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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.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Day #9: Calzadilla de la Cueza (320km)

One word that describes these few past days (especially today): boooooring. Just a straight dirt road piercing the fields all day long.

Still can't run. Pity.

Hoping to reach midpoint tomorrow. At least I think it's the midpoint. Road signs seem to disagree with my info. The sign on the road thrown something like "463 to Santiago" to my face today. I'm dismissing it as a preposterous lie meant for cars drivers only. Pilgrims know shortcuts, right? Right?

Observation: the more Americans there are in the group the louder they get. It also seems to add an amplification factor if they're from Texas. Again, no offence. I like America - you guys pay most of my bills after all ;)

Observation #2: the further into Camino the more people start reminding of penguins when they walk.

Country of the day: Finland (for a drink in the bar and for getting into hockey world champ finals)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Day #8: Poblacion de Campos (284km)

No-run day did the trick. Feeling significantly better. However decided to resort to only walking today as well. The hardest part was to keep myself from running. Will try that tomorrow.

Observation: the single large unrepresented nation on the Camino - Russians. Yeah, I know they're not catholic. However most people here are doing it for reasons other than religious pilligrimage. I suppose lack of all inclusive offers must be the real deal breaker ;-)

Country of the day: Latvia.

Day #7: Hontanas (248km)

Day off did little good. The ankles still hurt like crazy. Was there something wrong I did or 50km/day requires trained mountain runner on this terrain? Who knows.

Anyway, resorted to only walking for today. This sucks bigtime because walking takes forever and I know I'm not living up to my potential since I'm not tired at all - could run.

Back to sleeping with the crowds at albuerges. Next hotel bonus in Leon (~150km)

Country of the day: Denmark.

Day #6: Burgos (217km)

Taking the day off to let my hurting ankles rest. Let's see what good it does.

Moved to a nice hotel right next to Burgos cathedral. The view from my window is marginally better than the last one.

Back on track tomorrow morning. I've been rather insistedly suggested to tone down my pace, though. As I don't see any real improvement happening down there it might actually be a good idea.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Day #4: Belorado (167km)

Today's lesson: chockolate melts. Duh.

Today's affirmation: if I'm gonna make it to Santiago, I'm ligthing a candle for whoever ivented Compeed. Miraculous stuff.

As far as the trip goes I'm still on schedule. I wonder when the fatigue and/or blistery goodness will kick in and I'll start flaking.

In the meantime I promised myself a real hotel tomorrow if I manage to reach Burgos. Real hotel as in REALLY twentyfold bill, REAL bedsheets, REAL bath I can soak in as long as I want, REALLY REALLY nobody else snoring in the room (besides me) and F***ING REAL eggs in the morning. Gives me chills just thinking abut it.

Observation: I absolutely love the international laid back aspect of el Camino. You meet and talk to people from around the world but there's no obligations attached to it. Nobody's asking anybody's names. There's simply too many faces to remember and put names to, encounters are too brief.

Last night I met an enormously interesting guy from Brooklyn. We had a perfect conversation well into the night just to leave everything behind this morning. I'll probably never see him again. I prefer to think of it as a one night stand of a friendship. Love it.

Day #3: Najera (124km)

I can't seem to be able to figure out why 20eur top-of-the-line socks last only several serious workouts. The one from Nike helped me to get my first blister. My heel started to hurt some 25kms into run. I eventually got around to check it and there was an enormous hole in my right sock. (Visual proof attached below) Seriously WTF?

Lesson learned: Whenever you start feeling discomfort in your feed stop and sort it out right away. Don't wait for the next "nice spot to look what's wrong and have a sandwitch while I'm at it".

In other news: people still get schocked when they find out I'm doing 50k a day. They also get even more schocked when they learn all my stuff weights 5kg including 2L of water.

Yes, my current gear was dictated by the requirement to be able to run with it. However if I had to walk El Camino now I wouldn't have it any other way, give or take a few items. I seriously don't understand what people have in all those closets with straps that they so badly need.

Speaking of backpacks. I'm somewhat disappointed in my Deuter Pace 20. Walking is fine. However when I'm running I constantly have to readjust the straps which become lose making the pack slide downwards and choking me with an upper chest strap.

Not everything is bad, though. Nike running cap is awesome! The extra padding on the forehead is a genius idea. I don't think there was a single drop of sweat that ever reached my face. But don't think you're of the hook for those socks, Nike.

In curious news I'm going to have a rather spacious sleeping room tonight that I'm gonna share with some 15 other late arrivals to Najera. It's an arena for some sport I don't even know name for. I prefer to think of it as a poor man's squash. No offence.

Day #2: Torres del Rio (75km)

Lessons learned from last night:
If there is no sun, the clothes don't dry. Period. My fibre gear that literaly dryes in minutes at home failed to at least pretent to dehydrate overnight. Today I left albuerge with semi-wet clothes praying that there was no rain. It worked - roughly 20km into road the sky cleared allowing me to build up an impromptu drying/resting/eating spot with a view (had to fight off a small lizard but it was well worth it)

Another very important lesson I learned the hard way: 2L of water is NOT ENOUGH for a 50+ run under direct sun. I was so sure I had enough I neglected to fill up in passing towns. Result - no water in the middle of nowhere with at least 8km to the nearest town. Not making this mistake ever again.

In other news, everyone I talk to is politely fascinated by the fact that I'm running instead of walking. I'm also pretty sure I made some bussiness for SealSkinz last night. Everyone thought waterproof socks is a very clever gear for El Camino.

Oh and here's the last mistake and at the same time fortunate turnaround. I came to the Irache wine fountain (also pictured below) completely unprepared - no glass, bottle or anything to pour wine in. Lucky me 'cause mild drunkeness is just the thing you need for sports in the heat.

BTW, I'm also an idiot for not learning Spanish. Unless it's two dutch girls speaking perfect English, the conversations with people tend to dry off rather quickly with my 15-word Spanish vocabulary. The decision to take sunscreen was a brilliant idea, though.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Day #1: Puente la Reina

General observations:
El Camino is *SHOCKER* not runner-friendly. Especially in the pouring rain like today. Wet sliding mud mixed with large rocks on steep up/downhills makes it impossible to run on a good portion of the way.

I'm a genius for:
- Taking waterproof socks.
- Not refusing an apple my girlfriend offered before leaving
- Getting backpack raincover (actually credits for this go to commenter on my blog who suggested it, thanks man)

I'm an idiot for:
- Not taking a poncho
- Not preparing enough for the rain (most of my stuff got wet including cards and money)
- Thinking that running el Camino with a 5kg backpack in a pouring rain is something remotely similar to a casual run in my usual park.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Progress Map

I’m leaving tomorrow. So I’m putting the location progress map up top on this page which I hope I will be able to ping/update from time to time.

If you absolutely have nothing better to do than to track some obscure guy struggling across the Spain, use the map above. Or access it directly at:


Socks again

Finally waited out for a rainy day (yesterday) to test SealSkinz Hi-Vis Waterproof Socks I mentioned in previous posts.

Initially I felt quite skeptical about them. Putting them on was like putting a stiff condom on your feet. Despite the inner wool padding it still felt quite rubbery.

That went all away when I started running. There was no discomfort or any feeling at all. I intentionally was hitting deep puddles along the way. Several times I literally felt water sloshing about in my shoes. Yet the feet remained all comfy.

After 21KM run, I took them off to find my feet perfectly dry, not even sweaty. I’m not sure how they do it but it’s most definitely awesome. This one’s a keeper.


P.S. on a related note, I’ve completely ditched Teko Merino socks for Asics Running and Nike EliteRunning socks.