Category Archives: Practical advice

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.

 

Pamplona to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port: how to arrive

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
Foto via https://flic.kr/p/5kc234

One of the most common starting points for pilgrims who walk the Camino de Santiago is Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, in France.If you want to reach this small village from Spain, your best option is to make a reservation in our taxi service. Our modern vehicles (with up to 8 seats) will take you to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in a quick and easy way.

If for whatever reason you don’t wish to hire a taxi, the main alternative transport medium to reach it is the seasonal bus operated by CONDA (an ALSA subsidiary), covering the Pamplona to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port route.

The question for many pilgrims, as they plan their Camino every year, is when does the CONDA / ALSA bus service start. For 2017, according to ALSA, the starting dates are already out:

  • March 1st: one daily bus, departing from Pamplona at 14:30.
  • April 12th: two daily buses, at 14:30 anad 17:30.
  • June 1st: three daily buses, at 10:00, 14:30 and 17:30.

All of them depart from the Pamplona bus station.

Alternatively, if these bus dates are not convenient for you, we at Caminofacil also provide a taxi service that covers the same route. You can contact us for further details.

 

Christmas 2016: some Camino-related gift ideas

We are now in Christmas season, and we at Caminofacil have decided to talk here about a couple of Camino-related books that were published during this year, and that might be good gift ideas for children (coincidentally, both of the books that we are going to review here are targeted towards them).

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The first of them, “Huellas secretas en el Camino”, belong to the “Los sin miedo” series, authored by José María Plaza. It’s a series of children books, telling the adventures of a group of four friends, in the tradition of series like Enid Blyton’s “The fabulous five”. In this occasion, our four protagonists walk the Camino de Santiago during their summer holidays, and (as usual in the genre) find themselves involved in all kinds of adventures related to secret keys, templar legends and even a possible treasure.

The author uses the characters’ route through the most famous places of the Camino (Roncesvalles, Pamplona, San Juan de Ortega…) to introduce them to us, as well as to recount some of their associated legends. The familiarity is no wonder: as the author explains in the Appendix, he walked the entire Camino twice looking for information before he started writing.

“Huellas secretas en el Camino” is published in spanish by Edebé, and is oriented towards 10-year and older readers.

Buy “LOS SIN MIEDO 11. Huellas secretas en el Camino”

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The other book we want to recommend here is “Peregrinar a Compostela en la Edad Media”, an illustrated album published by the Fundación Santa María la Real, written by the historian Jaime Nuño and illustrated by Chema Román. As the title says, the book explains the pilgrimage phenomenom during the Middle Ages in all its aspects: who the pilgrims were, how did they travel, the dangers of the roead, daily life in the albergues… The author also puts the Santiago pilgrimages in an historical context, devoting chapters to the role of religion in medieval society, the pilgrimages to Rome and even the Mecca ones in the islamic world. All of this, accompanied with excellent full-page illustrations.

It’s a very interesting, very throughfully put together book, and not only for children; in fact, even adult readers might learn something new about the Camino in it. Without a doubt, it’s one of the best divulgation works about the Camino that we have seen.

Buy “Peregrinar a Compostela en la Edad Media”

For a healthier Camino

High temperatures, solar radiation, mosquitoes, overload… easily avoidable inconvenient companions that could mess your pilgrimage up.

dirty-boots-camino-santiago

Blisters

Foot blisters are caused by excessive friction with socks/footwear and excessive moisture on your feet.

The four key points to avoid foot blisters are:

  • Worn-in footwear
  • Footwear made for walking, of the proper size
  • Feet always as dry as possible
  • Natural fiber socks with no or smooth seams

 

New footwear should never be used for prolonged hiking. They are the most straight way to serious blisters that could keep you unable to walk for several days.

The footwear should be made for walking and be of the right size, keeping your feet firmly snug, but not too tight. Some people can suffer substantial swelling when walking for hours, possibly needing footwear of a bigger size than usual.

Footwear must keep your feet reasonably dry when walking under the rain or along some of the muddy or puddly paths that you will most probably come across. Many people suffer from sweaty feet; they must by all means keep them dry when walking. Foot powder and even open walking footwear should be considered.

Natural fiber keeps your feet dry and is smoother than synthetic. Socks should be made for walking, with very smooth seams or even no seams at all.

