Monday, 3 May 2010

Camino: interim conclusions

On Friday afternoon, we sat down here and celebrated the conclusion of our planned walk from Seville. The Plaza Mayor in Salamanca is said to be the world's grandest drawing-room: on a sunny afternoon, with a glass of white wine to hand, you couldn't disagree! Our only problem was that we were seated rather too near a stag party from Essex, all its members wearing sombreros and drinking large beers, their glasses not being allowed to stand empty for more than a moment.

What a great feeling it is to walk towards the cathedral towers of Salamanca, visible for a good 10kms! Modern blocks of flats only screen the old city when you reach the rather dismal outskirts, but even there we found something to wonder at: a new motorway has been built, at present unused, and in the tunnel which takes the Camino under it was a man recording his own extraordinary voice in a Basque lament!

One of you readers has been wondering about the availability of accommodation along this Camino. Did we use a guide that has this information? Did we generally reserve ahead or find places on arrival?

We were indebted primarily to the Confraternity of St. James' guide (and its web-based update), which has addresses and telephone numbers. There are various other web resources too, which we explored before we left. We found a number of places with a new casa rural, and one, in Torremejia, with a new albergue. We did book some ahead: it is not necessary, and it gives greater flexibility if you leave deciding where to stay till you get to whatever you feel is the right destination for the day. Having said this, some of the villages are many, many kms. apart, so you do at times feel glad of the security of a booking.

Huge amounts have been invested in tourism all along the route, which can "take" a much larger number of pilgrims than currently walk or cycle it: we just felt so lucky that more people - particularly the dreaded cyclists - don't!

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