Homer's Travels: Camino 2023 - Similarities, Differences, Numbers, And The Future

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Camino 2023 - Similarities, Differences, Numbers, And The Future

This Camino was my third and, despite only completing a third of the way, I've learned a bit more about the Camino.  In the ten years since my second Camino some things have changed and some have remained the same.  

So how have things changed? The biggest change to the better is there is more support for the pilgrim.  There are now outfitters near the start in Saint Jean Pied de Port.  There are now food trucks spaced out along the way.  More bakeries and bars are opening up early for breakfast services.  On my first two Caminos if you didn't buy food the day before you walked, you had to wait until mid-morning before you could find an open store or bar.

I never really experienced a language barrier on my previous Caminos since I do know some spanish but I have to say that having a smartphone with Google Translate often made things a lot easier to navigate.  Pointing your phone camera at a menu and seeing what you are actually ordering was a nice change.  Strangely I never missed having a phone with me on my two Caminos.  I guess you can't miss what you've never had.

Speaking of smartphones, I carried a camera with me and I ended up never using it.  It was always easier to pull out my phone to take photos and the quality was as good if not better than my waterproof Nikon camera.  If we'd run into a lot more rain the camera might have been used more but the phone did a great job this Camino.  I also carried my tablet for editing photos which was also unnecessary.  I could have saved myself a few pounds leaving the camera, tablet, extra batteries, and chargers at home.

Not all the changes to the Camino experience were positive.  The crowds I'd seen on my second Camino (fueled by the movie "The Way") were still there and, in fact, were worse.  To avoid feeling like you were in a race you had to make reservations at the albergue at your destination.  You probably could walk the Camino without reservations but you would probably end up in the less desirable albergues or you had to hurry to beat the reserved crowds.  One thing that surprised me was municipal albergues were taking reservations too.  Ten years ago municipals were strictly a first come first served proposition. A good change here is that there were a lot more albergues along the Camino than there were ten years ago.

With the larger crowds there are more tourigrinos - tourist pilgrims that taxi their bags ahead and walk with just a day pack.  There has always been this type of pilgrim but they were traditionally either older, injured, or handicap people who couldn't carry a backpack for long distances.  On this latest Camino we saw a lot of able bodied people skipping the backpack carrying.  The Wife and I both were irritated with people, often ten to twenty years younger than us, carrying only a small day pack with water and snacks, complaining about how hard it was.  Strange how people who carried full packs everyday rarely complained.

There are a few options for doing the Camino other than walking.  Riding a horse or a bicycle are also 'acceptable' to get a Compostela certificate of completion.  In the last ten years electric bikes have made an appearance.  I find this a bit unfair ... especially to regular bike pilgrims who are doing a lot of work.  Every time a group of electric bikers rode by and yelled "Buen Camino!" the Wife and I would mutter FU under our breath.

While the crowds were big, the attitude of the pilgrims were much more positive than I experienced on my second Camino.  It felt like the pilgrims were there for the right reasons.  They knew what they were getting into and they understood that pilgrimage was not meant to be easy.  I think the negative attitudes I ran into last time were due to incorrect expectations created by seeing "The Way". 

Along with this more positive pilgrims came more of a Camino Family feel.  As the Wife and I met people we formed an intermittent family halfway between the more cohesive family I had on my first Camino and the more transient small groups I met on my second Camino.  I suspect if we had continued the Camino our family might have become more cohesive farther ahead.


Now for a few numbers:

  • The Wife and I walked 184 miles (296 km) over fifteen days and averaged around 12.25 miles (19.7 km) per day.
  • We walked around 2 miles (3.2 km) per hour (this is the average including rest stops).
  • We climbed 19,800 feet (6,035 m) and descended 17,487 feet (5,330 m).
  • We stayed in thirteen albergues and two hotels between Orrison and Burgos.
  • We stopped in four towns where I'd never stopped before.
Our Camino from right to left.  Green pins are starts and red pins are ends.


When we decided to stop in Burgos, I thought this would be the final chapter of my Camino story.  Since we've returned the Wife has suggested that we should go back and, over two or three years, finish walking her Camino.  I kind of like the idea of being a Camino section hiker.  I can't say we will eventually finish my third and the Wife's first Camino - no one, especially me, can predict the future - but another chapter is in the works.  How the story ends ... who knows? 

Photos can be found in my 2023 Camino de Santiago (The Wife's Camino) Google Photos album.

No comments:

Post a Comment