all countries.

 

Regarding the current situation in Spain and the Camino de Santiago

As you know, the Spanish Government announced yesterday (March 14) the “state of alarm” in the spanish territory, which among other things bans people’s movements without just cause. This obviously means that our luggage transfer service is suspended as long as said state remains in place.

Those of our clients who have bookings with us can switch them free of charge to a later date. If you wish to cancel your booking, you can do so by logging into our website or emailing us at contacto@caminofacil.net.

If you are on the Camino right now, you can get information at these points (info vía A survival guide to the Camino de Santiago in Galicia):

We hope that all our clients are well and take care of themselves and their loved ones through the social distancing measures explained by health authorities, and we hope that we’ll be able to see each other soon on the Camino.

Starting the Camino Inglés in Ferrol: what to see

Photo via OurUtopy in Flickr.

The Camino Inglés is becoming increasingly popular. More and more pilgrims every year take this hitherto less known route, as the statistics compiled by the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago prove; according to them, last year (2018) Ferrol was the fifth most popular starting point for those who reached the compostela, beating even classic places of the Camino such as Leon and O Cebreiro. And of course, we at Caminofácil have started our luggage transfer service along the Camino Inglés.

Because of all this, we wanted today to offer a brief guide to the pilgrim who start her way in Ferrol and wishes to spend a couple of days before exploring the city.

Ferrol Vello

Photo via charlotteinaustralia in Flickr.

This neighbourhood is the original nucleus of the city. The pilgrims who disembarked in Ferrol during the Middle Ages in order to reach Santiago did so here, in the Curuxeiras dock. Walking through the neighbourhood today, one can still get the feel of that original town, a typical galician fishing village.

From here we can also take a ferry for a touristic tour of the estuary.

A Magdalena

Photo via Trevor Huxham in Flickr.

This neighbourhood, which comprises Ferrol’s urban center today, was declared “Conjunto Histórico Artístico” by the spanish government in 1983. Its beautiful art nouveau buildings, built at the beginning of the XX century for the city’s bourgeoisie, give it an unique character.

San Felipe Castle

Photo via amainamos in Flickr.

Built in the XVI century, this castle constituted the main defense of the city, along with the castles of Palma and San Martiño (no longer existing). Their location allowed the defenders of the city to close the estuary off by laying a chain between this castle and the Palma castle, so that no ship could enter.

Beaches

Photo via OurUtopy in Flickr.

Ferrol is surrounded by long beaches of incomparable beauty, ideal for the practice of surf or any other nautical sport. Several of them have the blue flag distinction, which rewards their cleanliness and safety. Some of them are the beaches of Doñinos, Esmelle or Santa Comba.

Cape Prior

Photo via Jesús Perez in Flickr.

The lighthouse at Cape Prior, 14 km. away from the city, is the perfect place to observe the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean. The galician coast, full of cliffs, offers us here a place of incomparable beauty.

2021, “Año Jacobeo”

Official logo for the 2021 “Año Xacobeo”

Many of our readers, as they prepare their future Camino, must have heard that the year 2021 is a special one, since it’s a Jubilee Year or “Año Jacobeo” (“Año Xacobeo” in galician). What does this mean?

According to the Catholic Church, a Jubilee Year is celebrated in Santiago de Compostela whenever July 25th (the day of Santiago the elder) falls on a Sunday. And indeed, the next time this will happen will be on 2021 (and then in 2027). For catholic christians, this means that they can attain a plenary indulgence (full forgiveness of their sins) if they:

  • Visit the Santiago cathedral. (Strictly speaking, one doesn’t need to have made the full pilgrimage; it’s enough to have visited Santiago).
  • Pray for the pope (at least the Lord’s Prayer or the Creed).
  • Receive the Sacraments of Penance and Communion.

The Jubilee Year is also special because it’s only on those occasions when the cathedral’s Holy Door is open.

Indulgence can also be gained, for those pilgrims who haven’t been able to reach Santiago due to accident or illness, if you reach Villafranca del Bierzo and cross the Forgiveness Gate at its church.

This tradition was created by pope Calixtus II in 1120, and it was a big factor in the increase of pilgrimages to Santiago during the Middle Ages. (For those readers knowledgeable about the History of the Camino and who might find Calixtus II’s name familiar, the “Codex Calixtinus” takes its name from a supposed letter by this pope attached to the beginning of the document).

From a practical point of view, on jubilee years there is a considerable increase in the number of pilgrims, so it’s convenient to plan in advance and make reservations for your lodgings, specially in Santiago. Of course, one can also avoid such hassle by walking the Camino on a non-Jacobean year, such as 2020 itself…

 

What’s going on with the restoration works in Santiago cathedral

Traditionally, one of the highlights for any pilgrim that manages to finish the Camino is the visit to the Santiago cathedral: hugging the saint’s statue, assist the Pilgrim Mass and, perhaps, if one is lucky, watch the botafumeiro fly.

However, pilgrims who walk the Camino during these months should be advised that, due to the restoration works in the cathedral, some of these experiences won’t be taking place.

Since last January 28th, the masses and religious services that used to take place at the cathedral have been move to other churches in town. The Pilgrim’s Mass, for example, takes place now at the St. Francis Church, close to Plaza de Obradoiro (about 300 m. further). This also means that the botafumeiro will not be working during these months.

Please note that this doesn’t mean that the cathedral is closed. It still can be visited, and the pilgrims will still be able to enter it, visit the Saint’s crypt and the museum and admire the Pórtico de la Gloria. The only visit that remains closed is the one of the rooftops. The entrance to the cathedral should be done through the Puerta de Platerías, in the southern facade (next to the Fonte dos Cabalos).

