Here are few final thoughts about our Camino and answers to a few questions people have asked that just didn’t fit anywhere else – dealing with wet hair, what would I do differently, what did it cost, and would we do it again?
One Unexpected Problem
One unexpected problem that I had on the Camino was with drying my hair. I know this may seem like a very unimportant problem to some people, but for me, it ended up being a pretty big deal.
When we arrived at our accommodations for the night, we were always anxious to shower and go out to eat, especially if we arrived before 3pm when the restaurant kitchens usually shut down for 3-4 hours. Because I’d been sweaty walking all day, I really did need to change out of my dirty clothes and wash my hair. The trouble was, then I’d have to sit around for an hour or more, waiting for my hair to be dry enough to go out. In addition, I often got chilled while waiting for my hair to dry, and then it would take forever for me to warm up later. It really did become a big problem for me. I tried wearing a hat or a scarf over my wet head but it just wasn’t enough. On really warm sunny days, I could sit outside and let my hair dry in the sun, but it was often too cool to do that most of the time.
So what’s the solution? I’m really not sure. I could get my hair cut really short so it dries faster but I prefer shoulder length hair that I can put into a pony tail. I could also look for the smallest possible blow dryer and carry it. I have seen some weigh just under 10 oz – it might be worth it. I rarely carry a blow dryer with me when I travel any more because most hotels have them now. However I found most of the the inexpensive accommodations we stayed in on the Camino did not have blow dryers.
What would I do differently?
Apart from the post gear list changes I’ve already written about in a previous post here, there are only a couple of things I’d do differently. One is to have more time. Forty days is not long enough to do the kind of walk we’d like to do. It would be great to have no specific end day and then when we are not feeling well or having a bad day, we could just stay put instead of having to take a bus or a taxi in order to keep on schedule.
Also, we’d love to average about 15 km per day and never go over a 20km day. We would need to give ourselves about 55 days in order to accomplish that. With only 15k to walk each, I think we would almost always feel relaxed, be less likely to get injured, and yet still feel sufficiently challenged by the walk. We would still carry our own back packs and we’d still book accommodations ahead of time but we would stay two nights in more places and not feel rushed to get to Santiago by a specific date. To me, that would be ideal.
I think I’d do it at the same time of year again as well. I loved the green fields and spring flowers. The weather in May was lovely. Starting any earlier than April 25 risks not being able to do Napoleon’s Way over the Pyrenees on the first 2 days but that might be ok now since we’ve already done that.
What did it cost?
I know this is of interest to most people so I will openly share how much money we spent on our Camino. All money will be expressed in both Euros and Canadian dollars so do the conversion for yourself if necessary.
It is very important to realize that EVERYONE WALKS THEIR OWN CAMINO. There is no one “correct” way to walk it. You can walk the entire thing with bare feet and nothing on your back, or you can book a tour company to carry your bags. You can camp along the way. You can stay in albergues. You can stay in hotels. Do what you want to do.
So – if you are wondering about costs, I can only tell you what WE spent on the kind of Camino we chose to walk. We carried our own bags and we likely spent more on accommodations and less on food than many people.
Cost of Accommodations
Here is a list of the place we stayed and the prices we paid. Accomodations list
The albergues (communal hostels) are noted with the number of bunks to a room. The rest of the places were for a private double room in private albergues or small hotels and B&Bs.
We averaged about 47 euros per night for accommodations over 38 nights. We only stayed in less expensive albergues four times and we stayed in more expensive hotels a few times which bumped up our overall average cost. It would be fairly easy to keep under 40 euros per night for two people if you wanted to and still have a private room most of the time.
Cost of Food on the Camino
Everyone is different but here is how we ate.
Breakfast was always coffee and usually a croissant. Sometimes it came with the accommodations, but often we bought it at a bar. About 3 euros each.
Lunch – we rarely stopped for lunch. I tended to eat bananas and bags of peanuts along the way. Erik often picked up snacks like a Tortilla (egg/potato pie), a bocadillo sandwich etc. Once in awhile, we stopped for a bowl of soup. We usually spent about 5-6 euros for him, less for me. I drank Nestea (iced tea) and he drank beer. Both were about 1-2 euros each. Also, we usually each had a beer when we arrived in town.
Dinner – most often we had the pilgrim meal which was big and filling. You could get it during the day 1-3pm, or after 6-7pm in most places. It ranged from 8-12 euros, most often 10 euros each. For that price you got a two course meal with 2-3 choices for each course, plus bread, water, wine, and dessert. I got tired of the fried meat (pork or chicken, and sometimes fish) with french fries so I often ordered two first courses (soup and salad, or salad and pasta etc).
Overall, we paid about 35-40 euros per day for food for two people and 45 euros per day for accommodations. If you stay only in albergues, you can average 20 euros per day for two people for accommodations, often less, depending on whether you stay in municipal (cheap) or private albergues. The private hostels tend to be cleaner, less crowded, and have more amenities but there are plenty of nice municipal or church albergues along the way.
Cost of Transportation – Because we were on an extended trip, our transportation costs aren’t really relevant. We flew to Paris and flew home from Rome. If we were only doing the Camino, and not travelling before and after, we would likely fly to Madrid and take a train and bus to St Jean Pied de Port. Another option would be to fly to Marseille or Biarritz. I would just look for the best deal at the time. Generally, the earlier you book, the cheaper the flight. We were able to find return flights from Kelowna to Paris and home from Rome for under $1000 each including seats, baggage, and taxes.
We took taxis a couple of times – they were about 20-30 euros per 15km trip – it really depends on where you are – often the taxi has to drive out from the city you are heading for in order to pick you up.. The two busses were much less expensive, under 5 euros per person. I can’t actually remember – might have only been 2-3 euros each.
Would We Do the Camino Again?
To be honest, when we finished the Camino we had both loved the experience, but neither of us thought we’d want to do it again. At least not the same route. We did think we’d want to do another long walk, but most likely a different route such as the one in Portugal, or walking from Le Puy to St Jean Pied de Port in France, parts of the Via Francigena in Italy, or one of the many trails in the UK.
But as time passes, and photos jog our memory, we both find ourselves returning to the idea of walking the Camino a second time. Often we start a sentence with “If we did it again, we’d….”. The very fact that we keep on talking about what we’d do differently makes me think that walking the Camino Frances a second time is not out of the realm of possibility. Who knows? We have many travel plans on our bucket list and no where near enough time to do them all in the next 5-10 years (retire young if you can!), but I don’t think we can discount the idea completely.
Well, I think that’s all I can think of to discuss regarding our Camino and this will likely be my final post unless I ever get around to putting together a good slideshow of our photos.
Do you have any questions? Ask them in the comment section below and I will do my best to answer them.
Next up: Barb and Erik spend the month of September travelling around the Atlantic Provinces of Canada.