How do I get to know about this Camino?
To be honest, before coming to Europe, I never heard about Camino de Santiago. The encounter with Elena, a friend that I met in Lourdes, France last December 2021, made me know about this. She shared her experience of finishing her Camino in three different parts with a total of 34 days, in three different years. It sounds crazy for me to do that lengthy walk, considering that life is becoming so busy day by day. So, I decided to give up on that time, thinking it was not for me.
When I feel it was enough to just become a normal tourist, I started to think about different way to experience new places. Remembering Elena’s enthusiastic facial expression when sharing about her life-changing experience, it made me think again about doing this Camino.
Preparation for my first Camino
In February 2022, I just came back to Estonia after 1.5 months holiday back in my home country, Indonesia. I got COVID-19 for the first time, once I came back (thank God, it was not before my flight to Estonia). During my isolation time, I reflected on life more than usual, a precious time that I might never get during normal time. After being recovered from COVID, I started to plan my annual leave from my workplace, and I decided to take a 1-week break during the holy week of Easter, 11–15 April 2022. Eventually, Camino de Santiago showed up in my plan, and I started to ask Elena about how to prepare for this walk, as I only have around 1 month to go. She shared her experience again and give a reference link from StingyNomads.com about Camino de Santiago.
Helped by that reference and other self-googling references, I decided to take the shortest route of Camino Frances, from Sarria to Santiago, which takes around 110km in 5 days and suits my 1-week vacation.
I bought some essentials stuff such as a hiking backpack, merino-wool socks, walking sticks, travel towel, blister bandage, etc. I also try to find good prices for flight tickets from Estonia to Spain. Booking in advance for some Albergue hostels can be a life-saver, as I found out some stops might be fully booked such as Portomarin. Last but not least, I’m joining some Facebook groups related to Santiago de Camino to get more information from each other. And then, I’m ready to go.
Trip to Sarria
Arrived at Santiago Airport around 3PM, I decided to take the bus directly to Sarria, but later I found out that the direct bus from Santiago to Sarria, only departed once every day at 11AM.
My friend said there is another way to take the bus to Lugo first (nearby city to Sarria), and later take a bus from Lugo to Sarria. In my case, I followed what Google Maps suggested, to take the train from Santiago to Ourense, and then transit to Sarria. I arrived in Sarria around 9 PM and didn’t have much time to explore this town as I already starting my Camino the next morning. Oh, don’t forget to get your Camino passport from Albergue Monasterio de La Magdalena in Sarria, it opens from around 10AM to 11PM.
Most of the albergues (hostel) have a check-out time of 08.30 AM. It’s quite early, but maybe there is a reason behind that, to make us start the Camino as early as possible. I posted in the FB group of Camino about my first stop in Sarria and surprisingly got so much support and prayers from each other in the group.
These two PDF guides from StingyNomads.com really helped me to see the next stops and places to stay:
- PDF Places to stay on the Camino Frances from Sarria
- PDF Walking stages of the Camino Frances from Sarria
Staying in Albergue
Sharing your sleeping room with more than 20 people is another experience in this Camino. Some people suggested wearing earplugs to avoid the snoring noise made by different people. I’m a type of person who already used to live in the hostel with a shared dormitory, so it’s not a big hassle for me to handle this issue :)
Albergue usually cost around 12 EUR per night. Most of them also give laundry service, which cost around 4 EUR for washing and another 4 EUR for drying. So, we don’t need to bring overloaded clothes. Don’t forget to ask for the Camino passport stamp in Albergue as well.
Food and Beverages
Another thing that I loved about this Camino Frances, is in every few kilometers we can find a good place to take a rest, either restaurant, bar, cafe, or a mix of them. It also becomes special, especially after a long walk, we’re served the delicious taste of Spanish Galician food. From my experience, try to avoid overcrowded restaurants or bars, as it will be a long queue to order something and make our trip getting delayed so much of time. If you arrive before evening, then it’s more relaxed to enjoy the restaurant dining vibe at every stop of this Camino.
During my camino, I’ve experienced two different things, walking in solitude or walking while talking with new friend along the road. Both experiences gave me something new to learn. While in solo walk, I’m listening to downloaded audiobook (so I can save my phone battery while listening to it offline), thanks to StoryTel, I’m able to listening some Camino de Santiago related books such as The Pilgrimage from Paulo Coelho. I also tried to do Rosary prayer while walking, it’s another spiritual level of praying. When meeting new people, we can sharing our story, especially about why do we start the Camino. Every person has their own reason, starting from the religious or spiritual reason, until non-spiritual things, it’s up to us.
Collecting the camino passport stamps in many different places during my walk also gave me sense of achievements about how long that I’ve been walking so far.
The beautiful nature around the route also amazed me. I just learned the best way to enjoy nature while walking with my 7kg backpack and getting used to use trekking poles. The city or town view also amazing, especially because I know how much effort that I took to reach this place.
I also made some new friends through Camino, someone from Spain (of course as I’m in Spain), Colombia, China, US, Portugal, Latvia, South Korea, Taiwan, Ireland. They are come and go, as we have different walking pace. Here are some of them which I’m able to take photo with :)
Through this Camino, I discovered my new superpower. Now, if someone asking, what is my superpower? I can confidently said, it’s walking :)
I also found these interesting FB post about what pilgrimages teaches us, and let me used one of those for closing statement of this short reflection :)
Pilgrimage teaches: you don’t need much to be happy; it’s a very simple lifestyle that takes a while to get used to. Remember that the consumerist and materialistic world is just a shallow veneer, real happiness can’t be bought.