Hiking Inn to Inn
At a communal dinner, the night before we are to set out, our host asks us to each say why we are walking el Camino de Santiago. Everyone has a reason, usually a life change – recovering from a recent divorce, mourning the loss of a loved one, frustration with a job and the need for change, trying to figure out what to do with one’s life.
For me, I had just retired and “Walkabout Northern California: Hiking Inn-to-Inn” had been published in the spring. I decided to give myself the gift of a 500 mile trek across Northern Spain.
Our host tells us, “There are almost as many reasons for hiking the Camino as there are pilgrims,”
The legend of the Camino began in 813 when Pelayo, a religious hermit, heard the song of angels and followed a star to an ancient Roman mausoleum where he found the remains of St. James, one of Jesus´ apostles. His finding was confirmed by the local bishop and the Asturian King, Alfonso the Chaste. Soon pilgrims flocked to the site as a form of penance and to earn an indulgence, a free ticket to heaven. The pilgrimage route flourished from the 11th to 13th centuries when towns, churches, monasteries, and services for pilgrims were established. As the centuries passed, there were times when very few made the pilgrimage. A rebirth occurred in the second half of the 20th century, and the Camino was granted U.N. World Heritage status. Today, thousands of pilgrims hike the Camino each year.
A web of trails leads to Santiago. I chose Camino Frances, leaving from St. Jean Pied de Port in the very south of France, the heart of Basque country. The trail crosses the Pyrenees into Spain. On an early September morning, I set out from St. Jean climbing 1,900 feet along a one-lane, rural road, passing little farms. Small herds of cattle, horses, and sheep graze on the grassy mountainsides. Dense clouds form a low ceiling hiding the peaks. After a few hours, I walk into a cloud and I’m enshrouded by it - cool, moist, and quiet. Cows suddenly appear on the road, emerging in the mist a few meters ahead.
There are over 300 albergues or refugios - pilgrim hostels - along the Camino. Arriving at Albergue Orisson, high in the mountains, I join pilgrims from all over the world, mostly from Europe, but also from New Zealand, Japan, Korea, Australia, and a few from the U.S. It is easy to meet and get to know other pilgrims. We share a common quest.
On the second morning, the skies clear revealing vistas of green rolling mountains reaching to the horizon. Ascending another 2,600 feet, a gale force wind howls. There are no farms at this altitude. What a joy to hike in such wild country!
The Pyrenees have been an almost insurmountable barrier, historically protecting Spain and France from each other, but around 800 the Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne, led his army on this trail and invaded Spain. Napoleon did the same 1,000 years later.
The trail passes into Spain. There is no border control in modern Europe, just a simple sign. Descending steeply into the Rio Urrobi valley, I joined 100 pilgrims spending the night at the Roncesvalles Monastery.
Hiking through the foothills of the Pyrenees (Day 4)
The hike from Roncesvalles to Pamplona takes two days, climbing and descending the foothills of the Pyrenees. Mostly, we hike on mountain paths, ascending to ridges and dropping into the valley of Rio Arga, which the trail crosses and recrosses. Early in the morning, before dawn, I hike with the North Star to my back and Orion high overhead, passing through the “woodlands of the witches,” a dense, eerie beech forest. During the 16th century, it is said that covens of witches practiced their rituals in this forest and that several were burned at the stake.
Pamplona is the first big city on Camino Frances. Originally a Roman outpost, it was founded in 75 BCE by Pompey the Great. The old city was walled, and the Camino enters Pamplona along a 60 foot wall of massive, ancient stones and through an arched gate with a draw bridge.
After hiking 19 miles, I am tired, but I’m quickly revived by the energy of the city. The narrow, winding cobblestone lanes are alive with revelers on this Saturday night. Music and people spill out of the bars and onto the street. I check into the Jesus and Maria Albergue, shower, and head out to join the celebration. The massive Plaza del Castillo is crowded with cafe patrons, chasing children, and promenaders. This is my introduction to the vibrant urban Spanish culture.
The sun sets and I make the rounds of tapas bars - small plates of assorted morsels lined the counters. A slice of toasted baguette topped with ham and a quail egg along with a plate of papas fritas. Next stop, a glass of vino tinto with salmon sashimi on vegetable salad, and how about a slice of toast with cheese and tomato. On the big screen our futbol team scores a goal, and we all cheer!