Cathedral authorities say that this situation is expected to last about 12 months. For further information:

 

5 advices for walking the Camino de Santiago

Are you going to walk the Camino? Are you determined to make some stages? Then, this article can help you. We want to offer you some advices that we know will help you in this adventure.

  1. comfortable footwear
    One important maxim for a nice Camino experience is wearing comfortable shoes that you know adapt to your feet and your step. Think: you’ll spend hours and hours with them on.
    A spare pair won’t do harm, just in case…
  2. give importance to breaks
    Sleep at night, take small breaks on every stage, take a nap… Resting will help you recover, and recovering will let you go on the next day.
    Otherwise you’ll get a tiredness buildup and you won’t be able to reach the goal.
  3. set yourself for realistic stages
    That you know you can surmount with your current physical condition and your aptitude… otherwise you will be stifled and feel frustrated. It’s not required for every pilgrim to walk the same distance every day.
  4. beware the meals
    We know. In Galicia, as well as other parts of the Camino, meals are delicious and hearty… but if you have a bellyfull at lunch, you’ll have a hard time walking afterwards.
    So, if you want to proceed after lunch, have light lunches and more generous dinners. Furthermore, it’s better to rise early and get sooner to the lunch, and later spend the afternoon resting.
  5. enjoy the Camino
    Last, but surely not least, enjoy the Camino; it’s a one-off experience… imbibe other cultures, meet people, enjoy places, etc.

And now, at last: Buen Camino for everyone!

How to protect yourself from lightnings in case of thunderstorms

Foto via Thomas Gatzweiler, Flickr.
Pic via Thomas Gatzweiler, Flickr.

We are getting closer to autumn, one of the most popular seasons for walking the Camino de Santiago. It’s also the season, however, when rain and storms start to become more frequent. For those pilgrims walking the Camino, this presents a small but non-negligible risk: being struck by a lightning during a thunderstorm.

The risk of being hit by a lightning is indeed much higher in the countryside than in the city, since there are no tall buildings with metallic structures that might act as lightning rods. In order to prevent this, the best thing is to plan our route so that a hypothetical storm doesn’t catch us in the middle of the stage. Thus, we should follow these guidelines:

  • Pay attention to weather forecasts.
  • When in the road, observe the sky in case there are dark clouds or lightning flashes. Seek shelter in a safe place immediately if that’s the case.
  • During the summer, thunderstorms tend to take place after four in the afternoon, so try to plan your route so that you reach your destination before that time.

 

If, despite all, we are caught by a storm in the countryside, this is what we should do:

  • Avoid any high places, such as hills, and seek shelter in lower zones. It’s not a good idea to lie down on the floor, though, since electricity can travel along the ground.
  • Get rid of all metallic objects, and leave them at least 30 meters away. This also includes powering down and leaving cellphones.
  • In the same way, we should avoid metallic objects: fences, electric poles… as well as masses of water (rivers, puddles…).
  • Do not run, and much less with wet clothes. Your movement could create turbulences in the air that “attract” lightnings.
  • Avoid open, flat spaces, since we will stick out in the landscape and we could also attract lightnings.
  • In the same way, we should not seek shelter underneath solitary trees, rocks and other features that stick out from their surroundings.

 

Where should we hide then? A good place could be a forest or group of trees, specially if there are other taller trees nearby. However, the best place to hide in the countryside is a closed car, with the engine turned off, radio antenna lowered and windows closed. If lightning strikes it, the car will be electrically charged only on the outside, while the inside will be protected, thanks to the physical phenomenon known as “Faraday cage”. Nevertheless, we should be careful not to touch any metallic parts of the car once we get out.

If we cannot get in the car and have to remain outdoors, the best thing is to squat as low as possible, with hands on the knees and touching the floor only with your shoes.

If a person has been struck by a lightning, these are the first aid measures that we should perform:

  • If the person struck is unconscious, check for breathing and pulse.
  • If there’s no breath, mouth-to-mouth resucitation should be provided. If there’s no pulse, perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). People suffering from cardiac arrest due to a lightning strike have more probabilities of recovery than those due to other causes; therefore, first aid should be performed as soon as possible.
  • Check also for other injuries, such as bone fractures or burns. Do not move the patient if there are vertebral fractures.
  • Keep the patient warm until medical help arrives.

 

(Source: Asociación Profesional de Agentes Forestales de la CC. AA. de Madrid).

Biking the Camino: the Eurovelo project

Every year there are more pilgrims doing the Camino on bike, and the initiative we want to talk today, named Eurovelo, will doubtlessly be of great interest for them.

ciclistas02

Eurovelo is a network of long distance cycle routes promoted by the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF), covering the entire European continent, from the Black Sea to Finisterre, and from the nordic regions to the Mediterranean. ECF’s vision is to allow people to cross all of Europe on bicycle through safe and well-marked routes.

Within this project, the Camino de Santiago (the Camino Francés, to be more accurate) has been included in the route EV3, the “Pilgrims Route”. The route begins in Trondheim (Norway) and ends at Santiago de Compostela, crossing such historical places as Hamburg, Paris or Bourdeaux. In the case of Spain, as mentioned, the route will follow the steps of the Camino Francés.

imageMap

As for its current state, the Eurovelo project is scheduled to be completed by 2020, when all the necessary work will be completed; this includes things like signs, road maintenance, etc. As we can see in Eurovelo’s official map, the Camino Francés is currently “under development”.

Without a doubt, this is a very interesting initiative that will contribute to make life easier to those who choose the bicycle to travel the Camino.