I wanted to write a blog post this morning but wasn’t sure what to write about.
When in doubt, a cup of tea.
Armed with a cuppa, I sat down in front of the TV and put on YouTube to distract me. Not for the first time, I found nothing. I guess I was too distracted to be distracted any further.
After a few minutes, I typed in ‘Camino’ to see what came up. This gave me an idea. First of all, I’d like to share my favourite Camino Francés vlogs with you. If you are interested in the Camino de Santiago, you could do a lot worse – and I mean A LOT worse – than discover it through these vloggers.
One. Pride of place goes to a Cuban-American named Efrén González. He walked the Camino Francés in 2017. Not only did he walk it but he took a little drone with him, using it to take some beautiful shots of the Way even as he walked it. Since 2017, Efrén has walked sundry Caminos and other hiking trails around the world. As it happen, I’m naming Efrén No. 1 not so much because of his drone work but because he has such a friendly manner. He’s the kind of person who we all need in our life – friendly and very positive. He’s also my No. 1 because he was the first pilgrim whose journey I followed when I was prepping for my own Camino in 2019. Check out his YouTube channel here.
Two. Rachelle Smith of I’ll Get There. If I remember correctly, she walked the Camino in the autumn of 2019. Like Efrén González, she is very friendly and positive. She sings beautifully, too. Her videos are very gentle going and sweet. I started watching her Camino Francés vlogs again last December while recovering from my operation and might go back and watch them from start to finish as they certainly merit repeated viewings. Check out her YouTube channel here.
Three. BK Lee is a funny one because he reveals very little of himself in his videos. In fact, for a long time while watching them, I had no idea if I was watching a man or a woman. This is because Lee filmed his pilgrimage using a camera attached to his backpack strap. As a result, you rarely see his face. And when I say he filmed his pilgrimage, I mean, he filmed it. Almost every step. If you would like a more – much more – in-depth idea of what it is like to walk the Camino Fránces, then BK Lee is the man for you. Check out his YouTube channel here.
Last, but certainly not least:
Four. Stacey Wertz walked the Camino Francés with her daughter Molly last year (2022). The videos she made are a lovely mother-and-daughter account of their journey. I’m actually still watching them (the Wertzs have just reached Portomarín) but they have already made a strong impression on me. To begin with, I don’t think I have seen any other family pilgrimage vlogs – certainly not mother and daughters. Secondly, both Stacey and Molly must be very fit because they are the only pilgrims I have seen who have positively embraced the big uphill walks in the Pyrenees and to O Cebreiro! Thirdly, each video is edited to include (a) comments by Molly at the end on what the day was like (Stacey Wertz does most of the talking during the day), (b) a few photos from the day’s walk, and (c) a map of northern Spain with the route thus far covered outlined. Every video it inches forward until, as now, they are close, so close, to Santiago. Check out their YouTube channel here.
So, when I typed ‘Camino’ into YouTube’s search bar, another idea occurred to me: to say something about the titles of one or two of the videos that the search brought up. Here goes.
Before beginning, I should add that I haven’t yet watched these videos. What follows is strictly the thoughts that occurred to me after seeing their titles.
One. What Every Pilgrim Should Know about Albergues on Camino de Santiago! Here’s what I think you should know:
– By-and-large they are run by volunteers. They have their moments (I know this from experience) but thank the Lord they are there!
– Keep your valuables close to you! The albergues close their doors at night but before they do, there is plenty of time for some ne’er-do-well to slip in and out with your money or phone.
– If you leave your albergue while people are still in bed, please don’t be noisy!
Two. What I Wish I’d Known Before Hiking The Camino.
– Travel as lightly as possible! You will so not regret being ruthless about leaving things behind.
– Have water with you at all times. Actually, for most of the Camino Francés, you have good access to water, be it from a fountain, food stand, or shop, but there are points where you might be obliged to travel long distances without any of these (e.g. the Valcarlos route of Pyrenees if you can’t take the Napoleon Route and along the Meseta) and you do not really want to be caught short. That way dehydration lies. Take it from one who knows; yes, from personal experience!
– If possible, take a good pair of hiking socks and boots. Blisters are a Camino killer. Whether you buy specialist gear or not, just be attentive to the warning signs vis-à-vis blisters. You’ll save yourself much pain if you do.
Three. How Much Does It Cost to Hike the Camino de Santiago? This is a really good question. I think the answer completely depends on you: how much do you want to spend on it? You could easily put your trainers on, stuff some old clothes into a backpack, fly off to Biarritz, take the train to Saint Jean Pied de Port and begin just as you are tomorrow. No specialist gear. No training. If you are fairly fit you’ll very likely be fine. On the other hand, you may want to buy all the things. Thick socks and hiking boots, a thin sleeping bag, quick dry clothing, etc, etc. That’s pretty much what I did. In the end, my Camino cost me well in excess of £2,000: my entire savings. I didn’t need to go that far, but at the time, I wanted to give myself the best chance of completing the pilgrimage, and so I didn’t hold back.
By the way, the video at the link above was published at the end of 2019. It would be very interesting to see a post-Covid video that looks at what the cost of walking the Camino is now. Prices have gone up since the pandemic, in Spain as with everywhere else. I have seen it said that the Camino is more expensive, though by how much I don’t know. Hopefully not by too much – it would be a tragedy if the Camino de Santiago became the preserve of the well-off.
So, there we are. I hope you found this post enjoyable. I do recommend My Top Four videos to you. If you watch them, let me know what you thought of them. The same goes for the videos whose titles have inspired me. In fact, maybe I should watch them as well!