I stagger to bed at 11:00, exhausted, long before the celebration has started to slow down.
STOPPING AT A COUNTRY INN ON THE CAMINO (Day 5)
Pamplona is the capital of Navarra, a semi-autonomous province, the south being more Castilian, the north, Basque. The Basque are a fiercely independent people. Linguists tell us that the Basque language, Euskara, is one of Europe´s oldest and has no known relationship to any other language. It is as if the Basque people have always lived on this land.
The trail from Pamplona heads west, climbing 1,000 feet to Alto del Perdon and then descends into farm country - harvested cereal fields and vineyards heavy with deep purple grapes. Such beautiful country! Plowed fields of brown soil are dense with rocks, but this is a fertile land. Autumn gardens are rich with cabbage, onions, peas, and tomatoes. Orchards of figs, apples, and pears are heavy with fruit.
I stop for the night in the small village of Obanos, at a casa rurales. These are village houses and farms that offer rooms for pilgrims. The ancient hostess escorts me to my room. She is in a peasant dress with heavy wool socks and sandals and is almost as wide as she is tall. Her brown face and hands are weathered, and her black hair is twisted into a tight bun at her neck. She has a kind smile.
She speaks no English, so we depend on my rudimentary Spanish and hand gestures, laughing at our confusion. “¿Esta es un mercado para fruta?” “No, mercado, es cerrado. Es Domingo.” Of course it is Sunday. “No problema, gracias.” She left me and returned later with four beautiful peaches.
Her house is old. I don’t know how many centuries. My room is round with a smooth stone floor that slants to the center where it looks like there was once a drain. The walls are plastered white, but sections of ancient stones are left exposed. Rough dark wooden beams support the ceiling. An old barrel and a wine press are housed in an alcove. Perhaps this room was once used for pressing wine.
I have a porch with a chair and table next to the garden and the chicken coop. That night I dine on a half a baguette from my pack and the most delicious peaches.
ENTERING RIOJA (Day 8)
The Camino traverses western Navarra Province mostly on country trails, passing through small villages, always dominated by a church, the tallest building. Pilgrims are a major source of revenue, and many villages will offer a cafe, a fountain, and possibly a small inn and/or albergue. The harvested grain fields of the rolling farmland yield to bountiful vineyards as the trail approaches Rioja Province, the home of some of Spain´s finest red wines.
It is easy to meet fellow pilgrims in an albergue, on the trail, or at a café. I hike a few kilometers with a new friend, then a few by myself. Some friendships last an hour, some continue for weeks, meeting a friend I have not seen for a few days then sharing dinner or a long stretch of the trail to catch up.
I enter the city of Logrono at the beginning of the week-long Fiesta de San Mateo, which is also the harvest festival. After checking into an albergue, I head for the central Plaza del Mercado, and festivities are in full swing. Men and women in traditional peasant dress stomp grapes in large wooden barrels. Fires roar in the square, roasting large cuts of lamb. I join a long line and for 3 euros ($4), I buy a plate of lamb, bread, and a decanter of vino. Then I join hundreds of revelers at long tables. Before I can finish my wine, my glass is filled again from a neighbor´s bottle.
Later I find a precious seat at a sidewalk cafe along the fashionable Calle de Portales to watch the show. Promenaders packed the street - young families with babies in strollers, elegantly dressed urban ladies in silks and scarfs, young lovers in t-shirts and jeans walking hand-in-hand. Brass bands parade through the crowded street carrying 20 foot high papier mâché figures of animals, kings, dragons, Jesus, Mary and St. James.
I walk down to the park along Rio Ebro and rest, for the party is only beginning. That night, every small plaza has a stage with a raucous punk band, a children´s choir, or traditional music from northern Spain. Vendors set up shop, barbequing lamb, pork, and rabbit.
It is fortunate that our albergue closes its doors and turns off the lights at 11:00pm. I am in bed early and ready the next morning to continue the trek to Santiago.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A PILGRIM
After a few days on the Camino, the pilgrim´s life settles into an easy rhythm. Albergues may be small with only a dozen beds or big with bunk beds for 100 in a large room. It is wise to sleep with earplugs, or you will enjoy all the sounds of nocturnal humanity.
