11 things that made me go “Urghh!” on the Camino de Santiago


The Camino de Santiago is a true experience of a lifetime and one which I feel blessed to have experienced myself. However, nothing is perfect and here are the 11 things that made me go “Urghh!” on the Camino Francés-French Way:

1. Trash.
Sure, there are the shell and arrow markers on the Camino but I also was able to judge which path to take by following the trash trail carelessly thrown on the ground by previous pilgrims walking the route. Save your trash and throw it away responsibly into a bin!

2. The Spanish 100 kilometer crew.
I walked my Camino in the summer and this is when A LOT of Spanish “pilgrims” like to take a trip up north to walk the last 100km of the Camino. Why only the last 100km? Pilgrims must walk at least 100km to receive their certificate of walk completion (Compostela) and in Spain if you have the Compostela then it looks pretty good on a Resume. The last 100km to Santiago was like walking in Oxford Circus, with some “pilgrims” even sporting Gucci bags as they sauntered along the way.

3. Rude drivers.
OK, well this is a relative post because if I were driving along the Camino I’d probably experience the same emotions as the drivers do, but I walk it so I’m biased towards walkers. Sometimes the Camino levels off onto a road surface and of course you should walk on the side of the road and in the direction of oncoming traffic (safety). Whichever side you walk and however far you are from the side of the road you will inevitably have some driver angrily toot his or her horn at you to basically let you know that having you share the same patch of tarmac is a real inconvenience for them.

4. Beggars.
In this modern European age there really is no need to beg unless you have an expensive drug addiction which requires funds beyond your means. On my summer Camino I saw a few beggars who claimed to be pilgrims without money. Maybe they were. Maybe they (or some of them) were career beggars who take advantage of the pilgrim spirit and the generosity of locals. If you really have no money then please visit the church or a monastery to ask for food. You don’t need money because you can’t eat it. Please don’t beg!

5. Scams.
I don’t think scams are necessarily a real issue on the Camino but one which I heard about and which I witnessed was of the self-acclaimed deaf women who meet pilgrims and “pilgrims” on their last 100km to Santiago and who ask for donations towards a local deaf children’s school. Apparently this is a pure scam and I also felt this when I was approached along the path by a young woman who sent inner alarm bells going when she asked for a donation. Donate to real charities and causes but don’t let anyone scam you out of money which will be spent on anything but the charity or cause you might have been convinced to part your money for.

6. Pilgrim “Rock Stars”.
No matter where you have walked from or how many times you have walked the Camino, there will always be the odd pilgrim here and there who steps forth into the conversation with his or her own list of pilgrim achievements. Don’t boast on the Camino! It’s bad karma! If you walked from Hong Kong to Santiago with no money and with a donkey in tow then good for you, but don’t act like it’s the cherry on the cake for humanity as a whole. Learn to be humble in your achievements. There are no Pilgrim rock stars, but we are all pilgrim stars.

7. Food.
Along the Camino the food can sometimes get pretty bland and lacking in quality ingredients. At first I thought it was just a representation of North Spanish food, but I soon learned that actually the further away you walk from the Camino the better and more authentic the food gets, and the food can be fantastic.

8. Carry your rucksack.
Please don’t pack to many things into your rucksack and then decide that you just gotta pay for a taxi to drive your things to the final destination for that day while you walk sans sac. Of course, you can walk the Camino as you want but please if you bring a bag then either throw it away or carry it the whole way yourself. Paying a taxi to take it is just lame and encourages more road traffic on the Camino.

9. Snoring.
Hell, I know there ain’t no cure for this one but I can write that every time I stayed in an albergue without fail there would be someone snoring loudly at night. I also snore. Why doesn’t someone somewhere develop an anti-snoring pill? Come on scientists! Gracias 🙂

10. The little guy with the little legs…
…who took my rucksack from under my head, with all by belongings in, while I slept outside in that bus shelter. At the time I was very philosophical and understanding about losing my passport, ipad, all my clothes, etc., but seeing the hassle I have had to go through recently to renew my British passport from abroad I hope you have received your bad karma if not already then sometime close in the near future.

11. Coming back.
I wish my Summer Camino had lasted forever.

>>> What things made you go “urghh!” on your Camino?

Please feel free to leave a comment below.

Neville David Thomas

Categories: Camino ArticlesTags: , , , , , , , , ,

7 comments

  1. the rubbish for me was also a yukky aspect to the walk. pilgrims please don’t litter!

