Thursday, June 19, 2008

On Walking The Camino Via de la Plata

For those who are considering walking the Camino Via de la Plata, here's my take on the differences:

1. Crowd

This route is getting popular, but is still in no way as popular as the Camino Frances. At the same time, it is not as remote as the Camino Primitivo.

2. Pilgrims

Most of the pilgrims on Via de la Plata had walked at least 1 camino previously. Many may prefer to walk alone, but almost all of them will welcome the company at the end of the day. I was never really alone.

2. Beds

In almost every albergue, I manage to find 2 beds for myself. The top bunk for my stuff and the bottom to sleep. With the exception of Aldeanueva del Camino where I did not have a bed and had to stay at a hostal. There are only 8 beds and 2 mattresses there and I was unlucky that there was group of 6 Spanish pilgrims who happens to stop there earlier in the day. Beds in general is a non issue.

3. Albergue

I was unlucky that there was 4 albergues early in Extremadura that was closed for the year (suspected that it was due some dispute between the people who run the albergues and pilgrim's association). Had to stay in hostal for some of them as there are not way around it. On the other hand, there are now albergue for Salamanca and Zamora (new this year) that was pleasant surprise. In all, the infrastructure is now getting better. Best to budget for a couple of days of stay at a hostal at around 15-20 euro per night.

4. Waymarker

Generally good with the exception of a few cities with markers into the city but not out of the city. Have to rely on the information from the guide book for these exceptions.

5. Terrain

Only 1 steep climb in Andalucia, otherwise it is pretty much flat or rolling hills all the way past Zamora. However, the steep climb to Galicia and the following few days after I think is more challenging than the Camino Frances. That can be minimize if one chooses to walk and additional 35 km via Verin which is flatter than to go straight to Laza via the mountains.

6. Distances

It is tough to plan for a daily under 30 km day. Example, either you do a 36 km day (or 15 km and 21 km in 2 days). That would mean more days if one afford it. If you don't mind staying at private albergue, then there is only 1 long stretch of 38 km. Else there may be around 3 long stretches to tackle. Even on these long stretches, you can still do it in 2 days if you don't mind staying at a hostal (with around 2 km detour to and from the hostal).

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