People begin to stir around 5:30am. Alarms beep; pilgrims pack away sleep sacks and prepare to hit the trail. I am usually out of bed by 6:30 and hiking by seven. This is my favorite time of day. It is still dark and quiet. The village has not yet woken. The air is crisp. Orion and Cassiopeia shine overhead on this late September morning. A dim glow forms on the eastern horizon, and it grows until the sun gloriously rises around 8:15.
In the distance, you might see the steeple of a church, marking a village. Perhaps the ruins of a hilltop castle still stand guard against invasion. You will usually find a cafe for coffee and a pastry, the typical Spanish breakfast. They might also prepare a bocadillo (sandwich) wrapped for the road, or you can stop at a bakery and butcher on your way out of the village. You might want to also stop at a small store for fruit and maybe chocolate.
Then on the trail again. It is always well marked with yellow arrows and signs with stylized scallop shells, the symbol of the Camino. The line of pilgrims spreads out, and as the day progresses, I might not see another pilgrim for a few hours. It is autumn and numbers have dwindled from the busy summer season. I may hike for an hour with a friend that I have made along the Camino, but I treasure hiking alone with the countryside, my thoughts, and my daydreams.
Around noon I stop in a village cafe for a hot chocolate or in the village park for lunch, resting and recovering. Then I head out again, usually stopping in the early afternoon at an albergue, showering, washing clothes, reading, and writing. I am averaging 13-18 miles a day.
Bars have a perigrino menu - a first course of pasta, soup, or a large salad; a second course featuring fish in the Basque region, lamb in Rioja, blood sausage as you reach Burgos; then desert of ice cream, yogurt, flan, or fruit. And always lots of wine. This usually costs $9-12.
We linger over wine sharing stories from the trail or from our lives back home. Then we drift off to our bunks, our muscles grateful to be prone, and start the adventure again before the sun rises.
The ancient city of Burgos was founded in 884 as a defensive fortress for the Kingdom of Navarra against Muslims to the south. Today´s pilgrim hikes several kilometers through stark, modern Burgos before passing through 14th century walls, under Arco de Santa Maria, and into the magical old city. Here the streets are narrow and winding, there are few cars, but the lanes are busy with foot traffic. People crowd the shops and sidewalk cafes.
After 13 days of hiking and 180 miles, I decided to check into the Hotel Norte y Londres, a converted 16th century palace in the heart of the old city, to stay in Burgos for an extra day. What a delightful city! The old quarter is on the north bank of Rio Arlanzon. A grassy walkway runs along the river.
I spend an afternoon exploring the magnificent cathedral which dominates the skyline. It started as a simple Romanesque church, but in 1221 the saint, King Ferdinand III, and Bishop Mauricio laid a cornerstone for a grand, gothic basilica. It has been added to and remodeled every century since. I walk for hours through chapels with vaulted domed ceilings; elaborate sculptures of the lives and suffering of Christ and the saints; paintings by Spanish and Flemish masters; and the tombs of heroes, bishops and benefactors.
El Cid is interred here. His history as a soldier of fortune is a bit spotty, but he is generally regarded as an 11th century hero who liberated Valencia from the Moors. I have vague memories of the 1961 film starring Sophia Loren and Charlton Heston. Do I remember correctly that in the movie El Cid died from a fatal wound, but they propped his body up on his horse, and he led his troops into the final decisive battle, his cold, dead fingers clenching his sword? History tells us he actually died comfortably in his Valencia palace in 1099.
At night, the streets of the old city are bustling with revelers visiting tapas bars. I join them, then sleep well, ready to return to the Camino de Santiago.
THE MESETA (Day 20)
After hiking the verdant foothills of the Pyrenese and through the lush vineyards of La Rioja, the Camino enters the meseta, flat tabletop land that covers 40% of Spain. For the next 120 miles the pilgrim ascends long mesas and descends into broad valleys. Wheat fields stretch for as far as the eye can see, now freshly harvested in early October. Rivers, lined with cottonwoods, meander through the plain. Small medieval villages along the rivers break up the sameness of the terrain.
Like in so many developed countries, rural Spaniards are leaving the countryside for the cities. This is especially true on the meseta. The manager of the albergue in Caldadilla de la Cuesa tells me that only four children live in the village. "It is sad," she said, "This would be such a great place to grow up." In many villages, most people I meet are elderly, walking with canes.