  2. my husband and i walked the camino from st.jean pied de port to santiago de compostela the fall of 2012; loved the people, hated the trash, sometimes we carried our bag, sometimes we didn’t.sometimes taking public transportation to and from the edge of the city rather than walking the concrete jungle. sometimes we stayed in alberques sometimes we stayed in pensions; my husband is a great snorer, and didn’t feel it was fair to other!
    we loved Spain, and the walk, I learned that it was alright to walk the camino my way, each of us travel the road in to the best of our ability, and the most important thing I learned was to travel with an open heart, and open mind. Thanks for sharing your stories and your thoughts, they bring back wonderful memories. I look forward to reading more, and I admire you for travelling with your sleeping back, and little stove.

  3. Btw, I completely agree that the way a person walks their Camino is completely up to them how they do it and for which length. I walked the whole length of the Camino but did hitch for about 1 or 2 kilometers once when it was getting real late and cold and when the 2 girls I was walking with were beginning to worry they would miss the 10pm albergue curfew.
    The coffee maker is essential because without coffee in the morning I am rendered useless 🙂

  4. I was lucky to have first walked from Le Puy to SDC in 1991 and saw none of this, as only 5000 a year did it then. Now I think it’s 200, 000! The second time some years later from Jaca was also fantastic. Since then I walk the quieter routes and found them free of these hassles above. But the CF is beautiful and wonderful despite the throng and I recommend it to anyone who comes across this blog and is put off by the crowds.

    Nev has found another way to walk in quality by choosing a less walked route in a less walked season. A time for reflection and walking meditation.

    It’ll be five star.

    • HI John.
      Hope you had a fantastic Xmas Day!
      I do just want to clarify that the crowds were only visible along the last 100km of the walk – when the Spanish 100km crew descended on the path in their Louis Vuitton handbag multiples. The rest of the walk in the summer I found to be a perfect balance in terms of numbers of pilgrims and I never felt aware of any throng along this 800km stretch. I’d completely recommend it too.
      I also listed 11 things which made me go “Wow!” and the positives on the Camino far outweighed any negatives: https://mycaminosantiago.com/2013/11/29/11-things-that-made-me-go-wow-on-the-camino-de-santiago/
      Well, I am in Prague, with a cold, but insistent that I will begin my walk either later today [a night walk for my first stage] or first thing in the morning.
      Settling up some online business before I head off and needing to acquire a few things, such as a torch.
      Have a great day!
      Nev 🙂

  5. Nev has posted some downsides of the Camino Frances, not all of which apply outside of the Frances. I offer a few comments …

    1. Trash.
    Sure, there are the shell and arrow markers on the Camino but I also was able to judge which path to take by following the trash trail carelessly thrown on the ground by previous pilgrims walking the route. Save your trash and throw it away responsibly into a bin!

    **Though rubbish is really unsightly, it doesn’t really bother me because most of it is organic (paper, ordure) and will vanish in weeks. It offends the eye and not nature. The plastic bottles dont actually pollute, nor do cans. Farmers pollute infinitely more with fertilisers and pesticides.

    2. The Spanish 100 kilometer crew.
    I walked my Camino in the summer and this is when A LOT of Spanish “pilgrims” like to take a trip up north to walk the last 100km of the Camino. Why only the last 100km? Pilgrims must walk at least 100km to receive their certificate of walk completion (Compostela) and in Spain if you have the Compostela then it looks pretty good on a Resume. The last 100km to Santiago was like walking in Oxford Circus, with some “pilgrims” even sporting Gucci bags as they sauntered along the way.

    Yes even in the early 90s this crowd were a real nuisance with supporting vans etc..Horrible noise in refuges at all the wrong times. It was simply a group holiday for them. Pilgrimage is wasted on the young.

    3. Rude drivers.
    OK, well this is a relative post because if I were driving along the Camino I’d probably experience the same emotions as the drivers do, but I walk it so I’m biased towards walkers. Sometimes the Camino levels off onto a road surface and of course you should walk on the side of the road and in the direction of oncoming traffic (safety). Whichever side you walk and however far you are from the side of the road you will inevitably have some driver angrily toot his or her horn at you to basically let you know that having you share the same patch of tarmac is a real inconvenience for them.

    **I found the toot was often to say hello, as I guess the driver had walked the camino at some time. Otherwise as a motorcyclist I expect nothing good from car drivers; they can be killers. .

