Where's me at?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Back to business

I’m not quite done with this blog, yet. The reason I’ve been quiet is that I practically haven’t run since getting back from the Camino. At first I had some issues with my shin splits hurting. Once I got that under control I developed some strange pain in my left foot which later I was able to tie to an excessive use of flip-flops. (yeah, I know, weird)

Now everything seems to be finally in order (knocking wood… or that laminated crap that passes for tabletops nowadays) -- I’ve been running for the past three days with no negative aftereffects whatsoever.

It is fascinating how fast performance degrades when you don’t actively run, though. These past two relatively slow months got me totally out of shape. People tell me I will get it back rather quickly. I surely hope so. I want to get in shape in time for Vilnius (in September) and/or Amsterdam (in October) marathons.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Useless Stuff

Here’s the list of common stuff that is (IMHO) useless on the Camino:

Sunglasses. Shocking as it may sound I didn’t feel the need for them a single time on the stretch of the whole Camino. The sun is always either on your back or right on top of you. It never shines directly into your eyes.

Sleeping bag. Most of albuerges have blankets for those few chilly nights. Sleeping bag liner (like the one I had) is all you need. The same goes for sleeping mats and absolute extreme – tents.

Walking sticks. Seriously, the only uses for them I can think of is to annoy other people with the constant tsk tsk tsk sounds or in those frequent situations when you have to kill a baby whale or something. Other than that I fail to comprehend how hitting asphalt with a stick every second or so is contributing to your general walking experience.

Umbrella. I’ve seen people carrying those quite often. The thing is that light drizzle is nothing and when the heavy rain comes (been there), trust me, no umbrella is gonna help you. Get a poncho instead. It doesn’t weight anything and will do the job protecting both you and your backpack from any rain.

Entourage. You don’t need to bring friends from back home. You’ll make new ones on the fly. The ones that will match your speed, endurance, willingness to sightsee, etc. And the ones that you will leave in a heartbeat and without any regret if they start to be inconvenient company. That’s something you won’t be able to do with your real friends without alienating them and putting a strain on your relationship.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

How Much?

I've been asked a number of times how much does it cost to travel by el Camino. So here it is.

For myself I've set a base budget of 30€ per day. During the trip I found out that this is more than enough if you stick to the piligrim routine: light breakfast (~3€), some snacks during the day (bocadillos/sandwitches go for 1-3€), pilgrim menu - two full meals + drinks + dessert (~10€) in the evening and sleep in albuerges (0-12€).

By following the above routine I was actually saving money from my 30€ "allowance".

The things went south when in second part (especially in the end) I went hotel/restaurant happy. Hotel can go from 20€ for a room in trucker shelter (sounds bad but it's still better than any albuerge) to something like 75€ in a nice hotel (I'm assuming only reasonable options). The one I had in Burgos was 75€ and it included full breakfast buffet (absolute rarity in Spain).

Food outside of pilgrim menu. Burgers (see below what passes for a burger in Spanish village) go for 2-3€. Pizza or pasta 5-6€. Bowl of meaty soup 3-5€ and is a good way to stuff yourself. Other hot meals can go from 5€ to 12-15€. The octopus I mentioned in some previous post usually goes for 9-10€. So if you plan to eat out you can easily rack up 15-18€ bill if you don't stick to pilgrim or deal menus.

Most of the villages have drinkable water fountains so you can do away with free drink all of the way.

Vending machines that are there on every corner might also be money monger. Especially if it's a hot day you might be tempted by a cold instant drink. The trouble is that they're significantly overpriced. Small bottle/can of softdrink or juice goes for 1-2€.

Supermarket drinks and food is priced reasonably. However shops are available in bigger towns only. Small villages have only bars and one shop (if any) that is usually closed. (siesta is a sacred thing here)

In the end I counted that my actual budget for 18 days racked up to 40€ per day on average. This includes sleeping a total of 4 nights in hotels (I'm not counting Santiago at all since the trip is officially over), numerous restaurant deviations and semi-uncontrolled vending machine use.

Bottom line is that you should be absolutely fine with 30€/day if you have moderate discipline (it appears I don't) even if you use a hotel once a week or so.

Equipment roundup

FTW (equipment that pleasantly surprised me):

* Asics Running Socks. They held out all of the Camino OK and still look usable while other brands (*ahem* nike) broke to shreds

* Nike Running Cap. I don't think I ever had to deal with sweat on my face thanks for extra padding.

* Compeed bandaids. They advertise as second skin. That's actually true. When you have to peel it off it literally feels and looks like you're tearing your own skin. Freaky but thanks to them I don't think that blisters were an issue worth mentioning even a single time.

EHH... (equipment that sort of disappointed me):

* Deuter Pace 20 backpack. The straps were constantly losening themselves while I was running.

BOO (equipment that proved to be crap):

* Nike Elite Running Socks. Elite my ass. Had to throw out two pairs because of the holes in them that appeared in spite less use than my one pair of Asics socks.

The rest of the stuff just did their jobs as expected.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Day #19: Santiago de Compostela (704km)

I can't believe that I'm done. I don't have to get up at 6 tomorrow morning and I don't have to go anywhere. If I want I can do nothing but sit around in a yellow bathrobe in my nice little hotel next to cathedral that has each room named after famous artist (mine is Rodin btw - it has little fleur-de-lis on the curtains and shower packs that say "Enjoy your life") Like one character from certain webcomic put it: dis is da life Larry!