They say that if a pilgrim makes it as far as Burgos, (180 miles) she should be alright physically for the rest of the journey, but the meseta plays with the pilgrim´s mind. The first part is not exactly true. Pilgrims´ feet are still breaking down after Burgos. Many must interrupt or end their journey because of blisters that won´t heal or painful, swollen ankle ligaments. The meseta is cold and windy in the winter and brutally hot in the summer when most pilgrims make the journey. The heat and seemingly endless monotony can drive the pilgrim to despair.
Hiking the meseta in autumn is beautiful. Every day is sunny with temperatures in the high 70s. Still, the meseta is challenging. For three days the trail is totally flat, not even a small hill in sight. It is like hiking across North Dakota. My emotions quickly flip from, "Why did I ever want to take this long hike?" to feelings of euphoria to be so free and hiking such beautiful country. Still, I look forward to reaching the big city ramble of Leon and the mountains of Galicia.
LEON (Day 22)
I enter the narrow, winding streets of the old city of Leon. It is the day of the festival of San Froilan y las cantaderas, and a grand medieval faire fills the plazas with hundreds of booths selling roasted meats and octopus, pastries, sweets, jewelry, soaps, perfumes, clothes, wood carvings, and tarot readings. People are dressed in renaissance costumes. There are jugglers, tumblers, and drum and recorder bands performing for the thousands of people crowding the streets.
My wife, Heidi, arrives at midnight after a journey of four flights and 32 hours from our home in the San Francisco Bay Area. After 22 days and 300 miles of hiking solo, I look forward to her joining me to hike the rest of the Camino. I wait for her in the small plaza across from our hotel. It is still hopping at midnight with celebrants spilling out of the bars that surround the square.
Our hotel, Hostal San Martin, is an aged stone and wood structure with a twelve foot high, heavy wooden door, undoubtedly centuries older than any building still standing back in the Bay Area. Inside, it is modern and comfortable. It seems a metaphor for Spain, a very modern country that has preserved its ancient architecture and heritage for tourists and its citizens to relish.
We stay in Leon for three nights, giving Heidi a chance to adjust to the new time zone and for me to rest. Exploring the city, we walk the banks of Rio Bernesga, visit the extraordinary and ornate gothic cathedral, the fanciful Gaudi designed Casa de Botines, and Convento de San Marcos - the former mother house of the order of the Knights of Santiago, dating back to the sixteenth century. It is now a luxury hotel but preserved like an unguarded museum with a Romanesque church, cloisters, gardens, and magnificent works of art. We roamed its ancient corridors, opening doors, finding stone passageways and narrow stairways to explore, hoping to remember how to find our way out.
At night, the people of Leon come to the old city to play. We join them at sidewalk tables of tapas bars and restaurants serving sumptuous grilled trout, roast lamb, and local red wines. Leon, with a population of 130,000, is the third largest city along Camino Frances after Pamplona and Burgos. It is the last large city we will visit until we reach Santiago. In the morning we depart, rested and sated, eager to explore the mountains of Galicia and to hike the final 200 miles of el Camino de Santiago de Compostela.
CATHOLIC SPAIN (Day 29)
Spain has deep Roman Catholic roots, going back, legend tells us, to Christ´s apostle, St. James, Santiago. The pilgrim passes through perhaps a half a dozen villages each day, almost all dominated by an ancient stone and wooden church. We often stop to sit in the cool, dark sanctuaries for a moment of contemplation and to experience the beauty and devotion represented by centuries-old statues and paintings of the saints and Holy Family. We have occasionally attended services in churches sparsely attended, and mostly by women fifty years or older. Many services have no priest, just women reciting the rosary.
The large cities along the Camino have great cathedrals, dating back to the 13th century. They are extraordinary, beautiful, colossal monuments glorifying the Church. Built in an era when peasants lived in small one-story houses, the only large buildings one might ever see would be the cathedral, the castle of an aristocrat, or the bishop´s palace. In Astorga, the grand, gothic cathedral and bishop´s palace, designed by the genius, Antoni Gaudi, at the end of the 19th century, stand side-by-side. The palace is now a museum, and a portion of the cathedral houses another museum. Both contain church treasures, room after room of gold and silver chalices, four-foot high processional crosses intricately crafted of silver and gold, the robes for priests and bishops sewn with pearls and golden thread.