    4. Beggars.
    In this modern European age there really is no need to beg unless you have an expensive drug addiction which requires funds beyond your means. On my summer Camino I saw a few beggars who claimed to be pilgrims without money. Maybe they were. Maybe they (or some of them) were career beggars who take advantage of the pilgrim spirit and the generosity of locals. If you really have no money then please visit the church or a monastery to ask for food. You don’t need money because you can’t eat it. Please don’t beg!

    ** Lots of poverty in Spain now because of massive bankster fraud. Sure some are maybe just winos, but I know if I were thrown on the dole in Spain I’d probably walk the Camino a lot, and might be a wino. As for begging, we are free to refuse if we wish and for me it’s no hardship to be asked. Maybe some are ‘career’ beggars,(no prospects) but they take less from society than career banksters and politicians on the make. I know someone who for the last 5 years has existed on a pittance; he didnt beg or borrow but was thought to be tight or a skinflint. That’s how people see it, including alleged Christians I know when they make ill informed judgements. In the UK now people have to beg (in a way) at food banks. Their government hounds them into that.

    5. Scams.
    I don’t think scams are necessarily a real issue on the Camino but one which I heard about and which I witnessed was of the self-acclaimed deaf women who meet pilgrims and “pilgrims” on their last 100km to Santiago and who ask for donations towards a local deaf children’s school. Apparently this is a pure scam and I also felt this when I was approached along the path by a young woman who sent inner alarm bells going when she asked for a donation. Donate to real charities and causes but don’t let anyone scam you out of money which will be spent on anything but the charity or cause you might have been convinced to part your money for.

    ** Scams are worldwide, including some by established charities. And as above, the banksters and the rich steal much more. I saw one scam on a kind pilgrim on the Camino de Madrid. The gouger (a pilgrim) had very lightly tried me first for money. The other pilg helped him out and was stung. We make judgements as we go; sometimes we get it right.Sometimes not.

    6. Pilgrim “Rock Stars”.
    No matter where you have walked from or how many times you have walked the Camino, there will always be the odd pilgrim here and there who steps forth into the conversation with his or her own list of pilgrim achievements. Don’t boast on the Camino! It’s bad karma! If you walked from Hong Kong to Santiago with no money and with a donkey in tow then good for you, but don’t act like it’s the cherry on the cake for humanity as a whole. Learn to be humble in your achievements. There are no Pilgrim rock stars, but we are all pilgrim stars.

    ** These stars are light entertainment of an evening! And pilgs have done this for 1000 years…it’s in Chaucer for example. You can always ‘top’ the lurid stories with more lurid ones you made up.

    7. Food.
    Along the Camino the food can sometimes get pretty bland and lacking in quality ingredients. At first I thought it was just a representation of North Spanish food, but I soon learned that actually the further away you walk from the Camino the better and more authentic the food gets, and the food can be fantastic.

    I agree with this one tho’ on the CF I mostly cooked my own. It wasnt about saving money but Spanish eateries open late and I was too tired to trudge round town searching anyway. But I pigged out with fellow pilgs in SDC.

    8. Carry your rucksack.
    Please don’t pack to many things into your rucksack and then decide that you just gotta pay for a taxi to drive your things to the final destination for that day while you walk sans sac. Of course, you can walk the Camino as you want but please if you bring a bag then either throw it away or carry it the whole way yourself. Paying a taxi to take it is just lame and encourages more road traffic on the Camino.

    ** I dont mind this; it cant affect me. Many people ride bikes/velos/bicis which carry all the kit too. Or a few have pack donkeys.

    9. Snoring.
    Hell, I know there ain’t no cure for this one but I can write that every time I stayed in an albergue without fail there would be someone snoring loudly at night. I also snore. Why doesn’t someone somewhere develop an anti-snoring pill? Come on scientists! Gracias 🙂

    ** Guilt, shame. I am a snorer and can do NOTHING about it. I try to sleep if possible away from others. I dont like snoring either.(!)

    10. The little guy with the little legs…
    …who took my rucksack from under my head, with all by belongings in, while I slept outside in that bus shelter. At the time I was very philosophical and understanding about losing my passport, ipad, all my clothes, etc., but seeing the hassle I have had to go through recently to renew my British passport from abroad I hope you have received your bad karma if not already then sometime close in the near future.

    ** Yes the swine are always with us. Passport money and cards etc, I wear in a bag next to the skin, whenever travelling and sleeping, for I did get a daysack nicked in Amsterdam with passport long ago. A cheap(ish) lesson for the future is all I got out of that…

    11. Coming back.
    I wish my Summer Camino had lasted forever.

    ** Yes and it can never be repeated…I’ve tried and failed, tho’ loved the attempts..

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