Day #18: Pedrouzo (684km)

Last night in albuerge. And quite nice one at that. They have actual working fountain in sleeping room and rooftop terassa. They're also playing soothing instrumental music - there goes John Lenon's Imagine. I doubt that will drown the crescendo of snoring sounds though. Imagine all the people snoring in their beeeeds…

Right leg still hurts. I'll sort it out later. With something like 17km to go I could just hop on my left.

The sun is beginning to show it's true power. I can only imagine what piligrims going in July go through. Must be tough.

Anyway, tomorrow's the last day. The first thing I'll do after piligrim paperwork, checkin into hotel and cleanup is go to a hotel bar and have the bartender fix me a decent Martini. Been dying for one for quite some time now.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Day #17: Melide (651km)

Very easy hike from Portomarin to Melide. The right leg started to act out again though. Whatever, with just 50km remaining and two days to cover them that'll be a walk in the park anyway.

BTW, it's good to have friends who have done Camino before and can give you pointers. Local octopus cuisine is absolutely awesome! I'm contemplating staying in Melide for additional day just for it. Probably won't but it's tempting.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Day #16: Portomarín (611km)

90km to go. Will take it easy for the next three days.

I'm starting to understand a German woman I met a while back who said she will take wows of silence for the last 100km and will not speak to anyone. All the boundless socializing that I enjoyed immensely up until now is quickly getting old. The whole where-are-you-from-ukraine?-where-did-you-start-how-are-your-feet routine every day starting to get to me.

Must be that the whole flow of harcore camino-goers is largery "enriched" by the ones that are joining in for the last 100km or even tourist "piligrims". I'm sorry but I just can't seem to be able to find comradership in me with a flock of 30 Germans leisurely strolling the countryside with their daypacks and full set of high-tech walking sticks thinking about the bus that awaits them on the next turn.

The mountain trails are replaced with a slightly lighter countryside forest tracks. The views are still nice but they are interrupted by literally breathtaking villages. Those are plainly disgusting. Old buildings that are a minute away from crumbling and cow shit all over the place with a relative aroma to go with it. The typical village in Galicia. At least their cemeteries look ten times nicer than their houses. Talking respect for the dead.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Day #15: Triacastela (571km)

More trail goodness today. First a 0.7km climb then 0.6km drop. Feel squeezed out like a lemon. Seing some sick mountain views up here though.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Day #14: Villafranca del Bierzo (522km)

Looks like I'm back to my prime. Did 51km on mountain trails today. Loved it. I almost want to go back and repeat this day.

If I sound like a child who just got new shiny toy it's because I am. The toy is trail running. It's absolutely awesome. I'm afraid the regular running might start feeling too dull and boring.

~180km to go.

Day #13: Foncebadon (471km)

They weren't lying - the trail is getting interesting. Half a km climb in altitude today. Whole kilometer drop tomorrow. I'm honestly sorry for people carrying overweight backpacks. Must be some workout.

Running on mountain trails is superfun. That is when sheep herder's oversized dog does not try to attack me. That exact moment - not my kind of thrill. Too bad there are absolutely nothing even remotely similar to mountains where I live. I might consider switching to trail running.

My leg business is all good now. (Knocking wood) Got mild food poisoning instead to make things interesting again. Invented new kind of sport while I'm at it: quick run to the next available toilet.

Should hit 200 to finish tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Day #12: Villares de Órbigo (431km)

I hear the mind-numbing plains are nearing the end. Good. I could use some variety in my daily dose of landscape-sighting.

Completely nothing of interest today. The highlight of the day - hostellero's bright orange t-shirt that says "New York City Jail". (he politely refused to answer my question as to when did he escape and whether there is a bounty on his head…)

No country of the day. There are only two Deutsche Frauen and a dude of non-descript nationality and age in the remote albuerge that I'm staying in. If no late souls wander in I might even get lucky to have the whole room to myself.

Update. OK, something more noteworthy than orange t-shirt did happen tonight. The shop does not work here (stupid siesta) so I go to a bar to get my sandwich. While it's being prepared an old guy takes his eyes off the corrida on a tv (dunno how it's spelled - the sport where they slaughter poor animals for sick entertainment) and asks: allemano?
To which I answer: no no, lituano.
Old guy knowingly: aha Sabonis!!!

Now go google who Sabonis is and try to image how would you feel in my place if you came from a tiny nation anyone hardly acknowledges existence of.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Day #11: Leon (395km)

Short easy jump to Leon. Ankles OK. Blisters under control. Sun is shining. All's peachy.

Had to give a lecture on Lithuanian cuisine for an international crew of girls today. How's boiled pork tongue or potato stuffed intestines sound to you? Bon apetite!

Country of the day: Germany.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Day #10: Reliegos (367km)

Don't want to jump the gun here but looks like I'm back to business! Three days of walking-only, some no-name wondergel I bought in the last village or something must've done the trick. Good to be running again. Did 47km today and will hit Leon tomorrow where I have a hotel waiting for me.
Today also signifies the fact that I hit middle of the distance. It is now obvious that Plan A (reach Santiago in two weeks) failed. Plan B (reach Santiago at all) commencing. Plan C (bail out, curl up and go home) was discussed in some low level radical circles of the voices in my head but were crushed immediately by Spanish inquisition.
Country of the day: Italy, United States and Czech Republic.