Throughout Spanish history, the Church consistently sided with the wealthy over common people. It supported Franco’s cruel and brutal Fascist regime, a memory fresh in the minds of many. It is no wonder that the percentage of Spaniards who attend church is extremely low.
We hike out of Astorga, climbing the foothills of Las Montanas de Leon, for 14 miles to the beautiful village of Robanal del Camino. Its stone houses stretch along the hamlet´s two streets. That evening we attend a service with other pilgrims in the small Romanesque church, one small chamber formed by three semi-circular arches, with wooden pews. Two elderly monks with pure voices transport us to another realm with an hour of Gregorian chanting in Latin.
Today is a national holiday honoring Spain´s military. We move on to a more secular celebration at an albergue. As we enter the courtyard, village ladies hand us cups of thick, rich chocolate to drink. The hostel is packed with pilgrims and villagers. Wine and beer are flowing. A three piece band with a fiddle, banjo, and drum strikes up a tune and then plays for three hours without pause, first Spanish love songs and then American folk music straight out of the Pete Seeger songbook. A couple of two year old girls, one dressed as a princess, start a freestyle dance. It isn´t long before we all join them. Twenty-something pilgrims and villagers toss back shots of a yellow brew that inspires them to spring and bound. Then they place their hands on the hips of the person in front of them and lead us, dancing in a long line, joyously snaking through the bar and courtyard. Later, we stagger to bed, sleeping off the evening´s religious experiences, ready to continue our pilgrimage.
ENTERING GALICIA (Day 35)
Leaving the plains of north-central Spain, we climb and descend through the mountains of eastern Leon and into Galicia. As each day passes and the Atlantic Coast draws nearer, the terrain becomes more lush and verdant. Ascending out of Rabanal for 1,000 feet, we reached the highest peak on the Camino, Cruz de Ferro, at 4,938 feet. The trail passes through dense forests of oak, eucalyptus, birch, chestnut, and pine. Climbing out of Villafranca, the trail ascends 1,200 feet, drops 1,000, and then climbs another 2,300 feet to O’Cebreiro, entering Galicia, the final state on Camino Frances.
Small farms replace the large grain fields of the maseta, and the Camino passes through a dozen small villages each day. Barns and fields are alive with sheep, cattle, hogs, and chickens. Farmers shepherd their flocks from field to barn and back through the village’s main cobblestone street while the chickens free range the town. Small pastures are lined with stone walls, and virtually all structures are made of stone. The roofs of houses and churches are now black slate, a change from the red tile roofs we have seen since the start of the Camino.
Descending into the deep valley of Rio Oribio, we visit the colossal and magnificent Benedictine monastery of Samos, one of the oldest in Spain, dating back to the 6th century. We tour the large cloisters and gardens, the ornate 18th century church, and a small shrine room housing St. Benedict’s femur and a chalice with a thorn from Christ’s crown. Once the home of hundreds of monks, today the massive monastery houses only 15 with just two novices trying to join the ranks.
We stay in lovely, modest pensions and hostals in farming hamlets. At night, pilgrims gather in the one or two restaurants in the village to dine on Galician cuisine - fried octopus seasoned with paprika, fresh shrimp, pork, cheeses, pastries, and local wines.
After 100 miles of hiking since Leon, Heidi’s blisters can no longer be denied. She has bandaged, cushioned them with gel pads and soldiered on, hoping they will cure themselves, but they persist. We decide to stop at a clinic in Triacastela. After a 15 minute wait, the doctor pokes her head out of her office, invites Heidi in, drains and treats the blisters, and writes the names of the bandages and medicines Heidi will need. They emerged from the doctor’s office laughing at the challenges of communicating with limited Spanish and English. No charge. The American medical system has so much to learn.
Next, on to Santiago.
SANTIAGO (Day 42)
The guidebooks warn of the fierce weather in Galicia. Storms blow in from the Atlantic bringing wind, cold, rain, and snow. But, the weather for us, in late October, is ideal for hiking - crisp, cool mornings; warm, sunny afternoons. In fact, I have only taken my rain jacket out twice during the six week pilgrimage because of slight drizzle. Now, with the short autumn days, the leaves of oaks, maples, and chestnuts are turning yellow and orange.