Tendinitis

Tendinitis is the single most diagnosed chronic connective tissue disease in Western medicine.

Symptoms of tendinitis typically include:

  • Pain, often described as a dull ache, especially when moving the affected joint
  • Tenderness
  • Mild swelling

 

Tendinitis is a condition of a substantial seriousness that requires immediate attention to avoid further complications. If you suspect this condition, it is essential and unavoidable to proceed to immediate care, that will include rest, ice and over-the-counter pain relievers. Unfortunately, it will likely mark the end of your pilgrimage.

Causes of tendinitis, in the context of the pilgrimage, are:

  • Overloaded joints due to excessively heavy backpack
  • Lame walking due to blisters or other minor previous injuries
  • Lack of physical training
  • Excessive daily mileage
  • Dehydration is bad for connective tissues

 

Bug bites

There’s no risk of serious infections being transmitted via bug bites in Spain, but mosquitoes and other flying biters are an irritating concern that can be avoided with the use of insect repellents that can be found in every supermarket.

Sunburn

In northern Spain, UV radiation index can reach red-zone values (“very high”) during every day of the summer.

A UV Index reading 8 to 10 means very high risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure. Unprotected skin and eyes will be damaged and can burn quickly.

Minimize sun exposure between 12:00 and 18:00 (Spain’s timezone in summer is shifted more than 2 hours from its natural meridian. In the westernmost parts, like Santiago, around summer solstice sun sets at around 22:15). It’s recommended to seek shade and wear protective clothing, wide-brimmed hat, and UV-blocking sunglasses. Apply SPF 30+ sunscreen every 2 hours, even on cloudy days, and after sweating or swimming. Watch out for bright surfaces, like sand and water, which reflect UV and increase exposure.

camino-santiago-drinking

Dehydration

Even when not engaging in intense physical activities, low-grade dehydration is a common, widespread problem that can have major impacts over your health.

Early signs of dehydration are thirst, general discomfort, dark-colored urine, and a less obvious symptomheadache; it’s usually resolved by simply drinking.

People not accustomed to prolonged outdoor exercise must be aware of these symptoms. If ignored, dehydration can lead to loss of strength, and even heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

In the context of pilgrimage, dehydration occurs when body water loss exceeds water intake due to exercise and/or high environmental temperature.

Dehydration is easily prevented by drinking regularly. Don’t wait for your thirst signal to kick in. Our body needs a steady supply of water. There isn’t a magic figure of liters per hour; just make a point of drinking a little more water, rather than a little less.

Caffeinated, sweetened and alcoholic drinks should be avoided for a proper hydration.

Heat exhaustion and heatstroke

Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are two potentially serious conditions that can occur if your body gets too hot. They can occur during strenuous physical exercise in a hot environment. In northern Spain summer diurnal temperatures rarely rise above 40ºC/ 104ºF, but it’s still hot enough.

Heat exhaustion occurs when your body becomes depleted of water and salts. When you are affected by a heatstroke, your body is no longer able to cool itself.

Heat exhaustion or heatstroke can develop quickly over a few minutes, or gradually over several hours or days.

Symptoms typically include:

  • Tiredness and weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Muscle cramps
  • General discomfort
  • Heavy sweating
  • Intense thirst
  • Fast pulse
  • Urinating less often, and much darker urine than usual

 

If left untreated, more severe symptoms ensue.

Persons under these conditions need immediate help, and must lie down in a cool place. Their body must be cooled by any means possible: remove clothes, wet and fan their skin. And they need urgent hydration.

They mustn’t be left alone until they feel better, which shouldn’t take longer than 30 minutes. If the condition persists or the person looses conscience, medical help is needed. Call 112 (the emergency services number in Spain).

The Credencial. Walk the Camino and prove it.

Once we have taken the trouble to travel the long route to Santiago, it’s only logical wanting to prove that we have accomplished such a feat, and claim the document that demonstrates it: the Compostela. It will be useful also in order to claim a place in the albergues that still offer Christian hospitality. The established way to prove it is the Credencial, a document that we should use to collect the rubber stamps of albergues, bars, restaurants, churches, post offices… even banks or police stations; any rubber stamp is valid, provided it identifies a known place along the Camino.

Compostela
The new model of the Compostela, the pilgrimage certificate.