We hike on narrow trails cut deep through the dense woods, sometimes fifteen feet below the forest floor. Walls along the paths may be constructed of ancient stones or they may be solid earth held in place by deep roots. It seems the route has been worn down by the footsteps of millions of pilgrims over 13 centuries, the boots of Roman legions before that, and the tracks of Celts going back to the Iron Age and the 8th century BCE.
Two days out from Santiago, it starts to rain. We welcome it, enjoying a chance to wear our rain gear and hike in the wet woodlands, stopping in village cafes to warm up with hot chocolate. Approaching Santiago on the final day, a rainbow appears, arco iris.
Entering Santiago, we pass by dozens of aged churches, arrive in the old city, check into a hotel, and visit the pilgrim office. The officials inspects our “credential del peregrino,” the document that every pilgrim carries. Hostals, albergues, cafes, bars, and churches along the route stamp the pilgrim´s passport. This verifies that she has made the journey. We are issued a scroll, a compostela, written in Latin. Our names - Adelaidem (Heidi) and Thomam.
There are several pilgrimage routes that all end in Santiago. A pilgrim must hike the final 100km or bike the last 200 in order to receive the compostela. The officials tell us that it is now the slow season and only 150 pilgrims a day finish the journey. During the summer, the number swells to 1,500. Over the first ten months, 170,000 peregrinos completed their pilgrimage!
The next day we enter the grand cathedral for the pilgrims mass. It is the most fun I have ever had in church. The knave of the massive structure is formed by 14 five-story Romanesque arches, but the decor is very Baroque. Brightly painted wooden carvings of angels, cherubs blowing trumpets, and warriors on charging steeds with lances raised, support organ pipes stretching 30 feet to the ceiling. Behind the altar, 20 foot high angels, gilded in gold, hold up a platform with giant maidens and Roman soldiers. St. James, Santiago, is shown in his many forms: a simple pilgrim, the Moor Slayer on horseback with sword raised, and in the center - seated on a throne bedecked with gold and jewels. The bishop, wearing a miter, says the mass with a supporting cast of eight priest wearing white vestments and the red cross of Santiago. A nun with the voice of an angel leads us in song.
A giant incense burner, the botofumeiro, hangs from a pulley at the ceiling by thick rope. At the conclusion of the ceremony, a cluster of robed churchmen pull on the rope in unison while one of their members gives it great shoves. It swings back and forth across the long transept in a grand arc sometimes lifting the rope pullers off their feet. These guys have one the best jobs in all of Christendom. The sweet smell of incense fills the cathedral. Then, the pilgrims milled around greeting friends they made along the trail.
The Camino de Santiago de Compostela teaches many lessons. This is a topic of intense interest for pilgrims along the trail. One cannot walk the Camino and be unchanged. I think I will be processing what I have learned for many months, but here are a few lessons. Solitude, community, and empathy. The pilgrim walks long days at two miles an hour with endless hours of contemplation, but the shared experience and quest creates a deep community and caring for your fellow pilgrims. There is great joy in the simplicity of the pilgrim´s life. You are carrying all your possessions, and you don´t want to add any more. So, the pilgrim is divorced from the market economy. She is single-tasking, rising in the morning and walking with only a few decisions to make - where to spend the night and to eat. There is clarity of the day´s purpose and accomplishment. What a change from our modern lifestyle. What a wonderful gift.
This is a consolidation of several blogs from my pilgrimage on the Camino in autumn 2011.
Here are a few resources that might be helpful for those planning to hike the Camino. Please add some of your own.
Brierley, John. “Camino de Santiago” www.caminoguides.com. Brierly has guides for many of the routes to Santiago.
Raju, Alison. “The Way of Saint James – Spain” www.cicerone.co.uk. Cicerone also has guides for cycling the Camino and for Camino del Norte.
Coelho, Paulo. “The Pilgrimage” NYC: HarperTorch, 1992.
Moore, Tim. “Travels with My Donkey” NYC: St. Martin’s Press, 2004.
Alcorn, Susan. “Camino Chronicle: Walking to Santiago” Oakland: Shephard Canyon Books, 2006.
Kurlansky, Mark. “The Basque History of the World” NYC: Penguin Books, 1999.
“Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago” Director: Lydia Smith.
www.caminoadventures.com. Sign up for a regular email newsletter.
http://johnniewalker-santiago.blogspot.com/. A wealth of information on the Camino.
www.thecaminoexperience.com. Help for first timers.