You must get your Credencial before you start the pilgrimage. You can get it in almost any catholic church nearby, or other places that you will easily find out once there: albergues, pilgrim’s offices, tourism offices… You can also get it through the Confraternities devoted to St. James, or through Associations of Friends of the Camino worldwide.

The official Credencial is printed on pasteboard and it’s accordion-folded in sixteen pages. The first page functions as a cover letter, and should be filled in the distributing place with the pilgrim’s data. There’s a space in the top to be filled with the delivering entity stamp; in the bottom is a space to be filled with the date and the Cathedral stamp once the pilgrimage is accomplished.

The second page contains instructions for the use of the Credencial:

Necessary considerations.

• This Credencial is for the sole use of pilgrims by foot, bicycle or horseback, who wish to make the pilgrimage with a Christian sense, if only in an attitude of spiritual quest. The Credencial has the goal of identifying the pilgrim; that’s why the institutions that represents the pilgrim shall be a parish, a catholic guild, a diocese, a Friends of the Camino association, or any other Christian institution related to the pilgrimage. This Credencial does not give the pilgrim any entitlement. It has two practical finalities: 1) to give access to the albergues that offer Christian hospitality on the Camino, 2) to serve as a pass certificate for requesting the Compostela in the Cathedral of Santiago, the certification of having accomplished the pilgrimage.

• The Compostela is granted only to those who have made the pilgrimage with a Christian sense: devotionis affectu, voti vel pietatis causa (motivated by devotion, vow or piety). Moreover, it’s only granted to those who make the pilgrimage to the Apostle’s tomb for the entire last 100 km by foot or on horseback, the last 200 km on bicycle, or 100 nautical miles and the rest by foot.

• The pilgrim’s Credencial, therefore, can only be issued by the Church through its own institutions (bishopric, parish, guild, etc.) or, in any case, through institutions authorized by the Church. The Compostela shall be granted only by the S.A.M.I. (Saint Apostolic Metropolitan Church) Cathedral of Santiago (as stated in the Seminars on Holy Year, november 1993)

• The albergues that lack any official subsidy should be supported, albeit in their austerity, with the collaboration of the pilgrims (cleaning, facilities maintenance, promote rest, economic help…)

• The organized pilgrimage groups with a support car or by bicycle are requested to search for an alternative lodge other than pilgrim’s shelters.

• The bearer of this Credencial accepts these terms.

The remaining pages contain boxes for putting the rubber stamps along the pilgrimage route. The stamps are usually obtained in the places where the pilgrims are housed, like the albergues, but also in parishes, monasteries, cathedrals, hostels, municipal chambers, and many other places.

Finally, the back of the Credencial shows a series of maps of the Ways to Santiago, and another page with a blessing taken from the Codex Calixtinus, written in the 12th century.

certificado_distancia
The new Certificado de Distancia (Distance Certificate)

Different Credencial have been issued during years by different entities, always with the license or the Archdiocese of Santiago. More than 25 models of Credencial issued by Friends of the Camino association in Spain and other countries have been considered valid for decades and handed to the pilgrim for free or for a small fee or contribution. But this has, as it seems, come to an end. The Cathedral’s authorities have long wanted to unify the Credencial system, and the Cathedral’s Chapter took a definitive step on November 2015 through the following note:

“After a long dialogue with many of the entities that issue a Credencial, and at the request of several of them, it has been found necessary to address this matter, that is seriously harming the image of the Camino and the pilgrimage.

Currently, we receive more than 25 different models of Credencial, with prices from zero to twenty euros, in some cases. Attempts have been made to even sell them through the internet. The pastoral embracement, the careful attention and the gratuity must be the fundamental aims of our presence in the Camino and in the goal of pilgrimage.

The Cathedral of Santiago’s own registered Credencial must be considered the only valid, with a price for pilgrims that shouldn’t exceed 2 euros. The management of the Credencial must not be done with commercial or venal criteria; the profits that could result from it, necessarily limited for the current model, should always redund in a better service and attention to the pilgrims.

With the aim of avoiding harm to all those entities that are currently issuing Credencial, a moratorium will be granted so that it will be possible to use them until April 1, 2016. From that date on, only the official Credencial issued by the Pilgrim’s Welcome Office will be admitted to grant the Compostela.”

So, be warned: starting from April 1, 2016, the only accepted model of Credencial to claim the Compostela from  will be the one issued by the Cathedral of Santiago itself.